The Best of the Best
Many people we have met on our journey continuously ask us what our favourite place has been in South America. This has caused us to think a lot about this question as it is really hard to narrow down just a few highlights of a 5 & 1/2 month trip. However I notice there are a few standout places and experiences that we always end up talking about more then others. So here it is, my list of the 10 best experiences and places during our time in South America. Let me tell you this was not an easy task to compile as we did so many amazing things but I think this list captures the best of the best.
Glaciar Perito Moreno, El Calafate, Argentina
Standing overlooking the huge sea of ice that is the Perito Moreno glacier simply took my breath away. The ice stretches out for 35km before reaching a sheer drop into the lake below. Watching huge chunks of ice calve off the glacier causing huge thundering splashes below is awe inspiring. Afterwards we even enjoyed a whiskey with a chunk of glacier ice in it. A perfect tribute to a beautiful natural wonder.
Snorkeling Rio de Prata, Bonito, Brazil
Snorkeling downstream for 3km in a crystal clear river surrounded by thousands of tropical fish. It really doesn't get much better then this. It was like being submerged into a tropical fish tank for a few hours as we got to marvel at over 30 different varieties of fish. Combined with a trip to Buraco das Araras where we saw dozens of macaws circling overhead it made for an amazing day.
W Trail, Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, Patagonia, Chile
Trekking for 4 days through the magnificent surroundings of the Torres del Paine national park was absolutely breathtaking. From beautiful lakes, stunning glaciers, unbelievable sunsets and the magnificent granite pillars of Torres del Paine, scenery to hike to doesn't get much better. Truly a must for anyone who loves nature.
Isla de la Plata, Puerto Lopez, Ecuador
On the boat ride to and from Isla de la Plata off the coast of Puerto Lopez we were lucky enough to witness several Humpback whales putting on dazzling displays as they breached and swam next to our boat, sometimes as close as 50m away. Coupled with a hike around the island to see its extensive bird life and huge sea turtles just off shore it made for an extraordinary day out.
Lost City trek, Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Colombia
Trekking through the dense, humid Colombian jungle to the Lost City of the Tayronas was unbelievable. Hiking up the 2000 or so stairs through the jungle made me feel like I was part of an Indian Jones movie. It is some of the most difficult conditions I have hiked in but the incredible scenery and views over Ciudad Perdida made it an unforgettable adventure.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Rio lives up to its reputation of a vibrant, colourful, enthralling city. From the gritty favelas, to the iconic summit of Sugarloaf mountain, to the picturesque beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema, to the samba beats in Lapa clubs, to Christ the Redeemer, arms stretched overlooking the city, it knows how to capture the hearts of tourists. This is a city you have seen hundreds of images of but nothing lives up to the vibe and intoxicating feeling of experiencing it yourself.
Salar de Uyuni (Salt Flat) tour, Tupiza to Uyuni, Bolivia
Our 5 day journey from Tupiza to Uyuni took us across the most stunning, out of this world landscapes I have ever experienced. From dizzying altitudes (5000 masl), to several lakes of varying colours (red, white, green), to snow capped volcanoes, to Dali-esque rock formations, to bubbling mud geysers, to cactus forests, every few hours there was new jaw dropping scenery. To top it all off is the Salar de Uyuni itself. The vast white sea of salt produces an unbelievable place to watch the sun rise and also provides a great backdrop for those famous perspective photos.
Climbing Villaricca Volcano, Pucon, Chile
Hiking to the top of the active 2847m Villaricca volcano was an unforgettable experience. The 5 hour climb up across barren rocky landscapes culminating in hiking across the glacier at the top complete with crampons and ice axe, was totally worth it to be able to peer into the crater at the top and see lava. The trip back down was also made very easy with us being able to use snow chutes to slide down on the ice. Such an exhilarating experience! There are also plenty of thermal springs around town to soak those tired muscles afterwards.
Iguazu Falls, bordering Argentina and Brazil
Standing overlooking the tonnes of water crashing over the edge of Garganta del Diablo fall was a spine tingling experience. The vastness and pure beauty of these falls takes at least a day and a half to witness its true glory. It is something that requires you to visit 2 countries to truly gain the right perspective of this natural wonder. Seeing the pure power, sound and dramatic beauty of the 275 waterfalls that make up Iguazu Falls is something that everyone should have on their bucket list.
Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, Peru
Throughout the difficult 4 day hike along the famous Inca Trail we were provided with stunning views and lots of Incan ruins to wet our appetite for the main event. But despite the unbelievable journey nothing beat standing at the Sun Gate for our first glimpse at the the magical Machu Picchu. The trek there made it so much more special and magical by walking in the footsteps of the Incas to reach their magnificent ancient city. This is a place that not only lives up to its reputation but far surpasses it.