Thursday, 27 December 2012

Iguazu Falls


Our time in Argentina was feeling more like a holiday than “travelling” as we relaxed in Salta and basked in the sun, drank wine and ate too much food in Cafayate. But what reminded us that we were backpacking in Argentina was the epic bus ride to the most spectacular feature of nature I have ever seen, the Iguazu Falls.

The Iguazu Falls

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Feliz Navidad


Cafayate was a perfect place to spend our first Christmas away from family. We decided to spoil ourselves by staying in a plush hostel and indulged in more food than ever before on Christmas Eve. We swapped the snow,  fireplace and family Christmas meal for 40 degree heat,  pool and a BBQ. Feliz Navidad (Merry Christmas)!

Bringing in Christmas at mid-night

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Sun and wine in Cafayate

As great as Salta was, I was just so eager to get to Cafayate to spend some time in a quaint town and do some wine tasting  whilst basking in the sun and enjoying the glorious scenery on offer in northern Argentina.

The Cafayate church at night

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Bolivia to Argentina

After our exciting visit to Salar de Uyuni we were ready to go to Argentina. Due to the complications of being robbed in Bolivia we were forced to apply for a tourist visa to enter Argentina, which meant a full day in the border town of Villazon so we could escape Bolivia. It turned out to be a surprising decent day. It helped that Villazon was the least depressing border town we had been in; it actually had some life in it!
Crossing the border into Argentina

Monday, 17 December 2012

Best way to see Salar de Uyuni


Salar de Uyuni Information and Advice


The shanty town of Uyuni
Where to start?
We took the tour from Tupiza ad we strongly recommend this. Many tours leave from Uyuni as it is the nearest town to the flats. This is definitely an option for those who have less time to do a full 4 day tour but Uyuni was literally a dump! I mean the people actually dump their rubbish in the streets. Not a nice place to stay!


Where does the tour begin and end?
 If you begin the tour in Tupiza, the tour finishes in Uyuni but there was an option to get a ride back with the driver to Tupiza as they had to return anyway.


Salt flats and the SW circuit

After a very stressful and basically terrible time in Bolivia  it was about time we had some fun, and the best way to do that was to vistit the world famous Salar de Uyuni (world´s largest salt flats).  The tour was far more than seeing the salt flats (that was only on the last day), the tour consisted of rainbow mountains, crystal lakes, geisers, hot springs and seeing unique wildlife native to the Andes. We took the 4-day tour starting in Tupiza and ending in Uyuni and it was a one of the most unque experiences anyone could have.

Enjoying the festive season

Saturday, 1 December 2012

What to do if your passport is stolen abroad

Had your UK passport stolen abroad? 

Awful isn´t it?

We went through a stressful and long process to recover after we were robbed in Bolivia. We had no idea what to do and spent days and days calling, emailing and visiting people, embassies and immigration offices. A nightmare! So we decided to write down some important and valuable information for anyone who was unfortunate as us to have their ´key-to-travel´ taken from them.

Friday, 30 November 2012

How to lose your stuff in 1 day...

Well I guess "lose" was not the right word... our stuff was STOLEN in Cochabamba!! We were robbed of all our valuables: our laptop, IPad, cameras, IPod, external hard drive, Kindle, alpaca clothing, brand new backpacks, bank cards AND our passports!! And it got worse from there. That was just the beginning to a downward spiral of bad bad luck during our stay in Bolivia. Here´s our story....

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

La Paz

We last left off leaving Isla del Sol to go to La Paz...well, had we known what the city was like, I would have stayed on the island! La Paz was just a big, dirty, polluted and extremely noisy city where we (unfortunately) had to stay for a few days. La Paz was a great hub for OTHER places, although it did look very nice at Christmas time.

Christmas decorations in Plaza de San Francisco

Friday, 23 November 2012

Isla del Sol (Sun Island)


Isla del Sol, is one of those gems which hasn't been totally destroyed by tourism yet, perhaps because there is no form of transport other than walking or donkeys. We found this oasis of tranquillity (especially in the north) perfect for some chill time, beautiful walks and incredible sunsets. 



Thursday, 22 November 2012

Cusco - Puno - Copacabana

After our over-stayed trip in Cusco and spending a month in Peru we decided it was time to say hello to Bolivia. HOWEVER, we forgot that Bolivia was having their once-in-every-10-years Census on the 21st November and the entire country was shut down and refusing  entry at the border! Great timing on our behalf! So we ended up spending one extra day in the not-so-pretty town of Puno.
There were no nice photos of Puno, so the floating islands will have to do.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Cusco

We were warned that Cusco can be a hit or miss with some travellers as it is known to be extremely touristy... for us it was a big hit but only because we fell in love with the San Blas area! Sab Blas was in the north of the city; the small bohemian-style side of Cusco full of narrow cobbled streets, cafes and plenty of cheap veggie restaurants that made even me spoilt for choice. We planned on spending a week in Cusco but extended it to two as we just found it too hard to leave.

The view of the cathedral coming down from San Blas

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Cusco Restaurant Guide


Vegetarian Restaurants


One of the upsides for Cusco's insane tourism was the masses of good (and even cheap) vegetarian restaurants. I have never been more spoilt for choice that has not made a dent in my budget. So I made it my mission whilst I was in Cusco to try as many veggie places I could and they are summarised here...

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Going to and from Machu Picchu

I think during any trip through South America, most people will end up in Peru with one common goal.... Machu Picchu! There are a few ways to reach the new Wonder of the World, such as a variety of hikes (most famous is the Inca Trail) or take the train. Both are very pricey so I describe here how to do Machu Picchu (MP) on a budget.
Machu Picchu, here we come!

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Machu Picchu... could not disappoint!

So, was the early start worth it?....... Uh huh!

What's missing? The 2,500 tourists.... 5:30 bus (queuing from 4:00) and a quick run up to the guard house = postcard quality shot!

Monday, 5 November 2012

Huacachina-Arequipa-Cusco

Arequipa was brief but enjoyable stop even though we decided not to go to Colca Canyon. As Peru's second largest city we weren't expecting much apart from too many cars with beeping horns and high prices but thankfully it was not nearly as touristy as we feared, well there were far too many beeping horns, but overall we were pleasantly surprised.

The beautiful snow capped mountains surrounding Arequipa


Saturday, 3 November 2012

Sand boarding in Huacachina

Beaches and glaciated mountains, what else does Peru have to offer? How about giant sand dunes in the desert? Huacachina, near Ica, was a natural oasis in the middle of the sandy desert which offered riding dune buggies and sand boarding!


Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Breathless in Huaraz

After loosing all our Ecuadorian high altitude adjustment on the coast in Mancora we were now forced to acclimatise as quickly as possible when we moved into the Cordilleras Blancas (the world's second largest mountain range). We saw the most spectacular dramatic scenery as glaciers creeped down the mountains. The mountains took our breath away...literally!


The dramatic mountains of the Cordilleras Blancas

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Mancora, not just a surfer´s paradise

After extreme sports in Baños and running around Cuenca with our long border crossing, it was time for some chill time in the beach town of Mancora. Beach, surfing, volleyball and drinks by the pool. Our pre-planned one day stay turned into five!

Sunset in Mancora

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Fairwell Ecuador, hello Peru!

Our final, yet brief, stop in Ecuador was the charming city of Cuenca. The river cutting through the southern part separated this city from many other similar cities. We only had 1 and a half days here but it was a nice place to finish of Ecuador before Peru. Strangely we saw a wide variety of animals within the city!
Cuenca´s cathedral in the main square

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Extreme sports in Baños

Banos was a wonderful small town catered for gringos wanting to get some adrenaline in their systems. Ecuador's extreme sports capital offered a wide variety of sports; we decided to try canyoning and bridge jumping!


Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Quilotoa´s incredible crater lake

For my birthday I decided I wanted to do something a little different than the usual meal in a restaurant; how does travelling 3800m high to a volcanic crater lake sound?!



Saturday, 13 October 2012

Day trips from Quito

Quito was a great hub to visit some small towns on day trips such as South Americas largest market, Otavalo. Or even cross of one of my longed bucket list entries, to straddle the equator and what better place than Ecuador ('equator' in Spanish)?!

Harry at the ´centre of the world´

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Culture and partying...welcome to Quito!

I was pleasantly surprised with Quito despite it being a big capital city. It had a unique historical centre and a decent Zona Rosa that (unlike Bogota) didn't break the bank! Quito is Ecuador's hub; from here we took a couple of trips but also found time to explore the city. Great start to Ecuador!

The Basilica of Quito

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

A looong fairwell to Colombia!

After nearly a month in Colombia it was time to move on. You never really appreciate how big a country is until you have to travel overland by bus! We were now faced with a 23 hour bus ride to the border with Ecuador...fun times! At least we caught some nice scenary on the way!

Friday, 5 October 2012

Cartagena era muy caliente!

After our long hike to La Ciudad Perdida, we thought some down-time by the coast was necessary. Cartagena was by far the most beautiful town in Colombia. It`s wonderful colonial architecture was enclosed in a city wall that was built to keep out "pirates in the Caribbean"... very cool! Be warned though, Cartegena was soooo hot!

