The Best Backpacking Destinations in South America

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

Valparaiso, Chile

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Get lost in Valparaiso’s 42 hills and discover a community of artists, hippies, and seafarers. A city as quirky as its residents, Valpo sprawls over 42 hills jumbled together next to the cold shores of the Pacific Ocean. Famous for both large and small-scale street art and as a home base of Pablo Neruda's (you can visit his house, La Sebastiana), it’s a city where art and functionality meet: think piano key stairs and public slides to get down hills. Ride the funiculars (train car elevators) and go during one of the city’s many festivals to experience it at its liveliest. Stay in the historic quarter of the seaport, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as Valpo's main lodging and dining hub.

Bariloche, Argentina

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A major stop for those biking the length of South America, Bariloche has the feel of a candy land surrounded by shimmering lakes ripe for wild swimming. While the shop windows of Mitre's main street display some of the country’s best chocolatiers, like Rappa Nui and Mamushka’s, the nearby mountains of Nahuel Huapi National Park offer a different type of sweetness: short trails and multi-day through hikes. Visit the historic Llao Llao Hotel (maybe even book lunch in their hydroponic dome) and rent a bike to ride Circuito Chico.


You'll see some of the area's most famous viewpoints, such as the deck from the Patagonia Brewery, as well as famous lakes, and pristine forests. This is also a prime spot for rock climbing in Argentina, especially up by Refugio Frey and Cerro Lopez. Public transportation is decently priced, though hitchhiking is the cheapest and often most convenient option. Stay at one of the many hostels located along the shores of Lake Nahuel Huapi.

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