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Places one MUST visit in south America

I am travelling to South America for 2 months in the months of March, April and May. I am interested in night life and also to explore the outdoors, culture and traditions. I am a single guy in early thirties
12 years ago, January 25th 2011 No: 1 Msg: #127346  
N Posts: 6
Can you please suggest places I MUST visit if I have 2 months to travel. Budget is not an issue. I am interested in enjoying the nightlife and also explore the outdoors, mingle with the local people and experience the culture and traditions.

Based on talking to several people I am thinking of visiting the following countries:
1. Equador (15days)
2. Peru (15 days)
3. Brazil (7 days)
4. Argentina (7 days)
5. Chile (7 days)
6. Columbia ( 7days)

I would really appreciate any suggestions. Am I spending way too much time in Equador and much less time in Brazil (considering that I want to experience the night life). How is Buenos Aires for nightlife.

Thanks in advance Reply to this

12 years ago, January 27th 2011 No: 2 Msg: #127484  

Sorry can't comment on Brazil as I've never been there (well one day but that doesn't really count), but Peru and Bolivia (which I'm sad to see isn't on your list) were the highlights of our two months in S. America. Iguazu falls is spectacular if you can make it there and Buenos Aires is a really cool city.

How are you planning to get around, with only two months, that many countries and the distances involved I think flying would be your only option. Is that how you plan to do it? It took us 28 hours on a bus to get from Saltain argentina to Puerto Iguazu, still in Argentine (Brazil border) and that's not far at all on the map.

Mike Reply to this

12 years ago, January 27th 2011 No: 3 Msg: #127515  
N Posts: 6
Mike, thanks for your input. My plan is anything that takes more than 8 hours by land transport I will take a flight. Of course, if it is a scenic route I will make exceptions. I may take Chile out of the itinerary because I am actually spending 4 days there in Santiago.
I will certainly go to Iguazy falls. How is Patagonia in the month of April. Is it worth going there at that time?
Reply to this

12 years ago, February 1st 2011 No: 4 Msg: #127937  
Your itineary is way too crowded in my view.
either you reduce countries or you change and state places rather than countries. Brazil / Argentina are HUGE countries, it is not realistic at all to spend 7 days in these countries. You can spend 7 days in a specific city or area. The only way to do what you are stating is by an organized tour with everything pre-booked, and flights only.
Reply to this

12 years ago, February 4th 2011 No: 5 Msg: #128201  
N Posts: 6
Here are a few more details on my Itinerary. PLEASE give me your feedback. This is my 2 month vacation. I dont usually dont get to take such long vacations (my usual vacation is 2 weeks long). So this is pretty special for me and I want to make the best use of it.

The main focus of my 2 month journey is:
1. I ABSOLUTELY want to visit some of the wonders of South America. That is why I have, Atitlan lake, Galapagos Islands, Amazon river ride, Iguazu falls, Machu Pichu (Am I missing something) in my itinerary. And I also explore the beautiful outdoors
2. I want to explore the night life (restaurants, clubs etc) in some of the big cities
3. Relax a bit

Here is my rough itinerary:
Ecuador (12 days)
1. Activities around Quito
a. Explore Quito night life
b. Papallacta hotsprings
c. Explore Otavalo
d. Visit Banos (hot-springs)
e. Jungles near Banos
f. Train ride to Guayaquil, Montenita beach resort
2. Galapagos Islands (3 to 4 days)

Brazil (20 days)
1. Amazon river ride (Iquitos to Manaus)
2. Visit Salvador (beaches), go to Moho Sao Paulo beaches
3. Visit Porto Seguro (beaches)
4. Visit Rio (explore night life)
5. Visit Foz do Iguazu (water falls)
6. Visit Sau Paulo (explore night life)

Bolivia (2 days)
1. Visit La Paz (hike)

Peru ( 10 days)
1. Visit Cuzco (Machu Pichu Trail)
2. Visit Lima (explore night life)

Columbia ( 5 days)
1. Just chill in Cartagena and Cali
2. Visit the ruins near Cali
Costa Rica ( 5 days)
1. Chill on the beaches

