things to do in ushuaia

Top Things To Do In Ushuaia Argentina

Have you ever imagined what it’s like to stand on the edge of a continent?

To gaze out at a body of water, with nothing but water between you and Antarctica? We can tell you its an incredible feeling! Maybe you’re even considering going to Antarctica? Well, either way you’ll want to know about the top things to do in Ushuaia, the end of the world, and the gateway to Antarctica! We’ll tell you everything you need to know about Ushuaia in this guide!

Here’s what we’ll cover in this guide:

  • How to get to Ushuaia

  • Where to stay in Ushuaia

  • Top things to do in Ushuaia

things to do in ushuaia

1. How to get to Ushuaia

BY PLANE: If you’re arriving by plane, you’ll land at Ushuaia airport. From there, our recommendation is to book a transfer in advance so that there is someone there to greet you on arrival and transfer you to your accommodation. Where possible, we always book our transfers in advance when we arrive in a new destination, it gives us peace of mind! We find the best way is to book it through your accommodation, although there will be taxis available at the airport as well.

BY BUS: If you arrive by bus, like we did from Puerto Natales in Chile, we were just dropped off in the centre and made our own way to our accommodation!

things to do in ushuaia

2. Where to stay in Ushuaia

Finding a hotel in Ushuaia can be tricky, with many places booking up in advance due to the remoteness of the city. We always prefer to book our accommodation in advance, especially when heading to a place like Ushuaia! Our recommendation? Search and book your Ushuaia hotel on Booking.com, we find that the best site for Ushuaia and it has an excellent selection of hotels to choose from!

things to do in ushuaia

3. Top Things To Do In Ushuaia

You’re spoilt for choice of things to do in Ushuaia, so we’ve put together our top activities for your time at the end of the world. There’s a little something for everyone in here!

Walking In Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego

At only 7 miles (11km) from Ushuaia, the national park is ideally located for half day and whole day treks around the park. We decided on spending a day in the park, and took on some relaxing walks around the park. It’s really easy to organise, and again can be booked in advance if you’re tight on time in Ushuaia and want to ensure you fit everything in! The best way to research your options and book a tour online is through TripAdvisor, and this link will take you directly to your options and reviews!

Sailing The Beagle Channel

things to do in ushuaia

Ushuaia sits on the shore of the Beagle channel, and there are departures in the morning and afternoon. This is a fantastic opportunity to see local wildlife, and depending on which tour you choose you may see the lighthouse, sea lions and various birds, all from the comfort of your boat! TripAdvisor offers various cruise options that you can book online in advance, with reviews and itineraries for you to check which sailing is best for you! You can click here to be taken directly to the tour options!

Hike The Martial Glacier

things to do in ushuaia

If you’re into trekking and glaciers, you can climb to the Martial Glacier, high above Ushuaia Argentina and reward yourself with fantastic views down the valley to the colourful dots of Ushuaia in the distance. Simply take a taxi up to the start point of the trek, and follow the river of ice melt up the valley as far as you dare. On the day we completed this, the weather conditions were poor, visibility hit and miss and the valley sill covered in thick packed snow. But the view was still incredible!

Ushuaia Prison: Museo Maritimo De Ushuaia

things to do in ushuaia

If, like us, you seem to visit a lot of prisons on your adventures (not as prisoners I hasten to add), then you’ll want to check out the Museo Maritimo de Ushuaia, the cold remnant of the buildings previous life as a penal colony. This is a fascinating place to visit, to understand the horrendous conditions prisoners endured in their time there, and the lasting impact on the city of Ushuaia due to the prisoners efforts in construction.

We spent a day wandering through the cold and dark corridors of this fascinating place, and would highly recommend a visit. It also houses a maritime museum which features heavily the early explorers to Antarctica, including Amundsen, Scott and Shackleton. A great place to brush up on your Antarctica history before your cruise to Antarctica. You can walk there yourself, or book a tour and pair it with a tour of Ushuaia as well!

Visit Lake Fagnano & Lake Escondido

If you’d like to see more of the country, and in particular the Fuegian Andes, you could opt for a full day tour of lake Fagnano and lake Escondido. Theres a chance to visit various valleys, the lakes, a defunct sawmill and of course a feast of local food should you wish! One for history, geology and wildlife fans! This can be booked in advance through tripadvisor.

Eat Asado Ushuaia Argentina Style!

things to do in ushuaia
If, like me, you are an obsessive meat eater, you must go to Argentina now! No I’m serious, the amount of meat on offer here is astounding, and Ushuaia has its fair share of Asado restaurants cooking all manner of delicious meaty cuts which are then served up buffet style! Whole lambs sit on top of huge fires, countless different types of sausage grill nearby, whole chickens spit juices out as they cook, and if you fancy a steak you’ll be well served here!

Walk Around Ushuaia

things to do in ushuaia
Ushuaia is a fairly buzzing place, and you can easily spend a day wandering through the narrow streets as people frantically buy last minute supplies for their treks in Tierra del Fuego or for their cruise to Antarctica. There are plenty of coffee shops and asado places to keep you busy, and a walk along the shoreline can reap rewards as you watch smaller fishing and tour boats compete for space alongside the larger ships bound for Antarctica.

The coastline may have a changed a little since it was first discovered, as according to historical records, the original local inhabitants, on spotting the ships off the coast, reportedly lit huge fires along the coast to warn the unwelcome visitors away. Thus the land of fire was born into western records.

The fires are now replaced by brightly lit buildings only really appreciated from the sea, as we experienced as we bid farewell to Ushuaia Argentina, and the South American continent for 11 days when we set sail for Antarctica.

As the southernmost city in the world, Ushuaia Argentina is the gateway to Antarctica. The excitement of travelling here is enough for many visitors, simply content with reaching the southernmost city in the world. There are also the travellers lucky enough to be taking a boat to Antarctica, and this leads to a potent mixture of excitement and anticipation in the streets.

If you are going to Antarctica, don’t just use Ushuaia as a launchpad. Stay for a couple of days before and after, eat some nice food, drink some nice coffee, perhaps drag yourself up a glacier, into a national park, or a former prison. Let’s face it, you’re unlikely to ever be back down there, so make the most of it!


Some of the links above are affiliate links, which means if you choose to book somewhere though our link, we receive a small commission. Don’t worry, it doesn’t cost you anything more, and most importantly, we only recommend companies that we use ourselves so you can trust our recommendations!

Looking for more Argentina inspiration? Click here.


Where Bolivian Trains Go To Die...

Graveyards are eerie places at the best of times.

Replace the headstones and motifs with huge rusting train carriages sitting in the middle of the Salar de Uyuni, or the salt flats Bolivia, and you have what can only be described as a train graveyard!

salt flats bolivia

salt flats bolivia

It’s a peculiar place. There is no entrance to the site, and no officials. Just a set of huge, rusting, redundant Bolivian trains sitting quietly below a cloudless blue Bolivian sky. It was almost as if they had been flippantly cast aside, dragged and dumped at their final resting place, left to slowly weather and rust away as the harsh conditions of the Bolivian salt flats takes its inevitable hold on these once mighty machines.

salt flats bolivia

Here there are no health and safety notices, no barriers, in fact no one at all seems to be in charge of this place. We rocked up in our jeep, jumped out and were free to wander around, between and in the rusted shells. A makeshift swing had been fashioned out of old chains and metal which children (and Laura) gladly played on. I climbed inside an old engine and sat for a while. Another couple played on a ‘train bone’ see saw. It was…strange.

salt flats bolivia

salt flats bolivia

salt flats bolivia

The trains themselves were incredibly impressive, bronzed relics of a previous time. They were magnificent to wander around.

salt flats bolivia

Admittedly, it was one of the strangest sites we’d witnessed on our travels. Surely there was a better final outcome for these machines? Instead, they rust and slowly erode apart as the harsh Bolivian desert takes its toll.

salt flats bolivia

We visited the train graveyard after our jeep journey from San Pedro de Atacama to Uyuni, via the salt flats of Salar de Uyuni. We were tired, it was hot, and we did question whether all of this was real. After all, we had spent three days in the back of a jeep. Alas, reality is sometimes stranger than fiction, and we left this eerie place with a sense of awe at the machines on display, and the haphazard way they had been left to weather in the middle of the desert. We paid our respects and left.

Looking for more Bolivia inspiration? Click here.


Is The Inca Trail Too Popular Now?

“!Ama Sua, Ama Kjella, Ama Lllulla! – Don’t lie, don’t cheat, don’t be lazy” – Quechua greeting during Inca times

The Inca Trail seems to split travellers straight down the middle. For some, it is a chance to walk in the footsteps of the Incan Empire, to a forgotten city shrouded in mystery. For others, it is a well worn, tourist path, too cliched for many hardened nomads.

But what is it really like? Is it too busy with lots of people? Is is too easy? Has it simply become too popular?

 

inca trailTo understand our view, a little background on us: we’ve completed some epic hikes, from our Rinjani trekking adventure in Indonesia, to our Sapa trekking experience in Vietnam, we’ve done our fair share of hikes. We enjoy backpacking but we also like the finer things in life.

The Landscapes of the Inca Trail

Surrounded by deep valleys and incredible vistas, the Inca Trail offers some incredible sights, one of the major reasons for its popularity. We completed it in the month of July, and we had perfect weather the whole time. No rain, no clouds, just blue skies and sunshine. We were given countless opportunities to take photos, sometimes stopping every 10 minutes to admire another incredible view. The best opportunities for photos were on the first and second days of the trek, so make sure you take lots at the beginning.

 

Day one finds you walking alongside the Vilcanota River, providing you with opportunities to take great mountain range photos and landscapes. Day two, at the summit of Dead Womans Pass, is another great opportunity to get some photos with the mountains in the background, but make sure to take photos of the other side of Dead Womans Pass too. We thought the alternative view was much better.

inca trail

Rush hour on the Inca Trail?

The chief concern amongst many people is the fear that the trail is crowded. This I think depends on what you are used to and what you expect. We didn’t mind the fact that there were other people walking the same route as us, and for the majority of the trek we were completely alone (as a couple) or part of our group of 10 people walking it together. This suited us fine, we weren’t looking for complete isolation and silence on the trek.

inca trail

Having said that, there were parts of the trek when we were with a number of other people and groups, it just depends what stage of the trek you are on. Day one we found ourselves pretty much alone for the whole day, occasionally bumping into a llama or group of locals which was fantastic. I don’t remember seeing another group on the entire first day, until we reached camp where there were a few other groups camping in areas near to us.

inca trail

The second day we climbed ‘Dead Woman’s Pass’, and this was the ‘traffic’ day. We saw most of the other groups at this point. This part of the trek certainly became a bit of a bottleneck of people, but the fact that day two is the hardest day inevitably meant the different tour groups would bunch up. Having said that, day two isn’t easy as you have to walk up a path of steps for a number of hours, by the end you’re only looking a couple of feet in front of you towards your next step! The top of Dead Woman’s Pass saw a number of groups congregate there, but again it wasn’t so busy that you couldn’t find your own spot to recover in silence.

On Day 3, and our descent to the final camp before Machu Picchu we barely saw anyone else and we felt like we had the trail to ourselves.

inca trail

If your guide was like ours, whether you are in a large or small group, if you want to walk alone (or with your partner) they respect this and allow you the time and space you want to enjoy the trail your way.  We were lucky as we had a great group of people of mixed ages, and abilities, and we had a fantastic guide who didn’t insist we all stick together.  He simply went up front and walked with whoever was fastest, and waited at the next stop point.  At the same time our second guide walked with the slowest.  In reality it meant we waited for an hour or so at each point as the slowest caught up, but as days 1 and 3 were pretty easy it meant we weren’t pushed for time.

inca trail

inca trail

Working up a sweat

As we said earlier, we’re two young and relatively fit people who don’t go hiking or hill walking when in the UK. We found the trail to be a comfortable trek, with the notable exception of a few hours on day two climbing Dead Womans Pass really testing us. In our group, we were the youngest, with the oldest being Don (a 72 year old grandfather) and he made it round the trail as well without any complaints (he just took a bit longer but fair enough!).

Camping and amenities

The most ridiculous thing about the Inca Trail is watching as your 50/60 year old porters run past you with your tent and cooking equipment on their backs to set up in advance of you arriving. All while you carry your small bottle of water and camera on your back.

inca trail

The camps were great, the tents pitched for when you arrived, and the food they cooked was incredible. Soup, potato cakes, rice, lentils – arguably one of the most impressive elements of the trek was the food! And that is saying something considering how much we love the food of Peru! The toilets were pretty awful as you may imagine so be prepared.

We absolutely loved our time on the Inca Trail. At times we were completely alone in the silence, and at other times we had company from our group. Either way we always felt like we had a choice of what experience we wanted to have. The scenery was incredible, and is on a par with our experience of trekking the Tongariro crossing in New Zealand. The difficulty was also pitched just right for us. We would highly recommend it, and remember, you’re walking along the Inca Trail to reach Machu Picchu!

