The Ideal 2-Month South America Itinerary For Budget Backpackers

So, you have two months to see the highlights of the incredible continent of South America - but with over 10 countries to choose from it can be hard to decide where to go and what route to follow. That’s why we’ve outlined out a simple but effective two-month South America itinerary that takes you through three countries, perfect for budget backpackers.

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What’s The Best Budget Backpacking Route For 2 Months In South America?

The variety of travel routes you can take through South America is endless.

 

The best route really depends on your goals and budget. 2 months in South America is a great amount of time. You can spend 20 days in three different countries or two weeks in each country and see 6 in total!

 

For 2 months in South America on a budget, I think the best travel route would be one that goes through Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia as they are cheap compared to places like Chile and Brazil, close together, and the travel routes between them by bus and air are short and well established.

South America 2-Month Budget Itinerary – Ecuador, Peru & Bolivia

  • Pros – the cheapest way to travel through South America, perfect for budget backpackers. This itinerary also has lots of flexibility to extend your stay in your favourite places as well
  • Cons – you will be skipping some of the more popular sights such as the Galapagos islands, and taking some long overnight buses to stick to a budget

Here is a the complete 2-month South America itinerary for budget travellers:

Country 1 - Ecuador

  • Day 1 – Quito
  • Day 2-3 – Otavalo
  • Day 4-5 – Mindo
  • Day 6-7 – Quito
  • Day 8-9 – Cotopaxi National Park
  • Day 10-14 – Latacunga / Quilotoa Trek
  • Day 15-17 – Baños
  • Day 18-21 – Montanita
  • Day 22 – Travel day to Lima

Country 2 - Peru

  • Day 23-24 – Lima
  • Day 25-26 – Paracas
  • Day 27-28 – Huacachina
  • Day 29-33 – Arequipa / Colca Canyon
  • Day 34-36 – Cusco
  • Day 37-41 – Salkantay Trek/Machu Picchu
  • Day 42 – Cusco
  • Day 43 – Travel day to Copacabana

Country 3 - Bolivia

  • Day 44-45 – Copacabana
  • Day 46-48 – La Paz
  • Day 49-52 – Rurrenabaque / Amazon Tour
  • Day 53 – La Paz
  • Day 54 – Travel day to Uyuni
  • Day 55-57 – Uyuni Salt Flats Tour
  • Day 58/59 – Uyuni /Return to La Paz /Home

Days 1-22 - Ecuador

Day 1 - Quito

For your first day in South America, best to take it easy and acclimatise to the higher altitude. You will only be here for the day but don’t worry though as you will be returning to Quito in a couple of days.

 

The easiest and cheapest thing to do is to explore the city on a free walking tour. The tour takes you to the main sights in the historical centre including Plaza Grande – the main square which includes the presidential palace, and La Ronda – the popular tourist street filled with galleries, craft shops, and restaurants.

For more great things to do in Quito including chocolate tasing, museums, and visiting the equator, head to the guide below:

 

 

Day 2-3 - Otavalo

Otavalo is a 2–3-hour journey north of Quito by bus. There are two reasons to come here: the huge indigenous market the town is famous for, and the crater lake hike at Laguna Cuicocha. 

 

On your first day in Otavalo, you can visit the market which is the oldest and largest Indian handicrafts market in all of South America. It spreads out from the main square for blocks in each direction and sells everything from blankets and ponchos to jewellery, instruments, leather goods, spices, and more. 

 

On your second day it’s time to try your first hike at altitude.

 

Laguna Cuicocha, which translates to Lake of Guinea Pigs, was given this name due to the shape of the two islands that can be seen in the middle of the lake. A circular trail goes around the lake, and you can hike around the entire thing for amazing views of the islands, lake, and Volcano Cotacachi off in the distance.  

Everything you need to know about Otavalo and getting to the Laguna can be found in the two posts below:

 

 

Day 4-5 - Mindo

The Mindo cloud forest is the perfect escape from the high altitudes of Quito and Otavalo. The lush forest ecosystem of Mindo has the perfect conditions to grow what is known as some of the best chocolate in the world.

