And how we made that dream come true. ♥
South America was in our (mine and Phil’s) to-go-list—primarily for me: to see Machu Picchu (ever since I saw photos of it when I was younger), and for Phil, (I think) influenced by the fact that the 2016 Olympics is happening in Rio de Janeiro. Apparently (according to Phil), the Olympics is the greatest show on earth! :) Anyway, South America was our major trip in 2016 and so we thought it should be carefully planned–after all, we don’t think we’re going to come back anytime soon, considering how expensive the flights are from London! :) So after all the usual prep stuff (i.e., travel dates, itinerary, must-see and must-visit places), we finally made it happen!
Summer of 2016 (in Europe; whilst it was winter in South America) and three weeks of it roaming around the cities and towns of South America. And no work laptop tagging along!! Yay! :D
Objective: Ultimately, we wanted to make our South American Dream come true. Ha! Specifically, we aim to make the most of our 3-weeks in South America and have the greatest fun and adventure we could ever ask for in an entirely different continent!
Covered countries: Peru, Argentina and Brazil –plus we had a long layover in Santiago, Chile (i.e., 16 hours!) but couldn’t get out of the airport because I needed a visa. Boo!
- Through skyscanner.net, we identified the best option (meaning less costly) for the date of travel. Important consideration: travel date should be within the Olympics period.
- Once travel date has been identified, we filed for a vacation leave from work.
- Applied for Argentine visa (not applicable for Phil).
- Planned for itinerary for each of the country/city destination.
- Booked for accommodation (mostly through Airbnb) and guided tours, as applicable.
- Personally went on a diet to lose weight before the trip (I started dieting from April 2016 so giving me 3 months to lose weight. Haha!).
- Planned for clothes and shoes to pack, gadgets to bring, e-books to store in Kindle.
- Packed (and made sure I won’t be bringing along my work laptop for goodness sake!), traveled and had fun.
1. Travel date/s and flight route/s:
Yup, changed a few times.
Significant issue noted: It was initially all (well) planned out, until we missed our Madrid-Lima flight, and all succeeding flights thereafter were affected, resulting to losing an accumulated 24 hours of our holiday. Here’s the thing, for some unknown reasons, upon checking in at Heathrow, we were told that we are to claim our luggage in Madrid and do a check-in again for the next leg of our flight (Madrid to Lima). Because of the short time in between the first and second flights, and the delay from Iberia in releasing the luggage, we therefore missed the Madrid-Lima flight, which caused so much frustration every single time at the airports. And which also caused the 16-hour layover in Santiago, Chile as mentioned above. (Not planning on detailing the hassle we had on the flights—I’ll detail them all in our complaint letter).
So hola, Madrid!
As mentioned, we mostly used Airbnb for our accommodation. Aside from it being cheaper than the cheapest hotels/hostels, we have local hosts that can give first-hand tips during our stay with them. Below are the links—most of them have good reviews and are very centrally-located, so we highly recommended these.
- Lima – https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/8212369
- Cusco (where we stayed most of our days in Peru) – https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/9855161?s=914O2j4l. The owner has a few listings so visit this site – https://www.airbnb.co.uk/users/show/16537339
- Ollantaytambo – Casa de Wow – https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/1934397
- Aguas Calientes, Machu Picchu – We booked for a room in Llaqta Wasi Hostel but ended up in a different hotel due to unavailability. But the host was the one who found an alternative hotel. Check out the host’s listings on airbnb by clicking this link.
- Buenos Aires – Apartment 1 (https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/10917338) and Apartment 2 (https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/2379016)
- Iguazu, Argentina side – NaMaRa Inn
- Rio de Janeiro – Room – https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/2065196
3. The Itinerary
Below is a high-level summary, illustrated with some photos from the trip. (Maybe) I’d talk in detail about the itinerary per country, in separate posts (I hope! – if I don’t get lazy writing).
Week 1 (W1) – Cusco Region, Peru
I personally like the Cusco region, more like having that at-home feeling to me. From the scenic view of the mountains and terraces, to the local food (especially when I saw Adobo and Mechado in carenderia-like eateries) and souvenir items (those colourful and bright woven stuff in the market!), it really made me feel like I was just stuck somewhere in Sagada-Banaue-Baguio area! Haha! To add, it’s a Spanish-speaking country, so my fluency in Chavacano (my hometown’s dialect, which is described as “broken Spanish”) is really a great help in terms of interacting with locals. :)
Here’s how we spent our days in Cusco Region, Peru.
