Rio 8 days
Flanked by gorgeous mountains and white sand beaches and verdant rainforests fronting deep-blue sea, Rio occupies one of the most spectacular settings of any metropolis in the world. Tack on one of the sexiest populations on the plant and you have an intoxicating tropical cocktail that leaves visitors punch-drunk on paradise.
lha Grande days
The fabulous island retreat of Ilha Grande owes its pristine condition to its unusual history. For centuries, the island’s unsavory reputation – first as a pirate's lair, then as a leper colony and penitentiary – kept developers at bay. Consequently, beautiful tropical beaches and virgin Atlantic rainforest (now protected as state parkland) abound, and the island still has only a handful of settlements.
Paraty 4 days
Backed by steep, jungled mountains plunging into an island-studded bay, Paraty enjoys one of Brazil’s most spectacular settings and an exquisitely preserved colonial center, recognized as a National Historic Site since 1966. The town's pedestrianized streets are lined with elegant white buildings adorned with fanciful multihued borders and latticed windows that blend harmoniously with the natural beauty that envelops the town – it's a joy to explore.
Sao Paulo 4 days
São Paulo is home to 20 million fiercely proud paulistanos, all of whom will happily tell you at length to you how they'd never live elsewhere. Spend time with them and the reasons will soon unfold. Maybe they will introduce you to the city’s innumerable art-house cinemas and experimental theaters. If they’re gourmands, they’ll focus on the smart bistros and gourmet restaurants that make the city a world-renowned foodie haven. If they’re scenesters, follow them on a raucous tour of underground bars and the 24/7 clubbing scene.
Foz de Iguaçu 3 days
There is little about the town to get excited about, but it works perfectly fine as a base for exploring Iguaçu Falls in both Brazil and Argentina as well other attractions in the area such as Itaipu Binacional and Parque das Aves.
Medellin 13 days
Situated in a narrow valley, Medellín packs the punch of a city twice its size. Its skyline reaches for the heavens, setting high-rise apartments and office buildings against a backdrop of jagged peaks in every direction. Its pleasant climate gives it its nickname – the City of Eternal Spring – and the moderate temperatures put a spring in the locals' steps, at work and at play. It's a bustling place of industry and commerce, especially in textile manufacturing and exported cut flowers. On weekends Medellín lets its hair down, its many discos attracting the beautiful people.
Jardin 1 days
The self-proclaimed most beautiful town in Antioquia, Jardín lives up to its name. Festooned with greenery, its brightly painted two-story houses are surrounded by small coffee farms that cling to the slopes of green mountains.
Salento 3 days
Salento was by far one of my favourite places in Colombia…and not just because it’s in the coffee region (though that certainly helped). Surrounded by rolling green hills and stretching countryside, it was nice to take a deep breath of (thin, altitude) air in Salento. Part of Zona Cafetera. Small town, lots of backpackers and some stunning surrounding countryside.
Less than 2 hours away from brustling town Medellin, Guatape is a famous weekend getaway for paisas(locals) looking for some quiet time in the countryside. But for some reason, it still remains off the track of most tourists. 4 years ago, there were still no hostels there. Trust me, add a stop in Guatape on your Colombian itinerary, you will not regret it!
Santa Marta 1 days
Where locals go when they want sun on their backs and rum in their hands. Famous colonial past. Pleasant enough seaside town. Mixed reviews.
Tayrona National Park 1 days
A magical slice of the Caribbean coast, with stunning stretches of golden sandy beach backed by coconut palms and thick rainforest. Behind it all rise the steep hillsides of the Sierra Nevada, the world's highest coastal mountain range. The park stretches along the coast and covers some 12,000 hectares of land and 3000 hectares of coral-rich sea. Daily speed boat from Tanganga. Accommodation in hammock, camping or bungalows.
Cartagena 5 days
A beautiful Spanish Colonial walled city with high-end restaurants and plenty of sights, make sure you have enough days to explore Cartagena. The undisputed queen of the Caribbean coast, a historic city of superbly preserved beauty lying within an impressive 13km of centuries-old colonial stone walls. Cartagena's Old Town is a Unesco World Heritage Site – a maze of cobbled alleys, balconies covered in bougainvillea, and massive churches that cast their shadows across leafy plazas.
Capurganá 1 days
Capurganá is a remote, car-free village on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, accessible only by air or water. It’s known for quiet bays backed by dense rainforest and its abundant dive sites. Nearby, Aguacate Beach, or Avocado Beach, is named for its green water. Up the coast is Sapzurro village, with its circular bay and forest trails. Palm-fringed La Miel Beach is farther northwest, over the Panama border
San Blas Islands 3 days
Panama City 1 days
Cali 3 days
Colombia’s salsa city. It's a hot, gritty city with a real zest for life that draws you in and stays with you long after you leave town. Beyond a handful of churches and museums, Cali is light on sights – but the city's main attraction is its beguiling, electrifying atmosphere. If you make the effort you will find great nightlife, good restaurants and plenty to do, especially in the evening, when a cool mountain breeze dissipates the heat of the day.
Otavalo 2 days
Famous for its gigantic Saturday market, friendly indigenous people and lots of men sporting dresses and ponytails! The setting is fabulous, and the entire experience remains enchanting.
Mindo 3 days
Breathtaking setting surrounded on all sides by steep mountainsides of cloud forest, tiny Mindo has become something of a backpacker buzzword. Entered by a dramatically steep and curvy hillside descent that takes you down past dozens of hotels and lodges to a sleepy town center.
Quilotoa Loop 6 days
The Quilotoa Loop is a bumpy, ring-shaped road that travels from the Panamericana far into the backcountry of Cotopaxi province. Along the way you’ll encounter colourful indigenous markets, a crystal-blue lake that the local people believe has no bottom, a community of painters who are preserving the legends of the Andes, and ancient trails that meander in the shadow of snowcapped volcanoes. The isolation of the loop brings you into contact with lots of Kichwa-speaking indigenous people and their centuries-old way of life.