From the "other side of the wall"

Friday, 28 September 2012

Our hiking jungle adventure to the Lost City

"The Lost City" (La Ciudad Perdida) was just about as accurate a title as you can get. Our 5 day adventure involved challenging climbs, river crossings, sleeping in hammocks, eating great food and not to mention thousands of mosquito bites! This trek was a one-in-a-lifetime experience that we recommend to everyone!
The classic shot of Ciudad Perdida

Sunday, 23 September 2012

A weekend in Bogota

We were fortunate enough to see Bogota the way the residents see it. Having two friends in the capital city made the experience far better than we could have planned. We got to party, Colombian style!
The city lights of Bogota

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Back on the road in Colombia!

Hello South America! After a 2 month pause back home in Edinburgh, we finally return to Latin America and where better to start than in Colombia? We flew into Bogota on the 17th Sept to be greeted at the airport by our lovely friends, who live in Bogota, only to spend the night before heading off to Medellin city.
The view over Medellin from the northern hills

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Day 58-60: Zip-lining in Costa Rica

Our (luisas) main motivation to go to Costa Rica was to do a canopy zip-line through the rainforest in Monteverde ("Green mountain" and it really was!). Zipping through the tree and high speeds, flying like Superman and ending with a jump off a 35m high platform into a Tarzan Swing... you have to try this!!


Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Day 57: Surfing in San Juan del Sur

Time to catch some waves? Well, maybe white water waves... it still counts. We moved south to Nica's most popular surf spot on the Pacific coast, San Juan del Sur (SJDS) which hosted a range of professionals to complete novices (like me!) and some classic "beach bums".
The bay of SJDS

Monday, 25 June 2012

Day 56: a hike to remember...

On our third day on the island, we decided to do our own thing. I decided to climb the smaller of the two volcanoes, Maderas, that makes up the island of Ometepe and Luisa stayed behind to help out on the organic farm. I thought it would be quite challenging...how wrong I was! Here are our two accounts of the day...

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Days 54-55: Ometepe: the duel volcanic island

Ometepe was an island like none other. Situated in Lake Nicaragua, it was an island formed by two volcanoes that were joined by a narrow strip of land formed from ancient lava flows. The island comprises of thick jungle, waterfalls, organic farms and limited transport which made it feel a little bit like the Lost World.


Volcan Concepcion 

Friday, 22 June 2012

Days 52-53: Pool break in Granada

Our volcanic adventure summed up Leon beautifully so it was time to visit Leon’s big sister, Granada on Lake Nicaragua. Granada is very similar to Leon, but larger with more tourists and commercialisation. Although much prettier, the city lacks the dramatic volcanic landscape that makes Leon that bit more special.


South view of the  Parque Central

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Day 51: How many things can you check off your bucketlist in one evening?

Take two geologists, an active volcano and the chance to see glowing magma in the dark… a big bucketlist check! We decided to take a night walk up one of Nicaragua’s active volcanoes in the pursuit to finally see the molten rock we had studied  for many years at university. But the trip turned out to be so much more than that!

Monday, 18 June 2012

Days 47 – 50: Nice to be in Nica

It was time to move off the island of Utila after two weeks of being isolated from the Spanish speaking world and eaten alive by sand flies. Our next stop was Nicaragua. Getting there took a lot longer than we thought (see below) but it was worth the wait when we finally reached the small and beautiful city of Leon.


The Leon cathedral at night

Friday, 15 June 2012

Days 35-45: Scuba diving in Utila

Like most travellers that come to Utila, the main objective is to take the PADI Open Water (OW) course so you are certified to dive up to 18m. It took 3 days to complete and included the theory behind diving and several practical dives. We spent a lot longer there.....
  
The Moray Eeel

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Days 32-34: Antigua to Utila

Antigua is a very hard city to leave, after meeting so many friends that greeted us so warmly, it almost felt like we were leaving family behind…again. Our Hedman Alas bus to Honduras had a 15h schedule; this involved us to be picked up at 3.20am! 

But of course, it wasn’t until 3.45am that our pick-up shuttle arrived and took us to Guatemala City. We decided to pull an all-nighter so we hadn’t slept and the wait felt like an eternity!

The harbor in La Ceiba

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Where to eat in San Pedro, Lake Atitlan

Mikaso  [Burg’s choice]
Roof top hot tub with the best view of Lake Atitlan
This hotel/restaurant had a reputation for being expensive, yet, the prices were actually similar to all other restaurants, however no other place could top their view! The seating area was located on a roof top terrace with sun loungers, hammock and a hot tub! The service was very friendly and the menu choices were good but most importantly the food was the best we had in San Pedro. Great breakfast, fruit Licuados and voted (by us) Guatemala’s best burger!

