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Behind the Scenes: Planning a Trip to South America with Andean Trails.

by on 24th January, 2022

Credit: Sernatur

There’s nothing we love more at Andean Trails than helping people when they’re planning a trip to South America.

We hope our passion for this incredibly diverse continent shines through and inspires people to travel. Our connection with the destinations we offer comes from personal experiences spanning decades.

You’ll find we ask lots of questions about your interests, when you want to travel, and your hopes for your holiday. That’s because we want to give you as many options alongside honest advice so you can choose your ideal trip.

Contacting us about South America starts a new conversation and a new relationship. We’ll dedicate our time and know-how to craft bespoke itineraries based on your wish list.

Cascada Laguna Amarga and Torres del Paine Patagonia Chile

 

Planning a Trip to South America

After a phone chat or email correspondence, we’ll look to provide you with some outline itineraries and options alongside helpful tips within 24-48 hours. At the same time, we start to look at every aspect of your tour, which could include:

  • Flight routes, availability and prices.
  • Hotel options and availability.
  • Tailor-made and group tour options.
  • Guideline or precise pricing.

Within a week, you’ll be au fait with your options and prices and understand the logistics of your trip. We’ll go at your pace and let you know if there are any pressing availability issues. Some people are ready to book within a week or two; other tours take several weeks or even months. The most important thing is you are happy with the holiday.

Once you’re set, we can handle all the reservations and support you from booking until you return home.

 

I’m Planning a Trip to South America. Where Should I Go?

Many travellers have a concrete idea of where they want to go, when, and how. Others want to consider several options and pick one that best suits their tastes, budget, or travel window.

Here’s a quick guide to some of our South American destinations to help with your thinking. Of course, each country is vast, and there are weather and peak travel period variations.

pisac ladies with child family holiday cusco peru

 

Peru Holidays

Peru has unique cultures, fantastic mountains, excellent treks, bountiful rainforest, and great food.

 

When to go: Year-round, with April-October (Peruvian winter) the best period for hiking.

Weather: Warm coastline, cool in the Andean mountain range, and hot and humid Amazon rainforest.

Travel tips: Shoulder months like April and October are great ways to get good weather and avoid peak travel prices.

How to get there: Fly to Lima and overnight or connect with flights to Cusco, Arequipa, Lake Titicaca, or Huaraz.

Suggested itinerary: Peru’s southern loop takes in all the highlights. Add the Amazon for a wildlife experience you won’t forget.

 

Day 1: Arrive Lima

Day 2: Fly to Arequipa

Day 3: Colca Canyon tour

Day 4: Condor viewing

Day 5: Scenic bus to Lake Titicaca

Day 6: Visit and homestay on Lake Titicaca

Day 7: Return to Puno

Day 8: Scenic bus to Cusco

Day 9: Free day Cusco

Days 10-13: Inca Trail trek (or Sacred Valley trips)

Day 14: Free day Cusco, travel to Amazon or fly home.

alex-fishing-uros-peru

 

Galapagos Islands Holidays

The Galapagos Islands offer some of the world’s best wildlife watching, all set against a pristine and volcanic backdrop. This unique destination is a must-see when you’re planning a trip to South America.

 

When to go: Galapagos is a year-round destination.

Weather: January-June is the warmest time to go, with July-December the most verdant — read our weather guide for more.

Travel tips:  Try land-based trips if cruises are above budget.

How to get there: Fly to Quito or the coastal city of Guayaquil. You’ll need to overnight before flying early morning to the Galapagos Islands.

Suggested itinerary: Galapagos boats generally have two week-long itineraries on offer. Head north and west for longer sails and picturesque islands, whereas the east and south have an abundance of wildlife and plants.

Land-based itineraries allow you to mix and match eastern, central, southern, and western islands. Spot whales, rays, dolphins, and more on inter-island ferries.

Safari camp swimming turtle Galapagos

 

Ecuador Holidays

Ecuador lives up to its nickname of South America in miniature. Snow-capped volcanoes, luscious rainforest, spectacular cloud forest, and much more in between, including home to the Galapagos Islands.

 

When to go: Ecuador is a year-round destination. The mountains can be a real four-seasons-in-one-day destination.

Weather: Everything from warm tropical forests and coastline to humid rainforest and cool Andean mountains. The Galapagos Islands offer good weather and beaches.

