South America 1 Month Itinerary

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 four incredible 1-month South America itineraries for you below so there’s an option for every type of backpacker.

Contents

What's The Best Way To Spend One Month In South America?

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 two or three countries and the very best sights the continent has to offer.

 

You have so many options that there isn’t only one best route through South America that is suitable for all. It all depends on your budget and the things you would like to see and do whilst there.

 

Here are the four itineraries outlined in this post that will be suitable for almost every type of traveller:

1-Month South America Itinerary Countries Visited Perfect For...
#1 The Gringo Trail
Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia
Backpackers on a mid-budget and who want to see the highlights of South America
#2 The Nature Lover
Chile & Argentina
Backpackers with a high budget who love hiking and want to see the best of Patagonia
#3 The Inca Trail
Peru, Bolivia and North Argentina
Backpackers on a low-budget who want to get off the beaten track
#4 The Sun, Surf and Party Chaser
Colombia, Ecuador and Peru
Backpackers on a mid to low budget who want to learn to surf
South America Backpacking Itineraries - Torres Del Paine National Park

#1 The Gringo Trail - 1-Month South America Itinerary For Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia

ITINERARY BREAKDOWN

Here is a full breakdown of this 1-month South America itinerary that covers Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia:

 

  • Day 1-3 – Quito
  • Day 4-5 – Cotopaxi Secret Garden
  • Day 6 – Quilotoa
  • Day 7-9 – Baños
  • Day 10-11 – Lima
  • Day 12-13 – Paracas National Park
  • Day 14-15 – Huacachina Oasis
  • Day 1620 – Cusco and Machu Picchu
  • Day 2123 – La Paz
  • Day 24-26 – Amazon Tour 
  • Day 2730 – Uyuni / Salt Flats Tour
  • Day 31 – La Paz

PROS & CONS

+ ticks off some of the best sights in South America including Machu Picchu and the Salt Flats

 

+ the second cheapest itinerary option on the list and can be done on a budget if needed

 

+ follows a well established backpacker route so you’ll meet lot’s of people along the way

 

misses out on the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador

the streets of Quito, Ecuador

Day 1-9 - Ecuador

Day City Highlights
1-3
Quito
Walking Tour, Teleferico, Mindo
4-5
Cotopaxi
Secret Garden, Cotopaxi Glacier
6-8
Baños
Thermal Baths, Route of Waterfalls
9
Guayaquil
Guatape
Day 1-3 - Quito

Quito sits at a lofty 2800m above sea level so your first day should be taken easy to see how you adjust to the altitude.

 

For your second and third day here, you have lots of options for things to do, including visiting the equator, climbing to the top of the city’s famous cathedral, or your first volcano trek. 

 

I would personally recommend a walking tour and a visit to the cathedral on your second day as you still might be adjusting to the change in altitude. 

 

On your third, why not explore outside of the city. Quito is surrounded by smaller towns  such as Otavalo or Mindo which have lot of great activities. 

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

 

 

statue in Quito, Ecuador
2 church towers in Quito, Ecuador
Day 4-5 - Cotopaxi National Park

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

 

This is one of the best hostels in the whole of South America for many reasons. The food here is incredible and it’s all included within the price. You also get two free guided treks into the park if you stay with them. 

 

The main reason why this hostel is so great though is it’s situated in the middle of the park and you’ll gave one of the best views of the Cotopaxi Volcano.

 

Using the hostel as a base, you can then plan your own treks within the park or summit Cotopaxi Volcano if you’re brave enough.

For more information on how to visit Cotopaxi National Park, the post below has outlines of 4 ways to do it:

 

 

snow-capped mountains in cotopaxi
fields in cotopaxi
Day 6 - Quilotoa

The next town to visit after Cotopaxi is Quilotoa and one of the most impressive sights in Ecuador – the Quilotoa Crater. 

 

The Cotopaxi Secret Garden team provide a shuttle bus that will take you to the town of Latacunga. From there you will need to take a local bus to Quilotoa which should take roughly 2 hours.

 

You only need 1 day here as there’s only one thing to do. Hike around the edge of the this extinct volcano and marvel at the jaw dropping scenery.