Looking for more Peru inspiration? Click here.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Barry! Well almost...

There are some things that are simply too good to turn down. A good bowl of Pho in Vietnam, an empanada in Argentina, and the chance to live out a boyhood dream of becoming a real life Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle!

Perhaps I should explain. You see, I was a big fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and their sidekick, Splinter. They were cool, they were nimble, they were, as they might say, AWESOME! So when I was given the chance to climb inside a real tortoise shell at the Darwin Centre on the Galapagos Islands, I jumped at the chance.

This is my attempt to become an all action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. Lets just say some dreams are meant to remain just that…

In my defence, that shell was incredibly heavy (no wonder these guys don’t move around very fast). It was heavier than the plastic washing basket I used to strap to my back in my youth, and pretty awkward to get into. Still, with a few years in the gym, I’ll head back to the Galapagos to complete some unfinished business! Think you could do better?

Looking for more Ecuador inspiration? Click here.


Excavating The Pyramids of the Sun & Moon, And Finding Moche Art!

Heading north from Lima, bound for the coastal town of Mancora, we broke the monotony of dusty roads with a brief break in Trujillo, a small city in La Libertad region of Northern Peru. After our experience of trekking to Machu Pichu, and driving through the Nazca lines in Southern Peru, we’d become a little obsessed with learning more about the history of Peru, and in particular the civilisations that came before the famous Incas!

moche culture

5km outside the city lies the ruins of the Pyramids of the Sun & Moon, a pre Incan city built by the Chimor civilization, formed from the Moche civilisation. With the sun beating down on us, we made the journey to see the once imperial capital where over 30,000 people lived. Arriving at the site, the scale and intricacy of the settlement isn’t immediately apparent, as much of the ruins remain underground as it is slowly excavated. Making your way round to the only entrance of the site, the scale becomes apparent.

moche culture

moche culture

Despite being attacked by the desert over hundreds of years, the intricate carvings and relics of the main wall were still remarkably clear and vivid. Moving inside, the Moche culture carvings became even more impressive.

moche culture

moche culture

The most intriguing part of these ruins, and the reason why it is taking so long to excavate, is that the Chimor built five iterations of the complex, each one on top of the previous, essentially filling in the previous temple with bricks, before building the new one. As the site is slowly excavated, new reliefs and designs are revealed once again.

moche culture

Each relief is slightly different, enabling the archaeologists to determine how many times the site had been rebuilt, with some layers of Moche art still tantalisingly hidden.

moche culture

It was exciting for us to see a ruin as it’s being excavated, before it becomes famous. We have no doubt once the site is fully excavated, it will be an exciting draw to the North of Peru. The scale of the site and the intricacy of the reliefs is worth the dusty bus ride north, particularly if you are travelling into Ecuador from Peru!

moche culture

If you ever find yourself travelling through Northern Peru, a stop off in Trujillo to break the long journey can be rewarding if you visit these ruins, alongside the Chan Chan ruins and La Huaca del Dragon complex nearby.

Looking for more Peru inspiration? Click here.


Copacabana Bolivia - Top Things To Do!

Sometimes it’s nice to find somewhere whilst travelling where there isn’t much to do, having a holiday whilst travelling if that makes sense. This is especially true for overland travellers working their way through Peru and Bolivia, where it is not uncommon to spend 24 hours on a bus just to move between cities! It grows tiresome, but never fear, on the shore of Lake Titicaca lies Copacabana Bolivia! 

Nestled on the border between Peru and Bolivia lies the small town of Copacabana Bolivia, on the shore of Lake Titicaca, a quiet Bolivian tourist attraction for locals and travellers alike. It is a great place to spend a few days, and thankfully not a Barry Manilow tribute in sight.

copacabana bolivia

On the shore of Copacabana Bolivia

With precious few things to do there, Copacabana Bolivia was a very attractive proposition for two weary nomads. After crossing the border with Argentina to arrive in San Pedro de Atacama, taking a three day jeep journey through the Bolivian salt flats, and travelling the full length of Bolivia, we were in need of a rest! Copacabana was our destination of choice.

As our bus negotiated its way around yet another turn, we could suddenly see Copacabana in the distance. Textured, seemingly unfinished orange brick buildings crawled up the steep hills away from the beautifully curved bay of Copacabana.

copacabana bolivia

Here it seems is a place for wandering foreigners, selling their cakes and trinkets on the streets alongside local women offering breads and various fruits.

copacabana bolivia

copacabana bolivia

We take a walk around, and stumble across an indoor market where locals pile their wares as high as possible all around them, and then try to sell themselves out of their self imposed food based prison cells. Adorning the circular market are all kinds of exotic fruits piled high, a cacophony of colours surrounding each stall as the local women chatter amongst themselves. Other stalls offer various breads and different parts of animals, we purchased some bread and head back into the streets.

copacabana bolivia

copacabana bolivia

copacabana bolivia

copacabana bolivia

Wandering further, we visited the Basilica of Our Lady of Copacabana, a dominating sight in the small town of Copacabana. Across from the church a group of older gentlemen are dancing in a circle, drinking shots of what we assume to be alcohol and playing their various flutes and guitars as a group of locals look on. We’ve stumbled upon a festival, and watch as our brightly clothed coloured friends dance, sing and generally act as happy a people as we’ve come across on our travels!

copacabana bolivia

copacabana bolivia

copacabana bolivia

Whilst your options are limited, there are things to do nearby Copacabana. One option is to visit the nearby Sun island on Lake Titicaca, with boats leaving each day from the pier in the harbour. Here you have the opportunity to trek up a couple of hills, visit some ruins and meet some locals. It’s a fairly relaxing day, and the ride across the waters of Lake Titicaca is a welcome bonus. You can also partake in a Bolivian or Peruvian homestay if you like as well, returning the following day.

copacabana bolivia

copacabana bolivia

Or if you are more of a land lover, you can hike up to the top of the nearby hill which overlooks Copacabana and has some interesting monuments and fantastic view of the small town and Lake Titicaca itself. Again, well worth the burning knees for the views!

copacabana bolivia

copacabana bolivia

copacabana bolivia

In all honesty, we stayed in Copacabana as a stop off point between Bolivia and Peru, but we were so glad we did. It’s not the most glamorous or exciting destination in the world, but its a great place to spend a few days whilst in Bolivia!

Looking For Accommodation In Bolivia?

If you’re looking for some accommodation options in Copacabana or elsewhere in Bolivia, we recommend you check out Agoda.com. Whenever we’re making plans for a new destination, we always research the accommodation options first to check what’s available. That’s just our travel style. If you want to get some accommodation ideas in Copacabana, or anywhere else in Bolivia, click here!

Some of the links above are affiliate links, which means if you choose to book somewhere though our link, we receive a small commission. Don’t worry, it doesn’t cost you anything more, and most importantly, we only recommend companies that we use ourselves so you can trust our recommendations!

Looking for more Bolivia inspiration? Click here.


Giant Tortoises of Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos

When Spanish explorers first discovered an archipelago of islands off the coast of modern day Ecuador, they were so astounded by the giant tortoises there, they named the entire island chain after the spanish word for tortoise, Galapago. It would be remiss of us, therefore, not to see these magnificent creatures for ourselves on our visit to the Galapagos!

 

Making our way up a dusty narrow road, we left behind the blue waters surrounding Santa Cruz island and headed inland. Our trusty Galapagos guide and driver were taking extra care as we approached the giant tortoises natural habitat. Suddenly our car slowed, and in front of us what seemed like a large boulder lay half on the road, half in the bushes. Our first glimpse of a wild giant Galapagos tortoise!

Out of the bottom of the mammoth shell, a small head on the end of a long neck stretched out from underneath to identify the noise interrupting his day. After a minute analysing the situation, our new hero in a half shell tucked his head back into his shell. He certainly wasn’t planning on moving anytime soon!

Seemingly experienced with this approach from the giant tortoises, our driver checked the other bushy side of the road was clear, hitched up onto the other side of the dirt road and we continued on our way. Finally arriving at our destination, we made our way through the lush green forest excited to encounter more wild giant tortoises.

Galapagos Tortoise

After only a few minutes, we rounded a corner and bumped into this tortoise in search of some shade (and perhaps a nap). We watched him as he ambled towards the undergrowth, his thick strong legs heaving the weight of his shell towards the nearest bush.

Galapagos Tortoise

Now in search for a larger, older tortoise, we made our further into the rich forest nearby. And then, in the bushes nearby, she spotted a mature giant tortoise!

Galapagos Tortoise

Our guide approached slowly and quietly to avoid surprising the tortoise, and we followed behind. In hushed tones our guide enlightened us about this giant tortoise, as he sat and munched through his lunch, disinterested in his newly found audience.

Galapagos Tortoise

We sat for a few minutes in awe of the creature, and observed their behaviour from close quarters. Obviously they walk slowly, but we learned everything they do is done in slow motion, with an assured purpose to each and every movement. A glance to the left takes a few seconds to make, they will fix their stare on you for minutes at a time, before slowly sweeping their head back whence it came from.

They remain stone like in their demeanor, and barely make a noise, although if they are startled or annoyed we are told they can let out a strong cry to ward off unwelcome visitors. But most of the time we spent with them, they were docile, gentle, quiet creatures sat in almost eternal contemplation.

Galapagos Tortoise

Everything about their bodies was fascinating, from the huge smooth, polished shells they call home, to the cracked, rugged texture of their legs and feet. Even their nostrils and mouth were interesting to us!

Galapagos Tortoise

Galapagos Tortoise

We were absolutely captivated by the wild giant tortoises of Santa Cruz, and we wished we could have sat and admired them for longer. Santa Cruz island is an incredible place to see wild giant tortoises, a must if you make a trip to the Galapagos Islands!

Looking for more Ecuador inspiration? Click here.


The Best Empanadas in Argentina!

Arguably one of the best things about travelling is sampling the national culinary delicacies that each place has on offer, and boy did Argentina have some highlights! From legendary asado BBQs to the delightfully simple empanada, you’ll have to excuse us as we indulge in one of our favourite culinary memories of our travels to date!

Arriving in Salta, Northern Argentina for a few days, we’d heard of a place called Patio de la Empanadas, a square surrounded by different stalls offering various versions of the empanada: deep fried, oven baked, some with chicken, some with beef, some spicy, some sweet with raisins. The place sounded incredible and we decided to check it out.

empanadas argentina

Navigating through the streets of Salta in the sweltering heat, we finally stumbled upon the unassuming entrance to the Plaza and entered empanada heaven.

empanadas argentina

Entering the plaza from the bright sun, our eyes struggled to adjust to the darker space as we were set upon by various eager stall owners all keen for us to try their pastry offerings. “Aqui senor!” the various ladies barked as we struggled to work out where to sit and who to eat with. A forest of multi-coloured parasols and chairs lay in front of us, and with absolutely nothing to help guide our decision, we sat down on a red table, much to the delight of the stall owner and displeasure of all the others!

empanadas argentina

A simple menu was hastily slapped on the table, with various interesting combinations of meat and pastry: chicken, beef, spicy beef and vegetable all feature, and you could have them oven baked or deep fried. There seemed to be only one real option for us, try them all!

empanadas argentina

What makes empanadas here so good is the variety of fillings that go in them, with the main filling complimented with onions, chopped eggs, various spices, sometimes raisins and chilli to give you a surprise every time you have one!

empanadas argentina

Despite Laura’s firm view that a bit of salad would go down nicely with them, we finished off our pile of empanadas with earnest! Time for a second pile of our favourites, the spicy beef and chicken options. As we waited for our food to come, we noticed the plaza was now full of locals lunching on some of the best food in Argentina, ceremoniously ripping the empanadas in half, dipping them in the spicy salsa sauce and devouring them with ease. All washed down with the popular South American tradition of a two litre bottle of soda or beer on the table.

empanadas argentina

The place was buzzing, and we watched with intrigue as our stall member delicately prepared the next batch of empanadas on a table nearby, mixing a huge bowl of filling and stuffing each pastry circle full before wrapping it up and sending it off to the oven or pan!

empanadas argentina

The patio was a great experience, and after finally finishing our second pile (yes pile) of empanadas, it was time for us to stumble back into the sizzling heat of Salta and make our way home for a siesta. Having eaten many empanadas in our time in Argentina, Salta provided us with the spiciest example of the great food of Argentina!

Looking for more Argentina inspiration? Click here.


