TO FIGHT THE TEDIOUS DOG-DAYS OF SUMMER, past generations packed up their Jansports and headed to Europe. However, with the dollar struggling to compete against the Euro, this option isn’t economical anymore. If you want to save money and visit areas that aren’t overpopulated and present gorgeous scenery, backpacking in South America is the perfect solution.
South America is huge. You could spend several days exploring just one country. Websites such as travelindependent.info/america-south can help you decide where to go and offer ways to reduce the cost. Travel guides, like the Let’s Go series, provide advice on the best sights and the cheapest places to stay while on your adventure. Accommodations can be booked through the website hotelworld.com.
First stop: Chile. The best place to stay in the nation’s capital, Santiago, is Hostal Forestal. Everything is within walking distance from this reasonably-priced hostel. From Santiago you can take a bus (the cheapest form of transportation) to Valparaiso, which along with neighboring Vina del Mar, provides beaches, discothèques and gambling. Further north, in Arica, is the HI Casa de Huespedes, where rooms start at $10/night. This hostel is run by actual travelers, which add to its character. After seeing these cities, you could spend another two or three weeks exploring the diverse landscape of the country, from the desolate Atacama Desert, to the lush rainforests of the Lake District, down to the magnificent glaciers of Patagonia.
After Chile, head up to Peru. Ride on the Cruz del Sur bus line making your way to Tacna, across the border. Board another bus to Cusco. The cheapest hostel yet, the LOKI Backpacker Hostel ($8/night), will accommodate you as you take in the amazing monuments near Cusco. A trip to the ancient Incan ruins of Machu Picchu is well worth it—it’s an incredible sight to behold. Special backpacker trains run from Cusco to Machu Picchu, or many students choose to hike up the Inca Trail to the summit. After Machu Picchu and the neighboring Sacred Valley, check out Lima and Trujillo, where museums, restaurants, and shopping are plentiful.
The easiest way to get to Ecuador from Peru is by the international bridge across Río Zarumilla. Immigration will give you several documents; hang onto everything, you’ll need them to get out of the country. Ecuador has a variety of adventures for any traveler. Quito, the capital, is a modern city with many historical attractions. You can also visit rainforests in the Amazon basin and cloud forests in Mindo and Bellavista, or mountain bike down the slopes of active volcanoes. If you can afford a real splurge, take a trip to the Galapagos Islands to see a remarkable variety of wildlife. Save on costs by arranging your trip once you get to Ecuador. <<