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

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

Uruguay is definitely not a cheap destination especially in high season so between December and the beginning of March (busiest month is February). We were there in May/June so in a bit of a dead season when accommodation is cheaper and the beaches are empty. In total we spend 1538 euro (so 46 363 pesos, 1 euro was 30.15 pesos for us) for us both during 29 days so 26.5 euro per day per person.

 

Where did we go?
We went through the whole coast of Uruguay starting in Montevideo and ended in Chuy. We visited Colonia del Sacramento for a day trip and later we stayed in Punta del Este, Punta Rubia, Cabo Polonio and Punta del Diablo.

Where did we stay?
Mostly dormitories in hostels except for Cabo Polonio where we stayed in a double room (it was 700 Uruguayan pesos and bed in a dorm was 300 per person) and Punta Rubia where we had a double room with a private bathroom (35 euro per night).
Bed in a dormitory: around 300- 450 pesos (10-15 euro) per night

What did we eat?
We mostly ate meals prepared by ourselves but we didn't save on ingredients (so no instant noodles!:)). Generally fruit and vegetables are cheap compared to western Europe. It gets more expensive when you want to buy processed food and chocolate is like gold among all the sweets. We also didn't deny ourselves a nice bottle of Uruguayan wine from time to time.
Good uruguayan wine: 200-300 pesos (7-10 euro)

How did we travel?
By bus with joy! Buses in Uruguay are comfortable, punctual and cheap. Often they even have WiFi. Our budget includes also our tickets to Brasil (also by bus).
For example: bus Montevideo to Punta del Este (130 km)- 489.83 pesos (16.25 euro)

What else did we spend our pesitos on?
Entrances fees, tip for "free" walking tour, laundry. Definitely nothing fancy.

Our tips to save money in Uruguay
1. It's better to travel out of season when accommodation is at least half the price and you can actually travel without booking it in advance (often we were booking hostels one or two days before).
2. Wash your own clothes. Laundry is really expensive, in Montevideo we spend 480 pesos (16 euro) on one quite big bag of laundry(!) In Punta del Este for a small bag they wanted to charge us 250 pesos (8 euro).
3. Travelling out of season be prepared for things to be closed.. Uruguay doesn't have many citizens and most of them live in Montevideo so going further in the coast most of the houses are empty and supermarkets closed. There is also no possibility to withdraw your money so unless you don't want to travel for an hour only to get to the ATM make sure you withdraw all you need in Montevideo or Punta del Este.
4. Not only booking.com, hostelworld.com and airbnb are handy! if you want to go to Cabo Polonio you won't find many hostels on those. Go to Portal del Cabo. There you find more options and for all the budgets. It's better to contact the hosts by phone as they don't have easy internet access.
5. Try to pay by card - in many places you get small discounts for paying by card. Always nice to have some spare pesitos:)

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

Forgotten coast

When the summer ends and all the millions of tourists go away, everything that is possible is taken away (even ATMs because in the winter nobody needs money) and the rest is closed, the coast of Uruguay seems abandoned and forgotten. But in its peace we find our joy. Endless kilometers of sandy beaches, blue water, seals and pinguins all of that is for us.
Here we found Punta Rubia, a small village that didn't sound like anything special but we didn't find a place in nearby La Pedrera so we decided to stay there. To our suprise it was our favourite place up till now. Surrounded by forest, dunes and beaches with no roads just dirt ones, it was a perfect place to stop and relax. And we did that at La Casa De la Luna, a really extraordinary hostel run and owned by extraordinary woman- Paula. Not everyday you meet people that love what they do and are full of joy and energy. She took her time to show us around, gather mushrooms with us, take us for a ride through the whole coast and talk endlessly by the fireplace. For us to get to know people like her, makes this trip totally worth it because the people are the most amazing part of the world not places.Daring to live, dunes Cabo Polonio
Afterwards we hit the road to famous Cabo Polonio. And it was a bumpy ride. There is no road going there so you can either walk (good luck with 7 km walk through dunes) or take a truck that will survive it all: beach, dunes, grass you name it. Back in the days Cabo Polonio was a fishing village, nowadays it is an alternative piece of the National Park where (as we thought) mostly artists and fishers live with no electricity. Unfortunately we felt a bit like in a coffee shop in Amsterdam as the aroma of weed was filling our hostel, central part to the beach and many other places. Obviously just like in Amsterdam everyone was proposing us marihuana. But forgetting about that it was a truely beautiful place with it's interesting, colourful architecture, huge colony of seals and sea lions and the charming lighthouse. And there was plenty of space for everyone to feel in the end if the world as only 50-60 people live there. Strolling through the beach we were wondering how is it possible that this peaceful place with no electricity*(1) swells up to 10 000 people in the summer....
We end our journey through the Uruguayan coast in yet another charming town that is Punta del Diablo. Remarkable how gorgeous this coast is...

*(1) Not totally true as they do have it but only for the lighthouse, but with LED lamps, solar panels and wind energy you don't feel the lack of it to much

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Montevideo, Uruguay

Our first steps in Uruguay

It's incredible how a year ago we knew nothing about Uruguay and now we are here! This country, when compared with other South American countries, has only 3 mln people from which almost half lives in Montevideo. And what suprised us the most: the people of Uruguay. They are really genuinly kind, well educated, proud of their country and curious about others. Everywhere where we go and look lost even for a split of second someone always comes and asks if we want some help or advice. We have even met an older man who stopped just to find out something about us and recommend us places to go, wine to drink and offered help if we needed it. And they all seem to have time to talk, to explain, to laugh, to enjoy life.
Speaking about places, we were not impressed by Montevideo even though it's safe, clean and not that busy. Also Punta del Este was not our favourite, actually we really did not like it. The beauty of coast was absolutely ruined by huge apartment blocks, hotels, resorts all with fancy names (Trump Tower, Gold Tower), all different but all equally ugly. But then everything changed as soon as we saw small coast villages. Truely charming with the views of the sea, mostly wooden architecture and peace which is disturbed only in the summer for two months. Art is a great part of the Uruguayan coast, many of the houses here are pieces of art: colorful, full of imagination and smart usage of materials that we Europeans would throw away. Talking about art we couldn't skip Casapueblo. This massive white building was created without previous plans and against straight lines by Carlos Paez Vilaro, famous Uruguayan artist, taking almost 40 years of his life since 1960. Now a big part of it is a fancy hotel, mostly by its price, 200 euro for a double room because the inside of the rooms are not really impressive (investigated via booking.com:)). In the remaining part there is a museum and the house of the family, where the wife and children of the artist live even after his death in 2014. Vilaro was very passioned about the sun which he expressed not only in his paintings but also in Casapueblo where everyday at sunset a ceremony in honour of the sun takes place. It's accompanied by music and a poem written and read by the artist himself and most importantly stunning views of the house changing colors as the sun goes down.