1-Month South America Itinerary For Peru, Bolivia And Chile
Deciding to backpack through South America is a fantastic decision, and visiting Peru, Bolivia and Chile in one trip makes sense because they all border each other, and travel between them is cheap, easy, and can be done by bus.
The route works nicely as well, travelling down through Peru and ending in Cusco before taking an 8-hour bus that crosses the border to Copacabana in Bolivia.
In Bolivia, you have another efficient route, heading south and ending in Uyuni (the town of the salt flats) before taking a short 45-minute bus across the border into Chile and the town of San Pedro de Atacama.
Here is the complete 1-month South America backpacking itinerary that includes Peru, Bolivia and Chile:
- Day 1 – Lima
- Day 2-3 – Paracas
- Day 4-5 – Huacachina
- Day 6-8 – Arequipa
- Day 9-12 – Cusco & Machu Picchu
- Day 13-14 – Copacabana
- Day 15-17 – La Paz
- Day 18-21 – The Amazon
- Day 22 – La Paz
- Day 23-24 -Uyuni & the Salt Flats
- Day 25-26 – Atacama Desert
- Day 27-28 – Santiago
- Day 29-31 – Pucon
- Day 32+ – Torres Del Paine
Day 1-12 - Peru
Day 1 - Lima
One day in the capital of Peru is more than enough to explore the district of Barranco and try some amazing regional dishes like ceviche.
Barranco is the bohemian district of Lima and a great place for backpackers who want to escape the busy city centre.
The area is known for its laid-back vibe, artisan coffee shops and huge colonial-era mansions that have been renovated into bars and restaurants. Make sure you visit one of the old mansions turned resto-bars and order yourself a Pisco Sour to celebrate and start off this 1-month itinerary.
Aside from Barranco, there isn’t much in Lima for backpackers so best to move on after a day and use your limited days in the more exciting places yet to come.
Day 2-3 - Paracas
The striking coastal desert of Peru should be on every adventure seekers bucket list.
The protected area, spanning over 3,350 km², consists of rolling desert, jagged ocean cliffs and rocky islands populated with a diversity of wildlife.
You can explore the desert 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.
Day 4-5 - Huacachina
After Paracas, it’s time to swap one desert for another with a visit to the famous oasis at Huacachina.
You’ll get another chance to fly across the giant dunes in sand buggies as well as sandboard down to the tallest of them.
Most hostels offer a package deal where you get accommodation with sandboarding thrown in so make sure you capitalise on this. I recommend Banana Adventure Hostel for the best deals (and they also have a great pool which is needed for the desert heat!).
After a day of adventure on the dunes, you should take a second to climb them yourself. Most backpackers climb up the tallest dune overlooking the town to watch the epic sunset every night before heading back down to party the night away in the crazy Wild Rover backpacker hostel.
Wild Rover in Huacachina is also one of my favourite hostels in South America. For the full list of incredible backpacker hostels across the continent, follow the link below:
Day 6-8 - Arequipa
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 so much to offer backpackers.
On top of this, this will be your starting point for trekking into Colca Canyon, the second deepest canyon in the world.
Take two days in the city to explore before booking yourself on to a Colca Canyon tour. 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.
Arequipa is also full of great backpacker hostels, restaurants, and bars to enjoy. For more information on Arequipa, head to the links below:
Day 9-12 - Cusco & Machu Picchu
Cusco is one of the most popular backpacker hubs in all of South America and there are endless amounts of opportunities here for fun.
You should spend your first day in the city centre exploring and preparing to travel to Machu Picchu. If you fancy doing an activity, you can find several museums full of Incan artefacts and history, book on to a cheap massage, or go chocolate tasting.
There are also several great single-day treks you can do around Cusco such as Rainbow Mountain or Humantay Lake. If you are feeling active, then why not extend your time in Cusco and do some of these as well.