4 Minutes in South America [VIDEO]

Have you ever dreamed of visiting South America and wondered what it’s like? Check out our ‘4 Minutes in South America’ video for a whirlwind trip through Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and the Galapagos islands! Warning, may cause you to travel…

 

Looking for more South America inspiration? Click on the country page links below:


Happy Gringo Tour

Happy Gringo Tours, Galapagos Islands

Deciding on the best way to see the Galápagos Islands is a tricky decision. Unless you have a month or two to spare, you simply don’t have time to see everything there is to offer! So like us, you might find yourself asking the following questions:

  • Should we take a cruise or a land based tour?
  • If we go by cruise, what type of boat is best for us? (e.g. Catamaran, Motor Sailor, Yacht)
  • Utilise a tour company or arrange it locally on arrival?
  • If we use a company, which one?
  • How do we decide which islands to visit in the archipelago?
  • How long should we go for?
  • How should we split our time between a cruise and independent excursions?
  • What level of service should we go for? (E.g. Luxury, standard, basic)
  • Which airports should we fly from and to? (e.g. Guayaquil or Quito to Baltra or San Cristobal)

Quite a list of questions, isn’t it? After exhausting many websites and guidebooks without making much progress, we decided that we would use a tour company to book a 5 day cruise, and then spend 4 days on our own exploring the islands independently. After some arduous research, we went with Happy Gringo tour operator, as they had options to suit all budgets, and a fantastic interactive map of the Galapagos which helped plan our time there!

Happy Gringo Tour

 

In the end we opted for a 5 day cruise of the Eastern & Southern islands (option A1) of the archipelago on a luxury catamaran, followed by 4 days of independent travel and were not disappointed! In terms of getting to the islands, we flew into San Cristobal from Guayaquil, and flew out of Baltra for Quito as we were travelling north through South America!

We chose the luxury catamaran as we were worried about sea sickness, with the Catamaran providing a smoother sailing experience around what can be quite choppy waters! It also had a capacity of 16 people, which was smaller than some of the other boats.

Happy Gringo Tour

 

So what were the facilities like, we hear you ask? Well, as we’d booked onto the luxury catamaran, we got a bit of luxury! We had our own private cabin with double bed and ensuite. Note the cabins are small, with just enough room for the bed and the ability to walk down one side of it. They were clean and comfortable, providing the bonus of sea view windows from your bed!

Happy Gringo

 

All meals were of excellent quality and varied, served in a beautiful dining area. It was a buffet style meal, always with good salad options and vegetables, and a meat dish to go with it. Many of our meals came with a bowl of soup and dessert as well, and we were always full!

Happy Gringo

 

Happy Gringo Tour

Happy Gringo Tour

The best part of the boat for us was the upper deck where there was plenty of space to relax on sunbeds or simply enjoy the stunning views whilst sailing around the islands.

Happy Gringo Tour

 

We had many amazing moments on our Galápagos tour (as documented in our various articles), however there’s no doubt that the highlight was the incredible moment we witnessed a pod of over 200 dolphins swimming alongside our catamaran whilst cruising in the Galápagos waters.

Overall we had a fantastic trip to the Galápagos Islands and would highly recommend the knowledge and services of Happy Gringo to help you in making those important decisions and arrangements!

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Under The Sea On Our Galapagos Islands Cruise With Happy Gringo

As I sit on the deck of our catamaran, a splash in the water in front of me catches my eye. Intrigued, I watch as 5 seconds later a bird emerges with a huge fish in its mouth, and takes off into the sky! 15 minutes earlier we saw a sea lion wrestling with an octopus from our zodiac. Earlier that day we were snorkelling with huge sea lions (and even a shark!) just off the coast of one of the islands. It’s never dull in the Galapagos islands!

galapagos islands cruise

The Galapagos islands are special, and with 97% allocated as national park, and endemic species galore, we were constantly seeing things we would never see anywhere else in the world.

Visiting the Galapagos islands is a bit of a misnomer, given that much of the action actually happens in the blue waters surrounding the islands. Snorkelling and diving are unmissable given the abundance of sea life in the fertile waters.

On our cruise with Happy Gringo, we were afforded the opportunity to snorkel each day, sometimes twice in one day and saw some of the most docile and beautiful creatures on our underwater odysseys.

On our very first snorkel, we battled with the incoming waves as we watched in awe as 20 sea lions played in the water around us. Our presence seemed to energise them, and a competition seemingly developed around who could get close enough to us! Cue huge sea lions zooming alongside us, sometimes only a metre or so away. It was an incredible, if not intimidating experience!

Galapagos islands cruise

Galapagos islands cruise

Galapagos islands cruise

If dodging huge sea lions as waves crash above you sounds a bit too intense, then a more tranquil experience snorkelling with sea turtles might be right for you! Our experience of snorkelling with turtles was incredible. Slipping into the water from our zodiac, we put our heads under the water and instantly a huge, graceful turtle was floating a couple of metres below us. As we watched it ebb and flow with the waves, we could see others all around us.

Galapagos islands cruise

Galapagos islands cruise

Galapagos islands cruise

Seeing sea turtles in their natural environment ranks as one of the highlights of any of our travels to date!

The abundance of wildlife in the fertile waters was complimented by huge stingrays, thousands of fish and even (gulp) that shark!

Galapagos islands cruise

Galapagos islands cruise

Galapagos islands cruise

Snorkelling in the waters of the Galapagos islands is a must do activity, and you are almost guaranteed to see graceful turtles, energetic seals and (we hope) friendly sharks!

*With thanks to our friends for kindly sharing their underwater photos with us!

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Flying Dolphins! Galapagos Islands [VIDEO]

I absolutely love dolphins, and I was hoping we’d get a chance to see one or two whilst we sailed through the waters of the Galapagos islands with Happy Gringo. So imagine my delight as our guide excitedly told us to move to the front of the catamaran as we were about to encounter a pod of dolphins!

As we raced to the front, the scene ahead of us was simply unbelievable! Upwards of 200 dolphins were crossing our path, and as we got closer, they turned and began swimming alongside the catamaran, treating our boat as a bit of fun as they criss-crossed underneath and alongside us!

dolphins galapagos

And then, after a few minutes, the real show began! Some of the dolphins started launching themselves out of the water! Not just a foot or so, some reaching heights of 5 metres and more out of the water! It was as if it was a competition to leap the highest!

dolphins galapagos

One of our fellow passengers was in the right place at the right time, and caught this spectacular footage of the dolphins launching out of the water! Enjoy!

This was an incredible highlight of our time in the Galapagos islands, and one we will never forget!

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Sea Lion Surprise On Sante Fe island, Galapagos Islands! [VIDEO]

“Always there is something happening in the Galapagos islands” Never a truer word spoken from our tour guide!

Sante Fe Island, Galapagos

Just moments earlier, a sea turtle had landed on the beach we were sitting on and was welcomed by an inquisitive sea lion. Upon discovering that the beach was covered by hundreds of sea lions, and thinking better of making land, our turtle friend turned around and headed out to the more tranquil waters of the bay! Only on the Galapagos!

Santa Fe island

Visiting the Galapagos comes with a lot of responsibility, and just like our trip to Antarctica, we were always wary of the animals who were unafraid of us. Obviously the main rule was to keep your distance and never touch the animals, ever!

With our guide and a responsible group, we were glad to avoid any of these pitfalls, especially when iguanas would come and say hello as you were taking a break! Or giant tortoises disguised as rocks sitting in the middle of the path, we were always wary.

So when we landed on the island of Sante Fe, we picked our way through hundreds of sea lions lazing on the beach, and found a safe spot near some bushes where we could safely observe these incredible creatures. Or so we thought…

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Exploring The South Plaza Island Of The Amazing Galapagos Islands!

Enjoy our photo journey through South Plaza Island, a stunning part of the Galapagos islands group!

South Plaza Island, Galapagos

For once, the landscape wasn’t what we came for! Even though it was stunning…

south plaza island

south plaza island

We came to meet the locals, many of which we wouldn’t see anywhere else in the world!

south plaza island

south plaza island
The Unique Blue-Footed Booby

south plaza island

south plaza island

South Plaza island was one of the smaller islands we visited whilst on the Galapagos, but we would recommend a visit here, especially if you like watching iguanas walk right up to you whilst taking a break!

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Welcome to the Galapagos Islands! [VIDEO]

As we surged through the green waters surrounding the island of Sante Fe, our zodiac driver cut the engine to a slow speed as our beach landing came into view! It was our first wet landing on the Galapagos with Happy Gringo, where you get out of the zodiac into the sea rather than get off at a pier. And there was good reason for this too!

galapagos islands video

As the beach came into view, we could make out a few black dots on the beach. As we got closer, we were astounded to see hundreds of sea lions lying on the beach taking in the afternoon sun. Some were sunning themselves, some macho fighting in the water, and some lying in the waves as the tide pulled them in and out of the bay. Along the beach we could see the alpha black male patrolling his beach and many female partners!

It was untouched, and a perfect example of our time on the Galapagos. Want to know what we saw? Of course you do!

Landing here was one of the highlights of all our travels, and set the tone for the rest of our Galapagos experience!

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Sand Dune Surfing, Peru

After a great couple of weeks learning Spanish and cooking classes in Arequipa, we’d heard about a small oasis called Huacachina, located in the blisteringly hot Peruvian desert and surrounded by huge sand dunes! We arrived after a long bus journey, and planned to do two things: relax, and attempt some sand dune surfing!

sand dune surfing Peru

How To Go Sand Dune Surfing

After our experience of traversing the sand dunes of Mui Ne, Vietnam, we were ready to take advantage of the miles of huge, rolling sand dunes surrounding Huacachina! We’d heard you could go on a dune buggying ride into the desert, and then sand board down the dunes on makeshift boards. We signed up, despite no real experience in snow boarding (or surfing) and waited for our driver to pick us up.

We knew we were in for a manic afternoon when the two jeep buggies pulled up, adorned with multiple roll bars and harness like seatbelts. It looked like it might get a little rough – we didn’t know the half of it. What followed was a chaotic, adrenaline fuelled ride across the sand dunes of Huacachina!

sand dune surfing Peru

Eyeing up the two jeeps, we quickly put our travelling heads into action, and did what we normally do when faced with a choice of driver: pick the more experienced (read: older) driver. It’s worked on most of our travels, why stop now?

Jumping into his jeep and buckling up, the journey started innocuously enough. Driving through the street (yes, street) of Huacahina towards the sand dunes. Then the moment when we thought, what have we signed ourselves up for?

Our driver turned around (whilst still driving) gave a cheeky smile and shouted ‘vamos’! Before accelerating onto the sand dunes and upwards toward the summit of a huge dune! Imagine being on a rollercoaster, but instead of being attached to rails you are attached to sand. Oh and it seems even the driver doesn’t seem to know where he’s going until the last minute, that was pretty much how we felt.

sand dune surfing Peru

sand dune surfing Peru

Reaching the top of the huge dune, the jeep paused slightly. Our driver turned to look at us all, and, with a slightly manic glint in his eye, revved up the engine and accelerated over the top of the dune and downwards! Now we understood the need for the roll bars! Fancy seeing a bit of the action? Of course you do.

After 20 minutes, our excitable driver stopped at the top of a dune and motioned for us to get off. It was sand dune surfing time!

sand dune surfing Peru

At this juncture it’s probably worth noting that I have never snowboarded or surfed, Laura having had one lesson (which apparently was a ‘disaster’). We were inexperienced to say the least! This is what we decided to do…

Our advice, be careful! Laura took a nasty tumble on her second surf down the dunes, making the mistake of going straight down the dune rather than the advised route of diagonally. After that, we decided to sit down and lie down on the board, and most of our group did the same. Listen to your tour guide when he tells you to go diagonally down, it makes it slower and safer!

sand dune surfing Peru

The tour across the sand dunes of Huacachina was a fantastic, if sometimes scary experience. We were glad to be in a buggy with roll bars and good harnesses, so it’s worth checking out what the company’s use. As for the sand boarding, take it easy and don’t get carried away, the sand is unforgiving if you slip up! And when you do, you’ll be finding sand everywhere for a couple of weeks…

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Cooking up a storm in Arequipa Peru

With our love of Peruvian food growing by the minute, we were desperate to learn how to create some Peruvian delights for ourselves! So after arriving in Arequipa Peru, it didn’t take us long to sign up for a Peruvian cooking experience and get our chef hats on, literally.

arequipa peru

We hadn’t done any cooking for a while, so it was a novelty to be back in the kitchen chopping onions! Well who am I kidding, it’s always a novelty for me with Barry being chief chef in our household! Although I would definitely cook more if we had an open air kitchen like this…all set up for our class.

arequipa peru

Cooking up a storm in Arequipa, Peru

Given three different choices, we decided to learn how to make two of the most famous national dishes of Peru. First up was a ‘ceviche’ for starters (delicious fresh raw fish slow ‘cooked’ in citrus juice) followed by ‘Pescado a lo macho’ (fillet of fried fish smothered with seafood in a lightly spicy aji panca and wine sauce). All served with the favourite local drink of chicha morada (boiled purple corn infused with cinnamon, lemon, cloves, fresh pineapple & apple) – very refreshing! So after meeting our fellow cooks and teacher, it was down to business with preparing the freshly delivered ingredients for our first course.

