SOUTH AMERICA 4 WEEKS ITINERARY (PERU – BOLIVIA – CHILE)
The eyes of the world are on South America at the moment, Machu Picchu is probably on the top of every traveler’s bucket list.
Unless you have at least 3 weeks or a month to spend in each of its countries, you probably won’t get to see as much of the country as you’d like, at least on a first trip.
For our first trip to South America we decided to split our 4 weeks between Peru, Bolivia and Chile and we really enjoyed all of them.
Getting Around South America:
Due to the limited number of days, to travel within South America, flying is the most logical option. South America operates a few different airlines that you can pick up for a quite cheap price. We flew with Latam and StarPeru and the tickets ranged from $60-$150 per person for each leg.
Bus day and overnight rides are also available but sometimes they might take many hours due to the distance and terrain.
We used the buses twice, from Cusco to Puno and from Puno to La Paz. Make sure to book with a good company and check for comfortable seats.
Train is not very common in South America. We only used it to and from Macchu Picchu (Aguas Calientes). This ride is extremely touristic, that’s why the prices are so high. You can choose between PeruRail and IncaRail, we picked the first one (cheaper). The choice is now between two trains, Expedition and Vistadome. We wanted to try both to see the differences. With both trains you can enjoy a spectacular view thanks to the huge windows and they both offer you complimentary drink and snacks. Vistadome is a bit more expensive with a slightly better service and a kind of Peruvian entertainment show.
Where to Stay in South America:
Choosing the right accommodation location is one of the most important things when you travel. You want to make sure you are close to the main places and attractions in order to maximise your time.
South America is a very common destination among backpackers so you will easily find accommodations on any budget. If you are looking for a bed in a dormitory you can spend a very little amount in Bolivia – the cheapest over these three countries – less than $10 a day. Peru and Chile are a bit more expensive, but you can still have plenty of choice for something around $20 a day.
During our stay, we mostly visited mid-range hotels with double room, private bathroom and breakfast included in the rate, a part from the days in the Amazon where we stayed at a nice but very basic place with shared facilities. In the itinerary, you will find all the hotels names among with all the prices. They ranged from $30-$60, apart from some places in Chile. Coming from Bolivia you will find your new destination, way more expensive. Not sure about our plans we also have booked at last minute and it didn’t help us to find cheap hotels.
THE ULTIMATE ITINERARY:
DAY 1-2: Miraflores (Lima)
Arrival Lima. Taxi Airport to Miraflores $20
¬ Marqay Friends Hostel Miraflores (2 nights, $70)
DAY 3-4-5: Puerto Maldonado, Amazon
Flight Lima to Puerto Maldonado (Latam $150)
Tours/Activities Organized by the Hostel
¬ Isuyama Hostel (3 nights, $75)
DAY 6: Cusco
Flight Puerto Maldonado to Cusco (Star Peru $100)
Munaycha Casa Hospedaje ($45)
Here you can store your baggage before the Machu Picchu trip. If you are going to M.P. by train you are only allowed to carry one small backpack per person.
DAY 7: Aguas Calientes (the nearest village to Macchu Picchu)
Day Taxi Cusco to Pisac. Our hotel helped us to arrange the day taxi with some cultural sites stops. We can’t remember how much we paid but it wasn’t a lot.
Pisac Market + Sacred Valley (Ruines, Moras, Moray)
Train PeruRail (Expedition) Ollantaytampu to Aguas Calientes 7pm $75
¬ Andino Hotel $60
DAY 8: Ollantaytampu
Early morning: Bus to Macchu Picchu
MACCHU PICCHU + HUAYNA PICCHU (The Highest Mountain)
> If you want to be at Macchu Picchu in the early morning, you will need to start queuing at 3:30/4am. I know it might sound crazy but trust me. Queuing at 4am we were able to catch the bus only at 6:45am and we arrived at M.P. at 7:15am, just in time to start the Huaynapicchu hike (1st group 7-8am).
It took us about 2 hours for the round trip. It wasn’t easy, the steps are quite steep, but we did it and we are not professional hikers. Everyone in a good shape and afraid of heights can do that.
