18 Oct

South America Itinerary

As South America is our first stop, it has been easier to develop an itinerary for.  Being there next summer makes it within reach and, therefore, easier to imagine a plan for.

Now for the caveat…although we have an itinerary, and a general sense of where we might be when, we are also open to any and all possibilities that might present themselves once we are there.  A plan is only needed so that it can be abandoned or altered at any point!

We are planning 3 months to travel through Peru, Chile and Argentina starting at the beginning of June 2009.  Although this does put us into the SA winter season, it fits well with the rest of the trip’s weather patterns and allows us to be in Peru during the best time to hike the Inca trail to Machu Picchu.

Three months is not very long to spend in this area, especially with our mandate to travel at a fairly slow pace in order to relax into the rhythm of a place.  This meant concentrating on a few countries rather than trying to get to them all.  Peru is a must and seems to have so much to offer.  Bolivia was struck b/c of potential unrest in favor of Chile which is known to have good wine.  Argentina will allow us to get our protein stores back up and maybe learn a dance step or two.


Our first stop in Peru will be Lima where we will find some longer term accommodation as we intend on spending 3 weeks here.  It’s here that we plan on taking Spanish lessons and settling into a ‘traveling routine’.  We’ll explore the sights of Lima and do day trips to some of the outlying towns and villages.

From Lima we’ll fly to Cusco in the interior where we’ll acclimatize to the altitude for a few days before embarking on a 4 day Inca Trail Trek.  This we’ll have to book from here before we leave as it is impossible to just show up and expect to trek.

The Amazon jungle protrudes into Peru on it’s eastern side so we hope to take a trip from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado to take part in a 4 day jungle tour.  This is a little up in the air though as my immunization status may stop us.  The Amazon is Yellow Fever country and there is a chance that I cannot be vaccinated due to the immuno-suppressive drugs I take for Crohn’s Disease. It seems as though this is the only part of the whole itinerary that might be affected by this so, although it would be disappointing to not see the jungle, I’m pleased that it is only this piece that may have to be skipped. I will be discussing this further with an infectious disease specialist before making the final decision. After the jungle it’s back to Cusco.

To move south from Cusco, we’ll start the Peruvian bus transportation experience catching a bus down to Puno.  Puno is the base for Lake Titicaca, a large lake that houses it’s people on islands made of reeds.

After Lake Titicaca we’ll bus further south to Arequipa and spend about 6 days exploring the city and Colca Canyon nearby.  Colca Canyon is the deepest canyon in the world – I have always thought that seeing the Grand Canyon would be cool, so I imagine this will only be cooler! We plan on hiking here and hopefully seeing some of the famous condors that inhabit the area.

All in all, it’ll be about 45 days in Peru – that’s 1/2 our expected time in South America!  Also, after Lima, we are on the road quite a bit so the plan is to slow it down a bit for Chile.


The plan through Chile is pretty loose and won’t be terribly long – only about 2 weeks.  We’ll travel by bus down from the northern border with Peru for 4 or 5 days, stopping wherever looks interesting.  The goal for this part of the trip is the Salar de Atacama, the salt desert in the central region of the country.  We’ll spend 3 or so days exploring the salt flats and watching for flamingos.  Then back on the road, hopefully visiting the coast before hitting Santiago.  Four days exploring Santiago should complete our brief visit to Chile.



From Santiago, in Chile, we’ll board a bus again and cross over the border, and over the Andes into Mendoza, Argentina.  Here we’ll settle in for 4 days to discover the wines of the region and to introduce ourselves to the renowned beef.  After this, it’s back on the bus to cross the country to Buenos Aires – this should take 5-10 days depending on what we discover along the way.  I had thought that we would do our long stay in Argentina in Mendoza as it is a smaller city, but we have heard such wonderful things about Buenos Aires that we have decided to do our long stay there instead.  We hope to rent an apartment for our 2 or 3 weeks here and really get to know the neighborhood.  One, long side trip from here will be a trip to Puerto Iguazu for a few days to see the tremendous waterfalls there – I hear they are not to be missed.

Three months will go by very quickly, and we’ll have only touched on all that South America has to offer.


11 thoughts on “South America Itinerary

  1. Buenas Nochas! Sounds great guys. You know, I am using Pimsleur and can’t believe how much I have learned in the five 30 minute lessons I’ve had thus far. I’ll make you a copy so you’ll at least have a base before you go!

  2. If you are looking for someone to give you a brief day tour of Argentina contact Pedro at Fall in Love with BA (http://www.fallinlovewithba.com/f_about.html). My wife and I enjoyed a day tour of the recoleta cemetery with him. Extremelly knowledgeable and reasonably priced. He gave us a great primer into the culture in BA and Argentina as a whole. It was a great start to our visit in Argentina.

  3. Hey guys! Just thought we´d give you a few things to think about. We´ve heard Columbia is amazing and safe; of those travelers we´ve met that have gone to Columbia it is by far their favorite country with Ecuador a close second. Also, we don´t mean to give you unsolicited advice, but we haven´t met a single person that liked Lima. So much so, that we decided not to spend any time there (thus we cannot comment ourselves, but wanted to let you know). Arequipa might be a nice place for learning Spanish. This hostel seemed to have good Spanish lessons: http://casadeavila.com/

    Wish you all the best in your planning!

  4. Michelle: I heard you were learning spanish also. We’re, so far, doing a combination of taking a course at Camosun, reading spanish childrens’ books (I think we’re 3 in spanish culture!) and watching subtitled spanish movies. I’m going to check out the Pimsleur method too. I see your adventure is going well – talk soon.

    Todd: Thanks for the link and recommendation – always good to get a locals view!

    Jodi: No advice is unsolicited when you write about your plans on a blog!! I’ve heard from a few people that Lima is not so nice – a local, well travelled, friend said that it was the worst city she has ever been in! I think we will stop there to have a look see, but I will also be researching spanish schools in other places – thanks for the link!!

  5. Looks like a good plan. Three weeks in Lima does seem like a lot though… but, you do need to get some Spanish under your belt to enjoy SA. I would highly recommend staying in the MIraflores area of the city. Arequipa and Colca Canyon area is fantastic. Puno… disappointing really.
    BA ROCKS!! good choice on spending more time there than Mendoza. Mendoza is nice too, but different. I was expecting vineyards like in Napa or France–not even close though.
    Planning is so much fun!

  6. Maybe you should consider doing some of your Spanish lessons in Arequipa or Cusco – much nicer cities than Lima in my view. As the previous writer said, Arequipa, Cusco, Colca, Inca Trail, jungle, Ballestas (just long enough to see the seals and birds) and Nasca (just long enough to see the amazing lines) are all quite remarkable.

    Watch the yellow fever arrangement from an entry viewpoint. Some countries demand a yellow fever certificate as part of their entry requirements. This might be more in Africa than South America but just check out what you can. I have been asked for it in several countries over some period of time but I cannot recall where now. I’m sure you’ll work something out.

  7. I will have to read about what you do in Mendoza, the city I had to leave from a mere few hours after arriving. Your trip from the tip of Chile to Santiago is one I wanted to do, but reversed. Trust me, you will love the beef in Argentina, and you have to eat alfajores, sort of a chocolate biscuit.

    You have to see Iguazu, and maybe hop into the Brazilian side, although I preferred the Argentina side over the Brazilian. Buenos Aires is awesome, and its a city you need to have be with someone else to enjoy it better IMO, something you are obviously doing.

    Looking forward to reading about your adventures, and yes, I will be back on the road soon, even if briefly ;)

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  9. Hi,

    Just looking at your itenerary for South America.

    I agree that Puno wasn’t one of my favourites though it is still worthwhile going there since that is the base for visiting the Floating Islands of Lake Titicaca

    You probably won’t need 4 days in Santiago. Just 2 (or 3 maximum) should be enough. It’s pretty much another big city and preferable to spend those other couple of days elsewhere.

    I used to have to do the Mendoza run (Santiago to Mendoza) every three months before I got my residency and I can say it is a great trip (the first couple of times, after the 8th or so it gets tiresome!). Something you should have in mind about crossing from Santiago to Mendoza in winter is that sometimes it snows up in the mountains and nothing can get through for a couple/few days. I got caught hitchhiking up there once as a storm started blowing and fortunately a truck driver picked me up otherwise I would have been in serious problems.

    You will go WAY UP into the Andes Mountains with the border control nestled in one of the highest parts there (I forget how many thousands of metres up). After going through Chilean immigration, and after a few kilometres, keep an eye out to the left (get bus seats on that side) where you will get a glimpse of Aconcagua, the highest mountain on the continent.

    Also the Argentinian side of the Iguazu falls is better than the Brazilian side (if you have to choose only one of them). The Brazilian side is more of an overall view whereas the Argentinian side is more immersed in it. There are walkways that go almos right up into some of the falls and at the top of them there are also ledges that you can peer over.


  10. Fun to read your plans for South America as we are exiting the continent soon ourselves. We didn’t get a chance to see Chile or Argentina (next time! Along with Ecuador and Columbia!! – funny to read these mentioned in comments above) but I can put in my thoughts for Perú.

    We really grew to like Lima, especially the Barranco district, but I think that had a lot to do with a local friend showing us around. Lima has a tough skin to crack, and we have spoken with a lot of tourists who literally hate it, and I can see why. Miraflores, or where basically all the info desks and everything guide you, is insanely Americanized, and not in a good way. For us it screamed “avoid!” Prices in dollars, American fast food chains and multiple casinos. Bleh. Lima has no public transportation system. I’m not kidding. Your choice is to take cabs, or learn the insane gyspy bus system. We found it really hard to stay in our budget, constantly – but the amount of amazing, literally amazing, food everywhere had a lot to do with that.

    In fewer words: I would be careful how much time you plan on spending there, in Lima. It’s a big, commercial city. The best of our experiences in South America came from tiny cities in the middle of nowhere. Plan just a few days in Lima, but leave yourself flexibility in case you want to stay longer. You really don’t want to be stuck there if you don’t like it.

    We never took Spanish, but after our first month in Mexico, we knew enough to get by day to day, and continued learning every moment. Maybe just some learning at home will be enough to get started?

    We hope that when we are done with our year abroad we can actually come back to Perú, and to Lima. We’d like to rent an apartment and take cooking classes for 2 months, and then return to Arequipa and Cusco for another month each. We are in love with the country, absolutely.

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