After chopping 2 onions, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 chilli, a small amount of coriander and LOTS of lime squeezing (8 each!), we were half way there to creating our ceviche!

arequipa peru

With the core ingredients prepared, it was time to add our freshly cut white seabass into our citrus juice mix (note: you can use other white fish too as long as its not oily!) and let it soak for around 10 minutes until it looked white cooked. We learned the key factor was not to overcook the fish otherwise it will taste rubbery instead of succulent and slightly raw!

arequipa peru

By this time, our pre-boiled sweet potatoes and corn were ready so it was time to display everything on our plate. 2 minutes later and we’d created our first ever dish of ceviche decorated with corn, thinly sliced onions, sweet potatoes and lettuce leaves. I must say, it looked quite delightful!

arequipa peru

After tucking into our deliciously delicate ceviche, we couldn’t wait to prepare the contrasting main dish – the macho ‘Pescado a la macho’. Actually named ‘macho’ due to its spiciness mmm!

arequipa peru

So our first task was to season our fish filets in garlic paste and salt & pepper before dipping them in flour and frying them in very hot oil. Thoroughly fried, it was then time to prepare our ‘special’ spicy seafood sauce, and this is where things really heated up in the kitchen! In our preheated pan with onions, garlic, tomato, hot yellow chilli pepper paste, soy sauce and coriander, we added the special secret ingredient of Pisco liquor to get these flames going!

arequipa peru

After my singed brow cooled, we added our variety of interesting seafood into the mix including squid, shrimp and octopus before the final touches of milk and parsley to thicken the sauce. A few minutes later and we were ready to serve – voila!

arequipa peru

So how was it? Well it didn’t last long on the plate! My lack of cooking skills didn’t seem to matter as it was surprisingly delicious and probably the tastiest fish dish we tasted so far in Peru! Modest aren’t I? Well I will definitely be trying to recreate this at home…

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Day 2 & 3 Of Our Bolivian Jeep Rally Adventure From San Pedro To Uyuni!

After a surprisingly good night’s sleep in our basic dorm, and a dose of coca tea for breakfast to prepare us for another day at high altitude, we set off at 8am for day 2 in our beloved jeep! What did we have in store in today? Well mostly a LOT of driving. It was a long way cross country to reach our final destination close to the salt flats. Although there was less to see today compared to days 1 and 3, we had our unique accommodation to look forward to at the end of the day…a hotel made of salt!

Day 2 involved traversing an incredible variety of terrains, from barren desert to lush green countryside with a wealth of wildlife, lakes and streams. We even passed through a few towns en route – first civilisation we’d seen since leaving San Pedro in Chile! The contrast was amazing.

First up on day 2 was the Siloli Desert, where we stopped to walk through a huge set of terracotta orange rock formations formed as a result of wind erosion.

San pedro to uyuni

After stopping to view some more high plain lagoons (Laguna Honda, Chiarcota & Canapa) we saw our first lush countryside of the journey and said hello to a few of the locals…

San pedro to uyuni

After navigating through some rough terrain and not so shallow streams, I suppose it was just a matter of time before we’d run into some jeep problems…

With the other 2 jeeps already having had a change of tyre and some overheating issues, we were a little smug that our jeep had avoided any such issues thus far. But alas, it was our turn! Only problem now though was we were out of new tyres! Luckily this happened when we were close to one of the few towns on the way, otherwise we’d probably still be there now!

San pedro to uyuni

Getting ever closer to the salt flats, our final destination for day 2 was the smaller but beautiful Chiguana salt flat. It was nowhere near as big as the Salar de Uyuni which we would visit on day 3, but gave us a great flavour of what we had to look forward to! Chiguana is particularly unique however as its vast white plain is interrupted by a railway line. For us it looked like a road (rail?) to nowhere, but apparently this railway line stretches all the way from Uyuni in Bolivia to Calama in Chile – amazing!

San pedro to uyuni

After another long day in our beloved jeep, we finally arrived at our salt hotel, our unique home for the evening! Yep that’s right, everything you see here (except the ceiling and decoration) is made of salt – amazing! Of course Barry couldn’t resist licking the wall just to check!

San pedro to uyuni

The next morning we set off early towards the salt flats. After driving for 2 full days through the Bolivian altiplano, it was finally time to reach the smoothest terrain of the journey! I’ll never forget the first few minutes of reaching ‘Salar de Uyuni’. It was as if we’d entered another world, so vastly different to where we’d been over the last 2 days. It was so smooth, driving over it was almost serene.

San pedro to uyuni

Our jeep went completely silent as we cruised across the vast whiteness. For the first 20 minutes or so, all we could see was the salt flat stretching for miles and miles to the crest of the Andes mountains in the distance on one side. On the other side, nothing, only salt flat forever! The unbelievable enormity of its 10,582 square kilometres (4,086 sq miles) size became real.

San pedro to uyuni

After around half an hour of driving, we reached Incahuasi Island, a rocky outcrop of land that rises out of the centre of the salt flats. Now this was unexpected!

San pedro to uyuni

After exploring the island, it was time to stop at a beautiful desolate area of the salt flats and check them out for ourselves. After some time spent appreciating the landscape, we couldn’t resist trying to capture a few quirky pics!

San pedro to uyuni

San pedro to uyuni

San pedro to uyuni

Our tour nearing completion, we departed the salt flats and had just enough time to make one final stop at the famous train cemetery near Uyuni…

San pedro to uyuni

And so our great adventure across the antiplanos of Chile and Bolivia was complete! We’d travelled across dusty, bumpy and sometimes dangerous terrain seeing some incredible sights along the way. Arriving in Uyuni, we were relieved to finally escape the cramped conditions of our jeep, and finally have a shower to wash away the three days of dust we had accumulated!

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Day 1 Of Our 3 Day Off Road Adventure Across The Bolivia Salt Flats!

After much research, preparation and anticipation, we set off on our 3 day tour from the Atacama desert in Chile to the famous Bolivian salt flats. Of course we were excited to see the largest salt flats in the world, an amazing opportunity, but our excitement was also met with a little anxiety. Why? Well we’d read about many negative experiences of the trip (crammed jeeps, drunk drivers, terrible food etc) and it seemed difficult to find a reputable company with a clean record and good reviews. The more research we did, the harder it became to choose. So in the end we just picked one and hoped for the best! What was the worst that could happen in the middle of nowhere in the Andes mountain range anyway? Mmm, probably best not to contemplate that.

So after a very early start (4am!), we set off in the dark on our bus to the Chilean border. We’d been told about some political conflicts at the normal border crossing, so we had a 5 hour diversion to look forward to. This turned out to involve traversing some particularly rough dirt roads and high mountain passes (I tried to avoid looking down over the cliff edge), before we finally arrived to the Chilean border, our jeep meeting point. Amazingly we still managed to catch up on some sleep despite the bumpy ride. Well Barry certainly did while I enjoyed the sunrise over the Andes, honestly that boy could sleep anywhere!

After a surprisingly good breakfast (from the back of our bus) and an hour or so wait, in the distance we saw a dust trail approaching us, and a few minutes later our 4×4 jeeps came into view as they hurtled down the valley towards us! Anxious and excited, we waited for the jeeps to come into clearer view to see our first glimpse of our home for the next 3 days! Thankfully they looked pretty decent and so did the drivers – well sober at least. And our driver in particular seemed to have a sense of humour given his cap choice!

bolivia salt flats

Each jeep holds 6 people, and luckily our fellow passengers were all perfectly normal! Pretty important as we were about to be in close proximity for the next 3 days! We were certainly an interesting mix with 5 different nationalities and 5 different languages to match (English, Spanish, Portuguese, German & Korean)! So after brief introductions and loading our bags onto the roof of our jeep, it was finally time to set off on our 3 day adventure (after waking up 7 hours earlier!).

bolivia salt flats

I’ll never forget the first section of the drive when we set off into the vast barren landscape of the huge Andean mountains. Cruising across the deserted mountains, it felt like we were instantly putting our jeep’s cross country and suspension ability to the test (I didn’t expect this so early in the 3 day tour). We didn’t seem to be heading in any particular direction, rather just up, down and across the wide expanse of the mountains. Each of our group’s 3 jeeps seemed to choose their own crazy path with the drivers constantly checking their mirrors to see where the others were, if they could see through all the dust! They seemed to relish in the freedom of it and got a kick out of finding the fastest route and taking over each other all the time. It felt like we were in an episode of Top Gear! Despite being a little scary at times, we loved the thrill of it too and the feeling of freedom from roads and highways and being able to venture whichever way we wanted.

bolivia salt flats

After an hour or so of rally driving, we finally reached the Bolivian border (so we really were in ‘no man’s land’!) where after a long wait in the blistering mid day sun, we were greeted by a grumpy Bolivian border policeman (who threatened to close the office for an hour unless we stood in an orderly queue!). After finally getting our entry stamp, we stepped foot into Bolivia for the first time. With all the formalities out of the way, we finally began our tour of the Altiplanos of Bolivia – woohoo!

Just half an hour later we made our first stop at some incredible rock formations. Rising out of the Altiplano sand dunes were these amazing creations of nature.

bolivia salt flats

bolivia salt flats

Slightly further along our route, we witnessed more incredible rock formations including this isolated rock made of stone, sculpted by the wind and sun resembling a weirdly shaped tree (hence its name “stone tree”). Amazing, and just one part of a larger group of rocks known collectively as the “stone forest”.

bolivia salt flats

Next it was time to visit some of the famous lagoons of the area including “Laguna Verde” and “Laguna Blanca”. The best part of these was seeing the pink flamingoes which inhabit them. Incredible to see as one of few species able to survive at such a high altitude (approx 15,000 feet above sea level) with such little vegetation around.

bolivia salt flats

Our first day concluded with a stop at “Laguna Colorada”, a stunning and large shallow salt lake in the southwest of the altiplano area. Its beauty stems from the contrast of its white speckled borax islands with some reddish coloured water, caused by red sediments and algae pigmentation. I wondered if that’s why the flamingoes are pink? Well it turns out that’s true! Flamingos are indeed pink or orange or white depending on what algae or crustaceans they eat – interesting!

bolivia salt flats

After admiring some more pink flamingos at the lagoon, we were relieved that it was finally time to find our accommodation for the night. It had been a great but very long day! Satisfied that our concerns were not met on day 1, we rested peacefully and looked forward to what Day 2 & 3 Of Our Bolivian Jeep Rally Adventure had in store for us…

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Witnessing Argentine Tango First Hand!

There is no doubt that Buenos Aires, the ‘Paris of the South’, is the home of Tango. Not only does it have countless venues and classes dedicated to the beautiful dance, they even perform it in the street just for the fun of it!

Of course it was top of our list of things to do in Buenos Aires, so a day after arriving, we’d already booked our first lesson and tickets to a show! We wanted to see how the experts do it and try it out for ourselves!

argentine tango picture

Our First Buenos Aires Argentine Tango Club Experience

After dressing up in our ‘best’ backpacker clothes, we set off with our friends John & Lindsay to our first Argentine Tango experience! First up was a 1 hour lesson followed by a 3 course meal and live show. Arriving to the venue, we were excited to be greeted by our dance teacher, a beautiful and elegant Argentinian lady with a good sense of humour (thankfully!).

The first part of the lesson involved simply walking around the room, easy right? Well, there’s even a special way to do this in the world of tango. Five minutes later and we were no longer simply walking but trying to master the art of slow, deliberate, seductive walking whilst maintaining a serious and intense glare across the room towards our partners. It was tricky not to giggle! Next it was time to learn the basic steps. With females on one side of the room and all the men on the opposite, it was like a dance off! Each taking turns to learn the next steps before it was time to piece it together and attempt the routine as a couple.

argentine tango

After practising a few times, we were amazed to be pulling off the basic moves quite well! But we soon discovered we weren’t quite tangoing properly yet…the final part of our lesson was learning to add the tricky high leg flick and swift turn of the head to pull the famously dramatic tango pose! Again it was hard not to giggle! If only we were as good as these guys…

argentine tango

After learning the basics of tango it was time to see the real thing, so we were ushered through to our table ready for the live performance. Luckily we had great seats just one table back from the main stage, however this turned out to be not so lucky for Barry later in the evening (more on that later). A few minutes later the lights went out and the live band started playing.

