There’s nothing quite like going on an adventure and exploring new places, experiencing new cultures and learning about yourself in the process. There are hundreds of places around the world where you could go on such a quest to unravel the world’s hidden gems, but South America has got to be one of your best options. The continent is just filled with exotic beauty and raw scenery, a myriad of different and interesting cultures, and adventures the likes of which you’ve never seen before. Still, there are 12 countries all over the continent, each with its own attractions and breathtaking views. So, if you want to explore, where do you start? These are the best travel itineraries for South America in 2019.
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Itinerary One – Backpacking South America, Columbia to Peru
Our first of the itineraries for South America is a backpacking one, and it is a bit long because it sees you going through several South American countries, exploring what each has to offer. It’s often referred to as the Gringo Trail since it’s a favored path for Americans and westerners to take when they want to explore the continent.
You’ll start your journey in wonderful Colombia, which has been a growing attraction for backpackers and tourists with all the beauty it has to offer. Between its stunning beaches, awesome nightlife, and tropical rainforests, you’ll definitely have the time of your life exploring this one. You naturally need to start your journey in the capital Bogota, and there you can start exploring the country’s culture, cuisine, and renowned nightlife. You also have access to all the country through Bogota.
Next, you will head out to Cartagena, a UNESCO world heritage site with an old town that feels like something out of a fantasy novel. If you feel ready for some adventure, you should then embark on the 5-day trek to Ciudad Perdida, the Lost City ruins which were discovered in the 70s and are quite fascinating to see. Before you leave, head out to Guatapé to explore the city’s wonderful street art which turns the entire place into a colorful portrait.
Your next destination has to be Ecuador, and it’s a great time to be discovering this gem of a country that is still developing and growing as a tourist destination. Your first stop will be to the majestic Otavalo, a hiker’s paradise known for a breathtaking local market where you can get literally anything you want from souvenirs and ponchos to local produce the country is known for.
Quito is the logical next choice with its massive historical center and breathtaking views. You definitely can’t leave without heading out to the breathtaking Galapagos Islands to explore and view the beautiful creatures that dwell there and the magnificent scenery from these volcanic islands.
Next comes Peru, and between its stunning capital city Lima and the mystifying ruins of Machu Picchu, you’ll find yourself not wanting to leave this country that is known for its delicious street food and art scenes.
Bolivia is the next stop on your itinerary, and it has some of the most stunning scenes in the continent, if not the world. Your first stop on this journey will be to the capital La Paz –– the highest capital city in the world –– and views from this city are both jaw-dropping and terrifying, with mountains seen from pretty much anywhere. You can discover those mountains by getting on one of the several cable rides there, where you’ll be flying hundreds of meters above the sea level in one ride you’ll certainly never forget for as long as you live.
If you’re looking for a different –– and terrifying adventure –– you should head out to Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat which is such a picturesque location, you won’t want to leave. For architectural extravagance, you should definitely stop by Sucre –– dubbed the White City for its buildings made of volcanic stone. It’s a pretty relaxing place to discover and offers a very rich cultural and historical experience.
Travel Itinerary Two – Peruvian Mountains Shorter than Most Itineraries for South America
Finding suitable itineraries for South America is pretty difficult. The continent is huge, and you have a lot of space to cover. To make matters even more complicated, each country on its own is pretty big with a lot of things to discover and do, so you might find yourself ending up spending the entire vacation in one country, which is actually not a bad thing. This is why it’s important to plan ahead and single out what you want to do in the time you have. This itinerary works because it’s short and to the point, taking you across one of the most beautiful countries in South America in a one to two weeks’ time.
For this vacation, you could start in Lima, Peru. It’s one of South America’s largest cities, and it’s a beautiful one to explore. Its ancient civilization is shown through the different museums and art pieces spread out across town, and history buffs will really enjoy learning about this diverse and ancient culture. There you’ll know why this might just be the best 2019 itinerary as it’s simple and takes you across one of the most unique and interesting countries in the continent.
You could spend a day or two in the city to explore it, and then head out to the breathtaking Nazca Lines –– pre-Columbian geoglyphs found in desert sands in a very huge area, with various plant and animal figures. You could then head out to Arequipa, a very culturally rich city framed by three volcanoes, offering some great scenery to enjoy.
Ever heard of the Andes? Well, you can’t let your time in South America fly by without exploring this majestic mountain range. After Arequipa, you can head out to Cusco in the Andes, and from there you can take a few days to acclimatize to the altitude. And then, you can embark on a once in a lifetime trek in the mountains, all the way to the renowned Machu Picchu, high in the Andes Mountains.
It’s a tight itinerary and would see you only visit one country, but exploring Peru’s mountains and volcanoes hardly qualify as visiting just one country, and you’d be walking away with a ton of memories.
Itinerary Three – One Month in Brazil
This one-month itinerary for South America is special because it takes you through the most culturally diverse country in South America, Brazil. The country is bigger than you could possibly imagine, and that is why this one-month trail is special as it takes you on a backpacking tour across the country’s most beautiful and interesting locations. You might think that 30 days is a lot of time, but when it comes to Brazil, that’s not nearly as long as you need to really view all the country has to offer.
This trip begins in Rio de Janeiro, and it’s one magnificent city to discover. For beach lovers, you definitely need to start with Copacabana, known for having some of the most famous and stunning beaches all over the world. The area itself has so much more to offer, with artistic and historic locations nearby to explore, but that is if you could make time for those since that means leaving your margaritas and swim shorts behind.
You should also visit one of the world’s most famous statues, Christ the Redeemer, known throughout the world and seen in dozens of movies and shows. If you’re after a different experience in nature, then Sugarloaf Mountain is definitely where you need to be with its panoramic views from its almost 400-meter summit.
For a more laid back vibe, this itinerary next takes you to Vitoria, home to some of the sandiest and most gorgeous beaches all over Brazil. The city offers scenic views of both greenery in its parks and sandy beaches with crystal blue waters, and it’s definitely a place you’ll want to stop by for a little break between your travels. Next up is Salvador, a city in North-Eastern Brazil known for its impressive colonial architecture and very intriguing Afro-Brazilian culture.
The city offers one of the best cultural experiences in a country known for having much of that, and you’ll find yourself coming in contact with all sorts of people and learning about their worlds and habits.
Then, head out to Recife to explore the city with dozens of rivers and bridges. It’s quite an interesting place to discover with a very rich history. There are also some stunning beaches in the city, and it’s known for having some pretty great food options.
The last stop on your Brazil expedition is arguably the best one, an Amazon boat ride. This trip will leave you in awe throughout its duration, and it should. You’ll be deep into the world’s largest rainforest, seeing it all from the comfort of a boat that will take you through the jungles and rivers of one of the most captivating locations on earth. You’ll get to see more flora and fauna than you have ever seen in your life, and you’ll be exposed to the world’s largest collection of animal species, with thousands of birds, mammals, reptiles, and even insect species discovered so far.
If you’re in luck, you’ll also run into a tribe in what will be the most interesting cultural experience of your life. In a nutshell, it’ll be the adventure of a lifetime, and one you’ll always remember.
Itinerary Four – A Few Weeks in Argentina
The fourth adventure among these itineraries for South America takes you on a few weeks’ trip across another South American gem, Argentina. It’s a beautiful country to explore, with much scenery and beauty to enjoy, and a very intriguing culture to discover.
You can start your trip over in Iguazu, and that means visiting the breathtaking Iguazu Falls and the rainforests in that area. It might be a bit humid around there, but that’s a small price to pay for the scenes you’re about to see from forests and animals to the world’s largest waterfall system that is one particular sight you’ll never be able to forget. You can’t visit Argentina without exploring its vibrant capital city Buenos Aires. It’s the very definition of a cosmopolitan city, and it’s bustling with everything you could ask for from an art scene, museums, restaurants, cultural attractions, and much more.
Then, head out to Ushuaia, one of the most beautiful cities in Argentina and quite the popular tourist attraction too. Its location amid the Martial Mountains gives it stunning views, and the marine life there is wonderful and a joy to behold. Some people even claim this city is at the end of the world, and once you get there, you’ll understand why that might just be true. Ushuaia’s history is also very interesting and rich, and you could learn a lot about the country there.
Last but not least, before your Argentina itinerary ends, you must visit El Calafate. Its location close to the edge of the Patagonian Ice Field makes it a must see for nature lovers. And it’s also considered home to the beautiful Los Glaciares National Park, where you can go explore and hike glaciers in what will be the most unique experience in your life. The views alone are worth the visit, but you should be careful, though.
It’s cold out there! Viewing the ice glaciers and snowy peaks are definitely worth the ride and the cold though, because you won’t find them looking like this anywhere else in the world.
At the end of the day, you could spend days talking about South America and all the beauty the continent is home to. You have plenty of different itinerary options, and each has dozens of sights and attractions to explore along the way.
Before you embark on any of those itineraries, you should do your homework and learn as much as you can about each city and country. It’s a big continent, and there’s much to do. So, it’s not really the place to be spontaneous and let yourself go with the flow. Try to be well prepared with a fixed plan on where you want to go and what you want to see because it’ll make your life much easier. Using these itineraries for South America is a good start.
Let me know if you used any of these travel itineraries for South America! I would love to hear all about it in the comments below! And be sure to subscribe so you never miss a travel blog post!