Latacunga Quilotoa Crater

Choosing the right hostels in South America can be a tough and everyone’s preferences will be different. There are so many things to think about – budget, location, facilities, same sex/mixed dorms – to name a few!

After spending three months travelling through South America, I managed to crack the code as to what hostels worked for me; it took some trial and error, but I got there! The main thing to remember is that everyone is different and what suits you may not suit someone else.

This post will give you a run down of the things I considered before making any hostel bookings in South America.

For full disclosure, most of the photos used in this blog post are taken from the HostelWorld website – I didn’t want to take photos of hostel rooms with other travellers/their belongings in them without their consent. Also, hostel rooms are normally much messier in real life!

RELATED: Why not also read my 3 month South America itinerary which outlines all of the hostels I stayed in?

Location – Close to the City Centre? Rural and Remote?

South America Hostels - the view from Izchayluma Hostel, Ecuador
Rural but gorgeous view from breakfast at Izhcayluma Hostel (Ecuador)

As a solo female traveller, location was SO important to me. Nothing “bad” happened to me while I was in South America, but that didn’t stop me being cautious.

I used to meet a lot of people on free walking tours/activities and then spend the rest of the day with them… and sometimes our day-time fun slipped into dinner or drinks after sunset. Knowing I could end up walking back to my hostel alone in the dark meant that I wanted a centrally located hostel.

I was often booking hostels spontaneously with very little time to research the next destination. The great thing about most South American cities is that they have all have a main square, normally called “Plaza Del Armas”. If there weren’t many attractions in a city that I knew I wanted to visit/my hostel to be near, I tended to check a hostels proximity to this main square and hope for the best!

I found that Hostel World’s “distance to city centre” tracker fairly accurate (I think it monitors the Plaza Del Armas as the city centre in most cities). Where possible, I only booked hostels with that were 1km or closer to the city centre.

Social Scene – Party Hard or Calm and Relaxing?

South America Hostels - party area at Pariwana Hostel, Cusco
Party area at Pariwana (Cusco, Peru)

While looking at the location, you also need to consider what type of hostel you want to stay in.

If you’re into partying, South America has some incredible hostels for you. One of the most notorious party hostel chains is the Wild Rover which you can find in Peru (Cusco, Arequipa, Mancora and Huacachina) and Bolivia (La Paz).

Personally, I like hostels to have a bit of atmosphere but I avoid party hostels like the plague! I like to be up relatively early and ready for a full day of exploring which is difficult if your hostel has been playing loud music until the early hours of the morning and people have been stumbling into the room throughout the night!

The best way to determine whether whether a hostel will be right for you is to read the Hostel World reviews. For example, one of the hostels that I didn’t enjoy my time at during my trip is Pariwana (Cusco, Peru).

Currently, Pariwana has a 9.5/10 rating from 5,791 travellers which sounds pretty epic! However, on a quick read of the reviews, it is evident why this hostel wasn’t the right one for me…..

  1. Hostelworld Review – 30 July 2019 – “I really enjoyed this hostel. The beds were extremely comfortable and the bathrooms close. I had only one problem which was the volume of the music. I liked going to the restaurant except I was so uncomfortable because the music was blasting. I see no need for megavolume when you want to relax and eat.”
  2. Hostelworld Review – 26 July 2019 – “Very social hostel but generally respectful. If you DEFINITELY don’t want people yelling in the halls, don’t stay here. But it wasn’t that bad. There’s always a give and take between quiet, sad hotel and lively hostel where there will undoubtedly be a group of loud, drunk Austrians running around sometimes.”
  3. Hostelworld Review – 13 July 2019 – ” Slick hostel – big – well run – great beds – very clean – great amenities – beautiful courtyard – lots of activities – they have really nailed a lot of the small details. The only caveat is… the music. It is just so damn loud. They start blasting it early, and it continues at a consistent volume and intensity until very late… and it reaches into ALL areas of the hostel. After hearing despacito 8 times before noon I googled whether it was possible to have my ears medically sealed in Cusco.”

Of course, if you’re looking for a fun party hostel (like 5,791 other people are), this is the place for you!

