How Can I Spend Two Weeks In South America?
Two weeks in South America is a short amount of time but there are still several itineraries that work so that you can see as much as possible without too much time spent moving around.
Each of these itineraries stick to two countries each. This gives you approximately 7 days in each country which is more than enough to see the most popular sight in each place.
For ease, each itinerary travels through countries that are neighbours. This will mean you have shorter distances and save money on flights. But if you want to visit two countries in South America that aren’t neighbours then feel free to chop up and combine any of the ones here so suit your needs.
Here are all the different options we think fit well with two weeks in South America:
- Colombia & Ecuador – The Caribbean Coast and Mainland Ecuador
- Ecuador, Galapagos Islands & Peru – Visit Quito, the Galapagos & Machu Picchu
- Ecuador & Peru – Mainland Ecuador & Cusco
- Peru & Bolivia – Cusco, La Paz & The Salt Flats
- Chile & Argentina – the best parts of Patagonia
1# Two-Week South America Itinerary: Colombia & Ecuador
Here’s the breakdown of this two-week South America itinerary that includes Colombia and Ecuador:
Walking Tour, Cerro Monserrate
Tayrona National Park
Palomino Beach, Tubing
Walking Tour, Teleferico
Secret Garden, Cotopaxi Volcano
Thermal Baths, Route of Waterfalls
Day 1 - Bogata
If you are flying from the US or Europe, it is likely that you will arrive at El Dorado International Airport in Bogota.
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. You only have two weeks in South America so you have to miss out some things!
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, see more of the city, and not spend a thing.
If you have time in the evening, walk to the top of Cerro Monserrate for an incredible viewpoint of sprawling Bogotá.
Day 2-3 - 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. Here you can also find coffee and chocolate farm tours. 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, just make sure you book ahead before trekking all the way as spaces are often limited.
Day 4-5 - Palomino
Palomino is a quiet town in the north of the country close to Santa Marta.
It started as an off-the-beaten track town that has 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.
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.
Day 6-8 - Medellin
As mentioned, the only downside of this two-week South America itinerary is that it requires several internal flights in Colombia. The Andes dissects Colombia and separates a lot of the big cities which means bus journeys take a long time. You will likely have to fly from Santa Marta to Medellin to avoid a seriously long and bumpy overnight bus.
Whilst here, take a tour out to the beautiful Guatape to see the colourful town and the beautiful reservoirs and the huge celebrity mansions that back out onto them.
Also take some time to explore the city. Again, a free walking tour is your best bet so that you stick to the safe areas and learn about the rich history of the city.
This is the final part of your Colombia trip and from here you will need to fly from Medellin to Bogota to then reach Quito in Ecuador. This can be booked altogether with a stop over or you can book them separately if you want to spend a bit longer in the capital.
A flight from Medellin to Quito (with a connecting flight in Bogota) should cost around $150.
Day 9 - Quito
For one day in Quito, you will want to see as much of the city as you can.
You can start the morning off with a free walking tour to see the Old Town. Then in the afternoon, head up to the top of Cerro Pichincha – the mountain overlooking Quito.
The Teleferico cable car that will take you from 3000m at the edge of the city, all the way up to 3495m and the summit of Volcano Machachi which sits at top this mountain. From here you will get the best view of Quito and the surrounding countryside.
Day 10-11 - Cotopaxi
The picturesque Cotopaxi National Park and its towering volcano is a must-see when in Ecuador and should be on every backpacker’s list.
The park is a beautiful untamed landscape covered in beautiful fields of wildflowers with herds of alpacas wandering aimlessly, all in front of the incredible backdrop of Cotopaxi Volcano.
Staying at Secret Garden Cotopaxi Hostel is one of the best ways of visiting Cotopaxi National Park, especially if you are a backpacker wanting experience an amazing hostel and meet other travellers.
At Secret Garden you will have your every need met: transportation to the park, access to great tour services, and amazing accommodation all slap bang in the middle of Cotopaxi National Park.
Day 12-13 – Baños
Baños is set in a lush green valley. It’s full of thermal baths fuelled by underground volcanic springs so why not start with a spa and massage day at one of the several bath houses.
El Refugio is the best choice. 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, it’s time to ride the ‘Route of Waterfalls’ – a single main road that winds its way through the Baños Valley. This is one of the most scenic bike rides you can take in Ecuador, and you can stop at 7 waterfalls along the way – each one a different shape and size.
The best waterfall is Pailon del Diablo, an insanely powerful waterfall that plunges 61 metres (200ft) into a pool of powerful rapids.
