4 months in South America

Hi fellow travellers!

I’m a 36 year old male considering a solo 4 month trip in South America from Nov 2013 to Feb 2014.

I have not travelled to S America before so looking for some guidance and my initial thought is a trip starting in Ecuador or Columbia then travelling through Peru and Chile to Patagonia then Argentina up to Brazil. Some must do things for me are Machu Pichu, Torres Del Paine in Patagonia and Buenos Aires? I would also like to have some beach time and am thinking Aregntina / Brazil will be best for this.

Is 4 months enough time to undertake this type of itinerary or am I being over optimistic? Also in terms of budget I was thinking along the lines of £50 to £75 a day. Any guidance comments from experienced S American travellers would be greatly appreciated



Bengreen17 07/05/13    Activity and adventureArgentinaBrazilChileColombiaEcuadorPeru Link Report

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If you think money might get tight, then consider including Bolivia in your itinerary. The Salar de Uyuni, Eduardo Avaroa national park, Bolivian Amazon and cycling Death Road – they’re all wonderful and easily affordable on your budget.

And La Paz might give your senses a kicking (altitude sickness + party hostels + exhaust fumes + belly-troubling food) but it’s unforgettable for that very reason. Plus Claus Meyer, one of the people behind Copenhagen’s Noma restaurant, has recently opened up a restaurant in the city’s Zona Sur – if you make it, less us know what it’s like.

Neil McQuillian 08/05/13    Link Report

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Hi Neil.
I understand that this is an old(er) post but hopefully you can help. Similar to Ben I am also planning my trip to South America for 3 months. I have decided to only cover 3-4 countries (instead of doing a grand tour of South America). I arrive in Brazil from where I will make my way to Bolivia and Argentina and hopefully will make it to Antarctica.
My question is: Shall I do Bolivia pretty early on in my travels? I am a bit concerned regarding the weather. The options are to either do Bolivia in Nov or Jan.
thanks for your help. U.

Urszula 10/08/14    Link Report

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Hi Urszula,

So your only concern is about the weather? I am not sure whether there’d be a great deal of difference between November and January. As we explain here (www.roughguides.com/destinations/south-america/bolivia/when-to-go), both months are part of the wet season. However, I was there November and December and at no point was my trip disrupted by the weather. In fact, I don’t recall many wet days at all!



Neil McQuillian 11/08/14    Link Report

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  • Further to the great tips from Neil about Bolivia we have our South America on a Budget guide that is out in September 2013 that could give you some advice too.

    Have a good trip

    KatieB 08/05/13    Link Report

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  • Yep… the guide will be hitting the shelves in September! My advice would be to remember that South America is absolutely huge… Most travel on the continent is by bus and the major routes are comfortable and reliable, but you should look into how long you’re going to have to spend on the road to fit all these countries into 4 months. It might be worth booking at least one internal flight (though budget flights aren’t the norm like in Europe or the US).

    Websites such as http://www.craigslist.org and http://www.couchsurfing.org are helpful if you want to save on accommodation costs and camping can also save you money (more common in the Southern Cone areas of Argentina and Chile compared to the rest of South America).

    Keep in mind that Carnival 2014 is end Feb/early March, so don’t fly home before!!

    Rachel Mills 08/05/13    Link Report

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  • I spent 6 weeks in Argentina, which gave me chance to travel and see the majority of it – loved Brazil and Argentina, colourful, friendly, and amazing countries…would definitely include both but make sure you allow some time in each. They are more expensive, but worth it.
    Also sure you know this and people have said it already but make sure you book way in advance for Machu Pichu.
    Would also recommend Iguacu Falls…I saw it from both Brazillian and Argentinian sides, and they are different so worth doing both.
    I went down to colca canyon in Peru – worth a visit and some nice trekking.
    And yes, definitely head to the south of Argentina and the glaciers – they are amazing!
    Have a great trip, am very envious! you will have a fantastic time

    HelenSJ 12/05/13    Link Report

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  • Hi,
    I did a very similar trip before and 4 months is plenty of time as long as you don’t mind moving regularly. You should have enough time to spend a few days in each place.
    My advice would be to start in Columbia or Ecuador and do Peru but instead of going through north Chile you should go by Lake Titicaca to La Paz then Salar Uyuni, San Pedro de Atacama, Salta, Iguazu and onto Buenos Aires. Bolivia is very very cheap so should help your pocket and it makes sense. Iguazu is probably the best thing I saw in South America along with Perito Mereno. From Iguazu you can decide to either go to Brazil or BA and then some flights are involved. From BA you should probably fly to Patagonia and see how your time is.
    Some things to note:
    The north of Chile is very remote and nothing to see that is why Bolivia I think is a better option.
    £50 a day is not much if you plan on doing some tours etc. Machu Picchu costs a lot more than that if you are going to do a classic trek.
    If you plan to do the jungle then Ecuador is probably the best place due to the fact that it has the shortest time from the mountains to the jungle. It is usually a much longer journey in other countries. (I did it near Lago Agrio but organised it in Quito)
    If you need any help on two cities I put what I found good from my experience there including maps, details etc. I lived in Quito for 2months.



    I hope this helps

    TravellingforfunRoss 04/07/13    Link Report

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  • Some great tips so far – I especially agree with taking a bit of time to see Bolivia – but I would add that you can find some brilliant beaches at the start of your trip. Montañita is a beautiful coastal town in Ecuador that is easily accessible from Quito, while in Peru there is party mad Mancora or Huanchaco if you are into surfing.

    4 months should definitely be enough, even if you take the bus the whole way down, though do bear in mind that some trips may take over 24 hours. In Argentina these journeys are relatively comfortable, though I’m not sure the same can be said for buses in Bolivia…

    Have fun!

    The Miserable Two 03/08/13    Link Report

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  • Hi all,
    similar to Ben,
    i am planning to spend 4 months in South America from December.
    My journey will start with a few friends in Central America, Mexico Cancun, where we plan to move to Guatemala (via nice beaches) and spend best part of 3 weeks in Guatemala. So a month with my mates to start.
    From there i will be travelling solo;

    I will fly to Colombia, and i also wanted to see Peru, Bolivia, and fly out from Buenos Aires as is cheaper at the end of March.
    So effectively i’ll have 3 months to do the South America leg of the trip…i will be doing it on a backpackers budget…i’m aware of the scale of the trip and have a feeling this may be too much to pack into such a short space – bear in mind i like to actually relax on trips and not constantly be on the road! I could also do with some MUST SEE places along the way…

    Cheers for any advise!

    Freddie 17/09/13    Link Report

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  • Hi Ben, 4 months is enough time to undertake the travel! No worries! :-)

    If you start from Ecuador and you like to spend £50-75, you probably know that you will need to miss the Ecuadorian highlight: Galapagos as the tour are very expensive! So you can have a look around Quito and then you should continue to Guayaquil as the best beaches are placed around there! Then you should continue to Peruvian borders, a very good bus company going there from Guayaquil is Cruz del Sur – http://www.cruzdelsur.com.pe/. When in the Northern Peru, you should go via beach resort of Mancora, you get there from a city of Tumbes or Piura by the same named bus. You can spend there a couple of days and then you should continue to Chiclayo, where you can visit the amazing Museum of the Lord of Sipan! You can also go to the archaeological site where the tomb of Lord of Sipan was discovered. Another place to visit there is the Sican Museum, or Pyramids of Tucume. You will need 2 days in Chiclayo. After that, take a bus to a 4-5 hour far away city of Trujillo. Except the fact that the city is really beautiful, you can visit the nearby oldest city made of adobe – Chan Chan (on a list of UNESCO) and another stunning place – Huaca del Sol y Luna (the House of the Sun and the Moon)! You will need 2 days there too.
    Then you can continue by bus (Cruz del Sur or Tepsa – comfortable and safe bus companies) directly to the capital of Lima. There, you can see archaeolocial sites of Pachacamac or Huaca Pucllana (Wari´s and Inca´s cultures). You can manage these tours within 2 days too.
    After that, take a bus to Ica when you can undertake a tour of Ballestas Islands called the Galapagos of the Poors as a motorboat touring is not so expensive (from $15) as Galapagos so you can compansate the loss of the Galapagos visit in this way! Then, you need to continue southward so you can go to Nazca to see the famous Nazca Lines! You just should know that their over-flight is not kind of cheap. You can find there a flight from $60, but better are around $100. Cheaper flights means they are done on very old aircraft (30 yrs old) and all aircrafts have caused many accidents! When in Nazca, you can visit the cemetery Chauchilla, a place of a culture older than Nazca culture. This tours can be found from $12. Then take a night bus (Cruz del Sur or Tepsa) to Arequipa that you will reach early in the morning. Walk around the city as it is really lovely city! You can also take 1-2 day tour to Colca Canyon – considered as the deepest in the world! The canyon offers stunning sceneries and observation of flying condors!
    Then you must definitely continue to Cusco (Cruz del Sur or Tepsa) – about 10 hours. There you can take a city tour, another day you should continue to the stunning Sacred Valley of the Incas! if you like trekking, you can take the famous Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, a 4 day trek offering several remote Incan monuments of the site. Please note, that you must book it well in advance and you need to do the trek with an authorized travel agency! I can recommend you a travel agency that I have a good experience with – Tierreas Vivas – http://www.tierrasvivas.com/en/our-tours. If the Incna Trail is fully book for the time you are in Cusco, you can still take one of the so called Alternative Treks to Machu Picchu, which are: Salkantay Trek (4 or 5 days), Lares Trek (4 days) or Inca Jungle (4 days). The first two treks offer lovely mountain nature with a combination of Incan sies. The ladder offers adrenaline sports and subtropical warmer wheather of a cloud forest. After trekking, you will need a day of to rest. Then you should take a tour to MANU National Park (optimal is to take a 4-5 day tour, you can arrange it upon your arrival to Cusco). Manu is the best place to see Amazonian Rainforest! After that, you should continue southward to Puno by bus (7 hours). The highlisght of Puno is a visit of Titicaca Lake! You can take a 1 or 2 day tour to the Uros Floating Islands, Taquile Islands and Amantani Islands. If you choose the 2 day tour, you spend a night in local family homestay on Amantani Island – a wonderful experience! After that, I recommend you to continue to a pictureque town of Copacabana, which is placed on the Bolvian side of Titicaca Lake (please note that Peruvian-Bolivian border is closed at 8 pm!). You can overnight in one of Copacabana´s various hotels and hostels with a lake view (amazing experience!) and next day start a motorboat tour to Sun Island (Isla del Sol), a cradle of the Incan civilization, where you see a couple of Incan monuments. The tours starts either at 8 am or at 1:30 pm. The island is very pretty!When you return you can either spend one more night in Copacabana or continue to La Paz. Its city centre is fantastic! You can visit there a couple of excellent museums and especially, the Moon Valley (Valle de la luna)! 2-3 days should be suffient to see everything interesting. After that, you have 2 options: you ca either follow the famous “Death Road” doing a biking tour on it until Coroico (a subtropical pretty and touristic area) or to continue to Salar de Uyuni to see salt pans! For Coroico, you will need 2 days. After that, you will need to return to La Paz and take a bus to Salar de Uyun The way there and a tour will take you 2-3 days. Directly from there, you can continue to Argentina. But I dont know it so someone else will need to advise sou about that.