W1Day1. Colonial Cusco – Day 1 was just lazing around the lovely city centre of Cusco and exploring its lovely streets, which are mostly made of cobbled stones. There’s something about cobbled streets that give it such a rustic feel!
Another good thing is, the accommodation that we booked is well-located that the city centre as well as the bus stops were walking distance!
W1D2. Sacred Valley: Pisac – Hiking and exploring the Inca ruins, and also shopping around the market at the foot of the mountains. The mountains, valley and terraces, and the market felt like we were in Banaue, Philippines! So homey!
W1D3. Sacred Valley: Ollantaytambo and Templo del Sol – Another day of hiking and exploring the Inca ruins in Aguas Calientes. This place was our stop-over for our trip to Machu Picchu. I would say, Ollantaytambo has a shabby chic feel to me. ♥
W1D4. Machu Picchu / Aguas Calientes – Highlight! Hiking and exploring the Inca ruins in Machu Picchu. We didn’t do the full trail hiking; we took the bus on our way up to Machu Picchu but opted to hike our way down back to Aguas Calientes!
Amazing! Isn’t it? ♥
W1D5. Exploring more of Cusco (half day) – We basically spent time more on buying stuff to bring home. Making the most of my haggling skills! And yes, finally trying the ceviche (similar to Philippines’ kinilaw) and grilled guinea pig (I know right!).
Source: This link was really of great help in terms of planning for our itinerary around the Cusco Region–highly recommended! Pretty much followed the same itinerary. :) Thanks!
Week 2 (W2) – Buenos Aires and Iguazu, Argentina
We arrived into Buenos Aires a day later than originally planned, due to the messed up flight bookings we had with Latam Airlines, and that led us to a 16-hour layover in Santiago, Chile as mentioned above! It was probably the most frustrating thing during the trip. Thankfully, because of all the hassle, our flight from Santiago to Buenos Aires was for Business Class, so we had access to the VIP Lounge where we managed to have a decent sleep, decent shower, and unlimited food (snacks) and wine–something that (temporarily) distracted us from all the frustrations.
The first few days of our stay in Argentina was gloomy and rainy, experiencing proper winter in South America I suppose. The temperature was averaging at about 10°C that time and so I was feeling a bit lazy touring around. However, we managed to make the most of our Buenos Aires day-trips (I believe). The part that I liked most about our Argentina trip though was the visit to Iguazu National Park on the border of Argentina and Brazil! The place and especially the waterfalls, are just so impressive! ♥
Here’s how we spent our days in Argentina:
W2D1. Exploring the city centre of Buenos Aires – Usual stuff, spending the day roaming around the city and finding interesting buildings (:p), getting into Starbucks whilst waiting for the downpour to die down a little bit, and finally getting pooped on by a silly pigeon! A little unlucky first day for us! But still managed to turn the mood around by having dinner over some Tango performance! A must-do when in Argentina.
W2D2. Exploring the city centre of Buenos Aires 2 – Continuing with our city tour–mostly spent the second day in a world-class bookshop (El Ateneo), visiting Recoleta Cemetery, and then having to go to Latam Airlines’ office to ensure our succeeding flights are confirmed and that we don’t miss our pre-booked Olympics events.
W2D3. Exploring Iguazu National Park (Brazil Side) – Highlight of our Argentina trip! On first day in Iguazu, crossed the border to see/visit the Iguazu National Park from the Brazil side–which gives a far view / panoramic / wide-angle perspective of the waterfalls. And it was amazing! And then we capped the day off by eating an authentic juicy-licious Argentine steak!
W2D4. Exporing Iguazu National Park (Argentina Side) – Second day in Iguazu and we visited the Brazil side, which had the zoomed perspective of the waterfalls. They were incredible!
W2D5. Roaming around Caminito in La Boca – Returning back from Iguazu, on this day we opted to explore Caminito in La Boca, a neighborhood (or barrio) of Buenos Aires. We loved the vibrant feel around here.
W2D6. Wandering around Buenos Aires 3 – Half of the day, we decided to walk around from our guest house towards Plaza Naciones Unidas and of course scouting for that dulce de leche to bring home.
