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A Guide to Backpacking South America – Part 2

Welcome to part 2 of our Backpacking Guide to South America! We hope you enjoyed part 1?

This second part will look at what there is to see and do in the next 4 countries included in the South American continent, including Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana and Paraguay. Which one will you visit first?

Colombia

Boasting everything that makes South America a desirable destination and more, Colombia is a must see when you’re backpacking the region. With lush rainforest, huge majestic mountains and coffee plantations galore, there’s plenty to see and do here and we’d definitely recommend adding this beautiful country to your South America gap year route.

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3 Things You Need to See:

  1. San Andres – the picture perfect beaches on the island of San Andres will take your breath away. If you’re hoping for a secluded spot to relax for a couple of days, this island off the coast will fulfill that wish and more.
  2. Cocora Valley – Colombia’s coffee region is covered in wax palm trees which dominate the skyline. Nearby is the village of Salento which is worth a visit if you feel like going back in time. You can pick your own coffee beans and roast them yourself. Not many people can say they’ve done that!
  3. Tayrona National Park – pristine beaches, wild jungles and absolutely stunning mountain scenery, the landscape in this national park will take your breath away. You might even get chance to ride on the back of a mule!

 

3 Things You Need to Do:

  1. Nuqui Whalewatching – if you’re in Colombia around June time, this is the perfect opportunity to see some humpback whales. Every year they appear without fail and there are many tours that operate for tourists to see these majestic creatures. This draws lots of tourists and means the area of Nuqui caters very well for visitors.
  2. Gold Museum, Bogota – This is the most fascinating and popular museum in all of South America. Containing over 55,000 pieces of gold and other materials, take a trip through Colombia’s historic culture over three floors.
  3. Walk the streets of Cartagena – this is by far one of the most popular things for tourists and backpackers to do in Colombia and for good reason! Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site, you can walk or take a carriage ride through the streets and feel like you’ve been transported back in time. This is also perfect for those of you who love photography.

 

Other Things To Know:

When it comes to Colombia is covered under our Worldwide destination policies and we’d definitely recommend a Longstay policy if you’re going to be backpacking around South America for a while.

Ecuador

With the breathtaking Andes mountain range, Amazonian rainforest, Galapagos Islands and colonial villages, Ecuador is the most biodiverse country in the world. Thanks to it’s compact size, you can see and experience a lot in a short space of time. It needs no other introduction.

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3 Things You Need to See:

  1. Visit Cuenca – this city is the largest in Ecuador’s southern highlands and is nestled into a mountain valley at 8000 feet. It’s picturesque and full of Incan historical architecture.
  2. Cuicocha Lake – This is the most photographed lake in the country for good reason! It’s absolutely stunning with bright blue waters and dramatic landscape. A must see!
  3. Cotopaxi – Cotopaxi is the second highest summit in Ecuador and it’s snow covered peak is visible from Quito if you’re in that area. It is an active volcano, however it has very little activity at present and is really a stunning sight.

 

 3 Things You Need to Do:

  1. Cruise the Galapagos Islands – these remote islands lie off the coast of Ecuador and are well-renowned for their unique diversity of wildlife. You can see creatures here that you won’t find anywhere else in the world! Visiting these islands could be a holiday in itself, but you can partake in many different tours that are available to suit you.
  2. Straddle the Equator in Quito – How many people do you know that can say they’ve stood with one leg in each hemisphere??
  3. Otavelo Market – this market is the biggest in South America and the best day to visit is Saturday where it’s at it’s biggest. There’s a huge variety of clothing, food, jewellery and more to spend the day browsing. You could lose hours here.

 

Other Things To Know:

Guyana

This is one of the less visited countries in South America because of its reputation, but very few places on the planet can offer such a densely forested environment full of exploration and adventure. Although Guyana has one of South America’s poorest economies, it boasts a rich ecology and has much to offer.

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3 Things You Need to See:

  1. Kaieteur Falls - These waterfalls are slap bang in the centre of Guyana’s rainforest and they are the jewel of the National Park. You can see them in half a day and you’ll end up with some fantastic photos. Truly one of the world’s greatest waterfalls.
  2. Visit Iwokrama Forest – this forest is nearly one million acres of untamed wilderness and sits on one of the oldest exposed rock surfaces in the world. It is uninhabited by humans and you’ll get an unrivalled rainforest adventure if you pay this a visit.
  3. Shell Beach – This beach is on the north coast of the country and is very remote. Although not easy to get to, it’s totally worth it and you might get to see a rare sea turtle!

 

3 Things You Need to Do:

  1. Canopy Walkway in Iwokrama – suspension bridges 30m above the forest floor will give you a bird’s eye view of the rainforest below and you’ll feel closer to the diverse wildlife than ever.
  2. Go to Stabroek Market in Georgetown – This is easily the busiest place in the whole of Georgetown and is really worth a trip if you love to spend hours and hours browsing, touching and buying trinkets and food.
  3. Surama Village – a visit to the Machushi Tribe in this village is perfect for those of you who don’t like to simply sit back and take photographs. Immerse yourself in Amerindian culture here and understand the lifestyle and traditions of Guyana.

 

Other Things To Know:

 

Paraguay

Bordering Argentina, Bolivia and Brazil, Paraguay is completely landlocked. It’s one of the poorest countries in South America and is often overlooked by backpackers and tourists. But this small and misunderstood country is a little gem that should be appreciated for what it can offer. Here’s what you should see and do in Paraguay.

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3 Things You Need to See:

  1. Asuncion – You need to see this city purely because it’s the capital and the largest city in the country. It is also one of the oldest cities meaning it’s bursting with history and places to explore.
  2. Itaipu Dam – This dam is one of the seven engineering wonders of the world and the worlds second largest hydroelectric project. It’s absolutely huge and a magnificent sight to behold. You can visit here and get a guided tour.
  3. Trinidad and Jesus UNESCO site – Historical and protected as a World Heritage site, the ruins you can see here are impressive and give you a sense of how life must once have been.

 

3 Things You Need to Do:

  1. Conservation work – If looking after the planet is your thing, you can pay a visit to the Pro Cosara organisation near Villarrica and see the work they’re doing on forest conservation. You can stay there and explore the region for yourself too.
  2. Visit Salto del Monday – An impressive 80m high waterfall not far from Iguazu Falls in Argentina across the border, it’s well worth a visit and you can make a day of it.
  3. See the Central Chaco Lagoons – These are a series of saline lakes which are incredibly important to the native birds in the country. Visit during May-September when flocks of exotic ducks and flamingos fill the waters.

 

Other Things To Know:

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