    Hope it helps a bit!
    Safe journey!

    Camakoko 27/09/13    Link Report

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  • Camakoko, this was SO helpful, thank you. Can I just confirm though – you recommend going from Nazca to Arequipa and then up to the Inca Trail, then down to Puno? On the map it looks like you would need to go from Nazca up to the Inca Trail, then down to Arequipa and on to Puno. Is it easier the way you said?

    Louise Mitcheson 05/11/13    Link Report

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  • Bengreen17,
    How was your travel in the end ?
    Do you have some interesting tips, do’s, don’ts for the travelers amongst us ?
    How did you experience Brazil ?
    Im am living here in Bahia for over a decade and always interested in knowing how travelers experience there passage in Brazil
    Greetz from the tropIX of Brazil


    Ivan Bahia Guide 21/05/15    Link Report

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    I recommend the following program in Peru and Bolivia (Uyuni)
    Peru and Bolivia by http://www.llamatoursperu.com/en/

    Day 1: Arrival to Lima
    Day 2: Flight from Lima to Cusco – city tour in the afternoon
    Day 3: Sacred Valley
    Day 4: Inca Trail trek – Ollantaytambo – Aguas Calientes
    Day 5: Visit Machu Picchu – return to Cusco by train
    Day 6: Moray and Maras salt mines
    Day 7: Manu National Park by http://www.manutoursperu.com/en/
    Day 8: Manu National Park
    Day 9: Manu National Park
    Day 10: Manu National Park
    Day 11: Manu National Park – Cusco
    Day 12: Orient Express train Cusco – Puno
    Day 13: Titicaca Lake full day (Uros and Taquile islands)
    Day 14: Bus from Puno – La Paz / Bolivia
    Day 15: Flight from La Paz – Uyuni (Uyuni – Colchani – Incahuasi / Isla Pescado – Agua Quisa
    Day 16: Uyuni
    Day 17: Flight from Uyuni to Paz and return to Puno by bus
    Day 18: Bus from Puno to Chivay colca canyon
    Day 19: Colca Canyon – Arequipa
    Day 20: Arequipa City tour / Campiña – Bus to Ica
    Day 21: Ballestas Islands – Huacachina Sandboarding – Bus to Nasca
    Day 22: flight over nazca lines – return to Lima by bus

    Best regards,

    Quenta 18/08/15    Link Report

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  • Hi Ben / fellow travellers, i’m 25 and thinking of doing a very similar 4 month trip this year from November to end of feb. I’m thinking of starting in colombia and working my way down through Ecuador, peru, bolivia to BA then up through brazil. Again it seems if i start in colombia at the start of the Nov, i’ll be follow the wet season down through the countries, minimizing chances of the inca trail, cycling death road and all that good stuff. Did you do this route / have similar problems? My alternative, albeit somewhat illogical and more pricey, would be start in bolivia and go up to colombia and take a hit on a flight to Argentina. Whats your thoughts or is the weather not that much of an issue?

    Joel Cordes 23/08/15    Link Report

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