Car Snow Capped Mountains San Pedro De Atacama

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post, however this post may contain affiliate links (including Amazon Associates). This means that I may earn commissions on purchases made via links on my site at no extra cost to you. All thoughts and opinions remain my own.

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The Atacama Desert is known for being the driest desert in the world (how on earth do they measure that?!) but more importantly, for you anyway, it’s a hot-spot for travellers looking to explore all that Chile has to offer. There’s so much to see and do here – so without further ado, here’s the ultimate guide to ensure that you make the most of your trip to San Pedro De Atacama.

How To Get To Get There

From Santiago

If you’re travelling from elsewhere in Chile, you’re likely to be coming from Santiago (Chile’s capital).

Calama is the closest transport hub to San Pedro De Atacama and can be reached either by bus (circa 22 hours) or plane (circa 2 hours) from Santiago.

Given the length of the bus journey, I opted to book a flight. As my time in San Pedro De Atacama was relatively close to the start of my 3 months in South America, I booked the flight well in advance to secure the best price. On arrival in Calama airport, you will find a shuttle bus company which operates between Calama and San Pedro De Atacama. There are plenty of shuttles and they depart regularly, the journey takes around 90 minutes.

For bus travel, I recommend using BusBud (an absolute MUST website/app when travelling in South America) and Skyscanner for flights.

RELATED: Santiago is a great city and shouldn’t be skipped – read my 5 day itinerary here!

From Bolivia

If you are travelling in the opposite direction, coming from Bolivia, you can either use public buses to travel directly from Uyuni to San Pedro De Atacama (BusBud currently does not operate in Bolivia, so use Rome2Rio to determine the best bus company and timings) or book a tour via the Uyuni salt flats.

Uyuni Salt Flats tours are usually 3-4 days long and begin in either Uyuni or San Pedro De Atacama (ending in the opposite destination). Tours can vary in prices but as a general rule, the more expensive tour guides have much higher safety ratings. I booked via Cordillera Traveller and would highly recommend them but we will talk more about that later! 

RELATED: Bolivia isn’t just home to the impressive Uyuni Salt Flats. Cycling down the “World’s Most Dangerous Road” was one of my South America highlights – even if someone in my group fell off the cliff! Read abut my experience here!

Girl in Valle De Luna

The Best Time to Visit

Given that The Atacama Desert is allegedly the driest desert in the world, you’re unlikely to face rain no matter what time of year you visit – some areas of the desert have not seen rain in more than 400 years!

I visited in the Summer months (December – February) and it was perfect! Not only were the days warm and beautiful, the star-gazing visibility at night was incredible and not TOO cold. Even in the height of Summer, I didn’t find that the days were too hot to explore and the early morning wake-ups for some tours were made easier by the warmer night-time weather. However, this is the most popular time to visit, so tours and hotels will get booked up faster.

Given that San Pedro De Atacama is a fairly sleepy town, the Summer months don’t feel over-crowded, especially if you’re used to travelling in cities! If you are concerned about tourist levels, the “shoulder seasons” (September to November or March to May) will see less tourists and usually have pleasant weather too.

If you are considering a trip in Winter (June – August), you need to consider that some of the night-time activities (such as the incredible star-gazing) won’t be available due to the sub-freezing temperatures.

Atacama Sunset

Where to Stay

If you’re travelling on a budget, I stayed in Hostel Laskar which had super friendly staff and a good social atmosphere. However, if you book further in advance than I did, you can probably find somewhere slightly cheaper and closer to the town center.

If you have a bigger budget, there are some really gorgeous and unique properties in the area such as Alto Atacama Spa & Lodge, Hotel Cumbres, Hotel Poblado Kimal.

RELATED: I spent three months travelling through South America – see my full itinerary including accommodation here!

Atacama Sand Dunes

Tips on Booking Tours

There are plenty of online operators providing tours in San Pedro De Atacama ( Get Your Guide, Denomades and Keteka and are just a few). I would only recommend online bookings if you are time restricted and don’t want to seek local guides on your arrival.

If you have more time to spare, spend your first few hours in San Pedro negotiating with local tour guides. Online prices can be high and you are more likely to find a bargain or be able to negotiate a deal with local tour agencies.

With regards to picking local tour agencies, the general rule of thumb is to look around and pick the agency who are the most helpful and have reasonable prices. For the most part, the shops that you see in the town are just sales agencies who will book you onto the same few underlying tour operators.

The only tour that needs more thought and attention is the excursion into the Uyuni Salt Flats. Prices can vary for these tours and generally the lower the price, the lower the safety and hygiene standards. I highly recommend Cordillera Travller who have very high safety ratings and are the only Bolivian company to currently operate from San Pedro De Atacama. Having a Bolivian tour guide show us the towns close to where he grew up made it all the more special.

Valle De La Luna, Atacama

Things to Do

Now for the good bit! There’s a whole host of things to see and do in San Pedro De Atacama, so you certainly won’t get bored! In fact, you might suffer from quite the opposite, there’s too many things to do and walking into a tour agency can feel very overwhelming!

On the flight from Santiago to San Pedro De Atacama, I bumped into a couple that I had travelled with in Argentina which was a lovely surprise. Having three of us booking tours together meant that we could negotiate group deals between us – even though we didn’t all do the same tours! If you can find some friends to check out the tour agencies with, I highly recommend it! 

My itinerary looked a little something like this… 

  • Day One – Arrival in San Pedro Atacama, speak to tour agencies and a night time astronomical tour
  • Day Two – Morning tour of Valle De Luna and an afternoon free walking tour of San Pedro De Atacama
  • Day Three – Morning tour of the geysers of El Tatio and an afternoon tour to the salt lakes
  • Day Four – Depart Chile on a 4 day tour through Bolivia to see the Uyuni Salt Flats

The tour agencies are super helpful in planning your time in San Pedro De Atacama, but it’s good to go in with an idea of which tours you would like to do. So here’s an outline of the tours that I did… 

Astronomical Tour

Atacama Star Gazing Milky Way

Price: 20,000 CLP (Approximately £24)

My first tour ended up being one of my San Pedro highlights! We were picked up at 10:30pm and drove for around 20 minutes to a deserted area (away from the light pollution of the town) with a giant telescope to start our astronomical tour.

The stars were so bright and felt so close to us – something that I had never experienced before! The tour guide taught us about astronomy and pointed out the main star-sign constellations. I found it so fascinating that by the end of our tour, you could see how much the star-signs had shifted across the sky.

We got super lucky, as we could even see Jupiter! Obviously, taking photos of stars is ridiculously hard – while I only have the photo from the guide of me and the milky way, I will remember this night for a very long time!

Valle De Luna (Valley of The Moon)

Atacama Sand Dunes

Price: 15,000 CLP (Approximately £18)

As the name suggests, Valle De Luna is like something from another planet (although probably more like Mars than the Moon given the red toned landscape…).The tour will take you through some incredible rock formations that are unlike anything I’ve ever seen before!

The tour visits various different areas of the Valley, each more impressive than the last, before finishing with a view over the famous valley sunset.

If you don’t want to do a tour, it’s possible to hire bikes and cycle to the Valley from San Pedro De Atacama. We saw people attempting this journey in the middle of the Summer’s heat and it didn’t look comfortable at all. If you are going to attempt this, make sure you have sufficient water!

Free Walking Tour

San Pedro De Atacama View

Price: Whatever you want to tip!

I found myself with some down-time after my Valle De Luna tour, so I decided to take the Tours 4 Tips free walking tour. While there isn’t all that much to see within the town, the guide was great and pointed out loads of cool restaurants, bars and cafes.

The food in San Pedro De Atacama exceeded all of my expectations. I expected a very touristy town with bleak food options; what I experienced was quite the contrary! There were some great options available – while the nicer restaurants are more pricey, they were certainly worth it.

The buildings in the town are all made from the same clay-looking material, so everything starts to look the same – I have never struggled with my sense of direction so much in a small town!

Geysers at El Tatio

Puppy Chile

Price: 18,000 CLP (Approximately £20)

The next tour on my itinerary was the famous geysers at El Tatio. This is one of the most popular tours in the region – and I’m sure I would have had a great time… if I made it that far!

The tour starts at 4.30am so that you reach the geysers in time for sunrise. Things started to go wrong from the outset when my tour bus was 2 hours late with absolutely no explanation. After 2 long hours of waiting in the hostel trying not to fall asleep, I climbed into the minibus and hoped that it would still be worth the trip. It’s a fairly long drive (around 2 hours), so we all took a well needed nap… when I woke up, our mini-bus was rolling backwards down a steep hill and then wouldn’t re-start.

We waited for over 2 hours to be rescued by another van, by which time it was too late to visit the geysers as they are predominantly active at sunrise. On the way back to town, we stopped off a tiny village where we could buy llama meat. Deciding to skip the meat feast, I met a local who had a really cute dog, so all is well!

