Favorite South American Destinations for Backpackers


A couple of years ago, backpackers used to flock to South East Asia without a second thought. And for good reason: most South East Asian countries are budget-friendly, rich in culture, and nicely developed. Fast forward to today, other continents have also sprung up on backpackers’ map of a list of possible continents to visit. One of these continents is South America, which offers everything from the world’s best salsa experience to an incredible diversity of food and cultures.

Each South American country will offer a memorable and unique experience; from immersing in the eye-catching palm trees in Colombia to participating in the carnival in Brazil, you can enjoy it all and then some! So, whether you’re planning a visit as part of a backpacking group or going solo, as long as you’re carrying some common sense and visit backpacker-friendly South American destinations, the experience of your life is waiting.  


Here are some of the favorite South American destinations for backpackers:

1. Argentina

Make sure your backpacking journey includes a few weeks’ trip to Argentina. It offers a touch of Europe in the continent – but a positive one! Buenos Aires, the capital, will allow you to watch a game of soccer, eat big steaks, and watch some of the best tango you’ll ever come across, all while the city charms you with its romantic and vibrant atmosphere. If you like staying out of the hostel on the weekends, the nightlife in Argentina is fantastic.

2. Colombia

The northernmost nation in South America has become a hot destination for backpackers and travelers alike after experiencing a shift from its cocaine stereotypes and cartels. A huge diversity of nightlife and some of the best colonial towns, it’d be smart to put it on your backpacking destinations’ list. Do go to Cartagena – the largest Caribbean port in the country. It’s best famous for the beautiful old town that is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. Ciudad Perdida is another must-visit city; the Lost City is one of the largest from the pre-era of Colombia (imagine Machu Picchu without the travelers).  

3. Peru

If you’ve enjoyed your fill of nightlife and city roaming in Argentina and Colombia, head over to Peru. Cuzco, one of Peru’s top backpacker-friendly destinations, is the ideal place for letting your hair down. When you’re there, don’t forget to make way to the central square of the city – Plaza de Armas – to discover unique restaurants, cafes, and pubs, which are the best places to meet new people and socialize. Alternatively, you can go to lost Inca city’s gateway by taking a train (it’s also a great place to find out why people love coming to Peru even though it is not commonly discussed in backpacking circles. Stay away from the dark alleys or cheap looking restaurants unless you’re carrying your own cutlery and plates.

4. Panama City

While visiting South America, don’t neglect the logistic and engineering side of it by ignoring Panama City. We recommend going to ‘Centro de Observacion de Ampliacion en Colon.’ It’s an externally situated structure that is 60 meters above sea level and is made entirely of metal. It’s the best place for catching a view of the many ships linking their route to the Canal, as well as seeing how the Atlantic and Pacific oceans are linked. If you have some time on your hands, you could also go to Gatun Lake to participate in the Eco-Tour. When it comes to the food, you must try the traditional breakfast meats such as Sausage Hojaldre and Carimanolas.

5. Brazil

Of course, Brazil had to be on this list. The country is most famous for its annual carnival, which offers a mix of diversity and energy that is different from what you see in a typical musical concert. The city’s capital Rio de Janeiro screams backpacking. Visit it and one day you’ll find yourself seeing the favelas which are the comfortable spot for more than a million Brazilian locals, and the next you’ll be relaxing at the Copacabana beach. Another go-to place for backpackers is Lapa Square. Head over there in the evening if you want to join others for dancing in the street and sipping caipirinhas. It’s a fabulous and memorable way to enjoy the Brazilian culture and make new friends along the way. One more thing solo men will love about Brazil is the women. We hope you get the chance to date a Brazilian woman during your trip!

6. Ecuador

Ecuador isn’t quite well known amongst backpackers because of its high costs. However, places like the Galapagos Islands are backpacker-friendly and offer a mix of both city and rural life. And a lot of travelers aren’t aware that it is possible to visit the fascinating archipelago without taking a costly cruise. In fact, backpackers can make a trip around the primary islands on a ferry, jumping in Isabela, Santa Cruz, and San Cristobal, which is home to some of the most exotic wildlife and pristine beaches. No wonder so many scenes from Blue Planet 2 by David Attenborough were shot here.

7. Uruguay

Being the last on the list, Uruguay is also a rising star. Backpackers can head straight into downtown life by visiting Plaza Fabini in Montevideo. Go to the La Pasiva, an outdoor café that serves hot dogs with a special mustard sauce along with the country’s most-loved grapefruit soda, Paso de los Toros. And if you love to shop, you can visit the high-end Pocitos neighborhood (there are a lot of boutiques there). Bar Fun Fun is the place to go for immersing in Uruguay’s nightlife; it was introduced in 1895 and is now a creative spot for candombe and tango music.

Bottom line

And that brings us to the end of the favorite backpacking destinations in South America. Although there are other great spots that aren’t mentioned here, we’ve tried to cover as many places as possible in the most logical way. If your favorite destination made the list, leave a comment to tell us and other Worldgoo readers what you love about it the most.



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