 

This scenic trail circles the crater’s edge and continuously offers up of breathtaking panoramas. The trail takes 4-5 hours to complete and allows hikers to witness the beauty of rural Ecuador on one side and the ever-changing turquoise shades of the waters on the other.

All you need to know about visiting the crater in a single day can be found in the post linked below:

 

 

Day 7-9 - Baños

Your final stop in Ecuador is the adventure paradise of 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.

 

The town is also fuelled by the thermal activity from the surrounding volcanoes, so a visit to the thermal baths here is always a must. 

 

Day 9 will need to be used as a travel day to get from Baños to Guayaquil (8 hour journey). From here you can then fly to Lima on the morning of day 10. 

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

 

 

ruta Itinerary

To get to Peru from Ecuador, you’ll need to take the bus from Banos to Guayaquil. From here, you take 2 hour flight to Lima which should cost between $100-150. 

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Day 10-20 - Peru

Day City Highlights
10-11
Lima
Walking Tour, Miraflores, Barranco
12-13
Paracas
Ballestas Islands
14-15
Huacachina
Sandboarding, Dune Buggy Tour
16-20
Cusco
Rainbow Mountain, Machu Picchu
Day 10-11 - Lima

Once in Lima, take a day to rest after a full day of travelling on day 9.  There isn’t much for backpackers here and cities like Cusco have much more going on. So, if you want to save a day here then move on.

 

If you do decide to stay, make sure you check out Miraflores and Barranco. These are the two best areas in Lima. 

Walk along the seafront in Miraflores at sunset for some incredible scenes. You can watch surfers and paragliders as the sun sets over the Pacific ocean.

 

In Barranco, find a whole in the wall diner to try ceviche and head to any of the old colonial-style mansions that have now been turned into bars and restaurants. I recommend Ayahuaca bar for one of the best Pisco Sours in Lima. 

If you decide to stay in Lima for the full two days, then check out the city guide for everything you need to know:

 

 

Lima Guide
Day 12-13 - Paracas

Paracas National Park is an untouched natural desert perfect for exploration and adventure.

 

You can navigate the park by tour, bicycle, ATV, or dune buggy. Whatever mode of transport you choose, make sure you are in the park as the sun is going down for some epic sunset views.

 

On your second day in Paracas, book a tour to the Ballestas Islands (also known as the Poor Mans Galapagos). This is the perfect tour for wildlife lovers as the islands are full of sea lions, penguins and even dolphins if you are lucky.

Check out the complete backpacker guide to Paracas for more info:

 

 

Biking in Paracas National Reserve
Sea in Paracas
Day 14-15 - Huacachina

Huacachina is a town geared more towards the adventure backpackers.

 

One day here is enough. Book onto a dune buggy tour and you’ll tick off two of the best activities to do here. You’ll fly across the desert in buggies and go sandboarding down the tallest sand dunes.

 

After your tour, head to the top of one of the dunes around the oasis to experience one of the best sunsets in Peru. 

 

If you’re looking to complete all of Huacachina in one day then all you need now is a night out. For a wild party then make sure you check out the famous Wild Rover backpacker hostel.

For more information on this unique place, head to the link below:

 

 

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Joe from Shall We Go Home Travel on the boardwalks behind Perito Moreno Glacier

This could be you, living your dream trip in Patagonia.

Day 16-20 - Cusco / Machu Picchu

You have two options to get to Cusco: flight or overnight bus.

 

The bus is around 17 hours so I would personally recommend flying. Flights from the town of Ica cost under $100 and the flight time is 1 hour and 20 minutes.

 

Once in Cusco you one day to explore the city and one day to explore its surroundings before preparing to visit Machu Picchu. 

 

On Day 17, I would recommend you take a day trip out of the city to see the beautiful Andean countryside. You can visit the popular Rainbow Mountain or one of the many other natural wonders in the Sacred Valley. 

 

On Day 18, take the train or bus to the town of Aguas Calientes. This is the closest town to Machu Picchu. Stay here overnight and then you can trek up the 1600 steps to Machu Picchu in the morning. Then on day 20 you can return to Cusco. These 3 days require so admin, so head to this post to see how to do it properly.

