7 months itinerary in South America: a trip of a lifetime

Are you looking to spend several months travelling in South America? This article is for you! In June  24, 2014 we left Europe for a trip of a lifetime, exploring South America. It took us 222 days to go “From the Caribbean to the end of the world“. It was magic.

South_america_itinerary

Highlights of 6 months in South America

This is always a difficult question: what did you like the most in South America? Impossible to pic one thing but here is a list of few experiences that make it to the “top list”.

  • Meeting the welcoming Colombians
  • Climbing in the Andes
  • Getting face to face with wildlife in Galapagos
  • Exploring Inca ruins and indigenous culture
  • Strolling through unreal landscapes: Salar de Uyuni, Atacama desert, Iguazu Falls
  • Get caught by the rhythm of Brazil
  • Trekking in Patagonia
  • Tasting the meat in Uruguay and Argentina

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I am sharing here the itinerary of the trip in details, I hope it will give you ideas to plan your own adventure! You can click on the destinations in blue to read more about them.

Destination Country Days Month
Cartagena Colombia 4 June
Taganga Colombia 5 July
Ciudad Perdida trek Colombia 4 July
Tayrona National Park Colombia 2 July
Taganga Colombia 1 July
Medellin Colombia 3 July
Guatape Colombia 2 July
Salento Colombia 4 July
Cali Colombia 2 July
Mindo Ecuador 3 July
Otavalo Ecuador 3 July
Quito Ecuador 4 August
Latacunga Ecuador 1 August
Quilotoa Loop Ecuador 5 August
Cotopaxi volcano Ecuador 1 August
Quito Ecuador 1 August
Tena Ecuador 1 August
Laguna Limoncocha (Amazonas) Ecuador 4 August
Banos Ecuador 1 August
Puerto-Lopez Ecuador 3 August
Montanita Ecuador 2 August
Guayaquil Ecuador 1 August
Galapagos Ecuador 10 August
Guayaquil Ecuador 1 September
Lima Peru 3 September
Nazca Peru 1 September
Cusco Peru 3 September
Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu Peru 4 September
Cusco Peru 4 September
Sacred valley Peru 3 September
Cusco Peru 1 September
Copacabana Bolivia 1 September
Isla del Sol Bolivia 2 September
La Paz Bolivia 4 October
Huayna Potosi climb Bolivia 3 October
Coroico Bolivia 2 October
La Paz Bolivia 1 October
Sucre Bolivia 2 October
Potosi Bolivia 2 October
Uyuni Bolivia 1 October
Salar de Uyuni Bolivia 3 October
San Pedro de Atacama Chile 3 October
Salta Argentina 1 October
Road trip around Salta Argentina 2 October
Asuncion Paraguay 2 October
Ciudad del Este Paraguay 1 October
Iguazu Falls Argentina 2 October
Sao Paolo Brazil 3 November
Parati Brazil 3 November
Rio de Janeiro Brazil 6 November
Ilha Grande Brazil 3 November
Sao Paolo Brazil 3 November
Florianopolis Brazil 2 November
Punta del Diablo Uruguay 2 November
Montevideo Uruguay 1 November
Valdence (ranch) Uruguay 2 November
Colonia del Sacramento Uruguay 1 November
Buenos Aires Argentina 7 December
Mendoza Argentina 4 December
Santiago de Chile Chile 3 December
Valparaiso Chile 2 December
Santiago de Chile Chile 1 December
Pucon Chile 4 December
Chiloe Chile 3 December
Bariloche Argentina 5 December
El Bolson Argentina 5 December
El Chalten Argentina 5 January
El Calafate Argentina 3 January
Puerto Natales Chile 2 January
Torres del Paine Chile 8 January
Puerto Natales Chile 1 January
Punta Arenas Chile 1 January
Porvenir Chile 2 January
Punta Arenas Chile 1 January
Ushuaia Argentina 4 January
Buenos Aires Argentina 2 February

If we would do it again… We would probably spend a few days less in Ecuador (41 days is a long time!), and stay a bit longer in Colombia and Uruguay. With more time and a bit more money we would have added a trip to the north of Brazil – a domestic flight is needed.

