4 months travelling in South America: Our Route

Many people have asked ‘Why South America?’ and ‘Why start there?’. We knew that it wasn’t the norm to start a Round the World trip in Rio de Janeiro but we did and we loved it! Throwing ourselves in the deep end was the Misters idea, we don’t know Spanish, no-one else we know has been there, so lets go there! I knew that if I could make it through South America with minimal anxiety then the rest would be a breeze. We not only made it, we loved every second of this diverse continent.


Click image above for my Travel Pinterest Board

So I ask you… Why not South America? Here is our route with a brief summary on each town or city we visited. You will see any blog I have written on South America featured on this blog too for more in-depth information.


Rio de Janeiro:
We split this into two stays, one in Copacabana and one in Santa Theresa/Lapa. You can enjoy your time sunbathing on Copacabana and Ipanema beach before visiting the Seleron Steps in Lapa. Don’t forget to tick off one of the wonders of the world: Christ the Redeemer.

Click for 5 Things to Do in Rio De Janeiro or our Review of Rio Forest Hostel blog

Ilha Grande:
Perfect island get away for the weekend. Known as the safest place in Brazil. Hike across to the world famous Lopes Mendes beach and enjoy the walking trails on your doorstep up to some incredible waterfalls.

Click for A Weekend in Paradise: Ilha Grande blog

The quaint town of Paraty is not to be missed! Try and visit on a Monday to enjoy Samba in the centre with all the local community at 8pm.

Sao Paulo
A mega city known for its incredible street art at Batman Alley (Beco du Batman). Take to the heights of a skyscraper building to see Sao Paulo in all it’s glory.

A colder and quieter town to escape the hustle and bustle of Brazil. The German Woods are a must visit to explore the Hansel and Gretel trail and reach the gingerbread and candy house at the top!

Foz du Iguacu
The place to base yourself for easy access to the Iguacu Falls (Brazilian Side) and Iguazu Falls (Argentinian Side). You can tick off One of the Natural Wonders of the World from your list.

Click for Best of Both Sides: Iguacu Falls blog

Porto Alegre
A great stop to relax and explore the town and local parks before crossing the border to Uruguay. We stayed longer than anticipated due to the fuel strike but Solar 63 Hostel was a great place to relax.

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Punta del Este
A sleepy ghost town in low season but I’m sure this place will come alive in high season. Be sure to visit the Hand in the Sand (Los Manos). If you want a tourist free picture, visit at sunrise or in low season!

Click for Punta Del Este: To do and To Stay Blog

Cabo Polonio
The town with no roads, no vehicles, no water pipes or electricity… that’s Cabo Polonio. It does however have a complete charm about the place with rancho hostels, beaches, lighthouse, solar power and an array of animals including the sea lions!

Click for Cabo Polonio: A Rustic Coastal Village

Home to half of Uruguay’s population. This is a big city to explore so I recommend renting a bike and taking to the Rambla to explore this city. Be sure to visit the Montevideo sign that we thought would be multi-coloured but it was just white haha!

Colonia del Sacramento
A sleepy town with boutiques, lighthouse and cobbled streets lined with sycamore trees. From here you can take the ferry across to Buenos Aires.

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Buenos Aires
The city was rebuilt over 100 years ago and is super easy to navigate. The city is split between the historical centre where you will find the Pink Palace, Congress and the Obelisk and La Boca where you will find the colourful shacks in La Caminito.

For an interesting experience head over to the Museum of Contemporary Art for Rosario. As we were full of cold and Rosario was pretty cold we didn’t hang around here much.

This city is truly beautiful with a hipster vibe going on with all the university students around. Feel the love at the amoCBA sign that means I Love Cordoba!

Alta Gracia
Great for a day trip to see Che Guevera’s childhood home. We visited the day after Che’s 90th birthday and bumped into his old childhood friend who happened to be visiting that day! The museum is free and has an English booklet to guide you round.

Wine and Dine for a day by experiencing the free wine tasting tours available in most wineries in Mendoza. There are also many treks up to view points of the Andes but just be sure not to get arrested for entering a private neighbourhood!

