A Travellerspoint blog

bolivia

2 months: Santa Cruz → Sucre → Potosi → Sucre → La Paz → Rurrenabaque → La Paz → Lake Titicaca → Cochabamba → Sucre → Potosi → Tupiza → Uyuni → La Paz

la paz

I was a little apprehensive of La Paz, but I really enjoyed being there. There's a lot to do, and it's a jumping off point for so many destinations and activities.

STAY: Loki La Paz is a legit hotel. Underneath a rooftop bar is 5 floors of dorms and private rooms. To say it’s social is an understatement – people are always drinking at the bar, every night offers a different activity (trivia night, beer pong, karaoke, etc). Wild Rover is also a well known party hostel chain.

DO: The Free Walking Tour is the best way to see and get to know the city. Biking the Death Road is terrifying but beautiful, and you can go as slow as you want (I went so slow tours behind us were passing me). Market for juices, papa rellenos, and cheap almuerzos. Teleferico to El Alto for amazing views of the city. Cholitas wrestling (I didn't realize it was a thing either) is best to arrange via hostel (includes transportation). Don't miss out on quadbiking at Valle de la Luna!!! One of my fav experiences.

TO DO: I'm not a big museum person but there is a Coca Museum that I wanted to go to.

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FROM LA PAZ: Amazon tour -- we did the Pampas trip (as opposed to the more survival-esque Jungle trip). $500 included flights to/from Rurrenabaque, transportation to/from the Amazon, 2 nights lodging in Amazon, food/water, and activities including hunting for anacaondas, fishing for piranas, swimming with pink dolphins, and looking for crocs at night.

Note: it is possible to go to Rurrenabaque independently and book a tour when you get there, but convenience is a factor in the fee and in my opinion totally worth it in this case

rurrenabaque

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The little gateway city into the the Amazon's Madidi National Park... we fell in love with it and ended up extending our flight couple days (free of charge) to enjoy it for longer (your time here may be extended whether you want it to or not, thunderstorms, and therefore flight cancellations are frequent).

DO: an Amazon tour. Sunday market by the river for everything you can think of. The zipline tour is on the more expensive side ($40) but I don’t regret it (it included a boat ride and hike through the jungle in order to get to the isolated zipline course). If interested, go for the Ayahuasca tour. Head to El Mirador for awesome views of the city.

EAT: French Bakery (across the street from Fluvial Tours) – for fresh pastries and coffee. La Perla restaurant for delicious fish meals. Julianos for steak and amazing oreo dessert.

copacabana

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Only 4 hour bus from La Paz, this is the Bolivian jumping off point for Lake Titicaca. It's a little city; everything the tourist needs (restaurants, tour agencies, bus companies, vendors) is close by the water.

DO: Wander around the city. Hike up to the view point. Enjoy a rooftop meal at a restaurant by the water. Get a fresh fish meal at a stand by the water. Rent a paddleboat. There are also plenty of docks that offer perfect spots to just sit back and relax.

→ easy jump off to Puno (Peru's equivalent of Copacabana)

isla del sol (lake titicaca)

There are a couple different islands and different ways to experience Titicaca. We decided not to book a tour, and instead just got a boat ride to the island and explored on our own. The north end offers incredible sunsets, the south end is a little more touristy. We went in December and the weather was kind of shitty – mix between sun and rain.

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cochabamba

I spent about a week here with a friend and we really tried to enjoy it but it just didn’t happen. It has a similar vibe to Sucre (but less colonial and significantly more expensive Spanish lessons).

DO: Cristo de La Concordia for view of city.

sucre

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lived up to everything I had heard about it... picturesque, colonial, relaxing. Travellers tend to stay there and take Spanish lessons, but it’s a worthy stop for any amount of time.

DO: Spanish lessons! Enjoy movie night at Joyride. Suck up the uphill climb and head to Recoleta Mirador for a view of city, especially nice at sunset. Check out the local hotspots Plaza 25 de Mayo and Parque Bolivar. There are a bunch of tours. We did one to Maragua Crater for $40 (hike was beautiful, scenery was impressive, but not a must do). Go to 7 Cascadas – guides are recommended but it’s possible to get there on your own (we got hopelessly lost but still found it).

