Casapueblo, Uruguay

Our favorite highlights of south america All created by man

Ok, we- humans destroy a lot, we kill animals and our environment. But sometimes we create. And when we do, it can be pretty incredible. Here is a list of the most impressive human creations in South America

  1. Casa Pueblo in Uruguay

It reminds me a bit of architecture that I saw on Lanzarote from Cesar Manrique: big, white and fascinatingly futuristic. Casa Pueblo was constructed by Carlos Paez Vilaro as a summer house and workshop. It took him 36 years to finish it. The artist passed away already but his family still lives in a part of the house, the rest is a museum and a hotel! It’s truly magical and it’s situated just by the water which makes it even more enchanted. Every evening at sunset they have a nice peaceful tradition of playing one of the poems written by Vilaro and some music. We enjoyed that moment a lot because it was just so relaxing and full of pure, silent joy. It also felt like the white walls were a canvas for the colors of the setting sun. Incredible!

  1. Mechanic flower – Floralis Generica in Buenos Aires, Argentina

It’s an unusual gift from an architect, Eduardo Catalano, for Buenos Aires. The steel flower opens its petals every morning to close them in the evening just like a natural flower would. It looks very fragile and gentle but at the same time it’s actually massive- 23 m high and 18 ton. Since building it in 2002 there were many issues with the mechanism and when we were there the pool underneath it was covered and under maintenance, but even so it was worth seeing it.

  1. Incan Empire- almost everywhere

We didn’t like standing in line to Machu Picchu and the crowds there manage to kill any magic in the place but… it’s not the only one. Incas ruled areas from North Argentina to South Colombia and they created really many cities, left many incredible artifacts and even mummies. All of their constructions were one of a kind and the majority was situated on a slope of a mountain which automatically assures you there is going to be a nice view from each one of them, and a good work out to get there.

  1. Street art- whole South America

Street art was very present in our whole travel really. It all started in Argentina when we arrived in Buenos Aires and we saw murals everywhere. It was just incredible for us that there artists get payed to paint on the buildings and that they get recognition for it. Each of the masterpieces was signed and some even with a web page. The art was not only beautiful but also made us think about so many issues in South America. It was political, cultural and funny, it was everything. The passion in the street art didn’t change all over South America. We saw some incredible masterpieces everywhere, especially in big cities. The bigger the city, the brighter and more daring were the murals.

  1. Wine- Argentina, Uruguay

Both Argentina and Uruguay produce amazing wines. Argentina is already very famous for it. Unfortunately Uruguayan pride- Tannat is not so popular. It’s a shame because it’s definitely one of the most delicious red wines we have ever had, very deep and dry. When it comes to Argentina we were very positively surprised with fresh, white, fruity Torrontes.

 

  1. Textiles- Bolivia, Peru

Especially in Bolivia and Peru we saw a variety of incredible textiles of all kind- ponchos, capes, blankets, carpets and all you could think about. They were all incredibly colorful and they told us a lot about local culture. Many of them were showing funerals, chicha production (corn beer) and other community events. The form and colors were all changing depending on the region and subject.

 

  1. Christmas lights-Colombia

Colombians say it’s a pity that Christmas lasts only one month- December. It really does! On the first of December EVERYONE has to have lights everywhere. The bigger, flashier, brighter the better. In big cities like Bogota, Cali, Medellin they create tiny villages of light. They are truly incredible and surprisingly they don’t have that much to do with Christmas anymore. But it still has the atmosphere of Christmas maybe because of the booze & food stands and the crowds surrounding it. Obviously the weather is far from winter snow and cold.

 

Salt Flats

A year in South America. How much does that cost? And why so much :)

In 368 days we traveled through Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia and we paid short visits to Ecuador and Brazil. In total we spend of 24 938 euros for the two of us.

Can you do it cheaper? Yes, for sure. We met a guy who was only eating rice and sometimes for the variety leftovers from other people. We didn’t do that. We also didn’t drink water from fountains and we didn’t sleep in parks. We did volunteer every now and then. You can always volunteer more. It’s a reasonable budget of two people that like good food (mainly cooked ourselves during the travel), don’t mind sleeping in dorms but sometimes get a double room and definitely don’t go for drinks every other night. OK let’s break it down then:)

Which country was the most expensive?

