Ask the experts: A South America sabbatical trip

Our panel give advice on a three-month sabbatical trip across South America

By National Geographic Traveller (UK)
Published 8 Apr 2019, 23:59 BST, Updated 1 Jul 2021, 14:21 BST

I'm taking a three-month trip to South America, starting in Brazil, next year. I'm planning to travel from the Atlantic to the Pacific. What route do you suggest?

Laura Rendell-Dunn, destination specialist at Journey Latin America:
Fly into Salvador (via Madrid), the capital of Bahia in Brazil's northeast, famous for its colonial centre, beaches and African-Brazilian culture. Spend a month in Brazil visiting Rio de Janeiro, the Pantanal wetlands and Iguazu Falls. Travel overland into Paraguay's capital, Asuncion, then fly to La Paz in Bolivia and spend two to three weeks visiting the Uyuni Salt Flats, Potosi silver mines, colonial city of Sucre, Tarabuco market and Tiwanaku pre-Inca ruins. Cross Lake Titicaca into Peru and travel by train from Puno to Cusco for the Sacred Valley. Spend a week in Cusco, taking the four-day Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu (book permits in advance). Return to Cusco and fly to Puerto Maldonado in the Amazon for three or four nights at a jungle lodge. Final stop: Lima, to indulge in its fantastic foodie scene.

Ben Box, author of Footprint's 90th anniversary edition of The South American Handbook:
A route brimming with highlights is Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador. Try Rio de Janeiro to the Iguazu Falls, then overnight bus to Campo Grande for Pantanal. Cross into Bolivia and climb to colonial Sucre and, higher still, to the plundered silver mountain at Potosí on the way to Uyuni. Head to Peru via La Paz and Lake Titicaca en route to Cusco. Descend to the Pacific via Arequipa and the Colca Canyon, take in the Nazca Lines and Paracas. Continue up the Pacific coast via Lima and Trujillo, with a side trip to trek in the Cordillera Blanca. Make your way to Ecuador, for a few days rambling past volcanoes to Quito, where you can arrange the ultimate nature tour: the Galápagos islands.

Hilary Bradt MBE, founder of Bradt Travel Guides and South America fan:
Southern hemisphere summers are quite short, so to get the best weather in the spectacular parts of Chile and Argentina travel between November and March. If your interests lie in the Incas, start in June and travel north-west to Ouro Preto, with its cool climate. Travel on to Iguazu, then tourist-free Asuncion, Salta in Argentina with its colonial architecture, laid-back La Paz, and Cusco for Machu Picchu, finishing in foodie capital Lima. Or, start in September and travel south-west to Iguazu, then swaggering Buenos Aires, on to Mendoza  in Argentina for wine and the Andes, Santiago in Chile for the food and wine, then south to mountainous Puerto Montt.

Published in the October 2014 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)


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