Travel tips:  Go to the Galapagos but remember to explore Ecuador, too. Cloud forest lodges are a budget-friendly wildlife-rich surprise.

How to get there: Fly to Quito’s capital to access most tours. The coastal city of Guayaquil is a useful stopping point for people only visiting the Galapagos Islands.

Suggested itinerary: Our action-packed Ecuador highlights package takes you from markets to volcanoes to cloud forests and the coast. The variety is astonishing and all within close reach.

 

Day 1: Quito City Tour and Equator Monument

Day 2: Indigenous Market Pujili – Quilotoa Crater Lake Hike

Day 3: Cotapaxi National Park – Rose Plantation visit

Day 4: Cloud Forest – Devil’s Cauldron waterfall – Chimborazo volcano

Day 5: Devil’s Nose Train ride – Ingapirca

Day 6: Cuenca City Tour

Day 7: Cajas National Park – Guayaquil

Day 8: Fly home or to Galapagos

Tren Crucero Cotopaxi Ecuador

 

Patagonia Holidays

Remote Patagonia’s rugged terrain stirs the poetic soul; snow-capped peaks, turquoise lakes, and towering glaciers can’t fail to move you. Fantastic walking with sumptuous food.

 

When to go: Late September to early April. Winter (May-August) is cold but quiet.

Weather: Lively! Patagonia can be blue skies and peace one moment, and strong winds and rain the next, while never really feeling hot. Winds and temperatures drop in winter.

Travel tips: Don’t be afraid to travel to lesser-known national parks — they’re gems. Combine Chile and Argentina via several spectacular land borders; you can bus, boat, hike, horse ride or even kayak some of the way.

How to get there: Argentine Patagonia is accessed by landing in Patagonia and flying to Puerto Madryn, El Calafate, Bariloche, Ushuaia, or Trelew. Chilean Patagonia requires a flight to Santiago and connecting to Punta Arenas, Puerto Montt, or several smaller airports.

Suggested itinerary: There are almost too many combinations. One of our favourites shows you the best of both Fitzroy and Torres del Paine National Parks.

 

Day 1: Calafate

Day 2: Scenic bus to Chalten, Fitzroy National Park.

Day 3: Mount Fitz Roy trek and Laguna de los Tres trek

Day 4: Laguna Torre trek

Day 5: Pliegue Tumbado trek

Day 6: Scenic bus to Calafate

Day 7: Perito Moreno Glacier trip

Day 8: Bus Torres del Paine camp

Day 9: Torres del Paine trek

Day 10: Pehoe Lake and French Valley trek

Day 11: Lake Grey trail and glacier viewpoint

Day 12: Free day

Day 13: Scenic bus to Ushuaia

Day 14: Beagle Channel

Day 15: Fly home or onward travel

Rainbow close up glacier Perito Moreno, Argentina

 

Argentina Holidays

Unsurprisingly, the eighth-largest country in the world is a traveller’s delight: waterfalls, Pantanal, multi-coloured mountains, Patagonia, and Aconcagua, The Americas’ highest peak.

 

When to go: The Austral summer (October to April) is the most popular time to visit Argentina.

Weather: The country’s north is generally warm in summer, with high humidity in Buenos Aires and the Pantanal. The weather further south cools and becomes unsettled in Patagonia, something to consider when planning a trip to South America.

Travel tips: Don’t miss an asado (BBQ), fugazza pizza (onion and cheese), or the sweet alfajores with dulce de leche. The wine’s not bad, either.

How to get there: Fly to Buenos Aires, where there are two airports. Ezeiza (EZE) and Aeroparque (AEP).

Suggested itinerary: Self-drive holidays are fantastic in Argentina, with long, quiet roads and lots to see between destinations.

 

Day 1: Bariloche Route 40

Day 2: Sarmiento

Day 3: Petrified forests

Day 4: Caves with hand paintings

Day 5: Marble caves (Chile)

Day 6: Off road to Lago Posadas

Day 7: Estancia

Day 8: Fitzroy views en route to Chalten

Day 9: Explore Fitzroy

Day 10: Scenic drive to Calafate

Day 11: Perito Moreno glacier

Day 12: Fly out or onward travel

 

Marble Caves, Aysen, Patagonia, Chile

 

Chile Holidays

Chile looks like South America’s spine. It’s home to deserts, spectacular night skies, rugged mountain ranges, beautiful lakes, and unique islands like Easter Island.