Other people’s photos look absolutely magical and I will be sure to try and do this tour again if I ever re-visit San Pedro!

Fear not, if you are unable to do this tour (like me!), you can try and see geysers (albeit much smaller) on a 4 day Uyuni Salt Flat tour.

Salt Lakes Tour

Salt Lake Atacama

Price: I was given this tour for free – there was however a 5,000 CLP entrance fee (Approximately £6)

The tour agency were very apologetic for the issues with my Geysers tour. Given that I was leaving San Pedro the next day, I couldn’t book onto the same tour the following day. Instead, they gave me a free tour to the salt lakes that afternoon.

While Blovia’s Salar De Uyuni are the most famous salt flats, there are some salt flats to be found in Chile too. The best part about these ones are that you can float in the salty lakes – which I imagine is very similar to floating in the Dead Sea!

After trying to get all of the salt off of us, we headed to another view point for sunset (this time with lots of drinks and nibbles – yay)!

The tour was very basic, so I’m glad that I didn’t have to pay for it but was enjoyable nonetheless and a great way to see another natural phenomenon in the area!

Begin your Bolivian Adventure

Dakar Uyuni Salt Flat

Price: Prices vary, I booked with one of the more expensive firms who charged 115,000 CLP (Approx £130)

San Pedro De Atacama is the perfect place to begin the 4 day/3 night expedition through Bolvian countryside, ending with the famous Uyuni salt flats!

We booked our trip as soon as we arrived in San Pedro, knowing that we would be departing in a few days time. As mentioned before, this is the one time that you need to be careful with tour guides. There are horror stories about drunk tour drivers etc. but with some careful planning, you will be fine!

I booked with Cordillera Traveller who were excellent. They are a Bolivian company who pride themselves with great safety ratings and an excellent experience. While the tour guides often don’t speak English, you don’t need to be told much to enjoy the views. Before booking, you should note that accommodation in this area is very lacking and all tour providers use very basic local-run “hostels”.

Other Options

Salt Lake Atacama

There are a few more very popular options that I chose not to participate in:

  1. Piedras Rojas (Red Rocks) – If Valle De Luna wasn’t enough for you and you need more otherworldly landscapes, then the very popular Red Rocks tour is for you! Give it a google – the scenery looks phenomenal.
  2. Rainbow Valley – In a similar vein, I was running low on time so had to pick one incredible landscape to explore. Rainbow Valley is made up of colorful rock formations – I decided to save myself for Rainbow Mountain in Peru!
  3. Dune Buggying and Sand Boarding – Later in my South American adventures, I visited Huacachina (Peru) which is renowned for it’s incredible sand-boarding, so I decided to give this activity a miss in San Pedro De Atacama. Definitely book this if you aren’t also visiting Huacachina though!

Have you ever been? What was your favourite excursion?

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Easter Island Anakena Beach

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post, however this post may contain affiliate links (including Amazon Associates). This means that I may earn commissions on purchases made via links on my site at no extra cost to you. All thoughts and opinions remain my own.

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Easter Island is one of the most remote islands in the entire world which obviously makes travelling to the island both pricey and time-consuming. Easter Island, therefore, remains a bucket list dream for some of the most die-hard travel fanatics!

If you’re weighing up whether a trip to Easter Island is worth the money and time, here’s a super handy guide to let you know exactly what to expect from a trip to Easter Island!

RELATED: If you’re wondering how you can access Easter Island on a “budget”, you can read my tips and tricks here!

Easter Island Tongariki Girl

Travelling to Easter Island

The most popular method of getting to Easter Island is the daily flights from the Chilean capital of Santiago. An alternative would be to catch one of the weekly flight from Tahiti. Both options take around 5 hours and as LATAM is the only airline servicing these routes, there is lack of competition from other airlines so costs can be pricey!

Being one of the most remote islands in the world, Easter Island can suffer from turbulent weather (it’s the first place I’d been where road signs showed the highest points of the island in case of a tsunami – not worrying at all)! With that in mind, make sure that you add some buffer time to your trip – my flight to the Island ended up being delayed by 5 hours and apparently this isn’t uncommon.

A more adventurous option would be to jump on a boat and ride the waves like the original explorers of the island – I’ve heard incredible stories of retirees chartering a boat themselves and making this amazing journey!

If you’re strapped for cash, look into making the trip on the Chilean Navy Aquiles ship. The ship usually makes this trip twice a year from Valparaiso (Chile) and takes 7 days. While the price is lower than that of a flight, you are obliged to return on the same boat which limits your stay on the island to just a few days (this is fine to see everything that the island has to offer, but is somewhat silly when it’s taken you 7 days to get there)! Be sure to look into this option early as navy personnel (plus their families) and Easter Island residents get priority when booking.

Finally, some cruise lines servicing the South Pacific will make a stop at Easter Island. Of course, cruises aren’t the most bank account friendly option, but this would be a great way to see more of the gorgeous Pacific islands!

RELATED: If you’re wondering how you can fit a trip to Easter Island into a longer adventure, read about my 3 month itinerary here!

Wild Horses on Easter Island

Accommodation

If you’re on a budget (like I was!), there are a few “hostels” on the island. I chose to stay at Camping y Hostal Tipanie Moana which has the option for you to pitch a tent (the cheapest option), stay in a dorm room (the next cheapest option but be aware that the beds sell out quickly) or a basic private room.

I had no choice but to opt for the basic private room on the basis that I didn’t have camping equipment with me and there was no availability in the dorm rooms. The room was comfortable and definitely one of the cheapest options on the Island.

Of course, with this being a destination favoured by luxury travellers, there are some incredible properties you can stay at if you have the money! I love the look of the Hanga Roa Eco Village and Spa.

Be sure to book your accommodation in advance as options are limited (especially when you are on a budget) and you won’t want to miss out.

Easter Island Ahu Tahai

Social Life

I travelled to Easter Island on my own and quite frankly, if you’re not comfortable in your own company, this is not the location for you as a solo traveller.

When the transfer to Camping y Hostal Tipanie Moana arrived at the airport, I quickly realised that I was the only English speaker within the group heading to my hostel and things were going to be very different to mainland Chile. The majority of travellers that I met were from South America and they spoke very little English. I had plans to learn Spanish later on in my trip to South America (Bolivia is the cheapest place to do it) but I really could have done with those lessons before visiting Easter Island!

The owners of the hotel could speak English… when they wanted to. When we all arrived at the hotel, we were sat down and given a full briefing of the Island and the owner gave a great translated version to me. Unfortunately, when asking questions to the hotel staff later on in my trip, I often got the feeling that they couldn’t be bothered to deal with me as my Spanish skills were limited.

There was one South Korean girl in the hotel who couldn’t speak either Spanish or English and I have no idea how she coped!

Thankfully, I met an older American couple in the hostel kitchen who took me under their wing like the daughter they never had for some of my time on the Island. Travelling alone on the island can be expensive, so I was very glad to have people to split the costs of car hire with.

Essentially, don’t expect to waltz into a hostel and meet tonnes of people like you will in the rest of South America (unless you can speak fluent Spanish)! However, if you are looking for somewhere incredible to relax and enjoy some alone time after living in the hustle and bustle of South American hostels, Easter Island is dreamy.

Two Moai At Easter Island Quarry

Getting Around the Island

Easter Island is small, at a mere 163km², it is a fraction of the size of Greater London (1,572 km²). To simplify matters further there’s a large portion of the Island that has no roads and is off limits to tourists unless you are willing to pay $500+ for a guide. My hostel owner mentioned these tours, but I wasn’t able to find anything about them online  – so maybe ask around when you’re on the Island if you think something in that area is worth seeing!

The areas of the Island that you are able to visit un-guided are easy to access. You can drive the main loop road of the Island in no time at all. Even if you stop and see ALL of the sights, you’ll be able to do this in one leisurely day.

The most common method of transportation is car; and unlike most other activities on the island, car rental prices are fairly reasonable, especially when split between a group. If you are feeling a bit more adventurous, try a quad bike, and if you’re much fitter than I, hire a bike for a long cycle!

Consider the weather when if you do hire a quad bike or a bike. I visited in the middle of Summer (February), it was very hot, very humid and the UV rays were very strong. While most rental cars do not have air-conditioning, it’s nice to have a break from the sun beating down on you!

The roads are well-maintained and often fairly empty – even during peak seasons. We found that is was easier to bump into a pack of wild horses than a traffic jam (apart from at Anakena Beach which was very popular in the Summer)!

Therefore, even though there is no form of public transportation, getting around the Island is incredibly simple!

Easter Island Rano Kau

Dealing with “Easter Island Time”

One of the greatest things about Easter Island is the incredibly relaxed and chilled out way of life. This can also, of course be one of it’s downfalls.

As well as allowing buffer time for flight delays, maybe add some additional buffer time for activities. I decided that I wanted to try snorkelling while on the Island, I followed the guidance of the hotel owner to go out with a group led by his friend at 4pm that day rather than using the dive centres in town. 5pm rolled around and the boat still hadn’t left the port meaning I missed the traditional dance ceremony that evening….

