“I was born and raised in Iquitos,” Osmar told us. “People from the communities often say that city people can’t be good jungle guides, but that is not true.”
We were sitting in a tiny restaurant in Iquitos, in Northeastern Peru, sipping tree tomato smoothies. The orange drink tasted fruity and slightly acid at the same time, a mixture as exotic as the city. Having arrived from Patagonia the night before, everything seemed new and exciting. The small, colourful houses, the mud roads, the motortaxis honking in the street, the seemingly endless line in front of the ATM we had used earlier.
The best part about travelling are the amazing people I meet along the way. One of them is Dorothy, an American expat living near Boquete in Panama with her family. She runs Jungla de Panama, a wildlife refuge where she helps injured and abandoned animals, and she agreed to do an interview with me so I could learn more about this fascinating woman and her story.
There is no city in South America that I have visited as often as Lima. With good flight connections both to Europe and other destinations in South America, it made sense for us to come here multiple times.
We based ourselves in a hostel in the middle of Miraflores, 151 Backpackers, which I can highly recommend for its amazingly friendly and helpful staff. From there, we explored as much of Lima as we could. Lima has enough attractions to keep you occupied for three or four days, or even a week if you start exploring some of the museums we didn’t get a chance to see.
Here are twelve things you should not miss when visiting Peru’s capital:
Imagine wide, open landscapes, turquoise lakes, snow-capped mountains and ancient forests. Welcome to Patagonia. It is easy to understand why this area of the world, despite being remote, is a favourite amongst tourists.
I spent three weeks travelling around the region, going from Chile to Argentina and back again. I saw the landscape on foot, through a bus window and from a plane, watched guanacos as they jumped past and stood perfectly still so as not to scare the penguin that was crossing my path.
With lots of things to do in Southern Patagonia, it is often difficult to know where to start and what to pick. Here are some favourites that you should not miss while coming to this region:
With its decent-sized airport, Punta Arenas is an entry point into Southern Patagonia for many travellers. The city might not be the most interesting place in the area (it is far nicer to go out and see the Patagonian nature than to stay here for too long), but it is pleasant enough and a good base if you want to see the penguins on Isla Magdalena.
Besides the Monumento Natural los Pingüinos, there are a couple more things to do in Punta Arenas:
Ushuaia, the world’s southernmost city, often calls itself the ‘end of the world’. Yet, when we arrived here, the city had anything but an end-of-the-world feeling. It was big and lively, with shops selling everything you could possibly need. And since residents have tax advantages over the rest of Argentina, the city has grown over the past decade.
For tourists, Ushuaia has a lot to offer. We stayed for two and a half days but could easily have found something to do for another two or three days. Upon arrival, I suggest you stop by the tourist information to get a map and excellent free info brochures about Ushuaia. And then go out and check out the following sights and activities:
El Chalten does not have a long tradition. The town was founded in 1985, as a border outpost to race Chile who was also claiming land in Patagonia. Around two thousand people live here, although it feels a lot larger with thousands of tourist coming to visit in high season.
El Chalten is known for its excellent hiking, although even for those who do not like to walk, there are a couple of things to do in the area. I have tried to put together a list of things you could do, trying to include as much of a variety as I could. El Chalten might be the capital of hiking but that doesn’t mean there aren’t more things to explore.
I have already done one interview with a local. When I travelled to Ecuador, I met Jaime, a tour guide from Cuenca, with whom I spent an amazing day in the Cachas National Park.
Now that I have moved on to Colombia, I got the chance to meet more amazing people. Colombia is one of the most interesting countries in South America. Not long ago, it was completely off limits to tourists and Medellin was labelled as the most dangerous city in the world. It is unbelievable how much this country has changed. When I came here, progress was visible everywhere. From public libraries and free wifi at every corner to the creation of small businesses, it is obvious that Colombia has come a long way. And it is not just the country itself. I also met very progressive and inspiring people.
One of them is Juan from Medellin. He was our tour guide and was nice enough to agree on doing an interview with me.
One of the highlights of my trip to Patagonia was the Torres del Paine national park. My friend and I had planned this trip ages in advance. We had browsed through guidebooks, looked at maps and googled information. We had posted on forums and tried to find out as much about the Torres del Paine National Park as we could. We knew we didn’t just want to go for one day. We wanted to stay overnight.
After lots of research, we decided to hike the W, which is, if you believe the internet, one of the most famous hikes in the world. There were definitely lots of other hikers. But regardless of how famous it is, it is one of the most beautiful hikes I have ever done.
If you want to go to Torres del Paine, too, you will need to plan in advance. Keep reading to find out five things you need to know before setting out for your hike.
Paracas, located south of Lima, is a popular excursion from Peru’s capital. It also makes for a great stop when travelling in between Arequipa and Nazca in the south and Lima in the north. It is easy to stay here for a couple of days, watching wildlife, relaxing on beaches and enjoying excellent seafood. If you haven’t had any ceviche yet, this is the place to Peru’s national dish.
Check out the recommendations below for a full list of things to do in Paracas: