Gravity - Death Road, Bolivia - Riders In Front of Lake

My Fears

“Have you ridden death road? Did you shit yourself?” was a question I asked many unassuming female guests who looked roughly my age and had potentially my level of fitness (i.e. none) while at my hostel in La Paz. With an overwhelming response of “it’s absolutely amazing” and “you’ll regret it if you don’t do it”, I plucked up the courage to book my “Death Road” tour.

By “plucked up the courage”, I mean that I sat around on my phone for half of the day watching terrifying YouTube videos and reading horrifying blog posts while it poured down with rain outside and almost convincing myself not to go through with my plans. Once the rain cleared, in a moment of complete madness, I sprinted to the Gravity office to book my tour for the very next day (and sign a waiver wishing my life away).

If you couldn’t already tell, it’s safe to say that I was absolutely terrified of the prospect of cycling down “The World’s Deadliest Road” (affectionately coined “Death Road” by tourists and tour companies alike). I have an immense fear of heights and before this trip, it’s safe to say that I hadn’t ridden a bike in at least 10 years.

When combining a 64km downhill bike ride, 4,700m steep cliff-face drops, terrifyingly narrow paths and an rider who is pretty much incompetent on a bike, what could go wrong?

Gravity - Death Road, Bolivia - Safety Debrief

Choosing a Tour Company

Given my extremely high levels of fear, I wanted to choose a reputable company who were reassuring and had stellar safety records.

There are lots of tour companies to choose from and each has a varying price tag. While I am a budget-traveller at heart, I don’t think you can put a price on your safety. I ended up booking my tour with the most expensive tour company on the market (Gravity) but I honestly wouldn’t do it any other way!

A few like-minded travellers had recommended Gravity to me previously and reading the reviews online reassured me that I was making the right decision. Included in the $124 price tag is the journey to and from La Paz, assistance of two guides (one remains at the front and one at the back of the entire ride), a support vehicle which follows the group at all times, lunch, an obligatory “I survived death road” t-shirt, photos of the journey and entrance into an animal refuge at the end of the tour.

While the price is substantially higher than other firms, I would wholeheartedly recommend Gravity. We saw plenty of the other cheaper tour groups on our trip, many of whom hadn’t had a proper safety briefing and were hurtling down dangerous areas of the road at uncontrollable speeds (we witnessed on girl come flying off her bike while taking a turn through a waterfall too quickly – luckily, she landed on the path ahead and appeared to be fine other than some cuts and bruises).

RELATED: This wasn’t the first (nor the last) time that I spent a little bit more money for a superior experience. Read about how much I spent in three months here

Gravity - Death Road, Bolivia - Tribute to Pachamama

Getting Ready for the Ride

The day started bright and early (7am) at a cafe in the city centre. After meeting my fellow riders and guides (Noel and Jorge) for the day, we set off on the 1 hour journey to La Cumbre where the ride would begin. To settle my nerves, I adopted my usual coping method for the entire journey – sleeping!

Before we knew it, I was woken by “Highway To Hell”  blaring from the van’s speakers, signalling that it was time to hop on the bikes.

The ride starts at high altitude (4,700m), so it’s pretty chilly up there! My advice would be to wear a couple of layers on your top half that you can remove from under your protective gear as you reach lower altitudes/warmer weather. We were handed our protective gear and given an in-depth safety briefing as well as instructions on how to use the bikes (spoiler: the brakes will become your best friends) before making a tribute to the Pachamama!

You only need to have been travelling in Bolivia for 5 minutes to know that the Pachamama is “mother earth” and she is a very well respected figure in the Bolivian community. After a quick swig of a strong alcohol (which is also splashed on the floor and your front bike wheel as a pray to the Pachamama), we were ready to rock and roll!

Gravity - Death Road, Bolivia - Scenery Views

Section 1 – Paved Road

Now was for the bit of the journey that I was looking forward to the most – the paved road! This actually turned out to be one of the scarier parts of the ride for me. It’s no secret that I’m not a confident bike rider, so having cars on the road with me really threw me off.

South American drivers are not particularly careful and crashes do happen more often than one would hope, but as long as you keep your wits about you and act sensibly on this section of the road, you will be absolutely fine! If you cycle more regularly than me (which isn’t hard, before this trip I had never cycled on the road), you will feel perfectly at ease for this section of the journey!

While you are blessed with a smooth road surface and a safety barrier on the cliff edge, make sure you take the opportunity to soak up the incredible views. One thing I really didn’t anticipate about this ride was just how beautiful it would be. Everyone heads to Death Road in search of adventure and fun, so the beauty element of the trip is often overlooked!

Gravity - Death Road, Bolivia - Gravel Dirt Road

Section 2 – The Tunnel

Before long we had reached a tunnel which separates the cars from the cyclists (the tunnel is now out-of-bounds for tourists after a truck crashed into a traveller who was hoping to cycle down Death Road).

You could almost hear my sigh of relief at this point, “yay” for getting rid of the cars! Little did I know that this tiny section of the ride would be the worst part of the entire thing. To avoid using the tunnel, cyclists have to ride across an un-paved section of the road just to the right of the tunnel entrance.

Noel grouped us all together again and warned us that this section would be rough but given the fact that we hadn’t actually reached Death Road yet, I almost didn’t believe him that it would be that bad.

Seconds into the ride, I was being thrown left right and centre by the insane bumps in the gravel. I/the bike was bouncing so much that I could barely see (I think you can see the terror in my face in the above picture). Suddenly, panic set in and I wondered how on earth I was going to actually ride down Death Road on conditions like that (spoiler: the conditions of Death Road are actually much nicer and I had nothing to worry about).

Gravity - Death Road, Bolivia - Narrow Path Gravity - Death Road, Bolivia - Riders on Path Gravity - Death Road, Bolivia - Girl In Waterfall

Section 3 – Death Road Begins!

After lots of reassurance from Noel, I felt ready to finally conquer Death Road! The morning of our ride was pretty foggy, which I think helped me massively as it was impossible to see quite how steep/long the drop beside you was.

My motto for the day was “slow and steady wins the race” and I set off at a ridiculously slow speed ready to tackle the road. It only took a few minutes before I had been thrown from my bike due the fact I wasn’t riding quickly enough and hit a bump in the road. Apparently, riding at an absolute snails pace isn’t the best thing to do, you need a tiny bit of speed to keep the bike upright!

Dusting myself off and jumping back on the bike, I set off with slightly more speed than before (let’s not get excited, I was still going pretty damn slowly) and before I knew it, I was LOVING it.

Yungas Road achieved the nickname “Death Road” as the path is (at times), not wide enough for two cars to pass each other leading to many accidents and lives lost as cars plummeted off of the steep cliff-edge. However, now the tunnel and “new road” have been built, cars very rarely use Death Road (other than the support vehicles assisting cyclists).

While not wide enough for cars, the path is plenty wide enough for cyclists (and Gravity ensured that we kept a safe distance from each other at all times). In fact, it’s so wide in comparison to a bike that I almost forgot about the fact this could actually be considered dangerous!

With my new found confidence and the incredible guidance by Noel and Jorge, I was loving life! Noel made sure to stop the group every 10-15 minutes to re-group, check everyone was okay, take photos and warn us of any upcoming tight corners, areas where we should change gears amongst other things (something I really appreciated)!

Gravity - Death Road, Bolivia - Lunch Stop

Section 4 – Where It All Went Wrong

As Noel signalled for us all to stop at a wide section of the road next to a monument, he began to explain the importance of this monument and hand out our lunch. Suddenly, we had the feeling that something was wrong… despite being a confident rider, one guy (Joe) hadn’t arrived back with the group meaning our 2nd guide and our support vehicle were nowhere to be seen.

