Updated: Sep 28
From the towering Andes mountains and lush Amazon rainforest to the pristine beaches and vibrant cities, South America boasts an awe-inspiring array of natural wonders and cultural treasures.
With so much breathtaking beauty, planning a trip can sometimes feel overwhelming.
But don't worry, I'm here to help you navigate the options and create your once-in-a-lifetime 3 weeks itinerary!
If you dream about having the adventure of a lifetime, continue reading this article and learn about this fantastic 3 weeks in South America itinerary, exploring Peru, Argentina, Brazil, and Ecuador, filled with natural beauty, culture, history, and the best local cuisine.
But first, before I jump into giving you some advice, I just wanted to tell you why you can trust me!
Travel has always been a fundamental part of my life. Growing up in a family that was always on the move, I had the privilege of living in three different South American countries before I even started school. As a result, I developed a strong desire to explore the world around me.
I was fortunate to have parents who believed that travel was the best kind of education, so my school breaks were spent discovering fascinating places near and far.
16 years ago, my sister, Maria, and I founded Across South America, a boutique travel agency catering to discerning travelers looking for an authentic South American experience.
We understand the importance of a trip tailored to your needs! So we're here to make sure that's exactly what you get from our trips.
Now that you know more about me, I'd love to share my trip suggestion for a fantastic 3 weeks itinerary in South America!
Have you signed up for our South America travel Blog yet? Sign up here and GET our South America travel Guide with unique experiences you can do on your next trip 🙌🏼❤️
3 weeks in South America Itinerary: A Glimpse of Buenos Aires, Exploring Argentina’s Amazing Culture
Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, serves as a major transportation hub, making it a convenient starting point for your South American travels.
So this 3 weeks South America itinerary begins in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where you can experience the charm of the "Paris" of South America.
Buenos Aires is a city that provides a unique look into Argentina's rich culture. The city offers an array of experiences that will help you immerse in the country's history and traditions.
From the vibrant street art scene to the lively tango performances, Buenos Aires is a hub for creativity and expression. You can also explore the city's landmarks, such as the iconic Obelisco and the stunning Recoleta Cemetery. With its delicious food, warm people, and beautiful architecture, Buenos Aires is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in experiencing the best of Argentina.
Your next days will be filled with exploring the memorable highlights of Buenos Aires and tasting the most delicious meals paired with the best Argentine wines.
You will also have the chance to catch a glimpse of the San Antonio de Areco’s local markets, where you will learn all about Argentinean beef cuts and local produce and enjoy a fun Argentine cooking lesson.
And let’s not forget to include a traditional tango show or a visit to a Local Milonga, that promises to amaze your eyes and fill your soul.
How many days in Buenos Aires? I suggest 4 days/3 nights to explore the city and include visiting the countryside, The Pampas.
As a first stop for your journey through South America, picking the best time to visit Buenos Aires will be top of your priorities. Read here when is the Best time to visit Buenos Aires.
3 weeks of South America Itinerary: From Buenos Aires to the Relaxing Iguassu Falls
Your 3 weeks in South America itinerary, exploring Peru, Argentina, Brazil, and Ecuador continue with a short flight from Buenos Aires to Iguazu.
Explore the breathtaking natural wonder of Iguazu Falls National Park, where the thunderous roar of the cascading waterfalls will leave you awestruck. Marvel at the vibrant flora and fauna that thrive in this lush ecosystem, and keep an eye out for exotic wildlife such as toucans, jaguars, and monkeys. Immerse yourself in the serene beauty of the park, and experience an unforgettable adventure in the heart of South America.
Living in Buenos Aires, just a 2-hour flight from Puerto Iguazu, allowed me to visit the falls many times...every time I visit the falls, the Falls take my breath away…Iguazu is a place I will return to again and again!
READ HERE this blog post Is Iguazu Falls Worth it? Where I share five reasons why I think Iguazu is worth it, and you have to put it at the top of your itinerary
How many days in Iguazu? I suggest 3 days/2 nights to explore The Argentine and the Brazilian side of the falls.
You can either visit the famous Iguazu waterfalls from Argentina or Brazil.
That said, ideally, you want to visit the Iguazu Falls from both the Argentine and the Brazilian sides. They are so totally different. The Argentinian falls are the stage and the Brazilian are the theatre
From the Brazilian side, you will have great views of the falls that are on the Argentine side. And from Argentina, you will walk above the falls, which is also exhilarating!
In one of the widest stretches across the Iguazu River, awaits the most important and monumental waterfall of Iguazu cascades system: the Devil’s Throat.
3 weeks of South America Itinerary: From Argentina to the Brazilian Wonder – Bustling Rio de Janeiro
This journey continues with a flight from Foz do Iguazu ( Brazilian side of the falls) to Rio de Janeiro.