 

Spend your first day here on a tour around a chocolate farm that will show you how the cacao plant is grown and harvested, ending in a tasting session!

 

On your second day in Mindo, you have a wealth of options from tubing down the rivers to tropical birdwatching to hiking in the waterfall sanctuary. 

Read our complete Mindo guide here with even more great things to do such as mountain biking and night forest tours:

 

 

Day 6-7 - Quito

Now that you have spent some time adjusting to the high altitude of Ecuador, you can return to Quito to explore further.

 

On your first day back in the capital, you should ride the TelefericoQuito’s cable car that takes you from 3000m at the edge of the city, all the way to 3495m at the summit of Volcano Pichincha. At the top, you will have unobstructed views of the city, as well as of the many volcanoes surrounding Quito. Make sure you book into one of the many great backpacker hostels as well to get more great views – Secret Garden is our favourite!

 

Then on your last day in Quito, it’s time to visit ‘Mitad Del Mundo’ or the middle of the world in English, which is where you can go to stand on the actual equator line.

Our complete guide to the capital where these days are broken down into a more detailed itinerary can be found here:

 

 

Day 8-9 - Cotopaxi National Park

Time to get treated to one of the best hostel experiences in all of South America.

 

Booking a two-night stay at Secret Garden Cotopaxi is the best way to see the National Park and experience the stunning Cotopaxi Volcano. The hostel sits directly opposite the volcano and the views are unrivalled. They also run tours into the park, so everything is taken care of for you.

Everything you need to know about booking and staying at Secret Garden Cotopaxi can be found here:

 

 

Day 10-14 - Latacunga / Quilotoa Loop

The next town you visit after Cotopaxi is Latacunga, where you will be preparing for one of the best treks in Ecuador.

 

You will need to set aside 3 full days to complete the Quilotoa Loop Trek and add in a day after as well for rest and recovery. This self-guided trek through the beautiful Andean countryside comes to 40km in total.

 

The final day of the trek ends up at the spectacular Quilotoa Crater, one of the most popular tourist attractions in Ecuador. 

All you need to know about preparing for the trek including where to stay in Latacunga and over the 3 days can be found here: 

 

 

Day 15-17 - Baños

Baños is the adventure capital of the country.

 

But after 3 days of trekking, why not start with a spa and massage day with treatments fuelled by the volcanic activity around the town?

 

El Refugio is the best choice and one of the many public baths in town.  Along with thermal baths, they have saunas, steam rooms, and offer a range of spa services such as massages, mud baths, and pedicures.

 

On your second day in Baños, it’s time to ride the ‘Route of Waterfalls’ – A single main road that winds its way through the Baños valley, with waterfalls dotted at almost every corner and bend on the way.

 

The best stop along the route is Pailon del Diablo, an insanely powerful waterfall that plunges 61 metres (200ft) into a pool of powerful rapids. With bridges and paths running through the gorge, and multiple platforms and viewpoints, this is an incredible natural wonder not to be missed.

 

On your final day, you have a choice of many other activities including white water rafting, trekking up Tungurahua volcano or just relaxing and enjoying the town.

For more information on all these activities in Baños including the best restaurants, hostels and transport tips, head to the full guide below:

 

 

Day 18-21 – Montanita

To end your time in Ecuador, we are heading to the beach to one of the best surf and party destinations in all of South America.

 

Montanita is a tiny surf town full of great Spanish schools where you can spend your time in the day, and lots of bars, clubs where you can spend your evenings partying away.

Our complete guide Montañita including Spanish schools, surf tips, and nightlife guide can be found here:

 

 

Day 22 - Travel Day To Lima

Well done! You’ve ticked off your first country on this 2-month South America Itinerary.

 

On your final day in Ecuador, you will have to make your way to Guayaquil from Montanita which is a 4–5-hour journey. From there you can take a flight to Lima and continue the next part of this epic 2-month journey.

