If you’re dreaming of going to exotic Southeast Asia, or down-to-earth South America, you may be wondering where to start. Perhaps you feel intimidated by the thoughts of chaotic cities and strange languages. Or maybe you cringe at the idea of having to rough it, camping in jungles and bouncing around in chicken buses.

The truth is, travelling through those regions can be as rough or smooth as you want. Today and next Sunday, I present two easy trips for beginners that will feel comfortable, yet still provide that feeling of exoticism, adventure and discovery that travellers crave. And because you can easily organize them yourself instead of joining a tour, they’re not really expensive after you factor out the international flight.

These tours stick to the most developed countries in their respective regions, with good infrastructure, comfortable transportation, and delicious food.

An easy itinerary in South America

This trip explore three countries (Argentina, Uruguay and Chile) and can be done in three weeks without rushing. You can easily add extra destinations if you can spare a few more weeks. The best time of year for this trip is during the austral summer, between November and March.

Argentina and Uruguay

Fly into Buenos Aires, Argentina. Spend at least 4 days exploring this large and exciting city. Browse through neighbourhoods like Recoleta, La Boca and San Telmo, shop on pedestrian Calle Florida, admire the downtown architecture, watch a tango show, and feast on tender beef, rich pasta, and Argentinean wine.

Take a fast ferry across the Rio de la Plata to Colonia, Uruguay. Spend a couple of night to have the time to relax and appreciate this small colonial town with beautifully preserved buildings from its Portuguese and Spanish past. More delicious food awaits.

Back to Buenos Aires, book a cama suite bus to Mendoza and sleep your way to the top wine region in Argentina. (The seats recline completely flat and come with a blanket, pillow, dinner and breakfast.) While in Mendoza be sure to tour at least one winery and explore the five beautiful squares with ceramics and fountains. You may also want to do a side trip to San Rafael (another wine town) if you prefer smaller towns. Spend a whole week in this area.


For your third week, take a 7-hour bus trip across the Andes to Santiago, Chile. You want a day bus on this one, so you can watch the amazing scenery. Santiago is a mixture of old and new, with several museums, large parks, and a lot of seafood! Also keep a few days for nearby Valparaiso, a port city built on a steep hillside, with funiculars providing some of the public transit. The candy-coloured houses make this a very photogenic place. The resort town of Viña del Mar is a quick hop away by train.

Fly out from Santiago.

Make it longer

If you have more time, you may want to add an extra week or two in Argentina (around Salta or Bariloche) and/or Chile (around La Serena, Chillán or even Puerto Montt). Or if you want some beach time, go east from Colonia along the Uruguayan coast.

If you want to learn more about independent travel in South America, and Latin America in general, consider getting my e-book “Organize your own amazing trips to Latin America“. It provides you with a detailed road map to organizing trips like the one presented in this post. It’s the guide you should read before the guidebooks!

Tune in next week for part 2: “An independent itinerary in Southeast Asia”.


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