Backpacking in South America was one of our all-time travel highlights.
We travelled light, said ‘yes’ to as many adventures as possible, made friends to last a lifetime and saw things that we’d only ever dreamed of. We did all of this whilst travelling on a budget, often sleeping in rooms filled with bunkbeds.
Would we do it again? You bet!
To help make your own trip amazing, we’ve put together the following guide to our favourite hostels – the best of the best that we came across whilst backpacking in South America.
Backpacking South America – A Once in a Lifetime Experience
Backpacking in South America is unlike anywhere else.
There you’ll find countless others who are also travelling on a budget, all on the adventure of a lifetime.
The camaraderie and friendship that we experienced in these hostels was one of the most positive memories that we took away from our trip. When you consider just how amazing the rest of our journey was, that really shows how fabulous our experiences in these hostels were!
If you’re planning a long-term trip backpacking South America, or are simply travelling on a budget, you’ll need to keep an eye on your accommodation bill. Thankfully though, backpacking doesn’t mean you’ll be scraping the bottom of the barrel – quite the opposite!
Over the course of our six month journey, on occasion we stayed in luxurious accommodations (EcoCamp, Mashpi Lodge, and our time onboard Ecoventura all spring to mind), but to do so for six months straight simply wasn’t possible.
With so many amazing hostels, offering clean, tidy, comfortable accommodation at great prices, there really isn’t any reason why people of all ages can’t backpack South America – in fact, we think it’s the perfect place to start your journey into hostels!
You’ve probably heard horror stories about how backpacking in South America (and all over the world, for that matter) can go wrong. If you stick to the hostels we recommend in this post, you really can’t go wrong though.
We firmly believe that choosing the right hostels whilst you’re travelling can make a world of difference.
In our time backpacking South America, we experienced everything from stellar accommodation (mentioned here) to hotels that we really couldn’t recommend (and for that reason, of course won’t).
Don’t mess try your luck with whatever comes up first on Booking.com; follow the suggestions in this guide and we’ll see you right.
The Best Hostels in South America – The Top of the Pack
Throughout our six months in South America, we were delighted to find a number of incredible hostels and would recommend each and every one of them. The following are our pick of the very best – all tried and tested by yours truely!
Most Social – Chili Kiwi Lakefront – Pucón, Chile
Chili Kiwi was the first South American hostel to really win us over and it did it in a big way! During our 2.5 week stay (that’s right, it was that hard to leave), we made friends for life. With friendly staff, a great range of accommodation options (we especially liked the hobbit holes), a stunning lakeside location and enough activities to keep you entertained for weeks, you’ll find it hard to pull yourself away from Pucón’s best hostel too.
Whilst travelling, we’re always on the hunt for hostels where travellers are friendly and keen for a chat but happy to let everyone sleep when the time comes. Chili Kiwi was the epitome of what we look for – a social hostel, yes, but not a party hostel – perfect!
Best Breakfast – Discovery Hostel – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Though Discovery Hostel is so much more than a fabulous breakfast, it’s hard to think of much else as you pull up a chair first thing in the morning! With pancakes, cinnamon sugar french toast, fresh fruit, sauteed veggies and the most incredible fresh-from-the-oven banana bread, it’s an included breakfast that goes far beyond what you’d expect of a backpackers.
Aside from the breakfast (which we’re still dreaming of), we loved the location of the hostel (super safe, near the metro) and found the hostel itself to be very social.
Most Idyllic Location – Happy Hammock Eco Guesthouse – Paraty, Brazil
A 15-minute boat ride from Paraty, Happy Hammock, set on the shore of a semi-private beach, provides the most incredible hostel views imaginable. With friendly hosts (who are particularly adept in the kitchen) and plenty of hikes and swimming spots close by, it’s the perfect place to relax.
Best of all though? Once the sun goes down, Happy Hammock turns on the magic! Guests are invited to done mask and snorkels and jump off the wharf where bioluminescent plankton light up the sea. Though we only planned to swim on the first night, we couldn’t resist a dip on the second night too… Should you pay them a visit, you’ll see why.
Best City Location – BlackPine Hostel – Medellín, Colombia
Set in the leafy suburb of Poblado, BlackPine is the perfect hostel for travellers new to backpacking. With incredibly respectful guests, comfortable beds, tidy bathrooms and smiling staff, you’ll get a great nights sleep without breaking the bank.
With hot showers (which are in short supply in Colombia) and a choice of yummy cooked breakfasts each morning, BlackPine is a great place to relax. Should you wish to go further afield though, they’re well located close to a range of low-cost restaurants (hunt out the Mexican – you don’t regret it) and the metro.
Best Showers – Magicpacker Hostel – Cusco, Peru
Any stay in Cusco is bound to be action-packed with so many amazing hikes, archaeological sites and activities in the region. At the end of a busy day, you’ll need somewhere restful to recharge your batteries and Magicpacker is exactly the ticket.