A few things to consider for your South America itinerary

Distances. Distances are huge in South America! Long distances buses will be your main way of transportation if you are backpacking on the continent. Be ready to get a journeys of more than 12h on a frequent basis.

Seasons. There are mainly two ways to explore South America: from North to South or from South to North! A choice mainly based on when you start your trip.
If you want to go trekking in Patagonia, plan to get there between December and March or be ready for the worst!. Note that the rest of the year you will be really limited in terms of transportation. The rainy season in the Andes is supposed to be around January and May, but many people we met said it would not do much difference.

Mountains vs Beaches. We love hiking more than relaxing on paradisiac beaches and you can see it on our itinerary: more than half of our trip was focussed around the Andes and just in Patagonia we spent 39 days. If you are not a huge fan of trekking, you won’t need so much time there. The beaches fans should research about little paradises on Colombian, Ecuador and Peruvian beaches on the Pacific Ocean as well as in the northern part of Brazil.

Budget. Some countries are more expensive than others. For example, you will probably spend 3 times more in Brazil than in Bolivia. You may also want to read How much does it costs to travel 6 months in South America

Now it’s your time to combine your South America itinerary and to get on the roads!

{the grown-up gap year series}

4 thoughts on “7 months itinerary in South America: a trip of a lifetime

  1. Alfy says:

    Hi, I’m heading to South America soon. Flying into Chile to start. For your travel plans through Chile and Argentina were you able to do that all by bus or did you have to rent a car at some points ?

    • Amandine says:

      Hello Alfy, on that trip I was able to do the all thing just by bus (except Galapagos and a flight between Colombia and Ecuador). Especially in Chile and Argentina buses are a great way to travel, they are also really comfortable. We rented a car once for a mini two day road trip around Salta (upcoming blog post, stay tuned) but it is because we wanted to do a road trip not because there was no bus reaching our destination. Have a fun trip!

  2. Becky says:

    Hi Amadine. My boyfriend and I are hoping to go to South America this year but we are a little confused as to when the best time of year to go is as everywhere seems to recommend different times. We plan to fly into Colombia in September and work our way south finishing in Patagonia in Feb. We both like to hike but don’t want to get caught in the rainy season that would make travel/hiking tough. What would your advice be? Thanks!!

    • Amandine says:

      Hi Becky, Thanks for stopping by.
      Exciting that you have 6 months of travel upon you! Indeed, it is not so easy to try to plan according the season in South America – and there is no perfect way to do it either. Overall I think your plan looks great!
      If you like hiking it is definitely a good idea to keep Patagonia for the end of the trip (Dec/Jan/Feb) as it can be really cold and snowing – and you could be really miserable so I would mainly plan according to that. Most of the other countries have a variety of climates and altitudes so the rainy season of the lowlands can be a problem, but it may be ok in altitude.
      I think starting with Colombia early September you should not be in the core of the rainy season so it should be all right. Then try to make the most of the weather you get in Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia (for this last one try to avoid December). You can be in Brazil around early December – then it is not too hot yet. Also remember that rain itself is not a problem – if you go to the Amazonas area, it rains everyday at least for a few hours but the warm temperature make is viable to still hike.

      I can guarantee you that you will have fun whatever :-). When you travel for a long time, your brain is much less picky about the weather because you don’t just have 10 days to do it all, and you can sometimes slightly adjust your next day activity to make the most out of good weather.

      Last tip: Make sure you invest in quick dry hiking pants – better than rain pants in my opinion when you are backpacking- and a good rain jacket. You can check the equipment I use here http://littlebigexplorations.com/packing-list-trekking-equipment/

      Have fun planning!

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