The Essential Backpacker's Guide to South America, Part 3

Published: 03/18/2014

Following on from the previous articles in this series which outlined the safety and common sense tips that every backpacker should adhere to aswell as a general overview of South America, with more detail on Argentina and Brazil.  We now continue with Bolivia and Chile.

Bolivia is one of the highest of most remote countries on earth.  It is in the central zone of South America extending from the Central Andes through part of the Gran Chaco as far as the Amazon and much of it remains untouched by time.  The climate varies drastically from one region to the other.  In the west the summers are warm and dry and in the east, warm and humid.  In the west the winters are cold and it snows in the mountains but in the west, windy days are more common during winter.  The official language in Bolivia is Spanish.

The cuisine in Bolivia is a fusion of Spanish and Aymara/Inca influences with the addition of later influences from Germany, Italy, Basque, Russia, Poland and Arabia.  The three staples of Bolivia are potatoes, corn and beans.

Bolivia has a diverse mix of multi-ethnic cultural experiences as well as amazing landscapes and extreme adventures on offer.  Luxurious Copacabana resorts, the shores of Lake Titicaca, the salt flast of Uyuni – there are so many possible experiences to have here.  Some sites worth visiting include: La Paz (administrative capital); Yungas Road (the world’s most dangerous road); Madidi National Park; The ‘rich mountain’ Cerro Rico – it towers over the city of Potosi; The City of Four Names – Sucre; Oruro’s Carnaval de Oruro; Lake Titicaca; Tiwanaku – one of the most important precursors to the Inca Empire; Salar de Uyuni – 4000 square miles of salt flats.


Chile is a long and narrow coastal country on the west side of the Andes Mountains.  With the northern Atacama Desert and southern coast of fjords, inlests, canals, twisting peninsulas and islands, the land here is diverse with much activity to offer. 

There is the Santiago Metro which is South America’s most extensive metro system but buses are now the main means of long distance transport.

Chile was a region of Andean culture influenced by altiplano traditions.  Through colonialism the culture was dominated by the Spanish.  Other European influences have continued to this day.  The cuisine is a reflection of the country’s topographical variety.  Seafood, beef, fruits and vegetables are used in traditional recipes including Asado, Cazuela, Empanadas, Humitas, Pastel de Choclo, Curanto and Sopaipillas.  From the native Quechua Andean cuisine, the Chileans have taken raw minced llama, shellfish and rice bread.

If you’re visiting and want some suggestions on sites to check out: Cerro San Cristobal – a hill in northern Santiago with a beautiful view of the city and the Andes; Los Pinguinos Natural Monument – the largest penguin colonies in southern Chile; Chiloe Island – the largest island of the Chiloe Archipelago in the Los Lagos Region; Valparaiso – known for its brightly coloured houses; San Rafael National Park; Valle de la Luna in the Atacama Desert – a breathtaking desert landscape; Torres del Paine, a national park; Pucon -  small touristy town in the Lake District and Lauca National Park.

Posted in: Travel Advice
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