South America – The Best Of

South America – The Best Of

Do you ever feel like traveling somewhere exciting and exotic, yet inexpensive(ish) and inspiring? Me too. Every day. Well, good news: South America will tick all the boxes. It is a continent bursting with colour, adventure, and culture.

While I am yet to explore the very South and North of South America, I have managed to discover some truly breathtaking places, three of which I would love to share with you today.

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Rio from a different perspective

1. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

There is something special about Rio De Janeiro. Sunsets on Ipanema Beach gave me goosebumps, gun shots in the city centre left me feeling alarmed, children I worked with in Rocinha, one of the world’s largest slums, left me feeling humbled, and a jump off a cliff in the biggest urban rainforest in the world left me feeling free.

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Ask for the public bus to Praia da Joatinga and find paradise.
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As the sun disappears on Ipanema Beach, join the local crowds in literally applauding its beauty.

To some it may be a city of glamour and glitz; to me it is a place which inspires to smile, encourages to feel free and ignites a feeling of wanderlust.

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While its neighbour Copacabana Beach may the more famous, Ipanema offers the best views of both land and people.
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Stroll the streets of Lapa and watch the world go by.

Two very distinct faces make Rio de Janeiro like no other city. Visitors will soon realise there is more to Rio than romantic nighttime views from the Sugarloaf and perfectly sculpted bodies on Copacabana Beach. Behind this facade, the level of social inequality and corruption bring a sharp reality to paradise. For instance, I will never forget the view from the Cristo Redentor statue. However, Rio’s flaws were exposed on the way there as my bus crashed twice and several people got hurt.

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Nearly 2 million people make their way to the Cristo Redentor Statue every year. Beat the crowds and get there first thing in the morning.
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The streets of Rocinha
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Watch from atop the Sugarloaf as the sky turns orange.

I will always remember it as a city deeply troubled, yet profoundly uplifting. The scale of Rio’s beauty and the depth of social unrest go far beyond the stereotype. A place worth discovering yourself!

To read more about my time in Rio de Janeiro, head here.

2. Machu Picchu, Peru

The saying “The journey is the destination.” becomes very real when several days are spent hiking to a place hidden in the midst the Peruvian highlands. The ancient city of Machu Picchu is one of the world’s most important – and most picturesque – archeological sites. You can opt to walk the famous Inca trail alongside hundreds of eager tourists, catch the train from Cuzco, or, take an alternative jungle trek via mountain-bike, zipline, raft, and foot.

Before setting out though, acclimatising in the beautiful city of Cuzco is a must. Whatever journey you choose, be sure to take your time and immerse yourself in the deep history, local cuisine (quinoa soups are the best!) and the Andean way of life.

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The gateway to Machu Picchu: Cuzco
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South America’s longest zip line will terrify and excite.
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Pit stop at the local hairdressers
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watch your step on the jungle trek (one of the unknown Inca trails)
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“Where does the rainbow end, in your soul or on the horizon?” Pablo Neruda
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Possibly the best breakfast spot I’ve ever found. The early hours at Machu Picchu are magical.
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Watching the clouds move by

Machu Picchu is one of the few places where despite hordes of tourists it will still blow your mind. Going off-season, getting up early (by early, I mean 4 am) and avoiding the midday crowds by hiking up either of the neighbouring mountains will maximise your experience.

3. Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

After missing a flight, taking a gamble and making a last minute decision, I was lucky enough to sail around and step into Darwin’s footsteps for a week. The enchanted islands are totally geographically unique with a huge amount of endemic species. It feels like a zoo without fences.

sleepy sea lions - do not disturb
Sleepy sea lions – do not disturb
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making friends
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this stunning sea turtle out-swam me in no time

While most travellers are put off by the apparent expense of getting there, last minutes bookings can save you up to 70% of the initial price. I booked my trip through http://www.galapagoslastminute.net/ less than a week before arriving, saved a lot of money, and loved every minute of it!

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My house and I :-)
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flamboyant flamingo
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Try not to step on one of the thousands of Sally Lightfoot Crabs

Darwin’s living laboratory is a celebration of wildlife and biodiversity like nowhere else. Giant tortoises, playful sea lions, blue footed boobies (seabirds with ginormous blue feet, that is…), and friendly sharks will meet you at every turn. Be sure to bring a waterproof camera case and go for it!


Now, over to you. Have you been to or do you want to go to any of these places?

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