“Best places in South America” is a pushy title, but now that we’re half way between our last visit and our next, we’re reminiscing and beginning to dream about what’s to come.

To listen, hit play below or find episode 190 in iTunes, Stitcher or Soundcloud:

South America really is a varied continent: not just in terms of its geography, but in terms of its cultural and political make-up as well. Although colonial European influences are heavily felt, there’s still a fascinating indigenous culture surviving, and in some cases thriving, in modern South America.


Lake Pucon in Chile's Lake District.

We loved: Santiago, Valparaiso, Chiloe, the Lake district, beer tasting in Valdivia, and the San Pedro de Atacama astronomy tour.

We didn’t like: With a few exceptions, Craig didn’t like the food too much. Linda’s a total Chile fan!

We would return and: go wild in Patagonia, explore more of the northern desert, taste wine near Santiago.

Read more about travel in Chile.


Looking down the Sacred Valley, Peru.

We loved: Craig’s “northern three” of Trujillo, Chiclayo and Chachapoyas; eating guinea pig; time in Arequipa — we wish we had spent more time there than in Cusco.

We didn’t like: Being pick-pocketed several times, the rich/slums division of some towns – especially Cusco, the city-space of Lima, having to bribe our way out across the border.

We would return and: hike the Cordillera Blanca, spend more time in Chachapoyas and more time at the beach around Huacachina.

Read more about travel in Peru


Argentina ... rocks?!

We loved: the food and wine, Salta, new friends met in Cafayate and visited in La Plata, Bicentennary celebrations in Buenos Aires, the Iguacu Falls.

We didn’t like: Not much: Argentina was Craig’s favourite country visited in South America.

We would return and: head further south, visiting Patagonia and maybe trying our hands at some snow-sports.


fruit stand montevideo uruguay
A fruit stand in Montevideo

We loved: the food and wine, relaxing at a friends lake house (where much food and wine was consumed), wandering Montevideo, chilling in beautiful Colonia.

We didn’t like: The prices — which were fair but higher than the rest of the continent — so no complaints there.

We would return and: Visit wineries, learn to surf on the east coast, visit some of the many places we missed.


Copcabana church Bolivia
Copcabana church, Bolivia.

We loved: Touring the Saltar de Uyuni (Uyuni Salt Flats), hiking around Copacabana, the people we couchsurfed with in La Paz.

We didn’t like: La Paz where we were constantly singled out by gangs of thieves, the roughest roads and least secure public transport we experienced.

We would return and: Get off the altiplano and into the forest, do some kind of river adventure, visit the wine region of the south east.

Read more about travel in Bolivia.


rainbow over iguacu falls brazil
Rainbow over the Iguacu Falls, from the Brazilian side

We loved: the Iguacu falls (the only piece of Brazil we’ve visited). We visited the fall from both the Argentinian and Brazilian side and, although we weren’t expecting much, were overwhelmed. One of the natural wonders of the continent, approximately 1,746 cubic meters per second flows over the 270-odd falls. Expect to get wet — no matter which side you visit. Food and amenities are better on the Argentinian side, but both provide good value for money.

The bird park a few minutes walk from the Brazilian entrance is also fantastic, but beware open-toed shoes and the curious toucans!

We’re looking forward to: exploring much more of the huge country! But it won’t be this year. We’re hoping to return and see much more of Brazil, hopefully over a year, one day.

We haven’t yet visited the following countries, but we’re looking forward to seeing them this year:


seal resting on beach galapagos ecuador
Chilling in the Galapagos. Sounds good.

We’re looking forward to: travelling through Ecuador from south to north.


city of medellin skyline colombia
Medellin - where we plan to spend a month or two

We’re looking forward to: visiting friends all over the country, then setting up somewhere for a month or two. Our sights are set on Medillin — where do you think we should stop for a while?

We’re not recommending

For various reasons, from the cost of visas to the difficulty of access to the apparently higher risk of violent crime, we’re not heading to these countries this year. We know little about them, and because of that can’t really recommend them. If you’ve visited, please leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Read more about travel in South America.

To listen, hit play above or check in iTunes, Stitcher or Soundcloud.

