South America has been beckoning long-service leave travellers for years, the continent offering a multitude of options for truly varied itineraries as well as some of the world’s most celebrated historical, cultural and natural wonders. This is an ideal continent to visit with more time and that is, primarily, what makes it such a top contender for long-service leave vacation.
Here are the most popular choices for a month-long stint in South America – should you wish to spend two months here, simply join the trips to create a unique and most unforgettable adventure.
What: South America Circle
Highlights: 4 Cities, Iguazu Falls, Amazon, Lake Titicaca, Machu Picchu
Where: Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Chile
When: May – October
A 3-week South America Circle is one of our most popular itinerary springboards for long-service tours and we love tailoring it to individual guests’ interests and desires. Mostly, this wicked route is about showing you that while you can experience a lot of the highlights here in a few weeks, you simply can’t do it all. Nevertheless, in a month, you can soak up the wonders of four main cities (Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, Lima and Santiago) and bag some of the most celebrated highlights in the continent, including Iguazu Falls, the Amazon rainforest, Lake Titicaca and Machu Picchu. This is a phenomenal starting point on a round-trip (no need to backtrack) and includes plenty of fascinating history, oodles of culture and magnificent wilderness to boot. The pace of this itinerary is quite full-on so for greater enjoyment you’ll want to take it down a notch and include a few rest days in between the main highlights.
What: An Overland Adventure Across the Central Andes & Amazon
Highlights: Atacama, Salar Uyuni, Rurrenabaque, Lake Titicaca, Machu Picchu, Cusco
Where: Chile, Bolivia, Peru
When: May – October
South America boast quite a few of the world’s best rated road trips, none more epic than the route that crosses from Andes Mountains from the Atacama Desert, in Chile, all the way to Cusco in Peru. On this road-trip of a lifetime, you can experience the stark beauty of the Atacama and the ethereal horizons of Salar Uyuni and the Bolivian Altiplano, before heading high into the Andes exploring Lake Titicaca and ending up in Cusco, the capital of the ancient Inca Empire and base point for visits to Machu Picchu. Every single drive-day on this route is magnificent, the landscapes contrasting to offer a jaw-dropping visual feast like no other. Moreover, the overlanding part of this trip will take just over two weeks, leaving you plenty of time to tackle the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu (see some options) and a spectacular jaunt to Rurrenabaque, one of the Amazon’s most hidden of treasures. This is the kind of road-trip you’ll want to tell the grandkids about.
What: Waterfalls, Wildlife & Wilderness
Highlights: Iguazu, Pantanal, Amazon & Galapagos
Where: Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador
Buenos Aires is one of the best starting points in the continent, superbly connected to Rio de Janeiro via the spellbinding Iguazu Falls. You’ll want at least a week to enjoy these three superb hotspots, which will leave you three more to play with: it’s time to get WILD! The best wildlife-destinations in Brazil are the Pantanal (for superb animal spotting) and the Amazon Rainforest (for the epitome jungle experience) although the Peruvian section of the Amazon also offers amazing options for lodge-based and cruising adventures. If you were to include the Pantanal in Brazil and the Amazon in Peru in your long-service trip, you’ll be just a short flight away from Quito (Ecuador), the starting point of visits to the Galapagos Islands. For the ultimate wildlife and wilderness experience in South America, this itinerary is unbeatable. Best part? Every destination in this cunning itinerary is great to visit at any time of year, with rain and dry seasons both offering very distinct advantages.
What: A Tour of Wild Patagonia
Highlights: Torres del Paine, Perito Moreno, Bariloche, Pucon, Ushuaia, Valdes Peninsula
Where: Chile & Argentina
When: October – March
Head to South America on a long-service leave journey during the Australian summer and you’ll be in for a treat. Patagonia, that gargantuan region of southern wilderness, is at its prime between October and March and if you’re a lover of overwhelming landscapes then this is the place for you. Every single Patagonian hot-spot, be it Torres del Paine, El Chalten, Los Glaciares or Bariloche, offers endless options for day-long and multi-day hiking. We offer a 27-day Wild Patagonia Overland Tour which runs from Santiago to Ushuaia and is suitable for active travellers who wish to have a fully-guided trip in the company of like-minded folks and is a great option for single travellers and couples alike. Yet you can plan your own private tour here without any issues, perfect if travelling with your family. Patagonia has a lot to offer: wine-growing regions, fjords and glaciers, sapphire lakes, granite peaks, marine reserves where orcas frolic and a wealth of unique wildlife to meet. Give yourself a full month and you can really do it some justice, also adding a visit to the Valdes Peninsula, one of Patagonia’s best whale-watching hubs.
What: An Expedition to Antarctica
Where: From Argentina
When: October – March
Expedition cruises to our world’s final frontier are best joined from Ushuaia, the southernmost city of Patagonia. Cruises only depart during the southern summer and usually last 10 – 12 days (the South Shetland Islands and Antarctic Peninsula), 13 days (slightly longer cruises to cross the Antarctic Circle) and 20 days (including stops on wildlife-brimming South Georgia and the Falkland Islands). Antarctic cruises are among the top 3 contenders for long-service leave journeys here, because they are a little more expensive and necessitate more travel time. For once-in-a-lifetime experiences, however, a journey to the White Continent is not just amazing but can be utterly life-changing. For lovers of dramatic and remote wilderness, Antarctica is a lifelong dream. You can read more about that, right here.
At Chimu Adventures, we love helping people plan their long-service leave (whilst patiently waiting for ours!) and have a ton more ideas to share with discerning adventurers. Discover why South America Beckons long-service leave travellers and check out our insider’s tips to make sure you know what to expect.
And when you’re ready to plan…we’ll be right here, ready to take your call.
Author: Laura Pattara
“Laura Pattara is a modern nomad who’s been vagabonding around the world, non-stop, for the past 15 years. She’s tour-guided overland trips through South America and Africa, travelled independently through the Middle East and has completed a 6-year motorbike trip from Europe to Australia. What ticks her fancy most? Animal encounters in remote wilderness, authentic experiences off the beaten trail and spectacular Autumn colours in Patagonia.”