I really appreciate your feedback Reply to this

12 years ago, February 5th 2011 No: 6 Msg: #128283  
B Posts: 122
Hello there,

I think you are being a little unrealistic although I love your enthusiasm, I agree with the Sapir family the only way you can do this is to have everything pre-booked and flights only but please consider that things don't always run smoothly here in South America. I also think you need to consider weather and Altitude also, for example to just arrive in La Paz and go hiking is dangerous, you need to acclimatize although I see you are going to Cusco after which means you would already be semi-aclimatized when you arrived after La Paz. The problem with booking everything before though is that if anything goes wrong with any of your itinerary it messes up everything else. If I can give you any advice it would be to cut back on some of the things you would like to do and do the things you choose well. Perhaps do Machu Pichu and give La Paz a miss, Columbia is beautiful and to visit the beaches in the North is a great way to end your trip, very relaxing, I really hope you figure it out and have a wonderful trip. Reply to this

12 years ago, February 6th 2011 No: 7 Msg: #128315  
I think you are not realistic with the time - and you need to reduce places, and return in the next time you have a chance...
Let me give you some examples -
Iquitos to Manaus - this means you have to switch boats in the border between Peru and Brazil. We had good luck and arrived in the border on the day a boat also leaves to Manaus (which does not run everyday) and early enough to still make it on time to make crossing papers, draw local currency and get a spot on the boat - but I can assure you it was VERY tight on the schedule! so this alone, if does not happen to go smoothly may change from being a 6 day river trip into 8 or even 10 days. By the way, we did have to wait for 2 days in Iquitos for a boat, as they do not run on weekends...
It is very hard to find tours in Galapagos for only 3 days. Normally even the short tours are for 4 days. To better enjoy the islands (if you are already getting into the cost and trouble of arriving there) you actually need the 7/8 days tours as the distances between the different islands around the archipelago is huge.
I agree with the comment about Bolivia. How can you expect to arrive in La Paz 1 day, trasnport to the hotel, tour a bit the city, go out at night to enjoy the night life as you say, wake up early morning next day to do a hike? but return early enough to get to the airport and catch another flight.... There are mountain /snow hikes departing from La Paz, but they are tough and take more than 1 day. There is biking the deathroad which indeed takes only a day, but its tight to return with it to still catch a flight. Not mentioning that it may "still" your afternoon the day before to just find which agency you like and has space for you for the next day etc. and so you did not have the afternoon to actually explore a bit of the markets of La Paz.
You can at least leave Cota Rica out as it is in Central America anyway - and do it in a different tour combined with Guatemala, Panama etc. You would have enough beach time in Brazil...
Last comment - we were not looking much for night life, but it is worth checking whether Lima and/or Quito indeed have such an interesting lively night life, I am not sure at all.
Try to find more updated information about the train in Ecuador. We did not take it, but if I remember correctly two girls that were the same time ended up understanding that it is not fully functioning, that the schedule is very rare or something like that and gave up on the idea....

Have safe travel! Reply to this

12 years ago, February 6th 2011 No: 8 Msg: #128345  
N Posts: 6
Thanks a lot for the feedback. You guys are awesome. I am making a bunch of changes to my plan. Certainly taking out the amazon river boat ride and possibly remove the hiking at La Paz. Thanks again guys. I am continuing to do the reading and researching. Reply to this

12 years ago, March 8th 2011 No: 9 Msg: #130664  
My top Choices to not miss out on!

1. Equador (15days)----1) Galapagos
2. Peru (15 days)--------1) Machu Pichu
3. Brazil (7 days)--------1) El Pantanal 2) the beaches of course
4. Argentina (7 days)---1) El Chalten in the south to see Mountain Fitz Roy 2) go see the Perito Moreno Glacier!
5. Chile (7 days)---------1) Torres del Paine (Patagonia) 2) San Pedro de Atacama
6. Columbia ( 7days) Reply to this

12 years ago, March 14th 2011 No: 10 Msg: #131137  
You've already gotten a lot of great advice and I agree with all of it.

While you are in Peru we recommend that you go to Colca Canyon, fly to the Nasca Lines and don't forget to go to Lake Titicaca.
You will be surprised how much Peru has to offer that is not Machu Picchu.