Days 23-43 - Peru

Day 23-24 - Lima

Your first day in Lima should be spent on the free walking tour of the historical centre. The tour will take you around the highlights of the historical centre such as San Martin Square and the Santo Domingo Church.

 

After seeing the historical centre it’s time to head to Miraflores. This is the preferred area for tourists and travellers with an abundance of trendy cafes and great restaurants all situated amongst the seafront parks and boardwalks.

 

On day 2, head to the bohemian district Barranco. Barranco is one of the city’s hippest neighbourhoods with colourful street art, mural-covered buildings, and hidden coffee shops all set within an old colonial-era mansion-style district.

Day 25-26 - Paracas

Paracas is Peru’s famous desert filled with rolling dunes and jagged cliffs that drop off to the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean.

 

The entire area is a national park, and this untouched natural landscape is perfect for backpackers looking for exploration and adventure.

 

You can explore the park by bicycle, ATV, or guided tour on one day. And on the other, a trip to the Ballestas Islands is well worth it. The islands are known as Peru’s Galapagos Islands and you can see whales, sea lions, penguins, and thousands of sea birds on a tour.

All the information you need is for visiting the park can be found below:

 

 

Day 27-28 - Huacachina

Visiting the desert oasis of Huacachina is a necessary stop on any backpacker’s journey through Peru for several reasons. You get to fly across the desert in sand buggies, sandboard down massive sand dunes and party the night away in the crazy backpacker hostels.

Our 2-day Huacachina itinerary with more information on hostels and restaurants be found here:

 

 

Day 29-33 - Arequipa & Colca Canyon

Arequipa is an underrated gem of a city bursting with beauty and charm. With tranquil cobblestone streets, fantastic local cuisine, and great rooftop bars, all surrounded by a backdrop of picturesque volcanoes, the city has a lot to offer.

 

On top of this, this will be your starting point for trekking into Colca Canyon, the second deepest canyon in the world.  

 

Trekking down into the second deepest canyon in the world is an experience like no other. You’ll spend most of your time picking your jaw up off the floor as you walk around in awe of the canyon’s vastness. The tour will take a full two days and two nights before returning to Arequipa for a day of recovery.

 

Then from Arequipa, you will need to take an overnight bus to Cusco as it’s a long journey (14 hours). Best to do it whilst sleeping.

For more information on the Arequipa and guided treks into Colca Canyon:

 

 

Arequipa Best Things To Do As A Backpacker

Day 34-36 - Cusco

The ancient capital of the Inca Empire – known for a wealth of archaeological remains and beautiful Spanish colonial-era architecture – is now one of the most popular backpacker hubs in all of South America.

 

As always, start with a free walking tour on your first day and get a feel for the city. Or if you are feeling adventurous, we highly recommend trekking up to 5000m to the summit of Rainbow Mountain.

 

Then for your final day in Cusco, you have lots of options to choose from including chocolate tours, massages or partying in the many great backpacker hostels.

For more information on Cusco:

 

 

Day 37-41 - The Salkantay Trek & Machu Picchu

One of the best ways to see Machu Picchu is via the 5-day Salkantay Trek.

 

On this trek, you will see many incredible sights along the way and it’s also the cheapest way to see the ancient citadel as your ticket and accommodation are all included in the price of the trek.

 

Laguna Humantay and Salkantay Mountain are just two of the incredible places you will visit. The best part though is the c.120km you’ll walk, the friendships formed, and the sense of accomplishment gained from trekking in the mountains with a bunch of random backpackers.

For everything you need to know on planning and preparing for the Salkantay Trek:

 

 

Day 42-43 - Cusco & Travel To Bolivia

After 5 days of trekking, a rest day in Cusco is needed to recover and wash all your dirty trekking gear. Check out our posts on the best backpacker hostels and restaurants so that your return to Cusco is set up for comfort and relaxation

 

Then the day, take the 9-hour bus from Cusco to Copacabana to start the final part of this 2-month South America itinerary in Bolivia.

