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Walnut Creek

South America, Cerro Machu Picchu, Lima (Peru), Galapagos, Amazonas, Brazil

ANY advice to budget and plan a 3 week backpacking trip to South America

Travelers: 2, boyfriend & girlfriend

Time of Year: Late September 2014

Destination: South America; we narrowed this trip down to Peru, west-Brazil/Amazonas, Ecuador for Galapagos

Total Time: 3 weeks

Budget: As cheap, rugged, yet fun and not bare skin and bones.  Flights are taken care of via work; so that's the biggest expense.  

Looking for best modes of transportation, where to start--where to end, places/hostels/hotels to stay at at a reasonable price

6 Answers

top answer by
Bessie from Boston

Hi Samantha, this sounds like it will be a great adventure. When I was working in Buenos Aires my boyfriend came to "pick me up" and we had two and a half weeks to do something. We ended up visiting Uruguay, Patagonia (Argentina), Lima, Cusco and Machu Picchu and, of course, seeing Buenos Aires.

A LOT can be done in three weeks :) I'd recommend you do a quick search at prices and pick a home base. A country where you'll fly in and out of, or arrive into because it's cheaper-you can always leave from another airport but it's the getting there that's the most important. If money is not an issue then start wherever you want but I'd recommend: Argentina, Chile, Peru, Uruguay. While we did not have time to visit Bolivia and Brazil, we really wanted to but time was upon us, I wouldn't feel bad about leaving these two aside for another trip. Logistically speaking you can travel between these four mentioned countries easily and quickly and hit some major touristic and historical spots.

Because I am not sure what your interests are, I'll share our journey.

Day 1-3: We started in Buenos Aires, took three days to see the major sights and go out in the city.

Days 3-6: We then headed to Uruguay on a fast ferry boat which arrived at Colonia, Uruguay at 6am, the oldest city of that country. It is a peaceful, traditional beach place and has the oddest and most fun history museum I've ever visited (dinosaur remains and antique furniture together). We stayed in Colonia for a day and-a-half then took a bus to Montevideo, the capital. That was more sightseeing and more upscale restaurants and bars. We left after a day.

Days 6-10: We flew from Buenos Aires to Lima and arrived into that city late so we just had to rest for the next day when we flew into Cuzco and began our journey to Aguas Calientes for Machu Picchu. If you go to Peru you should try, try, try, to make it to the ruins. It will probably take 4 days from your itinerary too but it is worth it, the little towns along the way aside from Cuzco and Aguas Calientes are beautiful and the whole Machu Picchu experience is amazing.

Days 11-12: Once we returned from the ruins we stayed in Lima and focused on seeing the city, there is a wonderful popular neighborhood, Miraflores Lima, with tons of shops and restaurants we enjoyed and El Centro, or the historic center of the city, is always alive it seemed with street vendors and restaurants open.

Days 13-18: Flew into Buenos Aires and connected to Patagonia, the farthest point on the continent. There we stayed at a wonderful local hostel in El Calafate and toured the glaciers, we then took ferry tours and got caught in the middle of a snow storm in Ushuaïa (!) then returned to Buenos Aires for a connecting flight to the US.

It was a lot packed in a relative short period of time, but honestly it felt seamlessly doable. We were glad we got to enjoy the heat and beauty of Peru as well as the tranquility of Uruguay and the city/nature offerings of Argentina. The food everywhere was absolutely delicious and we always took private cabs everywhere because they were safer, faster and way cheaper than what we'd pay in the US or Europe. I think you would be safe in picking three countries and exploring as much as you can in each, spending at least three to four days in every place, rather than attempt to visit five countries and feel pressured.

Good luck!


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Buenos Aires (city)
  2. Uruguay (attraction)
  3. Patagonia (Argentina) (metro area)
  4. Lima (attraction)
  5. Cusco (attraction)
  6. Argentina (attraction)
  7. Chile (attraction)
  8. Peru (attraction)
  9. Bolivia (country)
  10. Brazil (country)
  11. Colonia, Uruguay (city)
  12. Aguas Calientes (attraction)
  13. Miraflores Lima (city)
  14. El Calafate (city)
  15. Ushuaïa (attraction)
  16. Machu Picchu (region)
8 thanks

answered by
Smantha from Ecuador

Galapagos is very beautiful place to visit. The Galapagos Islands are well known for their beauty and serenity. The close touch of nature and varieties of unseen flora and fauna makes this place an attractive one.

 Yes, there are two ways to visit the Galapagos: A Cruise and Land-based tour and visitors prefer Cruise based tour.

There are so many things to see and enjoy in Galapagos islands like species like the Galapagos penguin, flightless cormorant, marine iguana, land iguana, blue footed booby, Galapagos hawk, fur sea lion, California sea lion.

You must visit the following places in Galapagos islands to make your trip memorable one.

