Camping around South America

After four years’ travelling from the Caribbean coast to Patagonia, Paula Dear says camping in deserts, in the shadow of the Andes and by tropical beaches – all for under £10 a night – made her trip to South America

South America is all about the freedom of the great outdoors. That’s what we have been embracing during a 1,500-day, 44,000-mile campervan trip that’s taken my husband Jeremy and I to hundreds of camping spots – from Colombia’s Caribbean coast through deserts and plains, around volcanoes and over the Andes down to the continent’s most southerly tip: wind-whipped Tierra del Fuego.

We’ve woken up on tranquil beaches, beside sparkling highland lakes, at the foot of snowy mountains and in plenty of petrol stations. In four years we’ve learned a thing or two about camping and living with the elements, from hot and bug-infested to downright freezing … and we have never felt more free.

Camping map, South America

South America may not be as well-known for camping as Europe or North America, but the continent is rich with opportunities for a camping holiday of any duration. Whether you’re backpacking with a tent, or hiring a car or motorhome, here are a few tips and our favourite discoveries for unforgettable nights under the stars.
Unless stated, campsites are open all year and reservations are not required. Tent hire is available at some sites. Prices rounded to the nearest pound.


Camping in the Tayrona national park, on Colombia’s spectacular Caribbean coast.
Camping in the Tayrona national park, on Colombia’s spectacular Caribbean coast. Photograph: Alamy

Tourism in Colombia is increasing as the country has become safer, and camping has recently been embraced in a big way. Good coastal spots for camping include the area around Palomino and the Tayrona national park on the Caribbean coast, east of Cartagena. The Andes region and coffee country are also attractive places to pitch up. Vehicle hire is not common though, and driving conditions can be on the hairy side.

1 Desert camping, Villavieja
Colombia’s Tatacoa Desert takes sleeping under the stars to a whole new level. Camp out, rustic-style, at the Observatorio Astronómico de la Tatacoa, 4km east of Villavieja. It’s also possible to wild camp or pitch up alongside cabins or restaurants – look for camping signs. Once the sun has set – an extraordinary sight in itself as the rock formations turn pink – it’s eyes upwards to take in the stars.
Pitches from £1pp,

2 Finca San Pedro, Sogamoso, Boyacá
The English-speaking owner of this pretty farm well off the beaten track runs Agama yoga courses and organises hikes to see the unique flora of the Andes’ Páramo de Ocetá, a landscape that only exists in high mountains in tropical areas.
Pitches from £2 per head, £5 to hire tent or hammock, inc breakfast, reservations preferred,

Walking in the Andes’ Páramo de Ocetá.
Walking in the Andes’ Páramo de Ocetá. Photograph: Paula Dear

3 La Serrana Hostel, Salento, Quindío
To the south of the huge Nevado del Ruiz volcano is this hostel-camping combo with great relaxation areas, overlooking green pastures. La Serrana offers coffee tours and has easy access to hiking the Cocora Valley, which has phenomenally tall wax palm trees.
Pitches £4pp inc breakfast, glamping tents from £16 for two, reservations preferred

4 Hacienda Venecia, Manizales, Caldas
This site, also in coffee country in central western Colombia, is close to the verdant Los Nevados national park and ticks lots of boxes. It’s a working coffee finca, has Wi-Fi, a swimming pool and drinkable tap water. Fascinating coffee tours and tasty meals available, too.
Pitches from £4pp, reservations required,


A view of Imbabura volcano from Rose Cottage.
A view of Imbabura volcano from Rose Cottage. Photograph: Paula Dear

There are a number of superb campsites in the country, including in its network of national parks and reserves, and along the Pacific coast. There are even a few designated camping areas on the Galapagos Islands. Decent main roads make it more attractive for vehicle hire than neighbouring countries.

5 Rose Cottage, Mojandita, Otavalo
As the name might suggest, this Andean resting spot is part-British owned, which also shows in the country-garden flowers and cutesy cabins. The hammocks, with views of multiple volcanoes, are undeniably more Ecuador than England though. It’s a 3km walk to the northern Ecuadorian town of Otavalo, with its famous craft market and Saturday animal fair, where some vendors trade guinea pigs to eat. Quito is two hours’ drive to the south.
Pitches from £7pp, reservations preferred,

6 Tambopaxi, Cotopaxi national park
There can be few more dramatic places to camp than beneath one of the world’s tallest active volcanoes. This hostel and campsite has a privileged position at the foot of 5,897-metre Cotopaxi, a perfect snow-cone surrounded by Andean grasslands. Prepare for chilly nights – the fact it’s almost on the equator is outweighed by the camping ground’s altitude of almost 4,000 metres. Beyond Tambopaxi the national park has several rustic, but free, designated camping areas, but visitors should ensure they arrive before the national park entrance closes at 3pm. The park is two hours’ drive south of Quito.
Pitches from £9pp inc breakfast,, reservation required