Click for Exploring Mendoza: To do and To Stay

San Juan
For a glimpse into the Triassic Period you can head over to Valle de la Luna on a 2 day road trip to see dinosaur remains, clay formations and literally feel like you are walking on the moon in Ischigualasto Provincial Park. There is also a different Valle de la Luna in San Pedro if you want to save this till later.

Click for Adventures to Valle de la Luna blog

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Click to find out about our experiences of Crossing the Border to Chile

Head up to the top of Cerro San Cristobal which is the second highest peak in Santiago for views across Santiago. Don’t be too disappointed if it is cloudy from the top, this is the high levels of pollution and tends to always be like that.

A day trip from Santiago to Valparaiso is well worth it to see the bohemian brightly coloured houses, the rickety elevators (ascensores) the port and the famous ‘We are not Hippies, we are Happies’ sign.

A quick stop through the town that was put on the map due to the trapped miners in 2010. There is now a museum that is open Thursday-Sunday that is guided by one of the trapped miners. This sounded really interesting but we unfortunately arrived on a Monday!

Another quick stop going up North. A port side town that doesn’t have much going on but it is worth walking to Plaza Colon to see The Torre Reloj, a small replica of Londons Big Ben with the Chilean and British flags intertwined on the tiles.

San Pedro de Atacama
Visit the driest desert in the world and explore local ruins and hike up to incredible viewing points. The No.1 recommendation from us is to go Stargazing here! This was one of our top experiences in South America. This is where you can book and begin your Uyuni 3 Day Salt Flat Tour.

Click for San Pedro de Atacama: Driest Desert in the World blog.

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Your 3 day tour will take you to Lagunas, Geysers, Hot Springs, to see Flamingos and eventually to the Uyuni Salt Flats. You will have so much fun bouncing around the Jeep with a group of likeminded travellers. The Salt Flats are the best place to take your creative perspective shots that will definitely be Instagram worthy. You only need one night in Uyuni itself to freshen up and get a good nights sleep before heading on.

Click for Uyuni Salt Flats: What to Expect blog.

Not for wimps or woosies! This was the tag line for the Working Mines Tour in Cerro Rico Mountain. We were very grateful that after two hours in the mine we lived to tell the tale. Health and Safety regulations do not apply here but well worth a visit. We booked through our hostel Koala Den (Koala Tours).

We loved Sucre! Known as the ‘White City’ as every building is white. At every turn you will find beautiful parks and plazas. It truly is a delight to wander around with an ice cream!

La Paz
This place is crazy but you feel like you are in true Bolivia. For an opportunity to learn about the cultural beliefs of the Indigenous people, their fashion sense and all about San Pedro prison be sure to do the Red Cap Walking Tour. For those who enjoy an adrenaline rush; be sure to check out the Death Road Mountain Biking experiences. We booked through Barracuda and had an incredible experience!

Click here for Highway to Hell: Death Road, Bolivia blog

A beautiful sea side town on the shore of Lake Titicaca, the highest lake in South America. Climb up Cerro Calvaio for the best views in town.

Isle de Sol
Take a boat over to Isle de Sol for the day. Be aware that currently it is only safe to visit the South of the island due to an ongoing conflict with the north.

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A port side city at high altitude! From here you can visit over 100 floating islands in Lake Titicaca where the Uros indigenous people live.


Visit the capital of Peru to see the ultra modern mega city. We mainly explored the Miraflores and Barranco districts.

Peru on a Shoestring Tour

From here we began our two week Peru tour with G-Adventures. We visited Nazca and discovered the Nazca Lines at a height! In a small plane we flew over large ancient geoglyphs that featured simples lines, geometric shapes and animals.

In the Arequipa Region we explored the Colca Canyon that is the best place to spot the Condors.

Then our finale of South America, Machu Picchu! 4 days of trekking the Inca Trail to reach this incredible wonder of the world.

Click here for Need to Know: Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

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So I ask you again… Why not South America? We learnt so much about the various cultures and so much about ourselves during this 4 months. What better way to start a Round the World Trip.

Go the Distance in South America,



Crossing the Border to Chile

From reading blogs about the Chile Border we were rather nervous about this journey. Our initial worries were about their strict policies which in all honesty make sense. Chile is very isolated from the rest of South America due to the Andes therefore, they are less prone to diseases from elsewhere. They want to keep Chile safe, hence the strict regulations.