Moral of the story – relax, take things at a calm pace and try not to cram too much into one day.

Easter Island Pea Bay

Wi-Fi

I had read horror stories online about the lack of Wi-Fi on the Island and had reassured my mum countless times that I would be without Wi-Fi for 5 days and she shouldn’t panic that I had died.

With that in mind, I was actually really impressed at the quality of the Wi-Fi on the Island! Of course, you couldn’t stream Netflix or upload a YouTube video successfully but for general messaging and uploading the occasional Instagram post (if you have the time to spare while it uploads slowly), the Wi-Fi was fine!

The hotel Wi-Fi was definitely better during the day (i.e. while people were out exploring rather than sitting in bed trying to use the Wi-Fi), so try and use it at less popular hours.

Some of the parks in Hanga Roa have free Wi-Fi but log-on success can be temperamental at best. I would have loved to have been able to sit in one of the parks over-looking the sea with the view of a Moai head in the background and face-timed my friends and family who are unlikely to ever visit.

Easter Island Palm Trees

Food

Food on the Island can be expensive but there are definitely ways to get around this.

Many people bring food to Easter Island from the mainland in cooler boxes. I’ve never seen so many cooler-boxes make their way around the baggage turnstile at the airport – there might have been more food than there was actual luggage!

The alternative is to buy food to cook from the local supermarkets on the Island. While this is more expensive than buying the equivalent on the mainland, it will definitely be cheaper than eating out every night!

The cheapest place to grab lunch on the Island is without a doubt “Club Sandwhich” which serves $3 tasty empanadas among other cheaper treats!

If you want to treat yourself, head over to Te Moai Sunset for great food and an incredible view of the sunset at Ahu Tahai (a must see on the Island, even if you don’t stop here for dinner)!

Easter Island Sunset

Activities

It goes without saying that the Moai statues are the main reason that most people visit Easter Island. The iconic statues may be some of the most famous monuments in the world (albeit for the younger generations, this may only be because of the great “you dumb dumb, you give me gum gum” line from Night at the Museum)!

I was concerned that visiting countless statues of heads would get tiresome, but I couldn’t be more wrong. The size, complexity and history of these statues was interesting every. single. time.

RELATED: Rest assured, there’s plenty more to do on the Island, so much so that I’ve written a whole separate blog post which you can read here.

 

Easter Island Aku Akivi

Protecting the Island

Respecting and protecting the Island are two huge concerns of the Rapa Nui people. There are countless signs on the Island asking you to stick to the roads/footpaths as to not cause erosion on parts of the Island unnecessarily.

Further to this, the re-cycling effort on the Island is second to none. After huge issues with rubbish in the past, there are now a multitude of bins that you need to assess and choose the right one for each piece of your rubbish – tourists are also encouraged to take large items they wish to dispose of back to the mainland as to not clog up the Island.

Touching the Moai or climbing on the Ahu (the raised platform that the Moai stand on) is strictly off limits and the penalties for doing so are huge.

While this might sound like a lot of rules and regulations, it’s for the best of the Island. Easter Island is such an incredible place, it would be a real shame for it to be ruined for future generations. Stick to the rules and have a great time.

Given the remoteness of the Island, I had always imagined that tiny planes accessed the Island… Once again, I couldn’t be more wrong. With Dreamliner planes dropping off hundreds of passengers a day (not that you would notice it at the tourist sites!), maintaining the Island is of the upmost importance.

Easter Island Ana Te Pahu

Safety

I think that the safety of a destination is truly summed up when one of the biggest threats you can find in your research is an injury from a falling coconut on Anakena Beach…

Overall Verdict

My time on Easter Island was truly incredible; it is a tropical paradise so far removed from the rest of South America (even the Galapagos Islands which seem over-run by tourists in comparison).

Yes it’s expensive, yes it’s time consuming to reach but boy is it worth it. Quite frankly, I’ve never been anywhere like it.


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Santiago Chile Cable Car

I could wax-lyrical about Santiago. Before visiting, I had heard that the capital of Chile feels like a European city and therefore many deemed it not “interesting” enough to spend more than a few days here. I couldn’t disagree more – Santiago definitely deserves your time.

I ended up spending more time in Santiago than I anticipated – partly due to waiting for my flight to Easter Island but mostly because I loved the city. There’s plenty to do in this fantastic city, so let’s get on with my itinerary!

RELATED: Read my full three month South American itinerary here!

Santiago – Day One

Check Into Hostal Forestal

I found hostels throughout South America to be somewhat lacklustre – especially after beginning my trip in Hostal Forestal. Located centrally beside a gorgeous park and looked after by some of the most friendly staff I have ever had the pleasure of meeting, Hostal Forestal was one of my favourite hostels in South America.

If you are travelling alone, this is the perfect place given the great social atmosphere and the activities organised by the hostel. This is where I had my first taste of a “terremoto” (a.k.a. “earthquake”) cocktail – an incredible concoction made mainly from white wine and pineapple ice cream!

Santiago Modern and Traditional Architecture

People Watching In Plaza Del Armas

One of the first places you will stumble across in any South American city is the “Plaza Del Armas” which acts as the main city square. There are lots of shops and restaurants surrounding the area, as well as beautiful architecture; but one of my favourite things to do is people watch!

Chileans are so friendly (as are the local stray dogs) and there’s always something going on in the square!

Take A Free Walking Tour (or two!)

Yes, this a standard Escaping Essex recommendation for all cities, but I really do mean it! On my first jet-lagged afternoon in Santiago, I opted for the standard “Santiago Highlights” walking tour given by Tours4Tips to learn a bit more about the city and work out where the top tourist destinations were.

Later on in my trip, I joined the “Santiago Offbeat” tour (also by Tours4Tips) which was super interesting, but more on that later.

Tours4Tips also offer free walking tours in other Chilean cities (I’ve tried them all!) so definitely check them out, even if you’re not staying in Santiago.

Santiago Palace La Monda

Feel Regal At Palace La Moneda

One of the spots on the free walking tour is La Moneda. This is a beautiful building steeped in history. One thing I wish I knew before arrival in Santiago is that you can apply to take a tour inside the palace if you email
visitas@presidencia.cl at least one week in advance.

If you aren’t able to reserve a place on a tour, simply admire the facade of this incredible building!

Unleash your Creative Side at GAM

The Centro Cultural Gabriela Mistral (GAM) is a new exhibition centre within the heart of Santiago and is where the “Santiago Higlights” free walking tour ends.

It’s definitely worth spending some time checking out the ever-changing exhibitions after your tour. Plus, the centre is named after Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral, the first Latin American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, so it’s only right to support #girlpower and take a visit!

Santiago – Day Two

View from Cerro San Christóbal
Cerro San Christóbal

Explore Cerro San Christóbal

Waking up to glorious sunshine on my first full day in Santiago meant one thing – head to Cerro San Christóbal!

Cerro San Christóbal and the surrounding areas are huge – you could easily spend a whole day exploring the area (which I did)! A series of funiculars and cable cars connect this huge area – or if you’re feeling more adventurous, a long hike/walk will take you to the peak.

Once you’ve reached the top of the hill, you will be greeted to incredible views across Santiago – the view puts into perspective how large the city is!

After admiring the view, make sure you carry on the cable car rides throughout this expansive green area. From a zoo to a swimming pool and a botanical garden, there’s plenty to see and do.

Apparently I visited in the “Month of Love” (February 2018) and there was a brilliant version of the famous Love Lock bridges seen in cities such as Paris – instead, hundreds of coloured ribbons are available to visitors, each representing a different love status – from moving meanings such as “Love Without Borders” to “Friend Zone” (which was my personal favourite)! 😂

Santiago – Day Three

Santiago Museo Chileno De Arte Precolombino

See History Unfold In A Chilean Art Museum

After soaking up the sun on my first day, I woke up on day 2 with the intention of doing something a bit more cultural! Luckily, Santiago is home to some great museums and Museo Chileno De Arte Precolombino (“Chilean Museum of Pre-Colombian Art”) was my first stop.

This is a truly interesting museum with lots of artifacts to see. The well-presented displays take you through the various stages of migration to Central and South America giving insight to the ways of life, religion and culture.

Luckily with lots of English signage as it’s safe to say that my very limited Spanish language skills don’t stretch to art terminology!

Be Shocked By The Human Rights Museum

Next up on my cultural experience was Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos (“Museum of Memory and Human Rights”) which was truly harrowing.

The museum focuses on the Chilean dictatorship in the 1970s-1990s. While I had been made aware of the conditions under the dictatorship during my free walking tour, this museum really highlighted the struggles of the era. I really recommend visiting.

Make sure that you have a few hours to spare and take time to listen to all of the audio guide sections. Parts of the museum were very hard hitting – including a video of a police office shooting a young female student in cold blood.

