South America 1 Month Itinerary 3200.1000

4 EPIC 1-MONTH SOUTH AMERICA BACKPACKING ITINERARIES

So, you have one month to see the best 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 four incredible 1-month South America itineraries for you below so there’s an option for every type of backpacker.

PICKING THE BEST SOUTH AMERICA BACKPACKING ROUTE

South America is a big place, so you won’t be able to see every country in one month. However, a month is still a reasonable amount of time to see three or four countries and the very best sights the continent has to offer.

 

Here are a handful the four itineraries we have detailed that cover most bases:

 

  • The Gringo Trail – Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia
  • The Nature Lover – Chile & Argentina (Patagonia)
  • The Inca Trail – Peru, Bolivia & North Argentina
  • The Sun & Party Chaser – Colombia, Ecuador & Peru

All these itineraries try to take flights between countries due to the long distances and short amount of time. We have also tried to choose the most efficient routes, so you aren’t travelling back on yourself or wasting time on transport.

'THE GRINGO TRAIL' - ECUADOR, PERU & BOLIVIA 1-MONTH SOUTH AMERICA ITINERARY

PROS & CONS

+ ticks off some of the best sights in South America, it’s also the second cheapest option on the list

 

misses out on the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador

WHO IS THIS ITINERARY FOR?

Travellers who want to see the most but spend as little as possible and stick to a budget. It’s also perfect for if you want to keep to a standard backpacking route where you will meet lots of other travellers along the way.

 

Big tours like Machu Picchu and the Salt Flats will start to add up, but these three countries are some of the cheapest in South America, so your overall spend will be low compared to our other itineraries.

ITINERARY BREAKDOWN

  • Day 1 – Fly into Quito, Ecuador
  • Day 2-3 – Quito
  • Day 4-6 – Cotopaxi Secret Garden
  • Day 7-9 – Baños
  • Day 10 – Flight to Lima, Peru
  • Day 11 – Lima
  • Day 12-13 – Paracas National Park
  • Day 14-15 – Huacachina Oasis
  • Day 16 – Flight or night bus to Cusco
  • Day 17-20 – Cusco and Machu Picchu
  • Day 21 – Flight to La Paz, Bolivia
  • Day 22-23 – La Paz city and Death Road
  • Day 24-26 – Amazon Tour (Rurrenabaque)
  • Day 27 – Travel To Uyuni
  • Day 28-30 – Salt Flats Tour
  • Day 31 – Fly out from La Paz, Bolivia

DAY 1-10 - ECUADOR

  • Day 1 – Fly into Quito, Ecuador
  • Day 2-3 – Quito
  • Day 4-6 – Cotopaxi Secret Garden
  • Day 7-9 – Baños
  • Day 10 – Flight to Lima, Peru

QUITO

Fly into Quito and spend a couple of days adjusting to the altitude. You have lots of options for things to do, including visiting the equator, climbing to the top of the city’s famous church, or taking a day trip to one of the towns outside of Quito such as Otavalo or Mindo.

 

Follow the links below if you are looking for more information on Ecuador’s capital:

 

 

COTOPAXI

From Quito, you can take a short mini-bus to Cotopaxi Secret Garden Hostel, in Cotopaxi National Park.

 

This is one of the best hostels in the whole of South America for many reasons, but mainly for the incredible views of the Cotopaxi Volcano. Using the hostel as a base, you can then plan lots of treks within the park and even summit Cotopaxi Volcano if you’re brave enough.

 

 

 

BAÑOS

Your final stop in Ecuador is the adventure paradise of Baños.

 

Here you can ride bikes along the route of waterfalls and visit the powerful Pailon del Diablo waterfall, trek up to the ‘Swing at the End of the World’ to see the incredible Tungurahua Volcano, and go white-water rafting along the Rio Verde.

 

For more on the backpackers favourite Baños, head to the posts below:

 

 

 

You may need one travel day to get from Baños to Guayaquil (8 hour journey) to then fly to Lima.

DAY 11-21 - PERU

  • Day 11 – City Day Lima
  • Day 12-13 – Paracas National Park
  • Day 14-15 – Huacachina Oasis
  • Day 16 – flight or night bus to Cusco
  • Day 17-20 – Cusco and Machu Picchu
  • Day 21 – Flight to La Paz, Bolivia

LIMA

Once in Lima, you could take a day to rest, but we recommend getting on the move and seeing more epic sights. There isn’t much for backpackers here and cities like Cusco have much more going on.