As you can see below Peru was the most expensive country. We spent 75 euros per day with the two of us. In total 5227 euros over 70 days. That’s because we did a very expensive Salkantay trek and we went a bit crazy on very fancy dining and we bought a cheap laptop (around 200 euros). We also didn’t do any volunteering. Honestly speaking I definitely feel Argentina was the most expensive country. We spend 65 euros per day for us two but we saved a lot by volunteering there for a month out of 99 days in the country. During the month on the farm, where we volunteered, we didn’t spend anything as the food and bed and rats were all included:) Otherwise the budget per day would be much higher. While expenses in different parts of Peru are comparable, in Argentina they are really different. For amazing colorful mountains and delicious wine in the North we paid way less than for omnipresent ice and coldness in the South. In Patogonia for a bed in a dorm in low season (so in total winter) we paid around 18-20 euros while in the north for that price you can find a nice private room with private bathroom.

 

Which country was the cheapest?

Bolivia. No doubt about that. Food, local transport and hostels are ridiculously cheap! And fun. While Colombia or Uruguay can be compared to Europe, Bolivia is definitely the furthest we got from the western world. The typical Bolivian Cholitas, their outfits and their hats- incredible. And I still can’t forget the dead baby lamas for good luck… On average per day we spend 45 euros so over 48 days “only” 2346 euros.

Salt Flats

What were the budget breakers in South America?

Well definitely Patagonia in Argentina. It’s one of the most beautiful things to see there but it’s really expensive. We went there in low season and it was still quite pricey and the variety of food was just ridiculous. We went there mentally prepared to eat instant noodles and potatoes and that was already difficult to find. That I’m not going to mention that we bought the most expensive pack of pasta there for 5 euros (nothing fancy just pasta).

Another one would definitely be Machu Picchu in Peru. We spend 843 dollars with the two of us to do an organized Salkantay trek to get to Machu Picchu. You can definitely do it on your own but Machu Picchu is still really expensive. Especially if you want to get a train to get there and then a bus and then maybe sleep somewhere close…

Machu Picchu, Peru

We also didn’t deny ourselves a paradise experience on the islands of San Andres and Providencia. We couldn’t cook there so we had to eat out every day and even though it was really cheap (around 5 euros for a meal) but it’s still not as cheap as something you cook yourself. We also didn’t go there to chill on the beach and count the seals. We went diving. Even though a two tank dive is only around 45 euros it’s still quite a lot of money for two people for more than one time.

One time we also decided to pamper ourselves with renting an apartment. We wanted to spend Christmas in a flat not in a dorm and we didn’t want to share a kitchen or bathroom. As a matter of fact, we didn’t even have to share a bathroom with each other.

OK, so on what did we spend all that money?

Accommodation was the most expensive part. We spend 6334 euros. We slept in many places. Countless dorms, some private rooms, sometimes a tent and a few times even a hammock which we definitely don’t recommend. A few times we went crazy on nice private rooms like in Minca for a room with a terrace and a nice view or Christmas when we rented a whole apartment for just the two of us. If we only slept in dorms we could probably cut the budget by 2000 euros.

Medellin, Colombia

To get from one place to another we spend 6212 euros. That includes also our flight to Buenos Aires from Paris (780 euros for both of us) and our flight from Colombia to Barcelona (1059 euros for the both of us). In South America our main mean of transport were local buses which were cheap everywhere except for Argentina. There for a 24 hour bus ride we paid around 130 euros (imagine in Peru an overnight bus was around 40 euros). And you need a 24 hour bus to get anywhere in this huge country. Colombia was the only country where we decided to fly around a bit since it was sometimes even cheaper than a bus!! God bless their Viva Colombia (Colombian Ryanair).

Food is not far behind. We ate for 6180 euros. Most of the times we cooked ourselves (really around 85%). But when we ate out we didn’t go to the cheapest places. We preferred to spend a bit extra to get good quality food. We also went for a few dates and a few drinks. Nothing too crazy. Well maybe except the 2 times we went for super fancy dining in Lima🙂

On tours, museums, fees and all things that you could call tourism we spend 4381 euros. Definitely a big part of it was our Salkantay trek on which we spend 843 euros and an 8-day kayaking tour through the amazon for 562 euros.

Jandirk took also an intensive Spanish course for a month, 4 hours a day which cost us 363 euros.