Santiago Mercado Central

Excite Your Tastebuds In Mercado Central

Despite the sombre mood, I managed to meet a group of other solo travellers within the Human Rights Museum who became firm friends for my time in Chile!

After the museum, we headed to Mercado Central to eat our way around the stalls, sampling incredible empanadas and fresh fruit! The perfect way to spend an afternoon with new friends.

After I developed the worst blister on my foot, everyone ended up visiting me in my hostel that night to drink/chat/dance the night away!

Santiago – Day Four

Santiago Cerro Santa Lucia

Cerro Santa Lucia

Another day, another beautiful hilled green area. Closer to the city centre and much smaller than Cerro San Christobal, Cerro Santa Lucia is a good choice if you have less time to explore.

A short uphill walk will give you great views and a beautiful fortress-like building to explore. This is a lovely area to explore, especially with an ice-cream in hand!

Parque Forestal Santiago

Relax in Parque Forestal

After a full-on few days in the city, I decided to spend the afternoon relaxing in a park near to by hostel reading a book – holiday bliss! One thing that can always be guaranteed in a February trip to Santiago is sunshine!

Enjoy A Night Out In Bellavista

Bellavista is the most popular area in Santiago for nightlife and rightly so! Be sure to stroll down and enjoy the restaurants/bars – just remember that the Chileans tend to eat/drink/party much later than their European counterparts – a typical meal won’t start until very late in the evening!

Santiago – Day Five

Pina in Santiago Mercado

Join Your Second Free Walking Tour

With time to kill before my departure from Santiago, I decided to do some more learning, so joined the “Santiago Offbeat” tour (also by Tours4Tips).

This tour offers a more in-depth look into local lifestyles. From the Mercado Central (“Central Market”) where locals buy their delicious fresh fruits and vegetable to Cementerio General (“General Cemetary”) where you learn about the Chilean burial beliefs and traditions.

Despite the fact I had been to the food markets earlier in the week, taking a tour highlighted how the market really fits into the local Chilean culture. The market stall owners all act as one big family, trading and helping each other. When an earthquake devastated surrounding areas (did you know that Chile suffers 3 earthquakes a day – albeit they’re normally very small), the market traders all got together to create food boxes for families in need. The family spirit in this market is unlike any other.

Santiago General Cemetary

Learn About the General Cemetary

Well, I know it sounds a bit morbid, but I promise it’s very interesting! The free walking tour will explain local life and Chilean views and traditions when it comes to death.

One thing that is heavily highlighted during the tour is the disparity between the rich and poor following the relatively recent dictatorship in Chile. While Chile is one of the most prosperous nations in Latin America, it also allegedly has one of the world’s highest rates of wealth disparity – something that wouldn’t be entirely evident from a trip to Santiago.

Bellas Artes

Marvel at Chilean Art

I don’t consider myself to be a huge museum-lover, yet here I am, recommending my third museum to you. In all honesty, I didn’t have much interest in visiting Bellas Artes but given the close proximity to my hostel (Hostal Forestal) and the fact that I had time to kill, I thought why not!

While there is a great selection of artwork on display (including some particularly disturbing exhibitions at the time of my visit), what’s more impressive is the building that houses the collections – especially the gorgeous glass-ceiling!

Santiago City Buildings

Re-Visit Your Favourite Areas

There were tonnes of places/areas that I ended up walking through/visiting time and time again. Santiago is made up of many different neighborhoods with Bellavista, Lastarria and Barrio Italia being my favourites.

Make sure you spend plenty of time pottering through your favourite neighborhoods stopping to enjoy all of the cute shops, cafes and bars along the way!

Optional Extras

Santiago benefits from being surrounded by some equally incredible destinations. In a day trip, you could visit nearby Valpariso or Vina Del Mar (although arguably both destinations are worthy of more time than just a day). Santiago is encompassed by the Andes, so there are plenty of beautiful mountainous areas to explore too!

For destinations somewhat further afield, hop across the Argentinean border to Mendoza to sample incredible wines. Within Chile, head North to explore the Atacama Desert or South for the beautiful region of Patagonia.

Arguably the creme de la creme of “nearby” destinations is Easter Island. Santiago is one of two places (the other being Tahiti) that flies to Easter Island, so if you’re in the neighborhood already, it’s definitely worth extending your trip!

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.

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Packing for South America
Dressing for South America

Disclaimer: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click-through and make a purchase.

If there’s anything that the above two photos proves, it’s that South America is a diverse continent with various landscapes, climates, altitudes and terrains to conquer! Given the variety, packing for an extended period can be very daunting, but do not fear, it’s super easy!

Considering this was my first time packing for a trip longer than 3 months, I think I did pretty damn well! Of course, everyone makes a few errors in their packing (did I actually wear that super pretty dress for Instagram photos? Absolutely not!) so hopefully you can learn from my mistakes!

Top Tips

  1. Take your route into consideration carefully – Before using my packing list as your bible, check out my 3 month itinerary to see what I got up to! If you’re heading to places like Patagonia or doing hikes that require you to bring your own camping equipment, you will of course need to factor this into you packing plans.
  2. The hard and fast rule when it comes to packing for a trip of any length is that you don’t need half as much as you think you do. Make a list of everything that you think you will need, get everything ready to be packed and then re-assess and put half of it away!
  3. Laundry is not an issue in South America. As long as you’re not in the middle of an arduous trek, you will be able to find a launderette on every street corner! What’s better is that all of your laundry will be done for you, dried and neatly folded for just a few dollars.
  4. Make sure that there is some spare space in your bag. While it may be tempting to pack that extra pair of shoes, I can guarantee that you’d rather bring home some souvenirs (no backpacker manages to leave South America without a fake Alpaca wool jumper).
  5. Remember that you can buy items along the way! Unless you have very specific requirements, all toiletries can be purchased as and when you need them. In respect of cheaper items that you only need for a brief period of time, buy them en route and then gift them on to a fellow backpacker – I purchased a woolly hat for my time in the Uyuni Salt Flats but barely wore it, so ended up gifting it to a fellow traveler who was heading to colder climates than me.

Without further ado, here’s everything I packed for 3 months in South America!

Bags

  1. A comfy backpack and daypack – I highly recommend the Osprey Fairview 70 which is a 57L backpack with a detachable 13L daypack. For men, the equivalent is the Osprey Farpoint 70 (both of which are very popular on the backpacking scene – and for good reason)! The best thing about this backpack is that it opens up fully like a suitcase, so you don’t need to stick your arm the entire way into the bag to find the thing you were looking for at the bottom. You’ll be the envy of everyone in the hostel!
  2. Small Cross Body Bag – When travelling in cities, I preferred to use a small cross body bag like this one. When travelling between destinations, it slotted nicely into my day-pack and didn’t take up any extra room!
  3. Packing CubesPacking cubes will become your BEST friend. This was the first time I had used them and now I won’t travel without them!
  4. Bum-Bag – Okay, a bum-bag (or “fanny-pack” for all of the Americans) isn’t the most stylish item you can bring, but it is very handy! I brought mine with safety in mind (i.e. keeping some cash close to me in case of being mugged – which thankfully didn’t happen) but I ended up using it as a place to handily store my camera while hiking!

Clothes – Outerwear

Your choice of outerwear will be fundamental given the range in climates. Get it wrong and you could either be very cold or the complete opposite and end up carrying around a huge coat that never gets worn.

If you really don’t have enough room in your bag to bring outerwear from home, you can find lots of outdoor clothing stores in places like Cusco (your base for starting the Machu Picchu trek) but be aware of inflated prices.

  1. A good quality rain jacket – It can rain a lot in the Andes, so a good quality rain jacket will be your saviour (no matter how ugly it may be). Pick something lightweight that will break the wind to keep you warm but be easy to pack away when not needed.
  2. A warm fleece/hoodie – The comfier and warmer, the better. I tried to pick a fleece that was a bit more stylish so it didn’t feel like I was just wearing ugly hiking gear all the time!
  3. Gloves – Gloves will definitely come in handy on high altitude hikes where temperatures drop (or if you’re clumsy like me, it will save your hands from scratches and cuts if you fall over…).
  4. Multi-use scarf – I purchased a travel infinity scarf  which turned out to be a great investment! Not only is it an additional layer to brace the cold with, the secret pocket means you can keep your valuables (phone and credit card etc.) close to you and I used it as a pillow on bus journeys!
  5. Headband – A cute headband is super handy to cover up greasy hair on multi-day hikes where showers are a distant dream!
  6. Sunglasses – While they are the polar opposite of the last few items, make sure you have some quality sunglasses for your trip. And make sure you don’t sit on them and break them within your first week of travelling (speaking from experience here).

Clothes – Bottoms

When it comes to bottoms, variety is key. Bottoms can be hard to layer so you need to be prepared for a multitude of different climates, I survived just fine with the following:

  1. 2 x shorts – I packed two pairs of lightweight denim shorts (blue and black) for the warmer climates. If I could do it all again, I would probably swap one pair for a sportier style – cycling around the vineyards of Mendoza in denim shorts wasn’t particularly pleasant!
  2. 2 x jeans – I stupidly bought two pairs of jeans with me. In cooler destinations, I lived in my trusty black jeans (the ASOS Rivington are my jeans of choice) and the grey pair lived at the bottom of my bag for the entirety of the trip. Unless you’re a jeans lover, only pack one pair!
  3. 2 x sports leggings – South America is filled with incredible hikes, so make sure you’ve got at least one comfy pair of leggings. If you’re going to do the 4 day Inca Trail, don’t worry about only having 1-2 pairs, everyone is in the same stinky boat!
  4. 1 x thermal leggings – If you’re planning on doing any high altitude hikes, it’s advisable to have some thermal leggings to sleep in!
  5. 1 x lightweight flowy trousers – I am very glad that lightweight flowy trousers seem to be all the rage right now – these are dreamy if you are in a warm destination but want to be a bit more covered up – plus they take up no room in your backpack!

Clothes – Tops

Packing clothes for your top half is much easier. Essentially, you need to pick items that are easy to layer. Don’t bother bringing your favourite jumper as a warmer layer, you’re bound to pick up a “backpacker jumper” whilst on the road!

  1. 3 x normal t-shirts – In hindsight, 2 t-shirts would have been fine but female t-shirts tend to be so lightweight an extra one doesn’t hurt! I ordered this ASOS multi-pack for 3 cheap and cheerful t-shirts that I wouldn’t mind damaging/losing.
  2. 2 x sports t-shirts – Of course you need some sports t-shirts to go with those sports leggings while you’re hiking!
  3. 2 x vest tops – The art of layering requires some basic under layers – I recommend this ASOS multi-pack.
  4. 1 x long sleeve top – This will come in handy for layering on the cooler occasions. While on the Uyuni Salt Flats, I think I wore 5 layers of tops throughout the day so I could adjust as necessary!
  5. 4 x lightweight “nicer” tops – So far my packing list has been very very bland. To save my sanity, I chose to pack 4 light weight nicer tops which I could wear with with a whole range of bottoms to feel a bit fancier for dinners/nights out/exploring cities!

Clothes – Other

Now for all the added “extra” bits and bobs…

  1. 1 x lightweight Summer dress – This is a real necessity in warmer destinations! Pick a lightweight dress that you can both wear in the cities or use as a cover-up on the beach.
  2. 1 x playsuit – Here’s where I admit my stupidity. I had visions of being “that girl” who had a change of outfit and wore beautiful clothes for Instagram. I packed a lovely red playsuit that sat at the bottom of my bag for the entire trip because let’s face it, I’m not “that girl”.
  3. 14 x underwear – I decided to take 2 weeks worth of underwear but I know a lot of girls travelled with a lot less! As already mentioned, laundry facilities in South America are plentiful, so don’t pack too many, it’s just a waste of space.
  4. 4 x hiking socks Hiking socks are an necessity if you plan on doing any walking. No matter how comfy your shoes are, the socks can make a huge difference!
  5. 4 x bras (2 normal + 2 sports) – I packed one nude bra, one black bra and 2 sports bras to cover all bases.
  6. 1 x bikini – I spent more time in the mountains than by the beaches, so 1 bikini was more than enough for me!
  7. Sleepwear – Take some dedicated pyjamas if you want to… or just use your leggings and normal t-shirts to save space in your bag!

Shoes

I took a very limited shoe selection. While it was absolutely fine, I would consider packing a pair of lightweight comfy trainers so that walking shoes weren’t my only sensible option!

  1. Walking boots/shoes – I opted for walking shoes rather than boots as I wanted to be able to wear them in cities too. I opted for a super comfy North Face pair which I highly recommend! To save room in your bag, always wear these when moving destinations or tie them to the outside of your backpack.
  2. Flip-flops – I picked up a £0.90 pair of flip flops from Primark which I intended to mainly use in the hostel showers but I ended up living in them for most of my trip! Finding a pair of comfy flip flops is fundamental!
  3. Sandals – I packed one paid of nice sandals which I intended to use as my everyday shoes in the warmer destinations. Unfortunately, they gave me HUGE blisters on day 2 and I never wore them again!

Travel “Necessities”

This is the one section where I probably did over-pack. Luckily all of the items are very small and I didn’t know what to expect from my trip, so wanted to be prepared for all outcomes!

  1. Currency, Debit & Credit Cards – I took some Chilean Pesos for the first leg of my trip alongside a credit card with no foreign transaction fees (I opted for the Santander Zero card) and my normal debit card for back-up.
  2. Passport and ID – While your passport is a given requirement, I also took my drivers license to use as ID without the risk of losing my passport while out and about!
  3. Copy of Documents – Keep a copy of your passport and your travel insurance documents
  4. Torch – This is a necessity on some hikes which require very early starts. Most people opted for a more convenient headlamp, but I found a torch to be just fine!
  5. Water bottle – I bought this incredible Brita water bottle which filters dirty water before my trip and LOVED it. Unfortunately, a rather violent horse ride saw it fly from my bag and into the wilderness never to be found again.
  6. Travel microfibre towel – Okay, they aren’t the nicest things to dry yourself with but a microfibre towel is a MUST while travelling. My towel was accidentally taken by another traveller while I was in Chile and I learnt they are a lot harder to find and much more expensive overseas! Take two just in case!
  7. Padlocks – Invest in some good padlocks to keep your bag safe on long bus journeys and also to keep your locker safe in hostels.
  8. First Aid kit – Hopefully you won’t have to use it, but it’s best to have a small kit like this one just in case!
  9. Medication – Be sure to bring enough of your normal medication to see you through your journey. as well as some precautionary tablets such as painkillers and Imodium. Check with your doctors to see if you need any other medication for your trip – I brought malaria tablets for my trip to the Amazon Jungle. If you are affected by altitude sickness, it may be worth getting some Diamox before your trip too (I didn’t).
  10. Insect Repellent – Mosquitoes LOVE to bite me, so insect repellent is a must for me!

Gadgets/Electronics

Electronics are a very personal matter, so take as many or as few that you think you need. As a solo traveller, I tried to keep my “flashy gadgets” to a minimum and opted to take my point and shoot camera as opposed to my DSLR. I thought about bringing my kindle but instead downloaded the Kindle app on my phone which worked really well!

  1. Phone + charger + sturdy case
  2. Go-pro camera + charger + spare batteries
  3. Normal camera + charger + spare batteries (the Canon G7X is my weapon of choice)
  4. Various memory cards
  5. Headphones
  6. Portable charger
  7. Universal plug sockets

Toiletries / Cosmetics

The thing to remember with toiletries is that you can usually find whatever you’re looking for whilst travelling. So unless you have very niche needs or requirements, bring the bare minimum to get you going and then re-stock when necessary.

Lots of tour guides for hikes will tell you that you need to bring toilet paper with you. Don’t bother bringing it all the way from home, stock up when you’re in South America (I tended to just take as much as I think I would need for day hikes from my hotel)!

  1. Hairbrush
  2. Comb
  3. Nail clippers
  4. Small scissors
  5. Tweezers
  6. Shampoo
  7. Conditioner
  8. Deodorant
  9. Toothbrush
  10. Toothpaste
  11. Make-up
  12. Make-up remover
  13. Sun cream
  14. Moisturiser
  15. Razor

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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“Easter Island? What on earth did you do there?” is normally the reaction I get when I say how incredible Easter Island is. Given it’s remote location and the fact that few people have visited, it’s a fair question! So, here you can find my complete itinerary alongside some additional extras that I wish I had time to do!

Two Moai At Easter Island Quarry

Day One

Jump On A Flight From Santiago

Allow yourself plenty of time for your flight; not only is the flight a whopping 5 hours from mainland Santiago, Easter Island frequently suffers turbulent weather and flights can therefore suffer significant delays. My flight was delayed by 5 hours!

On arrival in Easter Island, I was presented with a lei by the hostel manager from Camping y Hostal Tipanie Moana which made me VERY excited for what was to come from my first ever Pacific Island adventure.

On arrival at the airport, you will be required to purchase your ticket for all of the archaeological sites for $60. You will need to present this when entering most site or if a ranger asks you whilst you are standing in part of the National Park.

With expensive flights and a hefty fee for a ticket to the archaeological sites, you’re probably wondering how much a trip to Easter Island is going to cost you! Check out my tips and tricks on how to visit Easter Island on a budget here.

Get Your First Glimpse of A Moai – Ahu Tahai & Ahu Ko Te Riku

Easter Island Ahu Tahai

I had big plans for Day One on the island, but a long flight delay meant that these plans were somewhat scuppered! Instead of rushing around trying to rectify matters, I desperately searched the map to find the nearest Moai heads.