Noel then received a walkie-talkie message, quickly let us know that there had been an incident whereby Joe had fallen off the side of the cliff and then sped uphill to help the crew rescue him. We sat waiting patiently for our guide to return, worried about Joe and with my nerves suddenly returning.

Thankfully, Joe had fallen about 8 metres down the side of the cliff and had been caught by a large bush which saved his life. Once Joe had been rescued, Noel returned to us with still no sight of Jorge, Joe or the support vehicle.

He explained that Joe had set up his drone to follow his movement as he raced down the track. The drone headed towards a tree and as Joe looked up to check on it, he and his bike fell off the side of the edge (rule number one of Death Road is to keep your eyes on the road directly in front of you otherwise you will veer in another direction).

While Joe was fine, he, Jorge and the support vehicle were trying to rescue the drone from the tree before catching up with the group.

Gravity - Death Road, Bolivia - Waterfall Gravity - Death Road, Bolivia - Girl In Front of Waterfall

Section 5 – Ending The Ride 

Despite the drama of the lunch break and the fact we didn’t have a support vehicle behind us, we made the decision to continue riding as it would have been far more dangerous to ride after sunset. My nerves were back in full swing now after being reminded that this road was actually dangerous (but only if you weren’t careful).

It didn’t take long to get back into the swing of things, the adrenaline of the bumpy bike ride and the incredible views just kept getting better and better!

My body doesn’t react well to drastic atmospheric changes and I started to feel light-headed after coming from freezing cold high-altitude conditions to hot, humid low-altitude conditions. I jumped into the support vehicle for one 10 minute period towards the end to combat my headache (where I obviously grilled Joe, who wasn’t allowed to ride for the rest of the journey, about his near-death experience).

One of my favourite things about Gravity was that they really encouraged you to go at a pace that you felt comfortable with and with rest points every 10-15 minutes, there wasn’t any issue with you jumping into the support vehicle for any sections that you didn’t feel comfortable doing.

After 4 hours of cycling, we crossed the “finish line” and arrived at La Senda Verde animal refuge centre for a buffet dinner, showers, time with the animals and chats with fellow riders about how amazing the experience was (well… for everyone other than Joe).

Before entering La Senda Verde, you are given the option to do a zip-line (at an extra cost) across the gorge! I’ve done lots of zip-lines in my time, so didn’t opt for this, but everyone that did do it really loved it!

One thing that I highly recommend you bring is mosquito-repellent. While it’s not necessary at the top of the ride, I was attacked by sand-flies on arrival at La Senda Verde. Spray yourself before you arrive at the refuge or it will be too late!

It was then time to return to La Paz, using the nice “new road” which has replaced Death Road for cars. After such an adrenaline filled day, it’s safe to say that I slept for the entirety of this journey too!

Gravity - Death Road, Bolivia - Group on Edge

In Summary: DO IT! 

I wish someone told me how much I would love this experience beforehand. I almost didn’t book my Death Road trip and was only swayed by the fact that I would regret it if I didn’t try it.

Yes, the day was filled with adrenaline and the feeling of pride when you cross the finish line is something special. However, I truly think that one of my favourite elements of this trip was learning more about Boliva. From the incredible support from Noel and Jorge to the stunning scenery, stories of this road and stories about Bolivian cultures, it was an all-round PREFECT day.

During the rest of my travels, I met so many young girls who (like me) said they weren’t confident on bikes/scared of heights/didn’t think they would enjoy it. I encouraged each and every one of them to give it a go. The one thing that you need to remember is that the road is only dangerous if you are doing something stupid (like watching a drone – sorry Joe). If you’re careful and courteous, you’ll be absolutely fine!

I was so surprised by how much I loved this day and would even go as far as saying that it was one of my favourite days of the entire trip. Getting out of your comfort zone every once in a while is clearly a good idea!

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post (however affiliate links may be used which mean I earn commissions on purchases at no extra cost to you) and all thoughts are my own.
Danielle1

 

 

 

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Volcano view from Secret Garden Cotopaxi

What is The Secret Garden Cotopaxi?

Hostels get a bad reputation with most people relying on an often incorrect stereotype of sweaty dorm rooms and rowdy residents who wouldn’t be out of place on an episode of “Bad Brits Abroad”. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth at Cotopaxi’s “The Secret Garden Hostel“.

Dubbed “the best hostel in South America”, The Secret Garden is located less than 2 hours from the capital and is the perfect balance between a hiking hot-spot and a relaxing sanctuary. The main building has an almost ski-lodge feel to it with a cosy fire, big communal dining table and 5 very friendly dogs who often come hiking with you – be sure to get to the sofas early for the best cuddle opportunities!

One of the very few similarities to traditional hostels that The Secret Garden Cotopaxi bares is the fact that you will meet some amazing travellers from all over the world. The hostel really encourages people to mingle with super comfy sofas around the fire to relax in, a huge dining table for everyone and friendly volunteers who lead you on all of your treks.

New Zealand is a very long way for us Brits to travel to, so while Hobbiton still remains on my bucket list, The Secret Garden Cotopaxi might quench your wanderlust slightly as it is famed for it’s “hobbit homes”. I didn’t get to see inside them but love the idea of staying inside one – if they are available during your visit – book them!

Despite the hobbit homes, friendly puppies and amazing food, the real draw to The Secret Garden Cotopaxi is the incredible view of Cotopaxi Volcano on a clear day!

Secret Garden Cotopaxi Dining Room Secret Garden Cotopaxi Hobbit Houses

But How Much Does It Cost?

For 2018, The Secret Garden has a 3 day / 2 night package deal which you simply can’t miss out on! During my visit in April 2018, the package cost $88 (USD) per person but now appears to have increased to $95 for the basic rooms.

The package includes:

  • Of course, your accommodation for both nights
  • Three meals per day, plus snacks, unlimited bananas/banana bread, tea, coffee and drinking water
  • A 2 hour trek on the afternoon of your arrival to two gorgeous waterfalls
  • An approximately 6 hour long trek to the peak of the extinct Pasochoa volcano on day 2
  • Free use of the jacuzzi/sunroom – which has an impressive view of Cotopaxi volcano on a clear day!
  • Private shuttle to the Secret Garden Cotopaxi which departs from the sister hostel in Quito each day

Essentially, the only things you will have to pay for is your transport to leave the property (which they will help you arrange), any alcohol/other drinks you may want and additional tours that you want to complete on your spare day (although the hostel is the perfect place to chill out, so you’re not obliged to partake in any extra activities) – perfecto!

Secret Garden Llamas and AlpacasCotopaxi Waterfalls Cotopaxi Waterfalls

Day One – Arrival and Waterfall Hike

At 10am, two shuttle buses left the Secret Garden Quito filled with travellers awaiting a chance to spy one of the highest active volcanoes in the world. Two hours later, we were pulling into the gorgeous Secret Garden Cotopaxi – easily recognisable on the drive by the hobbit hole accommodation with brightly coloured doors!

After getting settled into our rooms (I booked an 8-10 bed dorm room but ended up in a small 2 bed room which I had to myself for one night – result!), I had a quick explore of the area (read: took some pictures of the hobbit houses and made friends with the onsite llamas and alpacas).

We were then treated to a hearty stew for lunch. The best thing about the food at Cotopaxi is that it seems to be never ending. There’s always a second or third portion available, so fill your boots and tell yourself that all of the hiking will balance it out…

At 2pm, we chucked on our wellington boots (provided by the hostel) and headed out with our guide for the afternoon (Lorenzo) to hunt for some waterfalls. The 2 hour hike was actually more strenuous than I was expecting! This is mainly because I am a very clumsy human who shouldn’t be allowed on slippery rocks… despite Lorenzo’s guidance while hopping to a rock on the opposite side of a river, I still managed to fall and gain a rather large purple bruise on my backside – oops!

