Superbly comprehensive South American backpacking itinerary starting in Quito Ecuador. From the equator to the Amazon jungle, taking on the Inca Trail and lost cities of the Incas you travel through Peru. Then onto Bolivia! Salt flats and cycling the death road (optional) before heading through the Atacama dessert, along the Pacific Ocean Road to Santiago Chile.
Then onto Argentina, through Mendoza wine country (tasting experience included) to get you in the ood for tango in Buenos Aires!
Finally you head through the incredible Foz de Iguassu (largest waterfalls in the world) through Paraty (beaches beaches beaches…) finishing with a bang in Rio De Janerio!
All transport and plenty of activities included on this fixed adventure. Epic scenery, culture and adventure on one of the worlds most sort after backpacker routes.
Round the World South AmericaBook Now
Round The World South America Highlights Include:
- Trekking the Inca Trail Note: We use either the alternative route or classic depending availability. Classic trail is not guaranteed.
- Machu Picchu
- Staying overnight in Cuzco a really cool town
- The Balestas Islands
- Sand boarding and Dune buggying
- The Salar Di Uynui (Bolivian salt lakes)
- Amantani Home Stay 2D/1N
- La Paz Local City Encounter
- Salt Flats 3D/2N end Atacama
- Moon Valley Experience
- Colca Canyon Trekking 3D/2N
- Sand-Buggy & Boarding
- Ballestas & Paracas NR
- Hop On Hop Off City Tour
- Local Encounter 2D/1N
- Wine Tasting in Mendoza
- The mighty Iguassu Falls
- Chill time on beautiful brazilian beaches
- Party time in Rio!
Need help trip planning? You’ve got it!
Planning around the world adventure can be daunting. So many options choices and destinations to cover. But don’t worry we’ve got you covered. Once you make an enquiry with us you will be assigned a knowledgeable dedicated travel adviser to help work out every fine detail around your trip. All of our staff are very experienced travellers, super helpful and friendly and experts at getting the most out of your trip.
Whilst Xtreme Gap Year mainly handles the ground activities, we will also put you in touch with our flights team to connect the dots making your travel planning a seamless and comprehensive experience.
South America is a huge continent and this itinerary covers most of it! That means you will have a lot of questions about where you go what you do, so the best thing to do is contact us to customise and tailor make your itinerary. We have experts on standby who have travelled to these destinations and can advise you of the perfect backpacker route.
This is a fairly complex process so please do not book flights prior to consulting us. Stuck for where to start? Contact US!
|Monday||1||Day 1 – Arrival – night in Quito|
|Tuesday||2||Day 2 – Quito tour – night in The Avenue of volcanoes|
|Wednesday||3||Day 3- Horseback riding avenue of volcanoes|
|Thursday||4||Day 4- Quilotoa&Saquisli-|
|Friday||5||Day 5- Cotopaxi night in Quito|
|Saturday||6||Day 6 – Otavalo night in Quito|
|Sunday||7||Day 7 – Biking in Banos|
|Monday||8||Day 8 – Rafting in Banos stay over night in Banos|
|Tuesday||9||Banos to Guayagil|
|Wednesday||10||Guayaquil to Mancora (Public Bus)|
|Thursday||11||day at the beach in mancora over night|
|Friday||12||Mancora to Trujillo (Public Bus)|
|Saturday||13||Trujillo to Huaraz (Public Bus)|
|Sunday||14||Huaraz to Lima (Public Bus)|
|Monday||15||Lima – Free Day|
|Tuesday||16||Paracas + Ballestas Islands Trip + Bus to Huacachina + Dune Buggy/Sandboarding|
|Wednesday||17||Ica to Nazca bus + Nazca Lines Overflight + Nazca to Arequipa(Overnight Bus)|
|Thursday||18||Arequipa – Free Day|
|Friday||19||Overnight Colca Canyon Trip|
|Saturday||20||Arequipa – Cusco|
|Sunday||21||Cusco – Free Day|