With Ahu Tahai being a short 20 minute walk from the main village of Hanga Roa, I headed there immediately and I don’t think I’ve ever walked so fast in my life! After being cooped up in an airport and then plane for more than 10 hours, I was ready to be unleashed on the mysterious statues that I had travelled so far to see!

Ahu Tahai is solo statue but 2 minutes away is Ahu Ko Te Riku where 5 stand proudly in a row. I certainly wasn’t disappointed with the view but little did I know that these were some of the smaller moai on the island and things were only going to get better!

This is one of the best spots to catch the sunset on the island – unfortunately my first night was extremely cloudy, so the sunset wasn’t particularly impressive. The good news is that as the site is so close to town, you can try and catch a great sunset as many times as you like.

Day Two

Explore the Town of Hanga Roa

Easter Island Hanga Roa

Eager to start exploring properly, I headed straight into town to see what was going on. Hanga Roa is the only real town on the Island and while there isn’t much to see or do in the town, it’s definitely worth popping in to see how the locals live. If you’re looking for a cheap lunch spot, “Club Sandwich” is the place to be!

If you’re looking for Wi-Fi, there are a few parks in the town which have free Wi-Fi but it might be at the cost of your own sanity whole you wait for your social media to load.

Get Your Passport Stamped!

Easter Island Passport Stamp

South America is filled with novelty passport stamps – if you get them all, you’re likely to need a new passport shortly after! However, Easter Island’s stamp is definitely worth getting.

Easter Island is owned by Chile and therefore there is no stamping process, when you arrive or depart from the airport. Instead, you can go to the local post office and pay a small donation in return for a passport stamp.

I also purchased an Easter Island postal stamp for my friend’s mum who collects stamps from around the work. Be warned that the Easter Island stamps are only valid on the Island (which makes no sense given that you can drive the length of the island in less than an hour). If you were to send a postcard from the Island, it would be routed through the Chilean postal system and you would need to purchase a standard Chilean stamp.

Try to Spot Turtles at Pea Bay

Easter Island Pea Bay

Pea Bay / Pea Beach is a tiny little beach a short walk from the main town centre and is one of my favourite Hanga Roa spots!

If you’re lucky, you will spot turtles swimming in the bay. If you’re not so lucky, you can console yourself with an ice cream from the Pea Restobar. I don’t know if it was the intense heat/humidity playing with my mind, but I’m pretty sure it was some of the best ice cream I’ve ever tasted (I recommend the pineapple flavour)! I am too ashamed to include quite how many times I bought ice cream from this spot within this itinerary.

Rent a Car and Begin the Loop Road Around The Island

Easter Island Cars

To truly experience the island, renting a car is fundamental. Luckily, car hire is reasonably priced, especially when you are travelling in a group.

While cooking dinner in the hostel the previous night, I got chatting to an American couple who were on a year long travel adventure. As they were the only other English speakers in the hostel at the time, I am very grateful that they took me under their wing and allowed me to share their car with them! We paid 35,000 CLP for 24 hours of car hire (approximately 35 GBP) which when split between 3 people was very reasonable.

There is a large loop road around the Island which hosts the main Moai archaeological sites. With this being my first full day on the island, it was a pretty impressive start to my time here!

See The Fallen Moai at Vaihu – Hanga Te’e

Fallen Moai Hanga Te'e

Hanga Te’e is the perfect place to see Moai in the state that they were left after the Huri Moai period (a.k.a “The Fallen Moai” period).

As with most of Easter Island’s history, the stories are unclear, but there is evidence to suggest that the initial toppling of the Moai was part of a conflict amongst islanders rather than by way of a natural disaster.

Easter Island adopted Christianity in the 1860s which led to a period of toppling the remaining standing Moai (bar some which are partially buried in the quarry) known as the “Huri Moai” period. The Moai which we now see standing were re-erected in later years.

Explore ancient history at Akahanga

Easter Island Akahanga

Akahanga has a really fascinating history. Each archaeological site has a red sign at the entrance for you to start learning about the history, but if you’re anything like me, you’ll end up obsessed with the history and the proud owner of an extensive Google search history!

By the entrance, you will find ruins of the best preserved ancient village on the island. Small thatched huts make up a number of ovens, houses and gardens.

Further along the marked path (be sure to stick to all paths on the island as the authorities are trying to cut down on unnecessary erosion by human traffic where possible across the island), you will find a platform which would have been used as a ceremonial centre. The platform consists of several stages which is believed to show a mixture of clans and families that occurred in the ancient society.

There are plenty more toppled Moai to see here too and fantastic views of the rugged coastline!

See Hundreds of Moai at Rano Raraku (The Quarry)

Easter Island Rano Raraku
Easter Island Quarry Crater

Now for my favourite stop on the road trip…

Rano Raraku is known as “The Quarry” and is the only archaeological site that your ticket will only allow you to visit once – so make the most of your time here!

The Quarry is now home to almost 400 Moai which never made it to their final destination and in the 18th Century was the source of the stone used for 95% of the Moai on the island. My favourite part of the Quarry is the unfinished Moai that you can still see resting in the rock face, partially carved.

Take your time to walk around the paths and admire the craftsmanship of the Moai but don’t forget to walk around the back of the main site (there are two paths as you enter the main site – it’s the path less travelled) to see a truly beautiful crater!

Get The Iconic Shot at Tongariki

Easter Island Tongariki Girl

If you’ve seen one photo of Easter Island, it’s probably of Tongariki.

Home to 15 Moai, it is the largest ahu (the long plinth on which the Moai are stood) and is home to the heaviest Moai ever erected which weighs a whopping 150 tonnes! The Moai all face directly into the sunset during the Summer Solstice.

This is a great place to marvel in the wonder of these statues and get your new favourite Instagram picture 😉

See Ancient Petroglyphs at Papa Vaka

Papa Vaka is home to the largest petroglyph (rock carving) on the island measuring 12 meters long. the petroglyphs depict the Rapa Nui’s concerns about the sea and the control of it’s resources and is a great way for archaeologists to learn more about the history of the island.

Feel Supernatural Energy at Te Pito Kura

Fallen Moai at Te Pito Kura
Easter Island Te Pito Kura Stone

At almost 10 meters tall (it’s ears are 2 meters long alone!) and weighing 80 tonnes, the Moai at this site (named “Paro”) is one of the largest on the island and legend states that this Moai was ordered by a widow in the memory of her late husband (suddenly a little plaque in a memorial garden in the UK doesn’t seem so special…).

Next to the Moai is a large stone which is thought to have been brought to the island by the founding king of the Rapa Nui people. The rock is said to have a magnetic and supernatural energy (due to the high iron content, the stone warms up quickly and causes a compass to malfunction).

Unfortunately, a few desperate people have ruined the fun for everyone else… visitors used to be able to put their hands on the stone to capture the supernatural energy; however, the stone is believed to increase fertility in women and it is now closed off after tourists began performing obscene acts… I’ll leave that one to your imagination.

Relax On the Beach At Anakena

Easter Island Anakena Beach

Finally, the last stop on the road trip is a relaxing one! Anakena is the largest beach on the island and is definitely worth a few hours of your time. With beautiful white sand, glistening blue warm sea, palm trees galore and, of course, a few Moai, it really is paradise!

It was late afternoon by the time we arrived and the beach was crowded in the February sunshine (especially compared to the other almost empty sites on our road trip)! If you are visiting in Summer months, try going early in the day to have the place to yourself before any tour buses arrive.

Day Three

Watch The Sunrise at Tongariki

Easter Island Tongariki

While you still have access to the rental car, get up early and witness the sunrise at Tongariki! Unfortunately I missed out on this activity due my American buddies having the keys to the car and not being interested in seeing another sunrise (I imagine they had seen plenty on their year long adventure)!

I tried to organise this trip for another morning and a taxi ride was seemingly more expensive than 24 hours of car rental – so definitely factor this into your plans!

Hike The Te Ara O Te Ao Trail

Te Ara O Te Ao Trail

There are two ways to witness the marvel that is the Rano Kau volcano… The first would be to drive (either in a rental car, taxi or on an organise tour with lovely air-conditioning), the other would be to hike the Te Ara O Te Ao trail which is the same route used 150 years ago to reach the ceremonial village of Orongo (at the top of the volcano rim).

I obviously opted for the harder option… forgetting that it was February and the heat was reaching Summer highs.

Despite the ridiculous levels of sweat and a stare-off with a particularly aggressive cow, it was a beautiful hike. From seaside scenery, small gardens, various viewpoints and a cave, there’s plenty to see along the way and you definitely get a greater appreciation for the island than if you were to hop in a car!

Marvel In The Volcano Views at Rano Kau

Easter Island Rano Kau

After a 2(-ish) hour hike, the first view of Rano Kau from the lookout is spectacular. While the whole Island is beautiful, without a doubt, this is the most impressive natural landscape on the Island.

