South America Overland Tours – Here’s What to Expect

Laura Pattara

Laura Pattara  |  28 August 2018

Overland tours offer the unrivalled chance to explore some of the remotest regions of South America, those off-the-beaten-path stunners one misses when one simply flies between world-famous highlights instead. Overlanding means exploring those endless horizons you normally only admire from afar, visiting remote communities not listed on any guide-book and casting your eyes on awe-inspiring wilderness you never even knew existed. A more intense, rewarding and authentic travel experience, overlanding doesn’t just bring you closer to your chosen destination: it throws you right into the heart of it and immerses you entirely into the nature, culture and essence of it all.

In a continent like South America, which is truly tailor-made for overlanding, road-trip tours are exceptionally popular, be they on organised group tours like this (a group of like-minded travellers are catapulted together on a specially-kitted overland truck to share a wicked adventure) or a bespoke overland tour (like this one) that’s tailor-made to suit a private group’s needs and desires, using whatever means of road transport they choose. Obviously, there are stark differences between the two overland tour styles (travelling with strangers vs travelling with your friends and family) although all overland tours in South America, by their very definition, share many more commonalities.

Wondering what to expect (and what NOT to expect) on South America overland tours?

Then buckle up, dear adventurer and come discover just how exhilarating a road trip in South America can be!

 

Expect to have the adventure of a lifetime

See all our South America tours here.

Overlanding turns an ‘average holiday’ into the adventure of a lifetime, a journey of discovery where everything becomes a little less predictable and a heck of a lot more fun. Travelling is certainly unpredictable enough, we get that, but there’s something about exploring a destination by road that throws countless more curveballs your way. Every itinerary is ‘intended’, every stop ‘planned’ and every inclusion ‘probable’ yet when you overland through a remote region of a country or a lesser-developed country in general, ‘plans’ becomes a tad more exciting. If you’re more of a journey kind of traveller rather than one who only wants to tick off items on a list, then overlanding will be right up your alley. Ticking off those most dreamed-about spots in South America is extraordinary, that’s true, but experiencing the raw side of travel – where road-blocks, flat tyres, strikes, torrential rain and rough roads can temporarily derail the plan in sensational fashion – is one of its most endearing attributes. Overlanding dishes up the kind of travel stories that’ll enthral the grandkids and turns any ol’ holiday-maker into an adventurous explorer.

 

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DON’T expect it to be ‘epic’, 100% of the time

Check out all our tours to South America.

For the sake of a balanced view, best to get this one out of the way! Yes, indeed, overlanding is an epic adventure but that doesn’t mean it’s gonna feel like it, all of the time. Sometimes, it’s a tiring long day on the road with not too many wicked distractions or highlights to visit along the way. South America, at the end of the day, is a huge continent and even if you’re just exploring one corner of it (like Patagonia) you’ll surely have to contend with some serious drive-days because at times, unless you’re driving along the legendary Northern Route 40, you may just be needing to get from A to B. Luckily, there’s a multitude of stuff you can do, use the time to get to know your fellow passengers, play games, delve into that book you have been meaning to read for years or read up on the next section of the trip, sleep (pack earplugs and an eye mask), listen to some music or pick the brain of your tour leader who’ll no doubt have 101 tips and recommendations for things to see and do at the next stop.

Use the travelling time to your advantage and that odd ‘long day on the road’ can be time well spent. Besides, there’s no such thing as a boring landscape, in our humble opinion and spending a whole day admiring the wilderness that whizzes by your window is a brilliant and rather contemplative exercise. Can’t seem to find even a single redeeming feature of a long drive day? Remind yourself that you could be sitting in your office and working instead and we bet it’ll bring a smile on your face immediately.

 

Expect the rewards to far outweigh the downsides

Explore the mountainous landscapes of South America here.

There are downsides to anything in life and so it is with overlanding, a style of travel that can be tiring and frustrating at times. However, what it can be is immensely rewarding and totally awe-inspiring: an experience whose benefits far, far, faaaaar outweigh any of the downsides.

 

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Expect to discover unimaginable treasures

Book your trip to South America to discover it's wonders. 

Hopelessly lost one night in the heart of the southern Peruvian backcountry more than a decade ago, we spot a cluster of lights in the distance and decide to drive towards it. We came across a small village, a speck of a place really, with one of the most beautiful little churches we’d ever seen. Within minutes, the entire village emerged to greet us and, within an hour, I’d managed to arrange a dinner and homestay for every guest, including myself. An amazing last-minute adventure in its own right. Next morning, I was greeted with a cup of coffee by the town mayor who had ‘something special to show me’. In the hidden crypt of the Santiago Apostol Church in the town I now know to be Lampa, I came face to face with a 400-year-old ossuary that was incredible and, even more breath-taking, the only Vatican-officialised copy of Michelangelo’s Pieta’. See some incredible pics right here. I excitedly gathered my overland tour group and brought them down to the crypt. We all stood there in absolute awe as if we were the first humans to have ever laid eyes on it.

