I’m excited for my backpacking South America trip, that much is obvious.
Nine months before my target departure date, I’ve already bought the backpack I’ll be using (a Kelty Redwing 40L), stocked up on packing cubes and other travel accessories, and have already come up with a tentative list of things to do in the countries I’m visiting.
I’m definitely not a planner; I would rather arrive in a new place and just let my feet guide me. However, South America is South America! It has been in my bucket list for so long (and it is so far from the Philippines) that it would be a shame if I didn’t make the most of my trip there.
There are seven countries I’m planning to visit in South America: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. Except for Chile and Argentina, these countries don’t require a visa for Filipino visitors, which is why I chose them in the first place.
Besides visa restrictions, though, I do have other reasons for choosing these countries. Here are some of them.
Torres Del Paine National Park (Chile)
I have no idea if it’s easy to get a visa to Chile, but I’m definitely including it in my tentative itinerary because of Torres del Paine, one of the most impressive national parks in the world that I’ve seen (in photos).
Located in southern Chile, people who have visited it say it’s quite challenging to go there, physically and financially. Everything I’ve read say that it’s worth it, though, so I’m glad I still have months left to save up for it.
Salar de Uyuni (Bolivia)
Filipinos get to stay visa-free for three months in Bolivia, so I’m planning on maximizing it. Aside from being one of the cheaper countries in South America, it also has an amazing attraction: Salar de Uyuni, the world’s biggest salt flats.
Comprising 10,582 square kilometers, Salar de Uyuni looks out of this world. Because of its flatness, people get creative taking photos there. Amazing, isn’t it?
Galapagos Island (Ecuador)
If you’re into wildlife (and want to see animals in the wild, not in captivity), there’s only one place for you to go–Galapagos Island! I’ve read numerous blog posts and seen lots of pictures, and even though it costs a lot to get there (around $2,000 for two weeks), I think it’s definitely worth it.
You’ll see hundreds of sea lions (some will even swim with you), giant tortoises that are a hundred years old, blue-footed birds, lava gulls, and so much more. Would I have the budget for it? I don’t know, but I will really try to go.
Machu Picchu (Peru)
Of course, I’ll definitely include Machu Picchu in my itinerary. Who can resist seeing this ancient wonder of the world? This 15th-century ruins of the Incas is one of the most popular attractions in Latin America, and I’m glad they’re limiting the number of tourists there per day.
I’ve also checked out possible volunteering opportunities in Peru and I found one near Cusco. It’s a children’s home, and I think that my years of experience in the social work field will be useful there. Before the first quarter of 2015 ends, I’ll email them and see if they can accommodate me.
Cruising the Amazon (Peru)
The Amazon River, the second largest in the world, is a must when you are in South America. The main river flows through three countries—Brazil, Colombia, and Peru—so I’m thinking of combining my trip to Machu Picchu with a boat trip along the Amazon.
As budget is a consideration, I would probably just take public transport, not take a cruise. It takes longer, but you do get to share the boat with lots of locals (a welcome experience for a writer like me), and it’s much cheaper. Besides, I love slow travel, and I’m pretty this boat ride will be an experience in itself.
Backpacking South America is a MAJOR trip for me. It will be my first time to travel for more than three months, and being so far from home, it means I need to prepare more than I usually do for my trips (which meant a day or two of checking out possible itineraries and packing my bag a few hours before my flight).
I’ll have to save a lot—not only for the trip itself but for other expenses as well, like insurance, advance payment for my house, paying my neighbors to look after my cats, and buying a new laptop, aside from other travel necessities.
I also need to study basic Spanish so I can at least say more than Como te llamas, check out other possible volunteering and housesitting options, find Couchsurfing hosts, and a thousand and one other things to do. One of these days, I’ll write a post on how I’m preparing for my trip. I gotta get those out of my head and onto my blog!
In the meantime, I’ll keep on saving and checking out useful blogs and websites for backpacking South America. I’m also looking forward to get reasonably fluent in Spanish so I can use Trip Tidy already, a portal focused on travel to Latin America. It looks really easy to use if you speak Spanish.
Given all these advance preparation, I’ll definitely be more prepared for backpacking South America than I was during my 70-day backpacking trip in Europe. Given the difference in distance and duration of travel, though, it only makes sense.
Even though the idea of long-term travel scares me a bit, I can’t wait to leave already. There’s so many things to see and do in South America!
Have you been to the countries I mentioned? What other things can you suggest that I do there?