The 200 meter high crater walls protect the plants that live within the volcano and stores the humidity which allows for the growth and conservation of endemic plant species – like a giant natural greenhouse!

The owner of the hostel I was staying in advised that I should walk the entire rim of the volcano (as you aren’t able to walk the whole way round, this would involve turning left and until the furthest point and then coming all the way back on yourself to reach the look out again and then head right towards Orongo and then coming back on yourself again to reach the path home). Given the threat of dehydration, I decided to skip the left hand side and continue my walk right toward Orongo.

Learn About The Bird Man Ceremony of Orongo

Orongo Houses

Ont he volcano edge, you will find the town of Orongo, a town which was only inhabited before the annual Bird Man ceremony.

Up until the 19th Century, men would hike the Te Ara O Te Ao trail before descending the 300 metre cliff to swim to Motu Nui (an islet nearby) in search of the first manutara bird egg of the season. The first man to retrieve the egg and return it safely to the mainland would be the ruler of the island for the next year! With the extremely high death risk in participating in the ceremony, you’d have to be a very power hungry chap to partake!

There is a great mini museum as you enter Orongo which explains the history of the ceremony and also reminds you of the greedy nature of the British – the only Maui from this Orongo is now residing in the British Museum in London (and I am still yet to see it)!

See The Caves at Ana Kai Tangata

Ana Kai Tangata Caves

While walking back down from the volcano, I stopped off at Ana Kai Tangata to check out the caves. If you are feeling more adventurous/more energetic than I was, you can climb down stairs which have been carved into the cliff and enter the cave

Dinner At Te Moai Sunset

Easter Island Sunset

After a very active day, I decided to treat myself to dinner at Te Moai Sunset which is far pricier than my favourite lunch spot (Club Sandwich) on the main street.

While the food is lovely, the main attraction is the view over Ahu Tahai at sunset. I arrived fairly early for the sunset, so spent some time beforehand lapping up the sun and sounds of the ocean while reading a book – Island life is blissful!

Stargazing

When the sun has set, there’s still plenty to see if you look up! Being on an island with very little light pollution means the stargazing is absolutely incredible. There’s no need to take a fancy tour to enjoy the stars, I simply sat on the porch of my hotel room!

Day Five

Have a Lay In & Enjoy Island Life

Wild Horses on Easter Island

Finally after the intense humidity of the prior few days, the rain came! I used the rain as an excuse to have a lie-in and enjoy island life in the morning – a necessity when staying on such a beautiful island! I won’t lie, I spent most of my time on the Island singing the Moana soundtrack to myself..

Don’t worry, the rain won’t dampen your fun – despite the strange looks from the locals, I still strolled into town wearing a little summer dress as it was still so warm!

Explore The Sebastian Englert Museum

If you want a better understanding of the Rapa Nui culture and the history of the Moai, this is the place to go! I found this museum so fascinating, and particularly enjoyed the boards which showed different historians and archaeologists views and opinions on the Moai – I love a good mystery!

Don’t worry if you’re not a museum lover, this one is small, compact and will keep you entertained throughout!

Take a Boat / Snorkelling Tour

Motu Nui Islet

In the late afternoon, I intended to take a boat trip out to the Motu Nui islet (where the Bird Man ceremony took place) to try some snorkelling.

My hostel manager recommended that I go with his friend who was leading a tour group at 4pm and that I would definitely be back in time to watch the traditional dance that evening…

Let’s just say that “Easter Island time” is definitely a thing and the boat journey didn’t start until well after 5pm. if you want to take a boat/snorkelling tour, book with a reputable agency on the harbour/main street!

Watch a Traditional Dance (Ballet Kari Kari)

The Ballet Kari Kari is a traditional dance ceremony which is held a few days a week to tell the story of the Rapa Nui people to tourists.

I couldn’t tell if this was going to be a genuinely cultural experience or a bit of a tourist trap but I never got to find out due to the late running of my boat trip – if you do go and see it, let me know how it was!

Day Four

Visit the “Inca Wall” at Vinapu

Easter Island Vinapu

With it being my last day on the Island, I wanted see the final few archaeological sites. I took a stroll into town and an extraordinarily helpful girl working in one of the tourist agencies made all of my plans spring into motion without the need to hire a car again!

First stop was a quick cab ride to Vinapu, an area that is home to stone work and carving techniques which do not exist in any other part of Polynesia. Instead, the wall is reminiscent of the techniques used by the Inca culture throughout South America, giving rise to theories about the origins of the population of the island.

There are a few Moai remains in this area too, including the remains of the only erect female Moai statue (the other is placed inside the Sebastian Englert Museum).

Explore The Cave Of Bananas At Ana Te Pahu

Easter Island Ana Te Pahu

My afternoon was spent on a guided tour crossing off the final items on my Easter Island wish-list. While guided tours may seem pricey and will give you less freedom than hiring a car, I highly recommend taking at least one quick tour while you are on the Island. With all of the mystery that shrouds Easter Island, there isn’t anything more interesting than discussing it with a local tour guide. I had a particularly lovely guide who wanted to practice his English with me (don’t blame me if you find a guide with an Essex accent…).

Our first stop was Ana Te Pahu which is made up of over 7 kilometres of underground chambers.

Just before the cave entrance is a beautiful lush green area where bananas and avocados are grown (hence the nickname “Cave of Bananas”). The cave itself was used as house many years ago and our tour guide told us plenty of stories about the former residents!

My favourite story was about the Rapa Nui people’s very strict rules against Incest (which is understandable really…) but at the end of the 19th Century, the population of the island had dipped to an all time low of only 111 people. So when you start tracing back through the generations, more or less everyone was related to each other…Therefore, couples in obviously incest relationships would hide here avoiding punishment.

Learn About 7 Young Explorers at Ahu Akivi

Easter Island Aku Akivi

Ahu Akivi is home to 7 Moai who are thought to represent 7 young explorers who were sent to explore the island before the arrival of the colonizers.

Just like all of the other Moai structures, Ahu Akivi is centered astronomically, this time facing directly into the sunset during equinoxes. This means that they are the only erected Moai which look out to sea on the whole island. Out of all of the Moai structures, I think that this one has the prettiest back-drop!

Puna Pau

Easter Island Puna Pau Topknots
View From Puna Pau

Many of the Moai heads on the island have red cylinders to represent the “topknot” hairstyles of the time. That’s right, they aren’t hats, the Rapa Nui people were not too dissimilar to the hipsters you see walking around Shoreditch in London.

Puna Pau is the quarry used to source the rock for the topknots. While this is facinating, it also offers great views of the island!

Say Goodbye to The Incredible Island!

Easter Island Airport

It’s safe to say that I LOVED my time on Easter Island and I would fly back in a heart beat if I could. Even though I had another 2.5 months of travelling ahead of me, there was something incredibly sad about leaving somewhere so special that few travellers get to visit. But don’t worry – the cuteness of the airport softens the blow!

Want to know how I spent the rest of my time in South America?
Read my entire 3 month South America itinerary here.

Alternatives

If some of the above activities don’t take your fancy, don’t worry, here’s some alternatives for you!

Scuba Dive With Underwater Moai

There are a few places that you can go diving on the Island, however the most popular spot includes seeing a submerged Maoi statue! Unfortunately, the statue isn’t authentic and instead it’s a replica that was made for a TV show – that aside, it makes for some seriously impressive photos! a PADI scuba diving licence is required to visit this site.

Explore the Island On Horseback

If you’re struggling to walk long distances in the intense heat or are bored of sitting in a car, the horseback riding is a great alternative – especially if you want to see areas that are off limits to cars.

Two popular routes are climbing to the top of Terevaka (the highest peak on Easter Island) or a tour near Anakena beach of the central coast where there are no roads.

Of course, chose a reputable tour guide and ensure that the horses are well cared for at all times.

Hike To The Tallest Peak For 360 ° Views

Terevaka is the highest peak on Easter Island and reaching the summit rewards you with 360 ° views – the downside is that it can only be reached by foot or on horseback. I fully intended on doing this hike after my trip to the top of Rano Kau – but it’s safe to say that the heat got the better of me! I imagine that standing at the top of this peak (which isn’t a high priority for most visitors to the island) would be the ultimate isolated bliss.

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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Easter Island Girl Tongariki Easter Island Heads From Behind

Easter Island is both very remote and very high on a large number of traveller’s bucket lists. The combination of these two factors means that a trip to this gorgeous Island can be VERY expensive!

I weighed up the pros and cons of visiting Easter Island extensively before spending so much money on such a short trip. The deciding factor was something along the lines of “sod it, I probably won’t find myself in Santiago again any time soon, I’d regret it if I didn’t fly to Easter Island now”.

If you’ve read my blog post outlining my budget for my entire 3 month trip in South America, you will know that I really tried to maximise my experiences within the three months and therefore ended up spending a bit more than anticipated. However, that doesn’t mean that I was walking around throwing money at anyone that would take it – I think I planned my trip to Easter Island on as small of a budget as possible – here’s how you can to!