This is overlanding.

Overlanding is discovering those unimaginable treasures while you’re busily trying to get from one famous highlight to the next.

 

Expect to feel safe and be guided at every step

Let Viva to take care of your safety during your trip to South America.

The above-mentioned experience is one of the most unforgettable of my guiding career yet, truth be told, it was also one of the most stressful. You know, before we actually spotted the lights of Lampa.  As an overland guide, the responsibility for everything and everyone rested squarely on my shoulders which means you, as an overlanding guest, have precious little to stress about when taking an organised overland tour in South America. From the logistical conundrums of booking every accommodation, excursion and national park visit to planning a comprehensive itinerary and seeing it to fruition, overcoming obstacles, re-planning at the last-minute and dealing with all those curveballs (which sometimes feel more like cannonballs) that are part and parcel of travelling. None of that is YOUR problem to solve and that exceptional inclusion you find in every overland group tour brochure (*your tour includes an expert tour leader and experienced driver*) makes all the difference in the world. From the moment you book until you walk through your home’s front door at the end of your sensational adventure: organised overland group travel is the most hassle-free and safest way to explore and discover South America.

 

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Expect a gastronomic adventure

Experience the local culture of different South America's destinations

Because we have the experience, we know that some of the most authentic and delicious food in South America is found way off the tourist path and well away from some of its most famous highlights. Overlanding is also a fabulous way to eat your way through your chosen destination, encountering remote communities who always seem so eager to show off their culinary prowess. Our South America overland tour guests have been at the receiving end of some beautiful hospitality and epicurean feasting, discovering dishes not available anywhere else and super fresh local produce not sold anywhere else. It’s not always gourmet and it’s not always recognisable (bull genital soup in Bolivia, anyone?) but if you want to take your taste buds on a true journey of discovery then overlanding is the way to go!

 

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Expect to learn so much

Learn every day on our tours to South America.

Perhaps it’s the sheer extra time one has when one is overlanding and it’s definitely the inclusion of very knowledgeable guides but one of the most often-commented benefits of our overlanding tours, as told by our guests, is that they learn so much, be it of the local culture, geology, wildlife or history of their chosen destination. We strive to employ the most experienced and knowledgeable guides because we find the more knowledge imparted the more comprehensive and rewarding the experience for our guests. Machu Picchu is amazing enough to admire, for example, but it’s even more mind-blowing when you learn about the construction of the ancient citadel and the meaning behind the placement of every stone. This is where guided overland tours really reign supreme.

 

DON’T expect to be able to do it all

Experience the diversity of South America.

Even with an extended itinerary and all the time in the world: you simply can’t do it and see it all in South America in just a single overland tour. At times, you’ll be asked to choose what you’d most prefer to do on any given day. Head to Torres del Paine and you’ll have multiple hikes to choose from, visit Iguazu Falls and you may only have time to either take a thrilling speedboat ride or a fabulous helicopter tour. Even on private bespoke itineraries, which you can extend at will, you will still need to know beforehand what options are available and at which stops. Prior research and knowledge are the antidotes to most pesky conundrums when overlanding in South America and that’s why we always offer comprehensive pre-trip notes which should be thoroughly devoured by every expectant guest. Don’t let anything take you by surprise: know what’s coming up and what choices you’ll be asked to make and you’ll feel a lot less disappointed should you be forced to skip something.

 

DON’T expect consistency in luxury and comfort

See all tours to South America.

One of the hardest points to get across to many first-time visitors to South America is the fact that not all stars – when it comes to accommodation and services – are created equal. A 4* hotel in Australia and New Zealand is immensely different to a 4*hotel in Peru or 4* lodge in the remotest regions of Patagonia. For the most part, ratings are comparative in the immediate location so it pays to keep expectations in check and constantly remind yourself of where you are. Having said all this, do note that here at Viva Expeditions, we run some of the most ‘high-comfort’ tours on offer throughout the continent, also boasting the only overland truck with en-suite bathroom. No matter where we go, however, we will always endeavour to include overnight stays in some of the most authentic and cosy places in South America.

 

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Itching to join us on an overland tour through South America? Then whaddaya waiting for?!

COME.ON.OVER!

Learn more about Group Tours and Expedition Travel, how affordable and rewarding Custom Tours can be and don’t forget to scroll to the bottom of each page for even more travel inspiration from all our South America Tours page. Check out the Top 5 Group Tours in Patagonia (arguably the most popular overlanding region of all) and just in case you have any doubt, see how rewarding overlanding group tours can be even if you’re travelling solo.

Contact us if you’d love to know more about all our South America tour options.

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