South America Living

Best Places to Roadtrip in South America

The continent of South America is often an end stop for road trippers, on overland journeys through Mexico and Central America from the U.S. or Canada. Others fly to a major city and rent a car for an extended driving adventure.

Viewing the Falls Up Close from Puerto Iguazu Lookout Point

Viewing the Falls Up Close from Puerto Iguazu Lookout Point

Either way, your own car or someone elses you are paying to borrow… here are some top spots to take a road trip in South America. If you are short of funds but set on a trip, you can get a loan for your car.
 

1. Driving Through Patagonia

Probably the premier road trip in South America for adventure travelers. Take your pick for the starting point – a major city in Argentina (such as Bariloche) or Chile (such as Puerto Montt) – then drive through some of the most breathtaking scenery on the planet.

Have decent tires (with a good spare) and full gas can on hand, the distances between service stations and towns can be long. In many areas the roads are unpaved, research your route beforehand to add in driving time (driving on rubble will be much slower than driving on a paved highway) and locations that will have a hostal or hotel waiting for you (with restaurant) if you are not camping and cooking over a cook stove.

For more ideas on things to do in Patagonia read: Traveling for Adventure in Patagonia

 
2. Argentina

This is an easy one, as with the exception of Patagonia and rural areas, roads are paved, well-marked with many amenities throughout Argentina – dare to go where the busses don’t take you.

One reason bus routes are so long in Argentina is because the travel on major thoroughfares, not the shortest distance from one city or town to the next. You can double your travel fun, and cut the time spent on the road in half by renting a car.

Locations any tourist would love visiting are throughout the country, it will be difficult to pick one or the other: Mendoza wine region; indigenous villages of the Quebrada de Humahuaca; Jesuit missions and Iguazu Falls, there is much to see and do.

 
3. The Salar de Uyuni

This is an unforgettable road trip, one of the most popular in South America. Most likely you will want to take an organized tour, as these are driving conditions you will not be familiar with, no matter what country you are from!

Driving on the salar is like driving on an expansive white never-ending horizon, and if you are not from Bolivia or Chile and experienced with the conditions, it most likely would be dangerous and not all that enjoyable.

That said, a short day trip from Uyuni to the Salar would be possible for an independent driver, as the distance is short and multiple jeeps make the journey daily. You could visit the salt hotel just outside of Colchani, or spend time at Isla del Pescado with herds of other tourists; it is very popular and a stop on all tours.

For more information on trips to the Salar de Uyuni read: Salar de Uyuni Tours

 
4. Brazil

Brazil is a huge country, and First Class busses to get from on major tourist area to another (what most travelers want on a sight-seeing vacation) are long and costly. The busses are comfortable, but wouldn’t you rathar take your time, stop along the way at some off-the-beaten path destinations or at least for a leisurely lunch?

Driving in that case is the way to go, and renting a car is like with everywhere else, have a valid drivers license or an International Drivers Permit and a credit card for any required deposit and you are all set.

For information on what driving in the country will be like, before you hit the road with that rental car read: Driving in Brazil – Safety Information for Travelers.




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