Can anyone suggest good (read: cheap, but safe) hostels to stay at in Lima, Santiago, Buenos Aires, Rio De Janeiro?
Any suggestions regarding 'must do' activities in these places? Thinking of doing the Inca Trail in Peru, but otherwise pretty open to suggestions...
In addition to the Inca Trial and Machu Pichu, you might want to check out Isla Del Sol in Lake Titicaca, which is another Incan site of note.
I have been in Chile and Argentina. Lots of fun stuff to do in both Santiago and Buenos Aires. Both are very cosmopoltian cities.
Santiago is a nice city, though many people think it is a little dull. However, it makes a great starting off point for a number of great activities. The beachs of Valparaíso and Viña del Mar are just a bus ride away, and the Andes Mountains are not far either, good for skiing (time of year dependent), rafting or horse back riding.
Santiago's night life/cafe's/pubs are a must, visit "Barrio Bellavista", it's one of the hot spots of Santiago. El Paseo Ahumada is really nice too, you can see the Presidential Palace ("La Moneda") which has an impressive history. Plaza de Armas is also very beautiful and it's in downtown Santiago. If you like seafood/fish, Chile's selection is exquisite. In Santiago itself, check out "Agusto's Restaurant." in Mercado Central. Visit "El Cerro San Cristobal", which you can see a great view of all of Santiago.
You must try one of the well-known South American drinks, "pisco sour" and "pis-cola", of course chilean wine. You can take a tour of one of the wineries. Concha y Toro is close by, and offers guides in both English and Spanish.
Buenos Aires is very European. Tour the museums and tourist sites by the day (Recoleta cemetary, the Casa Rosa, Musee del Bella Artes) and go out for a late dinner and a night at the clubs in the evening.
Are you planning on heading South to the Lake District or Patagonia? It's really beautiful down that way.
In the Lake District, spend some time hiking from Bariloche. Lots of great steak restaurants in the area too, and very inexpensive.
In Patagonia, Check out hiking in Torres Del Paine National Park in Chile. Go to a penguin colony in either Chile or Argentina. Hike the glacier in Perito Moreno.
did you travel overland at all or only by plane?
I have been thinking about travelling overland between Argentina / Brazil but not sure how dangerous this might be?
also - how did you get on with the language? i only really speak english
I travelled mostly overland, but used a couple of flights to cover large distances. The roads in the Southern part of South America (Argentina, Chile, and parts of Bolivia where I was) were quite good, the buses in excellent conditions and the prices reasonable. I flew from Southern Argentina to Buenos Aires to save myself on a very long (and from what I have heard, dull) bus ride.
I had no problems travelling with regards to danger. Watch yourself in bus stations - pickpocketing is common, but if you keep an eye on yourself and get out quickly you would be fine.
As for Spanish, I tried to learn a little before I went. English is not very common. But you can get by learning just a few basics. Read this thread for details: Spanish in Latin America.
wow, backpacking in south america's the most fun thing ever!
first am a chilean but I havent been in chile long, things 2 do in chile...must r:
go to bellavista (pubs/bar)
go to Suecia (lots of discotechs, bars, pubs)
also Zapallar & Cachahua they're both really kewl beaches, u can go there by bus for like 4.000 pesos thats like 5 bucks US
Vina del Mar, it's a city, it has beaches night clubs and really nice people, and well you can also go to the south, where U'll meet native Chileans, u'll c cultural things blah blah