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Lima - Santiago: Best Route?

Travel Forums Central/South America & The Caribbean Lima - Santiago: Best Route?

1. Posted by pratty25 (Budding Member 4 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!

Have a dilemia that hopefully someone can help with.

We have a ticket booked into Lima and out of Santiago as part of our RTW ticket and trying to make up our minds about the best overland route to take in South America over 8 weeks, we're come up with two options:

1. Lima - Cusco - Puno - La Paz - Salta - Rosario - Buenos Aires - Mendoza - Santiago

2. Lima - Cusco - Puno - Arequipa - Atacama Desert route - Santiago

Not sure of what the route through the Atacama Desert would be like, if there's much to do and see. The route to Buenos Aires looks more varied, but of course longer and more challenging. Can anyone provide any guidance from their experiences?

If we had the time, we'd also love to complete a loop down to Patagonia either from Buenos Aires or Santiago, but the distances involved are huge and don't know if we'll be in a position to do so without an internal flight.

Thanks for your help in advance! :)

2. Posted by way2goeh (Full Member 159 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!

I would do option 1......its more fun and you have the time to do it. Lots of buses but you didnt include the largest waterfall in the world. You have to include it, either the argentina or brasil side.

3. Posted by samsara_ (Travel Guru 5353 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!

Also, I'd say do Option 1, but it all depends on how much time you have.

To travel from Lima down to Santiago comfortably stopping for a few days here and there en route will take a couple of weeks, even 3 if you dont want to rush it. The journey through the Atacama desert is beautiful, though obviously barren and there's not as much to take in as if you went with option 1.

It's gonna take you a lot longer to do the other route, but it's well worth it if you have the time.

As for Patagonia, the length it can take is dependent on time of year and weather mainly. It's a long trip to do by bus from Santiago. I did this a couple of years ago. SAntiago - Puerto Montt - ferry to Puerto Natales - bus to Punta Arenas, bus to Ushuaia - flight to El Calafate, bus to Rio Gallegos, bus to Bariloche, bus to Puerto Varas, bus to Santiago. It took weeks, was totally worth it though!

If you have to fly, you can fly from Sanitago to Puerto Natales or Ushuaia with LAN in a few hours. If you are going in the winter, be advised that bus routes from Puerto Natales/Punta Arenas to Ushaia are cut back to 3 days a week and this can leave you stranded if you're not aware of it beforehand.

Good luck with the planning. if you need any specific help let me know.

4. Posted by kar077 (Budding Member 10 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!

Hello Pratty,

I think like the other ones. You even dont have to think about it!
Peru-Bolivia-Argentina is the best option! I've travelled to both of these countries
(Peru-Argentina) and was an amazing ..both countries have history and culture.
Also, they have an exiting night life. ;)

5. Posted by redmenter (Budding Member 10 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!

I also say option 1, but with a few additions, if you have the time. Firstly, Lima, in and out of that place quick (my opinion) then you say cusco, but there are 2 ways to cusco, lima direct route can be nasty, especially if its been raining a lot, stuck busses etc... and still a 16 - 24hr hour ride. Take the bus to arequipa (16hours) spend a few days there, really nice city, some awesome hikes if your into it, a few 18,000 plus foot mountains/volcanoe hikes (for beginners too!) or the colca canyon. From there go to puno , now puno (my opinon) not worth staying, dumpy town. UNLESS your doing the lake titicaca lake tour. If so, try and do the overnight one to spend the night with a local family on one of the islands. then cusco, or skip puno, and do arequipa to cusco one shot. Then yes you will have to backtrack, and go back through puno on the way to la paz, so you could make your puno stop at this point? After la paz its a long bumpy ride south. If your like us, you'll love bolivia and want to see and experience more of it !! so maybe take the overnight to uyunni. Do the 3 day salt flat tour, while the tour and hostels and food are pretty rough. MAn the scenery is awesome, salt flats are cool, but the next few days in the high mountains are sooo awesome, really makes you feel like you been in the back country of bolivia, if only for 3 days. The take the train to villazon (MUCH better option than crap dirt road bus) once there you have to walk across border, then take bus to salta (6 hours) Salta is nice, worth a few days. its about 27 hour bus ride to buenos aires from salta, or a $125 u.s. plane ticket.... AFter BA, then off to mendoza (note... if your into wine and tasting's, and wineries, you'll love it here, if your not into wine, its still very nice, but only worth a few days) From mendoza over the andes to santiago (short 5 hour bus ride)
The atamaca desert, well its a desert, we hit calama to go to the copper mines, but honestly from the border of chile all the way south to santiago is one big long boring desert !!! San pedro de atamaca is a cool town, but if your going to uyunni i think you get the better of those 2 options, in mountains scenery, salt flats, etc...Theres still soo many variables, and youll see once there how many times you say, we should of, or could of, or etc.. haha. its a crap shoot.
(just my opinon)

6. Posted by pratty25 (Budding Member 4 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!

Some great advice and really good to have other people's opinion on this with more experience of South America - Thanks for all your help! Now really looking forward to getting on the road!!