Machu Picchu is ultimate highlight of many people’s trips to South America. Visiting the marvellous citadel of the Incas, hidden amongst misty valleys and set high above the clouds truly feels like you are stepping back through time.
The best way to do this is to take the train to Aguas Calientes on the morning of Day 10. Aguas Calientes is the town closest to Machu Picchu and the hub for travellers before they start their trek up to the mountain.
The train is a bit more expensive than the bus, but the journey is packed full of beautiful sights along the way as the train goes through the Sacred Valley.
Once you’ve reached Aguas Calientes, find a hostel for the night as you’ll be up early to climb the 1000+ stairs up to Machu Picchu.
For more information on how to organise your visit, including how to book the train, or bus if you want save money, then head to the post below:
That’s the first section of this 1-month Peru, Bolivia & Chile itinerary. One country ticked off!
Now it’s time to visit Bolivia!
After Cusco you can then get the bus into Bolivia and straight to Copacabana which takes around 8-9 hours.
For more Peru backpacking itineraries, check out our popular curated itineraries from 10-days to 1-month:
Day 13-24 - Bolivia
Day 13-14 - Copacabana
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.
After a couple of days enjoying the lake, it’s time to head to Bolivia’s capital. The easiest way to travel to La Paz from Copacabana is by bus. Direct buses from Copacabana leave from the main bus terminal and the journey lasts around 4 hours.
Day 15-17 - 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 (known as the easiest 6000m mountain to climb in the world).
Aside from all the adventure activities, the city is also an incredible place to explore.
When wandering around you will see the impressive cable cars and their lines stretching out to every corner of La Paz. Some routes will go as high as 4,000m (13,000 ft) above sea level, and it’s a great see more of La Paz and get incredible views of the city.
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.
Day 18-21 - The Amazon
Visiting the Amazon in Bolivia is much cheaper and easier compared to other countries in South America.
You can fly from La Paz to the town of Rurrenabaque, which is where most Amazon tours embark.
The Pampas tour is the most popular among backpackers as you see much more wildlife. You will spend 2 nights sleeping in a wooden hut next to the river. Your days will be spent winding through the tributaries of the Amazon on a longboat searching for caimans, anacondas, and exotic birds. You can even go swimming with pink river dolphins!
This is one of the best tours in Bolivia and it costs a fraction of the price compared to countries like Brazil or Colombia. It was one of the best experiences whilst we were backpacking in South America and we highly recommend it.
Day 22 - La Paz
If you prefer to break your journeys up, then when you fly back to La Paz, take an extra day here to relax and recuperate.
However, the flight back from the Amazon is only 20 minutes 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.
As this is a 1-month itinerary, we recommend either enjoying the extra day in La Paz or flying; long bus journeys are cutting into the limited time you have.
For more South America backpacking itineraries from 2 weeks to 3 months, check out more of our popular posts:
Day 23-24 - Uyuni & The Salt Flats
Your next stop is to the town of Uyuni, most famous for the beautiful Salt Flats.
It’s best to wait and book your tour with a company face to face. Tour prices are always over inflated on the internet and its much easier to barter in person and get a good deal. We recommend Salty Desert Adventures for their excellent guides and competitive prices.
Their three-day/two-night tour will take you exploring on one of the most surreal landscapes in the world.
Day 1 is spent on the actual salt flat taking the all-important perspective and reflection photos for the gram, before spending a night in the famous salt hotel – a hotel made entirely of salt.
Day 2 takes you out across the high-altitude desert to see even wilder landscapes such as volcanoes, geysers, and beautiful high-altitude lakes full of flamingos. We’ve never seen landscapes like this and our minds were constantly blown with each new thing we saw. This is one of best tours in the whole of South America and shouldn’t be missed.
For more on the Uyuni Salt Flat Tour including the best tours companies and what to pack, head to the backpacker guide below which has all your information:
One of the great things about a salt flat tour is that it also includes your transportation to Chile!