EAT: at the mercado!! Groceries are super cheap; there is an area that sells made to order fresh fruit juices for about $1; on the second level you will find food stands offering meals for $2; for a quicker meal you can grab a delicious sandwich on the bottom level.

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potosi

GO HERE! Please don’t miss this stop. I almost skipped it and I am so grateful I didn’t. It’s a poor, dirty city; but given it’s history a visit is necessary and beyond eye-opening.

DO: I felt uncomfortable about doing the mine tour (from what I had heard it seemed sketch and voyeur-istic) but I’m so glad I did it. It all comes down to the tour you choose. We booked ours through the hostel we were at (Casona) and it was legit because the guide used to be a miner so he was knowledgeable and homies with the workers. Eat some volcano soup after.

FROM POTOSI: Ojo del Inca – a natural hot spring about 30 min bus ride from Potosi. Possible as a day trip, but also a legit overnight trip (we went expecting cabanas but they were under construction so we just slept next to the hot spring in our sleeping bags)

tupiza

Not entirely necessary, but the “western” scenery is beautiful and it was nice to experience a relatively less visited part of Bolivia. There are a number of tour operators, most that offer a map of the area with the main attractions highlighted - making it possible to do them on your own.

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DO: La Cruz is an uphill hike but worth it for views of the city and Cerro Elefante (2 attractions in 1!).

TO DO: One of my biggest regrets was not doing a horseback riding tour and hitting the rest of the main attractions. Please do it for me!

Note: Salt Flat tours can be arranged/started here, but I think we found that they were a little more expensive than starting at Uyuni.

→ possible to cross border to Argentina via Villazon (Bolivia)/La Quiaca (Argentina)

uyuni

An uninteresting shithole buzzing with tourists. The only thing to do here is shop around for tours of the salt flats – and there are so many it quickly becomes a pain.

Tip #1: every tour offers the same thing, so just because it’s more expensive doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better quality. Our 3 days/2 night tour cost $100 (not including park fees – if I remember correctly none of the tour prices included the park fees which total to about $30)

Tip #2: Definitely check reviews… as long as it doesn’t have consistent shit reviews, chances are it will be fine. You could drive yourself crazy trying to find the “best” one.

Tip #3: Tours from Uyuni connect with those from San Pedro de Atacama, Chile, which makes going from Bolivia to Chile seamless. (Tours also return to Uyuni – my friend and I went together but she and everyone else on our tour were headed to Chile, so on the last tour stop I switched to a car going back to Uyuni).

Tip #4: Some agencies also offer sunrise/sunset tours of the flats (separate from the overnight tours). We chose the sunrise tour ($15). DO IT!!!! You might freeze, but you will not be disappointed.

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to do: back to santa cruz!

I didn't give Santa Cruz the attention it deserves. It's far from the main circuit of places to go in Bolivia, but it's a nice university city, that offers as a jump off point for a wealth of incredible places. It's also home of the world famous soccer academy for development, Academia de Futbol Tahuichi Aguilera.

STAY: Jodanga Backpackers was a legit hostel that had a pool, bar, and tours offered.

TO DO: Day trips to Espejillos Waterfalls,* Jardin de las Delicias Waterfalls,* Lomas de Arena (option to sandboard)*

FROM SANTA CRUZ: Jesuit Mission circuit of the Chiquitos; Kaa Iya National Park for wildlife viewing including jaguars and pumas (borders with Brazil);* Noel Kempff Mercado National Park (borders with Paraguay);* Amboro National Park (en route to Cochabamba) for birding, trekking, waterfalls and untouched scenery;* Samaipata (en route to Sucre) for access to Amboro Park*

Because of limited public access, tours and guides are required/recommended for all of these*

