Backpacking 4 mo. South or Central America?
Replies: 9 - Last Post: Feb 16, 2013 11:10 AM Last Post By: lcio
Feb 14, 2013 11:19 PM
Backpacking 4 mo. South or Central America?I am going to be backpacking South and/or Central America for a little more than 4 months beginning mid-March. I am having the toughest time deciding where to go!!!! I am taking this trip before starting professional school, which will take me anywhere from four to eight years to complete, so I see this trip as the last opportunity to pack in a lot of travel and adventure. I am a twenty something female traveling solo. I'm looking to be awed by natural beauty, and I'd also love to avoid really touristy areas and activities.
The things I would be most excited about are a) seeing a jaguar in the wild b) the Amazon and c) Angel Falls.I am considering beginning my trip in Colombia and working my way overland through Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia to the Pantanal in Brazil, then flying out of Rio. My other South American option is to start in Bolivia and go overland to Venezuela, where I'd visit Angel Falls. I am of course worried that either of these options pack in WAY too much in such a short amount of time. I think I'd be OK skipping Machu Picchu and Southern Peru completely in general, but everyone tells me I'm nuts to do so. I'm a big hiker, so everyone is telling me the Inca Trail is a must-do. I feel conflicted spending so much for a hike.
The catch is that a nagging voice in my head keeps telling me that what I really want to do is enjoy a warm, sunny, beach. I've had a rough past couple of years, and know that my upcoming educational experience will be quite stressful. A part of me just wants to enjoy the lush forests and tropical beaches of Central America. So I've considered just backpacking Central America or working my way up from somewhere in South America so I end in Panama or Costa Rica.
I'm really hoping for an experience that awes and empowers me. South America fits that bill, but I do worry I'll spend a lot of the time in South America feeling rushed, tired and cold (other than in the Amazon). I am sick of the cold (though where I am going to school is HOT so perhaps I'll wish I'd gone to the Arcitic!)... I'm worried that upon starting a stressful school program, I'll wish I had just been really lazy on the beach. On the other hand, I'm worried that Central America will wear on my patience within the first day given it's greater number of tourists. I really, really really want to avoid feeling like I am part of a packaged Walt-Disney type of experience. I also have heard that backpackers in Central America tend to party a lot, and that's not what I'm going for right now. I wonder if I could end up bored in Central America quickly, given that I've never been one to seek laying out on a beach in my typical life.
South America sounds so amazing and has so much to offer, I'm really struggling to let go of any of the things I want to see and do. But I also worry about rushing around so much and forgoing just relaxing and soaking up the sun, as I would in Central America. I suppose the conflict is that a part of me is looking for a really genuine, get-your-hands-dirty, challening experience but the other part of me is looking for an easygoing, relaxing experience. But I do bore easily!
So, I am wondering - for those who have backpacked both regions, which do you prefer? Why? Do you have any suggestions for routes, given what I have described that I am looking for?
Thank you for any insight and advice!!! I am not a great decision-maker and can't keep waffling as I am leaving for somewhere in four weeks!
Feb 14, 2013 11:26 PM
Feb 14, 2013 11:30 PM
2Your first trip outline is very fast for 4 months,but not impossible.I'd cut the distance down (either start further south,or end further north).
Why do you think you should go somewhere just because other people like it? The Inca Trail is not essential..it is not even a particularly interesting hike (though the end is special of course).
There are plenty of beaches in SA as well....esp. in Colombia and Brazil.And plenty of 'lush forest' too.....
Feb 14, 2013 11:34 PM
3Having said that,a lot of your (mis)conceptions of CA don't add up.
There are parts with lots of tourists,and party places.There are also plenty of places where you won't see a tourist for miles.There is indigenous culture,trekking,jungles,colonial cities etc. as well as beaches.
I spent three months there last summer of which 4-5 days was snorkelling/diving and not one sitting on the beach...
Feb 15, 2013 2:54 AM
4I am in the same predicament, I am trying to avoid getting a new job so am planning to ship my Land Rover to Argentina in early April and wander around for 4-5 months. Keep in comms and if you need a lift give me a shout. Drove to Cape Town from London two years ago and now can't stop travelling !!