La Puerta
A really nice, well decorated café, with outdoor seating in the garden. We went for happy hour and got 2 for 1 cocktails, we got the café’s speciality which was incredible (I think I remember it had strawberries in it). We order papa frittas which came as delicious sautéed potatoes with guacamole. The woman that served us was very friendly and cheerful. The place looked pretty good for both breakfast and lunch. Prices were standard for San Pedro.



Clovers
A nice change to see an Irish pub when you are in a hippy-town in Lake Atitlan. The place is run by a cool Irish guy who lives in San Pedro and has brought a taste of Ireland with him. The menu had a great selection of good cheap food with rather large portions. The nachos were particularly good. Drinks were fairly cheap too. The atmosphere is laid back but lively at night when there is often live music.

 El Barios
One of the busiest places at night for a drink, though quite gringoised. There was going on most nights like a pub quiz and meal of the day. We didn’t eat here but a lot of attention was given to the large portions of bar food such as sausages and fries. Check the menu for what is on offer that night. Later in the night they played good chart tunes which was accompanied by many American girls dancing on the bar.

Zoola
This was our least favourite place to eat. The hostel and restaurant is run by Israelis, with a really cool middle eastern theme of sitting on the floor with cushions around a low table with dim lighting, which created a nice atmosphere. However, we were extremely disappointed with the food and service. The falafels were average and the hummus simply tasted of tahini. The staff was miserable, unhelpful and very slow at bringing our food, plus it was more expensive than the other restaurants in Utila but had a much lower quality overall. 

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Days 29 - 31: Lake Atitlan and Chichicastenango

During our stay in Antigua we took a short 3 day trip to one of Guatemala's "must see" destinations, Lago de Atitlan. This glorious landlocked lake is located within a caldera that was formed as a result of a massive volcanic eruption. There are several Mayan villages dispersed around the perimeter of the lake, we stayed in San Pedro. Another feature which made Atitlan so unique were the 3 active volcanoes flanking the south side of the lake. 

Monday, 14 May 2012

Days 14 - 28: Antigua!

After just under two weeks of pretty intense traveling we were in need of some serious chill time, it was time for Antigua! We were very lucky that Harry's third cousin, Rob, lives in Antigua with his wife who is from the city. We fell in love with the city so decided to stay for 2 weeks while we caught up with our blog, photos and sleep!

View from Cerro de la Cruz

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Days 12 & 13: Lanquin and Semuc Champey

After seeing the Tikal ruins in northern Guatemala, we moved south to Lanquin in central Guatemala to see one of the most glorious sights in Central America, Semuc Champey. Unlucky for us, we arrived on the first day of the rainy season.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Day 11: Tikal ruins

Today was our 5th (and last) ruins visit at Tikal, 1h 15mins north of Flores. We got up at 4am with our travel group, a lovely couple from Switzerland and two Argentinians, got our pick up at 4.30 and it was a very sleepy ride to the ruins. We arrived around 6am, we were told that this was the best time to arrive as it was the quietest time of the day… yet there were at least four other tour group vans like ours queuing to get in, everyone had the same idea.
Temple II (taken from temple I, over looking La Gran Plaza)

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Day 10: Palenque to Flores

We found the best way to get from Palenque to Flores, Guatemala was via bus-boat-bus. We began our by getting a shuttle outside El Panchan at 6am (it was half an hour late). A shuttle bus finally picked us up and drove us to the Mexican immigration office at Frontera Corozal. This took us approximately 4h which included a ridiculously pricey (70 pesos)  30min breakfast stop along the way… just bring food.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Day 9: Palenque and Misol-Ha

The overnight bus  from Tulum to Palenque departed at 8.30pm from the Tulum bus station and was surprisingly comfy and not as cold as we had been told to expect. However I was woken up every hour by either the bus stopping and me getting worried that we would miss our stop or border patrol guards checking my bag for drugs (there were two blonde people on the bus and guess which two people he asked) so far on every possible opportunity to be searched I have. Luisa slept peacefully. Blondes do not have more fun....All in the name of Palenque ruins..



Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Day 8: Coba

After wasting a lot of time and money by previously not taking tours, we decided to finally take a tour to Coba, another historically important Mayan site. 



Monday, 7 May 2012

Day 7: Tulum ruins

Tulum is by far the most beautiful white sanded beach I have ever seen. A busy day is lying in a hammock, with the sea breeze in your face, waves breaking a few meters away and wandering if you should have a beer or mojito. We thought Absolute Paradise; until we went to the ruins.



Sunday, 6 May 2012

Day 6: Tulum (How many words are there for paradise?)

As great as Cancun is we had already booked a couple of nights in Tulum via internet in a seriously beautiful cabana (expensive but our major treat for the whole trip and totally worth it).
The view from our Cabana

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Day 5: Chichen Itza

Today we went to see the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza (now an UNESCO site) the first of our soon to-be many (edit: many, many, many) ruins visits.