Travel

Solo Travel Destinations in South America

By
Matt Wilson
on
January 13, 2021

Traveling alone to Latin America? This is part two of our solo travel destination series. This guide is designed to help jumpstart your journey through South America. We’ll work our way through the continent from Colombia and give you itinerary ideas all the way to Patagonia. If you are traveling the entire length of the Americas, you can check out our solo travel guide through Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean

Each section of this solo travel guide highlights a different country including Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, and Brazil. There are even some side trips you can take into Bolivia, Uruguay, and Paraguay. If you have six weeks or more to travel, you could travel through each of these countries. If you have less time, use this guide to show you the highlights of each country as individual itineraries, flying in and out of the international airport.

Please enjoy this guide to solo travel through South America... Stay safe, get off the beaten path whenever possible, and don’t forget to challenge yourself!  

If you are new to solo travel, don’t forget to check out our Ultimate Guide to Solo Travel.   

Solo Travel Destinations in Colombia

Begin your trip to Colombia in one of the three major cities with the best international airports--Bogotá, Medellín, or Cartagena. Cheap flights from the United States can be found to any of these three destinations, including with low-cost carriers like JetBlue. If you are coming from Central America, my best recommendation is to arrive in Cartagena by boat, island hopping your way through the San Blas Islands of Panama.  

You can read these tips and more in my solo travel guide to Central America. Keep in mind that no roads go through the Darien Gap between Panama and Colombia, so your only options are to come by boat or plane. There are plenty of flights from Panama City to Bogotá for the less adventurous ;).

Colombia beaches solo travel destinations
White sand beaches in Colombia are a solo traveler's dream!

Cartagena

Cartagena is the second oldest city in all the Americas and its main tourist area is even preserved as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. To really get a feel for the city, and its unique history, be sure to stay inside the walls of the old city, and not in the more modern areas.  The vibrant colors of colonial Cartagena come alive as people dance in the street and eat fresh ceviche and coconut rice.  

Take a city tour and have a cup of Colombian coffee at my favorite coffee shop, Café San Alberto. Explore the artisan neighborhood of Getsemani and climb to the top of the fort, Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas. For the best cultural experience in the region, book a day trip to Palenque, the first town founded by freed slaves in the Americas. Look up our friend Danilo with Paletur. He only speaks Spanish, so tell him “Mateo de Under30Experiences” sent you.

Palenque Cartagena Colombia south america solo travel destinations
Hanging out with Danilo in Palenque, Cartagena, Colombia! 

Bogotá

If you want to really understand a country, apart from what most tourists see, visit its capital. In Latin America, capitals are often congested and dirty, but if you want authenticity, this is what a city like Bogotá offers you. I always enjoy seeing a city from above, so I’d recommend a trip up Monseratte, a vantage point that stands at over 9,000 feet (2,743 meters) above sea level and is accessible on foot or by cable car.  

If you are traveling through Latin America, it’s a good idea to know who Simon Bolivar is, who led revolutions against the Spanish in multiple countries. Check out Simon Bolivar Metropolitan Park in Bogotá for a great photo op.  

For shopping, visit the Usaquén market where you can find tons of artisan goods at local prices.  In the Candelaria neighborhood hit the Gold Museum, Botero Museum, the National Shrine of our Lady of Carmen church, and hang out in Plaza Chorro de Quevedo. Finally, escape the city to Parque de la Sal in Zipaquirá, a church built in an underground salt mine!  

Medellín

Medellín is nicknamed “The City of the Eternal Spring” because of its amazing year-round temperate climate. Although recent television series like Narcos have glorified the city’s connection to Pablo Escobar, locals are still sensitive about the destruction that occurred here in the 1980s.  

Ride the Metrocable to Parque Arvi for a bird’s eye view of the city. Most solo travelers will enjoy a visit to the high-end El Poblado neighborhood to visit one of the many bars and restaurants in the area. Matriarca came recommended to me as the best Colombian restaurant in Poblado. Provenza is another night-life scene to hit as well. Be sure to take the Comuna 13 Graffiti Tour to get a taste for the local street art.  

The Lost City Trek

Colombia is a huge country, so I couldn’t possibly detail all there is to do in this overview, but one of my top suggestions would be doing the Lost City Trek near Tayrona National Park.  

