How to Prepare Your South American Itinerary
South America is arguably one of the best continents to travel to. From the lush forests to the sprawling cities, each country offers an abundance of activities for anyone who visits. Traveling to South America is a budget-friendly endeavor and is considered one of the best destinations for backpackers as compared to Europe and East Asia.
However, planning a South America itinerary can be challenging. Because the continent is massive, you cannot merely travel through all of it on one trip. Deciding where to go and what to see mainly depends on the time you have, your budget and your interests.
To help you out, we have prepared multiple South America itineraries that you can follow if you want to make the most of your trip and have a truly unique experience. Each itinerary is different from the other based on the trip’s timeframe and activities you can choose, so you can select one depending on how long you plan to stay in South America.
Itinerary #1: Two Weeks in Brazil
For a short two-week trip, planning is essential because the flights can be long and often expensive. You would want to spend more time exploring than traveling. We recommend you explore one or at best, two countries in this period.
Even though it is considerably large, Brazil is an excellent option for a short two-week trip. Start the trip from Rio de Janeiro, where you can spend two to three days, and then travel to Copacabana, Ipanema or Leblon to explore the beautiful beaches.
After spending a few days there, next travel to Paraty to explore the numerous islands there. The city is also a UNESCO world heritage site, making it all the more intriguing to explore.
Next, travel to Florianopolis to take some down-time. After two days, you can take an overnight bus to your last stop, which is Foz do Iguacu. This place is a must-see as it’s the most beautiful waterfall, a true natural wonder of the world.
Itinerary #2: Two Weeks in Peru
Peru is the perfect destination for a two-week vacation, not only because it is a relatively small country but also because it offers a little something to everyone. Peru is rich in ancient history and is known for its fine dining, fascinating culture, and breathtaking scenery.
Start your journey at Lima, where you can explore the ancient colonial buildings and food scene and then fly to Cusco after three days. Cusco is brimming with history as it is the oldest, continuously inhabited city in the world.
After spending a few days in Cusco, you can take the train to tour the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. Next, travel to Puno on the shores of Lake Titicaca, where you will need only a day or two to explore the lake and surrounding areas.
Afterward, catch a bus to Arequipa, a beautiful city situated right underneath the El Misti Volcano. The city is also a UNESCO world heritage site. Conclude your trip with Nazca to explore the famous Nazca lines before taking the bus back to Lima.
Itinerary #3: One to Three Months in Western South America
When you have over a month to travel, make sure your South America itinerary covers more than two countries.
We recommend following the ‘Gringo Trail. The trail starts in Colombia and lets you explore the lush forests of Ecuador, Peru. Afterward, you travel to Bolivia, Chile, and lastly, Southern Argentina. You can pick and choose from these places and make your itinerary accordingly.
Begin your journey in Bogota, where you can spend a few days enjoying the food and culture. Opt for a five-day trek at Ciudad Perdida, which has stunning views and a breathtaking journey. Spend a few days in Cartagena, a UNESCO world heritage site, and the biggest Caribbean port. We recommend you spend a few days in Medellin as well as it is a unique city with an exciting history before concluding the Columbian leg of your trip.
Ecuador is still developing as a tourist destination, which is all the more reason why it is a great place to travel. You can spend two to three weeks in the country visiting the cities of Otavalo, Quito, Banos, and the Galapagos Islands. These cities offer many adventurous activities, unique cuisines, culture, and wildlife that are unlike any other you have seen.
Peru offers so much to tourists, from vibrant streets to interesting food and beautiful landscapes. To experience a bit of culture, begin your journey in Peru in Lima, where you can spend two to four days before going to Nasca to see the Nasca lines. Spend the remaining week at Cuzco and Puno, where you can trek through the jungles or visit the lake.
If you are looking for adventure, Bolivia is the place for you. Start your Bolivian journey at La Paz, where you can do many things, but if you are looking for something unusual, consider going to the witch market. Then go to Salar de Uyuni, which is a must-visit. Afterward, spend a week at Sucre and Potosi. You can relax in Sucre and explore the ancient architecture at Potosi.
The second last country on the Gringo trail, Chile, is a country brimming with history and culture. Places to visit in Chile include the Atacama Desert, Chile’s art capital, called Valparaiso, and the actual capital ‘Santiago de Chile.’
Continue your journey and visit Argentina to explore the glaciers and enjoy the spectacular wine and meat. Visit Ushuaia to see the sea lions and penguins before ending your trip on a high note in Buenos Aires, where you can enjoy the crazy nightlife.
While planning is essential, keep in mind that you must leave room for spontaneity. Not every itinerary is meant to be followed to the Tee. It would be best if you allowed yourself a break and days with no plans to relax based on how you feel at the moment.
We hope that you find these itineraries helpful when you are planning your next vacation to South America.