So I'm planning a trip with a friend to backpack for about 6 weeks in South America this summer. We're thinking of starting in Ecuador, then going to Peru, Chile and Argentina. We want to go by bus since we've heard that's the easiest and cheapest way to travel around there.
-If we start in Quito, how long would it take to bus to Lima (or should we fly)? Any suggestions for places to stop at along the way?
-From Lima, we want to go to Cuzco and Machu Picchu and then maybe make our way to La Paz and see a little of Bolivia. From there, would you recommend heading to Santiago or Buenos Aires? We want to go to both places, but I don't know which route is better: going from La Paz to Santiago and then onto Buenos Aires, or going from La Paz to Buenos Aires and then heading towards Santiago.
-Is 6 weeks enough time for an itinerary like this? We don't want to rush our trip.
Thanks for the help!
6 weeks would be a little to rushed to do the trip from Quito to Santiago or Buenos Aires, certainly if you want to visit the latter two places both. I wouldn't advice Santiago, but would only visit Buenos Aires.
So for the route, I think that after La Paz, go south towards Sucre and Potosi, and to Uyuni, do a tour from Uyuni to San Pedro de Atacama in Chile, hang around for a while and do tours over there, and then take one of the 3 weekly buses to Salta in the northwest of Argentina, before heading further towards Buenos Aires.
I personally think that in that case you leave Ecuador and the northern half of Peru out of your itinerary. Distances are vast and it's more enjoyable to travel overland than to take too much flights. After Lima, I would fly to Cuzco, unless you want to visit places like the Nazca lines, Arequipa and Colca Canyon. In that case, go by bus from Lima southwards.
Lima to Buenos Aires in 6 weeks is a great amount of time, not too rushed, but even in that case you can not visit all places on the route. If you have time left in the schedule you might think of going to the Iguazu Falls as well.
All in all: do Lima to Buenos Aires across southern Peru, western Bolivia, northern Chile, northwestern Argentina, with an option to visit more places in between Salta and Buenos Aires if you do have time left.
Thanks for all your help Michael!
We've decided to cut out Ecuador and Santiago, and start instead in Cuzco, go through Bolivia and northern Chile like you suggested and then head towards Buenos Aires.
Do you happen to know how long it takes by bus on any of these distances?
- Cuzco - Puno (do most people stop at another city along the way or is it close enough for an overnight bus?)
- Puno - La Paz
- La Paz - Sucre
- Sucre - Potosi
- Potosi - Uyuni
- Uyuni - San Pedro de Atacama
- San Pedro de Atacama - Salta
- Salta - Cordoba (is there another city that you recommend we stop at along the way?)
- Cordoba - Buenos Aires
I think this is our potential itinerary for now.
What do you all think? Are there any places that are on the way, that are definitely worth seeing? Any places that I should cut out?
Glad to hear you decided to cut out some parts.
I think you now have plenty of time to do that part of South America.
About the bus rides. Cuzco to Puno is just about 5-6 hours or so. I remember that I had a local bus which took longer, but it's not necessary to take a night bus by the way.
Same applies to Puno - La Paz, but I would recommend stopping in Copacobana, on the Bolivian shore of Lake Titicaca. Puno to Copacobana is like 3-4 hours or so, Copa to La Paz comparable. I really don't know by head the total distance, but it's something like this. Not a full day, not just a short drive of a hour or so either.
Uyuni to San Pedro: no public buses, but take a tour instead: most tours are around 3 days but you can take longer ones (or even 2 days if I am correct).
San Pedro to Salta: about 12 hours
Salta to Cordoba would probably be something like 15-18 hours, as it's about 24 hours from Salta to Buenos Aires.
I would certainly recommend spending like 5-6 days in the Cuzco area and 5-6 days in the Salta area. San Pedro area about 3 days, San Pedro itself is nothing, it's the surroundings.
I really suggest buying a guidebook for the details about buses and what more to do and see in and around the places you mentioned.