Room Type – Gender and Number of Beds

South America Hostels - pod beds at Kokopelli Hostel, Paracas
Pod beds at Kokopelli Hostel (Paracas, Peru)

Some hostels offer “female only” dorms and, where possible, I would opt for these. I’ve never had a particularly negative experience in a mixed dorm, I just find that girls snore less than guys!

My next sentence will be a complete generalization based on my own experiences – it goes without saying that these won’t always be true… I tend find that mixed dorms can be a bit more social and lively and girls that choose female-only dorms tend to be more introverted. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve struggled to sleep because of people stumbling home in the middle of the night in mixed dorms, but that just didn’t seem to happen in female only dorms (despite the fact that females were often doing the stumbling in mixed dorms)!

Once you’ve decided what gender room you want to stay in (apologies fellas, there don’t tend to be too many “male only” dorms in South America, so that option may not apply to you!), the next thing to decide is the size of the room.

Other than personal preference, the main thing that will dictate the size of the room you choose is your budget. If you’re on a strict budget, the cheaper rooms tend to have more beds in them. I tend to pick rooms with 4-6 beds (8 as an absolute maximum) purely because this is my personal preference.

RELATED: If you’re not sure how far your budget will get you in South America, check out my budget for 3 months of travelling here!

What Facilities Are On Offer?

South America Hostels - Pool at Banana's Adventure, Huacahina
Pool at Banana’s Adventure (Huacahina, Peru)

Next thing to think about is the facilities you need the hostel to have! I’ve pointed out some of the common facilities below but of course there are many more!

Wi-Fi is normally a MUST in this day and age and most hostels in South America offer it for free. Check the hotel reviews to see how fast it works and whether it’s only available in certain areas of the accommodation.

If you are travelling on a budget, it’s often important to have a space where you can cook your own meals to avoid paying restaurant prices everyday. I also find that the kitchen is also a great socialising spot in the evenings! I would have been lost on Easter Island if I didn’t meet a lovely American couple in the kitchen of Camping y Hostal Tipanie Moana!

Most hostels in South America offer breakfast (often free). However, be warned that if you’re travelling through the region for a while, you will get very bored of bread and jam (which seems to be the standard ‘free breakfast’ offering); it got to the stage where seeing ‘incredible breakfast’ mentioned in a review would result in an instant booking! Without a doubt, the best free breakfast that I encountered on my travels was at Hostal Forestal (Santiago, Chile).

Despite enjoying quieter hostels, I love when hostels have low-key activities and events on. If you’re feeling social, it’s a guaranteed way to meet some like-minded people. Once again, Hostal Forestal excelled in this category! The staff were incredibly friendly and they hosted a cocktail night during my stay. We all hung out in the lounge area, playing cards, singing along to music and trying Chilean cocktails – perfect! If no activities are advertised online, photos of a cosy common area are normally also a good sign.

Some hostels also have great tour booking facilities which makes things a hell of a lot easier if you don’t have much time to spare. Hostel Lagares (Mendoza, Argentina) was great for booking tours. I had 3 days to make the most of my time in Mendoza and the helpful staff sorted out a last minute itinerary and made all of the necessary bookings for me – perfect! Generally, I like to do my own research and make my own bookings, but sometimes it’s nice to treat yourself and let someone else do the hard work!

Luggage Storage is imperative in some destinations. For example, if you’re thinking about doing any of the treks to Machu Picchu, you need to make sure that your hostel will keep your luggage safe while you’re busy trekking!

Now, enough of the mundane facilities, these are the ones you need to look out for!

Where to Search/Book

Galapagos Islands Las Grietas

Hostelworld is usually my first port of call when searching for hostels. I find that the reviews given are accurate and you can get a good feel for the hostel based on the information provided. is a great alternative. In comparison to Hostelworld, I find that there are normally less hostels listed on, however it’s a great place to look for alternative cheap accommodation, such as:

  • La Posada (Latacunga, Ecuador) – 4 of us shared a huge private room which had 5 double beds for $10 each!
  • Hostal Pucara (Loja, Ecuador) – This was a pit-stop to break up some long bus journeys. There didn’t seem to be any hostels around, but I managed to book a large private room here for £9!

