The most important learning I’ve done so far, on my study abroad to Buenos Aires, has been done outside of the classroom. Between booking plane tickets, running through train stations, trying to explain complicated subjects in Spanish and making adventures happen, I’ve been constantly learning (while failing and succeeding in between).
Lots of that learning takes place in transit though. Contrary to what many believe, traveling in South America isn’t impossible.
True, it’s no Europe, but South America has tons of options for travel that are easy to get to, affordable and most of all: completely worth it.
By utilizing hostels, seeking out bus options instead of always flying and making a budget and sticking to it, you can see South America efficiently and affordably.
It’s not always glamorous, but traveling in South America is really simple and fun, especially with a group of friends!
From Buenos Aires, here are some of the most popular trips to go on:
- Patagonia Mountains, Argentina: There are lots of options for cities to go to in the Patagonia region. Since it is a region, and mountain range, it’s possible to visit many cities. I went to El Calafate and El Chaltén last weekend and I couldn’t recommend it more. For anybody who loves hiking/trekking, seeing incredible mountains, lagoons and waterfalls and a little adventure, these cities are for you. Another popular city: Bariloche. ($$$$)
The Patagonia Mountain Range, from El Calafate, at sundown.
- Mendoza, Argentina: Known for its wineries and beautiful views, this city is only an overnight bus ride away from Buenos Aires. The buses here have reclining seats (so it’s almost a bed) and some even have WiFi! As for Mendoza itself, highlights include biking wine tours, trips to Incan ruins and other outdoorsy excursions. ($$)
- Cordoba, Argentina: Another bus ride away is Cordoba, a city popular for its nightlife and college scene. ($$)
- Chile: Cities in Chile are only a short plane ride from Buenos Aires. I’ve heard that Santiago is very similar to Buenos Aires, so it’s not necessarily the best cultural option for somebody studying in Buenos Aires. However, I’ve been told to visit Valparaíso and cities along Patagonia because they’re full of character, a different twang of Spanish and beautiful views. ($$$)
- Iguazú Falls, Argentina/Brazil: These breathtaking waterfall lies on the border of Brazil and Argentina. Many of my friends went last weekend and said it was absolutely breathtaking and they’re so glad they went. You can take a bus or a plane to Iguazú, making it easy to get to and affordable for any budget. ($$)
This is one of the many waterfalls you can see while visiting Iguazú—tours allow you to get really close, and soaking wet, while looking at all of the beautiful waterfalls! Photo courtesy of Kayla Landis.
- Brazil: In order to visit Brazil, you must pay $160 USD for a Brazilian tourist visa. While this may be a bother, rumor has it it’s more than worth it. Be aware: Brazilians speak Portuguese which isn’t that similar to Spanish so you have to be prepared for difficulties in speaking the language. However, once you’re in Rio de Janiero, attending Carnaval in February or spending a weekend in Salvador, you’ll realize how unique Brazil truly is. ($$$$$)
- Peru: This is the final destination I’m hoping to see before coming back to the United States. I’ve always dreamt of seeing Machu Picchu, and I’ve been told by a handful of people that they could never have fathomed how incredible it is. This is a trip that you have to be ready to dedicate more time and money for (probably about six days), but has plenty of ruins and trekking opportunities to fill the days. ($$$$$)
There are so many more places I didn’t even mention that are easy to get to and worth going to in South America. The hardest part is finding the time to see everything! I worried that I’d regret going to Argentina because I wouldn’t get to “see the world.” I was so wrong.
Throwing up the W in the mountains nearby El Chaltén. Even with this I can’t do the grandeur and size of the mountains and laguna justice!
Coming to South America has completely changed my perspective, opened my eyes to another way of living and allowed me to see the world. The cities here are so alive and twenty-something friendly and I believe everyone can benefit from spending time on this continent.