Hi everyone, I'm planning a three month backpacking trip across Central and South America between June and August this year. I'm after culture, getting to know the locals and traditions, as opposed to wild partying and touristing! I'm an independent traveller too, so would rely on public transport etc to get around.
I'm just after general information at this stage, at a very basic level, literally which countries people would recommend to fit in with this criteria, where to go etc. Any advice would be appreciated! I think visiting and focusing on 2/3 countries would be best, so which 2/3 would people recommend?
Colombia & Peru, Brasil if you can afford it.
As for 'getting to know the locals and traditions' that's your Inner Hippie talking-most locals don't care to know you/don't speak your languge and their traditions are generally not for sharing-unless you're paying.
Maybe you could head to a Colombian bullfight and buy a round for the survivors
Ditto Sam. He makes some good points.
That said, I'd start somewhere near Panama and do a slow boat/trek trip down the east coast to Colombia. Tour Colombia (fabulously almost undiscovered country so long as you stay off the Gringo Trail) then do Peru/Ecuador/Bolivia/whatever...
Have fun with your research.
The locals can actually be quite welcoming if you head to places where they don't typically meet tourists (communication can be an issue though).
Yesterday I did a trek just out of Cusco, in a village about an hours walk from the city a little old lady invited us in to eat corn with her and to explain why she'd built her house in the Inca style - luckily one of the people in the group spoke Quechua so we could communicate.
If you're looking to check out agencies or find information about Cusco I have a website -snip- that is pretty useful. If you come this way and you'd like information about off the beaten path treks then let me know and I can help you out - there are plenty of very easy routes that you can do by yourself.
[ Edit: Sorry, no promos please. ]
I hear pretty great things about Colombia from everyone who's been, but I never have so can't comment.
But Bolivia and Peru were awesome, and I would highly recommend them to a first time traveler to the region. The people are friendly, it's easy to get around on public transport, it's cheap, and there is a ton of wonderful and varied sights to see. But your Inner Hippie will be disappointed to find that you are definitely not the first foreigner to explore the area. Unless you speak excellent Spanish and stay long enough to befriend some locals, delving into the local culture and traditions requires a certain amount of "touristing". Get over it and enjoy it.