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Self Drive Guide

Self Drive Guide

Break away from the crowds and unleash your sense of adventure with the freedom of your own transportation. Discover secluded beauty spots, stop for local bites at village cantinas far from the tourist trail, and take your time meandering through winding canyons or beside crystalline fjords: a hire car will give you unrivalled access to corners of Latin America other visitors seldom reach.

Self-drive holidays suit those of an independent spirit, who like to travel at their own pace, getting beneath the skin of a destination by exploring it in depth. Meanwhile the reassurance of our expert planning, reservations at carefully-selected hotels, and our support whenever you need it, means that all this will be underpinned by sound organisation and insider knowledge at every step of the journey.

Chile

Chile is so long and has so much to offer that most travellers’ itineraries resemble a whistle-stop tour, hopping by air between the country’sSelf-Drive in the Lake District incredible extremes within a matter of days. But driving in Chile offers the chance to slow down and really get to know the country. The Lake District alone has so many distractingly beautiful circuits you could spend an entire holiday there. The leafy roads of Chile’s wine country lead to country towns, boutique lodges and renowned vineyards which welcome visitors. For an off the beaten track experience, Patagonia’s Austral Road slices through virgin wilderness straight out of your imagination.

Explore Patagonia by hire-car on our Self-drive Chile: Lake District and Torres del Paine, Self-drive Chile: Off the beaten track or Self-drive Patagonia: The open road to Torres del Paine holidays. 

We organise your car hire and accommodation but self-driving in Chile becomes your own adventure the moment you get on the road: pause for as many pictures as you like, stop for a soak in thermal springs or a walk in a monkey puzzle forest – and arrive at your lodgings when it suits you.

Argentina

We’re not suggesting you try driving across a country eleven times the size of Great Britain. Instead we fly you across Argentina’s immense territory leaving you free to explore the best bits behind the wheel.

For a self-drive holiday in Argentina with an Andean flavour, it’s hard to imagine a better setting than the north-western provinces of Salta and Jujuy.  In the Humahuaca Gorge, close to exotic Bolivia, you might stumble upon a pre-Inca fortress or a colourful village festival. Explore this fascinating region on our Self-drive Argentina: Highlights of the hidden northwest holiday. Meanwhile, the rugged Calchaquíes Valleys introduce colonial villages with dazzling white churches, and russet canyons with cartoon-size cacti and splashes of intense green. It feels remote and there are few paved roads up here, further enhancing your adventure with a pioneering spirit. But vineyards, the promise of delicious regional cuisine and comfy, tasteful lodgings are a reminder that the distinctly civilised pleasures of travelling in Argentina are not far away. Self-drive these days also opens up the amazing landscapes of Patagonia, ready for you to explore at your own leisure and preferred speed. Explore the wilderness of the Argentine Lake District and Patagonia on our Self-drive Argentina: Patagonia, Lake District and Perito Moreno holiday. 

Mexico

Mexico is one of the easiest and most rewarding places in Latin America to drive, with good, well-paved roads and clear signposting. However, the bustling capital is a daunting place to begin, so we arrange for a local guide to drive you until you’re comfortably out of Mexico City. Once you’ve got your bearings and a decent map (provided), you’re free to explore the beautiful, colonial silver mining towns of Michoacán, one of Mexico’s most authentic, undiscovered states. Visit the atmospheric markets and Lake Janitzio, the epicentre of Mexico’s Day of the Dead celebrations, in Pátzcuaro, en route to Morelia’s magnificent cathedrals and Guanajuato’s beautiful pastel streets.

By contrast you could pick up your car in Cancún and take your time heading south via the ruins at Tulum, stopping to cool off in the turquoise ocean or one of the distinctive cenotes (freshwater sinkholes sacred to the ancient Maya) that pepper the peninsula. Driving is the perfect way to get off the beaten track and explore the less-visited Mayan sites of the Yucatán as well as discovering untouched stretches of Caribbean coastline. Discover the peninsula with the family on our Family Mexico: A self-drive adventure holiday or stay at converted haciendas and a first class Caribbean resort on our Luxury Mexico: Self-drive Yucatan haciendas and Caribbean coast holiday. Alternatively, go on the rugged highland colonial-cities loop and on the Pacific coast on our Self-drive Mexico: Colonial cities to Pacific coast holiday.

Cuba

Although Cuba has main roads that link its cities, the locals make no distinction between how they use them and the dirt tracks of more rural areas, so don’t be surprised to find yourself slowing down for an ox cart! With a bit of patience and a well-developed sense of adventure there can be few more rewarding experiences than a self-drive trip in Cuba.

As Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean you may need to restrict yourself to one region depending on time, but you can quite comfortably head out west to see the mogotes (limestone outcrops) of Viñales set amongst lush, green tobacco plantations followed by a few days in colonial Trinidad de Cuba. You needn’t pick up your car on arrival, as first you’ll probably want to explore the sights and sounds of one of the world’s most vibrant and evocative cities, Havana.

Uruguay

Uruguay is a relatively small country between Brazil and Argentina, and is a destination that offers a real sense of breathing space. The gently rolling countryside is explored easily and at leisure with the freedom of your own hire car. Our Self-drive Uruguay: Classic highlights holiday explores the UNESCO jewel of Colonia, Carmelo's vineyards, Montevideo's art-deco streets, Rocha's glorious countryside and the beaches of José Ignacio.

Ecuador

There's nothing better than exploring the Ecuadorian wilderness at leisure by hire-car. From the snow-dipped volcanoes to the sultry rainforest of the Amazon basin, and from the misty cloud forest to the highland cities, Ecuador has plenty to offer. Driving in this country is a true adventure where four-lane auto-routes intersperse with cobbled country lanes. Drive the iconic Panamerican Highway following the Avenue of the Volcanoes, visit stately colonial cities and relax on the Pacific Coast on our Self-drive Ecuador: The avenue of the volcanoes holiday. 

Unique to Journey Latin America is the Self-drive Ecuador: The back road of the Andes holiday, where you can now navigate the newly-paved road, Route 45, winding its way through the Cloud Forest on the fringe of the Ecuadorian Amazon. 

Colombia

A few years ago, you wouldn’t have thought about driving your own car in Colombia. But now this politically stabilised and utterly enchanting country’s roads welcome overseas drivers. The Coffee Region sits in between the cities of Pereira, Armenia and Manizales in the western Andes where the distinctive Colombian coffee bean is produced. Explore this region on our Self-drive Colombia: Exploring the Coffee Region and beyond where you'll stay in hospitable restored colonial coffee farms. Driving in Colombia can be challenging, but how much you drive on your own and how much with an English-speaking driving accompanying you on excursions is mostly up to you. Also, whether you take the main roads or intriguing little detours off the beaten track is your own choice. However you do it, you'll have an exhilarating, adventurous and rewarding time, with glorious views throughout.

Costa Rica 

Costa Rica has a comprehensive road network, which makes it an ideal destination for independent exploration by self-drive 4WD hire car. Much of the enjoyment is getting off the beaten tracks and onto the dirt and rural roads where you can stop to explore at leisure. The country is excellent for wildlife spotting, outdoor adventures, as well as beach holidays. On our Self-drive Costa Rica: Coast to coast adventures you'll explore the mysterious cloud forest with its misty landscape, volcanoes, waterfalls and hanging bridges before visiting a Pacific beach. 

Brazil

Not all regions in Brazil are suitable for self-driving. However, Santa Catarina, in southern Brazil close to Argentina and Uruguay is a real delight, with well-serviced roads and a peaceful ambiance. On our Self-drive Southern Brazil and Buenos Aires holiday the adventure starts in vibrant Rio de Janeiro, before flying south to Florianopolis. Explore the prosperous state of Santa Catarina at your own leisure, and admire the vineyards and Alpine-style dairy farms that thrive in the valleys between verdant, rugged, and little-visited canyons and tableland plateaux. 

Peru

Peru offers a great mix of sublime landscapes, wildlife, history and culture. We offer an adventurous and challenging way of exploring some of both Peru's highlights and more remote areas - less visited but not less alluring - on our Peru: Drive across the Andes holiday. If you're excited by the idea of tackling sinuous, cliff-hugging, rock-and-dirt roads climbing and plunging through the tortured valleys of the ice-jacketed Andes, passing tumbling rivers and penetrating volcano-studded desert, this is a holiday for you. While driving you own 4x4 hire-car, you are supported by a support vehicle staffed by experts. Visit top sights, such as Cusco, as well as emerging destinations including colonial Ayacucho on this adventurous journey across the Andes.

Why don’t we offer self-drive holidays elsewhere?

We take the greatest pride and care in ensuring that every holiday we offer is up to our high standards, and we insist on giving everything a try ourselves before recommending it to our clients. Unfortunately when it comes to driving conditions and road safety we feel that some areas of Latin America cannot meet the standards we expect – and until we are fully confident that they do, we will not offer them as self-drive destinations.

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