→ Possible to cross border to Brazil at Quijarro (Bolivia)/Corumba (Brazil) via train
(departure times, length of trips, and fare prices vary depending on comfort level)

transportation

the busses are suuuuper shitty. They are rundown, dirty, without airconditioning (you’re lucky if your window opens), uncomfortable (you’re lucky if your seat reclines), without toilets (you’re lucky if your bus driver stops so you can pop a squat outside next to the bus), usually late, and packed (the aisle is usually filled with people). But that’s all part of the adventure!!

health warning

Don’t drink the tap water. No matter how careful you are, you’ll probably get some type of food poisoning. My friend and I both got Salmonella and the doctor was hardly impressed. It doesn’t seem like it at the time, but you’ll live. Just make sure you have some Cipro with you (available at all the pharmacies for super cheap).

Posted by scampyyy 16:36 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

uruguay

1-2 weeks: Montevideo → Punta del Diablo → Montevideo

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montevideo

I can't say I reallllly enjoyed my time here... I found it dirty, unimpressive, and not cheap. But it was the first stop on my solo adventure so I was most likely just depressed and adjusting. The city is set up pretty nicely to wander and explore, especially with the Rambla as a constant reference point.

DO: The Free Walking Tour takes you to the places you should see. The Rambla offers an enjoyable way to spend the day, either walking or biking. The soccer museum is super cool if you're interested.

Most people go to Punta del Este, which I've heard mixed reviews about (ranging from beautiful and amazing to nothing special and resort-y).

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punta del diablo

An undeveloped backpacker beach town near the Brazilian border. Apparently it gets crazy busy during Carnaval, but when I went (October) it was empty. There aren't tons of things to do, but if you're interested in chilling out this stop is definitely for you.

STAY: Hostel de la Viuda -- the owner, Sebastian is the nicest guy. He does anything and everything to help his guests, picks them up from the bus, offers rides to the store when he goes, and gives plenty of valuable advice about the area. The hostel is so nice, with a big kitchen, TV area, pool table, fire pit, pool... you will without a doubt enjoy your stay here.

DO: if you want a break from relaxing at the beach, rent some bikes and check out the Santa Teresa National Park (there's a fort, a botanical garden, and an animal refuge).

→ possible to cross border to Brazil

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to go

Cabo Polonio, an off the grid community a little south of Punta del Diablo. Colonia, a colonial town that also offers a boat transfer to Buenos Aires.

Posted by scampyyy 11:10 Archived in Uruguay Comments (0)

peru → brazil via amazon

In order to get to Brazil, we decided to take a boat ride down the Amazon, an adventure that started in Iquitos. I couldn't recommend this more!!!! $100 gets you 3 nights floating down the river on a huge cargo boat; 3 meals/day included (don't expect variation). All you had to bring was your own hammock.

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ITINERARY/BUDGET

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Day 1: Fly Lima → Iquitos

Flight ($85)
Hostel (10 soles)
Hammock (27 soles)

Note: there were cheaper and more expensive hammocks based on quality

Tip #1: buy rope to tie your hammock up with!!! We were not clued in on this... luckily someone had extra for us.

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Day 2: Iquitos → Santa Rosa → Tabatinga, Brazil/Leticia, Colombia

Speedboat to Santa Rosa, leaves 6am arrives 4pm (200 soles)
Short boat ride to Tabatinga, Brazil/Leticia, Colombia (5 soles)
Hostel (15 reais)

Tip #2: get your exit/entry stamps at the immigration offices in Santa Rosa (Peru), and Tabatinga (Brazil)

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Tip #3: unless anything has changed, the only thing separating Brazil and Colombia is a yellow/black traffic marker in the middle of the street - with no sign. So don't be surprised if the time, language, and currency all change on you after simply crossing the street.

Day 3-6: Amazon!

($100)

Tip #4: get to the dock early to buy your ticket and get in line for the boat so you can get a good spot to hang your hammock!

Note: Go for the middle level (top level is the bar/food/hang out area and the bottom level was so crowded it had hammocks hanging above hammocks)

Tip #5: bring a book. or two.