 

If you decide to stay then check out our guides:

 

 

PARACAS

Your first main stop in Peru is a few hours away by bus to the coastal town of Paracas.

 

Paracas National Reserve is an incredible expanse of desert which you can explore via bikes, ATVs or dune buggies. Even better if you head out into the park later in the day to catch the sunset over the desert. 

 

 

HUACACHINA

After a couple of days in Paracas, it’s on to the famous desert oasis of Huacachina where you can go sandboarding on sand dunes the size of mountains and party all night long at the crazy Wild Rover hostel.

 

The journey from Huacachina to Cusco is a long one with a 19-hour overnight bus. Alternatively, you could return to Lima and fly, but this will be expensive.

 

One final option is splitting up the journey by heading to Arequipa next. Arequipa is a great city and is the closest main town to visit the Colca Canyon – it just means you will have to sacrifice days elsewhere on this itinerary.

 

 

CUSCO

Once in Cusco, spend a day exploring the city and then it’s time to travel to one of the best sights in all of South America – Machu Picchu.

 

Alternatively, you could skip Paracas and Huacachina and spend more time in Cusco. There’s an incredible amount to do here such as Rainbow Mountain, The Sacred Valley and the Salkantay Trek.

 

From Cusco, you can either take the bus to Copacabana and then on to La Paz or fly to save time.

 

For more guides, tips and tricks on Cusco, check out our posts below:

 

 

 

 

DAY 20-30 - BOLIVIA

  • Day 22-23 – La Paz City and Death Road
  • Day 24-26 – Amazon Tour (Rurrenabaque)
  • Day 27 – Travel To Uyuni
  • Day 28-30 – Salt Flats Tour
  • Day 31 – Fly out from La Paz, Bolivia

LA PAZ

Once in Bolivia, you have a whirlwind tour of some incredible sights ahead of you.

 

In La Paz, enjoy a day in the city riding the cable cars and watching the famous Cholita Wrestling before riding down the epic Death Road the next day.

 

 

THE AMAZON

Then fly out to Rurrenabaque and hop on to an Amazon tour for 3 days where you will ride speedboats along the winding tributaries in search of pink river dolphins, anacondas and birds of paradise.

 

For how to find the best Amazon tours in Bolivia:

 

 

 

UYUNI SALT FLATS

From Rurrenabaque you should be able to take a short two hour flight to Uyuni to save time, and then end the trip with the incredible Salt Flats Tour.

 

Over the 3 days you will see some of the most unique sights in all South America including the white expanse of the salt flat, the deep red colour of Laguna Colorada and many other natural wonders.

 

 

 

So, in one month you’ve seen Machu Pichu – a natural wonder of the world, the Amazon, the Salt Flat and countless volcanoes, mountains and other unique landscapes. What a way to spend a month in South America.

'THE INCA TRAIL' - PERU, BOLIVIA & ARGENTINA 1-MONTH SOUTH AMERICA ITINERARY

PROS & CONS

+ the cheapest option as Bolivia and the north of Argentina are less tourist

+ a bit more off the beaten track

 

fewer big sights and more laid-back towns with less travellers

WHO IS THIS ITINERARY FOR?

Those of you who want to see a lot and spend the least. This itinerary is perfect for travellers who want to get off the beaten track and see beautiful regions such as North Argentina and Tupiza in Bolivia.

 

Once you are in Bolivia, your daily spend will be less than $30, and this should continue on into North Argentina where prices are low compared to the rest of the country.

ITINERARY BREAKDOWN

  • Day 1 – Lima, Peru
  • Day 2-5 – Cusco
  • Day 6 – Travel to La Paz, Bolivia
  • Day 6-8 – La Paz,
  • Day 9-11 – Amazon Tour (Rurrenabaque)
  • Day 12 – Travel To Cochabamba
  • Day 13-14 – Torotoro National Park
  • Day 15 – Travel To Sucre
  • Day 16-17 – Sucre
  • Day 18 – Travel To Uyuni
  • Day 19-21 – Salt Flats Tour
  • Day 22-23 – Tupiza
  • Day 24 – Humahuaca
  • Day 25 – Tilcara
  • Day 26 – Purmamarca
  • Day 27-28 – Salta
  • Day 29-30 – Buenos Aires

DAY 1-11 - PERU, LA PAZ AND THE AMAZON

Follow a similar itinerary to the ‘Gringo Trail’ itinerary to tick off Machu Pichu and get started in Bolivia with La Paz and the Amazon. 