And of course, there are some special properties that can only be booked directly, such as:

  • Secret Garden Cotopaxi – the most epic hostel set in the middle of nowhere overlooking Cotopaxi volcano. Here you can enjoy free hiking tours, all inclusive food and enjoy an all round magical experience. Read more about my time in Cotopaxi here!
  • Izhcayluma Hostel – I had heard about Izhcayluma before arriving in South America and KNEW I had to visit! A bed in a dorm costs less than $10 and includes morning yoga classes. This is the ultimate place to relax.

Have you travelled through south America? If so, what dorm style suits you best?

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Vina Del Mar Beach and City Scape

There are so many great day trips available from Santiago, so if you find yourself with time to spare, you’ll be spoilt for choice! From the rough and ready Valparaíso to the gorgeous landscapes of Cajon Del Maipo, there’s something for everyone. Before arriving in Santiago, I’d never heard of Viña Del Mar but I’m very glad that I made the day trip!

RELATED: If you’re looking for anther day trip to take from the city, read about my time in Valparaíso here!

How to Get There

Thankfully, Viña Del Mar can be reached within 1.5 hours from Santiago, making it a perfect destinations for a day trip from the city.

Firstly, depending on where you’re staying, you’ll need to jump onto Santiago’s incredible Metro station and head towards Pajaritos (which is on line 1 – the red one). Using Santiago’s Metro system couldn’t be easier thanks to Bip, which is essentially the equivalent of London Oyster card.

A Bip card costs 1,500 CLP (approximately £1.50) and you can top up the card at all metro stations to cover your upcoming transport. Unlike the London Underground, no matter how far you travel, the price will stay the same. Prices per journey range between 610 CLP (approximately £0.60) and 750 CLP (approximately £0.75) depending on whether you are travelling at peak time or not.

Once you have arrived at Pajaritos, make your way into the main terminal to buy your bus ticket to Viña Del Mar – the two main bus companies are Turbus and Pullman.

As with all South American bus travel, I would recommend using BusBud to check timings and prices. You can even make online bookings when travelling in Chile.

As a word of warning – I was often told that booking online would result in higher prices than when booking at the ticket station throughout South America. I tended to avoid this advice and book online when needed to avoid any hassle at the bus station with my poor Spanish!

The journey from Santiago to Viña Del Mar takes around 1.5 hours – get comfy and admire the views!

Vina Del Mar Presidential Palace

What To Expect

Viña Del Mar is very different to both Santiago and Valparaíso. With Santiago being the stable parent and Valparaíso being the gritty teenager, Viña is the gentler, more fashionable, younger sister.

On arrival at the bus stop, I relied on the trusty app to lead me to the beach. I’d heard that Viña Del Mar was a classy destination where wealthy Chileans lived/holidayed, so it’s safe to say that I was expecting grandeur!

The walk from the bus stop to the beach was somewhat underwhelming. The street I picked to walk down was lined with shop after shop after shop (and not the Los Angeles Rodeo Drive kind).

Luckily, the city did live up to initial expectations as soon as I knew where to look! If you’re short on time, I would highly recommend either doing your research prior to arrival on where to go and what to see (I’ll speak more about this later!) or taking a walking tour to show you the hot spots!

Things To Do

The Viña Del Mar Music Festival

I timed my visit to Viña Del Mar really well… not. I visited one weekend AFTER the legendary Viña Del Mar music festival.

The festival is one of the largest in South America and is a very big deal! I saw footage of the festival while I was in Santiago and it looked insane. If you’re planning to visit Viña Del Mar in February, try and visit on the right weekend!

Don’t worry about there only being a few English speaking artists – after a couple of weeks in South America, you’ll be singing along to all of the popular Latin American songs. I still listen to my “South America” Spotify playlist more times than I care to admit!

Vina Del Mar Beach

Relax on the beach

Price – Free (depending on how many ice creams you buy…)

One of the main reasons to visit Viña Del Mar (outside of festival season), is to relax on the beach. If I lived in Santiago, I’d be hopping on the bus to Viña Del Mar every other weekend to relax on the beach.