|Monday||22||Sacred Valley Trip or Start Salkantay Trail Option|
|Tuesday||23||Inka Trail – 1st night (Classic or day 2 Salkantay)|
|Wednesday||24||Inka Trail – 2nd night|
|Thursday||25||Inka Trail – 3rd|
|Friday||26||Inka Trail/Machu Picchu/Cusco|
|Saturday||27||Cusco Free Day|
|Sunday||28||Cusco to Puno|
|Monday||29||Overnight Amatani Homestay with local family|
|Tuesday||30||Puno – Free Day|
|Wednesday||31||Puno to Copacabana to La Paz|
|Thursday||32||La Paz- Free Day|
|Friday||33||Bike the Worlds Most Dangerous Road or La Paz Free day(Optional)|
|Saturday||34||La Paz- Free Day / night bus to Uyuni|
|Sunday||35||Uyuni Salt Flats Jeep Tour|
|Monday||36||Uyuni Salt Flats Jeep Tour|
|Tuesday||37||Uyuni Salta Flats / bus to San Pedro De Ataca (Chile)|
|Wednesday||38||Afternoon Valley of the Moon Tour|
|Thursday||39||San Pedro de Atacma to a Serena|
|Friday||40||La Serena to Valparaiso|
|Saturday||41||Valparaiso Free Day|
|Sunday||42||Valparaiso to Santiago Bus|
|Monday||43||Santiago City Tour by bike|
|Tuesday||44||Santiago Free day|
|Wednesday||45||Santiago to Mendoza (Argentina:)|
|Thursday||46||Wine vineyards tour Mendoza Free day|
|Friday||47||Mendoza Free Day|
|Saturday||48||Mendoza to Buenos Aires overnight bus|
|Sunday||49||Buenos Aires Free day|
|Monday||50||Tango Night Experience|
|Tuesday||51||Buenos Aires Free day|
|Wednesday||52||Buenos Aires Free day|
|Thursday||53||Buenos Aires to Puerto Iguazu (Overnight)|
|Friday||54||Puerto Iguazu Free Day|
|Saturday||55||Iguassu Falls Argentina side|
|Sunday||56||Iguassu Falls Brazil Side + Night Bus to Florianopolis|
|Monday||57||Florianopolis Free Day|
|Tuesday||58||Florianopolis Free Day|
|Wednesday||59||Florianopolis Free Day|
|Thursday||60||Florianopolis to Sao Paulo Night Bus|
|Friday||61||Sao Paulo Free Day|
|Saturday||62||Sao Paulo to Paraty|
|Sunday||63||Paraty Bay Boat Trip|
|Monday||64||Paraty Free day|
|Tuesday||65||Paraty Free Day|
|Wednesday||66||Paraty to Ilha Grande|
|Thursday||67||Ilha Grande Free Day|
|Friday||68||Ilha Grande Free Day|
|Saturday||69||Ilha Grande to Rio transfer|
|Sunday||70||Rio City Tour|
|Monday||71||Rio Free Day|
|Tuesday||72||Rio Favela Tour|
|Wednesday||73||Rio Free Day|
Please note accommodation is only included for the 1st week in Ecuador, during the Inca Trail section and your last couple of days in Rio. We deliberately do not include accommodation during the backpacking section of the trip, because you will be meeting lots of people as you travel and it’s often nicer to stay with your newfound travel mates.
Accommodation in South America is not expensive. We would recommend a budget of around £5 per night, which would mean for this entire 75 night trip you would need to budget an extra £320 to cover accommodation.
Meals unless stated and not included in this trip. South America has amazingly varied and wonderful cuisine. From tender thick juicy steaks in Argentina, to Guinea pig in Ecuador! Food is not expensive in Argentina and there are plenty of restaurants along the way. We would advise budgeting £10 a day for food.
Frequently asked questions
Not per se, however, this is a super popular backpacking route: You will be meeting people every single day in the hostels that you stay in. Part of the fun of this adventure is that it’s a very sociable and well-trodden backpacker trail.
You will meet people in lots of little adventures that you have along the way (there’s loads included in the itinerary). Is there a guide with you at all times? No there isn’t, but there is at some points. This is about independent backpacking with all the support that you need. It’s more fun like that, and because it is like this your money goes ALOT further. Nearly 3 months with loads of inclusions and 6 countries!