Source: This site here was a helpful for a 4-day trip around Buenos Aires. Check it out!
Week 3 (W3) – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Finally, Brazil! All good, though we arrived in Rio at almost midnight when we were supposed to arrive by noon—the last of our flight hassles, thankfully. The first thing we needed to find out was how to go to the stadium the next day for the hockey game, the next was how to go about with public commuting to the city centre. All were thankfully sorted out with the help of our host’s nephew.
What we love about Rio is how the mix of nature and urbanisation harmoniously create the present Rio. It’s when you are lazing around in Copa with the view of the mountains across the horizon, and with the tall building at your back. It’s when you are high up in the mountains overlooking at how the buildings are popping out in between Rio’s natural wonders. I can’t describe exactly, but here it is! :)
And, the festive vibe brought about by the Olympics added to the already-attractive Rio. We’ve had an amazing week around here! And yes, the Havaianas and Ipanema flip flops are everywhere, and are so cheap!! (So we bought at least 7 pairs!) ♥
So here’s how we spent our last and 3rd week of this South American Dream:
W3Day1 and D2. Waltching Hockey and Basketball – The first two days in Rio were spent at the Olympic Stadium in Deodoro. We watched the first 2 men’s hockey matches (the Netherlands vs. Argentina and Belgium vs. Great Britain!). On the second day, we watched 2 women’s basketball matches (USA vs. Senegal and Spain vs. Serbia). Not much touristy stuff happening for us on these days. :D
W3D3. Exploring Rio de Janeiro Part 1 – The start of a proper holiday in Rio: we roamed around the city centre, finding some interesting architecture and what have you. Not really planning to do much, but we’ve been around Cinelandia, National Library, and then walked our way towards Escadaria Selaron, Largo Dos Pracinhas, until we ended up in the Olympics Megastore in Copa Cabana!
W3D4. Trip up Sugarloaf Mountain and then Beach Bumming – This day, we decided to do the visit to Sugarloaf Moutain (tickets to be purchased on site). We went early, therefore we didn’t have to queue for long. The view from the top of the mountain is just so amazing!
And then spent the rest of the afternoon beach bumming in Copacabana, walked all the way to Ipanema and Leblon beaches while we waited for the sunset. ♥
W3D5. Daytrip to Petropolis – We spent this day by doing a day trip to Petropolis (known as the Imperial City), a nearby town northeast of Rio de Janeiro. There’s loads to see around here (just ask from the Information Centre for a map if you hadn’t done any research beforehand hehe); it was just unlucky for us that the weather was not so nice on this day, that we didn’t do much exploring around because of the heavy rain. But we managed to see: (1) Imperian Museum of Brazil, (2) Palacio Rio Negro, (3) Cathedral of Petropolis, and (4) Casa de Santos Dumont.
W3D6. Hiking up and around the Tijuca National Park – We spent the first half of our day on this UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the wold’s largest urban forest. The top gives you a different panoramic perspective of Rio, with the Christ the Redeemer from afar. And then, we spent the rest of the afternoon around Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden. And then scouting for Havs flip flops! :)
W3D7. Visiting Christ the Redeemer Statue – And ticking off one of the New7Wonders of the World! We went early morning to book our tickets only to find out that there was no visibility on top during that time, and it’s not expected to be clear throughout the day. But we booked anyway for the afternoon schedule, because we are left with no choice as this is our last day. By luck, we were able to have a clearing in the afternoon and so here we are with our famous #LetsGoEverywhereTogether pose. ♥ (The photo’s crop-able, so don’t mind the crwd! :p)
Now here’s a one-minute video/pix compilation of our Brazil trip! Enjoy!
Source: We used this site as a guide for our DIY trip. Minus the trips to Amazon Forest and Niteroi. Check it out! :)
Conclusion: Based on the above stories and (sample) photos, I believe that we have managed to make the most of our 3-week trip in South America. We have not only witnessed the greatest show on earth, we have also ticked amazing items off our bucketlist: i.e., ticking 2 of the New7Wonders of the World and 1 of New7Wonders of Nature off the list! We might have experienced hassles such as missed (and messed up) flights and unpleasant weather conditions, overall, we still enjoyed the moments and surely, this trip is one of those unforgettable holidays that Phil and I had so far! Looking forward to more adventures, of crossing borders and exploring more of the world, together. ♥