I visited in February, arriving in Viña Del Mar on a very cloudy morning… obviously I was very disappointed with my decision. I even had to buy extra layers in a nearby shop! Rest assured… the locals told me that mornings are often cloudy and the sun comes shining through in the afternoon.

As always, the locals were right and the afternoon was SCORCHING! Moral of the story – if it’s cloudy when you arrive, give it a few hours and you should be fine!

If you’re looking for even more fun in the sun, check out the nearby beach towns of Reñaca & Concón.

Vina Del Mar Floral Clock

Snap some pictures of the famous flower clock!

Price – Free

This is one of those cheesey tourist attractions that you’ll end up doing, despite it not being on your “to-do” list.

Reloj de Flores is one of Viña Del Mar’s most photographed attractions, so get there early to avoid being bashed around the head by a selfie-stick wielded by an over enthusiastic tourist (I’m speaking from experience…).

Vina Del mar Wooden House

Admire the architecture

Price – Free

If there’s one thing that Viña Del Mar can offer, it’s lavish style buildings. Everywhere you turn, you’ll find pretty pastel coloured buildings reminiscent of a bygone era – despite the fact that Viña Del Mar is a relatively modern city!

Explore acres of lush greenery

Price – Free

One of Viña Del Mar’s most visited spots is Parque Quinta Vergara – a gorgeous landscaped garden filled with nooks and crannies to explore.

The park is home to the Viña Del Mar Music Festival and was still being cleaned up from the previous week’s antics when I arrived. So, unfortunately I wasn’t able to enter and explore the park.

However, I’m told that there are lots of things to see and do within the park, including exploring Palace Vergara which is a gorgeous building formerly used as the residence for the founder of Viña Del Mar.

Take a free walking tour

Price – however much you want to tip!

Would it be an Escaping Essex blog post about Chile without recommending Tours4Tips? Well of course not.

After experiencing the Tours4Tips free walking tours in Santiago and Valparaiso, it would be rude not to continue my loyalty in Viña Del Mar also! As always, the tour guide was great and it was the perfect way to spend 2-3 hours getting to know the city.

As I’ve previously mentioned, I felt a little bit lost when arriving in the city with limited time to explore. Taking a free walking tour meant that I got to see all of the hot-spots without getting even more lost!

Vina Del Mar Castle

Explore Cerro Castillo

Price – Free

“Cerro” (meaning “hill”) is a word that you’ll become very familiar with if you are travelling through the Santiago region of Chile!

This particular hill is home to some truly gorgeous buildings my favourite being the gorgeous pink Palace of Cerro Castillo (the Summer residence of the President of Chile). You aren’t able to enter the palace, but admiring it from the outside is nice enough!

Next up, take a wander around Brunet Castillo (Castle). The castle isn’t open to the public other than on a few selected days which you need to pre-book.

The area is so calm and quiet compared to the rest of the city…. which is impressive given that Viña Del Mar isn’t a particularly loud and crazy city (outside of festival season anyway)!

Vina Del Mar Stained Glass Window

Absorb the culture in one of the many museums

Price – dependent on which museum you choose

I didn’t have enough time to explore any of the museums but I am told that there are some really great ones in the area!

If I wasn’t already visiting Easter Island on my South American adventure, I would definitely check out Museo de Arqueología e Historia Francisco Fonck which is filled with finds from Easter Island. If you don’t want to pay the 2,800 CLP entrance fee, there’s a Moai head from Easter Island on display outside.

RELATED: If you are lucky enough to be visiting South America, why not check out my itinerary!





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Santiago Palace La Moneda

When compared to Santiago’s nearby counterparts (the likes of Rio De Janerio, Buenos Aries, Cusco etc.), Santiago doesn’t get half the attention that it deserves.

When researching my three month trip backpacking through South America, nobody appeared to gush about Santiago. On the other hand, nobody seemed to slate it either, so I came to the assumption that it would be an average city leaving me wondering “is Santiago worth visiting?!”