More on locations and activities:
Quito & Avenue of the Volcanoes
The trip starts in Quito in Ecuador. Not only is this in an awesome city to start your South American odyssey in, flights are also very well priced into Quito. Everything will be different, everything will be new. So to ease you in gently we have our team based in Quito ready to welcome you. We have an action packed itinerary for you for the 1st week. You will be exploring Quito (a global heritage site) taking a trip to the middle of the world (Equator), and then spending a bit of time outside the city as well.
A couple of hours away from the Avenue of the volcanoes. Incredible scenery, which you can explore on horseback and mountain bike. We will take you to Otavalo a famous craft market where you can snap up a bargain in llama trousers, goatskin waistcoats and alpaca Wolley hats!
The 1st week is guided safe fun and awesome and the perfect kick off to your South American adventure.
After being on the water you head to Huacachina to sandboard the afternoon away. It doesn´t matter whether you´ve done it before or not, you´ll have a blast. It´s simple really, just jump on a board, push off and hope for the best!
Trekking The Inca Trail
Mysterious, iconic and Xtreme that just about sums up Peru and the amazing adventure-filled trip that awaits you! Your excitement levels will be going through the roof as you arrive in Lima and you think about all the things you are going to see and do over the next 19 days and where better to start than the country’s capital city. Underneath the chaotic atmosphere and often foggy skies you’ll find a stunning historical centre worthy of UNESCO World Heritage status, art galleries and museums galore and cool nightlife.
Because this itinerary has the Inca Trail at the beginning of the trip, it makes it very easy to fix your date and secure your Inca Trail permit, it is very important that we do this many months ahead as they sell out far in advance. Note: We use either the alternative route or classic depending availability. Classic trail is not guaranteed.
See the following Options for the trail below.
The Inka Trail (Traditional Itinerary)
In the morning we will be transferred from Cusco through the Urubamba River Valley to the km 82 point, which is where the first part of our trek begins. Get ready for awe-inspiring views, dizzying heights and possibly the odd blister! After registering with government control we cross the bridge and begin the walk to Llactapata, which is the first place of archaeological importance and where we’ll have lunch. After some nourishing food we continue on to the first camp at Llullchapampa. It’s pretty steep going, but you’re young and fit so you can handle it!
Llulluchapampa – Chaquicocha
The second day of the trek can seem a little daunting as it involves reaching the highest point on the trail at Warmihuasusca, over 4,200 metres, so it’s a tough day but extremely rewarding. Also, don’t let the name of this section put you off – Dead Woman’s Pass refers to the shape of the mountain, not the effect that hiking it has on you! To take your mind off the walking you can take in the views of the snow-capped peaks. After the big climb, it’s time to descend into the Pacaymayu valley, before heading onto the second camp at Chaquicocha, where you can catch up with fellow trekkers around the campfire.
After breakfast we begin the trek to Runkuraqay archaeological complex, where you get to explore the Incan ruins and admire the sweeping views, before continuing onto another important site at Sayacmarca, where the guide will explain the different theories about what the purpose of the construction was. You’ll see a big change in the geography and climate as you trek through mountains to upper jungle and cloud forests and as you head over the Phuyupatamarca Pass you’ll reach another archaeological site. It’s downhill from there to the camp at Wiaywayna and some much-needed food and rest, well, that’s after swapping more stories with all the other like-minded adventurers.
Wianaywayna Machu Picchu
The final countdown! It’s a very early start today as the trek continues to Intipunku, but you’ll be rewarded with the most magnificent sunrise and panoramic view of Machu Picchu’s citadel. This is when you realise that it’s all been worth it! After taking in this amazing site and almost filling up your memory card with photos we continue downhill for around 45 minutes to Machu Picchu for a tour and a hike up the mountain of Waynapicchu. Come on, you’ve got this far!
In the afternoon it’s time to board the backpacker train back to Cusco where you can relax and absorb the fact that you have just completed one of the world’s best treks. You should reward yourself with a drink or three of the local rum.
Alternative Trek Salkantay
Day by Day Itinerary:
Trek Briefings: All travellers are required to visit the Cuzco office (at the Milhouse Hostel) one day prior to trek for a mandatory briefing on your trek at 6:30pm. At this meeting you will receive detailed information on the route, a list of what to bring, confirm your accommodation pick-up for the morning of the trek and be able to ask questions.