DAY 12-23 - BOLIVIA

  • Day 12 – Travel To Cochabamba
  • Day 13-14 – Torotoro National Park
  • Day 15 – Travel To Sucre
  • Day 16-17 – Sucre
  • Day 18 – Travel To Uyuni
  • Day 19-21 – Salt Flats Tour
  • Day 22-23 – Tupiza

COCHABAMBA

Unfortunately the journey times in Bolivia mean that a couple of days are taken up on buses here, but you can always take the overnight bus or fly if you want to save time. 

 

A flight from Rurrenabaque to Cochabamba is best here to save a big journey. Once you arrive, it’s time to get yourseld ready for a trip to one of Bolivia’s best national parks the next day. 

 

 

TOROTORO NATIONAL PARK

Famous for its incredibly well-preserved fossils and dinosaur footprints, towering canyons, surreal rock formations and sprawling network of underground caves, this national park has something for nature lovers and natural history nerds alike.

 

It’s an additional 4-5-hour journey from Cochabamba to Torotoro though so it’s best to stay a couple of nights.

 

Our guide to visiting Torotoro National Park can be found here:

 

 

SUCRE

For a nice city break a world away from the urban sprawl of La Paz, its time to head to Bolivia’s famous white city of Sucre.

 

Two days here is perfect to enjoy the artisan cafes, amazing chocolate shops and beautiful views of the colonial era buildings and terracotta rooftops.

 

From Sucre, it’s an 8-9 hour bus to Uyuni so may be best to take an overnight bus to save time.

 

 

UYUNI

Same as before, hop on to a three day tour. However, on the last day return to Uyuni with the jeep as we are going into Argentina and not Chile. 

 

If you want to save time here and don’t fancy the long journey on the last day returning to Uyuni then a 1 day tour might be best for you:

 

 

  • Uyuni Salt Flats Tour: 1-Day vs 3-Days

TUPIZA

Known as the wild west of Bolivia, this small town is famous for is incredible red coloured cliffs and canyons which are free to explore.

 

Tupiza is 4 hours from Uyuni and an hour a way from the Argentinian border so it’s the perfect town to spend a night or two in before getting ready to cross the border.

 

 

  • The Best Things To Do In Tupiza

DAY 23-30 - NORTH ARGENTINA

  • Day 24 – Humahuaca
  • Day 25 – Tilcara
  • Day 26 – Purmamarca
  • Day 27-28 – Salta
  • Day 29-30 – Buenos Aires

HUMAHUACA, TILCARA & PURMAMARCA

Time to start you final adventure through Northern Argentina.

 

These tiny towns are all found along Route 40, which is one of the most scenic routes in the world, perfect for travelling along. Each town is a short bus ride away (1-2 hours) so you only need a day in each to see everything. 

 

Along the way, you will see two separate Rainbow Mountains and fall in love with the small, laid-back towns in the region.

 

For more information on the north of Argentina:

 

 

  • How To Visit El Hornocal In Humahuaca
  • Humahuaca vs Pumamarca: Which Rainbow Mountain Is Best?
  • Tilcara Guide & Best Things To Do

SALTA

Once you reach Salta, you can take a couple of days to enjoy a bigger city and find a great restaurant to have some of what Argentina does best – steak and wine.

A trip out to a vineyard for some winetasting is another great shout, especially as we are near the end of your month in South America. Salta is the second best wine region in Argentina after Mendoza and they have some of the best wines in the world. 

 

After Salta you can travel to BA for a day or two before flying home. 

 

Another route done and although slightly different to the standard itineraries, we think it’s another great way to spend a month in South America. 

'THE NATURE LOVER' - CHILE & ARGENTINA 1-MONTH SOUTH AMERICA ITINERARY

PROS & CONS

+ See the best of Patagonia which is one of the most beautiful regions in the world 

 

most expensive, requires more forward planning

WHO IS THIS ITINERARY FOR?

Trekking and nature enthusiasts who don’t mind spending a bit of extra cash for an incredible month in Patagonia.

ITINERARY BREAKDOWN

  • Day 1 – Fly In to Santiago, Chile
  • Day 2 – City Day
  • Day 3 – Fly To Atacama
  • Day 4-5 – Atacama desert tour
  • Day 6 – Fly to Puerto Natales
  • Day 7-12 – Torres Del Paine W Trek
  • Day 13 – Puerto Natales (rest day)
  • Day 14-15 – Travel to El Calafate / See Puerto Moreno Glacier
  • Day 16 – Travel to El Chatlen
  • Day 17-19 – Trekking in El Chatlen
  • Day 20 – Travel To Bariloche, Argentina
  • Day 21-23 – Bariloche
  • Day 24 – Travel to Buenos Aires
  • Day 25-28 – Buenos Aires
  • Day 29 – Fly Home

SANTIAGO & ATACAMA

Although the Atacama Desert is north of Santiago, it fits nicely into this itinerary and adds to the long list of incredible natural wonders you will see.