It turns out that I couldn’t be more wrong. Arriving in Santiago was the perfect way to begin my trip! So here’s a list of reasons why I LOVED the city and why you should visit Santiago ASAP!

Santiago Chile Cable Car

Ease yourself into South America

If you are taking an extended trip through South America, Santiago is a great place to start as it is far more “Western-ised” than other destinations on the continent – and therefore it’s a great place to ease yourself into the South American lifestyle!

Alternatively, I know travellers that have reached Santiago mid-way through their South American adventures who have enjoyed the city as it provides a break from the hustle and bustle of other Latin American destinations. In Summary, it doesn’t matter when you visit during an extended trip in South America, the European influences will win you over.

While I highly recommend learning some basic Spanish before visiting South America, you will find far more people that speak English in a city like Santiago than elsewhere in South America. For that reason, Santiago is often referred to as “South America Lite” on the backpacker trail!

Related: Read my full 3 month South America backpacking itinerary here!

View from Cerro San Christóbal

They care about their dogs!

Lots of cities are abundant with stray dogs but none are quite like Santiago, where you’ll notice that all of the dogs are friendly, well-fed and clean. There’s one simple reason for it – the communities looks after the pooches! A tour guide even told me that you might be lucky enough to see a stray dog wearing a raincoat in Winter… please excuse me while I book a trip to Santiago in Winter!

Wooden kennels are commonplace in Santiago’s parks and the dogs love to find groups of humans to mingle with for a while. On every walking tour that I took in Santiago, the group had a dog tag-along for a while! Surely this is a good enough reason to visit Santiago alone!

What’s more fascinating is they appear to know how to use zebra crossings and the metro!? Although maybe that’s just good timing/a coincidence on their part…

Santiago Cerro Santa Lucia

The perfect mix of urban jungle and peaceful retreat

Santiago is a city of two parts – of course there are plenty of urban jungle areas to explore but there are also acres of parkland too.

I spent a significant amount of time in Santiago compared to other cities in South America. While this was partly due to the fact that I was waiting for my flight to Easter Island, in the end it was because I loved the city so much!

With lots of spare time, I often found myself laying in one of the many parks reading a book with a ice cream – absolute bliss! This reminded me of the many parks of London – but with much much better weather of course!

Easter Island Tongariki Girl

Close proximity to some great destinations

Large cities aren’t everyone’s cup of tea (an opinion I began to adopt towards the end of my 3 month trip!), so the proximity to some incredible other destinations is what makes Santiago so special.

Santiago is one of two destinations (the other being Tahiti) where you can catch a flight to Easter Island – one of the world’s most remote and mysterious islands. If you have the time and spare cash, that trip is definitely worth taking!

Related: read my complete Easter Island itinerary here!

Two less rural choices would be the popular seaside towns of Valparaíso (where you can get lost in the winding streets to find some incredible street art) and Viña Del Mar (where you can relax on the beach or explore affluent neighbourhoods). Both destinations are less than 1.5 hour away by bus and can be done in day-trips from the Santiago if you are short on time.

Related: read about how to take a day trip to Valparaíso and all of the things to see and do here!

On the way to Vina Del Mar, you’ll find Reñaca & Concón which are much smaller beach towns if you are looking for the ultimate place to relax.

If you are looking for scenery, then Cajón del Maipo is the place for you! Around an hour away from Santiago, this enormous gorge perfect for picnics, hiking and hot springs.

For more adventure, in less than 3 hours (by public transport) you can head to El Colorado or Valle Nevado ski centers between June and October to hit the ski slopes.

After hiking and skiing, you may as well treat yourself to some wine – head out to the Chilean wine region for a taster session. Or if you have more time to spare, take an 8 hour bus ride across the Argentinian border to Mendoza for even more wine!

If you’re looking to head further afield, there’s plenty to choose from! Head North and you will find San Pedro De Atacama (home of the worlds driest desert – The Atacama Desert) which can be reached by a 2 hour flight to Calma and then 1 hour shuttle bus. Alternatively, head South and enjoy the glory of Patagonia (something I wish I had the time to see)!

Related: Read my ultimate guide to San Pedro De Atacama here!