If you bring your swimsuit, you are able to enter the last waterfall, but given the chilly 5 degrees water temperature, I decided against it. The screams of the girls who were much braver than I were entertaining however…

Before we knew it, we were back at the hostel and treated to huge snack platters of crisps, cucumber and carrot sticks with an amazing garlic/hummus dip – nom! All hikes should be followed with snacks by the fire in my opinion!

Of course, the evening was filled with good chat, card games and a great dinner before retiring to bed before another day of hiking.

Secret Garden Dog Pasochoa Hike Secret Garden Dog Pasochoa Hike Secret Garden Pasochoa Hike

Day Two – Pasochoa Volcano Summit

I woke up early (travelling across 6 time zones in 3 months really messes with your sleeping pattern) and was one of the first to excitedly realise it was a clear morning and the view of Cotopaxi volcano was GLORIOUS! Slowly, more people emerged donning their cameras and gawping in awe.

After a great breakfast of pancakes, we began our second hike to the summit of Pasochoa! If there’s one thing we learnt on this day, it’s that you shouldn’t trust the weather…. despite the very bright and clear morning, we were treated to a lot of fog and rain just as we reached the summit!

When the fog isn’t rolling past, the views are gorgeous (although somewhat reminiscent of the English countryside – ha!). The walk is looooong and I think we may have got slightly lost during the process – this is one of the fun parts of the staff being continually rotating volunteers rather than permanent staff!

Given the fact that the walk is so long, you should be properly acclimatised before trying to complete it – that will be easy if you’ve come from Quito! While we were panting, the hostel dogs showed us how it’s done, happily running along the trail with us (even a tiny Dachshund with little legs)!

If you aren’t a fan of hiking, this is probably an activity you should miss… but don’t worry, there are other activities you can choose from (albeit they come at an extra cost).

Despite the fact that we stopped at the summit to eat sandwiches and banana bread, we were treated to a soup lunch on our return too – I wasn’t lying when I said you would be well fed on these three days! After such a long hike, we spent the afternoon chilling out in the cosy lodge before snacks/dinner. As the lodge doesn’t have WiFi (to some unprepared traveller’s disgust), it means you really do have to integrate and chat with others.

Girl Hiking Cotopaxi Volcano Cotopaxi Volcano Refugio Jose Ribas Girl Cotopaxi Glacier

Day Three – Hiking Cotopaxi Volcano!

On day three, a group of us opted to hike to the refugio/glacier of the Cotopaxi Volcano for a cost of $30. Don’t feel pressured to buy another tour however, lots of people used day three to chill – three days of hiking is pretty intense after all!

If you don’t want to do more hiking but want to enter the Cotopaxi National Park, you could opt for a gorgeous horse riding adventure instead.

The hike is fairly short but is tough on your lungs due to the altitude. You are driven part way up the volcano to the main car park before beginning the hike. There are two routes that you can take, a longer but easier zig-zag path and a shorter very steep straight uphill hike. Both will take around 2-3 hours to complete, so we opted for the easier route on the way up and the steeper route on the way down!

Make sure you wrap up warm with lots of layers. It’s very windy up there, so you will get cold when you’re standing still and lots of layers means you can strip off when you start getting warm from hiking.

Once it started snowing and we reached the glacier, the path became pretty slippery (of course, I fell flat on my arse again, yay). It was the first time I had ever hiked on an active volcano/hiked to a glacier, so it was pretty exciting!

You can of course hike to the summit of the volcano, but it’s expensive to do with a guide and you will require proper equipment to hike through the snow – the refugio was good enough for me! Make sure you try the hot chocolate in the and get your passport stamped in the refugio!

You will have the option to mountain bike down from the car park to the main road for an additional $10. I opted out of this as I had already done some mountain biking in South America (“Death Road”, I’m looking at you) and I didn’t fancy being out in the snow for longer than necessary!

Unfortunately, returning to the lodge and eating lunch signalled the end of our time at The Secret Garden Cotopaxi… if I had more time, I could have definitely stayed! As there was a big group of us who were all heading to Latacunga, we arranged a private shuttle to take us directly to our respective hostels for $40 ($5 per person) which is only slightly more expensive than taking bus but is so much easier.

All in all, it was a perfect three days filled with great scenery, amazing people, lots of food and a few more bruises than I anticipated. I couldn’t recommend this hostel enough!

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own.
Danielle1

 

 

 

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Girl Quilatoa Crater Ecuador

Eh? What’s a Flashpacker?

Well… when I started planning my three month adventure to South America, I had good intentions of sticking to a super strict budget. At the time, I wanted to spend around £1,000 per month, which would have been easily doable. However, I might have got a little bit carried away once the trip began…

I was in a very fortunate position to be given a three month sabbatical from work. As my sabbatical directly followed our super busy period, I had worked plenty of extra hours before the trip and was allowed to take these hours as paid “time off in lieu” meaning I was still receiving a wage throughout some of my trip – result!

The sabbatical was a celebration for becoming a Chartered Tax Advisor last year and I know that I won’t be given this opportunity again, so I really wanted to make the most of it (hence why I ended up spending a bit more)!

So essentially…. I’m a bit of a “flashy” backpacker…

 

Want to see my entire itinerary? Lucky you, you can find a HUGE breakdown here!

Girl Canyoning Banos Ecuador

What’s My Travel Style? 

Accommodation:

I stayed mainly in hostels with only a few “upgrades” throughout the trip. On one occasion, I stayed in an airport hotel (which is always pricey) as I didn’t fancy sleeping on Santiago airport floor on my own. My real luxury treat was a 3 night stay in an eco-lodge in the Amazon Jungle… Yes, I could have picked a cheaper accommodation, but I had been camping on many hikes prior to this and fancied a little bit of luxury!

Food: 

If I were a true budget-backpacker, I would have cooked more meals for myself. In reality, I only truly cooked for myself on Easter Island where food prices are known to be extortionate (part of me wishes that I also had access to a kitchen on the Galapagos Islands)! Otherwise, I loved sampling the local cuisines in restaurants across South America. Breakfast was the one meal that I tried not to pay for as it’s often included in the price of your hostel (warning: you will get bored of bread and jam hostel breakfasts)!

Activities: 

South America is FILLED with incredible bucket-list experiences and I simply couldn’t say no to any of them – oops! I faced a lot of fears during my trip (e.g. “Death Road”) which also often led me to pick the more expensive tour operators which had better safety ratings etc. Many backpackers that I met on my trip were a lot more picky and only spent their hard-earned money on a few top activities.

Transport:

Buses are the best mode of transport in South America and generally they are fairly cheap. However, to truly utilise my 3 months, I sometimes picked pricier options which made life easier (e.g. a 1 hour flight in Chile as opposed to a 24 hour bus journey and the Peru Hop buses which pick you up and drop you off at your hostels).

Girl Galapagos Islands Las Grietas

What Did I Spend?!

For the total 3 month trip, I spent £6,621.65 (just over £2,000 per month). That figure makes me want to cry a little bit given that I am normally such a thrifty traveller on shorter trips, but I can assure you that it was worth every penny.

If you are looking to complete this trip on more of a budget, you should read my buddy Ellie’s breakdown of her costs on a very similar trip here! She spent £3,787 in three months during 2015.

Dun Dun Dun… The Breakdown!

Just telling you how much I spent isn’t very helpful, is it? So, here’s a complete breakdown of what I spent my money on and how you can do it cheaper!

Argentina (£347.29 over 4 days = £86.82 per day)

  • Accommodation: £82.06
  • Food: £23.04
  • Sightseeing/activities: £173.79
  • Transport: £68.40

My very short experience in Argentina potentially isn’t representative of the country as a whole. I simply hopped over to Mendoza for 4 days as I had some time to kill while waiting for my flight to Easter Island from Santiago.