Being born and raised in Rio de Janeiro, I have an inherent attachment to the city that is difficult to put into words. The vibrant culture, stunning natural beauty, and lively atmosphere all contribute to my personal LOVE for Rio ❤️
With its renowned Carnaval, football, gorgeous beaches, and attractive inhabitants it is a must-visit destination if you are traveling to South America.
3 weeks South America Itinerary – Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas Rio de Janeiro, Brasil 🇧🇷 📸signorelliphoto
A Full experience of spectacular views is waiting for you in Rio de Janeiro:
Highlight #1: See one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the magnificent Christ the Redeemer, the iconic statue on top of Corcovado Hill, Rio’s most famous landmark. Corcovado Hill is part of the Tijuca Forest, the largest urban forest in the world. On the way to its top is the Dona Marta belvedere, from where it is possible to see the Maracanã Stadium, the famous Guanabara Bay, and the beautiful Sugar Loaf.
Highlight #2: Every year, over a million visitors visit the famous Pão de Açúcar (Sugar Loaf Mountain), an iconic symbol of Rio de Janeiro.
Journey to the top in a glass cable car. The first cable car takes passengers to the top of Urca Hill, which rises 215 meters above sea level, and it will offer you spectacular views of the entire bay and its surrounding islands.
Indulge in Rio’s culinary delights during a memorable food walking tour and a fun cooking class.
Rio is also the cradle of Samba and Bossa Nova, two of the most important cultural manifestations in the country:
Go behind the scenes of the Carnival and explore the complex of Samba City, where all Samba schools have their creation warehouses. Your expert local guide will tell you about the parade and customs.
Are you looking for a fun afternoon and learning to dance the Samba? You can introduce yourself to the world of Samba. Enjoy a Dance lesson and head to nightclubs to try your first steps of Samba in Rio. You’ll interact with the locals, called the “Cariocas,” who will show you how to dance the Samba.
READ MORE Top Places to Stay in Rio de Janeiro Brazil : If staying at great hotels is important for you... and you want the best Places to stay in Rio
Cristo redentor at night by @nisegfs
3 weeks of South America Itinerary: A Memorable Peruvian Escape, Six Days in Peru
The tenth day of your 3 weeks in South America, exploring Peru, Argentina, Brazil, and Ecuador will take you to charming Lima, in Peru.
Whether you're captivated by historical landmarks, intrigued by culinary masterpieces, or enchanted by local traditions.
Lima is definitely a place that will cater to your discerning tastes!
We Love authentic and unique experiences. What can this be in LIMA?
✔️An Art Tour accompanied by an Art curator.
The city is now home to several major art galleries and some of the best street art in Latin America.
✔️Exploring the outdoors in Lima
A Cruise to Swim with Sea Lions or even Catch the Waves with a Surfing Lesson in the Pacific Coast
✔️ A culinary experiences with real culinary experts.
Including a visit to a local market and learning to prepare a Peruvian delicacy.
✔️Architecture tour in Old Colonial Lima and the Bohemian side
Including a visit to some of the most important sights in downtown Lima and a visit to bohemian Barranco.
✔️Shopping Tour accompanied by a personal shopper
Including appointments with relevant fashion designers. Visit some of the best and most exclusive boutiques and receive an interesting insight into the latest up-and-coming trends in Peruvian fashion or the newest collections.
For more experiences in Lima Read MORE: 42 TOP Things you have to do in Lima Where I uncover the top things to do in Lima.
How Many Days Do you Need in Lima?
To savor Lima's essence, consider spending around 2 to 3 days. This is enough time to explore the City highlights and uncover key attractions like the Historic Center and Larco Museum.
Gourmands can relish diverse culinary experiences, while explorers can soak in coastal beauty. If a deeper dive into local culture or more leisurely exploration appeals to you, extending your stay to 4 to 5 days will provide a more immersive adventure.
Enjoy a delicious Peruvian-style lunch
FROM LIMA TO CUSCO, THE SACRED VALLEY
Nestled amidst the Andes, Cusco boasts a charming cobblestone-street city with historic colonial architecture, cathedrals, museums, various cafes and restaurants, and ALSO Exquisite properties to stay.
Cusco is a city brimming with hidden treasures waiting to be discovered. While popular tourist spots such as Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley are undoubtedly stunning, there's much more to explore beyond them. We'll take you on a journey through the lesser-known gems of Cusco, from charming local markets to beautiful colonial buildings tucked away in quiet streets. Get ready to see Cusco in a whole new light!
After admiring Cusco and letting your taste buds run while during mouthwatering local meals, head towards the Sacred Valley of the Incas and let the village and the typical country accommodation get you closer to the soul of this stunning country.
Stroll Cusco’s Plaza de Armas
YOUR NEXT DESTINATION: MACHU PICCHU
Can you travel to Machu Picchu and Avoid the crowds?
Last but not least, visit the famous Machu Picchu, explore the breathtaking ancient ruins and indulge in a sensational lunch, before returning to Cusco City.