448 of our precious euros went for peeing in public toilets, medicine, books and other little things that out of the sudden became big money :O

On equipment we spent 966 euros that includes our new laptop, clothes that we bought along the way and other little things.

Alto Bonito, Salamina, Colombia

Our tips to travel cheaply.

  1. Keep track of every peso, euro, dollar spend. It’s the most important thing! For all of our expenses we have a spreadsheet to keep track and understand on what we spend our money and why. It helped us to be conscious with our spendings
  2. Sleep in dorms, always choose a hostel that has a kitchen! Those two saved us a lot of money. Even in cheap Bolivia eating out is more expensive than cooking yourself
  3. Volunteer when you can! It’s an awesome way to meet the locals and their culture and save a lot of money on accommodation and maybe even food. We volunteered chasing chickens on a farm in Argentina (WWOOF) and in hostels in Colombia and Panama (via Workaway)
  4. When you go to Argentina try to take as much US dollars as you can. You save a lot of money exchanging dollars on the streets for the blue dollar rate. And it’s not as dodgy a business as you would think. No one will slice your throat when you do it. At least we didn’t have any problems... ever
  5. Do your research! Check how much things should cost, ask the locals! We always checked how much a bed should be or a taxi or anything. Otherwise people will let their imagination loose with their prices and you won’t even know
  6. Try to use local transport!
  7. Try to travel off season
  8. If you speak Spanish try to use it to be a translator for tours! It’s definitely a big save up when you can do tours for free because you can translate. I did that during the Lost City trek

On our blog you can also find detailed budgets from each country:) if you still have any questions we will happily answer them:)

Lost City hike, Colombia

Open post
La Paz/Tiwanaku

How much does it cost to travel in Bolivia? Our budget

After Argentina it definately feels like a relief that there are cheap countries in South America! And Bolivia is one of them.
During our 49 days in Bolivia we spend a total of 2329 euro which means that our budget per day was 23.76 euro per person. And that including Jandirk's really intense spanish course for a month:)

 

Where did we go?

We entered Bolivia from Argentina going first to Tupiza later on a 4-day tour to Uyuni. Afterwards we stayed for over a month in Sucre where Jandirk took an intense spanish course. Later we continued to La Paz and to Copacabana at the coast of famous Lake Titicaca.

How did we travel?

We travelled mostly by local buses which were very, very cheap. In total on buses we spent only 129 euro. They were not very comfortable as Bolivians have a different definition of full so they try to put as many kids and people as possible also when it means that you will have kids and adults in between your legs. But Bolivia is generally small and so the bus trips don't take that long and they are quite entertaining:)

Example: Bus from Sucre to La Paz was 80 bolivianos (around 10.40 euro) and it takes around 12 h, bus from La Paz to Tiwanaku was 15 bolivianos (around 1.95 euro) for 1.5 hour trip.

Where did we stay?

On accommodation we spend 583 euro spending 10 days in private rooms and the rest in dormitories. The differences in prices between the cities were not really that big (night in a dormitory was around 35-45 bolivianos per person so around 5-6 euros). In more rural area accomodation was even cheaper (on Isla del Sol we paid 25 bolivianos per person).

What did we eat?

We spend 652 euro on food, mainly cooking ourselves but we did eat out every now and then (definately more than in Argentina). We cooked a lot of quinoa and fresh vegetables and herbs, all of which are really cheap and easy to get on the local markets. We also didn't deny ourselfes local, extraordinary fruit.
We also went out for a few drinks, not too often and nothing extravagant.
Eating out: eating out is either cheap or super cheap. On Isla del Sol we ate a 2 course menu (soup and for main fish, rice and salade) for 25 bolivianos each (around 3.25 euro), in Sucre main course for dinner would be around 40-50 bolivianos (around 5.2-6.5 euro).

How expensive are museums, tours etc?

On tourism we spent 393 euro  of which 344 euro was a 4-day excursion for us both to Salar de Uyuni, going through lagoons, mountains and hot springs. Entrance to Tiwanaku was 80 bolivianos per person (around 10.40 euro). Less known museums like textiles museums are around 22 bolivianos (around 2.86 euro)

How much does it cost to learn spanish in Bolivia?

Bolivia is definately one of the best countries to study spanish. Bolivians speak were clear and slow spanish and it's really cheap to take spanish lessons. Jandirk took an intense course (5 days per week, 4 hours per day) for a month for 363 euro. 

An hour of spanish class: an hour of class starts with 25 bolivianos (around 3.25 euro) in local cafeterias and ends around 45 bolivianos (around 5.85 euro) for an hour in a school.

What else did we spend our bolivianitos on?

209 euro went for different kinds of medication as we were both a bit sick and I had an eye inflamation, we also washed our clothes a few times (around 9 bolivianos per kilo so around 1.17 euro). 520 bolivianos (around 67.61 euro) went for our new day pack.

P.S. Exchange rate used 1 EUR = 7.69 BOB

If you have any questions or you would like to take a look at our spreadsheet, let us know:)

Lake Titicaca, Bolivia

Mysterious Lake Titicaca

Going to Copacabana on the coast of Lake Titicaca we were expecting extraordinary ruins, ancient civilizations and beautiful views. What we got were tons of restaurants, propers, ugly buildings and ruins that were far from impressive. But at least climbing on the surrounding mountain provided us with a decent exercise and quite good views of the city.
But no-one goes to Copacabana for the city itself and neither did we. And so we took a boat to Isla de la Luna. On our way we were very focused to keep our heads out of the windows as the whole boat was filled with fumes from the motor of the boat. Possibly the sailor wanted to poison us. Anyway he didn't manage and we reached the island just fine (not counting our stops in order to try to sell more tickets). Time in Bolivia is very relative and so when we reached the island our captain didn't feel like waiting for 2 hours before going to the next one anymore. Kindly he gave us 45 minutes. Running through the tiny island we managed to see it's only monument Temple of the Virgins of the Sun. Magnificent ruins where years ago little girls of around 8 years old were brought to learn weaving, cooking and everything that would be necessary to became a concubine, wife or a sacrifice.Lake Titicaca, Bolivia

From over there we went to Isla del Sol without buying anything from local ladies which they were not so happy about. As soon as we entered Isla del Sol we had to pay an admission to be allowed to walk on that sacred ground (just like on Isla de la Luna and everywhere else where the Bolivians think they could possible charge for walking). On Isla del Sol we started our 16 km by climbing probably a million stairs, or at least that's how it felt. Escalinatas de Yumani which led us to Inca gardens was probably secretly built to slow all the armed Spaniards down...
The rest of our walk seemed rather easy even though we had to go through people's gardens in between their lamas and donkeys as we lost our way. Going to the north we passed a small village called Challa which by Lonely Planet is compared to Greece because of it's "white beaches". Now we know for sure that the person that wrote it was either never in Greece or never in Challa. But after 14 km we were very rewarded with a charming, small village of Challapampa in the North. Pretty little beaches seemed not to be ment for people as there were mainly pigs and sheep enoying their time. After leaving our sleeping bags and other unnecessary things we went a bit further to see where the sun was born according to the Incas. And we were stunned.... Chincana turned out to be one of the most impressive ruins we have seen so far. Huge with many rooms it showed us that the Incas really knew what's best... Fancy room with a view of course. View on the lake. Spectacular.... Now we are looking forward to what Peru has to show us:)

;

Open post
La Paz/Tiwanaku

La Paz & Tiwanaku

On one side of the street we see a dead, dried little lama, next to it some lama fetuses and for a perfect combination there is also some wine and small, fake US dollars. Typical view at Mercado de Hechiceria in La Paz. All of those are offerings for Pachamama, Mother Earth. Nothing can succeed without her, not a single marriage, crops or bulding project. Rumors say that for a bigger construction she needs a human sacrifice and normally a homeless, alcohol or drug addict is chosen. Obviously he is not aware of the honour when being druged or given alcohol until unconscious.
And obviously it doesn't hurt to ask Jesus for his help, just to be on the safe side. It's amazing how Bolivia combines the Catholic religion with their own gods and beliefs...
Going further we see chaotic streets, people selling "open" guinea pigs on the pavement next to electronics and tiles for your bathroom. Strangely enough we enjoy looking at the choas, all the unfinished buildings, that normally would be considered slums, and all those people with less teeth, as some have been dissolved by liters of coca cola and fanta.

