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.

 

Sacsayhuaman, Cusco, Peru

The 7 other Inca wonders around Cusco

For most Cusco is just a stop to Machu Picchu but the Incas didn’t only limit themselves to one architectural pearl. Here is a list of 7 other archeological wonders of the Incas. They are all really close to Cusco and worth seeing.

  1. “Sexy Woman”

That’s how everyone pronounces the otherwise unpronounceable Sacsayhuaman. It’s an immense citadel that was first built by Killke culture and eventually overtaken and up scaled by the Incas. The stones that created it are huge and perfectly fitted. Unfortunately the many that are left on the site are nothing compared to what it was. Spaniards used most of them to build their Cusco. Nowadays Sexy Woman is a UNESCO heritage and a place where a few of the indigenous festivals are held.

  1. Moray

It consists of terraces built into three circles that were used as a kind of agricultural laboratory. Each terrace had a different micro climate where the Incas could test vegetables and the best conditions for them. Truly ingenious. There was a really big difference in temperature between the bottom and the top terraces, namely 15 degrees.

  1. Pisac

Really impressive complex of Inca ruins. It includes temples, baths, fountains and of course plenty of terraces. It’s probably the most crowded of the ruins but still very worth visiting.

  1. Salineras

Thousands of small salt pans created in terraces on the slope of a mountain. Stunning view especially when you think it has been in use for thousands of years and nowadays the locals still use it. It seemed the technic of gathering salt is still the same as in the past… very manual and tiring.

  1. Ollantaytambo

Actually the village itself is quite nice and except for those few moments when organized excursions come, it’s very calm. It’s worth staying a night in there as there is a lot to see around. First of all there is a big religious complex, extended over a slope of a mountain (of course, the Incas didn’t like flat areas). It has incredible walls made of perfectly fitted massive stones just like the ones used in Sexy Woman. The ruins are created in the shape of a llama but to see that you have to go to the other side of the village and climb a mountain. The view there is stunning. Except for that, there are a few of storehouses used by the Incas for their crops.

  1. Tambomachay

It’s a small but charming place with lots of aqueducts, canals and waterfalls. The function of it is still not really known. Some think it was used for guarding the borders of Cusco, others that it was used as a kind of spa of the Incas.

  1. Tipon

Another Inca ruin with terraces but this one has plenty of canals, fountains and baths and almost all of it is still working. It probably was a spa for the most important Incas. And what a spa. With quite a view!

Not only the Incas- other 4 great civilizations of Peru

Machu Picchu and Incas in general are THE civilization in South America. Everyone talks about them and visits their site. It seems like before them there was nothing. Well there was. And we did not even visit all of it. Here are 4 other great civilizations of Peru.

  1. Kingdom of Chimor

They ruled northern coast of Peru which looks pretty much like a dessert. They created huge mud-brick city called Chan Chan. It’s one of the biggest construction of that kind in the world. Still there was really no one who wanted to see it so we visited it without any queues or crowds. I guess Peruvians think if there are no tourists yon don’t have to protect it so we also didn’t see any guards just an old man selling tickets.

Chan Chan was founded around 850 CE and conquered by the Incas in 1420 CE.

  1. Wari

They ruled extended parts of Peruvian coast. Some say they were the inspiration for the Incas. But little is known about them. Close to Cuzco we managed to see their capital- Pikillaqta which was really impressive and… abandoned. A shame really, because rebuilt, it would be probably as breathtaking as Chan Chan.

Except for their capital, closeby Cusco there is also a Wari gate that was built over and upscaled by the Incas. It’s really weird to see and recognize two civilizations glued together.

Wari ruled parts of Peru between 500 CE and 1000 CE

  1. Chachapoyas

They are also known as Warriors of the Clouds. No wonder as all their sites are situated in the cloud forest of the Amazon where most of the times it’s misty, cloudy and rainy. Chachapoyas probably developed around 750 CE and were later conquered by the Incas. They managed to create sarcophagi on a side of a cliff and caves in cliffs where they had their loved ones buried. They even came to visit their ancestors there… They also built a massive fortress called Kuelap which has more than 400 buildings inside. Not to mention its massive wall.