With some of the best showers we encountered on our travels, a massive TV set to stream NetFlix, social guests and the most fabulous dinners offered (on certain nights of the week), it very quickly became our home away from home.
Best Chill Space – Wild Olive Guest House – Huacachina, Peru
Situated right on the edge of South America’s only natural oasis, the Wild Olive Guest House is a super comfy option for travellers.
With comfortable sofas, another massive TV, friendly guests and a delicious included breakfast (you even get to order off their menu – oh the choice!) it really is a great place to relax in what’s considered a bit of a party town.
Most ‘Worth the Effort’ – Llullu Llama – Quilotoa Loop, Isinlivi, Ecuador
The first stop for us on the Quilotoa Loop, a three-day hike, ended up being a real highlight of our time on the trail. The hostel itself was incredibly comfortable and served up hearty food and tasty cocktails, perfect to refuel our energy stores. It also had a lovely spa (though we didn’t think to take our swimmers!), an unbelievably massive (and gorgeous) St. Bernard and best of all, it attracted a social, friendly group of travellers.
We hiked for the next two days with our newfound friends and though we didn’t find the hike itself to be quite as impressive as we’d expected, we had absolutely no regrets, largely thanks to Llullu Llama and the new buddies we made there.
Snuggliest Fire – Margouya Patagonia Outdoor – Puerto Varas, Chile
There’s nothing like a roaring fire when it’s chilly outside… it’s even better when it’s right in your bedroom and lit by someone else each night!
Margpuya Patagonia Outdoor provided respite from the cold whilst being a comfortable, social hostel. The rooms themselves were a fairly good size and there were plenty of activities on offer through the front desk, along with staff that were always happy to help with local bus information.
Most Helpful Staff – La Justina – San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina
Though we arrived late to La Justina, Leonardo, the manager, was ready and waiting with lots of information to help us make the most of our stay in Bariloche. Throughout our stay, Leonardo extended every kindness to us, and to our two friends who were free camping in town – he didn’t need to but it was so very much appreciated.
The hostel itself was comfortable with a great chill-out area and an expansive kitchen. The beds were comfortable and whilst we were there, the hostel was quiet enough that we got the dorm to ourselves – awesome!
Best Spanish Practise – Hostal Princesa Maria -Baños de Agua Santa, Ecuador
Though travellers are emersed in Spanish whilst in South America it’s remarkable just how little Spanish is spoken in hostels. On the occasions when we did come across someone who only spoke Spanish, it was often fast and in unexpected contexts, making it difficult for us to understand.
What a treat it was then, to meet Victor, the owner of Hostal Princesa Maria. He spoke Spanish slowly, simply and with a great deal of patience, making us realise that our Spanish really had improved, we’d just not had the chance to put ourselves through our paces at the right level all that often.
The hostel itself was well located, close to town but out of the noise of the main square, and provided access to well-priced activities with professional guides – really though, Victor was the shining light of the property.
Best Value – Landscape – International B&B – La Paz, Bolivia
La Paz was a city that really surprised us – it was a busy, hectic South American city but without doubt, it had a real soul.
Located a bit out of the tourist centre, Landscape International provided excellent accommodation at very reasonable rates; so much so that we didn’t have to think twice about upgrading to a private double room – a real treat on our trip.
Beautiful Location – Casa Relax Minca Hostal Boutique – Minca, Colombia
A 15-minute walk out of the centre of town, Casa Relax Minca was a lovely escape from reality.
With friendly guests and plenty of assistance from the staff in planning our day, it was the perfect base from which to explore the local area whilst chilling out.
Pro Tip: If possible, request one of the rooms downstairs (if you’re there for the weekend) as the rooms upstairs don’t have their own ceilings, which means that the sound from the lounge transfers over. Don’t let it put you off though, it’s a great hostel with respectful guests – just book a room downstairs if it’s Friday or Saturday.
Bucket-List Views – Refugio Paine Grande – Torres del Paine, Chilean Patagonia
Though it was far from our favourite hostel based on facilities, you just can’t beat Refugio Paine Grande for its incredible location.
Right in the middle of Torres del Paine, Chile’s iconic national park, we experienced some of the most incredible hikes we’ll probably ever have the pleasure of undertaking. At the end of a big day out on the trails, there was nothing better than snuggling up, knowing that such incredible beauty was just beyond the window.
Backpacking in South America – You don’t have to rough it…
Accommodation in South America can be both cheap and cheerful.
Without a doubt, we encountered our fair share of disappointing hostels but with our tips, you can skip right to the best of the best!
Even if you’ve never backpacked before, we’d implore you to give it a shot. With a real community of like-minded, respectful travellers on the continent, staying in South American hostels needn’t be a scary thought – quite the opposite, a great hostel is an opportunity to meet new friends whilst saving money and staying in comfort.
… and that’s muy bueno!
If you want to save travellers from bad hostels whilst backpacking in South America, pin this post so they spot the good ones!