 

When to go: October to April offers the best conditions in the south. Santiago northwards is more a year-round destination.

Weather: Chile’s climate varies greatly, owing to its sheer length, variation of terrain and varying altitudes and latitudes.

Travel tips: Visit the Atacama desert when the moon is half-full or less for the best night skies and observatory tour.

How to get there: Fly to Chile’s capital, Santiago.

Suggested itinerary: From north to south and including Easter Island, take in the highlights of magnificent Chile.

 

Day 1: Atacama desert

Day 2: Valley of the Moon, Valley of the Dead

Day 3: Atacama salt flats

Day 4: Tatio geysers and Puritma hot springs, stargazing tour

Day 5: Fly to Patagonia

Day 6: Scenic bus to Puerto Natales

Day 7: Sail to Balmaceda and Serrano Glaciers

Day 8: Full day tour to Torres del Paine National Park

Days 9-10: Free days in Torres del Paine National Park

Day 11: Scenic bus to Puerto Natales

Day 12: Fly to Santiago

Day 13: Santiago walking tour

Day 14: Fly to Easter Island

Day 15: Full day tour of Moai statues

Day 16: Rano Kao and Ahu Akivi

Day 17: Fly to Santiago and wine country

Day 18: Winery tour

Day 19: Free day in wine country

Day 20: Transfer to Santiago, fly home

 

seven moais easter-island

 

Colombia Holidays

Colombia is opening up to curious travellers. What they find is a warm, welcoming country with breathtaking variety and a pulsing rhythm.

 

When to go: Colombia is a year-round destination with warm daytime temperatures in most areas. Whenever you’re planning a trip to South America, Colombia will offer you something special.

Weather: There are two dry seasons (Dec-March & July-early Sept) and two wet seasons (April-June and Oct-early Dec). However, Colombia is full of micro-climates and altitude, bringing a wide variety of weather conditions.

Travel tips: Get off-the-beaten-track with an authentic Caribbean adventure on the remote island of Providencia.

How to get there: Most flights land at Bogota’s international airport, with some arriving in Cartagena.

Suggested itinerary: Colombia’s Lost City is rightly gaining traction as a must-do hike in South America. This itinerary includes the coffee region, Bogota, and the Caribbean coast.

 

Day 1: Bogota

Day 2: Gold Museum and Monserrat

Day 3: Salento and coffee tour

Day 4: Cocora Valley coffee region

Day 5: Fly to Santa Marta beach hotel

Days 6-8: Lost City Trek

Day 9: Visit Lost City

Day 10: Scenic drive to Cartagena

Day 11: Cartagena city tour

Day 12: Fly home on onward travel.

 

Tourists explore lost city Colombia

 

Bolivia Holidays

Landlocked Bolivia is one of South America’s hidden treasures. Nowhere are the mountain ranges so empty or beautiful, and nowhere matches the unearthly stark beauty of the Uyuni salt flats.

 

When to go: Bolivian’s winter is best, from April to October.

Weather: Dry weather in the mountains and Amazon from April to September, with most rain falling between December and March. The sun’s rays are always intense.

Travel tips: Bolivia links well with Argentina in the south, Chile to the southwest, and Peru to the northwest. People planning a trip to South America often enjoy Bolivia while connecting two or more of its neighbours.

How to get there: Most international flights land at Bolivia’s capital, Santa Cruz, because it’s at a lower altitude than La Paz.

Suggested itinerary: Acclimatise as you move from one wonder to the next; cultural visits on Lake Titicaca follow Uyuni’s salt flats. We’ve ended this tour with an incredible trek, but you could choose the Amazon or another destination.

 

Day 1: La Paz

Day 2: Travel to Uyuni salt flats

Days 3 to 6: Uyuni salt flat tour

Day 6: La Paz

Day 7: Tiahuanaco

Day 8: Copacabana and Lake Titicaca

Day 9: Island of the Sun

Day 10: Island of the Moon

Days 11-14: High mountain trek (4 days)

Day 14: Return to La Paz

Day 15: Fly home or onward travel.

 

El Salar de Uyuni evening reflections Bolivia

 

Need Help Planning a Trip to South America?

As you can see, we’re overflowing with travel ideas for anyone planning a trip to South America. Whether you’re starting from scratch, already curious, or have a definite plan, get in touch, and we’ll be happy to give help and advice.

South America awaits!

Felippe and Severino, cook and guides, Peru

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