So you want to enjoy an adventure and experience the best of South American culture. You’ve come to the right place. We have put together the best road trips ideas in South America. For U.S. citizens traveling to South America be sure that your passport is valid and has more than six months of validity.
Here are 5 epic journeys to include on your bucket list.
Carretera Austral: Chile
The only road connecting the northern and southern parts of Chile, Carretera Austral is more than 600 miles of winding roads through some of North America’s most beautiful scenery. This road is considered one of Chile’s most ambitious infrastructure projects of the 20th century. Completely unpaved when it was created, Chile has slowly worked to pave the road over time, making it easily accessible and enjoyable to travel. You can see fjords, glaciers, rainforests, and rivers without ever leaving the road.
Death Road: Bolivia
Yungas Road, affectionately known as “Death Road,” was cut into the side of the famous Cordillera Oriental Mountain chain by prisoners in the 1930s. Surrounded by beautiful-if-not-mildly-terrifying mountainous terrain, the road stretches nearly 43 miles from the rainforest to the capital city. And since Bolivia has now built and expanded a highway, the road is much more conducive to tourists taking road trips. Guardrails mean road-trippers can enjoy the experience without fearing it is their last.
Ruta 40: Argentina
Known as one of the longest (as well as the most spectacular!) highways worldwide, Ruta 40 has it all. Literally. Take the road trip and you’ll see everything from llamas to wineries. And since it is newly paved, you’ll enjoy the trip with relative ease. It runs along the Andes mountains and is considered by many to be the perfect road trip. Be sure to gas up and double check that you have a spare tire. Breaking down with 100 miles to civilization could mean a long night in the car otherwise.
Known as “the longest road through the Amazon,” this Transamazon highway stretches nearly 3000 miles, cutting across the Amazon forest and bumping into Peru’s border. The most interesting parts of the drive exist between the Belo Monte Dam and a village called La Brea. Unfortunately, unpaved parts of the road are impassable throughout the rainy season when the dusty roads become slick, red mud. Locals say the best time to take a road trip is between July and October.
Wetlands of the Pantanal: Brazil
If you’re looking to see wildlife on your road trip to South America, then the Wetlands of the Pantanal are for you. Known as the largest, most impressive wetland in the world, the Pantanal boasts over 120 types of mammals, 200 species of fish, 100 different reptiles, and over 600 types of birds. There will always be something fun to see and discover in the wetlands. Locals recommend bringing or driving a sturdy 4-wheel-drive.
Bottom line: One of the best ways–if not the best way–to experience South America is to take a road trip. Explore the best parts of the continent at your own pace while stopping to appreciate culture in its entirety.