If you're looking for an unforgettable, but yet affordable adventure, then you have to plan a backpacking trip through Central or South America. Not only will you find unbelievable sites along the way and the most delicious food you'll ever taste, but you will also find that you will make friends along the way that you will never forget. All you need is a plan, a backpack full of the essentials and a sense of adventure... let's go!
1. Quito, Ecuador
To discover Ecuador, start visiting the colonial look of downtown Quito. Get to know the roots of the city as you walk on De la Ronda Street and arrive to “Museo Mindalae”, the top ethnic history museum in South America. For sightseeing, you don’t want to miss riding on the second highest Teleférico in the world (4,000 meters above ground), on the west of Quito by the Pichincha volcano. And of course a must visit spot is "The Equator" - take a picture standing by the imaginary line that divides the globe in half.
2. Cuzco, Peru
Cuzco is known as a top party destination in Perú. You will find pubs, restaurants and cafes at Plaza de Armas. If you enjoy listening to live local music, then you must stop at “Muki” (40 years leading nightlife in Cuzco) or "El Garabato" on Espaderos Street. If you look forward to tasting Andine-Cuisine, then you must try some guinea pig or alpaca at "El Macondo" bistro.
Most importantly, Cuzco is your ticket to Machu Picchu. You can board the 4-5 days Inca trail, along with 400 travelers. You can try Salkantay trek or Lares Valley trek, to enjoy the scenes of Andes in a less crowded train. However, if you enjoy hiking, definitely go for the “Camino Inca”, 3-day walking and climbing through old Preruvian trails till you reach Intipunku entrance of Machu Picchu.
3. La Paz, Bolivia
Known as The Big City in Bolivia with high-buildings, stadiums and outdoor markets. Get an awesome view of the city from "Mirador del Cristo", reachable via Teleférico (sunset is the best time). The Archeology Museum is also an interesting spot that you should visit. Something unique you can explore is the jungle at Villa Tunari.
For a fantastic high altitude trek, visit Condoriri base camp, which can be reached by foot beginning at Tuni Lagoon (3 days trekking from La Paz). The views are highly rewarding, overlooking the immense Condoriri Massif, 13 snow packed peaks ranging from 5,100 – 5,648m.
4. Panama City, Panama
Don't miss the engineering, logistic and nature of Panama City. Visit the new "Centro de Observación de Ampliacion en Colón", an outdoor multilayer metal structure (60 meters above the sea), where people can have a view of the connection between Pacific and Atlantic Oceans (50 meters away from the scene), looking at enormous ships connecting their way through the Canal. If you are spending more than 2 days in the city, join an Eco-Tour at Gatún Lake.
To try some local cuisine, you have to order Carimañolas (fried miniature-empanadas) or "Sausage Hojaldre" which are the traditional breakfast options in Panamá City.
5. San Jose, Costa Rica
Chepe, as the city is referred to by locals, is a very cosmopolitan city. Plaza de la Cultura is the ideal location to begin exploring city’s urban attractions, starting with Pre-Columbian Gold Museum that lies beneath the plaza.
Admire the "Mix Used Tower", the latest landmark and a progressive environmental architectural project nested in San Jose since 2012. Hotels, restaurants and offices are also merged in the building.
If you are looking for a beach destination, you can drive 4 hours or take a 1-hour flight towards Playas del Coco, a spot with clear water, boat tours, scuba-diving, turtles at the beach and a boulevard full of casinos.
6. Lima, Peru
The capital of Perú is located in a valley, surrounded by the Chillón, Rímac and Lurín rivers. It offers ultramodern seaside neighborhoods butting up against gritty shantytowns that cling to barren hillsides. The "Garden City" is home to one of world's largest fountain parks. Limeños' love food. The Boulevard of Gastronomy in Surquillo district, showcases fresh ingredients used in Peruvian cooking at a pedestrians mall. When in Lima, have a Pisco, grape brandy, the national drink.
7. Mexico City, Mexico
Start at Plaza Constitutcion, better known as El Zocalo. Admire Metropolitan Cathedral, Palacio Nacional, Bellas Artes and archeological Templo Mayor. Walk up the hill to Castillo de Chapultepec and admire history and a unique view of the city. Museo de Arte Moderno and Museo de Antropología are located at the bottom of Bosque Chapultepec. Looking for Contemporary/Bohémio México? Zona Rosa, La Condesa, Colonia Roma, Coyoacán and Masaryk are trendy neighborhoods offering outdoor cafes, bistros, arts market, nightclubs, pubs, boutiques. Take a tour to Teotihuacan to climb the Sun and Moon pyramids. Navigate on a Chinampa, through Aztecs Empire at Xochimilco Lake.
8. Santiago, Chile
La Chascona, house of poet Pablo Neruda is situated at the bottom of San Cristobal Hill, near the Bellavista area. From there, jump to Vitacura a tree-shaded street with gardens and wide sidewalks, top shopping spot. Cajón del Maipo, deep in the Andes, is irresistible for those who want to soak in a natural hot spring and take pictures by the mountains. Three world-class ski resorts (El Colorado, La Parva, Valle Nevado) lie just outside Santiago near the village of Farellones. La Alameda, is the city's principal thoroughfare. Along with the Avenida Norte Sur and the Río Mapocho, it forms the wedge that defines the city's historic district. Many of Santiago's most important buildings, including landmarks are here. Santiago Fine Arts Museum is the oldest in South-America. Enjoy Mapocho River view, which crosses the city from east to west.
9. Montevideo, Uruguay
Dive right into downtown life by stopping off at Montevideo’s triple threat Plaza Fabini, nicknamed Plaza del Entrevero by the locals. The outdoor cafe, La Pasiva, is famous for its “panchos,” hot dogs served with a secret-recipe spicy mustard along with a bottle of Paso de los Toros, Uruguay’s grapefruit soda. If you are still hungry, then you should try Uruguay’s Steak and Chivito for dinner at Papoñita Dinner. Visit boutiques at the upscale Pocitos neighborhood and join the nightlife at Bar Fun Fun, founded in 1895 and now a hot spot for tango and local candombé music. Admire 20th Century art of José Gurvich, Uruguayan artist at Gurvich Museum and the Architecture of Torre Telecomunicaciones.