Firstly, I had to book a return bus from Santiago (an 8 hour journey) for £68.40. If you were travelling through Argentina, it is unlikely you’d need to go back on yourself during any journeys. Secondly, I lost some money as I booked a hostel before I arrived and cancelled it at the last minute – oops! Lastly, I used these 4 days to complete some really great day trips. I barely saw the city of Mendoza and instead enjoyed the surrounding areas which is obviously more pricey. You could easily have a much cheaper lovely day in the city!

Bolivia (£366.81 over 7 days = £52.40 per day)

  • Accommodation: £23.81
  • Food: £24.70
  • Necessities: £0.50 (public toilet)
  • Sightseeing: £206.00
  • Transport £111.80

Bolivia is a VERY cheap country… I really did pick the most expensive sightseeing and transport options available.

I completed the amazing three day tour of the Uyuni Salt Flats (highly recommend!) and opted for a well reviewed company who were more expensive than their competitors (Cordillera Traveller). We had heard horror stories from other companies who had drunk drivers and gave their guests food poisoning during our stay – so I’m glad I spent a little bit more! I paid $185 for this tour.

Secondly, I was TERRIFIED of “Death Road” and therefore picked one of the best rated tour operators again (Gravity Assisted Mounting Biking), there are much cheaper options but once again, I am happy with my decision!

As I was in a rush to get to Peru for my Inca Trail booking, I had to fly from Uyuni to La Paz rather than take the bus. The flight cost £64 and took 45 minutes which is great compared to the 10 hour night bus! Most other travellers took the bus with no issues.

Finally, due to some warnings about travelling in Bolivia as a solo female, I booked the Bolivia Hop bus to navigate from La Paz to Lake Titicaca and cross the border into Peru. I booked this trip for £45. Using local buses would be much cheaper and on reflection, I felt very safe in Bolivia, so the added expense wasn’t entirely necessary (although hostel pick ups and drop offs are a dream)!

Chile (£727.36 over 11 days = £66.12 per day)

  • Accommodation: £210.23
  • Food: £158.73
  • Gifts: £15.60
  • Necessities: £50.23 (medicine for an eye infection and a replacement towel)
  • Sightseeing: £174.61
  • Transport: £117.96

For Chile, I recommend not getting ill (ha – easier said than done). I learnt the hard way that medicines are super expensive in Chile and it’s hard to get much without a prescription.

Once again, I took the more expensive but quicker and easier flight between Santiago and San Pedro De Atacama (Calma is the nearest airport) as opposed to the 20+ hour bus ride which would definitely save you money.

Restaurant food in Chile is more expensive than other countries (and in my opinion, not as exciting). So I did cook with hostel friends a few times rather than eating out. Groceries were affordable and very easy to find (especially in Santiago).

Hostels were more expensive than in other countries but the quality was also better (for the most part). I started my trip in Santiago and Hostal Forestal was probably one of my favourite hostels of the whole trip! Although a huge swaying factor for me is when a hostel serves more than just bread and jam for breakfast – ha!

Easter Island (£926.62 over 6 days = £154.44 per day)

  • Accommodation: £181.50
  • Food: £34.88
  • Gifts: £6.64
  • Necessities: £6.60 (public toilet and replacement sunglasses)
  • Sightseeing: £97.20
  • Transport £599.80

Not many backpackers find themselves on Easter Island (in fact, I only met one native English speaking couple during my time there and they were significantly older than me). If you’re looking to visit South America on a budget, you should wave goodbye to Easter Island!

The flights are SUPER expensive. I was lucky and managed to get some for £560 return. Yep, “lucky”! All of the return flights around my dates were around £1,000. You only need 4 – 5 days to see the island, so the cost per day for the flights is extortionate!

Without a doubt, the cheapest way to stay on the island is to camp. I stayed at “Camping y Hostal Tipanie Moana” which has camping spots, dorm rooms and private rooms. As I wasn’t carrying a tent on my trip and the dorm rooms were sold out, I booked a private room (which was definitely the cheapest one on the island). Make sure you book your accommodation quickly if you want a dorm room!

Food is very expensive on the island and most people purchase food from the mainland and bring it to the Island. I’ve never seen so many cool-boxes filled with food circling the baggage reclaim belt! I generally would eat lunch at a restaurant (“Club Sandwich” became one of my favourite places due to their super cheap empanadas!) and then cook myself dinner to save some money.

Most of the “sightseeing” costs are paid upfront when you are forced to buy a $60 ticket to enter the Island. This ticket needs to be on your person at all times and will allow you to enter all of the Moai archeological sites.

The best way to save money on Easter Island when it comes to transport is to find some friends! Car rental isn’t particularly expensive on the island. When booking car rental through our hostel, we paid approximately £35 per day (just over £10 per day when split between the me and the couple I began travelling with)!

Ecuador (£493.20 over 17 days = £29.01 per day)

  • Accommodation: £223.94
  • Food: £97.81
  • Gifts: £12.42
  • Necessities: £7.78 (Laundry and toiletries)
  • Sightseeing: £95.76
  • Transport: £55.50

Bus travel in Ecuador is CHEAP. Most journeys average $1 per hour which makes any backpacker super happy! I had heard that the buses were a much lower standard than other countries but I was pleasantly surprised! One of our buses even had WiFi!

Hostels and food were reasonable and decent quality. The one way that you can make your time in Ecuador very expensive is to do lots of guided tours. I treated myself to a private tour of a chocolate farm on my last day and the tour guide was explaining to me that items deemed to be owned by wealthy people were being taxed highly and this includes cars – buses however are tax free!

Galapagos Islands (£879.09 over 9 days = £97.68 per day)

  • Accommodation: £176.82
  • Food: £92.45
  • Sightseeing: £423.00
  • Transport: £186.82

Dun dun dun, another set of islands = another expensive destination. The Galapagos is more frequented by backpackers than Easter Island, but is still on the pricey side. The good news is that flights are fairly reasonable – I paid £147 for return flights from the mainland and booked 3 months in advance.

The bad news is that everything on the island comes at a cost. You’ll need to pay $20 to have your extra scanning on your bags at the airport, $100 to enter the islands, $30 for “ferries” between islands, countless coins on all of the “water taxis” you’ll need to take to access the ferries/day trip boats…. the list goes on and on!

If you are “DIY-ing” a trip to the Galapagos (i.e. not taking an organised tour or cruise), there are three inhabited islands that you can stay on. Each one has a few really great free activities that you can partake in but you’ll need to pay potentially big bucks to go on some incredible day trips. I took three organised day-trips, so of course, you could take less!

Food is very expensive on the islands and if you can find a hostel/hotel with cooking facilities, do it! Supermarkets are easy to find on Santa Cruz (the main island), so stock up there before you head to the likes of Isabela where supermarkets are much harder to find.

Travelling in a couple or a group will reduce your hotel costs significantly. I was solo travelling and there are very few true hostels to stay in, so I ended up in private rooms on each island. I heard from other travellers that AirBnB is a great option for cheap accommodation – I don’t know why I didn’t look there! The official entry requirements state that you will need to provide proof of your accommodations for the entire trip before entering the islands, so I booked in advance. Nobody ever asked to see my proof of bookings or even asked me where I would be staying, so I could have turned up on the island and bartered for prices in hindsight. There are lots of accommodations that don’t take online bookings, so you might get lucky in those!