Day 1: Cuzco to Mollepata to Challacancha, Trek to Soraypampa Camp (3,920m) (L/D)
Today we pick you up between 5:00 – 6:00 am and travel by tourist-class bus to Mollepata (2,900m) where you can stretch your legs and buy snacks. Continue by car to Challacancha where we will make final preparations and double check our equipment. Embark on a 3-hour walk that will take us to Soraypampa (3,920m) where we will have lunch with panoramic views of beautiful snow-capped mountains. Hike up to Laguna de Humantay (approx. 1.5 hours each way) for more incredible views of the Andes mountains and then return to camp for the night. Our first campsite is located at 3,920m and is the highest and coldest campsite of the trip. Take some time to rest up, and enjoy your first night immersed in nature. Have dinner and go to sleep early.
Inclusions: Accommodation pick-up, Transfer Cuzco – Challacancha, 1N Camping, Meals 1L/1D. (14km, 6hrs)
We will have breakfast at around 6:00 am and begin our 4-hour walk to the highest pass on this trek (4,650m) located halfway between 2 huge mountains; Salkantay (6,267m) and Humantay (5,900m). (Optional horse rental available to reach high pass for approx. 100 – 120 soles). From the pass, the views of the 2 snow-capped mountains are incredible with a possibility of snow here. After a 2-hour downhill hike, a well-deserved lunch will be served at Huayracpampa, followed by another 3-hour trek to our campsite at Challhuay or Colcapampa as we near the beginning of the high jungle region at 2,900 meters.
Inclusions: 1N Camping, Meals 1B/1L/1D. (22km, 9-10hrs)
After breakfast at 6:30 am, we start trekking for the day through the upper jungle crossing the Santa Teresa River and a variety of little brooks. Today we will pass through valleys and have wonderful views of waterfalls, tropical fruits and plants. We will have lunch at La Playa (2,200m) and continue by car to Santa Teresa town (1,700 meters), our camp for the night, with a warmer climate. After a rest, we have the option to visit the hot springs in Santa Teresa town (extra cost) and enjoy the well-deserved soothing water, a real treat after 3 hard days of trekking!
Inclusions: Car La Playa – Santa Teresa Town, 1N Camping, Meals 1B/1L/1D. (15km, 5.5hrs)
After having breakfast at 8:00 am, our last day on the trail will take us from Santa Teresa (1,700m) along a relaxing path for 3 hours to reach the hydroelectric station (1,880m) where a box lunch will be served. From here Aguas Calientes (2,010m) is another 3 hour slight uphill walk where we will finally have time to relax, recharge our batteries and get ready for our visit to Machu Picchu. Dinner at a local traditional restaurant.
*Optional bus transfer from Santa Teresa to the Hydroelectric Station is available for an extra cost.
*Optional train transfer from Hydroelectric Station to Aguas Calientes is available for an extra cost.
Inclusions: 1N Aguas Calientes 3* Hotel, Meals 1B/1L/1D. (18km, 6hrs)
We will catch one of the first buses (05:30 am) to Machu Picchu (25-minute ride) in order to appreciate the magnificent city in the early morning light as the mist dissipates. A walking tour (approximately 2 hours) is given by your guide and after this you can explore the mysterious city on your own. If you still have energy you can also climb the optional Huayna Picchu Peak inside the archaeological site (to be booked in advance at an extra cost). Take a bus back down to Aguas Calientes at your own convenience. Return by train to Ollantaytambo and take a bus to Cuzco. You will be dropped off at the Plaza San Francisco. Upon arrival you will need to make your own way to your accommodation.
- DESCRIPTION OF MACHU PICCHU GUIDED SITE VISIT: The one and only, the most spectacular (and not to mention most popular) archaeological site in all of South America. Your guide will take you on a 2-hour tour of Machu Picchu walking you through the most important sites and covering the history of the place (if you haven’t already heard it all during the Salkantay Trek). Then you will have free time to explore on your own and take pictures at your leisure. When you decide to head back down to Aguas Calientes, there are buses departing every 15 minutes from the entrance or you can take the walking trail down if you feel like another 1 hour stair stepping downhill to Aguas Calientes town.