On our coach, we received the guidance on what you cannot bring into Chile. The main rules are no fresh products, no dairy, no meat. Basically if it was in an unopened package this was okay. We debated beforehand whether we could take our opened packets of herbs and spices but we saw on the list that this was not allowed. A good idea is to donate your herbs and spices to the ‘free food’ at the hostel. Sharing is Caring after all.

Crossing the Border to Chile

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First Attempt
The second difficulty is actually getting across the border. In low season and winter months the road can often be closed due to snow. You can check whether the border is open on this website. However, if you are the first bus across in the morning, you may be the first coach to find out its closed! This is what happened to us. 3 hours in we had to turn back around. Luckily the CATA buses are like taking a business class flight with TV’s with many films and music to listen to.

If this does happen to you and you have to return to Mendoza, you are entitled to a full refund. Make sure you keep your initial receipt and ticket as proof and then they will refund you without issues, from the stand you initially bought the ticket from. At the time when the border was closed, the next day there was a strike going on, the next day England were playing, so three days later we set off for the second time.

Second Attempt
The views are incredible along the route, so be sure to take a day time coach and stay awake to appreciate the views. We decided to sit on the other side of the coach to take in different views seen as we had seen the first 3 hours of the journey already. On the CATA buses the seats on the right hand side (when sat down) are singles so I sat behind the mister. The right hand side honestly did have the better views, if you don’t mind being separated from your buddy for a while.

Mendoza to Santiago (2)

The border was an experience! Firstly, you all exit the bus and quickly dispose of any left overs from your pack up. You line up for your passports to be checked by border control. At this point you will be sniffed by sniffer dogs who do a very thorough job! This unnerved me a little at the time but it was fine. Then you cross the road to another building. This is where your main luggage is being checked through the conveyer belt off the coach and put back on at the other end.

It was at this point, a couple had tried to ‘smuggle’ (can’t think of a better word haha!) approximately 10 gigantic blocks of cheese into Chile. Now even before getting on the coach we were aware the big no no was taking cheese across the border. We heard about locals trying to bring across produce and that it would usually hold up the whole process. That definitely was the case for us too. While they were debating about cheese, we were stood in 3 lines while guards and dogs walked up and down. You can imagine what I thought this scene reminded me of!

Next up, our hand luggage went through the scanner before we quickly jumped back on the bus. The irony is, the bus driver then gives you lunch of cheese and ham sandwich for lunch!

Go in the Distance in Chile,


San Pedro de Atacama: Discovering the Driest Desert in the World

San Pedro de Atacama has transformed with the increasing number of tourists in the past years. It was first inhabited by Atacamenos who were renowned for their impressive basket work and pottery. San Pedro is known for its desert landscape, dry climate and below freezing evenings. You are likely to experience mild altitude sickness such as dizziness, being out of breath and lethargic due to being at 2500 feet here.

The town is swamped with tour agencies advertising tours including, astronomy, lagunas, geysers, sand boarding, rock formations and flamingo spotting. If were honest it was quite overwhelming and we had no idea where to start! We always knew we would begin the Uyuni Salt Flat 3 day tour from San Pedro and we were keen not to repeat activities we were going to do on the tour. If you are planning on doing the 3 day Salt Flat Tour from either San Pedro or Uyuni then there isn’t much need to visit lagunas, geysers or flamingos as they are covered on the tour.

San Pedro de Atacama Driest Desert in the World

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Star Gazing
San Pedro de Atacama is known as one of the driest deserts in the world with little rainfall and little light pollution. This makes San Pedro the perfect place to star gaze. The crystal clear skies have made this a great place for astronomical research to be conducted. There are a range of tours on offer that usually are between 2-3 hours and include viewing the naked eye, learning about star charts and then viewing through the telescope. What differs between tours is how many people are on a tour, how many telescopes, the meal provided and whether the focus is on the science or the history.