The tour ends on the morning of the third day and drops you at Chilean border which works perfectly for this 1-month Peru, Bolivia, and Chile trip. From the border you can take a short 45-minute bus to the town of San Pedro De Atacama where your next adventure awaits. Nice and easy!
Day 25-32 - Chile
Day 25-26 - Atacama Desert
Your mind may have just been blown with volcanoes, high-altitude lagoons, and surreal landscapes on the salt flats tour, but it doesn’t stop there.
Just across the border, the Atacama Desert still has some incredible landscapes worth checking out.
Why not rent a car and explore it yourself this time? You can head to the Valle de la Luna to see strange rock formations eroded over millions of years or float in the tranquil salt lagoons of the desert surrounded by mountains and volcanoes.
Our Atacama Desert itinerary has all the information you need on how to rent a car, avoid expensive tours and drive to the best places in the desert:
Day 27-28 - Santiago
Santiago is a long drive from Atacama so best to take a short 1-hour flight down south instead.
Once in the capital you can start with the walking tour to get your bearings and then visit one of the several museums Santiago has to offer.
For any extra days you wish to stay, you can take day trips outside of the city to Valparaiso, go trekking in the mountains or head to one of the many vineyards to try the best of Chilean wine.
This is an adventure filled itinerary and you may want the city days to help break up some of the big activities. However, with only a month in South America, you may wish to cut these down to see and do more of the exciting things.
For more South America backpacking itineraries to help inspire and plan your trip, check out some of our most popular posts:
Day 29-31 - Pucon
Pucón is the adventure capital of Chile, and there’s so many great activities on offer in this city including horse riding, kayaking, volcano trekking and much more.
One of the best hostels in the country is here – Chili Kiwi Hostel which won Hostel World’s Best Hostel in Latin America in both 2017 and 2018.
This hostel is in an unbeatable location on the shore of Villarrica Lake, directly opposite the majestic Villarrica Volcano and only a short walk from downtown Pucón. The hostel has a nice garden with swings, hammocks, and treehouses where you can catch sunsets over the lake and volcano.
Day 32 - Puerto Natales
Yes, we know we’ve gone over a month now for this itinerary, but it would be a shame to miss Patagonia. Or you can simply cut out Santiago and Pucon if you want more time in here.
Puerto Natales is the closest town to the incredible natural beauty of Torres Del Paine National Park so best to fly straight here from Santiago. The flight takes around 3 hours.
Once you arrive, take one day here to get your bearings, buy any last-minute gear for hiking, and prepare for the next 5 days on the W-trek route.
In Puerto Natales, we stayed at the Singing Lamb Hostel which was super cosy. They have a huge lounge area with sofas and tables, and the shared dorms had comfortable beds.
Day 33+ - Torres Del Paine National Park
You can use Puerto Natales as a base to travel into Torres Del Paine for day trips, but we highly recommend the W-trek.
This 5-day self-guided trek takes you in the shape of a W – in, out, and around the beautiful Cordillera Paine mountain range.
The trek is relatively easy with the first two days taking you on a 3–4-hour hike past the pristine Lago Grey and up to the stunning Grey Glacier. You then come back on yourself on the second day.
On day 3 you can trek into the Valle Frances to see French Glacier perched high up in the mountains. Here you have a great viewing point where you can sit and wait for avalanches coming off the glacier and crashing down to the mountains below.
On the final day you will trek to the famous towers of Torres Del Paine. Many people like to get up at 3AM so they reach the towers for sunrise – just make sure you bring a torch!
There are multiple ways to visit Torres del Paine, from bringing your own camping and cooking gear , renting camping gear at each camp site or staying in the refugios (the hostel style accommodation with beds). We haven’t written up our experience into a blog yet but here’s a great website we used to help us plan our trip.
If you would like to see some alternative but equally incredible South America itineraries that include Patagonia (Chilean and Argentinian), check out the post below: