A trip through South America – Best things to see and do

 When I was planning our world tour, South America was clearly more than evidence. It was impossible to consider a world trip not including it on the way. But it was also 2 months of endless possibilities and it has been hard to make a choice between all the countries this continent has to offer. There are some places I was dreaming about, and it helped a lot to create my perfect itinerary you will find below.

Brazil

1. Nordeste

We landed in Sao Paulo where a driver was waiting for us to go straight to Barreirinhas, the nearest town to one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen: Lençois Maranhenses. We have spent an entire day walking through it and felt unreal, pure beauty unreal and magic. This endless landscape of white dunes and blue lagoons is a kind reminder that Mother Nature is the Queen, has ever been and will always be.

Then, the driver drove us from Barreirinhas to Jericoacoara, “Jeri” for lovers. The village where life is sweet, living in the dunes, walking in the sand, swimming in the waves and waiting for the sunset every day. It really deserves the reputation and there is like a charming aura floating in the air. We stayed in Villa Metisse.

It was already time to leave our driver and rent a car to reach the nice Praia de Pipa, then Coral Coast. I used to dream about Praia de Pipa just because of its name, I mean… Praia de Pipa, what is more Brazilian than this? And it was as good as in my dreams, the perfect place to disconnect. We stayed in one of my favorite Brazilian hotels: Toca da Coruja.

The idea was then to discover one of the country’s coast, the Coral Coast, from Recife to Maceio, driving through wonders like Olinda, Porto do Galinhas, Carneiros Beach and San Miguel dos Milagres. It’s also known as the Brazilian Caribbean. No more words needed but it’s not only about the spots but also about the ride.

2. Rio De Janeiro

There is so much to say about this city. We have arrived on a Sunday in Rio, and the first thing I’ve told myself was: wow so this is a typical Sunday here in Rio. I am from Paris, and let’s be honest, our Sundays are often grey and well spent inside. I was looking at children playing in the waves at Copacabana, young men playing footvolley (a famous local sport, which is basically volleyball without the hands/arms) at Ipanema, people walking, riding, running in a 35 degrees atmosphere and all I could think about was: this is freedom, this is life. We’ve also watched the first sunset at Praia do Arpoador where everybody applause the sun when it disappears to celebrate and never take it for granted. It was an epic moment giving me goosebumps I will always remember. It’s also super important to mention all the beautiful tourist spots all around the town. Don’t forget to drop by Corcovado for the power of the Christ, Vista Chinesa for a cool sunset, Praia do Arpoador of course, Sugar Loaf, Ipanema and Copacabana. We stayed at Casa Marques in Santa Teresa and the view was incredible. This is what I have in mind now about Rio. The cool way of life, good food, happiness everywhere, sun, smiles and freedom. This is also exactly what I have in mind about Brazil at the end of the Brazilian trip (minus the good food, as a veggie, Brazil was rice + beans).

Argentina

When you “only” have two months going through South America, all is about choice. About Argentina, it has not been so hard because I was dreaming about North Argentina for a long time. I have always been attracted by big spaces, deserted and endless landscapes. It was even better than my expectation because of the bonus: lamas. I am the kind of person more comfortable with animals than humans so you can easily understand the excitement.

We have landed in Salta and directly drove to Huacalera in Jujuy province, then spent a week to discover this stunning region and speechless places as Tilcara, Maimara, Purmamarca, Humahuaca, San Antonio de Los Cobres and Cachi. Some exotic names for some incredible views. Everything was about contrast, red tones, cactus and lamas.

Chile


After two days in Santiago where we have seen one of these perfect pink sunsets (including The Andes in the background), we took a flight to Copiapo (on the Coast in the middle of Chile) with the idea of reaching San Pedro de Atacama by car. I have been surprised by the modernity of Chile, especially the roads where I felt like in the U.S. Big roads, yellow lines and again deserted places. The reason why I decided to come to Copiapo is a beautiful hotel I was dreaming about to stay at: The Wara. Literally in the middle of nowhere, it has been love at first sight from the beginning to the end. The location, the decoration, the houses, the pool, etc. Everything was my type of perfection for a place to stay in.

After this beautiful stay, we drove to Antofagasta with a stop in a place I’ve Pinterested/Instagrammed so many times and for sure saved in memory; The Hand of The Desert. A big concrete hand. I was seduced both by the “monument” and the landscape as we came for sunset and one more time, it was dreamlike.