Peru (£2,100.35 over 34 days = £61.77 per day)

  • Accommodation: £672.32
  • Food: £237.59
  • Gifts: £3.30
  • Necessities: £107.98 (batteries, memory cards, rain clothing, massage and toiletries)
  • Sightseeing: £833.19
  • Transport: £245.97

I did some pretty epic things in Peru which have pushed the “price per day” up significantly. First up was the classic 4 day/3 night Inca Trail! I booked through Alpaca Expeditions for $690. Due to the permits and guidelines on the classic Inca Trail, this is the most expensive option to reach Machu Picchu. There are cheaper treks you can do, many travellers that I met hiked the Salkantay Trek and opted for the Inca Jungle Tour (a mixture of hiking, hiking, zip-lining etc.) and both were very highly reviewed!

After the Inca Trail, I treated myself to a $40 massage at the very well rated Paramatma Healing, there are tonnes of women standing in the main squares of Cusco offering dirt cheap massages but I hadn’t heard great things about them and I have a long-standing issue with one of my shoulders, so opted for better quality to not injure myself further!

My next “treat yo-self” moment came in the form of a trip to the Amazon jungle… as it fit into my schedule nicely, I opted to fly from Lima to Iquitos. There is a ferry that you can take to Iquitos which is cheaper, however you often have to sit and wait a number of days for the ferry to fill up before departure and I didn’t have much time to spare. I opted for a high-end lodge on the Amazon River and had an incredible time! There are budget accommodations in the Iquitos region of the Amazon but they are very basic – after lots of camping/basic accommodation during hikes, I decided to treat myself. The lodge cost $551 for 4 days.

Peru is generally the most expensive country to visit the Amazon jungle due to the fact that you will need to fly (or wait for a ferry). The two most popular destinations in Peru are Iquitos (a short flight from Lima) and Peurto Monaldo (a short flight from Cusco), however there are some great alternatives in both Ecuador and Boliva which are cheaper and don’t require flying!

Buses in Peru are more expensive than the likes of Ecuador but the quality is superior. As I was travelling on my own, I opted for the Peru Hop pass from Cusco to Lima with lots of stops in between. This was great as they pick you up and drop you off at all your hostels. In hindsight, I didn’t NEED to spare this extra expense. After my PeruHop trip, I took some buses with Cruz Del Sur in Northern Peru which were incredible – WiFi on the bus and a personal TV screen on the back of each seat!

Other (£780.93)

  • Flights from London to Santiago and Guayaquil to London: £666
  • Bank charges: £32.43
  • Travel insurance with additional gadget cover: £82.50

Of course, there are always the pre-arrival expenses that you can’t ignore like return flights and travel insurance! I booked my flights to/from South America 3 months in advance via STA and used Money Supermarket to shop for the best travel insurance for my needs!

Girl on Tortuga Bay Santa Cruz Galapagos

Other Top Tips! 

Cash vs Card in South America

Other than Santiago and Lima which are both very metropolitan and modern cities, you will NEED to pay in cash in most places, so make sure you have a card which allows you to withdraw cash without any fees.

I used the Santander Zero Credit Card with absolutely no issues! The card has no foreign transaction fees on purchases when made in the local currency, no cash withdrawal fees anywhere in the world and no monthly fee.

Other travellers that I met were using the Revolut card which is great to protect you against theft as the card is pre-loaded with a certain amount. However, as some people found out, if you lose your phone (i.e. your method of topping up your card), this can become an issue!

Keeping Small Change

Particularly in Ecuador, I found that lots of places didn’t have change to give you. So try and need your notes small, treasure your small change (no matter how annoying it is to carry around)! I often handed notes to waitresses that I deemed to be “normal” (i.e. equivalent to £15-20 or lower) and it caused such a problem that restaurant staff were running from shop to shop looking for change!

In Lima, bank workers could be found outside the bank ready to change your large notes into smaller amounts – while I didn’t use this service, a free walking tour guide reassured me that it was legit!

Keep a Few Spare USD 

Many larger purchases in South America (e.g expensive tours and hotel rooms) can be paid for using USD. While I wouldn’t always rely on this being the case, it’s good to know that you don’t need to get hundreds of notes from the bank in local currency to pay for the larger items – nobody wants to be carrying around a huge wad of cash!

I changed some GBP to USD before my trip as “emergency money”. I knew that I would be ending my trip in Ecuador (where USD is the national currency), so I knew that it would get used at the end of my trip even if I didn’t touch the emergency cash during the rest of my trip.

Just make sure that the USD notes are in pristine condition, many vendors in South America will decline ripped/dirty/old USD notes.

Keep Your Cash Separated

I was a bit rubbish and always kept all of my cash in my purse at all times which goes against all of the advice you will ever read. For the avoidance of any doubt, I will regurgitate the advice everyone gave me before my trip, despite the fact that I didn’t choose to follow it myself…

Pick-pocketing and bag-snatching are rife in certain areas of the world (South America included) and therefore it would be advisable to keep small amounts of cash and any spare credit cards scattered across your belongings/body in case of an accident.

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. However, this post may contain affiliate links whereby if you make a purchase I earn a small amount of commission at no extra cost to you.
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So, I haven’t written ANY blog posts during 2018 yet, but there’s a good reason for it! I’ve spent the last 3 months exploring South America – yay! Now I’m home and ready to upload SO much content on this glorious continent – first things first, where did I go?!

The Timing

Let me start by saying that no amount of time in South America is enough. The likes of Brazil and Argentina for example are HUGE and bus journeys between destinations can be extremely long.

I was limited to three months, so made the decision early on to exclude Brazil and Argentina (mostly) from my trip, as well as the Patagonia region of Southern Chile/Argentina. Some people I met spent 2 months in Patagonia alone, so that will definitely be saved for a return trip!

I was travelling from 18 February to 18 May 2018, starting in Chile and ending in Ecuador. February is a great time to visit Chile if you want some sun as this is the height of their summer! For Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador, from November to April is considered the “wet season” but thankfully most of the rain ceases in late March meaning I was only truly travelling in wet season for a week or so!

It is imperative to research the timing of your trip as you may be limited on activities if you choose to travel in the wet or dry seasons. For example, the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is closed for the entire month of February, so if this is  your dream, don’t plan to go to Peru in February! Alternatively, the wet season might be the perfect time for you to travel if you want to see the Uyuni Salt Slats with the reflective effect!

Without further ado, here’s my itinerary….

Chile

La Moneda Palace Santiago Chile Santiago Cable Car

Santiago (4 days)

  • How I got there: Flight from the UK via Madrid
  • Where I stayed: Hostal Forestal (super fab, one of my favourite hostels)!

I flew into Santiago which is a great place to start your South American adventures as it’s so modern and Westernised – you won’t feel any culture shock here! While relaxing in the Summer sun sounds tempting, there are actually plenty of things to do in Santiago and you will struggle to feel bored.

With sprawling parks to explore, interesting museums, an abundance of restaurants/bars and plenty of history, this city has something for everyone!

Chile Valparaiso Colourful Houses Chile Valparaiso Streetart

Valparaíso (1 day)

  • How I got there: 1 hour 40 minute bus ride from Santiago
  • Where I stayed: Nowhere, this was just a day trip for me but a friend stayed at Muffin Hostel

I only spent 1 day in Valparaíso as a day trip from Santiago with a few fellow travellers. However, if I were to go back, I’d probably spend at least one night here so that I can really explore the area.

Valparaíso is a port city most famous for it’s colourful hilltop houses and incredible street art. The city has a cool “hipster vibe”, like Chile’s answer to Shoreditch!

Argentina

Argentina Mendoza Wine Tasting Argentina Mendoza Termas Cacheuta Argentina Mendoza Horseriding

Mendoza (4 days)

  • How I got there: 8 hour bus from Santiago
  • Where I stayed: Hostel Lagares (super friendly/helpful staff, great common areas but far from city centre)

With some time to kill before my flights to Easter Island (oooo, itinerary spoiler!), I decided to hop over the border into Argentina to visit Mendoza. The bus ride from Santiago to Mendoza is around 8 hours and the scenery through the Andes is gorgeous!

