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Bolivia Brazil Chile Itineraries Monthly Round-Up Peru South America

Three Months on the Road in South America – Brazil, Bolivia, Chile & Peru

November 13, 2017

Another month in South America is behind us and for the life of me, I don’t know where the time’s going!

As we have in previous months, this post is designed to give you a summary of our recent adventures and help those of you considering a similar trip plan your route and budget.

We’re a bit late on getting this month out so let’s not mess around – here goes!

If this is the first monthly round-up you’ve read, you may like to check out itinerary and costings for the first and second month we spend in South America first.

Ilha Grande, Brazil

Not much more than a stone’s throw from Rio, Ilha Grande is an island lying just off the coast.  Boasting gorgeous beaches (though due to the lack of beautiful sunshine, we didn’t manage to see them at their best), it’s a great option for some R&R.

Accommodation:  3 nights in a 6-bed dorm at Hostel Refugio @ BLR45 each/night (USD13.70/NZD19.80).  A good hostel with a substantial breakfast included.  A little walk out of town but as the centre is so small, it really isn’t far from the action.

Activities:  We booked a day trip island hopping out to Paradise Island and back along Ilha Grande through Equipe Athos (and were put on a boat with Tubarão Tour).  We were promised snorkelling gear and when it was withheld from us and we were instead greeted by a fairly aggressive skipper, it’s fair to say the day soured.  Most of the spots we visited were over-crowded and as snorkelling was the main aim of our day, it’s fair to say it was a pretty big disappointment – at least we had our friends with us to make the day a good one!

Onwards travel to Paraty:  We booked a private transfer for BRL50 each (USD15.35/NZD22.10) whilst on the boat heading over to Ilha Grande (with Easy Transfer).  In retrospect, we could have arranged our own transfer ourselves but with absolutely no Portuguese and limited time, we were happy with our decision.

Paraty, Brazil

Our own private paradise, we stayed just out of the colonial centre of Paraty in a secluded bay, accessible only by boat.

Though we visited both Ilha Grande and Paraty, in our opinion one would generally be sufficient.  We personally liked the laidback nature of Paraty and would pick it as our preference between the two spots.

Accommodation:  2 nights in a private room at Happy Hammock Eco Guesthouse (dorms are also available).  Transfers in and out of the guesthouse are organised by Patrick and the team – contact them for further details.  Happy Hammock was a real highlight of our time in Brazil!

Activities:  From the guesthouse, we popped out on a number of free excursions – a hike to the neighbouring beach for lunch, swimming, snorkelling at night with bioluminescent plankton (wow!) and a day trip to the historical centre of Paraty.  Not to mention all that hammock time!

Onwards travel to La Paz:  Public night bus from Paraty to Sao Paulo on Reunidas Paulista (BRL92.60/USD28.25/NZD40.80 each) and then a flight from Sao Paulo to La Paz on Boliviana de Aviacion (BRL821/USD250.45/NZD361.85 each).

La Paz, Bolivia

We’d heard mixed things about La Paz – it seems it’s a place people love or hate.

Fortunately, we loved it!  It’s a little grimy and a little mad but it’s got a whole lot of character and a neat buzz about it.

Accommodation:  3 nights at House Wonderful @ BOB60 (USD8.30/NZD12) each/night.  The reviews online for this hostel were fantastic but unfortunately, reality didn’t match for us – when we returned to La Paz we found a different (and much better) place to stay so couldn’t really recommend a stay at Hostel Wonderful.

Activities:

Death Road Biking

The main reason for our visit to La Paz, the Death Road did not disappoint!  Hurtling down what used to be the most dangerous road in the world is not for the faint of heart but those that give it a go are rewarded with a tremendous sense of achievement.  We’re yet to meet anyone who’s done it and didn’t love it!  We rode with Barracuda and unreservedly recommend them.  BOB570 each (USD82.50/NZD119.15).

Red Cap Walking Tour

Walking tours can be a great way to help find your feet in a new city and with Bolivia’s intriguing political history, we decided to explore the city with the help of a local.  Red Cap are professional and affordable and do a great job of showing off the diversity of this unique city.  BOB20 each (USD3/NZD4.30) plus a tip (and please do remember to tip, otherwise the guides don’t get paid).

Onwards travel to Uyuni:  We’d heard horror stories about the night buses down the line so jumped at the opportunity to pick up reasonably priced flights.  Boliviana de Aviación (BOA) @ BOB536 each (USD77.55/NZD112).

Uyuni (& the Salt Flats), Bolivia

The jumping-off point to the world-renowned Bolivian Salt Flats, Uyuni doesn’t offer a great deal to travellers but its surrounding area certainly does.  Let me put it this way, nobody ventures down to Uyuni for the town itself.

Accommodation:  1 night in a triple room at La Rocka @ BOB50 each/night (USD7.20/NZD10.40).  The rooms here were comfortable but the toilets weren’t kept particularly clean – more a reflection of the few other guests staying there but not very pleasant all the same.  For the price though, we were happy enough.