If you think a trip to Rainbow Mountain is for you, then head to the full guide below so you know what to expect:

 

 

Machu Picchu (Peru)

Day 21-31 - Bolivia

Day City Highlights
21-23
La Paz
Death Road
24-26
Amazon
Pampas Tour
27-30
Uyuni
Salt Flats Tour
31
La Paz
Fly Home
Day 21-23 - La Paz

Once you reach La Paz you have an endless list of activities 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.

 

2 days is a good amount of time to cover it all. I recommend riding down Death Road one day and then using the other day to explore in the city.

Head to the complete La Paz backpacking guide to help you plan further:

 

 

Joe and Alex waving whilst sitting atop a cliff
Day 24-26 - 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 days 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 I had whilst backpacking in South America, and I highly recommend it.

The complete guide to booking an amazon tour in Bolivia can be found here:

 

 

birdseye view of the Amazon, Bolivia
Day 27-30 - Uyuni Salt Flats

The three-day/two-night salt flat tour will take you exploring on one of the most surreal landscapes in the world.

 

The first day of the tour is spent on the actual salt flat taking the popular perspective and reflection photos for the gram. Your tour guide will bring some funny objects for you to take your shots with but why not be original and bring your own.

 

On the second day, the tour heads out across the high-altitude desert known as the Altiplano to see even wilder landscapes such as volcanoes, geysers, and beautiful high-altitude lakes full of flamingos.

 

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 post below:

 

 

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!

 

If you would like this 1-month itinerary in an easy-to-read, downloadable, PDF format, just pop your email in the form below:

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salt flats

#2 The Inca Trail - 1-Month South America Itinerary For Peru, Bolivia And North Argentina

ITINERARY BREAKDOWN

Here is a complete breakdown of this 1-month South America itinerary that covers Peru, Bolivia and Argentina:

 

  • Day 1 – Lima
  • Day 2-5 – Cusco
  • Day 6-8 – La Paz
  • Day 9-11 – Amazon Tour
  • Day 12 –  Cochabamba
  • Day 13-14 – Torotoro National Park
  • Day 1517 – Sucre
  • Day 1821 – Uyuni / Salt Flats Tour
  • Day 22-23 – Tupiza
  • Day 24-27 – Humahuaca, Tilcara and Purmamarca
  • Day 28-29 – Salta
  • Day 30 – Buenos Aires

PROS & CONS

+ the cheapest option out of all the itineraries as Bolivia and the north of Argentina are less touristy. You can enjoy yourself on $30 a day in these parts.

 

+ off the beaten track. Not many travellers come to these parts of the country so you will be getting an authentic experience. 

 

fewer big sights and more laid-back towns with less travellers so may not be for everyone, especially solo travellers looking to meet other people

car on the salt flats

Day 1-11 - Peru And Bolivia

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. 

 

After the Amazon, instead of travelling straight down to Uyuni, you’ll head east in Bolivia to experience the lowlands and get off the beaten track. 

Day 12-23 - Bolivia

Day City Highlights
12
Cochabamba
Rest Day
13-14
Torotoro
Torotoro National Park
15-17
Sucre
Walking Tour, Parque Cretácico
18-21
Uyuni
Salt Flats Tour
22-23
Tupiza
Puerta Del Diablo, Canyon Del Inca
Day 12 - Cochabamba

Cochabamba is just a stop over town before your big adventure in Torotoro National Park. 

 

Unfortunately, the journey times in Bolivia mean that a full day is 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 (with a connection in La Paz) is best here to save a big journey. Once you arrive, it’s time to get yourself ready for a trip to one of Bolivia’s best national parks the next day. 

For more on Cochabamba including the best hostels to stay in, click the link below:

 

 

Day 13-14 - Torotoro National Park

Torotoro National Park is 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.

 

Once here, you can book guided tours into the park and visit the many natural wonders on offer. 

The full guide to visiting Torotoro National Park can be found here:

 

 

Torotoro
Torotoro
Day 15-17 - Sucre

Known as Bolivia’s ‘White City’, the beautiful colonial-era architecture of Sucre and its warm climate make it a wonderful place to visit.

 

Take two of your days here to enjoy the artisan cafes, amazing chocolate shops and beautiful views of the colonial-era buildings and terracotta rooftops. It’s also the perfect place for a night out with lots of lively bars catering for the university student population.

 

We’ve turned this part of this one month Bolivia itinerary into an extended stay because Sucre is one of the best and cheapest places in South America for language schools.