MAKE SURE TO BOOK IT WELL IN ADVANCE. THEY ONLY ALLOW 400 PEOPLE A DAY. Train PeruRail (Vistadome) Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytampu 4pm $95
¬ Ollantaytampu Hostel Main Square ($35)
DAY 9: Cusco
Colectivo to Cusco
¬ Munaycha Casa Hospedaje ($45)
DAY 10-11-12: Uros Islands, Lake Titicaca
Bus Cruz Del Sur to Puno (6 h $20)
¬ Uros Qhantany Lodge (3 nights, $200)
Activities/tours arranged by the Hotel
Uros islands are a group of 70 man-made totora reed islands floating on Peru’s Lake Titicaca. Its inhabitatants, the Uros tribe, pre-date Incan civilization and continue to hunt and fish the land and waters they occupy. We spent 3 beautiful days at this beautiful lodge learning about the Uros and spending time with the local family who run the place. This place is really beautiful and unique.
DAY 13-14: La Paz (BOLIVIA)
Bus Puno to La Paz Inkaexpress (7-8h $20)
¬ Sol Andino Hostal (2 nights, $70)
DAY 15-16-17 SAL DE UYUNI + LAGUNE COLORADE
Flight La Paz to Uyuni (Latam $90)
3D/2N Tour Quechua Connection 4WD $180
Drop-off San Pedro De Atacama
DAY 17-18-19-20 San Pedro De Atacama (CHILE)
¬ Terra Luna Atacama (4 nights, $400) Very nice lodge but not the cheapest one and the closest to the centre.
SAN PEDRO DE ATACAMA
Atacama Desert is not only the driest place on Earth but also a place that can surprise you quite a bit. From the mountains, salt flats, volcanoes, pink flamingos, multi colored lagoons, Atacama will make a trip hard to forget. San Pedro de Atacama is the popular rustic town close to the desert where you can easily spend between 3-6 days.
Coming from our tour in Bolivia, we have seen many similar landscapes so we decide to take it easier and to skip some of the sites. Below a list of the beautiful sites you can visit. There are many tour operators you can easily find just walking through the main street in San Pedro. We used Touristour and we would recommend it.
You can also hire a car and do some of the tours on your own but joining a group will save you some time and effort. Moon Valley can be done with a bicycle; however, the tour is not really expensive.
- Moon Valley or Valle De La Luna
- Tatio Geysers (very unique but you need to wake up around 3:30/4am)
- Altiplanic Lagoon
- Atacama Salt Flats
- Piedras Rojas
- Puritana Termas (Natural Hot Spring)
- Astronomic Tours
DAY 21-22-23 Valparaíso
Flight Calama to Santiago (Latam, $150)
¬ La Petite Maison (3 nights, $160)
DAY 24-25 Santiago
¬ Quiral Hotel Boutique (2 nights, $165)
During peak season book your Train Ticket to/from Aguas Calientes (Macchu Picchu)
If you want to be at M.P. at early morning (before 7-8am) make sure to start queqing from 3-4am. Don’t worry, you won’t be alone! First bus leaves at 5:30am and it takes about 30 mins but it will take time before you can jump on a bus. It’s crazy, it really is.
Book well in advance Ticket for Huaynapicchu (7-8am or 10-11am slots, only 200 people each slot allowed per day)
To save time you can buy in advance bus ticket from Aguas Calientes to M.P. directly there or also in Cusco.
Book the same hotel in Cusco before and after M.P. so that you can store your luggage. On the train, you are only allowed to carry one small backpack per person.
WHERE TO EAT:
Punta Azul (Miraflores) Delicious seafood (ceviche, octopus…)
La Lucha Sangucheria (Miraflores) For a different great sandwich
Cicciolina (Cusco) Great Peruvian food. Meat/seafood (TOP)
Chicha (Cusco) Great Peruvian food. Meat/seafood
Adobe (San Pedro De Atacama) Chilean Food. (try Lomo al Phil Phil)
Casa Luisa (Valparaiso) Delicious Chilean Food in a beautiful causy atmosphere
Chipe Libre – Republica Independiente del Pisco (Santiago) Peruvian/Chilean food (a large selection of Pisco/Pisco Cocktails)
> During your trip, make sure to try both Peruvian and Chilean Pisco Sour and tell us which one you prefer.