We reached Calama and then took a bus to San Pedro de Atacama, which is, in my opinion, one of the treasures of Chile and also the departure point for us to reach Bolivia. But first, let’s talk about San Pedro and the places we have visited. San Pedro is a nice town where you will find hotels, restaurants and agencies to book some trips. That’s it, and actually, that’s enough! Everything is built in clay court and funny fact that we have learned, nobody born in San Pedro (no maternity, no hospital) but a lot want to live there (which is a big mystery for me but also a big source of inspiration/admiration). We have spent half a day to visit agencies to find the good one and booked the trip to Moon Valley with Atacama Connection which I highly recommend. This is a 4/5 hours trip to visit the best places/points of view in Moon Valley and lucky us, everything was unusually covered by a lot of salt. According to the guide, it was more beautiful than ever. No comparison needed, we have been out of speech in front of so much beauty, various stone and sand formations which have been carved by wind and water, looking similar to the surface of the Moon. Mother Nature, you can’t even imagine how grateful I am to know you better every day of this world tour.

Bolivia

When in San Pedro, we have also booked with Lithium Adventure the 3 days / 2 nights trip to Uyuni in Bolivia. If you are going to North Chile or South Bolivia one day, you cannot miss this. Departure at 5 am from San Pedro to reach the Bolivian border at 10 am and start to explore South Lipez. We were very lucky to share this experience with amazing people which I am pretty sure makes the trip way better. The first day we’ve visited the lagoons: Laguna Blanca, Laguna Verde, Laguna Colorada but also some great geysers. We’ve been again and again speechless in front of Queen Nature, met lamas, guanacos, flamingos and discovered some Chileans hits in the car, finally slept in a lost hostel where we’ve met the sweetest people ever.

The second day was a rocking day as we have visited some canyons and climbed some stunning points of view.

The best part of the trip is yet to come when we came to Salar de Uyuni at the end of the day. I honestly do not have enough words to describe the experience we have lived in. It was pure joy and happiness, heart filled and vibrant. I cannot even describe all the feelings I have felt. Full moon, pink sky, big reflection on the Salar which was like a mirror, best team, best vibes ever. I was so grateful to be alive and able to experience this, so blessed to live this with my other half and fantastic people and It makes me almost cry just to think about it. Get lost and you will find yourself they said. I could not agree more. Work, save, travel and repeat as much as possible.

Woke-up at 4 am on the third day to make the experience last a bit more and see the sunrise in the Salar. Breakfast in a salt house, usual photoshoots and perspective challenges, it was the best way to end the trip and was also already time to leave the team.

We have felt in love with every single landscape we have discovered, enjoyed every single moment and will forever cherish and remember this trip. I also 1000% recommend Lithium Expedition in San Pedro de Atacama, Roger our driver/cook/guide/everything was the best person we could ask for. 

Peru

Last one on our South America way, we have landed straight in Cuzco, Peru where we have spent 6 days. Obviously to visit Machu Picchu but also some other spots I have in mind. There is absolutely no way to be disappointed by Machu Picchu. It’s a sacred, divine and mystic place and everybody visiting is seduced and enchanted. There are also no words to fully describe it, it’s a place to see and feel. We have visited it on our own, no agency, I have booked bus + train from Cuzco and bought Machu Picchu tickets online. From Cuzco, it’s a long day including 4 hours bus and 4 hours train and something like 20000 steps inside the site.

For the other places I wanted to see, I selected an agency online called AB expedition while before and had a very good feeling when met them in Cuzco. We have booked two trips with them. First one was Salinas Maras + Moray. These are two sites way both different but both eye-catching. Maras is a town in the sacred valley of the Incas, 40 km from Cuzco and well known for its salt evaporation pounds used since Inca times. Nowadays it’s owned by 3000 local families who run a cooperative and share all incomes from the salt extraction. Moray is an archeological site 50 km from Cuzco at 3500 altitudes high. These unusual Inca ruins are huge stone depressions which may have acted as an agricultural experiment.

We have also booked with AB expedition the trip to Rainbow Mountain which has been one of my crushes. I was dreaming about this spot for a long time but it’s also the hardest to reach. Woke up at 1.30, 3h30 drive then started to climb at 6.00 am at 4500m in a -10 Celsius atmosphere. The entire walk is approximatively 4 hours and it’s breathtaking from the stop one to the last.

If you have any doubts about South America, just don’t, go and feel. It’s definitively the best way to get out of your comfort zone and also the best way to find yourself on the way. It was pure moments of joy from the beginning to the end and such a great adventure seeing stunning places and landscapes. Not the most restful but I have never felt so quiet and peaceful after two months there. I left this place grateful and overwhelming for all that we have seen, experienced, met and lived. 

By Valérie-Anne from valerieanne.diot

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