One question that I love as well as hate is “Where to go in South America?” Love it because I love talking about our trip and I can go on and on for a few hours. Hate it because it’s an extremely difficult question to answer in a few short sentences. I mean first of all it’s a huge ass continent with 13 countries! And we managed to visit only 4 countries in the almost 4 months we spent there.

Of course, we had time on our hands and we lingered around to see more than just the highlights in each country. Most people would not have that much time. And given how time-consuming and expensive reaching South America is from India, one would want to make optimum use of their time by visiting all the best places. So here is a workable itinerary to see all the highlights of our 4-month trip in just 30 days!

Day 1 Arrive in Buenos Aires; Rest / Buenos Aires sightseeing
Day 2 Buenos Aires sightseeing
Day 3 Early morning flight to Iguazu; Iguazu falls on Argentina side
Day 4 Iguazu falls on Brazil side (only if you have Brazil visa)
Day 5 Flight from Iguazu to El Calafate via Buenos Aires
Day 6 Perito Moreno glacier – Boat ride + Walkways Or Big ice trek Or Mini ice trek
Day 7 Morning bus to El Chalten; Small trek in afternoon or relax
Day 8 Laguna de los Tres trek
Day 9 Smaller trek or Half day trip to Lago Desierto or rest day
Day 10 Morning bus to El Calafate; Evening bus to Puerto Natales (Chile)
Day 11 Torres del Paine national park in rented car – Mirador Lago Grey (Boat ride / 1 hour hike), Lake Pehoe lookout, Mirador Condor (1.5 hour hike)
Day 12 Torres del Paine national park in rented car – Salto Grande Lookout, Mirador Cuernos del Paine (1 hour hike), Nordenskjöld Lake Lookout, Cascada Rio Paine and Laguna Azul
Day 13 Bus to Punta Arenas; Afternoon half day tour to see Magellanic penguins
Day 14 Flight from Punta Arenas to Calama via Santiago; Drive to San Pedro de Atacama
Day 15 San pedro de Atacama – Lagunas Miscanti and Miñiques, Tuyajto Lake, Laguna Chaxa
Day 16 San pedro de Atacama – El Tatio geysers in morning; Valle de la luna in afternoon
Day 17 San pedro de Atacama – Drive on Ruta 27 (Vegas de Quepaico, Monjes de Pacanas, Laguna Negra and Laguna Aquas Caliente, Laguna Quisquiro); Star gazing in SPACE at night
Day 18 San pedro de Atacama – Hierbas Buenas / Spare day
Day 19 Salar de Uyuni road trip
Day 20 Salar de Uyuni road trip
Day 21 Salar de Uyuni road trip; Overnight bus from Uyuni to La Paz
Day 22 La Paz sightseeing
Day 23 Bus to Copacabana; Isla del Sol; Overnight bus to Cusco
Day 24 Cusco – 4 ruins tour in morning (Sacsayhuaman, Qenqo, Puca Pucara, Tambomachay) + Local sightseeing in afternoon (Cusco Cathderal, Plaze de Armas, El Qoricancha, Hatun rumiyoc street)
Day 25 Pisac Ruins, Maras salt ponds, Moray agri-terraces, Chinchero via taxi; Get dropped in Ollantaytambo
Day 26 Ollantaytambo ruins in the morning; Train to Aquas Calientes (base of Machu Picchu)
Day 27 Visit Machu Picchu! Evening train & bus back to Cusco
Day 28 Flight to Lima; Afternoon bus to Nasca
Day 29 Flight over Nasca lines in the morning; Bus back to Lima
Day 30 Lima sightseeing

The usual caveats apply –

  • This is a bare-bones itinerary that you can use to start planning your trip and then add / delete places based on how much time you have.
  • This is based on what we like and the places we found the most worthwhile. So, it’s high on nature with some hiking and low on cities, no vineyards etc.
  • This itinerary will be hectic and will need everything to fall in place. For it to work, you will need to plan & book most things in advance and not leave things to chance.
  • It’ll be relatively expensive since all long-distance travel is by flights instead of buses. However, you can get cheap fares on some of the low-cost airlines if you book well in advance.

We do plan to write detailed blog posts on all the places in the itinerary in due course. Till then hopefully, this will give you a starting point for planning your trip to South America.

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