Travel by land is slow in South America you may want to do some flying. In my opinion you will be happier if you focus your time in 4 countries instead of 5....unless you can persuade your employer to let you have three months off!

I would leave out the 5 days in Costa Rica and stay in South America.
Reply to this

12 years ago, March 14th 2011 No: 11 Msg: #131159  
You don't mention where you're from (?language problems) or when you're going (?seasonal considerations)
The trip sounds great, but could end up being a nightmare logistically.
As others above have said above, you seem to be squeezing an awful lot in.
2 months sounds alot, but South America is huge and diverse. I spent 3 months in Brazil alone and only barely scratched the surface. I'd seriously consider revising down the number of countries you're planning to visit: try just picking your favourite one or two and you'll probably enjoy them alot more.
Obviously in most of south America they speak Spanish, the (big!) exception being Brazil, where it's Portuguese, and they won't understand Spanish, let alone English. I know several people who've waltzed off to S.America without bothering to learn a word thinking they'll get by... they've all had a miserable time and come home early. Certainly in Brazil outside a very narrow strip on Copacabana in Rio (basically the road by the beach and maybe if you're lucky the one behind it) nobody speaks a word of English, including hotel receptions, taxis, nightclubs & even airport check-in outside Rio & Sao Paulo. It's surprisingly easy to get by, though, as long as you learn the numbers and a few basic phrases and food-names.
As for when to go, if it's nightlife you're after it's got to be Carnivale, surely. You could try Rio for the glitz and glamour, but the full-on experience is in Pelhourinho in Salvador, an 8-day party on a scale quite unlike anything I've ever seen anywhere else in the world.
In short if you've really only 7 days in Brazil I'd stick to Rio & nearby Ilha Grande. A bit longer and you could squeeze in Foz d'Iguacu(Brazilian and Argentina sides). I'd also definitley recommend checking out Fernando do Noronha (beaches, surfing, diving). longer still and you can think about an Amazon trip or the Pantanal, but you'd need to cut back time in other countries then.
Oh, one more thing... if budget isn't an issue and you're going to check out the Rio nightlife you'll have one big target on your back for the muggers, so take care (i.e take out only the money you'll spend and leave fancy watches/jewellery at home).
Having said that I'm sure you'll have a blast of a trip... just remember, less is sometimes more! Reply to this

12 years ago, March 16th 2011 No: 12 Msg: #131273  
N Posts: 6
This forum is amazing. I have altered my South America trip quite a bit based on the feedback I have received.
I will not be going to the following countries. I flying between all the places I am visiting. This is to save time. Also I hardly know any Spanish and absolutely no Portuguese. That remains my biggest concern
1. Ecuador (Last 2 weeks of March) Of that more than week is in Galapagos islands
2. Brazil (24 days pretty much the whole month of April)
Foz do Iguazu (1 day)
Manaus (6 days: hoping to catch the Amazon jungles)
Salvador (5 days; mostly explore the city culture and the beaches near Salvador)
Porto Seguro (3 days)
Rio ( 5 days)
Sao Paulo ( 4 days)
3. Peru (10 days Mostly around the Machu Pichu and surrounding areas)
4. Columbia (10 days not yet decided what to do)

Reply to this

12 years ago, March 16th 2011 No: 13 Msg: #131290  
cut a day from or two from your visit to Sao Paulo and add it in Foz do Iguazo - to see the falls also from the Argentinian side! It is a full day inside the falls on the Argentinian side, so make sure you start that day very early in the morning - so by the time you finish with the border crossing, you still have enough time to enjoy it!

If you are concerned with budget, you probably will have a cheaper opp. to be in the jungle in Peru (from Cusco) than from Manaus, Brazil. Though in Manaus there are probably options which are shorter in time than in Peru...

Around Salvador, I believe a very cool place with a lot of atmposphere for beach is the island Moro de Sao Paulo - and I am not wrong, it is fairly near Salvador and not near Sao Paulo. If you do manage to have enough time on the beach in this island, you may even skip Porto Seguro - which is nothing special as a city. If you do want nice beaches around Porto Seguro you should probably be in Ariel de Ajuda or Trancoso.

ENJOY!!! Reply to this

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