Activites:  We booked a 3-night/4-day tour of the Salt Flats with Jukil de los Andes and were very happy with our decision. The addition of an additional night (most people seem to book 2n/3d) meant we got a lot more time on the Salt Flats and our volcano climb provided us with the most amazing views out over the flats.  Salt flats, train graveyards, cactus islands, volcanoes, lagoons, flamingos galore and more – these tours are diverse and so, so much fun.

Onwards travel to San Pedro:  The tour dropped us at the border between Bolivia and Chile and included a mini-van transfer into the city at no additional charge.

Arica, Chile

A quick stop on our way further north, Arica is a lovely seaside city.  Their weather is nice, the people are friendly and though we didn’t spend much time exploring, we did get a good feeling from the town.

Accommodation: 1 nights in a private room at Residencial Tres Soles @ ARS202.50 each/night (USD11.60/NZD16.40)

Onwards travel to La Paz:  Local bus @ CLP8,000 each (USD12.65/NZD18.25) including a delicious lunch – the first proper lunch we’ve been served on a bus (and still, the only one to date!)

La Paz, Bolivia

Our second visit to La Paz, this time we weren’t there to tick off activities but to recharge our batteries and soak up the city.  Our newfound hostel was a big improvement on the last one so we’d definitely recommend staying there.

Accommodation:  2 nights at Landscape – International B&B in a private double room @ BOB67.37 each/night (USD9.75/NZD14)

Activites:  We caught the red cablecar up to the El Alto markets (BOB3 per person/per ride) and though it was a way to fill the time, it really didn’t compare to the Chichi Markets in Guatemala.  The markets are worth a visit if you’ve got time on your hands but, to be honest, we preferred the tourist markets in the middle of town… that is unless you’re in the market for car parts, badly-made knock-off clothing and general household supplies!

Onwards travel to CopacabanaBolivia Hop.  This is a great service provided for travellers – for a set price, they’ll generally pick you up from your accommodation and will drop you at your next home-away-from-home.  We picked up the full pass which includes our transport all the way from La Paz, Bolivia through to Lima, Peru (with the exception of one side trip up to the Amazon).

Copacabana, Bolivia

A cute little lakeside town, Copacabana doesn’t offer a heck of a lot more than relaxation but it does it well.  It’s a nice place to spend a night or two and due to its size, it’s super easy to get around by foot.

Accommodation:  1 night in a private room at Hostal 6 de Agosto @ BRL40 each/night (USD5.75/NZD8.30).  Basic accommodation but good value for the price – we had a private bathroom with warm(ish) water and relatively comfortable beds – be sure to take singles for everyone in your group though as the double beds weren’t as good.

ActivitesAfternoon trip to Isla del Sol.  We caught the Bolivia Hop ferry over to what was known as the birthplace of the sun during Inca times.  The island itself was beautiful but the one hike from our dropoff point to that of collection was relatively quick – if you’re interested in seeing the island properly, we’d probably suggest spending a night there.  BOB70 (USD10.15/NZD14.65)

Onwards travel to Puno:  Bolivia Hop – they collected us from the big white anchor statue on the lakefront.

Puno, Peru

Puno was so much bigger than we’d expected!  It’s not a particularly memorable city but did have a busy main street serving up reasonable food (a ‘tourist menu’ will get you three courses for approximately PEN20 (USD6.15/NZD8.90) and it serves its purpose well, acting as the jumping off point to the floating islands.

Accommodation:  1 night in a private room at Suite Independencia @ PEN30 each/night (USD9.25/NZD13.35).  This was a special price availed through our Bolivia Hop passes.

ActivitesAfternoon visit to Uros.  Here we visited locals living as they have for generations (more or less) on floating islands made of reeds.  I’m not entirely sure what I made of the experience to be honest – although the islands themselves were intriguing and we snapped some lovely photos we did feel very much like we were only welcome on the island if we spent up large.  As with any experience like this, I would have much more interest in interacting with the locals than simply being seen as an ATM.  Would I recommend others to visit?  Probably, as I do think I’d have been disappointed if I’d not experienced the community for myself, but I’m not 100% sold on the experience.  We’ll let you make up your own mind.  PEN35 each (USD10.80/NZD15.60).

Onwards travel to Cusco:  Good ol’ Bolivia Hop, by way of an overnight bus.  Once we arrived into Cusco, they organised taxis to take us to our individual hostels.

Cusco, Peru

The cultural capital of Peru, Cusco offers travellers so much – delicious food, unique cultural sites, unbeatable trekking and lots of adventure – it’s hard to tear yourself away!

Accommodation:  2 nights in a private room at Magic Cusco Hostel, followed by a break to visit Machu Picchu and another night upon our return.  PEN20 each/night (USD6.15/NZD8.90).  I returned from Machu Picchu unwell and Esperanza very kindly let me sleep throughout the day at no extra charge.  She doesn’t speak a great deal of English but was very patient with us and incredibly kind.  Though the hostel’s a little way out of town, Uber is cheap and it’s worth staying out of the city to experience her hospitality (and to get a real duvet – oh my goodness!)

Activities:

Machu Picchu

Though there are plenty of reasons to visit Cusco, Machu Picchu really is the grand-daddy of them all.  This incredible site reveals more and more of its secrets each year but so much is still unknown.

There are numerous ways of getting to this historic site, from a comfy train to challenging, multi-day treks.  We opted for something in the middle – what we would consider the most exciting way to get to Machu Picchu – the Inca Jungle Trek.

We booked through Peru Andean Hop where our fee of USD240 each (PEN778/NZD348.45) included mountain biking, rafting, ziplining, accommodation for three nights, guides, food, transfers, entrance to Machu Picchu (along with a guided tour of the site) and the train back.

After biking, rafting, zip-lining and hiking our way to Machu Picchu (part of it along the original Inca Trail) we opted to catch the bus up to Machu Picchu (lining up from 3.30am – ouch!) for USD12 each.  It was a fairly costly bus ride but considering we arrived at the top feeling fresh and in time to make our 6.10am tour, it was well worth it.  At the end of our visit, we hiked our way back down the steps and our choice was totally reaffirmed – there’s no way I would have made it up all those steps at 5am!

With a new timing system recently introduced, we picked up some helpful tips (and almost came undone in the process) – stay tuned for our Machu Picchu post where we’ll fill you in on everything you need to know.

Onwards travel to Puerto Maldonado (the Amazon):  After returning to Cusco and spending a night recuperating, we caught a night bus (the best salon cama we’ve experienced so far!) with Excluciva @ PEN50 each (USD15.40/NZD22.25).

Lessons Learnt on the Road

  • Toilet paper is not a given.  We’ve found hostels and guesthouses in the cities supply toilet paper but as soon as you get out of a city, it’s not guaranteed.  We’ve always travelled with a little toilet paper as a backup but here it is sometimes an absolute necessity.
  • Hot showers in Bolivia aren’t always so hot.  Most showers in Bolivia employ a little electric water heater right on the shower-head.  Aside from the risk of electrocution, they’re unreliable at the best of times.
  • You do get used to putting your toilet paper in the bin!  I didn’t think it would happen, but it kind of has.
  • Bouncing around different currencies is difficult.  Even as I write this, I find it hard to convert between Soles and Bolivianos – thank goodness for XE.
  • We can afford to eat out again!  Bolivia and Peru are both significantly cheaper than our original destinations (Chile, Argentina and Brazil) so we can finally afford to eat out.  A good sized meal can cost as little as PEN8-12 each (USD2.45-3.70) if you look in the right places and even less in Bolivia.  We had initially planned on cooking for ourselves sometimes but we’ve actually found it really difficult to source fresh meat here so it’s not happening at this stage.

I remember when Machu Picchu felt like a distant thought on our Latin American journey so to not only have visited but to have it behind us now feels totally surreal.  We have lots more excitement on the horizon though with some more amazing hikes in Peru lined up and the most amazing cruise through the Galapagos.

Sometimes it’s hard not to pinch ourselves!

Check out our Recent Posts

EcoCamp Patagonia – Reviewing Torres del Paine’s Bucket-List Glamping

Pedra de Gavea – Just How Difficult Is Rio’s Highest Hike?

Salar de Uyuni Tour, Day 1 – So Much More than a Salt Flat

The Complete Guide to Paraty, Brazil – Paradise is Only a Bus Ride from Rio!

Our Previous Months on the Road

A Month on the Road in South America – Chile and Argentina

Two Months on the Road in South America – Chile, Argentina & Brazil


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Your guide to South America - Brazil, Bolivia, Chile & Peru. Accommodation, transport, activities and costings for everything from Machu Picchu to the Death Road. The Salt Flats to the beaches of Brazil. Your guide to South America - Brazil, Bolivia, Chile & Peru. Accommodation, transport, activities and costings for everything from Machu Picchu to the Death Road. The Salt Flats to the beaches of Brazil.


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Adventure Brazil Rio de Janeiro South America

Pedra de Gavea – Just How Difficult Is Rio’s Highest Hike?

October 26, 2017

Just how challenging is the hike to the summit of Pedra de Gavea? On a humid summers day in Rio de Janeiro, we found out firsthand.

By now you’d think we were slowly adjusting to all the hiking – we’ve certainly done our fair share of challenging walks in South America. Between making it through the majority of the W-Trek and up the Fitz Roy, our hiking boots and hiking poles have well and truly been broken in.

Trekking in such chilly conditions didn’t prepare us for what was waiting in Brazil’s most vibrant and misunderstood city though – the world’s biggest monolith, standing tall amid the tropical low-laying clouds was to provide an entirely different challenge for us.

Dressed only in t-shirts and shorts/sports leggings, this hike instantly felt different from our Patagonian treks.

For a start, we caught the metro to the base of the walk (such an easy access point to the trails in Torres del Paine would be unimaginable) and the many, many layers of warm clothes were suddenly a distant memory.   When once we stood shivering as we caught our breath, we now wiped sweat from our brows and guzzled water in a bid to reintroduce some much-needed fluids into our systems.

How Difficult is the Hike to Rio’s Tallest Vantage Point?

I can’t lie – it’s not an easy hike.

The weather makes it a challenge.  The gradient and never-ending trudge upwards makes it difficult.  And that’s not even to mention the free-climbing!

After hiking uphill for a solid few hours, travellers are greeted with what feels like an almost-vertical rock wall.  Let’s face it, it probably wasn’t that extreme but that’s certainly how it felt at the time!  Ropes and ladder rungs help hikers navigate further upwards and before long, they’re greeted by a boulder scramble, edging ever closer to the summit.

Nearing the summit, hikers are rewarded with the most amazing views out over Rio de Janeiro – views that are so good that the hard work and suffering is very quickly forgotten!

From there, there’s one last bout of free-climbing – approximately 35 metres, followed by the final hike to the top.

With aching legs and gusty winds (not to mention, a thunderstorm brewing in the distance), Nathan and I decided to set up camp on the lookout and let our friend Becky continue without us.  It was a decision we’d later come to regret but with clouds descending, we thought she’d have more luck making it to the top without us and of course, we were more than happy with the views we’d been left with.

Understandably, our regret set in the moment we saw Becky’s photos – seriously, look at that view!!

What goes up must come down again and so we began our slow, boulder-climbing, ladder-grabbing descent back to Rio.

What to Take on a Hike up Pedra de Gavea

  • Hiking poles for the trip back down (if you have dodgy knees like me or just need an extra boost)
  • Plenty of water – three litres was the recommendation and I drank most of it easily
  • Good quality food – both lunch and snacks to keep you going
  • Shoes with good grip – hiking boots if possible which also offer ankle support
  • Layers – during the hike itself we didn’t need much in the way of clothes but sitting up the top, the wind picked up and the rain started to fall so our fleeces were put to good use.

We had an amazing time hiking up Pedra de Gavea and though it was a challenge, it was well worth it.  The views were amazing, the jungle was beautiful and we even spotted a group of monkeys!

Though this hike wasn’t originally on our radar, I’m so pleased we added it into the equation and would certainly encourage others travelling to Brazil to do the same.


If you’d like to book an organised tour up to the summit of Pedra de Gavea, we recommend joining Alexis at Discovery Hostel.  He was an amazing guide, taking care of us every step of the way. 

Though hikers are able to summit alone, it’s not recommended unless you have a fair amount of climbing experience.


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Rio de Janeiro is home to an amazing hike with incredible views. It's challenging, including free-climbing but worth every step. One for your bucket list next time you're in Brazil. Rio de Janeiro is home to an amazing hike with incredible views. It's challenging, including free-climbing but worth every step. One for your bucket list next time you're in Brazil.

Thank you to the lovely Becky for supplying her photo at the summit of Pedra de Gavea and for being such fabulous company throughout the hike.

Accommodation Brazil Eco Tourism Paraty South America

The Complete Guide to Paraty, Brazil – Paradise is Only a Bus Ride from Rio!

October 24, 2017

Perched on the shore of Ponta Grossa, skimming its own privately-accessed beach, Happy Hammock is the perfect spot to forget all of your worries. Here, we spent two nights (which wasn’t nearly enough) checking out what Paraty has to offer and falling asleep in their name-sake hammocks…

An easy 25-minute boat ride from the colonial town of Paraty, Happy Hammock is a world away from the hustle and bustle of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, the two monstrous cities this sleepy town sits in the middle of.

With the ever-constant waves lapping at the shore and the distant drone of boats passing by, it’s not difficult to slip into a fabulous state of relaxation. This place is made for it!

What to do in Paraty/Ponta Grossa

With Happy Hammock as a base, guests easily avoid the trappings of local hotspots, instead having the best of Paraty practically to themselves.

We’re not ones to sit back and do nothing on holiday though and being in such a secluded spot, we had wondered if there would be enough for us to do.  Of course, we needn’t had worry – you can do as much or as little as you like there!

Swim with Bioluminescent Plankton

We’d first heard about this natural phenomena in Puerto Rico but due to the full moon during our visit (light pollution makes them much harder to spot) and the inability to actually swim with them there, we decided against paying to join a tour. It was a right decision but something I’ve wanted to do ever since.

Imagine our excitement when we found out that, directly off the dock, visitors to this Paraty guesthouse are treated to an underwater bioluminescent light show. Not only is it free but this natural marvel is literally in stumbling distance!

With someone standing guard and water that felt warmer than the air, we couldn’t resist jumping in two nights in a row. Though we were initially hesitant, all of our reservations slipped away once we put our goggled-heads in the water.

With every kick of our feet and wave of our hands, countless tiny fluorescent dots swirled around us in the darkness.

If there’s one reason you visit this region, make sure it’s this!

Wander the Historical Centre of Paraty

With its cobbled streets and historic churches, a visit to Paraty is a little like taking a step back in time. Built by the Portuguese to flood intentionally once a month (in a bid to clear out the sewerage that would have once been pushed out onto the road), the town’s whitewashed buildings and colourful front doors make for a great afternoon out.

Long gone are the garbage problems but the charm of the historical centre remains.

