Teatro Municipal, Sao Paulo, Brazil

My Lonely Planet guidebook described São Paulo as a monster and our plan was to stay here for two nights and leave as soon as possible. I hadn’t heard great things about the city. What I mostly associated with it were high crime rates and dirty streets and I wasn’t too keen on staying any longer than necessary. But then we unexpectedly had to stay three nights instead of two and discovered that there is much more to São Paulo. Great museums, beautiful parks and friendly people – it would have been a shame to miss out on all of it.

Here are some of the city’s highlights:

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Pique a lo Macho, Bolivia

When talk comes to food in South America, people mention steaks and ceviche. Argentina is praised for its excellent beef and Peru for its huge variety of dishes. Nobody ever talks about Bolivia.

But as I found out while visiting this Andean nation, Bolivia has a lot of delicious food to offer. From market stalls to fancy restaurants, you will never run out of possibilities to try yet another dish. And if you really want to delve into Bolivian food, I recommend the foodie tours in La Paz, run by Red Cap Tours.

For now, let me recommend the food I enjoyed most while travelling through Bolivia.

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Schooner, Paraty, Brazil

The coast in between Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo is made up of hills, bays, jungle, beaches and thousands of islands. Going from one city to another, travellers find many places worth visiting along their way. We spent two weeks on this stretch of coast and in the giant cities. Since it is such an easy and rewarding itinerary for travellers, I have decided to put together its highlights. There are, of course, many more things to do along the way, but those were my personal favourites. They are put together in a geographical order, starting in Rio and going along the coastline all the way to São Paulo.

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View from Sugarloaf Mountain, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

I have been to Rio de Janeiro twice and each time, I was surprised by the city’s beauty. The Portuguese settlers couldn’t have chosen a better location. In between the mountains, the bay and the sea, with islands dotted along the coast, a white city sprawls out so far, it is impossible to see its limits.

Rio de Janeiro has its problems, with high crime rates and gangs winning back favelas. I had a long discussion with my Pantanal tour guide about whether or not you should call a city like Rio beautiful. In the end, we agreed that despite everything happening in the city, its location was stunning and it is worth a long visit.

And this post isn’t about Brazil’s problems and politics. It is about how to enjoy Rio de Janeiro and to make the most out of your stay in one of my favourite cities in South America.

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MARGS, Porto Alegre, Brazil

For me, Porto Alegre was a necessary stopover on the way to Rio de Janeiro. We arrived on an overnight bus from Montevideo and left the next morning on a plane. I did not have any plans for this city. The guidebook had mentioned two museums and that was all I knew about Porto Alegre when I arrived.

Fortunately, we came across a very helpful woman at the tourist information who helped us make the best of the day we spent in Porto Alegre. And the best about it? All attractions mentioned below are free and perfect for budget-concious travellers.

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Ships on beach, Cabo Polonio, Uruguay

Uruguay looks tiny when compared to its giant neighbours Argentina and Brazil. Many travellers arrive on day trips from Buenos Aires or just plan a quick stop in this country. But Uruguay has enough touris attractions to keep you busy for at least a week or two. We had seven days in this amazing country and barely managed to see its highlights. In fact, I think we could easily have spent another one or two weeks here.

Here is an overview to give you a taste of Uruguay and so you know what not to miss:

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El Galope farm, Uruguay

The horse did not want to follow me. No matter how hard I pulled on the leash, it was more interested in the bucket with food than the prospect of an unexperienced rider on its back. I waited patiently for it to stop chewing, then gave the rope another hard tug. Finally, it looked up and, very slowly, began to move.

It was our second day on the El Galope farm and I was about to get a riding lesson. A real one, with instructions on how to brush a horse and the appropriate posture. As the horse finally came with me, I was more than happy I had decided to stay on a ranch in Uruguay.

But horses are not the only reason to choose to stay on an estancia. Keep reading and I will explain to you why a farm stay is an essential stop on every trip to Uruguay.

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Buenos Aires, Argentina

It is easy to fall in love with Buenos Aires. With its beautiful architecture, its wide boulevards and its friendly inhabitants, the porteños, it is unlike any other place in South America. Often called the Paris of the South, it makes for a funny mixture between European and Latinamerican elements. A wide range of attractions and activities can keep you occupied for days. If you’re wondering where to start, here are some of my favourites that I enjoyed while staying in Buenos Aires:

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Manzana Jesuitica, Cordoba, Argentina

Cordoba is one of the oldest cities in Argentina. With more than a million inhabitants, it is the country’s second largest city and is well-known for its many universities. The city center is made up of many beautiful colonial buildings and the student bars make the city come alive at night. If you get tired of Cordoba, you can easily escape to the nearby mountains or one of the surrounding historical villages. But before you do so, make sure to check out the following sights in Cordoba itself:

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View from Cerro San Cristobal, Santiago de Chile

Terremoto was the first Spanish word I learned in Santiago de Chile. It means earthquake and could not be more fitting for the city. Santiago has been destroyed by earthquakes multiple times. In the whole city, only one building, a church, has never collapsed in a natural disaster.

And since earthquakes are a part of Chilean history, it fits that the local drink you can find everywhere in Santiago is called terremoto – if you stand up after drinking one, the ground will shake like in an earthquake.

During your visit to Santiago, the strong cocktail is most likely the only terremoto you will encounter. And besides hitting the local bars, there is lots more to do in this interesting city. If you have a few days here, I have a few suggestions for you on what to do and see.

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