In 2018 I travelled South and Central America for almost six months and I often tell people that it was the best trip of my life! Whilst Europe has always been fun, colourful, beautiful and exciting, South America just offered something so different and unique. The culture is still strong and unbroken, the natural wonders are abundant and the backpacking lifestyle was a lot more chilled and at a much slower pace.
There are countless incredible sights to see, mostly natural and awe-inspiring but I thought I would share my favourite experiences!
10. Arraial do Cabo, Brazil
I am a sucker for a beautiful beach and Brazil definitely had the best beaches in all of South America. Whilst the popular tourist route takes most people south of Rio to Ilha Grande, Paraty and Florianopolis, I found this hidden gem only two hours north of Rio. Cabo Frio, Arraial do Cabo and Buzios are the three towns that lie on this little peninsula of paradise with crystal blue waters and white sand. I met only one other western tourist at my hostel and heard one other on one of my day trips. Most tourists were other Brazilians and there were also some Peruvians and Argentinians. One day I hopped on a pirate ship to sail to a few secluded beaches and we had a Brazilian barbecue and danced as the sun set with the captain. It was truly paradise and a little local secret they’ve been hiding from the rest of the world!
9. Iguazu Falls
These falls are mind blowing and I loved exploring both the Brazilian and Argentinian sides. On the Argentinian side you get to walk right around and under some of the falls and you can also stand right above the Devils Throat. The Brazilian side offers more panoramic views and you can also walk out over a shorter part of the falls. An insane experience from both sides!
8. Staying at a hostel in the middle of the Caribbean ocean in Colombia!
I think the picture speaks for itself. Casa en el Agua is it’s name. You’re welcome.
7. San Blas Islands
Sailing from Colombia to Panama was an experience in itself (read Instagram caption). When we were greeted with the worlds best sunset and over 300 of these beautiful sand bank islands, I couldn’t have been happier!
6. Sailing the Galapagos Islands
This was probably the most expensive thing I did in South America but it was so worth it! We actually got quite lucky and nabbed a last minute sail which was fairly affordable considering normal prices. In saying that, $1300USD for 5 days is not what I would normally call cheap! But hey, worth every cent to see/swim with sea lions, penguins and turtles daily, hop between islands that are each so different to the last and marvel at insane landscapes and wildlife.
5. Amazon Rainforest
I had dreamed of visiting the Amazon since I learnt about it in school and it was everything I could have hoped for and more! We ventured to Manaus, in the heart of the rainforest in Brazil and stayed at a lodge deep in the jungle. We had to get five different types of transport to get there! One night we even camped in the jungle and cooked dinner over a fire, listened to stories from our native guide and then fell asleep in our hammocks to the distant sound of howler monkeys and a million exotic birds.
4. Bolivia Salt Flats
The Uyuni Salt Flats are so unique and wonderful. To start our day here, we watched the sun rise over an area where shallow water covered the salt which created the beautiful mirror effect we have all seen in photos before. We then spent the rest of the day driving across the expanses of white and playing around to get cool photos with our drivers toy dinosaur. It wasn’t just the salt flats that blew me away, however. When travelling from San Pedro de Atacama in Chile to Bolivia we passed countless pink or blue lagoons, volcanoes and landscapes that looked like we were on Mars. And we drove completely off road! It was such a fun and unique experience.
3. Carnival, Rio de Janeiro
The streets are alive with costumed bodies, drinks, music and dancing 24/7. I’ve never experienced anything quite like it. A definite highlight of my life!
2. Hiking Patagonia
Patagonia was my first stop on my six month trip and I had never really hiked a multi day trek before I started the famous W Trek in Torres del Paine National Park. I did it completely solo and instantly fell in love with this landscape and the feeling of being immersed in nature. For anyone interested, check out my beginners guide to trekking TdP.
1. Machu Picchu & The Inca Trail
You probably guessed it… but if not, surprise! I don’t think anything could beat hiking for 4 days in some insane jungle with ruins and llamas throughout then to be welcomed to this incredible view! It was such a massive bucket list for me and worth every penny and every step it took to get there.
Have you been to South America? Tell me your favourite parts!