I spent my time cycling around the vineyards of Maipu, enjoying thermal baths and horse-riding through the Andes mountains. Again, in the Summer sunshine, these 4 days were incredible and I highly recommend a stop in Mendoza!

Chile (…Again)

Santiago (2 Days)

  • How I got there: 8 hour bus from Mendoza
  • Where I stayed: Hostal Forestal (once again, super fab)

When getting the bus from Mendoza to Santiago, bare in mind that you have to go through strict customs/baggage procedures to enter Chile as is it a “protected area” and therefore this can take some time. One regret from my trip is choosing a night bus for this leg of the journey as standing in the cold at the top of a mountain for 3 hours in the middle of the night wasn’t fun!

I ended up back in Santiago for 2 days as this is where my flights to Easter Island were from – I won’t complain though, I really did love Santiago!

Chile Vina Del Mar Beach

Vina Del Mar (1 Day)

  • How I got there: 1 hour 40 minute bus ride from Santiago
  • Where I stayed: Nowhere, this was just a day trip for me

I decided to take another day trip from Santiago, this time to the affluent beach town of Vina Del Mar. Ideally, when planning your trip, try to spend a night in Valparaíso and then head to Vina Del Mar the next day. They are very close to each other and it saves you going to and from Santiago (albeit, even that bus ride isn’t long)!

Easter Island Quarry Heads Easter Island Girl With Heads

Easter Island (6 Days)

  • How I got there: 5 hour flight with LATAM from Santiago
  • Where I stayed: Camping y Hostal Tipanie Moana (one of the cheapest on the island, great kitchens and a range of accommodation – camping pitches, dorm rooms and private rooms)

Now… if you’re on a strict budget, Easter Island probably won’t be on your itinerary. However, if you have spare time and money, GO. The flight is more than 5 hours from Santiago, so you will need two days which are primarily for travelling.

My 4 days actually exploring the island were pretty magical. From exploring the Moai archaeological ruins to hiking to the rim of a volcano to relaxing on a beach, it was a very varied 4 days!

Chile San Pedro De Atacama Luna Valley Chile San Pedro De Atacama Luna Valley Chile Floating Lagoon

San Pedro De Atacama (3 Days)

  • How I got there: 2 hour flight from Santiago to Calma and then a 1 hour shuttle ride to San Pedro De Atacama.
  • Where I stayed: Hostal Laskar (super friendly staff, good rooms but you can probably find a hostel closer to teh centre of town)

The Atacama Desert is the driest desert in the world and the home of many amazing activities! I chose to explore the incredible landscapes of Valle Della Luna (Moon Valley), go stargazing to spot Jupiter among many constellations, attempt (and fail) to see the incredible Geysers Del Tatio (I’ll save that story for another time) and float in crystal clear salt lagoons.

San Pedro De Atacama was also home to the best food that I found in Chile. As it’s a touristy town, it felt like they had something to cater for everyone.

Bolivia

Bolivia Uyuni Scenery Uyuni Rock Tree Uyuni Salt Flats Dakar

Salar De Uyuni Tour (3 Days)

  • How I got there: Tour pick-up from San Pedro De Atacama
  • Where I stayed: Various accommodations booked through the tour company. In Uyuni I booked Piedra Blanca Backpackers Hostel for one night which was really modern and great – felt more like a hotel!

The Uynui Salt Flats appear on most backpacker’s bucket lists, and for good reason. I opted for a three day tour originating in San Pedro De Atacama and ending in Uyuni.

The first two days of the tour explore the surrounding national park areas with gorgeous mountains, hills, lagoons, geysers, flamingos and so much more! The final day is spent taking the standard silly photos on the salt flats.

I visited during the rainy reason which meant the floor of the salt flats was wet and gave the mirror effect (yay) but it’s meant to be just as gorgeous in the dry months.

Somewhere I wish I went: Sucre 

As I had to get to Cusco pretty quickly for my Inca Trail booking, I then flew from Uyuni to La Paz to continue my journey. However, if I had more time, I would have gone to Sucre along with the rest of the people on my salt flat’s tour.

Sucre is known for being a great place to stop and learn Spanish. Bolivians speaks slowly and are easier to understand than many residents of their neighbouring countries. The prices in Sucre are also dirt cheap with some travellers paying as little as $4 per hour for one-to-one Spanish lessons!Bolivia La Paz Cholita Wrestling

La Paz (3 Days)

  • How I got there: 45 minute flight from Uyuni
  • Where I stayed: The Adventure Brew Hostel (Wouldn’t recommend, crap breakfast, no atmosphere and far from the city centre). Others stayed at Loki Hostel and had good reviews, but if you want to party Wild Rover is the place to be!

The capital of Bolivia isn’t pretty. So while you won’t spend your time wandering around gawping at the gorgeous architecture, there are plenty of weird and wonderful things to do in La Paz!

From taking a free walking tour to learn more about the fascinating history and culture of the Bolivian people, explore the witches markets or enormous El Alto Flea Market (on Thursdays and Sundays only), watch cholitas (Bolivian traditional women) wrestling and cycle down “death road” (a.k.a. “the world’s most deadliest road”).

Copacabana Bolivia Isla Del Sol

Copacabana and Isla Del Sol (1 Day)

  • How I got there: 4.5 hour bus ride from La Paz
  • Where I stayed: Nowhere as I jumped on another bus in the evening!

I booked a Bolivia Hop bus from La Paz to Cusco which included two days at Lake Titicaca (the world’s highest navigable lake). On the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca, you have Copacabana, a small town which didn’t particularly amaze me.

The trick to Copacabana is to leave the mainland and instead visit Isla Del Sol (“The Sun Island”), a gorgeous island just a short ferry ride from the mainland. I spent a few hours on the island walking across the island, soaking up the incredible views. However, I met some people who were so in love with the island that they stayed for 3 nights and already declared that they want to retire there! So if you have time, stay the night!

If you’re looking for somewhere to chill out and relac, Isla Del Sol may be the place!

Peru

Puno Floating Islands Peru

Puno and Uros Floating Islands (1 Day) 

  • How I got there: 3 hour bus ride from Copacabana
  • Where I stayed: The Real House (nothing too special, comfortable enough for one night!)

To continue my Lake Titicaca adventures, I arrived in Puno in the evening and quickly hit the hay before exploring the next morning.

The town doesn’t have much going on, albeit the main square is quite pretty. Once again, the main attraction is on the lake itself being the Uros Floating Islands. There’s some controversy surrounding these islands. While I really enjoyed seeing the construction and way of life on the islands, the tour does feel slightly like a human zoo.

While the locals appear to be more than happy to welcome you into their homes, there is a lot of pushy behaviour to make you purchase “handmade” goods from them and pay more money to ride in their wooden boats. It’s hugely a money making exercise as opposed to a cultural learning experience.

Girl At Rainbow Mountain Cusco Peru Moray Salt Flats Cusco Peru Peru Cusco Cathedral

Cusco & The Sacred Valley (10 Days)

  • How I got there: 8.5 hour overnight bus from Puno to Cusco
  • Where I stayed: Pariwana Hostel (to be honest, I wasn’t a huge fan of this hostel and stayed there for such a long time because it was so convenient and close to the city centre. I met lots of people that did love the hostel though! A buddy of mine stayed at Kokopelli Hostel and enjoyed it).

Cusco is a gorgeous city with incredible food. It’s also a good place to base yourself for great day trips – which I really took advantage of!

Rather than going and staying in the Sacred Valley, I instead just took day trips from Cusco to all of the archaeological sites. You could easily base yourself in a place like Ollantaytambo for a few days however to shorten the journey times.