Quito 1 days
Warm and relaxed, traditional Ecuadorian Sierra culture – overflowing market stands, shamanistic healers, fourth-generation hatmakers – mixes with a vibrant and sophisticated culinary and nightlife scene. Head to the Marsical for an all action international area bursting with backpackers, loads of hostels and lively westernised clubs.
The Galapagos Islands 8 days
Cuenca 3 days
Popular riverside city full of colonial buildings, cafes and art galleries. After Quito, Cuenca is Ecuador’s most important and beautiful colonial city. But don’t say that to the locals, who insist that their laid-back culture, cleaner streets and more agreeable weather outclass the capital, hands down.
Mancora 5 days
This was one of Owen’s favourite places because the beach is so nice. This town is tiny, full of bars and restaurants and has a big party scene. We had loads of fun here as we started to get over the sickness. 2 nights would probably cover you, 3 max.
Lima 3 days
Much more modern city in comparison to the rest of Peru. Barranco is a cool area with lots of art galleries and old buildings. Miraflores is a good neighbourhood to stay in as it has lots of good restaurants / seafood. Don’t stay downtown in Lima, it’s a kip. Think one part southern Cali doused with a heavy dose of America Latina.
Arequipa 4 days
Surrounded by volcanoes & canyons. Other Peruvians joke that you need a different passport to enter Peru’s second-largest city. One-tenth the size of Lima, Arequipa is its pugnacious equal in terms of cuisine, historical significance and confident self-awareness. Beautiful colonial city in Southern Peru. Beware of ice in your drinks, This is where we got sick! Lots of volcanos around and plenty to see. You can do a tour to the Colca Canyon from here which is apparently brilliant. We couldn’t go due to illness!
Cusco 8 days
Welcome to the navel of the world. The undisputed archaeological capital of the Americas, Cuzco is the continent’s oldest continuously inhabited city and the gateway to Machu Picchu. Cosmopolitan Cuzco (also Cusco, or Qosq’o in Quechua) thrives with a measure of contradiction. Ornate cathedrals squat over Inca temples, massage hawkers ply the narrow cobblestone passages, a rural Andean woman feeds bottled water to her pet llama while the finest boutiques sell pricey alpaca knits. Laid back, traveller friendly
Trek to Machu Picchu 3 days
Copacabana 2 days
Our first stop in Bolivia and a great option for staying on Lake Titicaca (the highest lake in the world). It's also the closest point for a day trip to Isla del Sol.
Isla Del Sol 1 days
La Paz 2 days
One of the smallest and safest capitals on the continent. Street markets, the Coca Museum and the infamous San Pedro prison are very popular with backpackers here.
It is probably the most attractive city in the country.
Take a trip down the shockingly dangerous working mines in what is the highest city in the world. A depressing but unforgettable place.
Uyuni 2 days
The world’s largest salt flat is a weirdly charming place and an increasingly popular stop on the South America backpacker trail. You will probably need to do an organised tour here, which can last several days.
San Pedro De Atacama 1 days
Stunning landscape around the laid back but somewhat pricey town. See it on a horse or bicycle. Geysers, mountains, sand boarding, star gazing (it's one of the best places on Earth to see the stars) and more
Explore nearby El Fuerte ruins. Forested mountains, archaology; near La Higuera, where Che Guevara was executed
horse riding in Butch Cassidy country and the base for the Salar de Uyuni tour
Jesuit missions circuit
PN de Medidi days
Multicoloured mountains and leafy plazas
Buenos Aires 6 days
Fantastic city. Take in a passionate football match, the vibrant street life, super shopping and lively clubs that party well past dawn. Many travellers view the giant Argentinean capital as their favourite city in all of South America.
Bariloche (P) 3 days
The furthest northerly town in Patagonia. We loved it here! Do the 27km cycle if you can. The Patagonia Brewery is a stop along the way and the views are amazing, as well as the beer. Bariloche is famous for beer and chocolate so you will enjoy this place. Loads of hiking opportunities too which aren’t too far from town. We hiked Mount Otto but it was quite difficult so not sure I would recommend.
El Calafate (P) 2 days
This is the gateway to Parque de los Glaciares which is where you can visit Perito Moreno Glaciar. Absolutely amazing
El Chalten (P) 4 days
On the edge of Los Glaciares national park with views of the peaks of Monte Fitz Roy.
Mendoza 4 days
Excellent wine produced here and it’s also not far from Mount Aconcagua, the tallest on the continent. Renting bikes and winery maps, and spend a sunny day cycling to winery after winery.
Interesting big city which includes riverside beaches with an alternative vibe.
Puerto Madryn days
great penguin, sea lion and orca watching
Peninsula Valdes days
Whales, elephant seals
La Serena 3 days
Beaches, pisco distilleries and star gazing observatory. We were in heaven.
Valparaiso 2 days
Colourful town with a vibrant bohemian culture. A real gem.
Colchagua 3 days
Santiago 3 days
Capital city with so much to do in and around it. Skiing in the Andes, nice beaches and interesting towns all very close to what is the beating heart of this country.
Sleepy town which burst into the global spotlight in 2010 with the dramatic and very moving rescue of 33 trapped miners.
Puerto Natales (P) 7 days
Probably can't go
Vina del Mar days
Best beaches in the country with awesome music festival every February.
Puerto Montt days
Town in Chile's Lake District
Tierra del fuego days
Has popped up twice for white water rafting and canyoning. Town in Chile's lake district.
Puerto Varas days
Town in the south of Chile's lake district. White water rafting and canyoning?