South America, the Ultimate Bucket List
South America is heaven for any type of traveler; the adventurous, the luxury, the backpacker, the hiker, and the urban king. It is a continent filled with bucket-list destinations and highly Instagram-able sights. In recent years, due to better and more flight connections, more and more travelers are looking for trips that combine two or more absolute bucket list destinations in one trip. This is no different for South America and we get more and more requests to combine these top destinations in South America. Unfortunately, most people have limited time for their trips and most trips are around 10-14 days. This means that even with the improved flight connections doing them all in one trip will not be possible but in 14 days you can easily fit three in three different countries. Travel distances and flight connections are key when organizing such a trip as are local infrastructures. Road conditions in many countries will not be the same for instance meaning that travel times can increase. The good thing is that even though a lot of these bucket-list destinations are located thousands of miles from each other, there are also several that are actually shared by two or more countries. In this blog, our travel consultants with over 20 years of experience will try to layout for the readers what are the main bucket lists destinations and more importantly; how to combine these.
So what are the main bucket list destinations for each country? Following we will go over the main bucket list destinations for each country.
Buenos Aires; the Paris of South America. This large metropolitan has it all, culture, food, wine, nightlife, history and of course; Tango.
Patagonia; Argentinean Patagonia is huge and covers thousands of miles from Bariloche all the way to Ushuaia. Nevertheless, it is the Perito Moreno Glacier close to the city of El Calafate that takes the main price.
Iguazu Falls; the Iguazu Falls are shared with Brazil but Argentina has arguably the nicest part of the falls. The famous Devils Throat runs through the Argentinean side and the surrounding park and wildlife are also more than worth the visit. Lastly, do not forget to enjoy a boat ride at the foot of the falls.
Lake Titicaca; Lake Titicaca is another one of those bucket list destinations that is shared by two countries. Massive Lake Titicaca located on a breathtaking 3,800 meters above sea level is a sight few will easily forget. The dark blue color of the water reflecting the clouds that are so close they almost touch the water and matched by the reflection of the snowcapped peaks surrounding the lake. The famous Island of the Sun and Island of the Moon are located on the Bolivian side and supposedly the birthplace for the first Inca.
Uyuni Salt Flats; the Uyuni Salt Flats are ancient dried up seas that once a year during the rainy season from December through March fill up again with a couple of centimeters of water, creating the world’s largest mirror. Lost in this huge lake you will find several natural islands filled with cactuses over 8 meters high and surrounding the lake you find the strange Siloli Desert with its colorful lagoons, strange rock formations, and wide-open landscapes. Add up that the nights can be very clear and the skies filled with stars, you are 3650 meters closer to than on sea level, and you can understand why we are talking about a true bucket-list destination.
Rio de Janeiro; “The marvelous city”; Rio is for many the personification of South America; tropical, warm, outgoing, vibrant and rhythmic. Rio is beautiful beaches, Rio is culture, Rio is a carnival and Rio is an adventure. Rio de Janeiro is a unique city and its inhabitants know so. Few people are more proud of their city than the Cariocas.
Amazon Rainforest; Brazil possesses the largest part of the Amazon Rainforest on the continent and the largest part of the Amazon River. These adventurous lands are filled with amazing and unique wildlife, beautiful jungle lodges and uncontacted indigenous villages. The diversity of fauna and flora is so large here that these forests are of essential importance to the entire planet.
Iguazu Falls; Having the smaller part of the Iguazu Falls, Brazil does have the largest park that surrounds these rumbling falls. The falls can be visited through a series of walkways and a train takes you through the park. The park itself is inhabited by exotic animals and plants and will allow you to appreciate the jungle of this region.
Atacama; the driest desert in the world, the Atacama Desert can have periods of more than 20 years without rain and the last rain has fallen in 2015. The Atacama Desert borders with the Siloli Desert in southern Bolivia and is located on an altitude of about 2,500 meters above sea level. The desert is according to some, the place on earth that most resembles Mars and several Sci-Fi movies have been filmed here. The out of this world landscapes include moonlike valleys, awesome rock formations, thermal geysers, and a unique highland desert. The main town is San Pedro de Atacama and in the surrounding one can find some of the best star viewing opportunities on the planet. The reason why this is the place with the highest density of Astronomical observatories on the planet.
Patagonia; located in the far South of the country, Patagonia is for many the Mecca of adventure and outdoors. Rugged mountains, immense glaciers, and deep blue lakes allow for some of the best hiking on the continent. Spectacular boat excursions, treks, glacier hikes, horseback riding or even culinary trips are all possible in this land at the end of the earth.