The sound of an accordion, mixed with harpsichord, violin and double bass blasted out from the musicians positioned up high in the Venetian styled balcony above us, building our anticipation. A few minutes later and a silhouetted figure appeared in front of us, a smartly dressed man with sleeked back hair who began to sing a dramatic introduction to the story of the show. A few moments later and the dancers appeared on stage to perform their opening number. The ladies wore beautifully elegant silk dresses and wavy sleek styled hair, with their partners in smart pinstripe suits and skip caps over their smooth black gelled hair.

argentine tango

argentine tango

All three couples were exquisite dancers and demonstrated their amazing tango skills. What impressed us the most was the smoothness of every movement no matter how difficult or stretching it was, they moved seamlessly and elegantly from one movement to the next, whilst always maintaining intense eye contact.

argentine tango

The intensity of the music and dancing drew all of us in immediately, it was fascinating to watch and time just seem to disappear. Before we knew it we’d watched around 8 different routines from the couples and it was nearly half way through the evening. It was at this point that to our delight (and perhaps Barry’s horror) that he was approached by one of the beautiful dancers and invited to dance with her!

With sheer panic on his face he waved us goodbye and headed off to show off his best tango moves! Relieved that he had other couples for company on the dance floor, he survived his 2 minute ordeal and returned to the table, happy that his turn was over, or so he thought. Perhaps impressed by his moves (or maybe just unlucky for Barry!), a second dancer then approached our table and scanned the table for a willing volunteer…Barry of course! Oh dear, he wasn’t happy and couldn’t believe he was picked again out of the 4 men at our table! Oh well at least he was getting the hang of it now haha! And luckily there is no photo evidence…

Much to Barry’s relief, the second half of the show didn’t involve any audience participation, so we just sat and admired the incredible skills of the dancers. With increasing intensity and skill, each routine was more impressive than the proceeding one, culminating in an incredible final dance off amongst the three couples. Full of high lifts, rolls, jumps and flicks, it was the perfect dramatic ending to an incredible show!

argentine tango

argentine tango

We don’t usually offer must-do advice, but after witnessing an authentic Argentinian Tango performance, it is a must if you visit Buenos Aires, you won’t be disappointed! And maybe even take a lesson or two in order to appreciate how complex and difficult it really is!

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Stunning Sunsets Above The Incredible Valle de la Luna Chile!

After a 12 hour bus journey, crossing the border from Argentina into Chile, we made our way north to San Pedro, in the heart of the Atacama desert! Arriving here was in stark contrast to our time in Antarctica, freezing temperatures, deep blues and whites replaced with sizzling heat, with strong red and orange colours everywhere we looked.

Valle de la luna

Basing ourselves in San Pedro for a few days, our first trip was to the famous Valle de la luna nearby, a stark and barren landscape which is said to resemble, yep you guessed it, the moon. NASA even tested its Mars rover here before sending it to Mars – if it’s good enough for NASA, it’s good enough for us!

Into the Valle de la Luna, Chile

Jumping into our transport for the day, we headed out through the dusty, sandy desert to our first stop, the three Marias. Now, you’re going to have to use your imagination here to see the ‘three Marias’. To me they looked like three salty formations sticking out of the ground. But what do I know?

Valle de la luna

After leaving the three Marias behind, we headed out further into the valley where we did our best impressions of Neil Armstrong in the Lunar Valley. The place was incredible, awe inspiring and felt very other worldly.

Valle de la luna

Valle de la luna

As the sun began to set, we made it the top of the valley ridge, where we could see the incredible lunar landscape for miles.

Valle de la luna

Then, as the sun began to set, the landscape literally changed colour every few minutes, the valley floor reflecting the deep oranges of the sunset against its own dark orange and red rocks. It didn’t look real!

Valle de la luna

Valle de la luna

And then, the final flourish as everyone was watching the sunset, behind us the gigantic volcano turned a deep red colour to cap off a fantastic few hours!

Valle de la luna

The Valle de la Lunar is an incredible place to see, and a for a few hours we felt as though we were on a different planet!

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Trekking in Torres Del Paine National Park!

After our one day bus tour around Torres Del Paine, we were hungry to get a bit closer to the incredible granite towers of Las Torres, so we signed up for a full day trek to the base look out point just below the towers! Unfortunately Barry had to pull out due to his knee injury from a previous climb, but with encouragement from our good friends Lindsay and John, I decided to go along with them and leave my beloved nomad behind.

torres del paine national park

Into Parque Nacional Torres Del Paine

The morning of the climb, we packed our usual supply of sandwiches, chocolate, sunscreen, clothing layers and camera, and set off early on the 2 hour drive to the park with our expert guide. After navigating around herds of cows, sheep and guanacos (Chilean lamas) we safely arrived at the Torres Del Paine national park ready for the trek. Keen to set some expectations, our guide informed us that the trek was a 18km return journey, which was a similar length to our experience of the Tongariro crossing in New Zealand, but much shorter than our multi day Sapa trekking hike in Vietnam and our Rinjani trekking adventure in Indonesia. The hardest section was to be the last 45 minutes, consisting of an almost vertical climb over very rock terrain to reach our summit! Great, something to look forward to! So with walking poles in hand, we set off on our adventure to the massives!

Much of the first section was an uphill climb, broken up nicely by the odd bridge over the valley’s streams and rivers. Around us we could see the many waterfalls gushing down the sides of the huge mountains that surrounded us.

torres del paine national park

Every so often we’d be unexpectedly interrupted by traffic passing through; horses from the local estancia carting supplies up the valley to the refugio half way along the track, the only form of transport along the route.

torres del paine national park

After a couple of hours trekking and working up a sweat, we were relieved to reach our first break at a nice spot next to the river. Suitably refreshed with water and chocolate (well we were burning calories!) we set off once again, this time through the deep forestry section of the trek. Despite the rain kicking in at this point and layering on the waterproofs and hats, we all enjoyed the change in terrain, and managed to increase our pace through this slighter flatter section of the trek. We found ourselves with renewed energy surrounded by lush green forest, beautiful twisting trees, rustic rickety bridge passes and the odd glimpse of stunning waterfalls on the distant mountains.

Then, after around 3 km of jungle trekking, we spotted the opening in the distance that would reveal our final destination. Excited, we practically ran towards the opening in the trees and glanced left to see the towers looming eerily amongst the dark clouds above us. After admiring the towers for a while and photographing the moment, I noticed the final piece of terrain we were about to encounter. Warned about the hard final section at the start by our guide, I should have expected it, but the steep incline and huge boulders loomed ahead of us worried me a little. Only 45 minutes, I whispered to myself – you can do it. Flanked by our quietly supportive guide and with my friends pushing on ahead, I applied my usual tough trekking technique of getting the head down, counting and powering on.

torres del paine national park

After climbing approximately 400 metres of rock and what felt like more than 45 minutes of pain, we finally reached the top of the boulders. We had just one final push to clamber around the side of the mountain, up and over some even larger rocks and boulders to reach the base look out. Ten minutes later we reached our final destination and we were delighted to be greeted by this sign!

torres del paine national park

With a couple of large groups there already, we decided to go a little further to find our own private spot where we could rest and enjoy the towers by ourselves in all their splendour! Just by luck, the rain had stopped before we arrived and the dark clouds we’d seen from the bottom were starting to lift, to reveal many more metres of the three towers. We congratulated each other and found a nice spot to sit and admire the view of the towers and the beautiful turquoise lake lying still beneath them.

torres del paine national park

After re-energising ourselves with our packed lunches and more chocolate (I was burning lots of calories honest), the cold wind at the high altitude started to bite, so we quickly layered up and began our long descent. Helped by our trekking poles, we managed to descend pretty quickly and powered back through the forest towards our half way point where we had a welcome break before our final push back to our starting point that morning. All in all it took us around 4 hours to reach the Torres base summit and 3 hours to return. Exhausted but very satisfied by a fantastic day’s trekking, we hopped into our mini-bus and embarked on our journey back to Puerto Natales where Barry was waiting with pizza and beers to celebrate our trek – result! We would rest up for a couple of days before our journey to the end of the world!

What Do You Think? Have you trekked Torres Del Paine? We’d love to hear your comments and experiences in the comments below!

Looking for more Chile inspiration? Click here.


Excellent One Day Torres Del Paine Tour, By Bus!

If you’re looking for a Torres del Paine tour (without any trekking), then you’ve come to the right place!

Trekking isn’t for everyone, right? But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get to see the best of what Torres del Paine has to offer! In this guide, we’ll show you:

1. Our experience of a Torres del Paine tour, by bus

2. How to pick the right tour company for you

You can also click on any of those headlines to take you directly to that section in the guide.

1. Our experience of a Torres del Paine tour, by bus

After our 4 day trip on a ferry through the Chilean fjords, we arrived at our next destination of Puerto Natales! Being the closest town to Torres del Paine national park, Puerto Natales is a great launchpad for taking a Torres Del Paine tour! We’ve been to some incredible national parks in our time, from our Sapa trekking experience in Vietnam, to our epic volcanic Rinjani trekking adventure in Indonesia, so we were very excited to explore Torres del Paine!

Torres Del Paine tour

Luckily we’d had a few days to recover from our climb up the Villaricca volcano in Pucon. We’d thought about taking on the challenge of the famous ‘W’ trek, or at least part of it, but with a relatively bleak weather forecast and no availability at the ‘refugios’ we resorted to plan B – a one day tour of all the main sites by bus, and a full day’s trek to Torres base lookout, known to the locals as the ‘massives’.

Torres Del Paine Tour, By Bus!

After an early start and 7.30am pick up we began our Torres del Paine tour! First up, after  a couple of hours driving, we caught the first glimpse of the stunning massives of Torres del Paine in the distance!

Torres Del Paine tour

As you can see, the roads were mostly gravel, but we felt comfortable in our bus for the day. As we progressed, our driver provided us with info and commentary on the things we could see, including this group of guanacos that stood between us and the ‘massives’! With some care, we negotiated through this group and made our way towards our next stop.

Torres Del Paine tour

After a while, we reached the beautiful Laguna Amarga, and stood on the shore, marvelling at the towers reflecting in the lagoon. This was a really impressive part of the day, the water was perfectly still, resulting in these wonderful reflections in the water!

Torres Del Paine tour

After Laguna Amarga, we made our way around the mighty towers to Lago Nordenkjold for an alternative, incredible view of the towers nestled between other towering peaks. This was probably our favourite view of the towers, as they poked out deep within the valley in front of us.

Torres Del Paine tour

 After Lago Nordenkjold, we visited the salta grande, a breathtaking emerald green, lake, river and waterfall which was incredible! The noise and colour was absolutely mesmerising! 

Torres Del Paine tour

Torres Del Paine tour

For lunch, we stopped on the shores of Lago Pehoe, a beautiful place to sit and admire on our Torres del Paine tour. As you can see from our photos, we were incredibly lucky with the weather on our tour!

Torres Del Paine tour

Our final stop of the day was the huge Lago Grey. At the end of the lake is a glacier, and we sat and watched as large chunks of ice broke off and floated around the lake, a perfect way to end our Torres del Paine tour!

Torres Del Paine tour

2. How to pick the right tour company for you

Thankfully, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to Torres del Paine tours, given the popularity of the national park! And the good news is you can book in advance, online, to guarantee your tour! Our advice would be to check the latest reviews and tour options in Torres del Paine, and book in advance! You can also book when you arrive through your guesthouse, but we personally recommend you do your research in advance!

So that’s it! This Torres del Paine tour was one of the highlights of our time in Chile. It was a relaxing, and rewarding day where we saw some beautiful landscapes in comfort – highly recommended!

Looking for more Chile inspiration? Click here.


Key Tips For Planning A Trip To Ushuaia Argentina!

Arriving in Chile from New Zealand, we only had one thing on our minds: head south to Tierra Del Fuego at the end of the world and catch our boat to Antarctica. We spent a lot of time working out our route south, so check out our route planner from Santiago to Ushuaia!

Part 1: Santiago to Pucon & Puerto Montt

We didn’t hang around long in Santiago, and after a couple of days we jumped on a bus for the 10 hour journey to Pucon. Pucon is a great place to visit, and you could easily spend a few days there, walking through the streets of cafes and parillas (BBQ’s), climbing the Villarica Volcano and white water rafting.  After a few days you can catch a 6 hour bus to Puerto Montt, the gateway to the Chilean Fjords and our cargo ship journey!

ushuaia argentina

Part 2: The Navimag Ferry – Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales

After some serious research, we’d decided to skip the onerous overland journey through Chile and book ourselves onto the Navimag ferry service which would take us on our journey through the Chilean fjords! Although more time intensive with three nights on the ship, if the weather is clear there are beautiful views of the fjords and the southern ice field (with glacier).

And so, after a couple of nights in Puerto Montt, it was time to hit the seas for the first time in Chile, destination Puerto Natales and the gateway to Torres Del Paine.  The journey was stunning, and certainly beat the long bus journeys that were the other options to get down the country.

ushuaia argentina

Part 3: Torres Del Paine

After what turned out to be four nights on the boat after a storm stopped us from entering port, we had reached Puerto Natales, ready for our Torres Del Paine adventure!

