I'm an Irish female and am travelling alone around SA from January until end of May (this is flexible depending on funds and fun). I have read all the very helpful advice on this thread (and others) but said I'd see if anyone had some specific advice for my own travels.
Two things are 100% definite about my trip and that is that I start in Cuzco and finish in Buenos Aires. In between is completely flexible. I want to be in Salvador for Carnival but also want to take in Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Argentina. While I have read all the wonderful things that people say about Chile....I think that unfortunately I will have to skip it during this trip because of time and money constraints...unless of course someone wants to convince me otherwise?
My biggest dilemma at the moment is planning a route for myself. Here are the two I am deliberating between at the moment:
1. Cusco (end of January)- Bolivia- Southern Brazil work up to Salvador (Carnival start of March) - fly to Bogotá, Columbia- Ecuador- Lima- fly to Buenos Aires
2. Cusco (end of Jan)- Ecuador- Columbia- Salvador (start of March) and down through Brazil- Argentina (Biggest problem with this is where do I fit Bolivia in??? I really want to go there but it doesn't quite fit this route when you look at a map!)
In my first route I would probably have to take 2 (expensive) flights which might be a hindrance. Also, for both routes...would I have enough time to see and do everything once I finish in Cusco and still manage to get to Salvador on time for Carnival? Am I being totally unrealistic?
All help is appreciated!
I went between Buenos Aires and Lima via Patagonia. Bit of a detour (36 hr bus) but that journey was memorable, from Bariloche, which is amazingly beautiful to El Chalten and El Calafate. Internal flights are not too expensive considering the distance. If you like hiking there are probably not many better places than El Chalten or Torres del Paine.
Do not miss Iguassu Falls whatever you do - I went from Sao Paulo to Iguassu to Buenos Aires.
Arequipa in Peru is epic as is Lake Titicaca
If money is constraint, fyi, Brazil is so so so much more expensive than Chile.
Thus, if you go to Brazil for carnival in Salvador, then you could alternatively replace with the biggest carnival in Bolivia which is is Oruro in Feb. Do not miss Bolivia for all, it is the most original and authentic country.
Your alternative route could be making 2 small loops,
loop 1 - Cusco (end of Jan)- Ecuador- Columbia and fly to LaPaz
loop 2 - Lapaz - Oruro - Salta (Argentina) - Iquazo Fall (Argentina/Brazil) - Brasilia - Rio - go through Uruguay and back to Buenos Aires. No flying needed for this loop.
One thing about Argentina - don't miss Salta y Jujuy region, the mountain is too colourful to be missed.
Uruguay to Buenos Aires is easily, bus and overnight ferry cruise is available, not so expensive.
Thanks so much for your advice Rich and sepilokfui, I'll take a few days to think a bit more about what I'm going to do and may get back to you both for more advice!!
By the way sepilokfui, I know Salvador is an expensive choice for Carnival but I'm actually meeting up with some Brazilian friends when I'm there hence it being part of my route plan!
If you are into nature and especially stunning nature then I recommend you the Chapada Diamantina with its natural spa's, natural pools, natural waterslides...all just 30-40 min footwalk from the city of Lencois.
You can get here from Salvador in a comfortable 5 hours bus ride from Salvador Rodoviaria (bus station).
It is a really special region as ecotourism has set foot here and compared to its number of inhabitants (10.000) it is a cosmopolitan city with people from all over the world (French, Spanisch, German, Mexicans, Americans, Canadians, Bolivians and so on)
Check out some fotos about the Chapada Diamantina on flickr.com . The Ribeirao do Meio or the Cachoeira do Sossego are just a nice, relaxed footwalk away from our place.
If you want further info just ask!
I don't know in which order you should plan your trip, but I do know that Brazil and Colombia are fantastic countries! I have been to Rio, Floripa, Cartagena etc - all gorgeous places! Me and my friends found amazing apartments through -snip-, if you want to pay a little bit more and have a perfect stay. I thought it was so worth it!
Also, don't miss Iguazu and Machu Picchu if you have the possibility. Incredible beautiful!
Enjoy your trip!
[ Edit: Sorry, no promos please. ]