The Lost City Trek, or La Ciudad Perdida, is a three-day trek that has been on my bucket list for years. I can’t wait to learn from the indigenous people of the region about this ancient civilization and sleep in a hammock under a mosquito net. This trek has been heralded by many solo travelers as “the next Inca Trail.”  

Solo Travel Destinations in Ecuador

Quito

Nobody told me how cool Quito was before I got there, but this UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site is extremely beautiful, especially at night. Located high in the Andes Mountains at 9,350 feet (2,850 meters), don’t be surprised if you are a little light-headed on day one from the high altitude. So, remember to eat light, and take it easy.  

I love well-preserved colonial city centers and I think you will too. Get the panoramic views from El Panecillo, and if you like vistas, check out Parque Metropolitano for a great place to overlook the Cumbayá Valley, and go ride the Teleférico cable car and hike Cruz Loma to see the views of the volcanoes! Escape Quito to hike and bike the snow capped Cotopaxi Mountain, the world’s second highest volcano. 

Galapagos tortoise ecuador south america solo travel destinations under30experiences
Keep your distance from the giant tortoises when traveling in the Galápagos!

Galápagos Islands

The Galápagos Islands are a bucket list destination for so many solo travelers. A lot of people choose to see the Galápagos on a cruise, but if you’ve read my book on solo travel you’ll already know that cruises are one of the least sustainable ways to travel. Luckily, the country of Ecuador goes to great lengths to protect this fragile ecosystem if you choose an overland route.  Keep in mind that there is a $100 USD fee to enter Galápagos National Park, which is collected upon arrival to your first island.

Take time to understand why this otherworldly environment was the inspiration for Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. On the Galápagos archipelago you can find sea lions, marine iguanas, blue-footed boobies, Darwin’s finches, Galápagos penguins, and frigate birds. Swim with marine iguanas, sharks, seabirds, and sea turtles. The Galápagos Islands are truly a naturalist’s paradise.

I’d recommend flying into Seymour Airport on the island of Baltra. From here, you’ll be a very short ferry ride away from Santa Cruz Island. On your way from the airport and the ferry, explore the highlands and look for the giant tortoises, but please don’t get too close to the wildlife. 

Continue down to Puerto Ayora where you can visit the Charles Darwin Research Station and take a short hike to an amazing volcanic swimming hole called Las Grietas. Also on Santa Cruz, visiting Tortuga Bay is a must-do, one of the largest white sand beaches in the Galápagos. Kayaking and snorkeling with the white tipped reef sharks was one of the coolest things I’ve done in my life. Something about staring down a shark, all alone in the water, is exhilarating.   

solo travel galapagos islands kayaking under30experiences
Kayaking as a solo traveler in the Galápagos Islands, Ecuador! 

As I mentioned before, the Galápagos Islands are very protected, so there are a lot of restrictions on which islands you can visit and when. When you arrive on Santa Cruz Island, you can book day trips to various uninhabited islands like Santa Fé or Bartolomé. This will give you an even more extraordinary look at nature. You will need to be accompanied by a local Galápagos Island guide who will be able to give you excellent explanations of the flora and fauna. 

After a few days on Santa Cruz Island, take a speedboat to Isabela, the largest island, and home of six volcanoes. Hike the Sierra Negra Volcano to the second largest crater in the world.  Keep in mind that the Galápagos Islands are on the equator (“ecuador” means “equator” in Spanish!) so the sun will be extremely intense. Bring plenty of water, wear sunscreen, and do not hike at midday.  Here is what to pack for the Galápagos

To round out your trip to Isabela, snorkel Concha de Perla, bike the Wall of Tears, and visit Poza de Flamingos. Take another boat trip to Islote Las Tintoreras for another look at the sharks! 

Inland Ecuador 

There is so much to do in the interior of Ecuador, from the Andes Mountains to the Amazon Rainforest. Puyo is the gateway to the Amazon, where you could visit one of the many wildlife rescue organizations in this area. Reserva de Cuyabeno is an amazing place to spot wildlife including tapir, jaguars, pumas, dolphins, and manatee. Enter the park with an indigenous guide in a motorized canoe. Be sure to go for a nature walk and learn about medicinal plants. 

Ride the scenic Devil’s Nose Train through the Andes for a hair-raising ride…but only if you like heights. Alternatively, ride the Ice Train in Riobamba. 