 

You can rent a jeep and drive around the desert for two days visiting the sinkholes, geysers, volcanoes, and high-altitude lakes. At night, it’s the perfect place for a stargazing tour as the light pollution in the desert is minimal.

PUERTO NATALES & TORRES DEL PAINE

After a jaunt in the desert, fly south to Puerto Natales. Take one day here to get your bearings, buy any last-minute gear for hiking, and plan the next 5 days of the W-trek.

 

After 5 days of trekking in Torres Del Paine National Park, you may want to take a day’s rest, and then you’ll cross the border into Argentina.

ARGENTINIAN PATAGONIA & BARILOCHE

You have a week here seeing the epic Puerto Morena Glacier and to trek around the incredible landscape of El Chalten.

 

For the final part of the trip, you need to grab a long bus or flight up to Bariloche, the lake district of Patagonia. And again, here you have incredible hikes and nature in abundance.

 

Whilst we completed the first part of this itinerary, coronavirus shut down the world in April 2020, and we had to fly home. This was the second part of our trip planned before making our way up to Buenos Aires. Hopefully you get a chance to do it in 2021!

'THE SUN, SURF & PARTY CHASER' - COLOMBIA, ECUADOR & PERU 1-MONTH SOUTH AMERICA ITINERARY

PROS & CONS

+ follows the best weather in the region and keeps you close to the coast, you also get more time in fewer places

 

not seeing many of the natural wonders of the continent such as Machu Picchu

WHO IS THIS ITINERARY FOR?

As mentioned above, this is perfect for you if you aren’t too fussed about the significant sights like Machu Picchu and just want to stay close to a beach, the party and the surf

ITINERARY BREAKDOWN

  • Day 1-2 – Fly into Bogata, Colombia / Bogata City Day
  • Day 3-5 – Santa Marta
  • Day 6-8 – Palomino
  • Day 9-11 – Cartagena
  • Day 12-13 – San Bernado Islands / Casa en el Agua Hostel
  • Day 14 – Back to Bogata or Cali / Fly To Guayaquil, Ecuador
  • Day 15-20 – Montanita
  • Day 21 – Bus or Flight To Mancora, Peru
  • Day 21-26 – Mancora
  • Day 27 – Bus To Lima
  • Day 28-29 – Lima
  • Day 30 – Fly home

DAY 1-14 - COLOMBIA

Flying into Bogata has you far away from the coast, so it’s best to fly out as soon as possible to Santa Marta.

 

You can spend a couple of days here at one of the best hostels in South America (The Dreamer) and party the night away on the rooftop at another great party hostel – La Briza Loca. From your base in Santa Marta, you can trek into Taganga National Park and take day trips out to the beaches in Palomino.

 

Cartagena is an easy journey from Santa Marta, but there isn’t much to do here. Best to hop on a speedboat that takes you to one of South Americas most unique hostels on the San Bernardo Islands – Casa en el Agua.

 

After partying away at Casa en el Agua, it’s a full day journey back to Bogata to take a flight to Ecuador. Or you could travel down to Cali and fly from there as well.

DAY 15-21 - MONTAÑITA, ECUADOR

Now you are here there’s less moving around and you can sit on the beach, learn to surf or take some Spanish lessons in Montanita.

 

Five days is enough to get some surf experience and enjoy some of the incredible nightlife.

 

 

DAY 22-29 - MANCORA, PERU

A night bus will get you to the Northern beach town of Mancora in Peru. Mancora is another great party and surf town, or if you are looking for somewhere quieter, you can head further down the coast to Trujillo.

 

Once you are all surfed out, you can head to Lima, enjoy a day in the city and then fly home.

WHICH IS THE BEST 1-MONTH SOUTH AMERICA ITINERARY?

We think the ‘Gringo Trail’ Itinerary is the best option on this list.

 

You visit three countries, see amazing sights in each one and will always be around other travellers. It is also the cheapest option compared to the rest (apart from the ‘Inca Trail’).

 

Trying to do more than three countries will be difficult and means you will end up rushing and becoming stressed. We are firm believers of more time in fewer countries and would even recommend doing two in a month instead but we understand most people want to see as much as possible.

 

Check out our month-long itineraries to see whether a mix of two would work for you:

 

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