That’s it guys. The South America leg of our 6-month adventure is over! We’ve just done an incredible 5-day sail from Colombia to Panama (blog post coming soon) and in between sunbathing and snorkelling (it’s a hard life), we’ve enjoyed looking back on the first half of our trip.
It’s been really difficult to narrow down, but here are our top 10 South American experiences.
10. Sunset in Huacachina
Huacachina was our second stop in Peru (after Lima) and it felt like a proper little holiday! Lots of sun and even more sand, and we even got to chill out by the pool at or hostel (cue the first of many sunburns).
We loved trying out sand boarding in the desert dunes surrounding Huacachina, but what we loved even more was our spontaneous hike up the huge dune next to our hostel to watch sunset. We had a sweaty trek to the top but we’re treated by incredible views, and the run back down the dune was pretty fun too!
You can read more about our time in Huacachina in our other blog post.
9. A Bolivian Fiesta in Sucre
Sucre was our favourite city in Bolivia – it was pretty, had a chilled out vibe, and we stayed at an amazing homestay that really did feel like home. Bertha, her family, and Coco the dog really made us feel welcome, and as well as introducing us to Bolivian movies, they also took us to a local fiesta.
What followed was some pretty bad attempts at the traditional ‘cuerca’ dance as well as far too much alcohol (we were typical Brits, too polite to say no to the constant top-ups of local booze). But we were welcomed into the fold by the Bolivians and they were so nice to us, we felt like guests of honour.
It’s moments like this that remind us why we go travelling – bonding with people from other cultures (over alcohol) is just so special!
8. Wine and Cycling in Mendoza
Alcohol features again in our top 10 in the form of our cycling tour of the vineyards in the Lujan-de-Cuyo region, just outside of Mendoza in Argentina.
We could have gone on the vineyard-hopping bus or we could have gone on an organised (and pricey) tour with an agency. But no, instead we wanted the freedom to boozily roam between vineyards on rental bikes. AND IT WAS GREAT!
The weather was amazing, the scenery was incredible, and the wine was constant… and sometimes free! We befriended a few other boozy cyclists and it made for a really fun day out. We even bought a bottle of sparkly white (for the road) and a bottle of red (for another day).
7. Everything in Baños
So Joe wanted to include our white water rafting trip and I wanted to include the swing at the end of the world, and we both wanted to include our swim at the Machay waterfalls. So we decided to include it all – everything we did in Baños was just so much fun!
We were only there for three nights but we did a lot and wish we could have stayed longer to do even more. Baños definitely is an adventure town and was our favourite spot in Ecuador.
6. Salar de Uyuni
When it comes to the famous salt flats in Uyuni, Bolivia, believe the hype! When you see them for the first time, it is honestly breathtaking. With the bright sun and the even brighter white salt flats, it’s impossible not to wear sunglasses, but the views are amazing.
We loved trying to perfect our perspective photo, and the only thing that could have made the experience better was having a guide that was a bit more enthusiastic about helping us get the perfect shot. Still, we LOVED Salar de Uyuni and it should definitely be on any South American bucket list.
5. Flying over the Nazca Lines
Nazca is a small city in southern Peru and mainly visited for one thing – the famous Nazca Lines.
They were created by the Nazca tribes thousands of years ago, and lord knows how they managed it, but these aren’t just any old lines. Somehow the Nazca managed to create huge images of animals and other creatures in the ground, and the best way to see them in all their glory is by air.
The flights are pricey, usually between $80-$100, but in our opinion it’s totally worth it. We had a great pilot and an even better co-pilot who pointed out all the lines and made sure we got the best views. The Nazca Lines should definitely be added to any Peru itinerary!
4. Iguazu Falls
Well if you’ve read our blog poston the Iguazu Falls, you’ll know we experienced our fair share of water, both from rain and from the falls! Even having a day of rain when visiting the Argentinian side didn’t stop us from having an amazing time and we loved the panoramic views of the falls from the Brazilian side. We even got to do a boat trip that took us pretty much right into the waterfalls – very wet but also lots of fun. We’re so glad we visited both sides of Iguazu, it’s definitely worth crossing the border for!
3. Machu Picchu
So you must be wondering why Machu Picchu, one of the New 7 Wonders of the World, isn’t at the top of our list? Well it’s a tricky one. As a sight to visit, it’s incredible and one of the most stunning places you can visit in South America. However what ruined it for us slightly was the sheer amount of people who were there later in the morning, which made it all a bit too crowded for our liking. You can’t blame them, we were there for the same reason, but after being pushed and shoved a few hundred times we were ready to leave.
Rant over. The city itself is amazing and it’s crazy to think that the Incas built it hundreds of years ago and even made it earthquake-resistant. As two structural engineers, we were super impressed.
Despite the crowds, the beauty of Machu Picchu puts our visit firmly in our top 3 experiences in South America.
2. Sayta Cabalgatas Ranch in Argentina
Our stay at the beautiful Sayta Cabalgatas ranch can be summed up by a few things – horse riding, wine, delicious asado… and more wine. Enrique and Andrés were so welcoming from the moment we arrived and we were fed like kings the whole time we were there. The food was just amazing, it’s no wonder Argentinian meat is so famous!
We loved the horse riding as well, the horses were lovely and the scenery was stunning. We even got to have a go at galloping – AP McCoy, eat your heart out.
Our trip to Sayta was a bit spontaneous, we didn’t know what to expect, and it’s not a typical ‘must see’ in a Lonely Planet itinerary. But I think this is why we loved it so much!
1. Trekking in Colca Canyon
Like Sayta Cabalgatas, our trip to Colca Canyon was quite spontaneous. We had only really planned to do a day trip to see the canyon and the condors, but so many people we met raved on about the 2-day trek that we decided to do it. And we’re so glad we did!
The condors were so graceful and beautiful, the scenery in the canyon was amazing, and what topped it all off is that we had a great guide and tour group. Yes the hiking was tough (steep trails and you’re at altitude) but we all sort of chummed each other along. We stayed at a lush oasis lodge in the bottom of the canyon and that night we even got an incredible view of the Milky Way.
The whole experience was so good, we loved every minute, even the steep uphill trek the next morning. We’re so happy we listened to the recommendations of other travellers and did a 2-day trek in the world’s second deepest canyon!
So there you have it, our top 10 experiences in South America. It was a tough decision trying to choose just 10, we’ve been so lucky to have had so many brilliant experiences, as well as a few not-so-brilliant ones but they’re all part of the journey.
Now the next adventure begins… Central America!
What are your favourite experiences in South America? Or what is on your bucket list? Leave us a comment below! Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram for more travel photos.