Hike Across to Praia Vermelha

An easy 30-minute hike from Ponta Grossa will put you out on the shores of Praia Vermelha, a pristine white-sand beach that other tourists pay top-dollar to visit on day cruises. Instead, plan to arrive before 2.30pm and you’ll have the beach practically to yourselves before the makeshift pirateships arrive.

There’s a lovely spot for lunch and though it is expensive, the servings are generous and the food tasty – a portion of fresh battered fish and a root-vegetable chips, each suggested for two, very happily went around three of us.

Relax in Paradise

With hammocks in ready supply and the sound of the waves crashing below, it’s hard to drag yourself away from the comfort of the front deck. Hummingbirds flit around as guests curl up with a good book or one of the National Geographics sitting inside.

It’s fair to say, life by the bay is pretty good.

Where to Stay in Paraty

Though I doubt it needs to be said at this stage, the Happy Hammock is hands-down the place to stay on the coast.

In some ways, this eco guesthouse is relatively simple. The showers don’t always run particularly warm (as they’re at the mercy of solar-heating, as you’d expect) and you won’t find a bedside lamp in sight. Wifi is nonexistent and and the closest accessible shop is back in town.

Honestly though, none of this is an issue – the exact opposite in fact. Happy Hammock absolutely shines in its simplicity and with Patrick at the helm, nothing is a problem.

Home cooked meals are a given and are adapted to suit the needs of his guests. The look of fear in my eyes when we were told a vegetarian meal was coming up that evening resulted in the addition of chicken for me (how sweet is that!) and when our friend Becky explained that she had a few allergies, he was careful to exclude those foods from our meals.

Snorkelling gear and a standup paddle board is available for use at no charge and the boat in and out of town is so affordable that making a trip is really isn’t a problem – why you’d want to leave is beyond me though!

If you’re looking for an international WiFi device, we highly recommend the SkyRoam. With it, you can connect up to five devices at a time and get reliable WiFi practically anywhere you can get cellphone reception, all at a low daily rate… and yes, it works at the guesthouse.

Getting to Paraty

From Rio

Easy Transfer offers reliable and surprisingly affordable transfers direct to Paraty.  Though it’s possible to get on a local bus, the transfers weren’t much more expensive and it meant we didn’t have to make our way through Rio with all of our bags.

From Ilha Grande

Again, private transfers are offered by Easy Transfer and though we found out that it would be a little cheaper to do it ourselves (after we’d purchased our ticket), we wouldn’t have saved much money.

From Sao Paulo

We made this journey in reverse (flying out of Sao Paulo) but doing so was simple. To get to Paraty from the city simply book yourself a seat on a local bus (they only offer one class but they’re comfortable enough).  We travelled from Paraty to Sao Paulo by public overnight but and then purchased a ticket for the airport bus once we reached the Sao Paulo bus terminal.  The airport bus cost practically as much as our longer journey but it got us to the airport quickly and safely.

Getting from Paraty to Ponta Grossa

Once you’re in the township, Patrick will have organised a private transfer for you on his boat. Keep an eye out for the little white boat and his skipper – he’ll make sure you, along with all your luggage, get to the guesthouse safely.  Should you wish to pop back and forth, the boat is available around the clock, with a slight surcharge for journeys made after 7pm.

Don’t Make Rio & Iguazu Your Only Stops in Brazil!

When our lovely Maria returned from Brazil singing the praises of Happy Hammock and Paraty, I was instantly convinced that this little slice of paradise deserved a spot on our travel wishlist.

Having now visited ourselves, there’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that this is one of the most relaxing places we’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting.

The food, the company, the outlook – it’s all perfect.

Sure, the water in the showers doesn’t run piping hot (it is after all warmed via solar panels) and getting to the shops to pick up forgotten items isn’t the easiest of things to do, but there’s magic in its seclusion.

Though we loved Rio and Iguazu and enjoyed Ilha Grande, we wholeheartedly believe that no trip to Brazil is complete without a visit to Paraty.

Happy Hammock, Paraty; giving the happiest place on earth a run for its money since 2015.


Love the look of Paraty?  Save one of these pins so others can find this guide too!

Not far from Rio de Janeiro, Paraty is Brazil's best-kept vacation secret.  This guide shares where to stay, what to do and what to expect.  Snorkelling with bioluminescent plankton, standup paddleboarding and plenty of relaxation, this colonial town is one you don't want to miss whilst in South America. Not far from Rio de Janeiro, Paraty is Brazil's best-kept vacation secret.  This guide shares where to stay, what to do and what to expect.  Snorkelling with bioluminescent plankton, standup paddleboarding and plenty of relaxation, this colonial town is one you don't want to miss whilst in South America.


Thank you to Patrick at Happy Hammock for hosting us for the purpose of this review.  As always, all thoughts are 100% our own.

Argentina Back Packing Brazil Chile Monthly Round-Up Patagonia South America

Two Months on the Road in South America – Chile, Argentina & Brazil

October 9, 2017

Another month has been and gone here in South America and with lots of new experiences under our belts, it’s hard to imagine wanting to be anywhere else.