The national park has something for everyone, from one day bus tours through Torres del Paine to hiking in the wilderness for days and weeks at a time. Most will fancy the famous W trek, and complete this in between three and five days. We spent a week in Puerto Natales, with one day on a bus tour and a one day trek to the base lookout in Torres Del Paine, and the rest of the time relaxing and planning the rest of our trip.

ushuaia argentina

Part 4: Puerto Natales to Ushuaia

And so, after our journey down through Chile, it was time to head to the end of the world of Tierra Del Fuego, a mere 12 hour bus journey and border crossing with Argentina! The journey is rough along some basic roads, but the scenery is incredible and gives you a great summary of Patagonia.  You also get to take a short 20 minute ferry across the Magellan Strait before crossing the border into Argentina!

ushuaia argentina

And finally, the end of the world and Ushuaia! A lovely town to use as a base to explore Tierra del Fuego and of course Antarctica!

ushuaia argentina

To recap our route from Santiago (Chile) to Ushuaia (Argentina):

  • 2 days in Santiago
  • 5 days in Pucon
  • 2 days in Puerto Montt
  • 4 days cruising the Chilean Fjords
  • 6 days in Puerto Natales
  • 5 days in Ushuaia

Looking For Accommodation In Chile?

If you’re looking for some accommodation options in Chile, we recommend you check out Agoda.com. Whenever we’re making plans for a new destination, we always research the accommodation options first to check what’s available. That’s just our travel style. If you want to get some accommodation ideas in Chile, or anywhere else in South America, click here!

Some of the links above are affiliate links, which means if you choose to book somewhere though our link, we receive a small commission. Don’t worry, it doesn’t cost you anything more, and most importantly, we only recommend companies that we use ourselves so you can trust our recommendations!

Looking for more Chile inspiration? Click here.


Sailing The Chilean Fjords On A Navimag Ferry

With our impending 10 day boat journey to Antarctica with Quark expeditions edging ever closer, we decided we needed to get some sea leg training in beforehand! Prior to this adventure, our boat experience amounted to a cruise in Halong Bay, so it seemed wise to have a practice run before we headed to Antarctica!

navimag

Before arriving in Chile, we’d heard about a cargo ship which also took passengers through the Chilean fjords. It would take four days, offered basic accommodation and service, but would also provide the best views of the Chilean coastline and fjords. Deciding between this or countless long bus journeys to make our way south, we signed up for the cargo ship option and prepared our sea legs for action!

After arriving in Santiago and making our way south to Puerto Montt, we picked up the Navimag ferry for our four day journey south through the Chilean fjords. What followed were four days of beautiful scenery, glaciers, whales and storms all of which set us in good stead for our Antarctica trip!

The Navimag Ferry Of Chile

Stepping onto the ship, we navigated the bulbous protruding steel rivets of the ship’s loading area as we ducked between the associated lorries and trucks full of cargo bound for Puerto Natales. In particular an open top truck full of cows caught the eye, well at least we’d be more comfortable than them.

navimag

We brushed past the cargo area of the ship and made our way up two decks to the main accommodation quarters and sought out our room for the next three nights. The Navimag has a number of accommodation options, and we opted for a 4 bed room. After meeting our friendly and normal roommates (phew), we headed up to the deck to watch the thousands that had congregated at the port to wave us off. Well, the two blokes who had been helping with the loading gave us a wave at least.

And we were off! We had no idea what to expect from the next four days, but we were with friends, had plenty of music and books, and the increasingly competitive monopoly deal game. As it turns out, there would be plenty of things to keep us occupied during the journey, especially when Monopoly deal became too intense…

navimag

The Navimag experience exceeded our expectations: the food was basic but tasty and filled us up, there was plenty of fresh water to drink and they even ran lectures during the day on topics about the fjords including the birds and mammals of Patagonia. There was a well stocked bar with comfortable places to sit and read, and if you fancied braving the cold, there was plenty of beautiful scenery to admire.

navimag

A major bonus was accessibility to the captains deck, where we could watch as the captain relayed orders to his first mate, all the time making minor adjustments to our route. We spent a lot of time on the deck, admiring the view and talking with the crew. It was seriously tempting to press one of the brightly lit buttons or flick a switch, I mean whats the worst that could happen?

navimag

The deck was always the best place to go whale or dolphin watching, and many a time on our journey there would be an excited announcement from the captains deck: “Ladies and gentlemen, there are two humpback whales alongside us on the starboard side” or our favourite (whilst we were having dinner) “Ladies and gentlemen, there are five dolphins swimming alongside us on the port side”. I never did get the handle of which side was port and starboard, opting instead to wait a second to see which direction everyone else went in and follow them. Most of the time they were right, not always though.

With three meals a day, time on the captains deck, running around the ship to see whales and dolphins and playing cards, you can see how easily the time would ebb away. In the evenings, a documentary would be shown in the dining room, from March of the Penguins to documentaries on Tierra Del Fuego and butterfly migrations.

On day 3, we were hoping to get a glimpse of the Southern fields glacier. Weather conditions and visibility sometimes restrict the opportunity, but not this time for us!

navimag

We had been used to rolling green and grey hills through the fjords, contrasted against the bleak white sky for a day or so, when in the distance something different came into view. We had reached the glacier, its bright whites and deep blues offering a welcome contrast to the surrounding areas.

navimag

As we got closer, a loud crack rippled through the valley as part of the glacier tore away from itself and into the water, just as we were having our photo taken!navimagWe spent half an hour or so at the glacier admiring it, and then it was time to get going, after all we had some cargo to be delivered! Those poor cows…

Our only other stop on the journey was to visit Puerto Eden, one of only a few remaining local villages home to indigenous groups in the fjords. It was a beautiful place, with the locals coming to pick us up from the ship in their own boats to take us to the mainland.

navimag

We had a couple of hours to walk around the area before making our way back to the ship. Puerto Eden was a welcome break from the ship and a lovely place to spend a couple of hours.

Making it to Puerto Montt in good time, unfortunately we were caught in a storm and couldn’t make it to the port that evening. Another (unexpected) night on the ship then, but another chance to relax in the bar and catch some sleep before our photo bus tour of Torres del Paine and our one day trek in Torres Del Paine!

navimag

We’d highly recommend the Navimag option if you have time and are heading south through Chile anyway. It’s well organised, comfortable and offers fantastic scenery of the Chilean fjords. It is not a cruise, but offers a fantastic opportunity to see parts of Chile you would otherwise miss on an overland trip!

Looking For Accommodation In Puerto Natales?

If you’re looking for some accommodation options in Puerto Natales or elsewhere in Chile, we recommend you check out Agoda. Whenever we’re making plans for a new destination, we always research the accommodation options first to check what’s available. That’s just our travel style. If you want to get some accommodation ideas on Puerto Natales, or anywhere else in Chile, click here!

 Some of the links above are affiliate links, which means if you choose to book somewhere though our link, we receive a small commission. Don’t worry, it doesn’t cost you anything more, and most importantly, we only recommend companies that we use ourselves so you can trust our recommendations!

Looking for more Chile inspiration? Click here.


Conquering Volcan Villarrica In Pucon, Chile

So you’re thinking about climbing the mighty Volcan Villarrica? 

If you read anything about Volcan Villarrica, you’ll know that it’s a climb that should be treated with respect. Despite the difficulty, the lure of climbing an active volcano, covered in snow, was too much for us to resist! In this guide, we’ll show you:

1. Our experience of climbing Volcan Villarrica

2. What to wear on Volcan Villarrica

3. How to choose the right tour company for you

You can also click on any of those headlines to take you directly to that section in the guide.

1. Our experience of climbing Volcan Villarrica

Gluttons for punishment, after only three days in Chile we signed up for another volcano climb! After our volcanic Rinjani trekking adventure in Indonesia, our sapa trekking experience in Vietnam, and our day trekking the Tongariro crossing, our next challenge was Volcan Villarrica near Pucon. You may think we’re obsessed with volcanoes, but it just seems to be that the most interesting climbs happen to be over things that are dangerous!

villarrica volcano

Arriving at the offices early doors, it was time to get our kit on. Yet again on our trip it was time to layer up. The set up was rigorous: waterproof trousers, climbing boots, crampons, waterproof jackets, helmets and a dangerously sharp looking ice axe all checked and verified. We looked like pros, once again we had no idea.

If we weren’t fully awake after our early morning start, the 30 minute journey on a bus with seemingly no suspension (or tyres) got our attention, as we ascended to the volcano base along a rock laden road. We were ready for what was to come, or so we thought. We reached the base of the Volcan Villarrica, and looked up at the challenge ahead: 1 kilometre above us we could see the smouldering summit of the volcano.  Wait…smouldering? Don’t worry, our guide assured us.

Our ascent would be over snow and ice to the crater at the top, no nice little paths to walk along, no steps to use. In fact, there would be no walking on any ground the whole way up (and down). And so came the easiest decision of our trip to date: to take the ski lift for the initial hour walk or not. What would you prefer? An extra hour of journey time scrambling across scree or a 10 minute ski lift to cut the boring rock ladden scree bit out? Some decisions are difficult in life, this wasn’t.

villarrica volcano

With our backpacks strapped to our fronts temporarily, we jumped up onto the platform and waited for our seats to fling around the end of the lift and come back at us. At some speed, the chair swung round, we bent our knees and smack, we were on the lift and already soaring above the base of the volcano. No safety barriers here, just a wooden seat attached to the pulley system, and our heavy backpacks on our front and ice axes in our faces. We relaxed and enjoyed the views as we passed over other much braver souls who had decided to walk the extra hour. Good luck to them!

Challenge number two of the day: getting off the lift with our heavy bags on our fronts. As we approached the platform, two bulky men were waiting in anticipation to yank us from our seats before they swung around and took off back down the mountain. Feet down, a strong arm from each side and we were off.  The rest of the ascent would be all our own work.

villarrica volcano

It was crampon time. We’d first used crampons on the fox glacier in New Zealand, so we were excited to strap them on again and get back on the ice and snow. After strapping in, it was health and safety time.

This was the moment we realised this might not be as easy as we’d imagined. One of our guides explained to us how, in the event of us slipping down the volcano, to use our ice axe to halt the slide. It basically involved slamming the ice axe into the ice ala the film ‘Touching the void’.  After this lesson, we were ready for our ascent.

And so we began our ascent. With its steep sides and icy covering, we had to zig zag slowly up the volcano. Left for 30 metres, right for 30 metres, and again and again. Digging our crampons into the icy slope, and using our ice axe to pull us forward, we were on our way. For 1 hour, we climbed without stopping, not borne out of time constraints but because there was nowhere to stop (we were, of course, on the side of a snow and ice covered volcano!).

After an hour, we reached our first stopping point and got our first chance to look back at the vista. And what a view it was, lush green volcanoes punctuated the landscape, the obvious remnants of previous flows from the volcano spreading like tentacles across the landscape. The occasional cloud drifted below us, but it was a perfect weather day and we could clearly see miles into the distance.

villarrica volcano

After our brief stop, it was time for hour number two and our climb to the ridge where we would have breakfast. Off came the jackets, we strapped our backpacks and helmets on, and we were off again. Instantly this leg of the journey was more difficult. The slope was steeper, the snow and ice looser than the lower slope. It was time to grit our teeth and get our heads down.

For what seemed like an eternity, we criss crossed the side of the volcano, inching ever closer to ‘desayuno’ and a rest. And then we reached the ridge, an incredible moment! We were only halfway up the volcano, but the slope we were climbing up suddenly stopped and formed a sharp ridge which we balanced along as we made our way to an outcrop of rock where we would rest before attempting the second half of our ascent.

villarrica volcano

At this point we were both tired, and quickly wolfed down some jam sandwiches, cereal bars and water to prepare ourselves for the next stage. Again we were treated to incredible views of the landscape, this time we could see further with the vastness of many lakes coming into view. After marvelling at the view, we turned to look at the challenge ahead. This is what we saw.

villarrica volcano

Two further hours followed, scaling the side of the volcano. First it was back along the ridge we came along before snaking left and upwards toward the crater at the summit. We had a much better view of the steam belching out of the crater at the top, and in less than two hours we would be at the top, peering into the heart of the Volcan Villarrica. We had some serious work to do before then.

Beginning the second half of our ascent, it would be another hour before we stopped again. We both kept our heads down, not daring to look up at how far we had to go, not wanting to see how far we’d come. Behind me I could hear Laura utilising her usual trekking strategy of counting 1,2,3 before returning back to 1 and repeating over and over again. I was struggling with a sore right knee and cramp in my left foot. Why were we putting ourselves through this again? Still we kept quiet, and focused on our routine: ice axe into the ice, left foot, right foot, ice axe into the ice, left foot, right foot etc.

villarrica volcano

Occasionally as we switched from climbing to the left to the right, we’d swap our ice axe into the opposite hand and continue onwards and upwards. After another hour, we were exhausted and delighted to sit and rest on the side of the volcano for 15 minutes. Strapping up my knee and knocking back some painkillers, it was time for one final push to the top. 40 minutes more and we’d be there.