 

With group classes costing on average $5 and private lessons c.$8, many people end up extending their stay in Sucre for longer to continue learning.

 

Me Gusta Spanish School have a variety of classes on offer and a group class (20 hours) for one-week costs 700BOB

Head to the city guide below for more information:

 

 

Sucre Bolivia
Day 18-21 - Uyuni / Salt Flats Tour

Similar to the previous itinerary, spend one day in Uyuni and use the day to relax and book onto a Salt Flats tour.

 

The two night/three day tour usually drops you at the Chilean border on the morning of day three.  However, on the last day you can ask to return to Uyuni with the jeep.  This allows you to travel to Tupiza the next day and then into Argentina after that. 

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:

 

 

Day 22-23 - 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.

 

Use one of your days to trek into mountains behind the town and explore the winding paths and canyons.

 

Then from Tupiza, it’s a 1-hour journey to the border at Villazon, and once you’ve crossed the border, it’s another short journey to the first town you will want to check out in Argentina – Humahuaca.

For more on Tupiza, check out our guides below:

 

 

Best Backpack For South America (Osprey Farpoint)
Best Backpack For South America (Osprey Farpoint)

Is This The Best Backpack For South America?

I love the Osprey Farpoint 50-70L.

 

It’s reasonably priced and perfect for first timers visiting South America.

 

Read more here about why it’s so great or head to the official site below:

backpacking in bolivia

Day 23-30 - North Argentina

Day City Highlights
24-27
Humahuaca, Tilcara and Pumamarca
Rainbow Mountain, Salt Flats
28-29
Salta
Wine Tasting, Museum Of High Altitude Archaeology
30
Buenos Aires
Fly Home
Day 24-27 - Humahuaca, Tilcara and Pumamarca

Time to start you final adventure on this 1-month itinerary 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 each of these towns in the north of Argentina, head to the posts below:

 

mountains, south america
Day 27-29 - 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 wine tasting is another great shout, especially as we are near the end of your month in South America. Cafayate is the second best wine region in Argentina after Mendoza and they have some of the best wines in the world. 

To see an extended version of this north Argentina itinerary in greater detail, check out our post below:

 

 

Day 30 - Buenos Aires

Finish up with a one or two days in Buenos Aires before flying home and you are done! One amazing month in South America complete!

 

Here some great things to do whilst in BA before you fly home:

 

  • Tango – experience the city’s famous tango dancing and enjoy its delicious cuisine.
  • Visit La Boca – This colourful neighbourhood is known for its vibrant street art, tango shows, and its famous soccer team, Boca Juniors.
  • Take a Boat Tour on the Rio de la Plata – Taking a boat tour of the river is a great way to see the city from a different perspective and get a great view of the skyline.

Exploring Buenos Aires, also known as the ‘Paris of South America’ one of many great reasons to add Argentina to your extended backpacking trip. For more great reasons, head to the post below:

 

 

Vineyards In Mendoza (Argentina)

#3 The Nature Lover - 1-Month South America Itinerary for Chile And Argentina

ITINERARY BREAKDOWN

Here is the complete breakdown for this 1-month South America itinerary that covers Chilean and Argentinian Patagonia:

 

  • Day 1-2 – Santiago
  • Day 3-5 – Atacama desert tour
  • Day 6 – Puerto Natales
  • Day 7-11 – Torres Del Paine W Trek
  • Day 12 – Puerto Natales
  • Day 13-14 – El Calafate
  • Day 15 –20 – El Chalten
  • Day 2126 – Bariloche
  • Day 27-30 – Buenos Aires

PROS & CONS

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

 

+ Includes two of the best treks in the world – Torres Del Paine in Chile and Laguna De Los Tres in Argentina

 

most expensive itinerary with several flights

 

requires more forward planning and you will need to book this itinerary a few months in advance, especially if you wish to do it in summer (Dec-Feb) as it’s the busiest tourist season

Day 1-12 - Chile

Day City Highlights
1-2
Santiago
Walking Tour, Sky Costerna
3-5
Atacama
Valle De La Luna, Star Gazing Tour
6
Puerto Natales
Rest Day
7-11
Torres Del Paine National Park
Lago Grey, Glacier Grey, Torres Del Paine
12
Puerto Natales
Rest Day
Day 1-2 - Santiago

Once you land in Santiago, you have one full day to explore Chile’s capital.