  1. Moche

They created mud-brick pyramids in the northern coast of Peru (Huaca de la Luna y del Sol). Even though nowadays they don’t look like pyramids really, they have unbelievable wall paintings inside, full of colors, shapes and faces of different creatures.

Moche were in Peru between 100 CE and 800 CE.

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

Top TEN things we saw in South America (well one in Central)

„What did you like the most?” is THE question everyone asks us. So here we go, our top 10 of South America (and a tiny bit of Central). And all of these ten places we loved differently but equally as strong.

1. Off the beaten track to Choquequirao

That hike was absolutely the number one among the hikes for us. It was hard, painful but truly magical. While Machu Picchu is a beehive full of tourists, where you can’t walk around freely, it’s noisy and you can forget about peeing for some time, Choquequirao is peaceful and mystical. There are almost no people and the site is way bigger then MP so we could walk around freely and we saw just 3 people during the whole 1.5 day of walking around (yeah that’s how long it takes to see it). It’s also for only 40% excavated so the stones and terraces disappear in thick vegetation. When I even start to think about it I would like to go back and do it all over again.

2. Omnipresent ice in Calafate

The immense glaciers in Calafate were definitely one of a kind. The tourist attraction number one, Perrito Morreno, was breathtaking, huge and looking at the pieces breaking off was better than a football match. And it’s not so touristic in the winter…:) The Titanic-like pieces of glaciers floating around were just surreal to see, a bit like islands of blue ice in the middle of nothing. And hikes near Chalten where you could just walk around and see dry glaciers just like that was stunning!! I even miss the cold when I write it.

3. Under and above water wonders of San Andres and Providencia

Well, in San Andres we didn’t see any wonders except for garbage and general chaos. But Providencia was all we were hoping for and more!! Gorgeous beaches, water in 50 shades of blue and FOOD!! Everything we tried there was absolutely delicious and it was definitely the best we ate during our trip (except for super fancy restaurants in Lima). The best of it all was the diving: sharks, stingrays, crabs, families of fish and all just sooooo close and soooo many.

4. Warmth of the people and originality of the coast of Uruguay

Without a doubt people from Uruguay were the most educated of all nations we met. They knew so much about history of any country including Poland that I wish I could send all my future babies there for school. Not to mention people were genuinely interested in us and wanted to talk and talk and talk and … drink mate:) The coast has obviously stunning beaches with mostly hippie architecture (recycle houses, Heineken bottle floor etc) and cute little penguins and sea lions. In September you can also spot whales.

5. The Lost City of Tayrona

Simply incredible! When I googled it I was really not impressed but live, it’s another story. It’s immense, breathtaking and magical:) it’s so surrounded by thick vegetation that it gave us a feeling of a hidden place worth all the sweat and pain during the hot, dusty trek to it.

6. Charming little frogs and nature in “Mouth of the Bull”- Bocas del Toro

From Bocas we didn’t expect much since it’s very touristic. But we were positively surprised. Our hostel was so cute, charming and comfy, food was delicious and little red-dotted frogs stole our hearts. Not to mention we saw a huge boa and stunning green forests everywhere. And that’s just because we didn’t stay on the main island but went to Bastimentos.

7. Lakes and mountains around Bariloche

Even though when we were there it was covered in ash after a volcano exploded in Chile, it was an amazing region to see. The town itself looks just like a Swiss mountain village so nothing too special. But the surroundings!! Insane!!! Lakes and mountains everywhere and really many! In between them forests. Pure nature.

8. Kayaking adventures in the Amazon

That was probably the craziest thing we have done. Observing crocodiles not even from a distance actually:P fishing piranhas all the time, getting bitten by all those crazy mosquitos and all that accompanied by noise from all types of monkeys. To fall asleep in that chaos of nature with stars above our head and fireflies was really one of a kind. Just priceless.

9. Wine drinking and colorful mountains in the North of Argentina

If we lived in Cafayate we would become alcoholics! And that drinking different wine every day (yep there is plenty). Not to mention really close from the wine there are colorful mountains and canyons.