Cuenca is a beautiful Spanish-influenced city, and known as Ecuador’s capital of culture, filled with art, history, and architecture. Visit the Pumapungo archeological site, for a deeper look at ancient civilization. Few people know that Ecuador has their own section of the “Inca Trail” that is less famous than Peru that leads to Ingapirca, the largest Incan site in Ecuador.

Solo Travel Destinations in Peru

Working your way south through Latin America as a solo traveler, Peru is a country that should not be missed. There are coastal beaches, incredible jungles at the Amazon Basin, magical highlands through the Sacred Valley, and so much more. Indigenous culture is so rich everywhere you look in Peru and the food has become world renown. Have you booked your flight yet?!

Lima

I’ve been to Lima many times, but it’s not for everyone. Traffic is intense and the pollution is bad, but I always enjoy a few days in this sprawling metropolis. Usually, it’s because the food is so damn good!  

Stay in the Miraflores neighborhood where there will be plenty of fun activities within walking distance.  You’ll have the best air quality rolling off the Pacific Ocean, and beautiful cliff side parks to explore along Costa Verde or the Green Coast.  Playa Makaha is a great consistent wave for beginner surfers who want to learn. Walk up Malecón Balta to Parque Kennedy to see all the cats who live there and are cared for by the locals. Barranco is the up and coming artsy neighborhood you’ll want to visit for boutique stores, restaurants, and bars built in restored art deco mansions.  

Finally, when in Lima, it’s obligatory to visit “Centro”, or the center of Lima, where all the impressive government buildings are. See the changing of the guard ceremony at noon any day at Plaza de Armas, and eat at Restaurante El Cordano, where the Presidents of Peru have been eating for over 100 years! Visit one of the many cathedrals including Iglesia de La Merced,  Convento de Santo Domingo, Catedral de Lima, and go underground to the tombs of the monastery Basílica y Convento de San Francisco de Lima. 

Cusco

My first night in Cusco, I went for a walk on a crisp clear evening, and I said to myself “I can’t believe a place on earth like this exists.” I love Cusco! The best time to visit Cusco is during South American winter when it is cold and dry in this area of the Andes Mountains, making May - September a great target date range.

 In Cusco, you will see the juxtaposition of old world Incan culture with Spanish architecture, sometimes literally built on top of the indigenous sites. When you arrive in Cusco, you’ll find yourself at over 11,000 feet (3,352 meters) of elevation, so take it easy and grab a handful of coca leaves to chew, which is the local remedy for altitude sickness. 

Most solo travelers stay within walking distance of Plaza de Armas, the main square in Cusco. If you stay outside the square, I highly recommend Hotel Torre Dorada. It’s locally owned, has top-notch service, and offers a shuttle to the plaza. I consider it my home away from home in Cusco!    

Be sure to visit the historic sites like Qorikancha, the Cusco Cathedral, and the Inca Museum. If you are acclimating for the Inca Trail, I’d suggest getting some exercise and taking the stairs from the San Blas neighborhood up to the Jesus statue at Cristo Blanco for an amazing view of Cusco, and then continuing to Saksaywaman, one of the most mysterious archeological sites in the world.  

There is so much to do in Cusco, but again, eating and drinking should be high on your list. Have a coca tea on the balcony of the café Cappuccino and hit the Pisco Museum for a pisco sour, a cocktail made from their famous local brandy. A few of my favorite restaurants are La Fería, Inka Grill, and Ciccolina. Eating cuy, or guinea pig, is a local delicacy, as well as lomo saltado de alpaca (yes, the cousin of the llama)!  But don’t worry, there are plenty of dining options for everyone...Vegetarians and vegans will be in heaven, as health conscious chefs from around the world have opened restaurants in Cusco.  

Finally, the market with the best local souvenirs is Mercado Artesanal on Avenida El Sol.  If you are into seeing interesting foreign produce, meats, and juices, check out San Pedro Market. Healing House Cusco has excellent massages and yoga for your ailing body after the Inca Trail!

Thanks to Instagram, the Rainbow Mountains have emerged as one of the hottest new destinations in South America.  Book a full day trip from Cusco to this high altitude adventure! 

Exploring the Parque de la Papa, Peru solo travel destinations under30experiences
Exploring the Parque de la Papa, Peru as a solo traveler.


