Motorcycle Diaries: Two-wheeled backpacking destinations in South America

Motorcycle touring in mountains

Whilst the image of a typical backpacker may conjure ideas of a rucksack laden hiker, the truth is we intrepid explorers use more than just our feet to get us from place to place. Sure, hiking does constitute a large part of our journeys but no-one walks across the entire South American continent.

Taking inspiration from the moving biopic of Che Guevara, The Motorcycle Diaries, here we take a look at some of the top South American destinations you can visit on two wheels. Of course, you’ll need to invest in the appropriate equipment and protection – whether that’s single trip travel insurance such as the Allianz Global Assistance single trip travel insurance or annual protection that gives you the freedom to roam in safety – but with all the practicalities taken care of you can enjoy these stunning South American destinations.


The Andes Mountains



As the longest continental mountain range on our planet, the Andes are already a popular holiday destination. Encompassing seven countries on the South American continent, Guevara’s journey here was undoubtedly a memorable one.

For modern travellers, the varied terrain is perfect for exploration and there are numerous trails for you to follow – with or without a tour guide. If taking the more extreme challenges it is advisable to stick with an organised tour and whilst the journey might be an uphill struggle, the views from the top will surely be worth it.

Amazon River Basin

The Amazon River at sunset

With most of the Amazon River Basin covered by the Amazon Rainforest, this is another destination for those after a truly memorable trip. Home to one of the most diverse collections of plant and animal species in the world, the Amazon Rainforest represents more than half of the world’s surviving rainforest and is thought to contain a vast number of unknown or unidentified plant and animal species in its unexplored regions.

These actually make up the majority of the rainforest and whilst it may be tempting to embody the spirit of Indiana Jones and explore new areas, sticking with tried-and-tested routes is probably best. That doesn’t mean you’ll be stuck on man-made roads though. There are plenty of journeys into the Amazon that take you through the bush so you can get up close and personal with the wildlife.

Atacama Desert

Lake in the Chilean Altiplano

A 600 mile plateau, the Atacama Desert is another of Guevara’s stops on his famous tour. Claimed to be the driest desert in the world by numerous sources, the terrain is mostly salt lakes, felsic lava and sand. The close proximity to the Amazon River Basin and Andes are responsible for the climate and terrain here with the height of the Andes preventing convective clouds formed over the moist Amazon from reaching Atacama.

Offering a totally new experience to those previously mentioned, adding Atacama to your itinerary is surely a wise decision. Whether you just take in these three locations or retrace all of Guevara’s footsteps (or tire tracks) is up to you but the end result is sure to be an enjoyable trip.

Photos by Motographer, Matthew Straubmuller, mariusz kluzniak, and Melissa Toledo on flickr

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Related articles:

The Amazon Rainforest, Brazil
The Nazca Lines, Peru

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