The great continent of South America encompasses a vast landscape, ranging from tropical beaches to dense jungle, snow-capped mountains, deserts, and salt flats. While it is stunning, it is also potentially quite expensive to travel into from Europe, the US or Asia, and therefore it is imperative, if you are wanting to explore as much as you can, to take at least 2 months.
Sure, you can fly, but why not jump in a car and, yes, it will take a lot longer than a plane, but you will discover things you would otherwise not, some hidden treasures amongst the many millions of square miles of jungle! South America is just waiting to be explored, and here are the must-dos whilst here!
10 Southern Patagonian Andes
Set in Chile and Argentina, the Southern Patagonian Andes are a sight to behold. Towering, snow-capped mountains sitting high above the clouds, they are perfect for anyone who enjoys getting out into nature. Passing through the Los Glaciares National Park in Santa Cruz, then on to Ruta 40; the Argentine version of Route 66, El Calatafe and concluding at Torres del Paine. All in all, this road trip will take around 10 days to complete, if you take into consideration the 4 or 5 days hiking when you arrive at Torres del Paine.
9 Incan Heartland, Peru & Bolivia
Located throughout Peru and Bolivia is the Incan Heartland… you know… Machu Picchu. Sure, we have seen pictures and documentaries on TV, but there is nothing like experiencing it first-hand. First up is La Paz, which is famous for its historic past mixed with a contemporary, fast-paced business environment. Then on to Puno or Cuzco, towns that oversee many of Mother Nature’s wonders; deserts, mountains and volcanoes, and, once you reach your final stop, the best wonder of them all, Machu Picchu.
8 Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
These salt flats are becoming increasingly well known, so make sure you tick it off the bucket list before everyone else does! In fact, they are thought to have the smoothest roads in the whole of South America, something that is quite uncommon.
While driving the 12,500 meters up to the flats, do ensure that you take all precautions necessary in order to avoid altitude sickness. What’s more, you can either choose to visit Salar de Uyuni with a guide or by yourself. If you do choose to go alone, set up camp and stay a night; it is thought to be a highly rewarding experience.
7 Santa Marta, Columbia
Most people are unaware of what awaits them in Santa Marta, Columbia. Magnificent waterfalls streaming down hills covered with dense forest, which is backed on to a gorgeous tourist setting where you can sit and just listen. Listen to the birds chirping, the water flowing, and just let peace and tranquillity enter your body. If you are up for a relaxing road trip, then it is highly recommended you travel through Columbia; Bogota, Pereira for coffee, Jardin and finally Santa Marta.
6 Curve-Road, Argentina/Chile
Connecting Mendoza to Santiago, this road is not only famous for its panoramic views, it also encompasses a total of 370 twists and turns. The best way to take this road in is via a chartered bus tour from Mendoza. Why? Because you won’t have to worry about changing gears and watching the speed limit all whilst trying to take in this gobsmacking view. What also makes this road so great is that it is jammed in a valley, meaning quite literally anywhere you look, you will see mountains covered in clouds and, well, just spectacular scenes which words cannot do justice.
5 Galapagos, Ecuador
No, not the Galapagos Islands, don’t worry! Starting in the Ecuadorian capital, Quito, you will want to head through Cotopaxi, Guayaquil, and finally Galapagos. What makes this road trip so good is that you will drive through some of the biggest and best active volcanoes in the process, before hitting what is perhaps one of the best coastlines in the world. If you do decide to stay here for a few days, base yourself in Guayaquil, the gateway to the Pacific and quite a modern city for what else is around it.
4 Costa Verde, Brazil
For good food, pristine beaches and all-round amazing sights, head to Southern Brazil, specifically, Costa Verde. Starting about an hours’ drive from São Paulo, America’s greatest metropolis (North and South), in the seaside town of Santos.
Head up the BR-101 about 3 hours to Ilhabela. You will need to put your car on a ferry and hop across from São Sebastião, but if you don’t fancy this, then you can stop off just before, and spend some time at Juquehy Beach, you won’t regret it!
3 Rio de Janiero, Brazil
There cannot possibly be a list of places in South America that forgets Rio! It is Brazil’s second-largest city, but is arguably the most beautiful. Continue your drive up from Costa Verde and Juquehy Beach just a few more hours and you will hit Rio. It is a beachside city, but as soon as you turn your head the other way, you will experience some of Brazil’s prettiest jungle. If you want a city that has quite literally everything, Rio is for you!
2 Carretera Austral, Chile
Stretching for more than 600 miles, the Carretera Austral runs from Northern Chile right down to the South. While most of the road is still loose gravel, some of it has recently been updated to a smoother surface, which is perfect for anyone wanting to avoid off-roading. If you wish to conquer the whole 600 miles, prepare for some breathtaking sights; rivers, glaciers, mountains, fjords and so much more! The recommended time here is anywhere around 3 weeks, because, let’s be honest, no one is going to come back and forth just to finish it! Do it in one go!
1 Buenos Aires, Argentina
If you want a taste of the French capital in South America, head to Buenos Aires; a vibrant culture, with world-class food and wine, and of course, football. The city is home to a mix of French and Italian architecture (not too shabby) and pulsating culture on every corner. For a burst of color, check out La Boca, or if you just want to relax, grab a coffee or locally produced red wine in Palermo. Whatever your interests are, Buenos Aires has it and a whole lot more to explore!