No feeling can compare to how I felt when I stood at the sun gate and saw Machu Picchu for the first time.
The thing about Machu Picchu is it will almost always be busy.
If you ask any fellow adventurer where they dream of going in Peru, Machu Picchu is undoubtedly their top choice....
It’s easy to READ this and think,
“Well, okay, I would love to visit Machu Picchu, but also help to preserve them. And I want to travel to Peru, but do it authentically, avoiding the crowds.
but HOW do I do it?"
I get it.
One of Machu Picchu's biggest challenges is balancing preservation and tourism.
And in a bid to preserve this natural wonder for future generations and protect it from over-tourism, many NEW RULES and regulations are now in place.
✔️ Machu Picchu's daily visitors are now limited to 2500
✔️ Each ticket allows only 1 entry, so it is impossible to re-enter using the same ticket after you leave.
✔️The new maximum time allowed for each group in Machu Picchu is 4 now hours.
✔️Machu Picchu is now divided into 5 different circuits you can choose for your visit.
So, is it possible to maintain tourism in Machu Picchu without causing overcrowding?
YES, With these changes, the overall tourist experience in Machu Picchu will significantly improve, as trails will be less crowded and groups will be far more organized.
BUT, We Also have these 3 suggestions for you to avoid the crowds.
👉Go somewhere else in Peru
Machu Picchu is an incredible place, but is it the only amazing Incan ruin in Peru or even around Cuzco? We have many suggestions for you!
👉Avoid Peak season
July through August is summer and peak season in Machu Picchu.
The crowds tend to thin out from April through May and September through October while the weather remains relatively dry and pleasant.
👉Stay at the Sanctuary Lodge at Machu Picchu
If you choose to stay at this accommodation, you'll be right at the entrance to the amazing Inca citadel.
This location gives you the advantage of getting to Machu Picchu before the crowds or staying after they've left. By 4pm, most of the day-trippers from Cuzco have already left, making for a quieter and more peaceful experience.
If you are considering visiting Machu Picchu, take a look at some of the insightful articles on our blog:
Machu Picchu — Image by © Picturegarden/Corbis
3 weeks of South America Itinerary: Exploring Ecuador’s Natural Beauty in Seven Breathtaking Days
Following this 3 weeks itinerary, On day 16, you will fly from Cusco to Quito, Ecuador’s mesmerizing capital.
Besides delicious meals and lavish accommodation, your Ecuador adventure also brings you the chance to see some of the most beautiful islands in the Galapagos archipelago.
The Galapagos Islands are a place of wonder and magic. From the unique wildlife to the stunning landscapes, there's something enchanting about this archipelago.
Visiting the Galapagos is an unforgettable experience that will leave you in awe of the natural world. Each island had its own unique ecosystem, and you will be able to witness a variety of animals in their natural habitats. From swimming with sea turtles to watching blue-footed boobies dance, every moment is a unique adventure. The Galapagos Islands truly are a paradise for nature lovers!
Friendly sea lions in Galapago’s beaches 📸 @euetuporai
After a few days spent exploring the Galapagos Islands, you will fall in love with their fascinating natural beauty and wildlife, as well as with the tasty meals and friendly locals you will meet.
If you’re ready to plan a trip to Galapagos, here’s the Experience Dolores Barciela, editor and publisher from Yachting Times Magazine, shared with us about her last visit to the Galapagos Islands on board M/Y Wildaid's Passion cruise. READ HERE: The Ultimate 7 Days Galapagos Cruise adventure
This brings the end of your 3 weeks in South America, exploring Peru, Argentina, Brazil, and Ecuador. From the vibrant street art of Buenos Aires to the stunning natural wonders of Peru, South America truly has something for everyone.
These are some of the places and experiences you can have on a 3 weeks in South America itinerary, but there are plenty of other surprises that await you.
I understand that planning a trip to South America can feel overwhelming.
If you are planning your first trip to South America and o you find yourself thinking things like this:
I want to plan a trip to South America, "So, where do I begin?"
I always plan trips by myself, but South America IS so BIG!
Looking at the internet for the "best destinations" is a never-ending job, I have more than 10 places I want to visit...and they are all so different and so far away one from the other
And booking flights? it's like a mission impossible to connect all those countries and destinations.
But...I don't want to go on one of those "group" trips, where I will be locked into other people's schedules
I want to travel more authentically, visit the unique tourist spots and also dig a little deeper into each place.
"Hey, We can help you"
Along the way, we have helped travelers Get a CUSTOM TRIP to South America according to their desires.
Take a closer look and Discover more about who We are and What We do
And if you are ready, let's plan a trip to South America that you will never forget! [it is easy! Start here]
PS - Have you signed up for our South America travel Blog yet? Sign up here and GET our South America travel Guide with unique experiences you can do on your next trip 🙌🏼❤️