Pina in Santiago Mercado

It has the coolest social scene

Not only did I stay in one of my favourite hostels in Santiago (Hostal Forestal) where I met tonnes of great people, the social scene in Santiago is one of the best!

The Bellavista region of the city is filled with great bars and restaurants but remember that the Chileans don’t eat dinner until around 10pm and the bars don’t fill up until much later – something my insane jetlag struggled to cope with!

Santiago Museo Chileno De Arte Precolombino

The history and culture is fascinating

Yes, Santiago has lovely dogs and a great social scene, but my interest in the city is much deeper than this. I highly recommend Tips4Tours’ free walking tour to learn about the history and culture of the city. From the 1973 military coup to the crazy traditions and burial plots of the Chilean people – there’s something for everyone!

Santiago Modern and Traditional Architecture

Drinking cocktails can be classified as “research”

Chile and Peru will both claim that they make the best Pisco Sour and that the drink originated from their country. While I don’t have the inclination to research the roots of the drink and come to a conclusion on it’s true origin, it would be rude not to test the delicious cocktails in both countries! It’s “research” after all!

And if you don’t fancy a Pisco Sour, Chile is famous for it’s “terremoto” (a.k.a. earthquake) cocktail which I highly recommend. Made with a sweet white wine and pineapple ice cream – what’s not to love! A terremoto is normally served in a 1 litre jug and is followed up by a half litre glass known as the “aftershock”!

Bellas Artes

There’s SO much to see and do

Quite frankly, there’s so much that you can see and do in Santiago that you would be here for days if I listed them all here; but don’t fear – you can read all about it here!





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Valparaíso Band Street Art

So why did I take a day trip from Santiago to Valparaíso? After I had exhausted everything there was to see and do in Santiago, I ended up with a few free days to fill. I opted to take a day trip to Valparaíso but you could definitely spend a night or two in this colorful city. Read on to find out exactly what Valparaíso has to offer!

RELATED: If you’re also visiting Santiago, find our my highlights of the city here.

Valparaíso Colourful Young Girl Street Art

How To Get There

Valparaíso is the perfect destination for a day trip from Santiago as it can be reached within 1.5 hours.

Firstly, depending on where you’re staying, you’ll need to jump onto Santiago’s incredible Metro station and head towards Pajaritos which is on line 1 (the red one). Using Santiago’s Metro system couldn’t be easier thanks to Bip, which is essentially the equivalent of London Oyster card.

A Bip card costs 1,500 CLP (approximately £1.50) and you need to top up the card to cover your travel costs – this can be done at most metro stations. Unlike the London Underground, no matter how far you travel, the price will stay the same. Prices per journey range between 610 CLP (approximately £0.60) and 750 CLP (approximately £0.75) depending on whether you are travelling at peak time or not.

Once you have arrived at Pajaritos, make your way into the main terminal to buy your bus ticket to Valparaíso. The two main bus companies are Turbus and Pullman – we opted for Turbus simply because they had a bus departing soonest. The journey was comfortable and pleasant enough!

As with all South American bus travel, I would recommend using BusBud to check timings and prices. You can even make online bookings when travelling in Chile.

As a word of warning – I was often told that booking online would result in higher prices than when booking at the ticket station throughout South America. I tended to avoid this advice and book online when needed to avoid any hassle at the bus station with my poor Spanish!

The journey from Santiago to Valparaíso takes around 1.5 hours. If you are travelling more widely through South America, enjoy this bus journey – it will probably be one of the shortest you take!

If you are feeling nervous about using public buses in a foreign country, you can always book a guided day trip like this one which also incorporates a trip to Vina Del Mar.

Valparaíso Colourful Houses

What To Expect

Affectionately referred to as “Valpo”, Valparaíso is known for being Santiago’s cooler, grittier little sister. With it’s abundance of street art, cool bars and trendy places to eat, you can see why it has become a Instagram aficionado’s paradise.

Other than the street art, I didn’t really know what to expect on arrival in Valparaíso. I was startled at the number of articles online that focused on pick pocketing and petty crime…. Thankfully, my time in Valparaíso was uneventful in that sense and I always felt safe. In fact, the locals are very friendly and always seemed to be looking out for tourists – one shop keeper told me to put my camera away in certain areas.

