Planning your next South America backpacking route? Congratulations. Backpacking through South America tops many bucket lists, and with good reason. The sheer scale of the continent, as well as its natural beauty, are hard to beat. Backpacking offers freedom and a sense of adventure that is hard to find with other holidays. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a first-timer, this guide will help you find your way. If you take just one South America backpacking route in your lifetime, make it this one.
The ultimate South America backpacking route
Backpacking through any region will undoubtedly present surprises. Adaptability and flexibility are every bit as important as climbing clothes or raingear. No matter how well you plan, expect the unexpected. With that said, you’ve got to have a plan in mind. Draw out your route in advance, be prepared to improvise along the way, and you’ll be in good shape.
Regular readers of this blog will know that we have a soft spot for Patagonia. Little surprise, then, that our favourite South America backpacking route is through the Andes mountain range in southern Patagonia.
Backpacking in Patagonia
Patagonia is full of wonders worth exploring, and you’ll never be bored. For best results, consider this backpacking route.
Start in El Chalten, Argentina’s hiking and trekking capital. Allow yourself at least a day here for some wandering and exploration. More experienced and ambitious hikers might want to factor in considerably longer time for the bigger El Chalten hiking trails. Be warned, some of these are tough going. If it all seems too much, kick back in a local restaurant with a local beer.
El Chalten to Lago Argentino
Next stop, Lago Argentino. You’ll need to take the highway here, so consider a bus transfer or renting a car. Hitchhiking is never advisable, so be careful! When you get there, your reward is glaciers and lots of ’em.
Lago Argentino to El Calafate
When you’ve seen all the glaciers you could possibly want to see, it’s time to hit the road. El Calafate is best known as the entryway to Los Glaciares National Park, but it’s also a pretty happening town in its own right. Choose from a range of hip hotels and restaurants and rub shoulders with the locals. Try local food and wine, such as a succulent steak and a fruity Malbec – there are some seriously good steakhouses in town.
El Calafate to Torres del Paine
The final stop on this South American backpacking route may be the best of all. Wave goodbye to Argentina and cross the border into Chile, where your destination is Torres del Paine. If El Calafate wasn’t quite happening enough, stop off at Puerto Natales along the way. It’s lively to say the least.
When you get to Torres del Paine proper, it’s time to get the hiking boots out. Torres del Paine offers a wide range of trekking routes, with something for hikers of every skill level. Best known is the so-called W circuit, named for its shape on the Patagonia map.