 

The first thing to do is join a free walking tour. I’d recommend Strawberry Walking Tours.

 

They take you to several places in the city including Santa Lucia Hill to discover where Santiago’s history began, and through the Plaza de Armas to enjoy cosmopolitan Santiago.

 

In the evening, head up to the top of the Sky Costerna, Santiago’s tallest building, to find the best views of the city.

Want to see three countries instead of two? Extend your trip to a month and you will have more than enough time. See the post below for how to do it:

 

 

south america backpacking guide
Day 3-5 - 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.  This was one of the best tours I did in South America and I recommend it to everyone who’s going to Atacama! Check it out below!

Torres Del Paine National Park
Day 6 - Puerto Natales

You will need to take a flight back to Santiago and then down to Puerto Natales to start the Patagonian part of this one-month itinerary. Puerto Natales is the closest town to Torres Del Paine National Park.

 

Take one day here to get your bearings, buy any last-minute gear for hiking, and prepare for the next 5 days of hiking on the W-trek route.

 

In Puerto Natales, I recommend staying at the Singing Lamb Hostel. They have a huge lounge area with sofas and tables, and the shared dorms had comfortable beds.

Day 7-11 - Torres Del Paine National Park

Time to end your time in Chile with one of the best multi-day treks in the world – the W-trek in Torres Del Paine National Park.

 

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 an easy 3–4-hour hike past Lago Grey up to the stunning Grey Glacier. Then on the final day, you will trek up to the famous towers of Torres Del Paine.

 

A lot of people wake up at 3AM to start trekking to reach the towers for sunrise. If the weather is good then it is definitely worth it, as the three towers are lit up perfectly by the morning sun.

For more on this incredible place and why it’s a must-visit, head to the post below:

 

 

Day 12 - Puerto Natales

After 5 days in the Patagonian wilderness, you will need to recover.

 

Take one final day in Puerto Natales to recuperate before moving on to Argentina the next morning. 

Perito Moreno Glacier, El Calafate (Argentina)

Day 13-30 - Argentina

Day City Highlights
13-14
El Calafate
Perito Moreno Glacier
15-20
El Chatlen
Laguna De Los Tres Hike, Cerro Torre Hike
21-26
Bariloche
Refugio Frey Hike, Circuito Chico
27-30
Buenos Aires
Walking Tour, Tango Show, La Boca
Day 13-14 - El Calafate

You are a 5-hour bus and border crossing away from Argentina and the town of El Calafate.

 

Take an early morning bus from Puerto Natales so you arrive early afternoon. From here you explore the town and plan your visit to Parque Nacional Los Glaciares and the epic Perito Moreno Glacier.

 

You can take in the views of this huge chunk of ice from the visitor centre or take a boat to get a up close and personal. If you are lucky, you may catch a chunk of ice falling off and crashing into the water below.

To see some alternative itineraries for this region, head to the post below:

 

 

glacier in south America
Day 15-20- El Chalten

El Chalten is known as the “Trekking Capital of Argentina”. You will have your pick of hikes from single day to multi-day options that take you into the beautiful Patagonian wilderness and Glacier National Park. 

 

One of the most iconic single day hikes is the Laguna de los Tres hike, popular for the sublime panoramic views it offers of Glaciar de Los Tres and Mount Fitz Roy. You can hike out-and-back to Laguna de Los Tres from El Chaltén in one day, but a popular option is to camp overnight near the lagoon and witness a fantastic sunrise the following morning.

 

The Laguna de los Tres trek is one of the best in Argentina as well as South America, and if you can only do one single day hike in Argentina’s Patagonia, this should be it.

If you are interested in spending more time in Chile and Argentina, check out the post below:

 

 

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Day 21-26- Bariloche

Nestled amidst the picturesque Andes Mountains, Bariloche offers a stunning display of natural beauty. From snow-capped peaks to crystal-clear lakes and lush forests, the landscape is nothing short of awe-inspiring.

 

Surrounding the town are several must-visit spots that provide panoramic views of the region’s mountains, lake and forests, making it a favourite among photographers and nature enthusiasts alike.