  • Jacinto Gordillo Breeding Center for Giant Tortoises: This is a place where you can see the giant tortoises that the island is famous for and a few baby tortoises walking through. You may also find these tortoises in the mating process.
  • Laguna El Junco: This is a place where you would be able to see a lake inside an active volcano. You could go hiking by the rim of the volcano enjoying the forest trails.
  • Tortuga Bay: It is a white sand beach that acts as a home to marine iguanas, crabs and different types of bird species. It is one of the favorite destination beaches for surfers.
  • El Garrapatero Beach: This beach can be a great outing for the swimmers. It also has mangroves, marine iguanas, poison apple trees and different birds. You can also prefer camping here.
  • Laguna Salinas: This is a beautiful place that is full of wildlife. You would come across a number of wild animals and also Flamingos.
  • National Park Tortoise Reserve: The national tortoise reserve has many giant tortoises that the island is famous for and a lot more species that cannot be found anywhere else in the world.
  • Concha de Perla: This is an awesome location for snorkeling. One can see penguins, sea lions, sea turtles, fish and more.


I have visited Galapagos twice and its most beautiful place I have ever visited.


I have just seen a great work by Google:

"Modern day 3d mapping expedition"

It is an amazing link to explore the world in Different but advanced way.

Hope you like the link.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Galapagos (attraction)
  2. Jacinto Gordillo Breeding Center for Giant Tortoises (attraction)
  3. Laguna El Junco (attraction)
  4. Tortuga Bay (attraction)
  5. El Garrapatero Beach (attraction)
  6. Laguna Salinas (attraction)
  7. National Park Tortoise Reserve (attraction)
  8. Concha de Perla (attraction)
6 thankscomments (2)

answered by
Annemarie from New York City

I second Jennifer's thoughts on skipping Brazil. It's a gorgeous country, one of my favorites, but it's very expensive. Instead of Brazil, Lima is a great hub city and I recommend it because you can get almost anywhere from there, as well as experience the Peruvian culture. From there, I'd head to Cusco, another Peruvian hub, but this one with a lot of old European flair, and some great food and wares markets where you can buy some essentials at bargain rates. Cusco is also just a train ride from Aguas Calientes, the base for Machu Picchu where you can either hike up to the site or take a bus, and enjoy the natural hot springs. Aguas is not a bargain city, but if you're in Peru, it's difficult not to get up to Machu!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Lima (attraction)
  2. Aguas Calientes (attraction)
  3. Machu Picchu (region)
  4. Cusco (attraction)
6 thankscomments (2)

answered first by
Jennifer from Bozeman

Three weeks isn't much time, but you'll definitely see a lot. My advice would be to skip Brazil, due to time, and go on a jungle trip in Bolivia. It's way cheaper and Bolivia was actually my favorite country in S.A. A few awesome places/trips: Arequipa, Peru (beautiful mountains,) over to Lake Titicaca with a boat trip to Isla del Sol and down through La Paz. If you have time, bike the World's Most Dangerous Road, which ends at an animal refuge in the jungle. Then a 4x4 salt flat tour through Bolivia, and a tour of the silver mine in Potosi (Bolivia). Some of those stops you could rearrange and make your way back up to fly out of Lima. Buses are the cheapest way to travel but make sure you get a ticket early enough so you get a seat. Also, throw your backpacks in the back of the luggage compartment; I've seen kids grab bags when the bus stops through town. 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Bolivia (country)
  2. Arequipa (attraction)
  3. La Paz (attraction)
  4. Potosi (Bolivia) (attraction)
  5. Isla del Sol (attraction)
  6. Lake Titicaca (attraction)
6 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Ann from Melbourne

Definitely agree with the other answers. I went to South America for 3 months with a Brazilian visa and never made it there. So big and so much to see! Peru is amazing and all of the other places mentioned are incredible. Other mentions if you are heading to Cusco  is go via Oasis de la Huacachina, an Oasis in the desert with a population of about 500 people living there. You can go dune buggying in the desert there and we watched the sunset over the desert, it was lots of fun. The Nazca Lines are a popular attraction also, you can take a plane ride over them.

We travelled by bus mostly throughout, if you want to guarantee a seat and are going on a long trip take the premium coaches. They are more expensive (but still relatively cheap) and worth it as they are not overcrowded and in much better condition


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Cusco (attraction)
  2. Oasis de la Huacachina (attraction)
  3. Nazca Lines (attraction)
5 thanks

answered by
Cintia from Lima (Peru)

If you come to  Lima, you should to visit  Huaca Pucllana, Circuito Mágico del Agua, also try ceviche and drink pisco sour in Gran Hotel Bolívar, per day you need 30 dollars.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Lima (attraction)
  2. Huaca Pucllana (attraction)
  3. Circuito Mágico del Agua (attraction)
  4. Gran Hotel Bolívar (hotel)
4 thankscomments (1)

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