Sacred Valley

Continue your journey towards Machu Picchu by going down to a lower elevation in the Sacred Valley.  This area is home to Under30Experiences’s community project where we work with local indigenous farmers and textile workers. Do not miss the artisan market in Chinchero, one of the best places in Peru to buy their hand woven goods. Try to negotiate in Spanish, but remember, many of the people in this rural area speak Quechua, the native language. If you want your fix of Inca archeological sites, I’d recommend purchasing the Cusco Tourist Ticket that gets you access to Pisac, Ollantaytambo, Chinchero, and Moroy.  

Machu Picchu

The only way to arrive at Machu Picchu without hiking is by train. Your two choices are the Inca Rail and PeruRail. They are relatively the same, but Inca Rail has better branding and a little more upscale l. This train ride through the Urubamba Valley is truly spectacular. Get an incredible glimpse of Veronica Mountain that will inspire you to hike the high altitude Salkantay Trek. The Lares Trail is another great alternative to the Inca Trail. Both are on my bucket list! 

The Machu Picchu archeological site is incredible, and as they say, it’s difficult to take a bad picture of the place. Machu Picchu is also a tremendous moneymaker for the country, and during peak months, it’s not uncommon to feel overwhelmed with the amount of people visiting this New 7th Wonder of the World. The Minister of Tourism is working hard to regulate the amount of people who can visit Machu Picchu per day, and to make the guided tours through the site feel more orderly. I always tell people that the Sacred Valley is the real highlight of Peru and Machu Picchu is just the cherry on top.

Machu Pcchu, Peru travel couple solo travel destinations
Exploring the legendary Machu Picchu with my amazing wife!

Inca Trail 

Simply put, arriving at Machu Picchu via the four day, three night Inca Trail trek was one of the highlights of my life. This trek is highly regulated by the Peruvian government, so you’ll need to book your tickets a year in advance, especially if you want to hike during the dry season of May-September. Only 500 people are allowed on the trail per day, and this includes guides, porters, and cooks who accompany you on your trek. To go on this adventure you’ll need to join a group Inca Trail hike, where your equipment will be supplied for you and permits are arranged on your behalf.  Most solo travelers’ biggest question is about the difficulty of the hike, to which I always answer a 2.5 out of 3, or “intermediate-advanced” level.  You’ll be hiking up over the grueling Dead Woman’s Pass at nearly 13,000 feet (3,962 meters), so I suggest training, but if you exercise regularly you should be able to complete this hike. Your fearless porters will be doing most of the work by carrying your equipment, so all you’ll need to do is focus on carrying yourself, your water supply, and snacks in your day pack. Here is what to pack for the Inca Trail.

The Amazon Basin of Peru

If you want a well-rounded trip to Peru, where you feel that you saw the coast, the Andes Mountains, and the Amazon, you’ll need to venture into the jungle. The two main areas I’d recommend in Peru’s Amazon Basin are Iquitos and Puerto Maldonado. These branches of the Amazon River have many eco-lodges from rustic to luxury to suit your fancy. You’ll most likely want to fly into Iquitos or Puerto Maldonado, unless you are a glutton for punishment and want to be on a bus for multiple days. 

Then, once you arrive in Iquitos or Puerto Maldonado, the only way into most of the ecolodges is via boat, where you’ll get to look for jaguars, tapirs, giant river otters, parrots, macaws monkeys, sloths, piranhas, and pink river dolphins. You are sure to see locals selling ayahuasca journeys, a traditional Amazonian psychedelic, but this ceremonial medicine is not something to take lightly. Beware of fake shamans, do your research, and remember you are literally going to be up a creek without a paddle.    

Lake Titicaca    

Finally, if you can get to Lake Titicaca you won’t regret it. Take the train from Cusco, but keep in mind if you are having trouble with the altitude, this train ride will bring you up over 14,000 feet (4,267 meters).  Take a boat from Puno to visit the islands in this freshwater lake, inhabited by the Uru people. For a bonus experience, cross into Bolivia after Lake Titicaca to explore the Uyuni Salt Flat.

Solo Travel Destinations in Chile

Chile is home to some of the most magnificent landscapes in the world. This long, skinny country that stretches 2,653 miles (4,270 kilometers) is a solo traveler’s dream to explore.  

Northern Chile and the Atacama Desert

If you are on a long solo trip from Peru and/or Bolivia, your first destination in the north of Chile should be San Pedro de Atacama, a small town in the Atacama Desert. Here you’ll find salt flats, geysers, and blue lagoons on this high Andean plateau. It’s one of the best places in the world for stargazing with clear nights and incredible observatories. 