We were over the moon (get it?!) with our 2 hour tour with Gastro San Pedro. They offer the experience to up to 6 people an evening with one telescope. This is great as I have heard stories of 20 people on a tour with one telescope. On this occasion we were on the tour on our own so we has a great private tour. We were picked up by a taxi from our hostel and driven to the star gazing zone. On our way down to the secluded area we had our picture took with the milky way behind us! This was a fantastic picture that we received by email straight after the tour.

Star gazing with Gastro San Pedro

We were greeted with Mulled Wine to warm us up, because it is so cold in the desert at night! The mulled wine kept flowing throughout the evening. We began by viewing with the naked eye, looking at the constellations and learning their names. At first I thought I have no idea where he is looking but then out came the laser beam!!! Literally pointed to exactly where we needed to look in complete Jedi Style! We learnt about the Andean cosmology and their ancient belief systems on the afterlife and how that tied into the stars. They were very clever people, they knew the earth was circular (no debates here on that haha), they knew when to harvest crops from the stars, the seasons and what the weather would be like that day. There lives revolved around the stars and it was so interesting to learn about.

We put what we learnt into action with the star chart. So now if we ever get lost on the 7th July at 10pm, we will know our way back to safety. I know this will sound daft but I felt like an astrologist! The faraway planets that looked like bright stars with the naked eye we were able to view through the telescope. This was the part where we genuinely lost our minds. We saw Mars ( a big circle), Jupiter with 2 moons surrounding it and then Saturn! We saw Saturn with its rings and we were amazed! After, a fair few mulled wines we were on Cloud 9!

Star gazing with Gastro San Pedro

The glittering galaxies, the nebulas and the globular clusters that looked like a spiders web of stars was amazing to see through the telescope. To the naked eye these looked like black holes in the milky way. When magnified 800 times, it was truly stunning.
After a world class star gazing experience, we retired to the tent for supper. This included; more mulled wine, sushi, skewers, corn, crackers and Chilean Pate, all homemade. I feel like we hit the jackpot with the tour with Gastro San Pedro I recommend contacting Rene to book your Star Gazing Tour for 20,000 CP (approx £23 each).

‘Spend a fun night looking at the stars hile enjoying the personalized service you deserve’

Rene at Gastro San Pedro +569 95048152 or Email at: gastrosanpedro@gmail.com

Pukara de Quitor

We were keen to explore San Pedro  rather than taking one of the many tours out of town. On Maps.Me, Pukara de Quitor was suggested as a sightseeing spot. We were staying at La Florida Hostel on Tocopilla Street and all we need to do was walk north and just keep walking… so off we went.

booking com discount

Pukara de Quitor is an archaeological site that became a national monument in 1982. More than 500 years ago there was a battle for the land here between the Atacamenos and the Spanish who defeated them in the end with fire canons. Here lies the ruins of their homes up on the side of the mountain.

From the height of 80 metres you have views of the San Pedro River, Death Valley, Volcanoes and the San Pedro town. The walk is moderately difficult, mainly because of the altitude and sun! Be sure to take plenty of water, suncream and take your time utilising all the rest stops.

The entrance cost 2000 CP (£2.30) for students and I believe 3000 CP (approx. £3.50) for adults.

Eating and Drinking
In San Pedro there is only one establishment with a bar license all the others only have a license to serve alcohol with food. This is why you will find some great offers of a snack and a beer or wine for between 5000 – 7000 CP (approx £6-8). You will also find set menus for 3 coursed for reasonable prices if you want to eat out. Just be warned that ‘Tar Tar’ is raw ground meat that genuinely looked like brains. After eating this and watching Cowspiracy on Netflix we sharply turned to becoming Veggies!

Uyuni Salt Flat Tour
In San Pedro is where we booked our 3 day Uyuni Salt Flat Tour (blog to follow). We were recommended by a couple we met earlier on in the trip to book with Cruz Andina. I’m so glad we followed the recommendation from our friends. The positive comments on Tripadvisor also speak volumes. It is a big spend of 110,000 CP (approx £125). However, this includes your transport, accommodation and food in order to see the best scenery we have encountered in South America.

Uyuni Salt Flats

A detailed blog of our Uyuni Salt Flat Tour will be featured shortly.

Go the Distance in San Pedro,