- Take an OPTIONAL hike up the steep peak named Huayna Picchu, which is located inside the Machu Picchu archaeological site. This sometimes muddy peak takes about 45 – 60 minutes to hike up and awards you with unforgettable views of Machu Picchu from a coveted perspective. Keep in mind that if you want to take this optional hike, you must now purchase your ticket at least 2 weeks in advance for an additional cost in order to get one of the 400 passes (200 people are allowed up at 7:00am and 200 more at 10:00am). Please send us an email directly to request this extra ticket.
Inclusions: Round trip Bus Aguas Calientes – Machu Picchu, Train Aguas Calientes – Ollantaytambo, Bus Ollantaytambo – Cuzco, 2-Hour Machu Picchu Guided Visit, Meal 1B.
Arriving into Cuzco you have a free nights accommodation on us at the Mill House backpacker hostel. You will be briefed on your Inca Trail itinerary and have the chance to settle in and enjoy this fantastic city, which is a hub for backpackers from all over the world. Check out the cities beautiful square the Plaza de Armas with its beautiful colonial cathedral, and have a drink at the Cross Keys pub to swap stories and share tips before the great trek the following day.
Relax your tired legs in Cuzco once again.
Today is a free day for you to relax and recuperate or carry on with the Cusco sightseeing that you didn’t get to finish before the Inca Trail. At this point you could stay on for a few extra days or if you have chosen to do the Round the World – South America trip then you’ll be looking forward to continuing your awesome adventure into Bolivia.
This is also the ideal time to gather the email addresses, Twitter names and Facebook pages of all your new mates so that when you are back in a boring job saving for your next adventure you have someone to reminisce with, not to mention lots of friends around the world to visit!
Puno is located on the shores of Lake Titicaca. You might be tempted to catch up on some sleep on the way, but we´re sure that the awe-inspiring Andean Mountain Range will keep you and your camera occupied. On arrival in Puno you can settle into your hostel accommodation and then head out with some fellow adventurers to soak up the unique atmosphere, with its mixture of different Peruvian cultures, vibrant markets and friendly locals.
If you feel like you’ve seen and experienced a lot so far, you ain’t seen nothing yet! A full day motor boat excursion on Lake Titicaca is on the schedule, when you get to explore the unique floating islands of the Uros tribe. Made from Totora reeds, these islands have to be repaired and re-made to keep them sturdy enough for the homes, schools and shops that exist. It really is ingenious! Just watch out for any thin patches otherwise you might find yourself with soggy trousers.
The final stop of the day is at the island of Amantani, where you will stay with a local family. You’ll be welcomed with open arms and after a dinner prepared with fresh local ingredients you can dance the night away at the village meeting place – expect traditional music, colourful clothes and lots of laughs. It’s a fabulous experience that you will never forget.
Bienvenidos a La Paz! Welcome to this amazing, sky-high city, official name Nuestra Senora de La Paz (Our Lady of Peace), where your adventure begins. If you arrive on a clear day you can admire the aerial view from the plane of snow-capped Mount Illimani and the city’s buildings, which cascade down the sides of the canyon – pretty impressive!
With a varying altitude of between 3000 to 4100 metres, it may take a little while to acclimatize, unless you are on the last leg of our fantastic ‘Round the World – South America’ trip. After settling into your accommodation and meeting some fellow travellers you can take your first wander around the narrow streets and plazas of this buzzing city. If you do feel the effects of the altitude, try a cup of MatÃ© de coca, coca leaf tea.
There are museums, markets, the impressive city cathedral at Plaza Murillo and beautiful colonial architecture on Calle Jaen. One of the most intriguing places to visit is the Witches Market, which is full of stalls selling herbs, potions, jewellery and amulets, not to mention some more disturbing items such as llama foetuses. You’re also likely to see witch doctors wandering around, who can be identified by their dark hats.
In between the sightseeing, and providing you haven’t lost your appetite, you can chill out at the local cafes or comedors, chat to the locals and sample some of the street food, such as saltenas and empanada tucumana. Later on in the evening you can hit the penas, or music clubs, to hear traditional Andean folk music.
Why not try… THE DEATH ROAD!