And than walking through the centre we are intrigued to see the number one attraction in town the San Pedro jail. It looks just like a school, kids and women going in and out. But it's as special as Bolivia. Prisoners need to pay for their cells, their families live with them (yep including kids) and cocaine is produced day and night. There are also other sorts of businesses, restaurants etc. There was one inmate who decided to organise guided tours for tourists and even for a bit more money you could sleep inside or try the "sugar" produced inside. (Un)fortunately the tours are not available anymore probably because they ended up being in Lonely Planet and there is a book written about this crazy place which is far from flattering (Marching Powder).La Paz/Tiwanaku

To try to clean our lungs from all the smog of the city we went for a trip to a small village Tiwanaku where pre-Incan ruins of a mysterious civilization are situated. They disappeared after over a thousand years of ruling the region at around 1200 AD. After seeing a BBC documentary about this Lost Kingdom we were expecting huge ruins. But I guess camera adds a few kilos or a few meters to everything. And so Tiwanaku was rather small but still really impressive and beautiful. The most incredible spot was a subterranean temple with scary stone faces on all the surrouding walls. I was shocked how all of the monoliths of a few tons were dragged to the site through Lake Titicaca on reed boots. Between all the ohs and ahs we needed to watch our steps as lamas poo on everything, monument or not....

Open post

Textiles and fashion in Bolivia

Everywhere I heard crying kids but I saw none. "Look it's in the cloth" pointed Jandirk. And so it was a crying cloth and not just one but multiple. And so we realised that Bolivian women just carry their kids in beautiful, colorful sheets on their back mostly without oxygen access. "They cry so they can breath" said always calm Jandirk. That was the first thing we noticed and straight afterwards we noticed long, long, braided hair, all exactly the same length, style and always two, always in the back, sometimes joined with a black wool pocacha. Except for that the ladies wear a variety of colorful pleated skirts, polleras. Brought here by the Spaniards they were forced on the indigenous people, now they are a symbol of a proud indigenous women. To complete the outfit all of them wear practical aprons with pockets and hats. All of the elements change depending on the occasion, wealth, region and simple own taste:) so it's a lively theatre of colours, patterns and different kinds of materials used.

Textiles are definitely the most impressive part of the Bolivian culture. Used as coca bags, table cloths, caps, skirts or just wall art, the most typical ones are still handmade with an extraordinary method pallay which hasn't changed in years and involves a wooden frame, wooden sticks, animal bones as tools and a crazy amount of woolen strings. On the Sunday market in Tarabuco (village famous for it's textiles) we found out a process of 3 months is required to get one medium size textile. And that's by a skilled person obviously. All of the ladies were also very enthusiastic when telling the stories of how the textiles represent everyday life in the village like celebrations, chicha (corn beer) preparation, harvesting or typical legends or, children tales told generation to generation. And they also understood when I complained how my husband Jandirk has all our money and how he forbids me spending any of it. Poor life of a wife, even European one:)Stories and legends in textiles

After the market we packed ourselves into a local micro bus. Literally packed beacuse Bolivian buses leave when they are full, full Bolivian style. So if a tiny lady or a kid can fit in between your legs, it is gonna be there. And so we travelled with kids and people on the floor and between the sits. A Bolivian girl sitting next to me was showing me effective sleeping poses, which I couldn't apply just because of my slightly bigger size. She started laughing at my efforts. And we started talking about life, family, what we do in life etc. She was a map seller but probably she didn't look at the maps that much as she didn't know where Poland was. "beautiful hat! Is it from here?" I asked her as an introduction to an interview about typical Bolivian hats. "You want to buy it? I can sell you. There are plenty on the market". I didn't want to buy neither the hat nor the map. But I used the husband excuse. And after a few more questions and another lady joining in the conversation I found out that for example ladies from the La Paz region wear bombín that look like an English gentleman bowler, Chuquisaca region (so around Sucre) they wear more of a cowboy style hats and Tarabuco (village famous for it's textiles) wear indescribable pieces of art. Same counts for the "babe/groceries cape", the most popular are colourful, cheap, China made ones but there are also women (like in Tarabuco) that wear black, handmade pieces with a pattern in the middle.

Visiting local museums and fair trade shops I found out that weavings from Tarabuco are often symetric and mostly show real life scenes in many different colours although funeral scenes are mostly presented in blue, green or purple. Potolo, another village close to Sucre, is more famous for their black-and-red less realistic, scary designs. All absolutely stunningly beautiful. Other regions are still yet to be discovered for us. Too bad the prices of all are less of a Bolivian standard so less accessible for us "poor" backpackers. But we at least get rich in pictures:)))

Posts navigation

1 2