 

Bariloche serves as a gateway to the Nahuel Huapi National Park, a vast protected area brimming with diverse flora and fauna. The park is perfect for trekking, birdwatching, and exploring the pristine wilderness. Don’t miss the chance to visit the array of islands within the Nahuel Huapi Lake, accessible by boat excursions.

For more on why this is such a fantastic place to visit and spend time in, head to the post below:

 

 

Day 27-30 - Buenos Aires

You are nearly at the end of this one-month South America itinerary but there’s still so much fun to be had. 

 

Now it’s time for 3 days in one of the best capitals on the continent.  Buenos Aires is known as the “Paris of South America,” as it feels like your visiting a European capital.

 

Here some great things to do whilst in BA:

 

  • Tango – experience the city’s famous tango dancing and enjoy its delicious cuisine.
  • Visit La Boca – This colourful neighbourhood is known for its vibrant street art, tango shows, and its famous soccer team, Boca Juniors.
  • Take a Boat Tour on the Rio de la Plata – Taking a boat tour of the river is a great way to see the city from a different perspective and get a great view of the skyline.

See how to spend 3-days in Buenos Aires with the fully planned itinerary in the post below:

 

 

lakes south america

#4 The Sun, Surf And Party Chaser - 1-Month South America Itinerary For Colombia, Ecuador and Peru

ITINERARY BREAKDOWN

Here is the complete breakdown for this 1-month South America itinerary that covers the coast of Colombia, Ecuador and Peru:

 

  • Day 1-2 – Bogota
  • Day 3-5 – Santa Marta
  • Day 6-8 – Palomino
  • Day 9-10 – Cartagena
  • Day 11-13 – San Bernardo Islands
  • Day 14 – Bogota
  • Day 15-21 – Montanita
  • Day 22-29 – Mancora
  • Day 30 – Lima

PROS & CONS

+ follows the Caribbean and Pacific coastline so you’ll enjoy consistent sun

 

+ You stay longer in less places to this itinerary is more relaxed

 

+ you hit two of the best surf and party towns in South America

 

you won’t be many of the natural wonders of the continent such as Machu Picchu or the Salt Flats 

south america, flag in the wind

Day 1-14 - Colombia

Day Where? Highlights
1-2
Bogota
Walking Tour, Cerro Monserrate
3-5
Santa Marta
Minca, Tayrona National Park
6-8
Palomino
Palomino Beach, Tubing
9-10
Cartagena
Walking Tour
11-13
San Bernardo Islands
Casa En El Agua
14
Bogota
Rest Day
Day 1-2 - Bogota

Bogata is a hub for international flights from the US and Europe and most stop here before connecting to other South America countries. So it makes sense to start your South America journey here.

 

However, you can only spend one day in the capital before moving on. There isn’t much here for backpackers and the rest of Colombia is much more interesting so best to get moving. You only have six weeks in South America, so you will have to miss every now and then.  

 

On the day you are here, find a free walking tour to help you explore the city with ease. Beyond Colombia  is my personal favourite and they will give you a good introduction to the city. On top of this they offer a free food tour as well. This is a great deal as you will get fed well and see the highlights of the city.

 

If you have time in the evening, walk to the top of Cerro Monserrate for an incredible viewpoint of sprawling Bogotá.

See how you can spend a month travelling through Colombia with this epic one month itinerary:

 

 

Day 3-5 - Santa Marta

From Bogota, you want to take a short 2-hour flight to the Caribbean Coast in the north. You can then use Santa Marta as a base for exploring for the next few days.

 

Make sure you stay at the Dreamer Hostel. This is one of the best hostels in Colombia and maybe even South America. They allow you to leave your big bags in storage whilst you explore the region.

 

Spend one day in exploring the cloud forests in Minca.

 

Minca is a tiny town in the mountains, 30 minutes away from Santa Marta. Here you can find some great coffee and chocolate farm tours that will also let you do tastings, go searching for waterfalls and watch the sunset from one of the many great eco hostels that sit atop the mountain.

 

On your second day, trek into Tayrona National Park known for its palm-shaded coves, coastal lagoons, rainforest, and rich biodiversity.

 

You can stay the night on the beach in Tayrona National Park, which is a fun experience, but just make sure you book ahead before trekking all the way as spaces are often limited.