Feb 15, 2013 6:42 AM
5So, your key drivers are a) seeing a jaguar in the wild b) the Amazon and c) Angel Falls.
For (a) your chances are limited, even in the Brazilian Pantanal. There are Jaguars in other parts of the Amazon Basin, however your best option may well be the Pantanal.
For (b) there are lots of options, Leticia, Iquitos, Manaus, etc....
For (c) obviously you have only one option.
So, although I am not much for specific recommendations, you could perhaps consider this:
Start in Lima, visit Machu Picchu (include the "Inca Trail" if you end up deciding that this is worth it), visit more of Peru as your interests guide you (say 4 weeks in all). Fly to Iquitos, then take river boats down the Amazon to Manaus, stopping at Leticia, (2 weeks).
Then take a return ticket from Manaus to Cuiabá or Campo Grande to visit the Pantanal and Bonito (2 weeks).
On returning to Manaus, head north to Boa Vista and then on to Santa Elena in Venezuela. In the Gran Sabana take the six day hike up Monte Roraima, one of the great hikes on the planet, to the "Lost World". Then head for Ciudad Bolivar and go to Angel Falls. This should take around 3 weeks. Then visit the Orinoco Delta (another week). Fly home from Caracas.
This meets (or gives you the best chance to meet) all of your three objectives, and takes around 3 months, which gives you another month to do other things, travelling from anywhere en route. For example, you could continue down the Amazon to Belem, visit the north coast of Brazil, then fly to Cuiabá or Campo Grande. Or you could travel from Peru to Bolivia and visit the Salar de Uyuni. Or, if the internal flights in Brazil are financially not viable, you could take some of the extra month to cover the journey from Manaus to the Pantanal by boat/bus. Or a million other options.
Lots of choices, and no doubt others will challenge this base case.
Feb 15, 2013 8:09 AM
Feb 15, 2013 8:13 AM
7I also have heard that backpackers in Central America tend to party a lot, and that's not what I'm going for right now
Seriously, where do people get this stuff?
Backpackers "tend to party a lot" in every country they infest. "Greater number of tourists?" Too much to even correct there, but Lucapal at least got the ball rolling for you.
Feb 15, 2013 6:50 PM
8Thank you so much for the feedback and suggestions! So helpful!
I really didn't mean to offend anyone by suggesting that CA is a party scene. I have never been to either CA or SA, and was only repeating what others have told me and what I have read online. Central America looks and sounds amazing. I just heard it attracts more tourists, and because of it's smaller size, laid-back culture and relative ease of getting around, younger backpackers tend to head there to go out and enjoy themselves. I have absolutely no issue with that and think it sounds like a fantastic time, it's just not what I'm looking for right now.
I'm so inclined to make South America my destination because the key things I'm hoping to see and do are in SA, but it's difficult to give up the opportunity to see Central America, too. It sounds like a fantastic backpacker experience.
I think I am going to stick with South America, and really appreciate everyone's suggestions. The riverboat to Brazil sounds like a fantastic idea.
Feb 16, 2013 11:10 AM
9one week for stuff. the Amazon basin
Some very useful advice, It depends what you're looking for,The Amazon river itself is amazing to see, wherever you go. The places furthest upstream tend to offer most biological diversity, if you want to see lots of animal species. Also, the further you can get away from human settlements, the more likely you are to find larger animals like monkeys, peccaries, jaguars, etc.
With enough money and time, you can get away to isolated places wherever you want to visit in the Amazon basin. Or if you just want to see the Amazon jungle with the most diverse range of animals possible, more cheaply.....
I'm peruvian and live in Iquitos in the jungle and lived in the jungle all my life here and there. And there and here you can find amazing experiences in the jungle. for more info , take a look at some of the entries as you can see here :
or E-mailing me to : email@example.com
if you're interested in the details, costs, route etc, Happy to answer any questions too.
Reserva Provincial Esteros del IberáBook now
(4 star Hotel)
From US$240.00 per night
Puerto MadrynBook now
(0 star Hotel)
From US$15.23 per night
Puerto MadrynBook now
(0 star Hotel)
From US$16.25 per night