If you haven’t been following our travels, here’s a run-down on our route, key expenses and highlights of the last month or so…

You’ll find our previous months’ itinerary and costings here too.

Puerto Varas, Chile

With a few days to spare, we caught up on some work at our hostel and purchased the last few items we needed for Patagonia. Puerto Varas was a pretty little town but didn’t hold a torch to Bariloche or Pucon.  With that said, Puerto Montt held even less appeal for us and really was just a place to visit a mall (to buy hiking poles) and to fly out of – pleasant enough but not somewhere we’d recommend staying.

Accommodation:  2 nights in a 5-bed dorm at Margouya Patagonia Outdoor @ CLP7,600 each/night (USD12/NZD17).

Onwards travel to Puerto Natales:  Public bus from Puerto Varas to Puerto Montt and then taxi to the airport (a bus transfer is available but we ran out of time). Flight from Puerto Montt to Punta Arenas with Sky Airlines (CLP24,624 /USD39.43/NZD55.25 each) and then bus to Puerto Natales (CLP7,000/USD11.20/NZD15.70 each)

Puerto Natales, Chile

The jumping-off point for Torres del Paine, Puerto Natales is a quaint little town, buzzing about with hikers and adventure seekers.  There’s not a lot to do in the township itself beyond stocking up with gear and visiting the few restaurants (Mesita Grande is a real winner for pizza and pasta) but it’s a nice place to relax in between hikes.

Accommodation:  Whilst in town we stayed with ChileTour Patagonia in their guesthouse – this is only available to their trekking clients and includes home cooked meals – what a treat not having to cook!

Activities: Alongside our visit to the nearby Torres del Paine, we also went on a horse trek through the rugged Patagonian landscape –  something we’d definitely recommend on a still day.

Onwards travel to Torres del Paine:  Private transfer by ChileTour into the park.

Torres del Paine, Chilean Patagonia

Our first South American bucket-list adventure, Torres del Paine was everything we hoped for and more!  Though it was at times a challenge (aching muscles, sore feet and sub-zero temperatures) the hiking was one of the most rewarding things we’ve ever done in scenery that was, without doubt, the most gorgeous we’ve ever seen.

Accommodation:  1 night camping at Camp Italiano (free but be sure to reserve your spot), 1 night full-board in Refugio Paine Grande (organised by ChileTour Patagonia) and 3 nights at EcoCamp (pricing depends on the package selected)

Activities:

Onwards travel to El Calafate:  Though EcoCamp can organise transfers directly to El Calafate, we returned to Puerto Natales in their van and then caught a shuttle and bus a few days later.

El Calafate, Argentian Patagonia

Home to one of the biggest glaciers in the world, we really went back and forth as to whether it was worth visiting El Calafate. In the end, we did and it was the best decision we could have made! Not only was the Perito Moreno glacier one of the most impressive natural sights we’ve ever witnessed but the township was abuzz with energy and a great little stop on the way north.

Accommodation:  1 night before visiting El Chalten and 1 following at America del Sur Hostel in a 6-bed dorm @ ARS185 each/night (USD10.60/NZD15).

Activites:  A visit to the Perito Moreno glacier which cost ARS450 in return transport (through Cal Tur) and ARS500 for entrance into the park itself.  Once you’re in, there are a variety of boardwalks that offer incredible views out over the monstrous glacier.

Though you can pay extra to ride a boat near the base of the glacier we decided against it (they don’t get particularly close due to the danger of icefall) and didn’t regret the decision – even the boardwalks are amazing!

Visitors are also able to walk on the glacier itself but be prepared, the ‘big walk’ will set you back big time at a whopping ARS6,200 each (USD356/NZD501.60).  There is a smaller ‘minitrek’ available but it still costs ARS3,600 (USD206.70/NZD291.30) and according to reviews, really doesn’t include any time on the actual glacier.

Our friend Backpacking Becky did the larger of the two and said it was incredible but our budget just didn’t extend that far so we were left listening to her stories!

Onwards travel to El Chalten:  Bus with Cal Tur ARS900 each (USD51.50/NZD72.90 – return included back to El Calafate)

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Buenos Aires was a bit of a surprise for us. Though we expected to absolutely fall in love with Argentina’s capital, it just didn’t happen for us. For what felt like months we heard bloggers and fellow travellers rave about BA but when we left, we felt a little underwhelmed by the city if I’m being honest (and I always am!)

Though the city felt much safer than we half expected and we had some lovely days out, for the most part, we weren’t really inspired to explore.

What did you think of Buenos Aires? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

Top Tip:  We found taxi drivers in Buenos Aires to be less honest than we’d hoped for.  When leaving the airport (for a relatively short ride), three drivers in a row refused to put their meters on and attempted to charge us what we later realised was over three times the standard price!  Instead of hailing a cab from the airport, we suggest you book ahead with a company like Kiwitaxi transfers in Argentina, so you can not only be assured of a safe ride, but you’re able to ensure a fair price is locked in before you set off.

Accommodation: 2 nights in a 4-bed dorm at America del Sur Hostel Buenos Aires @ ARS202.50 each/night (USD11.60/NZD16.40)

3 nights in a three-bed private room at Circus Hotel & Hostel @ ARS238.50 each/night (USD13.65/NZD19.30)

Activites:  San Telmo Markets and lots of wandering around.  Unfortunately, the rain put a stop to most of our plans but we were quite happy just to take it easy.

Onwards travel to Iguazu:  Flight with Andes from AEP (Aeroparque Jorge Newbery) to IGR (Cataratas del Iguazú/Mayor Carlos Eduardo Krause Airport) @ ARS2115 each (USD121.25/NZD171.40)

 

Iguazu

Puerto Iguazu, Argentina

Puerto Iguazu, Argentina, services the most popular side of the Iguazu Falls.  There you’ll find three main routes around the falls, each with significantly different views – all are worth checking out!

Accommodation:  2 nights at Casa Tres Fronteras in a private double room @ ARS209 each/night (USD12/NZD17)

Activites:  ARS500 entrance to Iguazu Falls (Argentinian side) and ARS550 for the boat ride under the falls.

Onwards travel to Foz do Iguaçu:  Public bus @ ARS25 each (USD1.45/NZD2)

Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil

Though we’d planned on accessing the Brazilian side of the Iguazu Falls (which apparently offer amazing views out over the entire falls area), we had such a great time on the Argentinian side that we spent the day relaxing and saved our pennies instead.

We’d also planned on walking over to Paraguay but didn’t quite make it – go figure.  If only we’d read this food guide ahead of time, we’d have made a different decision!

Accommodation:  1 night at Casa Celia Wernke in a private double room @ BRL34.70 each (USD11/NZD15.50)

Onwards travel to Rio de Janeiro:  Flights with Azul (IGU to VCP and VCP to SDU) @ BRL394 each (USD124.80, NZD176.45)

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

With a little trepidation, we only booked three nights in Rio from the get-go.  We couldn’t have been more wrong though!  We absolutely fell in love with the city – vibrant, exciting and surprisingly safe (at least, so we found), we had an absolute blast.

Accommodation:  5 nights in a 6-bed dorm at Discovery Hostel @ BRL45 each/night (USD14.20/NZD20)

Activites:

  • Ipanema – Head out for a surf or do as we did and watch the sunset from atop the rocks at the Copacabana end of the beach.
  • Copacabana – An absolute icon, here an umbrella will only set you back BRL5 for a day and beach chairs BRL10 each, so get comfy and enjoy the beach.  On the days we visited the waves were strongest on the left side of the beach so we’d suggest heading right towards Ipanema.
  • Christ the Redeemer – For only BRL61 each, guests can catch official shuttle vans up to the top of this Wonder of the World and gain entry for as long as they wish.  It’s currently not safe to walk to the summit so this really is the most reliable and safest way to see Christ the Redeemer up close.  The views are amazing and it’s well worth the trip up.
  • Museum of Tomorrow – Free of charge on Tuesdays this intriguing museum includes a great range of digital artefacts and manages to be both interesting and thought-provoking.  This was a great way to spend a quiet morning in Rio.
  • Lapa Steps – A perpetual favourite amongst tourists, the Lapa Steps are beautiful.  Go hunting for a tile from your home country and see what you can spot.  We found three from New Zealand!
  • Parque das Ruínas – Beautiful views out over the city, an easy walk from the neighbourhood of Santa Teresa (and it’s free)
  • National Historical Museum – Not quite as engaging as the Museum of Tomorrow, the National Historical Museum is still home to a range of interesting Brazilian artefacts.  It wouldn’t be top of my list for a short stay but if you’re there for longer, it’s worth seeing.
  • Olympic Mural – Vibrant art in what used to be one of the rundown parts of the city.
  • Pedra da Gávea – A challenging but rewarding hike that includes a degree of free-climbing.  It’s a full day-trip so be sure to equip yourself with everything you need – in particular, sturdy shoes and 3L of water per person.

Onwards travel to Ilha Grande:  BRL95 each (USD30/NZD42.50) for private transfers with Easy Transfer, including hostel pick-up and delivery to ferry terminal (approx 2 hours) along with ferry ticket (approximately 45 minutes).

Lessons Learnt on the Road

  • Travelling friends are the best.  After an amazing stay at Chili Kiwi, we’ve met up with a number of newfound friends on the road, each to varying degrees.  One thing remains the same though – it’s been so nice seeing familiar faces again and having others to travel with.  We’ve just left Jess and Simon and are now on the road with Becky for around a month – good times!
  • Supermarket service here is super slow!  Having now spent the last two months in Chile, Argentina and Brazil, it’s fair to say that the supermarket service is the slowest we’ve ever experienced.  It’s obviously not a major problem, just go with plenty of time to spare.
  • Chile and Argentina have an accommodation tax that’s added onto each night of your stay but as a foreigner, you won’t have to pay it.  Be sure to show your passport/PDI entrance paper to save 21% on all accommodation.
  • Drones might not be worth the hassle here.  We brought our Mavic with us in the hopes of snapping lots of amazing aerial clips but we’ve found the majority of places either aren’t worth flying or can’t be flown (due to local regulations and/or safety concerns).  We knew we wouldn’t be able to put it up in Chilean Patagonia, for example, due to strict laws protecting the national park but hadn’t really accounted for the fact that although we could fly it in Rio, but would prefer not to in case someone decided they’d like to pinch a drone post-landing for themselves.  It’s a fair bit of weight and money to be carrying around in our bags considering how little it’s being used.