Colibri Camping, near La Paz.
Colibri Camping, near La Paz. Photograph: Paula Dear

Camping in Bolivia is still a low key affair but there’s a growing network of quality sites in popular areas such as Sorata, Samaipata, Coroico and La Paz. Elsewhere, it’s possible to get creative by asking to stay in the gardens of out-of-town restaurants or hotels. Wild camping is common around the other-wordly salt flats and lakes of the altiplano in the Andean south-west and the Jesuit mission towns of the eastern lowlands. In the highlands, allow time for acclimatising to the altitude and prepare for potentially cold, windy weather. Vehicle hire for foreigners is not common.

7 Sol y Luna Eco-Lodge, Coroico, Yungas
This is a tranquil resting spot in a sub-tropical cloud forest near the bottom of Bolivia’s infamous “Death Road” – otherwise known as the Yungas Road, which claimed scores of lives annually until new sections were opened in 2006, bypassing the dangerous stretches. Following the trails through the campsite’s huge garden is a fascinating wander in itself, especially for birders. The garden camping area is near one of two swimming pools, and the site boasts a restaurant, Wi-Fi, yoga and meditation room. It’s just under three hours’ drive from La Paz.
Pitches from £5pp, camping often closed during the Jan-Apr rainy season, reservations preferred,

8 Colibri Camping, Mallasa, La Paz
Perched high above a river valley with incredible views, this is a friendly British/Bolivian-owned outfit in a village with a rural feel. It’s close to the Valley of the Moon and 30 minutes from La Paz. Cooking classes, horse-riding and language lessons are available. There’s an outdoor kitchen and hot-tub, plus teepees and a cabin for glamping.
Pitches from £5pp,


Peru Naylamp hostel camping
Camping in the garden of Hostel Naylamp. Photograph: Paula Dear

The organised camping scene in Peru tends to align with the areas where tourists concentrate. Sites can be most easily found in the surfy beach areas of the north coast, and popular destinations like the Sacred Valley. In between the obvious locations, some improvisation might be needed. Hotel gardens are often a good bet – it’s worth asking on spec, especially in low season. Vehicle hire is not common.

9 Hostel Naylamp, Huanchaco, Trujillo
There is a walled garden for tents at this hostel, which is across the road from Huanchaco’s long sandy surfing beach. Motorhomers can use Huanchaco Gardens hotel, (, which has Wi-Fi, a swimming pool and restaurant.
Pitches from £3pp,

10 Camping Quinta LaLa, Cusco
This site, which attracts overlanding vehicles and tents, has only basic facilities, but what it lacks in luxury it makes up for by being quiet, secure and within walking distance of Cusco, Peru’s most stunning, and heavily touristed, colonial city, the capital of the Inca empire at the time of the Spanish conquest. It’s also very close to the Sacsaywamán ruins. Quinta LaLa’s friendly owners have good knowledge of trips and logistics. Drivers can store vehicles here if trekking or taking the train to Machu Picchu.
Pitches from £3pp, on Facebook


The Iguaçu falls
The Iguaçu falls, near Camping Paudimar. Photograph: Paula Dear

Camping Clube do Brasil has a network of more than 30 sites with member and non-member rates. The Motorhome Club lists sites suitable for vehicles, and has a list of campsites. Beach sites are numerous but can get very busy in the January/February peak season. A few companies rent motorhomes (list at and drivers can break long journeys at free petrol station truck stops, which usually have showers, Wi-Fi and restaurants.

11 Camping Pousada Do Mundaí, Porto Seguro, Bahia
A site which has gained great reviews as a top motorhome park and campground, with superb infrastructure. It is right next to the beach and within striking distance of south Bahia’s many other fine beaches, some of the very best in Brazil.
Pitches from £6pp, reservations recommended during high season/carnival,

12 Pousada and Camping Santa Clara, Corumbá, Mato Grosso do Sul
This campsite makes an ideal base for exploring Brazil’s Pantanal, the world’s largest wetland and one of the continent’s best places to spot wildlife, including jaguars, capybara, caiman and a spectacular array of birdlife. The site offers package options including meals and safari trips. The wettest months are usually February and March, when flooding is common.
Pitches from £6pp,

13 Hotel and Camping Paudimar, Foz do Iguaçu, Paraná
It’s just a short bus ride to the immense Iguaçu falls from this hostel and campsite, close to where Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay meet. Restaurant, bar, Wi-Fi and swimming pool to kick back after a day out.
Pitches from £5pp inc breakfast,


The writer’s campervan at Refugio y Camping Las Torres in the Torres del Paine national park, Chile
The writer’s campervan at Refugio y Camping Las Torres in the Torres del Paine national park, Chile. Photograph: Paula Dear

With locals enjoying the country’s natural beauty as much as visitors, campsites are not difficult to find in Chile, especially in national parks. Wild camping is common in many areas, too. Websites and have comprehensive listings. For motorhome rental contact and Vehicles can be taken into Argentina.