The final push was easier than we thought, and we managed it with relative ease. We snaked left and right for a while, and then hit a ridge where we walked in a more direct route to the top. Reaching the top was an incredible feeling, high fives from our guides and fellow group members followed by our first glimpse inside the crater.

villarrica volcano

Standing so close to an active crater on a volcano was an unnerving experience. Peering in, our snow covered side of the crater looked ominously easy to slip and slide down into the crater from where we were. On the opposite side, a mixture of reds, oranges, greys and blacks dominated the inside of the crater, becoming darker and darker the lower we looked down until they slipped away into the magma pools just out of view.

villarrica volcano

We turned around to admire the view back down, and we sat and ate our sandwiches a mere metre from the crater rim. We couldn’t decide where to look! In front of us was the route we’d taken to the top. We were way above the clouds now, and our view was obstructed by these as we looked out over Chile. We sat and enjoyed our fleeting time at the top of Volcan Villarrica, took some photos, and enjoyed the view before it was time to leave.

2. What to wear on Volcan Villarrica

You should be provided with a waterproof outer layer from the tour company you book, but in terms of what you wear underneath that, we recommend:

  • Thick socks
  • Long trekking trousers (not shorts)
  • Layers on top (long sleeve top, a fleece and a jacket)
  • Sunglasses (the glare from the snow is unbearable without them!)
  • A hat or cap (we wore caps to protect from the sun above and reflecting off the snow, but our ears were burnt as they weren’t covered so a hat would have been better)
  • Sunscreen
  • Plenty of food and snacks to keep your energy up (cereal bars, nuts, lunch, water)
  • Money for the ski lift and tips
  • We’d also recommend you rent two poles to help you up the volcano

3. How to choose the right tour company for you

Climbing Volcan Villarrica is not for the faint hearted, people have died climbing it and weather conditions can deteriorate rapidly. That is why we absolutely recommend you use a reputable tour company to get you safely up and down the volcano. A good company will have good guides, good equipment and most importantly know the volcano better than anyone else. They will know when conditions get so bad to turn back. So book a tour company. You can do this when you arrive in Pucon, but we also recommend you check the most recent reviews on here.

Looking for more Chile inspiration? Click here.


White Water Rafting: Pucon, Chile

Pucon is a great place for those who like adventure sports, and after climbing the Villarrica volcano nearby, we set our sights on the river rapids of Pucon! Check out our experience on the rapids below!

And some action shots from our time on the river! The anticipation/fear builds…

white water rafting chile

And then there’s no going back!

white water rafting chile

John and I doing all the work it seems…

white water rafting chile

In the heart of the action…

white water rafting chile

We conquered the category 4 rapids, but if you’re a beginner or just a bit scared of rafting you can also attempt the easier category 3 rapids down river!

Looking for more Chile inspiration? Click here.


Living With The Locals On Lake Titicaca Peru

We’re a couple who like to put our feet up at night.  Many a time we’ve sat down to a marathon DVD session of 24, Sopranos or West Wing and wondered why we were tired at work the next day (it became acceptable if we were in bed by 2am).

Luckily for us those programmes ended, otherwise we’d probably still be on the sofa now fitting ‘just one more’ in before bed.  As the old saying goes, ‘there’s no place like home’, the sentiment ringing true as we travel the world.

Motivation to travel has come pretty easily to us, to experience different cultures and places. But we’ve found that to truly understand and integrate into a country or city takes time and patience, and even then it’s hard to ingratiate with the local population. Having said that, my research has found that one of the best methods to integrate involves many beers, which isn’t sustainable according to my liver.

Lake Titicaca Peru

So what should you do if you’re short on time but want to meet some locals for the period of time you have? Well one option is to organise a homestay with a local family independently, or through an agent.

lake titicaca peru

As we were short of time, we decided to book a Peru homestay when we visited Lake Titicaca, and for us it was probably the best part of our trip (yes better than Machu Picchu!). We took a boat out onto Lake Titicaca, where we visited Taquile island for lunch and a chance to purchase some local fabrics and clothing. Whilst we enjoyed our couple of hours there, we were happy to move onto the main event of our time on Lake Titicaca, our Peru homestay experience!

lake titicaca peru

The Luquina community live on the peninsula of Chucuito, and we were greeted by someone from each host family for the evening. Our first impressions of our hosts were of warmth and friendship and we were glad to meet such welcoming people. It was also fascinating to see what years working the land in sometimes inhospitable places had done to their skin and complexion, with strong features and toughness clearly visible from all of our host families. Quite a difference to our pasty white complexions!

lake titicaca peru

After a welcome presentation, we were introduced to our host family for the evening and off we went for dinner. Well, that’s what Laura and I thought. It turned out to be an eventful evening for us, as we got engaged to be married and ended up practically wrestling a donkey. So much for a quiet nap before the evening festivities.

lake titicaca peru

Our homestay family were incredibly kind, and cooked the potatoes and pasta that we had brought as a gift of thanks for having us. It doesn’t sound like much of a gift we know, but the families are compensated for our visit and we were asked not bring sweets or money. We also brought a very cool Xylophone that we would hear being bashed that evening, although what our host parents thought of it is anyone’s guess!

lake titicaca peru
Our host family on Lake Titicaca

lake titicaca peru

As with all of our Peruvian food experiences, the food was incredible. We’re both big fans of soup, but this soup here really hit the spot (can you tell it was Laura’s second bowl?).

lake titicaca peruWe were lucky we could converse with our host family as I know enough Spanish to get by, which made the experience all the more rewarding. We learnt about the family, how they farmed the land for potatoes and traded with other islands and the mainland.

The conversation did get a bit tricky as I tried to explain (in Spanish) where we lived. I ended up confusing our host as I explained that:

a) we live in an apartment in a six storey building (he thought we lived in a six storey house)

b) the building has a number of apartments (he thought we lived with loads of families in a big house)

c) that we have a mortgage (I couldn’t quite explain in Spanish that we owned the property but we still owed money to a bank – I think he thought we were running away from a debt!).

 

Anyway, all my fault and the family probably think we are either living with hippies or millionaires.

lake titicaca peru

After dinner it was a quick change and then off out for a local dance. You know, that thing that requires rhythm? Anyway, Laura breezed through it as usual whilst I floundered about on the dance floor with a local girl leading the way. I was so bad another girl had to come and help the poor first girl who had gotten me as a dance partner. In the end they gave up, and we resorted to spinning around in a triangle shape until the song finished. Not too dissimilar to my dance moves in a normal club then.

lake titicaca peru

A couple of beers later and we’d loosened up and finally got the hang of some of the dances, all of us seemingly having a great time. Sadly, I did not look anywhere near as cool as these lads.

lake titicaca peru

And then it was to bed. Our own single beds and a mountain of blankets to insulate us from the freezing Peruvian night!

Our Peru homestay experience was one we will never forget. Although it was only one night, we got a glimpse of what life was like for these fantastic people on Lake Titicaca, and despite everything else we did in Peru, this was the time we enjoyed the most. For anyone travelling to a place short on time, who want to meet the locals, a homestay experience is an absolute must! Whilst you’re there, you can also visit Copacabana, Bolivia which is a great place to chill out for a few days if you are sick of travelling overland!

Have you experienced a homestay before? Any tips for others on how to organise it or where to go?

Looking for more Peru inspiration? Click here.


The Very Best Of Peruvian Food

When you think of Peruvian food, what springs to mind? We were delighted to experience a wide range of cuisine on our trip to Peru, from potato based dishes as we trekked the inca trail, to our experience of cooking in Arequipa, Peru. It was by far our favourite food in South America so far. This is an unashamedly ‘short of text’ post which will hopefully give you a ‘flavour’ of what Peruvian food is like! Now, enough with the terrible puns – let us know what you think in the comments!

Our Peruvian Food Experience

First up, have you ever heard of ‘Cuy’. Sounds cute doesn’t it? Well thats because it is! If you had a pet as a child, chances are you won’t want to look at our first photo! Anyone for guinea pig?

peruvian food

Notice the potato pillows and tin foil gloves, classy. The only way is to get stuck in!

peruvian food

You have to draw the line somewhere though…

peruvian food

I must admit this wasn’t the best experience we had with guinea pig, there were alternative methods of cooking which didn’t involve a) running over a guinea pig with a car, b) deep frying it and c) putting on tin foil gloves and shoes. We also got a taste of a more appetising approach to cuy which represented more about what Peruvian food is all about. Much better…

peruvian food

Another famous dish of Peru is ‘Trucha’ or trout, which we were lucky to taste different types of it.  Grilled…

peruvian food

And fried…

peruvian food

You can probably tell by now that we’re willing to try most foods, so why not follow up some guinea pig and trout with a beef heart? Yep, fancy a bit of beef heart skewer?

peruvian food

Its was pretty tasty to be honest, slightly acidic and a bit chewy but we would highly recommend it! What should we follow that up with? Well, I’m a big fan of meat and potatoes. Standard dish. But in Peru, they do something a little bit special with the meat and potatoes…

peruvian food

Believe your eyes! The meat stew is inside the potato, this got me very excited and it’s an absolute cracker. Our overall favourite meal deal in Peru is ‘El menu del dia’ and the easiest to order. For a cheap price, you get whatever is on the specials board that day, and usually comes as three courses, with a couple of options for each. This is by far the best way to eat in Peru, and means you’re getting great food for a great price! It will typically consist of soup for starter, and then either a chicken dish with rice and vegetables, or a meat dish with beans and rice. Either way a chance to fill up for next to nothing, just don’t forget to wash it down with an Inca Cola!

peruvian food

If you fancy something a bit more ‘exotic’ then again you’re in the right place! Peru is famous for its asian influences, and its Sashimi (raw tuna in oil and soy sauce) and Sushi options are incredible! We managed to fit in these options into our busy schedule of meat, potatoes and rice…

peruvian food

And for those that aren’t meat lovers, Laura had some cracking salads in Peru so don’t worry if meat isn’t your thing!

Now, how to wash this all down? Beer always works well, but we also fell in love with the ‘Pisco Sour’ cocktail and could never quite decide which to get. As always, there’s a solution if you look hard enough. Failing that, how about a pint of Chicha? A maize based drink which can be pretty potent. There’s also a fruit based one if you’re not too fussed about maize.

peruvian food

peruvian food

And to finish it all off? Well for all you dessert obsessives, coca leaf tea, churros and chocolate!

peruvian food

peruvian food

peruvian food

peruvian food

So there you have it, a quick tour of our culinary experience in Peru! What are you favourite dishes from Peru? Have you tried any of the above or would you want to? After being so excited about Peruvian food, we decided to try making it ourselves at a cooking school in Arequipa! Stand by for more ceviche!

Looking for more Peru inspiration? Click here.


Top 10 Photos of Peru

Peru is a country we fell in love with when we visited it, and it’s definitely one of our favourite countries in the world. Below are our favourite photos of Peru from our time spent there, from the Peru homestay at Lake Titicaca, to the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu!

peru homestay
Dancing girl at our Peru homestay on Lake Titicaca

peru homestay
Our home for the evening at our Peru homestay on Lake Titicaca

peru homestay
Taquile Island, Lake Titicaca

peru homestay
The Inca Trail

peru homestay
The floating Uros Islands, Lake Titicaca

peru homestay
The floating Uros Islands, Lake Titicaca

peru homestay
Puno to Cusco through the Altiplano region

peru homestay
The Inca Trail

peru homestay
Machu Picchu at sunrise

Interested in Peru? Why not read Peru for busy people or the story of our engagement at Wrestling a donkey and getting engaged!

Looking for more Peru inspiration? Click here.


The Amazon Jungle of Peru & Local Shamans

Breaking a part of your body is never a good thing, but its especially bad timing when you’re in the middle of the Amazon jungle in Peru! Luckily as I was to find out, help was on hand from a real life, local shaman!

Amazon jungle of peru

Amazon Jungle Of Peru

We had just travelled from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado in the Amazon Jungle, when my knee began to flare up again. I’d damaged it on the second day of the Inca Trail as we trekked down from Dead Woman’s Pass. It’s an almost constant downward trek for a couple of hours, and clearly my walking technique left a lot to be desired!

Amazon jungle peruIt was the beginning of something we had always want to do; visit and explore the Amazon in Peru! And here we were, landed and ready for action. Well, when I say landed, I mean landed at the second attempt. With a pretty short runway to hit, and jungle everywhere else, our pilot decided to pull out of the landing at the last moment to climb, circle and attempt again. Not the best start to our amazon jungle experience, but I suppose it could’ve been worse!

