Peru, Bolivia and Argentina for 5 weeks
My friend and myself are planning to head off to South America for 5 weeks in Sept-Oct 2012. It is still a while away but I have a few questions to ask that will help us plan and save for this trip:
Organised tours or plan as you go:
We have found 2 tours (Gecko and Intrepid) that covers the above mentioned countries that we might go with. I am someone who like to 'wing it' ie. book a few things but book tours etc when I get to the destination. Now, I know this strategy works well for Europe, Australia etc but would it work in South America. Is it too risky to do this? Better to go with an organised tour? What do you all suggest?
Always wanted to go to Chile but would it be squeezing too many places in 5 week if I added Chile?
Other suggested destinations:
Any locations/ towns that you think we MUST cover. We are really looking forward to the history and the culture with a modest big of walking/hiking. Any additional suggestions?
Many thanks...now to go work on the Europe trip that is in 2 months time!
Up to you on the tour route, with time as a constraint maybe it would be better. I've never done it myself - except for trekking tours etc. I've meet people who were taking a bus all the way around South America and whilst it was cheap (compared to how much I have spent) and did sound kind of cool, it wasn't my thing. On the leg of the tour when I met them the bus was in two groups and not really getting on. There were the people who went to bed early to go and see everything, then the other group liked to see things, but only after midday when they'd awoke from the drunken night before...
Places imho you must go:
Machu Pichu - You can book other tours there besides the 'Inca trail'. Salkantay for example.
Arequipa - stunning central plaza and architecture - You can trek around there as well, not just the Colca Canyon
Lake Titicaca - Up to you which side, or both
Salar de Uyuni - either to or from San Pedro in Chile (Laguna Colorado is probably the most beautiful sight I've seen) the salt flat isn't too bad either
El Calafate, El Chalten (Fitz Roy and the Perito Moreno) This will be difficult with your time unless you fly, both are near the south of Argentina and are spectacular.
If you're interested in the jungle, you can fly from La Paz to Rurrenabaque, or from Lima to Iquitos, both are reasonably cheap and the jungle tours are reasonably priced from those destinations.
Again imho you should try to get to the jungle if you're in SA.
From Mendoza in Argentina you can take a bus over to Santiago, then maybe go to Val Pariso (sp?) and Vina del Mar which are supposed to be nice. You could also cross over near El Calafate but a lot of the things to do are trekking orientated (W trek in Chile for example).
For most tours you won't have to book in advance unless you really want to do the Inca trail (personally I wouldn't, there are others for half the price which you can book a day in advance or next day - Turn up in Cusco and go to one of the million agencies they have there).
I've booked loads of tours on the fly and I don't think I've ever had to wait more than a day.
If you do fly independently (within South America that is), then that is something worth looking into in advance for a place like Argentina.
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