Day 14 - Guayaquil / Fly Home
It’s an 8-hour bus from Banos to Guayaquil or back to Quito. Both cities have international airports so which one you return to depends on where you’ve booked your flights from.
This will be a full travel day so unfortunately that’s the end of this two-week Colombia and Ecuador backpacking itinerary. I hope it will help you to plan a future trip to South America.
2# Two-Week South America Itinerary: Galapagos Islands & Peru
Here’s the breakdown of this two-week South America itinerary that includes the Galapagos Islands and Peru:
Walking Tour, Teleferico
Galapagos Islands (San Cristobal Island)
Interpretation Centre, Giant Tortoise Sanctuary
Galapagos Islands (Santa Cruz Island)
Darwin Centre, Las Greitas, Tortuga Bay
Mitad Del Mundo
Walking Tour, Barranco
Day 1 - Quito
Quito is the main transport hub of the country and a starting point for most travellers before flying to the Galapagos Islands so it makes sense to spend a day here exploring the city.
Get yourself accustomed to the city by booking on to the Community Hostel walking tour. Tours start at either 9:00 AM or 2:30 PM and take 3 hours long, so plan your day around this.
The walking tour will take you to most of the main sites in the old town such as Plaza Grande and the Presidential Palace, as well as giving you a political and economic history of Ecuador.
Day 2-3 – Galapagos Islands (San Cristobal Islands)
You can fly from Quito to two of the three main islands in the Galapagos. Flying into San Cristobal is the preferred option as it’s only a minute journey via taxi from the airport to town.
This means that once you’re off the plane, you can be checked with backs dropped off and exploring the island within half an hour.
A short walk from the main town of Puerto Baquerizo will take you to the Interpretation Centre – a small museum dedicated to the history of the islands. From here you can visit Cerro Tijeratas viewpoint and then eventually walk to Playa Mann. sit here with the sea lions and watch the sun go down to complete your first magical day on the islands.
On your second day, visit the north side of the island to visit the Giant Tortoise Sanctuary and see these fascinating animals in a semi-natural habitat.
The best part about these two days is that all these activities are free. For more free activities to do whilst on the islands, check out the post below:
Day 4-6 – Galapagos Islands (Santa Cruz)
Early on the morning of day 4, take the early ferry from San Cristobal to Santa Cruz so that you have the whole day to explore.
Once you’ve settled in your accommodation, it’s a 20-minute walk from Puerto Ayora to get to the Darwin Research Centre. The centre is a fantastic educational space dedicated to the conservation of the rare animals that live on the Galapagos islands.
On your second day, you should rent bikes and explore the highlands of the islands. Here you can find several unique areas such as the lava caves and craters. You will also be able to explore another giant tortoise habitat.
On the final day, rent some snorkel gear and take a water taxi to the entrance of Las Greitas. Las Greitas is a high walled crevasse of volcanic rock filled with seawater and travellers come here to snorkel and escape the heat. In the afternoon, visit Tortuga Bay – one of the best beaches on the islands. Here you can spend the day relaxing, searching for turtles and baby sharks in the mangroves and rent kayaks to explore further.
Day 7 - Quito
When returning to mainland Ecuador, the smart thing to do would be to book separate inbound and outbound flights. This means you can fly from Santa Cruz to Quito and avoid having to take the ferry back to San Cristobal.
Once you arrive back in Quito, if you have time, you should ride the Teleferico – Quito’s cable car that takes you from 3000m at the edge of the city, all the way to 3495m to 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.
Day 8 - Lima
Flights from Quito to Lima should cost around $100-150. Unfortunately, Cusco doesn’t have an international airport so you can’t flight straight there, but you could take a connecting flight as soon as you land if you want to save a day here.
However, Lima is a great city and definitely worth exploring for one day during this two-week South America itinerary.
Peru’s capital Lima is a vibrant city set on high cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean and filled with world-class cuisine, lively nightlife, and fascinating cultural history. Whether you’re a culture enthusiast, surf lover or a foodie – backpackers are spoiled for choice here.
There’s something for every backpacker in the bohemian district of Barranco with tasty local gastronomy, cute coffee shops and a vibrant alternative art scene. It’s one of the city’s hippest neighbourhoods, with colourful street art, mural-covered buildings and trendy bars all set within the colonial-era mansions
There are several fun things to do in Barranco for backpackers, but the best include finding a local restaurant to get your first taste of Peruvian food or checking out one of the mansions turned bars to try a Pisco Sour.
Day 9-10 - Cusco
The flight from Lima to Cusco is 1 hour and 20 minutes and should cost under $100.
Once in Cusco you have two days to exploring the city and its surroundings. I would recommend one day in the city adjusting to the altitude and exploring its rich cultural heritage. A free walking tour is always the best way to do this and I would recommend Inkan Milkyway. They have the best walking tours that don’t take you to any tourist traps and focus only on the history of the city.
On your second day, 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 such as Laguna Humantay at 4200m above sea level.
Day 11 - Aguas Calientes
On the morning of day 11, either take the bus or train to the town of Aguas Calientes. For a two-week itinerary, I would recommend the train as it only takes 3 hours in comparison to the bus which takes 9.This saves you a lot of time and means you get more time to experience Machu Picchu.
When you arrive in the town of Aguas Calientes, find your hostel and check in. I recommend Super Tramp hostel as one of the best backpacker hostels here.
If you have some time, explore the small town but make sure you get an early night as you’ll be up early to start the climb to Machu Picchu.
A couple of fun things to do in Aguas Calientes include a visit to the Manuel Chavez Ballon Site Museum and the Butterfly House.
Day 12 - Machu Picchu
Early on the morning of day 12, it’s finally time to climb the 1,600+ stairs up to Peru’s most popular tourist attraction.
When you need to leave depends on what time ticket you purchased. However, I would recommend trying to get a 6:00 AM ticket which is the earliest entry possible. Most people wake up around 4.30AM and wait outside the gates from 5:00 AM.
When the gates open you can start the hike up. The alternative is to wait and take the bus which will get you to the top quicker. Either way, you’ll be one of the first people into Machu Picchu, catching the sunrise and largely having the place to yourself (at least for half an hour, until it eventually becomes packed as more and more tour buses turn up).
Once you’ve had your fill of this incredible natural wonder, all that’s left to do is head back down. Again, you can either walk or take the bus – it’s up to you.
Whether you take the bus or the train to Machu Picchu, it’s a complicated journey and there’s lot you need to know. Luckily the guide linked below has everything you need:
Day 13-14 - Cusco / Lima
Once you return to Aguas Calientes from Machu Picchu, you can either stay the night there or return to Cusco. Either way, you should still get a good amount of time to see Cusco one final time.
As already mentioned, use the Cusco city day recommendations from the first itinerary to fill out your day – whether it be massages, walking tours or museums.
In the evening, you should make a reservation at Limbus Resto-bar which has one of the best views in the city. Try to get a booking around sunset and out on the terrace for incredible golden hour views of Cusco.
Our Cusco backpackers guide has all the information you need:
Unfortunately, Cusco doesn’t have an international airport so you will have to fly back to Lima to take your international flight home.
If you have enjoyed this two-week itinerary but only have 10 days, check out the post below for a condensed version:
3# Two-Week South America Itinerary: Peru & Bolivia
Here’s the breakdown of this two-week South America itinerary that includes Peru and Bolivia:
Paracas National Reserve, Ballestas Islands
Dune Buggy Tour, Sandboarding
Salt Flats Tour
Day 1 - Lima
Miraflores has an abundance of trendy cafes and great restaurants all situated amongst seafront parks and boardwalks. In the evening, here is where you will find thriving bars, clubs, and live music venues.
During the day, it’s the perfect place to enjoy a walk along the coast and get a feel for Lima. For a nice walk, you can start at the ‘Park of Love’ and make your way down south along the Malecon (boardwalk), all the way to Barranco if you wish.
Along the way you can stop off at the Larcomar, an open-air seafront shopping centre or sit in one of the many green spaces along the way and watch skateboarders and locals mingle.
Just make sure to be by the waterfront for sunset as you are in for a treat. Grab a spot near the edge of the cliffs and watch the sun go down as paragliders circle above and surfers catch the last waves of the day.
I’d recommend one day here as the rest of Peru deserves more of your time. If you need more information on why Cusco is better for backpackers than Lima, head to the post below:
Day 2-3 - 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 and checking out the park at sunset is a must!
2-days is a good amount of time here. You can take one day exploring the National Reserve and then the second visiting the Ballestas Islands. These islands are known as the ‘Poor Man’s Galapagos’. They are essentially a budget friendly way to see the incredible wildlife on South America’s pacific coast.
Day 4 - Huacachina
Then after Paracas, it’s time to swap one desert for another with a visit to the famous oasis at Huacachina. You only have one day here but it’s going to be action packed!
Book a dune buggy and sandboarding tour as soon as you arrive. You will fly across the giant dunes surrounding Huacachina in sand buggies and then stop at one of the tallest ones to sandboard down.
Then in the evening, it’s time to watch the epic sunset over the dessert and party the night away in the crazy Wild Rover backpacker hostel.
Wild Rover in Huacachina is one of our favourite party hostels in South America so make sure you stay here for the best time.
Day 5-7 - Arequipa
Arequipa is an amazing city for backpackers, but the real wonder here is a visit to Colca Canyon – the second deepest canyon in the world.
Colca Canyon will take two days out of this two-week South America itinerary but it’s definitely worth it. 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.
Then you can take the other free day to explore Arequipa. Peru’s second largest city is full of great backpacker hostels, restaurants, and bars to enjoy. Our favourite thing to do there is find a rooftop bar and watch the as the sun sets a lights up all the volcanoes surrounding the city.
Day 8-10 - Cusco and Machu Picchu
Use day 8 to relax and explore the city of Cusco before your journey to Machu Picchu.
On day 9, you have two options: taking the train or the bus to Aguas Calientes. The train takes 3 hours from Cusco to Aguas Calientes. You can take the morning in Cusco to get in another activity in if you want, or just go for a nice breakfast. I’d recommend the Bagel Café or Qura Bowl Bar.
If you are getting the bus, then best to leave as early as possible as it takes around 8 hours, and you then have to trek along the train tracks to Aguas Calientes which takes another 3 hours on top of the 8-hour bus journey. It’s a bit of a slog but the cheapest option.
Once you are in Aguas Calientes you can relax and have an early night.
For more information on booking the train, head to the post below for everything you need to know:
After Cusco you can then get the bus to into Bolivia and straight to La Paz which takes around 12 hours or take a flight to save time.
Day 10-11 - 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.
2 days is a good amount of time to cover it all. I would recommend riding down Death Road one day and then using the others to explore in and outside of the city.
Day 12-13 - Uyuni
You can either fly or overnight bus down to Uyuni. Once you arrive in Uyuni, it’s time to end this epic two-week South America trip with probably one of the best tours on the whole continent.
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 blow by all the incredible scenery and you will leave on a high.
Day 14 - La Paz
After the salt flats tour, you will be dropped back to the town of Uyuni. Take a flight back to La Paz and then it’s time for you to catch a flight home.
Well done! You’ve just seen Machu Picchu and the Salt Flats – two of South America’s best experiences – in two weeks.
However, if you would prefer to stick to one country like Bolivia and visit the Amazon instead of more places in Peru then check out our single country itineraries to see how it can work:
4# Two-Week South America Itinerary: Patagonia
Here’s the breakdown of this two-week South America itinerary that includes Chilean and Argentinian Patagonia:
Walking Tour, Sky Costerna
Torres Del Paine National Park
Lago Grey, Grey Glacier, Cerro Paine
Puerto Morena Glacier
Glacier National Park
City Day, Fly Home
Day 1 - Santiago
Once you land in Santiago, you have one day to explore Chile’s capital.
The best 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 to of the Sky Costerna, Santiago’s tallest building, to find the best views of the city.
Day 2 - Puerto Natales
Puerto Natales is the closest town to Torres Del Paine National Park so it’s best to fly straight here from Santiago. You need to take a flight down to Puerto Natales to start the Patagonian part of this two-week itinerary.
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, 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 3-7 - 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 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.
Day 8 - Puerto Natales
After the 5-day trek you are going to be a bit tired, so we recommend taking one extra day in Puerto Natales to recover, get clothes cleaned and get organised for the next step of the journey into Argentinian Patagonia.
Day 9-10 - El Calafate
You are a short border crossing away from Argentina and the town of El Calafate. From here you can visit Parque Nacional Los Glaciares and the epic Puerto Morena 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.
All hotels and hostels in El Calafate offer tours that include both a boat trip and time at the visitor centre.
Day 11-12 - El Chatlen
After a short stay in El Calafate, head north to the small hiking town of El Chatlen. From here you can plan more epic hikes into the beautiful Patagonian wilderness and Glacier National Park.
You can do single day hikes to Laguna de Los Tres to see the famous Mount Fitzroy or multi-day hikes combining all the different sights and camping among the mountains.
If you are enjoying this two week South America itinerary so far, you can find an extended version of it here that also includes a third country:
Day 13-14 - Buenos Aires
Finish up with a few city days in Buenos Aires before flying home and you are done! Two incredible weeks in Chile and Argentina complete.
Whilst we’ve completed the first part of this itinerary (Chile), coronavirus shut down the world in April 2019, and we had to fly home just after completing the W-trek unfortunately.
Crossing the border into Argentinian Patagonia and travelling back up to Buenos Aires was the second part of our trip we had planned. So unfortunately, we don’t have any guides on this part, but we hope you can use this itinerary as a rough guide to plan a trip in the future!
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:
Popular South America Itineraries
If you have more than two-weeks to spare then why not check out our other South America itineraries ranging from three weeks to three months: