South America

What is Overlanding?

Laura Pattara

Laura Pattara  |  1 October 2017

Want to come on an overland tour to South America…but don’t really know what all that entails? Read on and find out!

Overlanding is a term which was first coined in Australia in the mid-19th century. Back then, pastoralists cleared impossibly long tracks in the midst of inhospitable wilderness in order to walk their cattle from outback stations to port cities, for onward transportation. Nowadays, however, you need not tackle the infamous Canning Stock Route in the Aussie Outback to be an overlander. Nor do you need to have a herd of cattle en tow. A group of fellow travellers will do!

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The main idea of modern overlanding, for tourism purposes, is simply to travel by road through a chosen country, rather than fly from hub to hub. It’s a special kind of travel, this overlanding business, one which places a most definite highlight on the journey rather than the destination. This is, perhaps, the most poignant point: overlanding is about what you experience in between all those famous spots you came to see, especially in South America. The time you got bogged in the mud of Salar Uyuni during wet season, the mad dash across the Bolivian border before it closes for the holiday weekend; the times you fixed that flat tyre in a small town and met all those cool kids and the landscapes which paraded in front of your truck window as if on an old-school film reel. You see, hear, taste and smell a destination when you overland; you are completely absorbed by it and that’s the most precious part all. Overlanding turns any trip into an adventure expedition.

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South America is the ideal overlanding destination and the fact that the continent boasts a ‘Gringo Trail’ – a very defined overlanding tourist route – is testament to the fact. Given the fact that there is so much to see and do in every country, especially compact ones like Peru, Chile and Bolivia, it actually makes more sense to cover distances by road, rather than plane.

Overlanding allows you to get off the tourist path, to drive remote areas with fewer people, to see nature at its best and authentic villages at their quietest. You don’t always stop at restaurants for lunch, you’ll make your own on the side of the road, or the edge of a mountain, or the shores of a startling lake. You can camp and lodge along the way, you can shop for food in local markets and you can visit places many tourists simply never get to see.



Whilst some tourists – mostly youngens – will take to the dodgy public transport to get from A to B (in the hope of adding yet another exhilarating story to their repertoire) many will choose to join an established overland adventure tour company, like ours here at Viva Expeditions. It’s not hard to see why. Knowing there is safe and reliable transport at your beck and call (you’ll realise how important both aspects are once you’re actually here) and the time saved by having someone else (us) do the running around work, will leave you and your travel companions free to simply enjoy the ride, rather than be responsible for it.

Overlanding with Viva

Overlanding with Viva

The world of commercial overlanding can have the tendency, sometimes, to become a little homogeneous. Standardises tours, inflexible itineraries, hard-as-concrete-plans means the room for changes and freedom become sacrificed for the sake of the herd. And we don’t like that too much. Moreover, it seems that in the last few years, overlanding has come to denote discomfort and suffering, as if that’s the measure of just how ‘good’ a trip has been. We don’t much agree with that either.

Here at Viva Expeditions, we appreciate the fact that THIS may be the South America trip you’ve been dreaming your whole life. Maybe your first-ever trip, or the last one you think you’ll take. And you don’t want to go home disappointed. We get all of that, we’ve all felt that before and we endeavour not only to facilitate your trip but to be one of the main reasons it will be embedded in your heart forever. Our guides and drivers have been known to outshine even the most illustrious sites in South America and that’s why we love them. They’re professional at what they do. Damn, they were born for the job! They know what you need before you do, they deliver in spades and they take great pride in all the details, big or small, that combine to create the trip of a lifetime.

Moreover, our itineraries are actually designed to be changed, to be personalised, to be moulded into a unique journey that’s tailor-made for you. Because no two groups of people are ever the same, so why would anyone assume they’d enjoy the same trip?

Tailor-made itineraries based on our experienced knowledge, taking into consideration your most fervent wishes. That’s what we do best.


And to top it off, we own our own trucks and have designed them with fewer seats and more leg room for your comfort. We’ve installed heating and we’ve even installed an on-board toilet, because when you’re crossing the high Andes and it’s a frightening -5 outside, only a sadist tour guide would force you to get off the truck and pee behind a tree. We wouldn’t do that to you. We are the only company in the whole continent with en-suite trucks! And seat belt. Did we mention reclining chairs and seat belts!! Yep, we have those too :) 

So whether you dream of retracing the steps of the ancient Incas in Peru, bask in the glow of a Salar Uyuni sunset in Bolivia, count stars in the Atacama Desert of Chile, tackle anacondas in the wilds of the Amazon (eerrr, no, not really!) or learn to tango in Buenos Aires, why not give us a call?

Viva Expeditions – we are your South American specialists and the best travel companions you’ll want along for the overlanding ride. For those times when you need someone to remind you that you’re actually not allowed to tackle the wildlife.

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