Leave any misconceptions at the door – South America is simply fantastic for solo travel. If you think that countries like Brazil and Colombia aren’t welcoming, you just haven’t got to know them yet.
There really is a whole wealth of destinations crying out to be explored in this epic continent. Pick the right one as a solo traveler and you’ll quite literally be pulled into the swing of things in all of the best ways (yep, South Americans are known for their rhythm on the dance floor). So, whether you’re traveling on your own or fancy flying solo on a group tour, rest assured that, as long as you’re sensible and pack some trusty common sense, the time of your life is awaiting.
Here are some of our favorite countries in South America for solo travel:
We couldn’t help it, Peru is too awesome not to lead with. It’s easily accessible, has an incredible food scene, and there’s no point in beating around the bush… the triumphant 15th-century ruins of Machu Picchu are reason enough to travel there. Simply put, it’s one of seven wonders of the world to knock off your bucket list —travel companion or not (and this story is sure to inspire a visit, promise).
Back to the food scene. We’re talking everything from hip breweries to a ceviche class to a cacao plantation in Huayopata. So much to tantalize taste buds. And from other perspectives, too. Peru’s wealth of experiences don’t end with its rich archaeological sights. There’s Huacachina (the only desert oasis in South America), there’s Lake Titicaca (one of the largest, highest lakes in the world) and there’s also the little-known northern region, which is home to ruins that rival Machu Picchu’s (but with none of the crowds)!
Peruvians tend to be as welcoming and social as they are used to tourists — another win for solo travelers. Safety in the main tourist areas is very good. And it’s very easy to mix with fellow travelers in tourist hubs like Cusco, Arequipa and the Miraflores and Barranco neighborhoods of Lima.
But, wait – just wait – there’s even more to love. Intrepid Travel’s 9-day Classic Peru trip has been so popular with solo adventures previously that a solo-only departure for it has been created! Like-minded travelers can jump on board (literally – there’s an included homestay and boat ride in Lake Titicaca) and take in a bunch of amazing sights together. From Machu Picchu to Cusco to Lima and more, check the itinerary for the whirlwind of cool activities packed right in.
If you go to South America for solo travel, let me tell you, Colombia has so much in store. Don’t let Colombia’s tangled history convince you that the country is unsafe — that’s totally outdated now. The vibrant country also has a delicious coffee culture (evident in towns like Salento!), awe-inspiring palm trees in the Cocora Valley (the highest ones in the world!) and utterly world-class mountains. Though Colombians primarily speak Spanish you’ll find that many also speak (at least a little) English.
But Colombians communicate through more than just words. Street art maps out the history of Medellin, the city of eternal spring, and then of course, there’s everything unspoken that’s expressed on the dance floor. Yeah, I’m talking about the heat brought via salsa dancing. For solo travelers, the lively salsa scene is a way for locals to extend their welcome and give you confidence to put your best foot forward.
Another way Colombia keeps you moving is Tayrona National Park on the Caribbean coast. It combines spellbinding sandy beaches, thick rainforest and rich biodiversity (spend an entire day there on this 10-day trip). Noteworthy: on the same trip you’ll also explore arguably the prettiest Colombian town, Barichara, as well as exploring iconic Cartagena and the capital, Bogota.
Bolivia doesn’t fall short when it comes to solo travel in South America. It’s incredibly rewarding for its dramatic landscapes, otherworldly sights and extremely inexpensive price-point. La Paz will have you feeling on top of the world (literally, it’s the highest capital city in the world). Whilst Bolivian street food vendors will become any solo adventurer’s best friend. Expect to feast on tucumanas (Bolivian-style empanada – salteñas – that have been deep fried)… YUM! And definitely drop by the wonderfully unique array of potions and herbal treatments at the Witches’ Market in El Alto, too (accessible from La Paz by cable car).
La Paz contrasts beautifully with the open salt flats of Salar de Uyuni where you’ll feel as if you’ve stepped off onto the surface of the moon. Solo travelers, forget the selfies. Lay your camera on the salt flats and use the backdrop of the endless salt flats to inspire some cool perspective shots.
Beyond the salt flats, the Amazon and Isla Del Sol offer the perfect dose of adventure and relaxation. You’ll find just what you’re looking for and then some in Bolivia. Not least because the cheapness draws in backpackers and the salt flat isolation draws in shared bus departures. New friends aplenty to be found here…
We could have easily swapped Brazil for Argentina (experience both on this 7-day trip). They’re both high-energy countries that solo travelers can and should gravitate to when in South America. Maybe it’s the abundance of sunshine hitting the stunning beaches, the iconic tango and samba dances or the passionate football fans that make for a lively social scene, but everyone just seems to be happy here.
For the best of Brazil, you’ll probably be attracted to the coast, which boasts its unashamedly hedonistic lifestyle. With Brazil’s national cocktail, the caipirinha, in hand you can bask in the sun at Ipanema beach with a diverse crowd. But it doesn’t have to be all about partying (and carnivals). Hit up Rio’s Tijuca, the largest urban forest in the world, or let the Iguazu Falls take your breath away.
Oh, and don’t forget to head down the coast to Paratay for some relaxation. This beach hideaway is brimming with lush mountains, pedestrian-only cobbled streets, and secluded islands nearby.
Wedged between the two aforementioned South American powerhouse destinations, Argentina and Brazil, Uruguay may be one of the smallest countries in South America, but it isn’t shy on experiences for solo travelers. Uruguay is one of the few countries on the continent with protected LGBTQ rights. This definitely speaks to how progressive the country is. Rest assured you can feel truly safe here as a solo traveler.
Uruguay also has a charm and hospitality that cultivate an especially wonderful solo travel experience. The relaxed vibes and underrated nature really make it stand out for those willing to try someplace new. Even capital Montevideo is as safe as it is sophisticated, with excellent steak, art deco buildings, lovely beaches and more. And that’s not to mention the tango!
Some other highlights and ideas on what to do? Camp in Santa Teresa National Park or channel your inner gaucho (a highly-skilled horsemen; more than just a cowboy) during an unforgettable 3-day homestay on an estancia. Colonia de Sacramento, one of the oldest towns in Uruguay and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a quaint and an underrated spot for foodies. While the remote beaches of Cabo Polonio host a natural reserve of sea lions (only accessible by 4x4s — Intrepid will get you there on this trip).
There are plenty more unspoiled experiences with just the right amount of off-the-beaten path for solo travelers…But we’ll leave them for you to find. After all, isn’t that the magic of solo travel?
Take your pick for you next solo trip, book a small group adventure in South America.
(Images credits from top to bottom: Julie Faye Germansky, Intrepid Travel, Julie Faye Germansky, Rosie Horton, Intrepid Travel, iStock/Luso)