A Virtual Tour of South America's Most Popular Backpacker Spots

Beach shack at Cabo San Juan del Guia, Tayrona National Park, Colombia
Beach shack at Cabo San Juan del Guia, Tayrona National Park, Colombia | © Jesse Kraft / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Harry Stewart
23 October 2017

South America is just ripe for exploration. From stunning white sandy beaches to ominous Andean peaks and everything in between, the allure of this incredible continent keeps backpackers happily buzzing around for months (or years!) on end. But rather than bore you with prose, let’s take a look at some cool pictures instead.

Buzzing beaches, pumping nightlife, stunning vistas and the world’s most famous party, Rio has got it all.

Rio | © dmitry_islentev / Shutterstock

A large colonial city set deep in the jungle, Manaus offers unrivaled Amazonian adventures.

The perfect mix of big city life and picturesque beaches, Florianópolis is Brazil’s premier vacation destination.

Scientists reckon being around large quantities of flowing water can stimulate serotonin. After getting inexplicably giddy at Iguazu Falls, we’re inclined to believe them.

Backpackers flock to Montevideo for a taste of what Uruguay has to offer. What’s more, everything in the country is just a short bus ride away.

A buzzing modern metropolis packed full of impressive colonial architecture, it’s little wonder they call Buenos Aires the Paris of the south.

Adventurous backpackers can hike, kayak and cycle to their heart’s content in Argentina’s picture perfect Lake District.

We all know backpackers love to drink, and there is no better way to sample the local produce than on a boozy wine tour in beautiful Mendoza.

Worth the trip to Patagonia alone, the mammoth Perito Moreno Glacier is a sight to behold.

Perito Moreno Glacier | © Jefferson Bernardes / Shutterstock

Some would argue that Mount Fitz Roy in Argentina is Patagonia’s best peak.

Then again, Chile’s Torres del Paine is pretty epic too.

Unbeknownst to many, Chile’s Marble Caves are one of the highlights of the region and can be reached on a modest budget.

Marble Caves | © Wata51 / Shutterstock

Quaint and quirky, the lush island of Chiloé is famous for its stunning wooden UNESCO-listed churches.

Chile has its own breathtaking Lake District and for backpackers the highlight is Pucon, most notably for its climbable Villarrica volcano which gazes down in the town below.

Valparaiso is a timeless backpacker hangout, a favorite of many for its youthful bohemian vibe.

Perhaps South America’s most cosmopolitan city, the modern metropolis of Santiago is buzzing with youthful energy.

The strange landscapes of the Valle de la Luna in San Pedro de Atacama are truly out of this world.

La Paz is a backpacker’s paradise. Dirt cheap, it has plenty of nearby natural wonders to explore.

La Paz | © Shanti Hesse / Shutterstock

You haven’t backpacked through South America unless you have the “I survived the World’s Most Dangerous Road” T-Shirt to prove it.

Death Road | © mezzotint / Shutterstock

Home to some of the most surreal scenery on earth, the Salar de Uyuni and South West Circuit attract backpackers from all over the world.

There’s no better (and cheaper) place to get up close and personal with Amazon wildlife than Rurrenabaque, a dream eco-tourism destination for the budget-conscious traveler.

Lake Titicaca is a hit with backpackers for its stunning scenery and abundance of history and culture, not to mention it’s ridiculously cheap.

With endless Inca ruins among picturesque rolling hills to explore, it’s no wonder young travelers flock to Cusco and the sacred valley in droves.

Then of course there’s Machu Picchu, that famous citadel which seems to be in the background of every second Facebook profile on earth.

And which backpackers would rather spend five days walking on a decrepit old Inca Trail than paying for that stupid, overpriced train.

Machu Picchu on the Inca Trail, Peru | © Ionut David / Alamy Stock Photo

Arequipa is a must, mostly for the nearby Colca Canyon where treks to view condors can be found for under 20 bucks a day.

For a slice of modern Peruvian life, look no further than Lima.

A desert oasis hidden among sand dunes, where dune buggy rides and sandboarding are the standard daily activities. Does Huachachina sound like a backpacker’s paradise? That’s because it is.

No South American tour would be complete without a trek through the Andes and there is no better place to do so than the mountains around Huaraz.

Peru’s answer to Manaus, Iquitos has all the usual wildlife tours plus a thriving ayahuasca industry, perfect for young backpackers looking for a psychedelic and spiritual escapade. The nearby floating town of Belén is out of this world too.

Backpackers after a beach break flock to Mancora, a north Peruvian resort town with a distinct party vibe.

Mancora beach in northwestern Peru | © Juan Napurí / Alamy Stock Photo

Although the Galapagos Islands aren’t exactly cheap, they are nothing short of amazing. It’s possible to visit without spending a small fortune too.

Budget travelers love Quito for its historical sights, low costs and proximity to pretty much any attraction in the country.

Baños is a great backpacker hangout for its natural splendor and myriad of adventure activities. The swing at the end of the world is pretty popular too.

Netflix’ hit series Narcos has really put Medellín on the map, for all the wrong reasons. Those days are long gone though, so travelers can now enjoy this friendly, picturesque city without the threat of being gunned down in the street.

Captivating, cosmopolitan and full of fascinating history, Bogota has plenty to see and do for the curious backpacker.

Trekking through dense jungle for days on end to discover a lost city sounds like every young traveler’s dream. Expect to find plenty of backpackers hanging around in nearby Santa Marta for this very reason.

Aside from the stunning turquoise beaches of nearby Tayrona National Park, young travelers mingle in Cartegena as they wait for a sailboat to ferry them across to Panama.

Tayrona National Park, Colombia | © chrispictures / Alamy Stock Photo

Remember what we said about waterfalls making people happy? The same applies to the epic Angel Falls (travel to Venezuela is not currently recommended).

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