Your thoughts on "Best places in South America podcast"

  • I really enjoyed the format of this post. Simple, quick, and good information. I just got back to South America and have a lot to explore. I will definitely use some of your advice to plan my itinerary. Thanks!

    on March 29, 2011 at 3:58 pm Reply
    • Stephanie if you want to travel to Ecuador I recommend you the travel agency that helped me there is Gulliver Expeditions. They have all kind of tours in Ecuador mainland and in the Galapagos Islands. There is the link if you want to contact them :) http://gulliver.com.ec/

      on October 31, 2012 at 9:46 am Reply
  • Great to hear Stephanie. If you want to hear about any of the stories attached with these places, hit play on the audio at the top of the page. Enjoy your travels, and feel free to ask any questions or give any advice over at the South America travel forum.

    on March 29, 2011 at 4:12 pm Reply
  • Liked the format of your post and the dominant photos that say it all. Pictures speak louder than words, they certainly make your point. Patagonia is an amazing destination, especially from a wildlife observation standpoint: whale watching, penguins and glaciers. Look forward to your comments about it when you go there. Medellin, Colombia, is also very nice and has been transformed in recent years. The Medellin Annual Flower Festival around July is very enjoyable. Loved your photo of Iguassu Falls!

    on March 29, 2011 at 10:12 pm Reply
    • Thanks ... we're looking forward to getting there too! We won't be hitting Medellin in time for the festival, but it sounds interesting. Is it a public event, or a private one you have to buy entrance to? P.S. Please use a human name, not a business name when commenting on Indie Travel Podcast.

      on March 29, 2011 at 11:44 pm Reply
  • I was recently in Medellin and highly recommend it. It is definitely somewhere I could spend a couple of months.

    on March 31, 2011 at 6:44 am Reply
    • Great to know, Fran. Thanks.

      on March 31, 2011 at 4:27 pm Reply
      • Dear friends, My wife and I are interested in living and working in south america countries such as: Chile, Argentina or Brazil. which country is safer? and also which country has better living and working situations? We need your advice. currently we live in IRAN. This is my Email: [edited]

        on July 31, 2012 at 3:36 am
      • HI Shahram, Argentina, Brazil and Chile all have relatively strong economies. Of the three, Brazil is probably going to be growing fastest (based on oil findings, new manufacturing plants, etc). There are areas of Brazil which can be quite unsafe, but that's true of every country. Argentinean and Chilean cities both feel safer than the larger Brazilian cities, but they are all changing quite rapidly in the current political and economic climate.

        on July 31, 2012 at 5:34 am
  • Hello guys, geat post..simple and with a lot of tips! I'm thinking of going to South America somewhere in Jully- August next year, for 1 month. Can you please suggest me something that I MUST SEE there? How expensive are those countries? I'm expecting from Chile, Brazil and Peru to be quite expensive compared to the rest of the countries....what will be the one day budget? Thank you.

    on November 4, 2011 at 6:48 am Reply
    • Hi Sofia, there are must-sees everywhere! Depends on what your budget is (whether you can afford to fly to jump all over the place) and your style of travel. I'd take a look at our Buenos Aires to Rio de Janeiro itinerary; if you wanted you could start in Santiago de Chile and make your way over to BsAs from there - but there really is a month's worth of travel there anyway. Chile, Argentina and Brazil are the three most-expensive places; Peru is not too bad at all. Not sure on a daily budget, because it really depends on how much you move, and your lifestyle ... you can easily get by on US$50/day pretty much everywhere except Brazil, but you'll need extra money for travel days.

      on November 6, 2011 at 10:34 am Reply
  • Venezuela is an AMAZING place to visit, I went with my husband who's from there, so admittedly better if you can travel with a local, but found that a lot of Europeans travel there as well, just not many Americans. Los Roques National Park is absolutely wonderful, you stay on a main island every night and take a speed boat to one of the many islands each day. Totally undeveloped true nature, one day we ended up with an island of our own because no one else was there for the day - alone with our cooler of food and beer from our posada, beach chairs, umbrella, and snorkel gear. Perfect blue waters and serenity. Also Salto Angel is a bit of a strenuous hike, but an amazing trip, rivaling Machu Picchu. The largest waterfall in the world. Haven't gone but my husband has, and it was one one of the best trips of his life. That's not to mention many other natural wonders (the Avila in Caracas) and lovely beaches (Margarita Island) in Venezuela as well. Highly recommend it! Just keep your wits about you as you would anywhere else, and wouldn't recommend public transport in Caracas due to safety concerns...also don't trust the police there.

    on April 8, 2012 at 11:50 am Reply
  • Hi me my petner and our 2 children aged 3 and 1 are wanting to travel to south america for a few months next year and would be greatful for sny help, opinions ect x

    on August 5, 2012 at 5:03 pm Reply
    • Hi Gemma, where are you thinking about? Any must-sees or ideas?

      on August 6, 2012 at 4:11 am Reply
  • Thank you for posting this, it is very helpful!! I am looking to travel to South America next year in my gap year. Catherine

    on September 10, 2012 at 4:07 pm Reply
  • Hello! My fiance and I are looking to take a honeymoon somewhere in South America. We have been looking at Chile, Argentina, Peru and Brazil. We have a 10-14 day time limit and would like to stay around $5,000, excluding airfare. Is that possibe? We really like National Parks and some history. A beach would be nice for a couple days. Do you have any suggestions/advice for us? Thank you!!