You shouldn’t expect tonnes of tourist attractions – Valparaíso is a city that you will just love wandering around, soaking up the vibrant colours and sights!

With such close proximity to Santiago, it’s easy to fit a trip to Valparaíso into a longer Chilean adventure, so why stop here? I’d also highly recommend trying to visit San Pedro De Atacama – you can read all about my Atacama adventures here!

Valparaíso We Are Not Hippies, We Are Happies Street Art

Things To Do

Take a Free Walking Tour

Price – Whatever you decide to tip!

Oh, am I recommending yet another Tours 4 Tips walking tour in Chile? Yes I am! In Valparaíso, there are three tours that you can choose from – “Valparaíso highlights” (as the title suggests, this shows you all of the hot-spots of the city), “Valparaíso Offbeat” (to show you all of the local’s favorite spots and hidden gems) and “Valparaíso Neruda’s Perspective” (to learn more about acclaimed poet Pablo Neruda’s life).

With limited time, I decided to take “highlights” tour to see what the city has to offer. Valparaíso is an absolutely maze, so I really enjoyed having a local guide me around! It’s so fascinating to learn some of the back-stories behind the graffiti and learn more about the city as a whole.

If I had a second day in the city, I would definitely take the Valparaíso Offbeat tour too – even if it’s just to meet more dogs! There are just as many well behaved street dogs in Valparaíso as there are in Santiago, so we had a few resident pups join us on our tour!

RELATED: I took Tours 4 Tips tours in a few Chilean cities – San Pedro De Atacama being one of them! Read my complete guide to San Pedro here.

Ride The Historic Funiculars

Cost: Less than £1

After only a few minutes in the city, you will learn that Valparaíso is HILLY. I’m not exaggerating here… this might be the hilliest city I’ve ever visited. While wandering around the city before our Free Walking Tour, we seemed to take every wrong turn possible, meaning we had to walk up the steepest hills to get anywhere! Luckily, the tour guides take you on much better routes!

Rest assured, there are 16 historic funiculars throughout the city which can take you up to the highest spots – the oldest was built in 1883, so these funiculars are steeped in history! Be sure to head to to the top of a few to enjoy the views and see what secret street art you can see from above.

La Sebastiana Museum

Cost: 7,000 CLP (approximately £7)

Pablo Neruda (Chile’s most renowned poet) had three properties throughout Chile which have been transformed into museums, La Sebastiana potentially being the most popular.

As I was limited on time, I didn’t get to visit La Sebastiana as I got too lost exploring the street art lined streets. If I stayed overnight, I would have definitely poppped in on my second day!

Try Chorillana

We had heard that chorillana was a traditional dish from Valparaíso – despite knowing very little about it, we got a recommendation from our walking tour guide and headed on our way to find some for dinner.

We ate at J. Cruz – a real local place, hidden down a dark alleyway who supposedly serve some of the best chorillana in town.

We ordered one large portion between three of us, still not knowing what to expect. Before we knew it, the largest pile of chips (french fries for you Americans), meat, egg and onions I’d ever seen in my life!

Even with three people, we couldn’t manage to finish it. The locals looked at cast us disappointing glances of course… we deserved the disappointment.

Get Lost In a Sea of Street Art

Cost: Free!

Valparaíso doesn’t have tonnes of “must see” attractions, which makes it the perfect destination to just get lost and wander! With street art on every possible surface, there’s always something to admire.

Plus, there are loads of great cafes, restaurants and bars to fall into when you get tired of walking! If that’s not a good enough reason to book a bus from Santiago to Valparaíso, I don’t know what is!

Have you ever been to Valparaíso? What was your favorite thing to do?




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Car Snow Capped Mountains San Pedro De Atacama

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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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 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

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!


  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!


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!


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.





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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? 


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!


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)!


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.


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.




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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….


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!

Read more about my time in Santiago:

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!

Read about my time in Valparaíso here:


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.

Read about my time in San Pedro De Atacama Here:


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!


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!


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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