For more detail on how to spend your days in Santa Marta, head to the itinerary post below:

 

 

beats in Tayrona National Park - Colombia
Day 6-8 - Palomino

Palomino is a quiet beach town north of Santa Marta (around 70km away).

 

It started as an off-the-beaten track town, but has it grown popular in recent years with backpackers. Travellers come here for a few days to enjoy tubing along the jungle rivers or to wander along the endless stretches of empty beach.

 

Tubing is a fun activity that starts in the jungle foothills of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and ends on the beach in the Caribbean Sea. This can be a relaxing journey or depending on who you go with, it can turn into a party.

 

If you manage to join a big crew of backpackers, then people will bring alcohol and enjoy floating through the jungle with a few beers as well.

 

Make sure you have a beach day whilst here too. Palomino beach, with its white sands fringed with huge palms trees, is empty most of the time and you can enjoy peaceful walks up and down it without coming across another person.

Palomino is one of my favourite beaches in South America, for more, head to the list post below:

 

 

Day 9-13 - Cartagena / San Bernardo Islands

Take a couple of days in Cartagena to rest up before embarking on an epic trip to the San Bernardo Islands. 

 

The San Bernardo Islands in Colombia are a tropical paradise that’s definitely worth visiting. With their pristine beaches, crystal-clear waters, and vibrant marine life, they offer an idyllic escape for travelers seeking relaxation and adventure.

 

One highlight is the unique hostel ‘Casa en el Agua,’ located on a secluded island.

 

This floating hostel provides an unparalleled experience, allowing you to sleep over the Caribbean Sea, snorkel straight from your room, and soak in stunning sunsets.

For more on Cartagena and why it’s so great:

 

 

Day 14 - Bogota

Fly from Cartagena back to Bogota and rest up for a day.

 

If you want, try a free walking tour and take the cable car up to Cerro Monseratte for great views of the city.

 

From Bogota, you’ll need to take a morning flight to Guayaquil in the south of Ecuador for the next part of this itinerary. 

colourful street in south america
Casa En El Agua - Colombia

Day 15-30 - Ecuador and Peru

Day Where? Highlights
15-21
Montanita
Surf Camp, Language Schools
22-29
Mancora
Surf Camp, Party
30
Lima
Fly Home
Day 15-21 – Montanita

Montanita is the surf and party capital of Ecuador.

 

It draws in travellers and locals alike looking for good swells and beachside dance floors that stay open late into the night.  It’s not all just surfing and boozing though, and the town has a lot more on offer from immersive language schools to tranquil yoga retreats.

 

Spend a full week here learning to surf, learning some Spanish and partying the nights away!

For more on Montanita, head to the post below:

 

 

Day 22-29 – Mancora

If there is one word to describe Mancora it would be wild. This beach town is filled with locals, backpackers and other tourists wanting to do two simple things: surf and party.

 

The hottest places to let loose are the Loki and Wild Rover hostels, but to be honest any of the other backpacker hostels in town which double up as bars and clubs will lead to a wild night.

 

Once the party is over, it’s time to jump in the ocean and get rid of that hangover.

 

It’s is a great place for beginners who have never been on a board before, as well as intermediate and advanced surfers, and the continual waves, calm water and warm weather culminate in the perfect conditions for surfing.

For more on why Mancora is such a great place to visit, head to the post below:

 

 

surfing in Montanita, Ecuador

Which Is The Best One-Month South America Itinerary?

I personally think the ‘Gringo Trail’ Itinerary is the best one-month South America itinerary 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. I’m a firm believer of ‘slow travel’ and having more time in fewer countries.  I would even recommend doing two in a month instead but I understand most people have limited time and want to see as much as possible. 

Check out these month-long itineraries to see whether focussing on one country would work better for you:

 

How Much Does A Month In South America Cost?

For a month backpacking in South America, you should aim to spend around $1500.

 

Budget travellers will be able to manage a month on around $1000-1200 if they only stick to one or two countries, stay in dorms, and eat mainly at markets.

 

Flashpackers who prefer smaller dorms (or private rooms) and eating at a restaurant once a day should aim for $1500-2000.

Check out the budget guide linked below to help you plan your spending:

 

 

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