For the duration of our adventure in the Amazon, we were staying at a science research station called the Posada Amazonas Lodge, a Tambopata Research Centre. To get there we first had a to take a two hour bus journey from the airport to reach the river, where we boarded our boat for the forty five minute ride up river to our lodge.

 

 

 

Cruising along the river meant we got to see all sorts of wildlife, but what fascinated me the most were the other humans zooming about on overly ladden boats full of petrol and food, some seemingly redefining the laws of physics as they came perilously close to an early (piranha infested) bath.

Amazon jungle peru

After disembarking the boat, it was only a short walk to the lodge and our home for the next three days. We were really impressed with the lodge, it was basic but also very comfortable. What struck us immediately was how open the rooms and buildings were to the elements (and animals!). Our bedroom had three walls; replacing the fourth wall was an open vista looking out into the jungle, howler monkeys, spiders et al! Whilst initially surprised by this, we absolutely loved waking up in the morning as the sun rose as the howler monkeys stretched their vocal chords. We can confirm those monkeys really do live up to their name!

The lodge itself is well equipped, by no means luxurious but we were incredibly impressed with the quality of the building, food and service. It even has a bar which got us very excited after a week of trekking and camping! As usual, anywhere that provides hammocks gets the thumbs up from us, so you can imagine our reaction after finding one in our room!

Amazon jungle peru

Amazon jungle peru

The food at Posada Amazonas was great (and there was plenty of it) and the staff were eager to please. As a research station, we were also offered lectures on the history of the area, the fauna and animals local to the lodge and surrounding areas. Normally this is something we’d love, but unfortunately this came at a time when we were both exhausted, so we only just managed to concentrate through it.

Amazon jungle peru

The lodge offered a number of excursions: fishing, wildlife watching, a canopy view, a spider walk and a visit to a local tribe. The latter turning out to be very useful for me and my dodgy knee.

Amazon jungle peru

Our fishing trip was eventful, especially as we weren’t fishing for the usual suspects. Oh no, we were going after Piranhas! Yes those little sharp bundles of energy made famous by the movies. So we cast our fishing rods into the water, and waited. Fishing for Piranhas is a little different to normal fishing (well mostly the same but with more fear). After around half an hour of fishing, we finally got our Piranha. They get bad press, and from what we saw of them they are mean little guys! That mouth doesn’t look too dangerous, but trust us it devoured everything we put in front of it in seconds. Luckily for us no-one fell in, and we all made it back with all our fingers intact.

Amazon jungle peru

 

 

Amazon jungle peruThe Tambopata lodge is also a short walk from a canopy tower, which (once we reached the top) gave us unspoilt panoramic views of the Amazon jungle! It’s not for the faint hearted though, and does sway a fair bit once you reach the top. And thats before you contend with all the flies and mosquitos biting you!

On the second day, we visited a local tribe, learnt about their culture and how they dealt with ailments and pains in the jungle. My shaman experience was about to begin! The tribe grow a number of local herbs which we were able to sample. Some were to cure headaches, some for back pain. Not surprisingly, the only two I remember were the one which caused my mouth to go completely numb, and the herb that was apparently a natural substitute for Viagra!  I made a mistake with the first herb, as we were supposed to take little of the leaf, place it in the side of our mouths and feel a small amount of numbness. I didn’t listen properly and put the whole thing in my mouth, and then chewed. Within about thirty seconds my entire mouth was numb and I couldn’t speak!  What an error, Laura was happy though as it kept me quiet for a bit. With this experience fresh in my mind, when it came to tasting the natural Viagra, I was not going to make the same mistake! That would have been far more embarrassing, for very different reasons.

One of the guides explained to the shaman that I had hurt my knee, and asked if he could do anything for me. He kindly obliged, and began by holding his hands out around my knee and (I guess) sensing where the damage was and how to resolve it. After about thirty seconds, he suddenly grabbed my knee and started digging his thumbs into it quite strongly. At this point I was taken aback, was he going to do more damage than good? And then, after only 10 seconds or so he stopped, and left his thumb in the exact place where my knee was most painful. He took out a pen, dabbed a mark on it, and said he would fix it later.

Once we had completed the tour of exotic herbs, and the feeling in my mouth had returned, I was taken to his hut/surgery for the next instalment of my treatment.

Amazon jungle peru

 

This time it was little more normal to me, but only just. He began by whispering something that I couldn’t make out, and took out some oils he had from a jar on his shelf. After rubbing the oils in, he then took some leaves of some description and wrapped them around my knee. A bandage appeared to hold it all together. And I was cured! Well, apparently. I was to leave the dressing on for twenty four hours and then I would be cured. Magic.

The Posada Amazonas lodge is a fantastic destination for those who want to visit the Amazon jungle, and I can recommend a decent Shaman should you need one! Just watch out for the piranhas, oh and the spiders…

Amazon jungle peru

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Wrestling A Donkey & Getting Engaged On Lago Titicaca

“Nearly all the best things that came to me in life have been unexpected, unplanned by me.” Carl Sandburg

lago titicaca

Marriage proposals are meant to be special aren’t they? The man picks out the perfect ring, picks the perfect moment and delivers the perfect lines to his girl. She says yes, and all is well in the world. No pressure then, eh?

We got engaged in July 2010 whilst on a trip to Peru. I had decided to propose to Laura about six months earlier, and picked Peru as the destination of choice. I wasn’t too sure when or where in Peru, but I knew that Peru was the place to do it. We were booked into a Peru homestay on Lake Titicaca and I figured if there was a good moment I would do it then. And then it all came together. Almost deserted island, sun about to set, cliff edge not too far away. This was it!

Love On Lago Titicaca

I suggested to Laura that we take a walk down to the cliff edge to watch the sunset, she agreed and went to the toilet. This was my chance to get the ring out the bag. A short window of opportunity. Into the bag I went, delving to the bottom to un wrap the ring box from my coat in the bottom. I got it, brought the box out of the bag and the toilet door lock clicked ‘unlocked’. She was coming into the room! I immediately dropped the ring into the bag and zipped it up, no dice this time.

“Shall we go then” she said, unaware of my racing mind! A mumbled a “yeh ok”, and then the brainwave. Forget the camera Barry, you’ll need to come back for it! So off we went, 2 minutes into the walk I curse myself for forgetting and run back to get the camera (and ring). Result. Out comes the ring box, and then the next problem! I’m wearing walking trousers and a fleece, no matter which pocket I put the ring box in, its going to bulge and be obvious. It won’t fit into my camera bag. Where will I put it? Inevitably there was only one option, so down my underwear the ring box went. That’s right, I put the ring box in my underwear.

Off we trot to the cliff edge, Laura failing to notice me walking slightly like John Wayne. And from then on it was perfect, the sun was setting, we took some nice photos, the cliff edge was great. I got down onto one knee, pretending to take a photo, and then I hit out with the classic line….

“Well, while I’m down here…I’ve got something to ask you.”

And that was when the tears started. I blurted out what I needed to say, and waited for a response. And waited. Finally she said “of course!” and the job was done.

What happened after was not expected. Normally after you get engaged, you have a glass of champagne. Maybe a nice meal, call a few friends, you know something romantic. Not for us. As we, a newly engaged couple wandered back to our Luquina homestay, we were confronted with a scene I will never forget. The father of our family for the evening was trying to control a rowdy donkey. That’s right, a crazy donkey whilst his wife did her best to hold the rope which kept the donkey from running off.

lago titicaca

I was beckoned over to the father, and as I got closer I realised he wasn’t trying to control the donkey, he was trying to get the biggest sack of potatoes I had ever seen onto the donkeys back. I could see the donkey’s point of view in all of this, no way would I want that on my back. So only five minutes after proposing, I was essentially wrestling a donkey whilst the father tried to put a sack of potatoes on his back! Awkward.

Anyway, it turns out I am not a very good donkey wrestler, and I was quickly demoted to picking the sack up whilst he wrestled the donkey. Fifteen minutes later, mission accomplished! One annoyed donkey with a sack of potatoes on his back, job done I thought, and looked forward to a quick nap before dinner. How wrong I was, my work for the evening was only half done!

lago titicaca

Now I had to take the donkey up to the top of a hill, in the dark. Incredibly, we got to the top. Job done I thought! Again, wrong. Before I knew it, he had emptied the sack of potatoes onto the hillside, and we were down on all fours spreading the potatoes out. At this point it is dark, windy and Laura is wearing her brand new engagement ring whilst spreading potatoes out on a windy hillside in the middle of Peru. I’m an old romantic I know.

lago titicaca

After about 20 minutes, all the potatoes were spread out evenly on the hillside, and it was time to head back to our home for the evening. It was time for the final flurry for the donkey. Our father was insistent that Laura take a ride on his donkey (quite what the donkey thought of it is anyones guess). So to cap off a quite remarkably surreal evening, Laura was paraded down the hill on the back of a donkey. And so caps our engagement evening, what a start to our engagement!

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Peru For Busy People With G Adventures

“Do not lose hold of your dream or aspirations. For if you do, you may still exist but you have ceased to live”  Henry David Thoreau

Bucket lists are all the rage these days aren’t they? 100 things to do before you die, 50 places to see before 50, 5 things to do before you’re 5 (ok I made the last one up but the top 3 is surely sewn up with walking, talking and not wetting the bed). When we travelled to Peru to hike the Inca trail, we were in a group with ‘Don’, a 75 year old grandfather ticking off one of his bucket list tasks. He loved it, we loved him.

peru panorama review

Inevitably he got us thinking about this trip we are about to embark on. Would we have to wait another 45 years before we got to do our bucket list? Would we be around by then? That was a risk we weren’t willing to take. We were inspired by Timothy Ferris’s attitude in his best seller ‘The Four Hour Work Week’ where he talked about ignoring the deferred life plan of retirement when you reach retirement age, to setting up a series of ‘mini-retirements’ throughout our life. The first was a 7 week trip to Asia. The second a 4 week trip to Peru and North America.

We used our trip trip to Peru as a test case for a round the world trip. How would we get on? Were we really adventurers? How long would it take from getting home to wanting to go away again? Not long it turns out.

G Adventures Review: Peru

 

peru panorama review
The Inca Trail

We had an amazing time in Peru, and we took the easy option and booked a tour through G Adventures for 15 days. The tour took in many of the key things to do in Peru, including Lima, Puno, Lake Titicaka, Cusco, the Inca Trail, Machu Pichu and a couple of days in the Amazon jungle of Peru. We had a brilliant time with a great group of people and would highly recommend it!

Whilst we’re unlikely to book any organised tours on our year away (because we have time on our side), they are perfect for those people who have 2 to 4 weeks spare, and want to go on an action packed adventure. Highlights for us? Machu Picchu (obviously), Lake Titicaca and the Amazon. Honourable mention to Cusco for being very cool and relaxed.

We started in Lima, before jetting off to Puno for an overnight stay (and to acclimatise to the altitude). As luck wouldn’t have it, our room was on the top floor of a hotel which didn’t have a lift – nightmare. Even though the hotel was only three stories tall, we still had to take a break on the third flight of stairs giving us an eerie 40 year flash forward of things to come! After Puno, we set sail across Lake Titicaca, and visited the floating Uros Islands and a homestay. Two very different experiences. In all honesty we didn’t find the floating Uros Islands particularly interesting, it all seemed a little too touristy (a bit ironic coming from a couple on a tour I know) but we weren’t really impressed with it. We did take a boat tour whilst we were there which was interesting, but otherwise we left the place feeling disappointed and underwhelmed.

The homestay on the other hand was an incredible experience, and one will we never forget. This was a chance to experience real, authentic Peru and we weren’t disappointed. Our hosts were fantastic, didn’t speak a work of English and lived in relatively basic accommodation. We were asked to provide presents in the form of food (which the family would then cook for us) and toys for the local school. Our family were the perfect hosts, cooking up a fantastic meal of soup and potatoes, Peruvian food again impressing us.

peru panorama review

Aside from eating some of the best soup ever created, we again couldn’t find a hat to fit my head. This was the first time I had five women literally running around a market trying to find a hat that would fit my head…”no no no, mas grande, mas grande!” was all I could hear as the market chuckled at the size of my skull.

And then onto the embarrassing part, being dressed in traditional Peruvian clothing and taken to the school where we would perform traditional Peruvian dancing! Now a couple of things, one I cant dance. I have no natural rhythm. Secondly, I have major issues finding hats that fit, so trying to perch a small Peruvian hat onto my head made me look more like a gringo than I could ever imagine!

After that it was off to Cusco, the Inca Trail and of course, Machu Picchu. Did we get the postcard photo? Of course we did!

Peru was brilliant and highly recommended! It’s somewhere we will continue to return as it offers so much for one country! As Don taught us in Peru, its never too late to do these things. It’s also never too early.

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