7 Awesome Ideas for South America Backpacking Routes

south america backpacking routes

Backpacking through South America is an experience every traveller should try once. There are so many places that you can go to, however, that sometimes, this sheer amount of choice can get overwhelming. Luckily, we’re here with some ideas to help you plan your South America route, so that you can get the most out of your time and money. Didn’t think you wanted to travel there? Think again. This South America itinerary is going to show you how impressive a trip can be when the right person plans it for you. Take a look and see for yourself!

7 South America Backpacking Route Ideas

1 – Start at the top and work your way down

If you want to do it right, you’ll want to take a look at the option of simply starting at the top of South America and travelling your way down to the bottom. This way, you won’t miss anything.

Starting in Colombia, you’ll be following the Andes down until you take a quick detour to the east and head to Bolivia, and then you’ll continue on down through Chile before looping across through Argentina to Brazil. Crossing into Brazil through Iguassu Falls is a fantastic way to experience these incredible waterfalls from both sides.

There are many stops in each of these countries, each of which is going to provide you with a rich cultural experience, while making sure that you are still getting the backpacking South America feel that you are going for. This route can take about 6-8 months to complete successfully.

south america backpacking routes

Iguassu Falls is the perfect spot to cross from Argentina to Brazil!

2 – Start at the bottom and work your way up

If you want to turn it on its head, than consider the opposite approach. Look at the idea, instead, of starting from Brazil and working your way up to Colombia. This is great if you are someone who likes to be closer to home by the time you finish. It can be more comforting and familiar to know that you are able to jump ship if need be, or it can just be more satisfying in terms of the fact that you are going to the ends of the earth and then coming back up to more familiar territory at the end.

You can follow the same path as above, add in some points, or change it as you want to. The point is simply to make it work for you and your own interests. This is especially a great idea if you know, for instance, that you’re going to want to spend a lot of time in Colombia in particular. It allows you to take the last of your trip and really get as much out of it as possible.

south america backpacking routes

End your trip on the beach in Colombia!

3 – Short and Sweet

If you’re looking at a South American backpacking route that is going to be done in a shorter time frame, you could look at the option of limiting your travel to Argentina and Chile, where you’ll be able to admire some seriously impressive hikes that will make for an impressive and adventurous journey. This particular trip is great for when you need budget travel in South America. The actual footprint is relatively small, and the focus is on breathtaking views – which are free – that will give you an impressive overall experience.

south america backpacking routes

Breathtaking views are everywhere in Patagonia

4 – Rich in History

If you’re taking this a look at this South America itinerary specifically because you want to learn about the rich history, you’ll want to focus on the options of both Bolivia and Peru. These will give you the depth of history and culture that you’re looking for with spectacular views and a few hikes thrown in to give you a hands-on – well, boots – experience that will stay with you for a lifetime in terms of all that it can teach you.

south america backpacking routes

Head to Cusco for a rich world of history and culture.

5 – In Style

If you are interested in a South America backpacking route that will still allow you for the creature comforts of modern civilization, you can look at the option of Ecuador and the Galápagos. A lot of this is through a modern city scape – still rich with foreign culture – and a lot of the travel (450km worth) can be done on a modern train that allows you to travel in style and in comfort, while still getting lots of stops to admire all of the scenery and foreign world that you are in. It’s a great idea for those that want to enjoy the modern aspect of backpacking.

south america backpacking routes

Taking the train through Ecuador is a fabulous way to travel!

6 – Split it up

When you are backpacking South America, you don’t necessarily have to actually take in all of the continent. There may be certain countries or cultures that appeal to you more, and there’s nothing wrong with that! For example, if you really want to take in the various festivals in Brazil, you can look at simply travelling within Brazil.

If you are looking at something more like a wilderness meets history kind of option, you’ll find that a combination of Bolivia and Chile can help you fill your time in a way that is more satisfying. For a thoroughly modern and rich experience in terms of different city lives, you’ll find Colombia and Venezuela are going to offer that authentic feel that you’re going for while still being foreign at the same time. There is no such thing as the wrong South America routine to take, you just need to think seriously about what you want to get out of it.

south america backpacking routes

Discover city life in Bogota

7 – Strict Segments

Lastly, especially for budget travel in South America, look at the option of picking, say, 3 days in each country before continuing on. Yes, that’s not a lot of time, but you will be able to make sure that you can take a little bit of everything and still enjoy the fact that it will stay within the time you have allotted for it and the money as well. While backpacking is traditionally more flexible, it can work however you want it to.

south america backpacking routes

As you can see, there is no end to the options in terms of travelling in South America with a backpack along for the ride. There is no wrong or right way to do it, it just needs to be an authentic and comfortable experience for you and your loved ones. It’s your trip, so make sure that you are doing it your way. This means budget, time, location, and experience. They all need to be given equal thought when planning your trip so that it is amazing no matter how it may turn out.

What would your dream itinerary for backpacking South America be? Leave a comment below and let us know! 

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South America Backpacking Routes

About Emily Luxton

Emily Luxton is an award-winning travel blogger and writer with a special love for South America - her favourite continent and second home. A lover of slow, deep travel and really interacting with new cultures, she travels as often as possible on the hunt for new adventures.

One Comment

  1. i did something similar, albeit it abridged and shortened. But I made my way from Quito to Buenos Aires via land, actually and then to Bariloche. And then it was time to fly to quickly take in Iguazu and Rio before flying home. And that was a packed two months. Great suggestions Emily!

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