Tip #6: also make sure to bring a lock for your bag (there are no lockers, so keep the important stuff with you always!)

enjoy boat life :)

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Posted by scampyyy 08:59 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

ecuador

3 weeks: Quito → Esmeraldas → Canoa → Montanita → Cuenca

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DO: wander around the Old City (make sure to check out La Ronda - a pedestrian street full of restaurants and bars. Try vino caliente). Another area to check out for nightlife is La Mariscal, the Zona Rosa. Take a taxi to the Teleferico that will give you impressive views of the city (above). La Virgen del Panecillo can be seen from almost anywhere in the city, if you decide to actually visit her make sure you take a taxi in order to avoid unwanted encounters. Straddle "the equator" and check out some other random attractions (an insect museum?) at El Mitad del Mundo (note that the monument does not mark the true equator - which is somewhere nearby).

GO: Apparently the saturday market an hour or so outside of Quito in Otavalo is a must do, I didn't - I heard it's an overpriced tourist trap, with the same goods you can find anywhere else.

I don't really remember the reasoning, but we decided to focus our time in Ecuador on the coast. I wouldn't recommend it during the time we went - December, because the weather was kind of shitty. But with better weather, I'm sure the experience would have been more appropriate.

esmeraldas

A small, but fun town. The beach had everything: cabana bars, art markets, hostels across the road. There's a huge Afro influence which was new and fun to see. Nighttime was all about the party - music blasts throughout the night. Daytime was also to be enjoyed simply by chilling at the beach.

canoa

A sleepy beach town popular for surfing. The weather was shit so we moved on quickly, but I'd be keen to go back and see how it is in better weather/high season.

montanita

Definitely our favorite stop along the coast. I think the place gained popularity as a surf spot, which inspired a party culture at night, which attracted even more tourists (and consequently tons of artisanas trying to sell their work). As a result, Montanita has flourished into a hub for a very mixed population - of both visitors passing through and those who have settled there. Despite the varying backgrounds and motives for being there, everyone shares the same lifestyle: chill, surf (if you want), party, repeat. It's a bubble, but an awesome bubble - because it's hard to leave (we ended up staying a week) and its contained, you see the same people constantly, so it doesn't take long before you feel like you know everyone.

DO: Surf. Chill at the beach - it's swarming with tourists, locals, vendors and artisanas, but it stretches for miles so it's easy to find your own spot. Enjoy the nightlife - start your night at one of the cocktail stands (the road leading to the beach is lined with them); end the night on the beach (you won't be the only one).

cuenca

I wish I had taken more time to get to know Cuenca so I could offer better advice. It's a cute little colonial city. I didn't find it totally necessary, but not unnecessary.

DO: visit Ingapirca, the Incan ruins listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Entrance fee includes a really interesting, relatively short guided tour.

food

delicious. try the ceviche! It's different than in Peru, it was shrimp rather than fish and served kind of like a soup with rice and fried patacones.

to do

Banos, Riobamba (Nariz del Diablo) & Galapagos Islands

Posted by scampyyy 08:30 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

peru

2+ months: Arequipa → Colca Canyon → Nasca → Cusco → Huanchaco → Mancora → ECUADOR → Mancora → Lima → Cusco → Mancora → Iquitos

arequipa

I found this to be an unnecessary stop, but I've also heard numerous people rave about it so I think it's one of those places that requires some time and exploration in order to truly appreciate it. We were a bit strapped for time so we didn't have that chance.

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Tours can be arranged from Arequipa, but you can also go on your own: we took a local bus to Chivay (tiny off the grid town - no lights when it got dark), spent the night there and woke up early to take another bus to Cabanaconde (the gateway to the Canyon) in the morning.

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DO: Hike the canyon to Oasis Sangalle. Condors are a main attraction of this area, we skipped the main viewing point because it was too crowded.

Tip #1: the "oasis" is a swimming pool.

Tip #2: it's possible to do both legs of the hike in one day.