10. The villages in the coffee region

Those stole our hearts. Calm, colorful, green and the locals were as colorful as the houses. Warm and friendly. We found one of the best hostels to volunteer in and definitely the best Airbnb. We made friends that hopefully we will see again. We even started drinking coffee :).

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Choquequirao, Peru

How much does it cost to travel in Peru? Our budget and tips

Peru is a country of contradictions so also the spendings are extreme from really cheap dorms to expensive restaurants. In Peru we really wanted to do everything possible just because for us it wasn't a country that we would LOVE to come back to. Let's say people over there were not our favorite part of Peru. And so we stayed for 70 days spending a total 5227 euro so 37 euro per day per person. That includes fancy dining and also a new laptop and some clothes:)

Where did we go?

In Peru we saw a bit of everything. We started around Lake Titicaca which we didn't like at all so we moved quite fast to Cusco. There we stayed for a long time to explore all the surrounding ruins. When all the Inca constructions and mummies started to look alike we hit the road again to get to Lima. The city itself didn't take our breath away (not even with the amount of pollution in the air) so we left it after a few days to see a bit of Peruvian coast. And so we ended up in Huanchaco, a tiny town on the coast. From there we went for the adventure- The Amazon, visiting Tarapoto, Yurimaguas, Lagunas and Samiria- Pacaya National Park. Afterwards on the way out of Peru we passed by Chachapoyas.

How did we travel?

By kayak, by local buses, on foot:) spending 458 euros on transport (including bus to Guayaquil in Ecuador)
Example of bus ride: Bus from Lima to Trujillo was 75 soles (around 21 euro) and it took around 20 hours.

Where did we stay?

In tents, on the floor in the jungle, in dorms and sometimes in private rooms.

On accommodation we spend 828 euro spending 21 days in private rooms and the rest in dormitories, tents and on the floor. Generally the prices in dormitories didn't vary that much per city but the private rooms were a different story. In cities they were way more expensive than in the Amazon or close to Lake Titicaca.

Examples: a bed in dorm in Cusco was a cost of around 6-9 euro. Going to the Amazon for 15 euros we already had a private room with private bathroom.

What did we eat?

From shitty imitation Chinese food to high quality food in fancy restaurants- in Peru we wanted to try everything, it's highest and it's lowest just because it seems to have the best food of South America (Peruvian dreamers even say world's best). We did have some amazing food but as a cuisine I wouldn't say it was anywhere near Asian, French , Italian or even Spanish.

We spend 538 euros cooking on our own. Buying ingredients without saving in the supermarkets  and local markets (no dry rice or instant noodles unless on a hike). 1039 euros was invested in various eating out experiences, some fancy and some on the edge of poisonous (our dinning experiences in Lima)

How expensive are museums, tours etc?

On tourism we spent 1722 euro  of which around 843 dollars went for a 5 day Salkantay trek to Macchu Picchu (for the two of us). The rest went for different hikes that we did (Choquequirao trek), excursion through the Amazon, entrances to museums and ruins.

What else did we spend our "soles" on?

In Peru we finally bought a laptop- tired of trying to post and write and do everything with a smartphone. We also bought some clothes. All of that falls into the category "equipment" which cost us 393 euros.

In miscellaneous (249 euros) we placed hairdresser failures, liters of mosquito repellent, washing our clothes etc.

Our tips to save money in Peru:

  1. Hike on your own, renting equipment and buying food is way cheaper than going with an agency and the exact routes can be found online
  2. To avoid spending money on withdrawing cash just send money to yourself via Azimo. You can send up to 800 euros in local currency or in dollars and you pay only up to 3 euros for the transfer
  3. Always check buses before buying, the price varies insanely depending on the company, comfort of the seat and time.
  4. On short distances try to use local buses
  5. If Machu Picchu is too expensive, think of an alternative trek. For example Choquequirao- cheaper, more adventurous and less crowded
  6. Don't go to Iquitos or Manu for a jungle experience, those are already pretty touristic so prices are already adjusted to heavy wallets. Choose mostly skipped Lagunas from where a local guide and a whole excursion will cost you veryyyyy little

P.S. Exchange rate used 1 EUR = 3.56 PEN

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

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