How Much Did My Trip Cost?

All in all, I spent £926.62 over the course of 6 days which is a grand total of £154.44 per day! Considering you could easily spend £150 per night on a hotel (no matter where you are in the world), I don’t think I did too badly for a destination which is known for being super pricey!

A breakdown of my costs are as follows:

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

Now, here’s how you can book a trip for less than £1,000 too!

Easter Island Close Up Moai Easter Island Wild Horses

Flights

When To Book

Flights are the real reason that a trip to Easter Island can be very expensive. The key to getting a good deal looking at flights as early as possible.

I heard great stories about people being able to buy £250 return tickets last minute a few years ago but this didn’t seem to be the case in my experience. I visited Easter Island in late February 2018 and began looking at the flights in November/December 2017. Ideally, I should have booked the flights as soon as I decided on my dates as they did go up in price as time passed.

Should You Use A Flight Comparison Website?

This is the one time that I wouldn’t recommend using Skyscanner to check for flights, purely on the basis that there is only one provider for the route (LATAM). To save time, just check the prices directly on the LATAM website. There were a few times where the actual cost when clicking through to the LATAM website was much higher than the Skyscanner estimate – so don’t get your hopes up!

Flexibility with Dates

Flights can differ massively from day to day. If you can be flexible, check all of the prices on surrounding dates. For some reason, all of the return flights that I was looking at were around £1,000 and then I managed to find the exact same flights on slightly later dates for £560 return! At almost “half price”, it would have been rude not to book them!

Using a VPN / Accessing the Chilean LATAM Website

Of course, all good travel hackers would tell you to use a VPN to hide your location when booking expensive flights. In my excitable state, I forgot to do this while looking for my flights – oops!

However, I did try accessing the Chilean version of the LATAM website rather than the UK version and was shocked at how much cheaper the flights were! I tried to book the tickets but the site wouldn’t accept my UK credit card – it’s worth a shot though!

Check the Price of Business Class

I’ve heard rumours that the price of business class tickets to Easter Island sometimes aren’t that much more expensive than economy tickets! So be sure to check the business class section if you want to get the most bang for your buck!

RELATED: Easter Island is in the middle of nowhere, check out how I slotted it into a 3 month South American backpacking adventure here!  

Easter Island Girl Sightseeing Easter Island Palm Trees

Accommodation

Camping / Hostels

The cheapest way to stay on the island is to camp. Wild camping is prohibited on the island but campsites can be found at a relatively cheap price. The hostel that I stayed at (Camping y Hostal Tipanie Moana) had camping facilities starting from £20 per night!

If you haven’t brought a sleeping bag or camping gear with you, the next best option is a bed in a hostel dormitory. Hostel beds are hard to come by on Easter Island unless you book early, this is perhaps because at Camping y Hostal Tipanie Moana a hostel bed is around the same price as a tent!

Cheap Private Rooms

As I wasn’t carrying a sleeping bag and all hostel rooms had booked out on the Island, I ended up with a cheap private room. There are plenty of small family run hotels offering a basic bedroom on the island. I had a double room and shared bathroom which totalled £181.50 for 5 nights (i.e. just under £37 per night).

Given the fact that the Island is small, I imagined that there wouldn’t be many accommodation choices and I would end up spending over £100 per night! That’s simply not the case if you book early. Most reservations via Booking.com have a time period where it’s free to cancel the reservation, so even if you’re holding out for a price drop in flights (don’t get your hopes up too much), you can reserve the room just to be safe!

Easter Island Cave Easter Island Quarry

Food

Bringing Food From Mainland Chile

As I stood waiting to collect my dusty backpack from the baggage turnstile at the airport, I noticed something quite peculiar… most of the items on the baggage turnstile were cool boxes containing food! As all food is imported to Easter Island, many of the locals (and tourists alike) bring food with them from the mainland in an attempt to avoid the inflated prices on the Island.

As I was only going to be visiting Easter Island for 5 nights, I bought a big bag of pasta and a large sachet of sauce to see me through the evenings where I didn’t want to spend much money! Choosing accommodation that has cooking facilities is imperative if you’re looking to save money.

The bag of pasta and sauce sachet were so large that I ended up being able to leave a substantial amount in the kitchen for future travellers to enjoy too!

Cheap Eats on Easter Island Island

While I would eat dinner at the hotel most nights (yes, I underestimated how boring that one pasta sauce would become), it was fairly easy to find cheap lunches on the Island.

A great place to get cheap empanadas is Club Sandwich located in the main street of Hanga Roa (the town is tiny, there’s only a few streets to choose from). I think their empanadas started at around $3 each and were super tasty!

So many people warned me about the price of food on the Island and I was very scared for the future of my bank account. However, in all honesty, I didn’t find it that bad! If you are sensible and search for a good deal (not the cute little hut serving $20 acai / smoothie bowls), you will be fine.

If you’re looking for ice cream (which I was very frequently due to the intense humidity), check out the ice cream bar next to Pea RestoBar (the pineapple flavour was my favourite) and enjoy the sea views. You may even spot some turtles!

Easter Island Pea Bay Easter Island Crater

Sightseeing

National Park Ticket

On arrival at the Hanga Roa airport, you will need to purchase the national park ticket which costs $60 for all non-Chilean nationals. This ticket covers entry to all of the Moai archeological sites for 5 consecutive days.

By way of visiting the historical sights and Moai archaeological sights, this will be the only price you need to pay and none of the sights on the Island will require a further cost to enter them!

Guided Tours

It’s easy to rent a car on the Island to reach the sights, however I would recommend taking at least one guided tour so that you get to understand the history of the Island a little more. Once my car rental expired, I hopped onto an afternoon tour which cost £24 to try and see some of the sights I missed the day before.

This was one of the most interesting tours that I did in South America and that’s largely down to the incredible history and uniqueness of the island.

Free Things To Do 

Yes, you read that right – some things on the Island are free! One of my favourite things to do on the Island was hike to the rim of the Rano Kau volacano! While it wasn’t a difficult hike physically, the intense heat made it a very sweaty hike! Luckily, the incredible views made up for it (although I was almost chased by a cow…)!

Of course, the Island has a selection of beaches to choose from which are also free. The most popular being Anakena Beach which you will need to hire a car to visit. If you want to stay closer to town, Pea Beach is in walking distance but is very small!

The Easter Island museum is another great free activity! I don’t usually enjoy museums too much, but there’s something about the mysterious history of the Island which is truly captivating. I left wishing the museum was bigger (both for the history and the amount of time I could stand in an air-conditioned building)!

Quite honestly, one of my favourite things about Easter Island was it’s natural beauty. It costs nothing at all to enjoy the views, watch the wild horses graze and catch a spectacular sunset.

Easter Island Cars Easter Island Single Moai

Transport on Easter Island

Renting a Car

Car rental on Easter Island was surprisingly cheap! I met an American couple who were looking to hire a car on the same day as me, so our hotel organised a rental through Oceanic where 24 hours of useage cost £35. When split between the three of us, it ended up costing me just over £11 and was well worth it!

Considering most of the places you will visit in the car are already paid for by way of your National Park ticket, £11 is a small price to pay for a truly incredible day.

If you drive the main ring-road in one day, you won’t need to top-up on fuel at all! This is what we did, so I’m unsure as to how expensive fuel is on Easter Island.

Taxis

Taxis within Hanga Roa (the only town on the Island) are reasonably cheap at $3 but the Island is easily walk able, so you are unlikely to need to take one.

Using taxis to drive to any of the archaeological sights outside of the town will become very pricey. We stupidly didn’t use our rental car to visit Ahu Tongariki at sunrise (the must-see spot apparently)! When I enquired on hiring a taxi to make this trip on another day, I was quoted in excess of £50 for the short round trip!

Bike and Quad-bikes

If you don’t want to rent a car, bicycle and quad bike hires are readily available! If you are visiting in one of the slightly cooler months, these would definitely be great options! However, the thought of cycling in such intense heat wasn’t a pleasant one! And even though physical exertion is limited when riding a quad-bike, I imagine that I would have got seriously sun-burnt!

 

Easter Island Anakena Beach Easter Island Rano Kau

Is It Worth The Money?

Hopefully, this blog post has proven that the flights are the only cost that should really be feared when visiting Easter Island! If you have the time and the money to visit Easter Island, I think it is definitely worth it.

I’ve never been to such a secluded and beautiful Island. The residents of Easter Island are trying their hardest to maintain and preserve the Island to the best of their ability – it would be a shame to miss it.

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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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.
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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)!

Read about my time in Bolivia:

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)!

Read about my time on Easter Island:

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!

Read about my time in Ecuador:

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.
Danielle1

 

 

 

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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!

Read more about my time on Easter Island:

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”).

Read more about my time in La Paz here:

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!

Read more about my time in Cotopaxi here:

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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