touring Uyuni and South America with Surtrek.
There are some luxury travelers who want to let someone else make 100% of the plans. There are others who want to figure out every single detail on their own. But for all of those who are somewhere in between, the tour company Surtrek offers a nifty online trip planner for South America.

In the world of travel agents and tour companies, there are all kinds of ways that travel clients are referred to: FIT, MICE, groups, fixed departure, custom, excursion clients, and all kinds of other permutations. Put the boxes aside, however, and we’re usually talking about the level of autonomy: how much of the itinerary you are working out on your own and how much someone at an agency or tour company is figuring out for you.

With this “Discover Your South America” tool, you can build your trip as you go along, just as a travel specialist would manually. First you go through these steps:

1. Select a country or trip type that you are interested in
2. Pick one of the itineraries
3. Input your preferred travel dates and number of travelers
4. Define your hotel star rating of choice, or leave as recommended
5. Click the BUILD MY TRIP button to start customizing your tour

After that framework is in place, you can start tweaking: adding or subtracting activities, changing the duration in a given location, or switching hotel types, for instance.

Planning a Trip of a Lifetime in Chile

South America trip builder including Easter IslandIf you pick “South America Adventure Holidays” to get started, there are 18 adventure tours to pick from. Just to try it out, I clicked on the Highlights of Chile Tour – North to South. This is a long epic journey that includes the Atacama Desert, Easter Island, vineyards, and the wild areas of Patagonia at the bottom of the continent.

I picked a departure date of January (a good time to be in Patagonia) for two people, in 5-star hotels. Once the tour came up as is, it was 16 nights, starting in Santiago, for a shade less than $8,500 per person. There were a few hotels we’ve recommended in there, like Singular Patagonia and Hangaroa, plus one that’s going to be a Mandarin Oriental by the end of the year, before we’d arrive. A few other hotels were not 5-star though, even in San Pedro de Atacama where there are plenty, and when we hit “replace” none of the top ones there were listed. That’s something we would have to sort out by phone or e-mail afterwards.

In the planner though we could adjust the time in any location, add on activities, and play around with the cost as it went along. You’re not committing to anything in this planning process, so the idea is to get close to what you really want, then call them up to go over it, maybe asking, “How do I add on this view?”

Torres del Paine view in Chile on a build your own adventure

Build Your Own Ideal South America Vacation

This was just one example in the adventure category, but there are plenty of other starting points based on how you travel or where you want to be. You can start by country, for example, or if you’re planning to visit two or more countries you can check the other sections. There are itineraries for Honeymoons, Family Trips, Culture Tours, Wildlife Tours, Cruises, and more. There are options for “Must-See Sights,” but also “Off the Beaten Path.”

So if it’s your first time in South America and you’re going on your honeymoon, you might want to choose and then customize your Luxury Galapagos Islands trip, which includes island hopping on the Cormorant luxe catamaran ship and land time at Pikaia Lodge. Or how about “The Passions of Argentina?”

If you are coming back to the continent and want to really get away from the crowds off the beaten track, you might want to build your own tour of Salta and Northwest Argentina, the “Ultimate Uruguay Vacation,” or perhaps a trip through the Andes in Ecuador.

Casa del Arbol near Banos, Ecuador, by Surtrek

There’s a good chance you’ll find your ideal journey on the Surtrek site and once you’ve played around with the itinerary options, you can put the final touches on it with a representative that knows the region well.