We’re not sure if there is one word that means ‘butt-clenchingly scary, adrenaline fuelled extreme exhilaration’, but that’s what you’re going to experience today! The Death Road, or Camino del Muerte as it is known by the locals, is the world’s most dangerous road. We say road, but what we really mean is a 2-way dirt track, with sheer drops on one side, that weaves its way through the Andes and descends 1200 metres in altitude. And you’re going to mountain bike down it. Hey, look on the bright side, you won’t have much peddling to do!
Although the road does claim 100 lives per year, we should point out that 50,000 people in total have done this trip and most have survived, so the chances of you completing the rest of the trip are pretty good! However, if this really isn’t for you then you can spend another day in La Paz. We certainly don’t make you do anything you don’t want to , but just imagine the feeling of euphoria if you can conquer your fear!
Salt Flats & Dessert Adventure!
This section of the trip is a 3 day/2 night Salt Flats and Desert Adventure and over the next few days you’ll experience some unique and breathtaking landscapes. There really is nothing like this place on earth, a massive dry lake caused when the Andes rose up out of the ocean millions of years ago has left now nothing but miles and miles of crystallised salt. All sense of perspective vanishes as you drive from island to island checking out the incredible landscape.
Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon)
Situated just 10km from La Paz, this is the first stop. It’s a surreal, desert-like landscape that has been formed over centuries by the erosion of the clay. This has resulted in some weird looking shapes and structures, making the whole area look like a desert filled with stalagmites.
Salar de Uyuni
This is the world’s largest salt pan and is a blindingly white landscape that stretches as far as the eye can see.
You and your fellow adventurers will be taken out on the salt pans by jeep, where you’ll discover that your depth perception is totally out of whack! There are virtually no points of reference out here so mountains that only appear to be a couple of miles away could be several hundred. What this does provide is some amusing photo opportunities.
The Atacama Desert and Desert Lakes
During the trip you’ll pass through some vast deserts, including the Atacama. We know what you’re thinking, ‘That’s not in Bolivia’, well no, it’s in Chile and that’s why you’ll need to make sure you bring your passport with you! So, on your Xtreme Bolivia Experience you actually also get to go to Chile. We’re good to you! In addition to visiting this famous desert you also get to see another that is named after the famous surrealist, Salvador Dali, so you can just imagine the kind of landscape you’re going to see here.
To make a change from the dusty deserts there are two amazing lakes to see en route – Laguna Colorada and Laguna Verde. The first is renowned for its population of flamingos and also its rusty red colour, caused by the algae and mineral sediments in the water. The second is so called because of the vivid green/blue colour, which makes for some stunning photos, especially with the dramatic mountain backdrop.
Sol de Manana Geysers
This is a geothermal area with intense volcanic activity. It consists of boiling mud lakes and sulphur springs, which shoot a combination of mud and water up to heights of between 10 – 50 metres. You certainly want to stick to the protected areas so that you don´t run the risk of being cooked and just in case you didn’t realise, the smell of sulphur = rotten eggs. You do not want a hangover when you visit this place! Following this you can take a dip in the hot springs at Polques, which are a lovely 30 degrees warm and perfectly safe, so don´t forget your swimsuit. However, you will need several layers of clothes for afterwards as Uyuni is a high-desert climate where temperatures reach extremes, including the cold.
- A personal Travel Advisor to guide you through the trip planning stage to create an amazing trip
- Help with arranging flights and travel insurance
- 24 hour support and emergency assistance
- Detailed predeparture pack before you leave
- Online travel assistance to help with the logistics of your journey whilst you are travelling
- Straddle the Ecuador in Quito
- Explore the amazon in Ecuador
- All transport pre-booked arranged for you on a flexible itinerary
- Your own personal travel concierge
- Trekking the Inca Trail with the predeparture brief
- One night in Cuzco
- Milhouse Dorm
- Cuzco to Puno (Touristic Transfer)
- Amantani Home Stay 2D/1N
- La Paz Local City Encounter
- Salt Flats 3D/2N end Atacama
- Moon Valley Experience
- Colca Canyon Trekking 3D/2N
- Sand-Buggy & Boarding
- Ballestas & Paracas NR
- The worlds largest waterfall in Argentina/Brazil
- Get your tango on in Buenos Aires!
- Get your Samba on in Rio!
- Most accommodation (budget five pounds per night)
- Travel insurance
- Banos to Guayagil Bus (local payment)