Camping in South America
Daniel Clarke | On 06, Dec 2013
It might be a bit off the beaten track for most people, but if you like your camping a little on the wild side then South America might be right up your street. It’s true that you won’t find all that many Eurocamp-style sites with fantastic facilities and all mod-cons, but if for you camping is a chance to experience nature without impinging on it, or if you want to be able to look out in the morning onto some of the most beautiful scenery on earth… then some of the following might just be what you’ve been looking for.
The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
One of South America’s most famous destinations, the lost Inca city of Machu Picchu draws thousands of people every year on holiday to Peru. There are no roads to Machu Picchu so most visitors take the train along the Urubamba, but there is a much more interesting option on offer… the four-day Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu follows ancient Inca paths through the mountains, breaking at different campsites every night. Like most treks in Peru, at points you are over 4000m above sea level, so it’s certainly not a walk in the park, but so long as you are properly acclimatised, it’s unusual to have any problems, and you will even have a team of porters carrying all the tents and other camping equipment for you!
The campsites themselves are fairly basic by European or US standards, but do have toilet and shower facilities, and you can usually purchase snacks and drinks as well – although since you have to do the trek as part of an organised group, meals are usually provided (and cooked!) for you anyway.
Wild Camping in the Huayhuash
Also in Peru, but much more on the wild side, is camping in the central Cordillera Huayhuash. This is a much more adventurous and arduous trek than the Inca Trail, and you need to allow at least 7 days to trek the Huayhuash’s standard circuit. Again, acclimatisation is the key and even experienced hikers will find this hard going at points, with some of the mountain passes being well over 5000m. However, the views of snowy peaks and beautiful alpine meadows really are their own reward, especially the lookout over Las Tres Chimbadas – a series of three stunningly beautiful glacial lakes. In fact, it’s generally held to be not just the best high-altitude trekking in Peru, but in the world: only Tibet and Nepal come anywhere close to the drama of the scenery.
However at night it gets fiercely cold at these elevations so it pays to make sure you book with a reputable operator who provides decent equipment – tents and sleeping bags need to be four-season gear and preferably imported from the US/Europe – in Peru you get a lot of Brazilian-made kit which is of variable quality. You also need to be aware that there are no site facilities whatsoever, and so again make sure that your operator is equipped to deal with this.
World Cup Camping in Brazil
For something completely different, however, you might like to look at one of the most interesting ways to experience the 2014 World Cup in Brazil… With astronomical hotel prices making the World Cup unaffordable to all but the most dedicated fans, why not consider camping instead? Brazil is one of the few countries in South Americas where camping is popular as a leisure activity, and most of the World Cup cities actually have permanent campsites, including the most popular of the lot, Rio de Janeiro. As on the Inca Trail in Peru, the facilities in Brazil might not quite be up to what you’d find in Europe, but the sites generally have swimming pools, bars, cafes, and even on-site football pitches. Many also offer pre-assembled tents, sleeping bag hire, and other services, so if you’re travelling with kids then you don’t have to worry about bringing equipment with you or finding somewhere to hire it in Brazil.