Great day trips include rainbow mountain, Moray, Pisac, Chinchero, Ollantaytambo, Q’enqo, Puca Pucara, Tambomachay, Maras Salt Miles and many more!

I spent longer in Cusco than anticipated because I got ill and also because I was waiting for some friends to catch up with me – 10 days was a long time to stay put in one city but by this point it was nice to have a constant base for a while!

Inca Trail Peru Machu Picchu Peru

The Inca Trail and Machu Picchu (4 Days)

In the middle of my 10 days in Cusco, I completed the 4 day classic Inca Trail to Machu Pichu! It was an incredible experience and I highly recommend doing a trek of some description!

The Inca Trail often books up 6 months in advance and is quite pricey. If you want to be able to book your trek with short notice and on a lower budget, the Salkantay Trek, the Lares trek and the Inca Jungle Trek are all also popular choices!

Arequipa Plaza Del Armas Arequipa Blue Door

Arequipa (3 Days) 

  • How I got there: 10.5 hour overnight bus from Cusco
  • Where I stayed: Flying Dog Hostel (I really loved this hostel, chilled but a great place to meet people)

Arequipa is known as Peru’s “prettiest city” and I can see why! From panoramic views of the nearby Misti volcano to the gorgeous white architecture in the main square, Arequipa definitely is a pretty city!

There’s more to this city than just pure beauty, take some time to explore the history of Santa Catalina Monastery (which is of course, also beautiful) and be sure to visit Museo Santuarios Andinos, home to the “ice maiden” Juanita, the perfectly preserved body of a young girl found sacrificed on the top of a nearby mountain. The stories of the handful of children they have found on the mountains are incredibly fascinating yet disturbing at the same time!

Andean Condor Colca Canyon Colca Canyon Trek

Colca Canyon (2 Days)

  • How I got there: Organised tour with Oasis Palmeras
  • Where I stayed: At a small hotel in the bottom of the oasis in the canyon!

Between my 3 days in Arequipa, I decided to take a 2 day hiking trip to the Colca Canyon. The two days were pretty intense as I got injured (twice, ha) but very very beautiful!

Seeing the huge Andean Condors, hiking through gorgeous scenery, staying in an oasis at the bottom of the canyon, it’s a trip that I highly recommend!

Nazca Lines Viewing Tower

Nazca (1 Day)

  • How I got there: 10 hour bus ride from Arequipa including a lunch stop in a gorgeous little seaside town
  • Where I stayed: Nowhere – this was just a quick stop!

I didn’t have much time to spend in Nazca, so opted for the Peru Hop quick stop at the viewing tower during a bus ride from Arequipa to Huacachina. If you’re super interested in seeing the lines, be sure to spend a night in Nazca so that you can take a flight over all of the lines!

Huacachina Oasis Huacachina Sand Dunes

Huacachina (2 Days) 

  • How I got there: 2 hour bus ride from Nazca
  • Where I stayed: Banana’s Adventures Hostel – the best hostel! You get a bed in a dorm room, access to the pool and a free activity each day (sand boarding/dune buggying, a pisco/wine factory tour or a big BBQ)

Huacachina is a oasis in the middle of the desert famed for it’s huge sand dunes (literally, they are HUGE), adventure activities and Instagram worthy location.

Of course, chilling  by the hostel pool was high on my agenda, but only after some insane dune buggying/sand boarding and a pisco/wine tasting at a local factory!

After spending such a long time at high altitude, you will be very glad to be back down at sea level!

Isla Del Ballestas Peru Seals Paracas National Reserve

Paracas (2 Days) 

  • How I got there: 1.5 hour bus ride from Huacachina
  • Where I stayed: Kokopelli Hostel (great hostel with a pool, beautiful private beach area and large outdoor social area)

More time on the sunny Peruvian coastline! Paracas is the perfect time to relax on the beach and eat all kinds of fresh fish!

By way of activities, the Paracas National Park reserve is the ultimate place for loads of adventure activities – from riding ATVs through the moon-like landscapes and paragliding off the steep cliff-faces! If you’re not looking for adventure, be sure to take a boat ride to Isla Ballestas (a.k.a “The Poor Man’s Galapagos Islands”) to see an abundance of birds, sea lions and penguins!

Lima Downtown Cathedral Lima Barranco Streetart

Lima (3 Days) 

  • How I got there: 4 hour bus ride from Paracas (including a 1 hour stop at the Chincha Slave Tunnels with PeruHop)
  • Where I stayed: Kokopelli Hostel (after liking the Cusco and Paracas branches, I decided to give the Lima version a try! Do not stay here if you want to sleep – the hostel is above 2 bars/pubs which are rowdy for hours) & Kaclla Healing Dog Hostel (I moved here after deciding that sleep was pretty important and loved it, really cosy and comfortable).

The capital of Peru is known for it’s incredible array of food! Did you know that Lima is the only city in the world to have 2 restaurants in the top 10 best restaurants in the world?

Lima is made up of 42 districts, so it’s pretty damn huge! The three you should definitely explore are Downtown (filled with beautiful architecture and history), Miraflores (an affluent area with tonnes of good restaurants and bars) and Barranco (a cool street art filled district with fun on every corner).

Amazon Jungle Parakeet Amazon Jungle Sloth

Iquitos / The Amazon Jungle (4 Days)

  • How I got there: 2 hour flight from Lima to Iquitos, transfer from airport to boat, 2 hour speedboat to lodge
  • Where I stayed: Heliconia Amazon River Lodge

During my trip, I had the opportunity to visit the Amazon Jungle a few times – in Bolivia, Ecuador and a few locations in Peru. You need to choose the area that excites you the most (obviously, the wildlife varies from location to location) and also the one that fits your schedule / budget best. Iquitos is one of the most expensive areas to visit the Amazon due to the fact that you need to book return flights from/to Lima and accommodation seemed to be more expensive than other areas such as Puerto Maldonado (also in Peru but closer to Cusco).

My four days was filled with wildlife spotting, visiting a local tribe (and learning how to use a blow dart gun!), visiting local schools to learn about the conservation work they are doing, boat rides down the amazon river, star gazing, visiting rum factories and so much more.

Somewhere I Wish I Went: Huaraz

After nearly 2 weeks at sea level with no hiking, I didn’t really fancy going back to high altitude hikes. However, I did debate going to Huaraz on my way to Ecuador.

Huaraz is known for it’s intense hikes to Lagoona 69, a gorgeous glacier and Cordillera Blanca, all of which look incredible!

Piura (1/2 Day)

  • How I got there: 16 hour bus from Lima
  • Where I stayed: Nowhere, this was just a stopover

Piura was just a stop off on my journey from Lima to Ecuador. It looked like we were the only gringos in the entire town. Unfortunately we couldn’t explore much as there appeared to be a huge graduation ceremony taking over the entire town centre. So we found a hostel and abused their WiFi ha!

Ecuador

Loja (1/2 Day)

  • How I got there: 8 hour bus ride from Piura (including a stop to go through border controls)
  • Where I stayed: Hostal Pucara (not really a hostel, I got a private room for £9!!)

After boarding the bus from Piura that would take us across the Peru-Ecuador border, I arrived in Loja for the night. I had a few hours in the morning to wander around what appears to be a pretty little city! While there didn’t seem to be tonnes of tourist attractions, there were lots of cute little plazas with gorgeous churches!

Yoga Studio Vilcabamba Hostel Izhcayluma Ecuador Vilcabamba

Vilcabamba (2 Days)

  • How I got there: 1 hour 15 minute bus from Loja to Vilcabamba and then a quick taxi ride south of the city to the hostel.
  • Where I stayed: Hostal Izhcayluma (BOOK IT NOW. DO IT.)