Tip #3: if you spend the night, bring layers and wake up EARLY (4am) to beat the sun for the hike up. Yes you will hate everything at first, but it's the right decision - the steep hike uphill is challenging enough without the intensity of the sun beating down on you the whole time.

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nasca

All I have to say is go and do a flight tour of the Lines!!!

Tip #1: ask the officials for a Nasca Lines stamp in your passport!

Tip #2: spending the night in Nasca is unnecessary - take an overnight bus there, do the flight, and take an overnight bus to your next destination

cusco

An inevitable stop, for good reason.

STAY: Kokopelli, Loki, Wild Rover will all show you a good time.

DO: get to know the city via the Free Walking Tour. Spend time at Plaza de Armas. Hike up to Saqsaywaman and make sure to visit Cristo Blanco for amazing views of the city. Check out the San Pedro Market. Try chicha (alcoholic drink derived from fermented corn). Take advantage of coca leaves - they help with the altitude.

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GO: to MACHU PICCHU!! There are all sorts of ways to get to Machu Picchu - minibus, train, trek, guided (or usually a combination). Cusco is littered with tour agencies. We skipped the headache of trying to figure out which was the best deal, experience, quality, etc and did it on our own..... here is our itinerary/budget:

Day 1
Bus Cusco → Urubamba (4 soles)
Hostel (12 soles)

Day 2
Mini bus → Ollantaytambo (1.50 soles)
hitchhike → St Maria's (20 soles)
hitchhike → St Teresa (13 soles)
walk along train tracks→ Aguascalientes
Hostel (15 soles)

Day 3
bus → Machu Picchu (24 soles) **could have walked but exhausted and didn't want to waste time
walk back down to Aguascalientes
Hostel (15 soles)
Entrance ticket (64 soles)

Day 4
train tracks → St Teresa
hitchhike → St. Marias (11.50 soles)
minibus → Cusco (30 soles)

Total: about $100 (inc. food - no restaurants; only DIY & mercados)

lima

Also an inevitable stop. Unfortunately I was sick during my time here so I don't have any tips on a good time.

huanchacho

A short bus ride from Trujillo, this is worth the stop if you're looking for a chilled out surfer beach town. Most of the hostels are across the street from the beach, which makes life there extremely simple.

DO: Surf. Enjoy the beach. Eat at Surf er Burger.

mancora

I may be the wrong person to ask for an objective opinion considering I went 4 different times. It's really not much: a tiny little beach town near the border of Peru/Ecuador. Despite it's small size, it's situated right on the Panamerican Highway so it's always bustling with local and international traffic.

STAY: Loki is a hostel that is essentially a backpacker resort. It's location is ideal, but you really don't need to leave thanks to a huge pool, tons of hammocks, a restaurant/bar (where everything can conveniently be put on tab), sun beds, ping pong, a TV room... Like Loki La Paz, every night is party with a different theme. And when the party is over there would be a mass migration to the beach where a few bars would keep it going all night. I would recommend Kokopelli Hostel, but unfortunately it is no longer there :(

DO: Surf. Kiteboard. Tan. Go to the lighthouse to watch sunset. Eat ceviche. Drink a beer. CHILL. If you're really itching to do something, go to Las Pocitas beach for a change of scenery.

→ super easy jump off point to Ecuador (bus → Guayaquil)

my wishlist

Huaraz (Laguna 69, Huarscaran National Park) & Huacachina (sandboarding)

connection

Lake Titicaca offers a great transition point between Peru and Bolivia (Puno on the Peruvian side; Copacabana on the Bolivian)

Iquitos offers the opportunity to go to Colombia and/or Brazil via a boat down the Amazon (see other post)

transportation

theres a huuuuge range in bus prices, and it is directly related to quality. cheaper is not always the best decision. aim for mid-range prices and you should be good. WARNING don't go cheap on the bus ride between Cusco/Lima in particular - the ride is LONG and CURVY. the journey can be miserable if you have a shitty quality ride. the scenery, however, is incredible regardless.

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Posted by scampyyy 07:06 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

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