    on November 10, 2012 at 12:10 am Reply
    • That sounds amazing! If you could go to just three places, where would you choose? Maybe we can help you come up with a killer itinerary to link those three places up?

      on November 10, 2012 at 10:30 am Reply
      • Probably Iguazu Falls, Machu Picchu and Patagonia. I don't know much about South America. I have been doing a lot of research, but I'm kind of getting overwhelmed. Thank you!

        on November 11, 2012 at 6:49 pm
  • All of the countries you have written about fascinate me and I would love to go to all of them! Thanks for this brief but insightful article that gets straight to the nitty-gritty!

    on December 20, 2012 at 7:53 am Reply
  • Craig, Linda - I'm currently on your podcast listening. We're plotting a trip to (Peru) - of course around Machu Picchu. Unlike the usual travel with my partner (in this case we're with a group which is odd for us),- we're plotting some independent travel outside of the main trip on both ends (there is a day in Lima and then transfer and some time in Cuzco). 1. Would you base your trip in and out of Lima? Or, combine with a city like La Paz (Bolivia) or Quito (Ecuador)? Or, try to get to the 3 you liked (Trujillo, Chiclayo, Chach.) 2. Is travel easy between the 3 places you mention? 3. How much time would you spend in Peru? (we're not Kiwis or Aussies who spend months traveling....we have two weeks or less. By the way, the site is a place we developed in Mexico. If you are ever over in Mexico and want a place on the beach.....ours is unique and wonderful. Chuck

    on January 16, 2013 at 4:58 pm Reply
    • Hi Chuck, you got me right before I head to bed for the night :) 1. Would you base your trip in and out of Lima? Or, combine with a city like La Paz (Bolivia) or Quito (Ecuador)? Or, try to get to the 3 you liked (Trujillo, Chiclayo, Chach.) Lima's kind of convenient if you're flying, but we didn't like it that much. La Paz would be more interesting, and we didn't make it to Quito (so I'd probably say there if I were going again!). Staying in Trujillo would be great, especially if you can get to the others; or Arrequipa is lovely if you want to be a bit closer to Cusco. 2. Is travel easy between the 3 places you mention? Between Chiclayo and Trujillo, it's just a few hours on the bus, almost a straight line up/down the Pan American highway. No worries at all. Chachapoyas is something different altogether: a very long and winding bus ride! We thought it was worthwhile. 3. How much time would you spend in Peru? (we’re not Kiwis or Aussies who spend months traveling….we have two weeks or less. In two weeks you can see quite a lot of Peru - with that kind of time, I'd be conservative on the distances you'll cover. If you're exhausted, it's no fun. Is this two weeks plus the time you have in Cusco? Or where does that fit into your plans? And yeah, we might have to come and see you in Mexico sometime! We're hoping we can get to Canada next year, and then head south.

      on January 16, 2013 at 5:23 pm Reply
  • Great to hear your take on an awesome continent - I spent 4 years overlanding all over and there's still a huge list of stuff I missed. Northern Brazil is awesome and so is Venezuela but its a mad ass place and you need to know what you are doing. If you want to email me i can give you some info and contacts I still dream of those Argentinian parrillas...

    on January 27, 2013 at 2:12 pm Reply
    • Hi Andy, yes - we'll definitely be in touch when we head back there. And if you want to share any tips or suggestions, feel free to hit the forums - that'd be awesome.

      on January 28, 2013 at 9:41 am Reply
  • I will be travelling to south america soon. i have always wanted to visit chile, but with so very little info it seems on things to do i think we may be visiting argentina or ecuador instead. Any suggestions??? p.s. how far from Buenos Aires is the falls?

    on February 10, 2013 at 1:02 am Reply
    • Hi Ana Maria, Chile is amazing too - take a look at the top things to do on our Chile travel planning page. If you want to stay in the southern cone, combining a little of Chile, Argentina and Uruguay makes sense. You could fly into Santiago de Chile, and visit a little, then cross into Argentina either through the lake district further south, or Mendoza. Then, you could get yourself to Buenos Aires and follow part of this Buenos Aires to Rio itinerary at least as far as the falls. If you went from BsAs straight to the Iguacu falls, you'd have to budget an entire day of travel, either by bus or flights would be a half day of travel time, including getting to the airport, checking in, etc. There's some tips on the Iguacu Falls here, which should help out when it comes to planning which side to visit or doing both of them.

      on February 10, 2013 at 6:54 am Reply

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