After hearing so much about the amazing Hostal Izhcayluma, I had to go and stay there! For $10 per night, you get a bed in a dorm room (private rooms are also available) as well as a free yoga session in each morning – AMAZING. The yoga studio overlooks the gorgeous valley and is one of the most peaceful places I’ve ever been!

The hostel also has a pool and massage parlour where I received a 75 minute full body massage for $22! There are plenty of hikes to do around the area and other tours you can book such as horse riding and exploring the “coffee route”!

This is the perfect place to relax and unwind, I’d go back in a heartbeat!

Cuenca Cathedral Ecuador Cajas National Park

Cuenca & Cajas National Park (2 Days)

Another day, another pretty little Ecuadorian city! I spent one day exploring what the city had to offer. SERIOUSLY gorgeous cathedrals/churches were a highlight – I always say that if you can impress a European with churches, then they really must be good!

On the second day, I took a day trip to the nearby Cajas National Park for some hiking. The park is seriously beautiful and well worth your time! I did the most simple route which should supposedly take 2 hours – my buddy and I got very lost. Make sure you follow the signs more carefully than us…

Banos Giant Swing View from Swing Banos Canyoning Banos Ecuador

Baños de Agua Santa (3 Days)

  • How I got there: 7 hour bus from Cuenca
  • Where I stayed: La Casa Del Molino Blanco (hostel could have been closer to the town centre and the staff could have tried to be a bit more helpful, but overall a good stay. Some of the most comfortable hostel beds I’ve encountered and great varied breakfasts)!

Baños is the ultimate adventure destination in Ecuador (although if you want to stay closer to Quito, I’ve heard that Mindo is a great alternative)!

With white water rafting, abseiling down waterfalls, zip-lining, giant swings above the city, paragliding, bungee jumping and so much more, Baños has something to suit everyone’s preferred level of adventure.

If adventure isn’t your thing, visit the thermal baths that the city is so proudly named after or jump into a bus for a tour of the nearby waterfalls.

Ecuador Cotopaxi Volcano Ecuador Pasachoa Hike Dog

Cotopaxi (3 Days)

  • How I got there: 3 hour bus to Quito, stayed the night and then took the Secret Garden shuttle to Cotopaxi. This meant that I had to re-trace my steps somewhat, however as the Secret Garden Cotopaxi is so remote, I wanted to take advantage of the shuttle!
  • Where I stayed: Secret Garden Cotopaxi (INCREDIBLE)

My three days in Cotopaxi were some of my favourites of the entire trip. I stayed at the super dreamy Secret Garden Cotopaxi which I highly recommend! My days were spent hiking to waterfalls, the peak of the Pasochoa Volcano and the refugio/glacier of the epic Cotopaxi volcano!

While not hiking, I was treated to an abundance of food provided by the hostel (hello unlimited banana bread!), cuddling with the 5 hostel dogs in front of the fire, playing cards and chatting with some incredible travellers and relaxing in the hot tub!

Latacunga Quilotoa Crater

Latacunga (1 Day)

  • How I got there: 2 hour private shuttle organised by the Secret Garden Hostel
  • Where I stayed: La Posada (super friendly owner, 4 of us shared a huge private room which had 5 double beds for $10 each)!

Many people hike the Quilotoa Loop which is a 3+ day trail either starting or ending at the Quilotoa Crater Lake. As I was running out of time (and didn’t really want to hike any further after my time in Cotopaxi), I opted to skip the 3+ day hike and instead just took a day trip to the Quilotoa crater from Latacunga.

The crater is seriously beautiful and you have the option to hike around the rim (we walked part of the way) or to walk down to the edge of the water and back out again (two of the girls I was with did this and said it was tough on the way back up)!

Mitad Del Mundo Quito Ecuador Quito Cable Car

Quito (4 Days)

  • How I got there: 1 hour 30 minute bus ride from Latacunga
  • Where I stayed: The Secret Garden Quito (Amazing rooftop bar – very social!)

By the end of my trip, I was getting a little bit bored of cities and instead loved the more rural countryside destinations, so I didn’t really click with Quito as a city but still loved my time here. Communal dinners and drinks on the rooftop of the Secret Garden Quito with some incredible people made my time here, as well as two great day trips. One to the “middle of the earth” to hop, skip and jump over the equator and another to the famous Otavalo market to pick up some handmade souvenirs!

Giant Tortoise Galapagos Islands Galapgos Tortuga Bay Beach Galapagos Islands Las Grietas

The Galapagos Islands (9 Days)

  • How I got there: 2 hour flight from Quito to the Galapagos Islands
  • Where I stayed: On Santa Cruz island, I stayed at Hostal Seymour and on Isabella island, I stayed at Hostal Brisas Del Mar, both of which were great. I had private rooms in both hotels for an affordable price (a blessing on the Galapagos Islands)!

The Galapagos Islands don’t need much explanation, we all know how incredible they are!

From facing my snorkelling fears (twice), becoming immersed in wildlife, cycling for miles with glorious scenery and relaxing on stunning white beaches, the Galapagos is just as great as everyone says it will be!

The only disappointment is that I didn’t bump into David Attenborough…

Guyaquil Chocolate Making Class

Guayaquil (1.5 Days)

  • How I got there: 2 hour flight from the Galapagos Islands
  • Where I stayed: Hotel Gira (comfortable, clean private room for one night)

Like I said earlier, I had got a bit bored of cities, so decided that I wanted to do something different for my last days in South America before flying home.

I am so grateful to have stumbled across Mario’s website My Trip to Ecuador and I quickly booked a tour with him to a local cocoa farm (yay chocolate)! Without a doubt, Mario is one of the kindest, most welcoming people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting and I had the best last day with him!

And before I knew it, Mario was dropping me off at the airport for my long journey home. My trip to South America was incredible and I loved every second of my itinerary from start to finish. There were so many bucket list adventures along the way and I feel so very grateful to have been on this trip! Now… to sit at my desk and stare out the window dreaming of my next adventure…

Have you been to South America? What would be your DREAM itinerary?

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. However, this post may contain affiliate links whereby if you make a purchase I earn a small amount of commission at no extra cost to you.
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A young adult posing on the Uyuni Salar, the sky is reflected.
Released

“Aerial view of Macchu Picchu ruins in remote landscape, Cusco, Peru”

All photography credit lies with the respective owners shown in the watermarks.

If I had to choose one continent to visit right now, it would most definitely be South America. I am lusting, hard. Once I have finished my tax qualifications, I think South America will be my continent of choice when I take an extended period of time off work to travel (hopefully in 2018!).

So, without further ado, here’s my ultimate South America bucket list!

Bucket List 

  1. Say hello to a giant tortoise on the Galapogos Islands
  2. See the Moais on Easter Island
  3. Hike Machu Picchu, Peru
  4. Visit the beautiful Salt Flats (Salar de Uyuni), Boliva
  5. Hike the W Trek in Torres Del Paine, Patagonia, Chile
  6. Cruise the Amazon river into the rainforest
  7. Take a traditional dance class (and learn to laugh at how awful I am)
  8. See the thundering Iguazú Falls,
  9. Experience Rio during carnival time, Brazil
  10. Visit a remote tribe
  11. Go wine tasting in Mendoza, Argentina
  12. Sail on Lake Titicaca, Peru/Bolivia
  13. Cycle on Death Road, Bolivia
  14. Shake the “Hand of the Desert” in the Atacama Desert, Chile
  15. Get up close to Christ the Redeemer, Rio, Brazil
  16. Stand in the middle of the world on the Equator in Quito, Ecuador
  17. Meet the penguins of the Faulkland Islands
  18. Swing on the “Swing on the edge of the world”, Ecuador

More Inspiration 

I have been searching the internet for A LOT of South America tips and tricks recently. I am in love with the idea of the continent and can’t wait to explore it! My favourite videos/blog posts are:

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own.
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Danielle1