Days 44-60 - Bolivia

Day 44-45 - Copacabana & Lake Titicaca

Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world at 3,810 metres above sea level.

 

Half of it sits in Peru, the other half in Bolivia. The town of Copacabana on the Bolivian side is a small but pretty place filled with local markets and artisan restaurants, but it’s the lake itself that is the must-see.

 

Fun activities include walking up to the summit of Cerro Calvario to get beautiful views of the lake and taking a boat tour to Isla del Sol, the largest island on the lake. You can easily arrange tours through your accommodation or head down to the pier to book.

Day 46-48 - La Paz

Once you reach La Paz you have an endless list of things to choose from such as biking down Death Road, trekking in the Valley of the Moon, or climbing Huayna Potosi.

 

3 days is a good amount of time to cover it all. We recommend riding down Death Road one day and then using the others to explore in and outside of the city.

Follow our La Paz backpacker guide to help you plan further:

 

 

Day 49-52 - Rurenabaque / Amazon Tour

The next step on this 2-month South America itinerary is a visit to the Amazon. From La Paz you can catch a 30-minute flight up north to the frontier town of Rurrenabaque.

 

Visiting the Amazon in Bolivia is much cheaper and easier compared to other countries in South America.

 

The standard Amazon tour is 3 days and 2 nights, and you will be picked up in Rurrenabaque. On the tour, your days will be spent on a longboat winding through the tributaries of the Amazon searching for caimans, anacondas, and exotic birds.

 

We took a day on either side in Rurrenabaque to enjoy the town and rest and recuperate. That’s the beauty of having 2 months travelling – you can slow down and not worry about rushing everywhere all the time.

Our complete guide to booking an Amazon tour and flying to Rurrenabaque from La Paz can be found here:

 

 

Day 53 - La Paz

If you prefer to break your long journeys up, then take an extra day in La Paz here.

 

The flight back from the Amazon is short so if you prefer to save the day then you can either hop on another flight down to Uyuni or take the overnight bus which takes 8-9 hours.

 

If you decide to take a day here to rest, then make sure you book yourself somewhere nice. La Paz has a wide range of backpacker hostels from budget to luxury hostels.

For more on our favourite backpacker hostels in La Paz:

 

 

Day 54 - Uyuni

Once you arrive in Uyuni, go window shopping for the best salt flat tours (it’s cheaper to book in person!) and get yourself ready – it’s time to end this epic two-month South America trip with probably one of the best tours on the whole continent.

Day 55-57 - Salt Flats Tour

The 3-day Salar De Uyuni tour will take you from one unique landscape to the next, starting with the white expanse of the salt flat on day 1, to the high-altitude desert of the Andes on the next.

 

Your mind will be blown by all the incredible scenery and you will leave this trip leave on a huge high. The perfect way to end an incredible time in South America!

 

Uyuni tours can either drop you off at the Chilean border or take you back to the town of Uyuni. As we are at the end of the 2-month itinerary, we assume heading back to Uyuni is best.

Our Uyuni guides have all the information you need including the best tour company and what to pack:

 

 

Day 58-59 – Uyuni / Return to La Paz / Home

Take one final night in the town of Uyuni before returning to La Paz. Once in La Paz, find somewhere nice to stay for your final night in South America before taking your last flight home!

 

That’s our recommended route and itinerary for travelling South America in 2 months on a budget.

For even more great itineraries that will fit every traveller’s need, check out these posts:

 

 

How Much Money Do You Need For 2 Months In South America?

To travel to South America for 2 months you need between $2000-$3000.

 

If you wish to travel South America on a backpacker budget, then $1000 a month is a good rule of thumb. You will need to eat at local markets most days, stay in the cheaper backpacker hostels and stick to local overnight buses for any long journeys. 

 

Aim to take $3000 if you wish to eat out at a restaurant once or twice a week, if you want to pay for a more expensive tour every now and then and want to take the odd flight between countries to speed up your journey time so you have longer in each place you visit.

For more great posts on South America that will that will help you travel like a pro, check out the posts below:

 

 

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