I am planning ahead for a biggish trip (6 months), and I hope to explore South America. I havent fully looked into my options and the cities/places I want to visit, but im thinking 6 months is a long time and probably too much time to visit all the 'important' places in SA? I imagine I could easily do it in 3 - 4 months?
I would also like to visit Cuba and if time and cash allows go back to Bonaire or visit Curacao (been to Bonaire ages ago and loved it).
I am a keen Scuba diver so integrating this into my trip would be a big influence, but I am also a lover of mountains and cities and love photography.
Anyone who has explored SA from North to South, how much time did you end up taking?
You're right, you can easily do it in three-four months. At least I can. But I'm one of those people who can breeze through a museum so fast that the people I'm with think I'm not appreciating it, so I guess it just depends on your personal pace. I think you will find, however--and this works out quite well finacially--that the countries you spend the most time in are the cheapest ones.
Since you are going right at the beginning of the wet season, you can count on slightly--or significantly--longer travel times due to the state of the roads. It is not uncommon for a 45 min. airplane ride to take 48 hrs. Of course, on the altiplano throughout Peru and Bolivia this will not be a problem since rain is still at a min. Also, much of Brazil is paved as is most of Argentina now.
My unltimate suggestion is to start from the Tierra del Fuego and work your way up. That way, you'll reach the Amazon closer to the best time of the year. Since you like scuba, if you have some time on your hands, you can always continiue north to Honduras and dive with whale sharks, and to Costa Rica for great scuba off the Osa Peninsula.
You COULD do it in 3 or 4 months, but you could also probably spend 80 years exploring the area and not see everything.
Personally, I spent 8 weeks down in South America, only saw Chile, Argentina and Bolivia. I spent most of my time in Chile (5 1/2 weeks), and still only scratched the surface of the place.
As Chuckolas, mentioned, travel times can be quite large. If you aren't planning on flying, you will lose days to long bus rides.
Patagonia rocks. Really great place. Dress warmly, though, it's chillier than you'd expect.
Come to Central America and be welcome with us enroute: (flights thrice weekly from La Habana to Guatemala/El Salvador and onward, I'll tell you how to purchase a Flight Coupon deal for Latin America in advance that will sve you both big time and big money if you message me...)There is great Scuba Diving here in El Salvador (Pacific) and in Honduras (Bay Islands)trade guide services and trip planning for digital photos, no problem. I am a long term resident and we have connections in SA as well. All good people.
I would say you could easily do it in 3 months (unless you want to see everything, but like you say you want to visit "the Important places").
As long as you're in the neighborhood, I found Guatamala to be an awesome destination.
Have you decided on the places you definately want to visit when you're in South America? I'd be curious to see what you have planned so far.
Below are some of the places I've visited in South America (and although 2 seperate trips was not more than 3 months total):
I really enjoyed Peru (Cusco and surrounding area, Machuo Picchu, and Lake Titicaca into Bolivia).
Patagonia is Awesome (Torres del Paine in Chile and The moreno Glacier in Argentina).
I also Really liked Northern Chile (really amazing, strange landscapes).
Iquassu Falls (you could easily wander around there for a few days exploring both the Argentine and Brazil sides).
Rio is a really FUN place to hang out and party.
Ecuador and the Galapogos are also great (but the Galapogos will really eat up a lot of your budget).
Hi travel100 - Well so far its starting from Patagonia, it looks beautiful and Im a keen photographer, working my way up I havent finished planning the bit inbetween but it would like to include the Andes, possibly the inca trail.. Brazil maybe the amazon. I know thats a bit all over the place, but im taking tips from reading posts from people like yourself and looking into those places. I would love to visit Chile and Cuba (at the end of the trip), and hop over to Curacao for a spot of diving if money allows (which at the end of the trip i dont think it will!)
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Have a great time!
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I hope you enjoy the city!