Galapagos Islands; made famous by Charles Darwin when he wrote the Origins of Species, one of the books on the basis of the theory of evolution. These islands represent some of the most pristine and fragile natural environments on the planet with hundreds of unique species of fauna and flora, many of these endemic. The islands can be visited on a cruise or island hopping program from one of the inhabited islands such as Santa Cruz and San Cristobal.
Machu Picchu; the lost city of the Incas, located 2,400 meters above sea level and perched on a mountain ridge surrounded by lush cloud forests is arguably South America’s most important archeological site and a dream come true for any visitors to first lay eyes on this magnificent architectural wonder. Not the easiest site to visit and therefore perhaps all the more interesting.
Amazon Rainforest; after Brazil, Peru has the largest part of the Amazon Rainforest in South America within its territory and some say that due to its location next to the Andes, the Amazon here is slightly different and more primary forests are still found. It goes without saying that these woods that start at an altitude of 1,500 meters have an incredible wealth of diversity and that every place in the Peruvian Amazon has its slight distinctions. Amazing lodges with great access and even better excursions make the Amazon one of Peru’s top destinations after Machu Picchu.
Now, having listed these South American bucket list destinations, let's have a look at the ones that are easiest to combine in a 10-14 day itinerary. Here we take into consideration easily accessible international airports and local flight connections that allow these destinations to be conveniently combined.
Machu Picchu and the Amazon Rainforest; one of the easier bucket list packages; both are located in Peru and enjoy great flight connections. You fly into Lima and after Lima head to Cusco to visit Machu Picchu. After Machu Picchu, you can then either fly from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado for the Southern Amazon or to Iquitos to see the actual Amazon River and the jungle here.
Machu Picchu and Galapagos Islands; one of the more popular bucket list packages. Most people fly into Lima and head south to visit Cusco and Machu Picchu for the first 5-7 days. From Cusco, they return to Lima connecting with a flight to Quito or Guayaquil. The next day from here they fly out to the Galapagos for a 4 or 5-day cruise. You can then fly back home either from Quito or return to Lima as this may be cheaper.
Patagonia, Iguazu Falls & Buenos Aires; Another option where you do not have to leave the country to see multiple bucket-list destinations. Arrive to Argentina via Buenos Aires after which you head to the thundering Iguazu Falls. From the falls you can fly South via Buenos Aires or Mendoza to El Calafate in the heart of Patagonia to see the mighty Perito Moreno Glacier before ending in Buenos Aires.
Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca, and Uyuni Salt Lake; this highland package combines three bucket list destinations over two countries. On arrival to Peru’s capital Lima you travel to Cusco up in the highlands from where you will explore the majestic lost city of the Incas; Machu Picchu. After Machu Picchu, you will travel overland to Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake on the planet. Lake Titicaca is shared with Bolivia, your next destination. We will travel to the literally breathtaking capital La Paz situated on almost 4,000 meters above sea level. Finally, we will head to South Bolivia where the fascinating Salar de Uyuni is located. After 2 or 3 days here you can either return to La Paz or cross into Chile and visit the Atacama Desert en route to Santiago.
Machu Picchu and Iguazu Falls and Rio de Janeiro; probably the most popular bucket list package we offer. This amazing package includes no less than 4 top bucket list destinations in 14 days. The Lost City of the Incas, Machu Picchu, the Paris of South America; Buenos Aires, the thundering falls of Iguazu and ending on the world-famous beaches of Rio de Janeiro. Who would not be fascinated by this trip?
Argentinian and Chilean Patagonia; the rugged lands of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego are shared by two countries and even though both are part of the same geographical region, their culture makes them unique in their own way. Travel from Santiago to Puntas Arenas to head to the Torres del Paine national park, one of Patagonia’s most beautiful. From here cross the border into Argentina and head to El Calafate and the Perito Moreno Glacier. From here you can head even further South and visit Ushuaia, the World’s Southernmost city. Finally, you either travel to Buenos Aires for your international flight or those not having had enough of Patagonia to Bariloche from where you can head back into Chile via the fairytale-like Lake Region sharted by both countries.
Patagonia and the Atacama Desert; due to its location and particular geography Chile is a country blessed with some crazy extremes. The Atacama Desert is one of the driest on the earth and Patagonia can be one of the wettest. Both are destinations that are highly ranked on many bucket lists and with good reason. Both are dream destinations for adventurous and outdoorsy travelers that cannot get enough of the amazing and unique landscapes both these places, which are connected by the fertile and lush central Chilean valleys, have to offer.