having ummed and aghed for far too long about potential routes in south america I have come to the conclusion that I was trying to do too much in too short a time frame.
I am now considering spending the 4.5 months that I plan to spend in south america in just 3 countries. Peru, Bolivia and Argentina with 6 weeks in each country. Fair and square.
Turning my back on Colombia, Ecuador and Brazil was a very hard decision to make and I have no doubt at all that those 3 countries would provide lots of adventure and fun and excitement. But I can't do it all in one go and would prefer to focus in on an area and allow myself plenty of time to see what I want to see but also to have time to detour or linger whenever it seems like the right course of action.
I do have a question, and it is this. What do people think? Am I doing the right thing or do people have strong arguments why I should choose/consider another 3 countries? I like to see the main sights when I travel (macchu picchu, salt flats in bolivia etc) but also like to see traditional life, meet locals, hang out in places a while and try to get under the surface a bit more. I also like trekking, biking, rafting etc. And finally, if anyone reading this has any tips on must see places that might not be in my guidebooks then please do let me know. I know all about the 'obvious' places but it is the places that people have discovered or the places that aren't as fashionable that I also seek.
Oh, and I'm off around March/April 2010.
Personally I think you made the right decision if you compare 3 to 6 countries. Would mean 3 weeks in each country, which especially for Brazil and Argentina would be too little time to explore probably, considering the distances.
I do think you shouldn't count in countries, but just see South America as one big country and decide what you might want to see and do. For example: i don't know if you want to go to the north and east of Bolivia, but if you don't 6 weeks might even be a little too much, even if you do all the things you describe. Again, in general it can't hurt at all, and yes less is more. But a couple of weeks in Ecuador couldn't hurt.
It's close draw but 3 versus 6 countries would definately mean 3 if I was concerned. But again: you might find a nice route that goes to the north of Chile as well, which is personally wouldn't skip. Mainly Colombia and Brazil are a little further away. You might just fit in 4 or something.
Not really of use to you regarding places that are off the beaten track, but if you want to go to the southwest circuit in Bolivia, have a look at what tupizatravel is offering. I found them good, reliable and not expensive. They have longer tours that include going up to 6000 meters. Just an idea!
Although I tend t agree with Michael that you should count regions/areas rather than countries, I think this is an excellent choice. 135 days for those three countries sounds about perfect; it will allow you to spend enough time in all three of them.
As for tips: don't rush through north-western Argentina. I spent a total of three months just in that area (in different trips); it's incredible how much there is to see, and how few tourists you meet in that area. If you ask me, there's no better place to get acquainted to everyday SA life, without it being so depressively poor as some parts of Bolivia. Places not to miss include:
- Antofagasta de la Sierra (out-of-this-world scenery and not a tourist in sight to spoil it)
- Belén (remains of the southern-most inca settlements, impressive)
- Tafí del Valle (ideal for relaxation, bird-watching and a large number of very easy treks)
- Chilecito (a cowboy town)
The list is endless. Just keep in mind that travelling around these parts takes time, as not all places are immediately connected by public transport (you may need to use another town as a hub), and not all busses run daily. Still, given the time frame you're in, I think it's worth spending some time in the area.
Thank you both so much...invaluable.
I hear your points about counting in countries. There is nothing I like less than the phrase 'I am doing south America' or the need to tick things off, if you will. However, just for ease I realised that all the 'things' that were drawing me to south america were contained within those 6 countries and I then realised I was trying to 'do' too much
Michael, interestingly, I was thinking of 4 weeks bolivia, 2 weeks ecuador as well! i was going to make that call when i was out there but there are some incredible sounding places in ecaudor and a friend really loved it there when he travelled in that area.
i wish i was going sooner, but hey, such is life!
cheers again, any more tips on places that aren't too touristy would be much appreciated
There is nothing I like less than the phrase 'I am doing south America'
I like you! I hate that too.
I agree with the others that sticking to a few countries less you might actually see more. Just to give you an idea, I spent 6 months in South America, going through Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia. It was not nearly enough, and I had to miss out on quite a few things I really wanted to see.
Like Bentivogli said, I'd recommend the North-West corner of Argentina- we rented a car for 5 days and drove around all the little villages, and didn't really come across anyone else. The scenery was stunning and even the car rental was affordable- it was one of my favourite things on my trip. In Tupiza, Bolivia, I went on a two-day horse trek- most people use Tupiza as a starting/finishing point for the tours for the Uyuni, and the scenery around there is wonderful. If you're into that sort of stuff at all, I'd recommend it.
Also think you could easily combine a bit of Chile to your trip- crisscrossing between Chile/Argentina is easy; you could head down along the border, then up to Buenos Aires along the Atlantic coast. Finish with a big fiesta in BsAs!
Good point Ofelia.
Although I mentioned the tour from Tupiza, I actually forgot to mention Tupiza itself and the setting in a wildwest-like landscape. Horse or just walking...it's an amazing area!
Well Joey...you might fly into (or out of) Quito I guess.
By the way, forgot to ask: are you planning on doing everything overland, or are you thinking of taking the odd flights sometimes? Can imagine if you want to go way south in Argentina, otherwise not necessary at all I guess considering the time you have.
[ Edit: Edited on 20-Jul-2009, at 11:47 by Utrecht ]