The Best Backpacking Destinations in South America

By: CHRISTINE GILBERT | Pulished on 2024-01-02

Rio de Janiero, Brazil

The Best Backpacking Destinations in South America-Trip AdviseStanley Chen Xi, landscape and architecture photographer / Getty Images


Approach Rio just as Christ the Redeemer does: with open arms. Swim and tan on world-famous beaches like Copacabana or Ipanema. When you get hungry eat an acai bowl or order a mini-feast of feijoada (a meat and black bean dish) with a caipirinha. If you’re lucky enough to come during Carnival, dress up and take to the streets for a rhythmic, colorful, tipsy good time. Ride the train up to visit Christ the Redeemer and gaze at one of the best views of the city from the platform. Many of Rio’s main attractions can be reached by metro or walking, especially if you stay in Ipanema, Copacabana, or Botafogo.

Montañita, Ecuador

The Best Backpacking Destinations in South America-Trip AdviseBogdan Lazar / Getty Images


Surfers riding the right point break of La Punta and backpackers clinking glasses together in Cocktail Alley are common scenes in Montañita, Ecuador’s surf capital. The town is small (the main drag’s only about nine blocks), making it easy to orient yourself quickly. When not surfing or partying you can book creative Spanish classes at Montañita Spanish School, like the Spanish and scuba diving class, or stock up on cheap beachwear at one of the clothing stalls. An hour’s bus ride away in Ayampe, you can find yoga classes in English, less crowded beaches, and delicious (though far pricier) restaurants. Montañita can also be a base for a day trip to Isla La Plata, which shares some of the same wildlife as the Galapagos (think blue-footed boobies), but at a fraction of the cost to get there. Anywhere you stay will be close to the water, though some hostels offer beachfront-facing rooms.

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