So far South America really hasn’t been anything like we’d expected.  The people, for the most part, are warm and understanding when it comes to our lack of Spanish, the streets feel relatively safe and the places we’ve visited so far have been incredibly diverse.

We’re so pleased we ventured over to this part of the world and can’t wait to see more!

What’s up next?  More of Brazil, Bolivia, a quick trip back into Chile (to visit San Pedro where we’ll be using these helpful tips) and then on to Peru.  Bring it on!

Check out our Recent Posts

Day One of the W Trek – Rain, Wind Gusts, Sub-Zero Camping & Lots of Smiles!

Patagonia by Horseback – The Perfect Alternative to Hiking

Day Two of the W Trek – Conquering the French Valley

The Base of the Towers – The Jewel in Torres Del Paine’s Crown

and one for fun…

Why You Should NEVER Eat a Kiwi…

Our Previous Months on the Road

A Month on the Road in South America – Chile and Argentina


Planning your own trip to South America?  Pin this post to come back to it…

Costings, transport, accommodation and activity guide to Chile, Argentina and Brazil. Find out what we did over the course of our second month in South America, complete with a full budget to help you plan your adventure. Including Iguazu Falls, Rio, Patagonia and more! Costings, transport, accommodation and activity guide to Chile, Argentina and Brazil. Find out what we did over the course of our second month in South America, complete with a full budget to help you plan your adventure. Including Iguazu Falls, Rio, Patagonia and more!


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Brazil Destinations South America

The Beginners Guide to Rio Carnival – Everything You Need to Know

April 10, 2017
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a0/Carnaval_2014_-_Rio_de_Janeiro_%2812974016393%29.jpg

Bedazzled samba dancers parade through the streets, drunken revellers party until the early hours, vendors throw sweet caipirinhas into heaving crowds and a mass of beautiful people dance and sing their way late into the hot summer nights.  If you haven’t heard of Rio Carnival, let me introduce you…

Carnival is celebrated in towns and villages throughout Brazil, but the festivities in Salvador and Rio de Janiero are the biggest and best. Rio is vibrant and exotic and its Carnival is a weeklong parade with sounds and colors turned all the way up. Most foreigners think of Rio when they think of Carnival and it’s no wonder why.

So what actually happens during Carnival?

Quite a lot, actually….

Bloccos are the block parties that cover the city streets, happening simultaneously in every neighborhood, all day, every day, for a week. Bloccos are, in a word, crazy.

Live bands play whilst hundred of thousands of people gather to drink and dance. It ends with the masses parading around with the band. So whether you plan to actually attend one of these or just wander about, you’ll be hitting these every few blocks.

This is the people’s Carnival – the free street celebration where you can wear whatever, drink whatever, do whatever and there are no rules. Anyone can be a part of it – this is what Carnival is all about!

The nightly parades at the Sambodrome are the ultimate Rio Carnival tradition and its claim to fame. Samba schools perform here, which are large dance teams that come from different neighbourhoods throughout the city. They have hundreds of people in each school, and the best schools are chosen at the end of the week.

We were lucky enough to actually be a part of this parade, and danced our elaborately dressed selves along the 13-block long stadium, while floats with men and women in incredible costumes followed alongside. The parade takes place on each of the 5 nights of Carnival, is completely packed, and doesn’t end until 5am or so.

Rio Carnival 2017What You Need to Know to Prepare for Carnival

1. Safety

Rio can be dangerous but if you are sensible and keep your wits about you, you’ll be fine. Stash your cellphone somewhere where you can feel it and take only cash – separate it into a few different pockets. If you are going to watch a parade at the sambadrome, know that it’s not the nicest area and that it can be dangerous at night and on weekends.

During Carnival there will be crowds and lots of police, but always try to stay in a group and be wary.

Don’t let safety put you off for even a second – we didn’t have any problems at all – just be a sensible traveller.

2. Transportation

During Carnival, the entire city is completely deadlocked and the streets are closed for parties. Choose your accomodation wisely – book accomodation close to the metro as there is no way you will be able to get to the city centre any other way.

3. Weather

Rio is stinking hot. During Carnival it’s one huge sticky, sweaty party.

Most days are over 35 degrees and sometimes it can be hard to find water. A fun thing about Carnival though is that everywhere you go you’ll see handy unlicensed people making and selling caipirinhas on the streets.

If you want to fit in with the cool kids, you can attach a chilly bin to something with wheels, load it up with ice and drinks and pull it around with you all day!

4. The smell

Public urination is a massive problem during Carnival and it stinks. I probably don’t need to go into much detail about this, but….watch where you walk.

Rio Carnival 2017Carnival is rowdy, colourful and completely wild. If it isn’t on your bucket list yet, then it definitely should be.

Happy travels!


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