Take a day trip to El Tatio geysers for a swim. See pink flamingos at Laguna de Chaxa in Reserva Nacional Los Flamencos, as well as Death Valley or Valle de la Muerte.  In the same park, check out the “Valley of the Moon”. With a name like that, you probably don’t want to miss it!

Santiago

You may have heard of civil unrest in Chile in 2019, but the protests went away quickly after strict government COVID-19 lockdowns.  If you are concerned about the safety of the country, understand that the riots have stopped, and that nearly all the unrest was in Santiago, so if you plan to go to Patagonia or Atacama, this wouldn’t have affected you much.  

Santiago is a modern city that is one of the most developed in Latin America. It is surrounded by snow capped mountains much like Denver, Colorado. You might even want to watch the sunset from the top of the Sky Costanera skyscraper.  

If you've been reading my guides to solo travel you know I can’t write one without recommending a cable car ride to see a city from above. Visit Metropolitan Park (Parque Tupahue aka Parque Metropolitano) for the zoo, botanical gardens, and ride the Teleférico Santiago for the beautiful view.  

Santiago is full of landmark buildings with impressive architecture. Plaza de Armas, La Moneda Palace, and the Metropolitan Cathedral are three areas you might want to check out.  Santiago also boasts several museums including the Fine Arts Museum (Bellas Artes), Museo Interactivo Mirador, and the Casa Museo La Chascona. To find street art, good coffee shops, and local food, check out the Bohemian neighborhood of Barrio Bellavista. Cerro Santa Lucia is a great little park for a sunny day. Finally, escape the city into the countryside for a vineyard tour or go skiing at Valle Nevado.

Valparaíso

An hour from Santiago, Valparaíso is a coastal city where many Chileans from the capital vacation. This city boomed before the Panama Canal with boats from Europe traveling to take advantage of California’s gold rush. 

Share the local delicacy chorrillana, a plate of french fries with egg, sausage, and other meats piled on top.  My wife is Chilean and grew up coming to Valpo… I wonder if this heart attack on a plate inspired her to be vegetarian!

Barrio Concepción is a great way to get a good look at local art and culture, like the massive murals. You could walk up the hill to see sunset, but again, you know I’m a fan of funiculars like Ascensor Concepción. At the time of this writing the lift is being renovated, so you might still need to walk. Concepción is one of the best areas for souvenir shopping. Parque Cultural de Valparaíso is a great place to see people dancing and hanging out on top of an old Spanish Fort. Calle Cumming is a great place to find a bar for a pisco sour, and if you really want to see culture, look out for a traditional Chilean tango bar. 

The beach town to the north of Valaparíso is called Viña del Mar and is considered to be the Miami of Chile. The National Botanical Gardens and the popular beach Playa Renaca area are two of the best outdoor places to check out. If you can’t make it to Easter Island, head to the Francisco Fonck Museum to see the authentic Moai in the garden, straight from Rapa Nui. For some adventure, explore the Concon Dunes, and try your hand at sandboarding. If you go during the summer, wear shoes and avoid midday, as the sand gets very hot! 

Patagonia and Torres del Paine

As you work your way south through Chile, fly to Puerto Arenas and then take a 3-hour bus ride to Puerto Natales, your last stop in civilization. From this gateway town, hike the W shaped circuit through Torres del Paine National Park that will take 4-5 days. Patagonia is an expensive trip, but a once in a lifetime experience. If you are going to spend the money, check out EcoCamp Patagonia, an incredible sustainable dome shaped hotel. From Torres del Paine, look to visit Argentinian Patagonia and take a bus to El Calafate.

Torres del Paine National Park south america solo travel destinations Chile
Hiking through Torres del Paine National Park

Easter Island

Known as Isla de Pasqua in Spanish and Rapa Nui locally, this volcanic island is 2,300 miles (3,701 kilometers) west of Chile in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. After a nearly six hour flight on LATAM from Santiago, you’ll actually be in the Polynesian triangle. Pay an ~$83 USD National Park Entrance fee to enter the island. Everyone goes to these remote islands to see the moai, or ancient face carvings, from 1250-1500 AD. Relax on beautiful beaches like Anakena and see the freshwater lake in Rano Kao Volcano. 

Solo Travel Destinations in Argentina

Argentina is a beautiful country to explore, starting with the cosmopolitan capital of Buenos Aires, often known as the “Paris of South America”. Argentina is known for its red meat and wine, so fuel up and then go see a polo match before heading south to Patagonia for some world-class hiking and kayaking. Finish your trip with the breathtaking Iguazú Falls.    

Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires is a big city with a European feel. Puerto Madero is one of the top attractions in the city, with modern architecture, spendier restaurants, nightlife, and a great place to stroll similar to the London Docklands. For a reprieve into nature nearby this neighborhood, check out the Reserva Ecológica Costanera Sur, with 900 acres of free nature walks. Buenos Aires is also a top pick for many LGBTQIA+ travelers, as the community has many gay friendly businesses.         

La Fería Mataderos is a more off the beaten path experience where locals go to listen to live music, tango, and shop at the street fair. Recoleta is another great weekend flea market to check out right in the center of the city. If you like beautiful architecture, consider touring the French Tudor style homestead Círculo Militar, and Palacio Barolo for a great view of the city.  For a better understanding of local culture, check out La Boca and the Caminito Street Museum for its colorful homes, outdoor markets, art, and music.

There are lots of ways to escape BA to get out of the hustle and bustle of the city. Take a ferry to Uruguay for a day trip and explore Colonia del Sacramento, the Portuguese influenced UNESCO heritage site. See the Argentinian countryside and understand Gaucho cowboy culture. For a high-end activity, take a polo lesson, or visit an estancia, or polo club, for a match.  Finally, consider visiting El Tigre, a town often compared to Venice, Italy to check out the old fruit harbor, craft market, and mate tea museum. 

Argentinian Patagonia 

If you explored Chilean Patagonia, cross the border at El Calafate to enter Argentina, where you’ll find yourself near the end of the Patagonian Ice Field. Enter Los Glaciares National Park and head to El Chaltén. Hike Laguna de los Tres and try to see Monte Fitz Roy. But don't plan on climbing this one unless you are a mountaineer, as it’s notoriously more difficult than Mount Everest. Back in El Calafate, take a boat ride to get up close and personal with Perito Moreno Glacier.  

If you’ve always wanted to visit “The End of the World” fly to Ushuaia from Buenos Aires or Santiago, Chile to access Tierra del Fuego National Park. Look for penguins on a boat through Beagle Channel at Isla Martillo, or choose to kayak with a guide. Take the Southern Fuegian Railway tourist train for a nice sightseeing excursion.  

Iguazú Falls

From Buenos Aires fly to Cataratas del Iguazú International Airport (IGR) and stay in the town of Puerto Iguazú. Legend has it that upon setting eyes on Iguazú Falls, First Lady of the United States Elanor Roosevelt exclaimed, “Poor Niagara!” This set of 150-300 waterfalls is located in Iguazú National Park on the Argentinian side and Iguaçu National Park on the Brazilian side. Take the time to see the falls from both sides and hike these parks. Here is a great trail map of Iguazú Falls. Bring your own reusable poncho and hike beneath the falls on the Brazilian side at Trilha das Cataratas. If you are continuing your trip through Brazil, fly to São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro from Foz do Iguaçu International Airport (IGU).

Iguazú Falls in Argentica south america solo travel destnations
Iguazú Falls along the border of Brazil and Argentina


Solo Travel Destinations in Brazil

Many people are apprehensive about visiting Brazil as a solo traveler as safety can be a concern. In my experience, you should take extra precaution, especially in major cities like Rio de Janeiro, keep your valuables locked up, and don’t walk alone at night. Be aware on the beaches and never leave your stuff unattended. Not so many people speak English in Brazil, but I was able to use my Spanish to speak Portunhol the way non-Spanish speakers might speak Spanglish in Hispanic countries.  All that being said, Brazil is an incredible, culturally rich country and I recommend exploring! 

Rio de Janeiro

There is so much to do in Rio de Janeiro! I suggest staying at least three days, but spending a week here would fly by, in my opinion. I stayed at Casa Cool Beans in the hip neighborhood of Santa Teresa. These guys really took care of me and had endless recommendations for what to do and see. I loved sitting at the neighborhood bar, and really appreciated how welcoming the locals were, as they share beer and Brazilian barbecue on the streets. Ride the old street car in Santa Teresa and walk down the Selarón steps in search of a caipirinha, the national cocktail of Brazil.

Selaron Steps in Rio de Janeiro Brazil  South America solo travel countries under30experiences
Sitting on the Selarón Steps in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil with Under30Experiences.