14 Pan De Azúcar Lodge, Chañaral
This campsite in the Pan de Azúcar national park looks directly on to the island home of about 2,000 Humboldt penguins, plus marine otters, sea lions and pelicans. It’s located in an area of wild coastal desert – so don’t expect hot water, Wi-Fi or supermarkets; expect immense sunsets, inquisitive desert foxes and boat trips to the island to see the penguins.
Pitches from £7pp,

15 Camping La Junta, Los Lagos
Another campsite with an enviable location, this time at the foot of giant granite domes of the Cochamó Valley – the Chilean Yosemite – just north of Patagonia. A haven for trekking and rock-climbing, it’s only accessible by foot or horse. Hikers get the added buzz of a river crossing via pulley.
Pitches from £4pp, Oct-March, reservations recommended,

16 Refugio y Camping Las Torres, Torres del Paine national park
This huge, clean site is at the start of the hike to the trio of peaks from which the park takes its name. There are excellent showers, drinkable tap water and road access, but bring a campstove – open fires are banned. The owners rent camping equipment, as do shops in Puerto Natales, 70 miles to the south. The site is at one end of the five- to seven-day ‘W’ trek, which has a network of free and fee-paying refuges.
Pitches from £8pp, Laguna Amarga park entrance, 12 Sept-30 Apr,


Bottle tree at Lakeside Camping Hain
Bottle tree at Lakeside Camping Hain Photograph: Paula Dear

Argentinians don’t only stay overnight in campsites but will pitch up just for the day to grill unfeasible quantities of meat and enjoy family time. Alongside hundreds of private campgrounds, it’s the only country in South America where municipal sites – usually simple, well-maintained public spaces – are guaranteed in most towns. It’s also acceptable for vehicle campers to sleep for no charge at petrol stations. The Argentina Super Atlas (available from Stanfords), includes campsite information. Useful listings websites include Solocampings, Acampante and Voydecamping. Motorhome hire is common – try Andean Roads.
Patagonia’s controversial new national park

17 Camping Luz y Fuerza, Cafayate
A site in the northern wine country and within walking distance of several vineyards. Tastings at El Porvenir and Bodega Nanni are a mere stagger away, as are the cafes of the attractive Cafayate town plaza, where wines with cheese-and-chorizo platters abound.
Pitches from £2pp, +54 386 842 1568, no website

18 Camping El Palmar, Ubajay, Parque Nacional El Palmar
On the banks of the river Uruguay, this is the only campsite inside the El Palmar park, where Argentina goes tropical. With silhouetted palms at sunset, capybaras bathing in streams, vivid birdlife and viscachas (a type of chinchilla) snuffling around the site at dusk, it’s a photographers’ paradise. There’s Wi-Fi and an onsite cafe.
Pitches from £5.50pp, on Facebook

19 Camping Los Alerces, El Bolsón, Patagonia
Occupying a sweet spot on the river Azul this site is 6km west of El Bolsón and has a cosy cafe serving snacks like milanesa (schnitzel-style meat) sandwiches. It’s walkable to the trailhead for the Hielo Azul glacier, and a network of mountain refuges, all with camping ( Register intended treks at El Bolsón’s mountain office, which has maps and campsite lists.
Pitches from £7pp, Nov-Apr,

Hielo Azul refuge near El Bolsón
The view from the Hielo Azul refuge near El Bolsón (19). Photograph: Paula Dear

20 Lakeside Camping Hain, Tolhuin, Tierra del Fuego
This site is as much a work of art as a campsite. Its energetic owner has turned it into an installation of colourful recycled junk, such as bottle “trees”. To counter the fierce winds, there are wooden teepees for tents to nestle in. The fire-heated kitchen contains commemorative plaques from travellers who have made it to remote Tierra del Fuego.
Pitches from £3pp, Tolhuin, Lake Fagnano, Tierra del Fuego, Oct-May,

Resources is a useful new open-source website and app compiling camp spots and other information
• See the PanAmerican Travelers Association Facebook group for discussions, questions and vehicle sales
Drivethe has Latin America road trip blogs, info and vehicle sales for group overlanding holidays, combining camping with hotels
• Many Europeans ship their own motorhomes to South America with
• Major supermarkets and DIY stores, like South American-wide Sodimac, have camping sections

Paula and Jeremy Dear’s travel blog is at, where a list of all their Central and South American camping spots can be found

Paula Dear

The GuardianTramp

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