The world-famous Christ the Redeemer statue is a must-see in Rio de Janeiro. I’m not a fan of ultra-popular tourist sites, but I arrived early before the crowds to get a view of this incredible coastal city from the top of Corcovado Mountain. There is a lot of hiking in Tijuca National Park, but I wouldn’t recommend hiking alone as a solo traveler in Brazil. It’d be a good idea to hire a local guide or make friends with another traveler at your hostel.

After Tijuca National Park take a stroll through the Rio de Janeiro Botanical Gardens for your moment of zen.  These walking paths are a very safe place to stretch your legs. Bring your appetite and feast at a traditional Brazilian churrascaria, or steakhouse. Go out on a Friday night to the Arcos da Lapa district and catch a samba show.

To shake off the fog the next morning I hiked Dois Irmãos, in the Vidigal Favela. I know entering a favela sounds scary, but I went with a friend who lived in Vidigal teaching English.  She is a petite, fair skinned, North American, and she never had any problems.  This was several years ago, so ask around about safety. Here is a great guide to hiking Dois Iramãos

Next up, going to the top of the famous Pão de Açúcar, or Sugarloaf Mountain, is a fantastic experience. There is a well-traveled hike up Morro da Urca, and then continue up the cable car, or go with a guide and climbing gear to the summit of Sugarloaf. No prior climbing experience is necessary and the views from the top are so worth it.      

Finally, if you want to reach Brazilian pro-status, you’ll need to attend a soccer game. Seeing a game at Maracanã is like telling a baseball fan you went to Fenway Park or an American Football fan you’ve been to Lambeau Field. It’s a legendary environment, just be aware of your surroundings outside the stadium as things can get rowdy!   

Taking in a Brazilian soccer game at Maracanã in Rio!

São Paulo

São Paulo is the third largest city in the world, and while most people choose to visit Rio de Janeiro, no solo travel guide to Brazil can leave out this metropolis. Ethnic groups from all over the world have chosen São Paulo as home. Be sure to visit the Liberdade District, the largest Japanese community outside of Japan, and enjoy the Asian markets, cuisine, and celebration of culture. Paulista Avenue is home to mansions of former coffee plantation owners, many museums, theaters, and the financial district of Brazil. Rent a bike and cruise around Ibirapuera Park, São Paulo’s version of Central Park. São Paulo is part of the Atlantic Forest, so the parks are full of interesting flora and fauna. 

Salvador

Solo travelers to Brazil love the colonial city of Salvador, home to one of the country’s largest Carnival celebrations. The culture in this Afro-Brazilian city is warm and vibrant, but take time to understand Salvador’s historical significance as a sugar and slave trade hub. See the Pelourinho neighborhood and shop, eat, and dance to your heart’s content. Enjoy famous Brazilian dishes like moqueca, a coconut based fish stew, and catch a live capoeira show right on the street. Pack your bathing suit for time at beaches like Porto de Barra, Flamengo, and Stella Maris.

Go west from Salvador and check out off the beaten path in Chapada Diamantina National Park.  Here is what to pack for Brazil!

Foz do Iguaçu

I cover solo travel to Iguaçu Falls in the Argentina section of this guide.  In that section you will also find tips for the Brazilian side of the falls.

Trips for solo travelers: Learn why more than 70% of our travelers are solo travelers!

South America is an incredibly beautiful part of the world to explore. Backpacking or solo travel through this continent can be quite inexpensive if you are mindful of your budget. Be sure to support the local economies, and use your dollars to vote for the type of world you want. Many of these areas rely on tourism and the little money you spend is much appreciated. Look to spend money locally rather than at corporate or government run places. Spend your money directly with the people and support small businesses. Travel sustainably, protect the environment, and have fun!   

For more information on solo travel check out my book, The Millennial Travel Guidebook: Escape More, Spend Less, and Make Travel a Priority in Your Life.

Matt Wilson
Matt Wilson is Co-founder of Under30Experiences and Author of The Millennial Travel Guidebook: Escape More, Spend Less, & Make Travel a Priority in Your Life. He is host of the Live Different Podcast, Millennial Travel Podcast, and formerly Co-founder of Under30CEO.com. He is committed to helping people live more adventurous lives.

LOOKING FOR A SWEET TRAVEL DEAL?

OVER 500 FIVE STAR REVIEWS
last minute deals

FOLLOW THE ADVENTURE

As Seen In...