Mountain hut in the jungle

Located less than an hour away from Santa Marta, Minca is a little paradise. Up here in the mountains, a fresh breeze offers relief from the heat. You can hike through bamboo groves and swim in rivers and waterfalls. And at the end of the day, hammocks invite you to relax.

Not too long ago, this tiny village used to be a refuge for extremists who used to hide in the mountains. These days, instead of soldiers with machine guns, backpackers stroll through the streets.

And while Minca can be seen as a day trip from Santa Marta, you should consider staying the night. Let me show you why:…

Palm trees in the Cocora Valley, Colombia

This year, when travelling through Colombia, I was lucky and got to see the Cocora Valley. Located close to Salento, in the south of the country, it is a valley of green pastures, cows, hummingbirds and wax palm trees. Those palm trees are the national tree of Colombia and the tallest ones in the world. Walking in between them makes you realise how beautiful nature can be and also how small we are.

The Valle de Cocora is not just worth a visit because of the palm trees. Along the way, you will get great views of lush green valleys and you have the chance to spot hummingbirds and other wildlife at the Casa de las Colibris. Plus, the Cocora Valley is easily accessible from Salento.…

Street view in Salento, Colombia

Salento was my first proper stop in Colombia. I won’t count Ipiales, the border town where we had to stay for a night, or Cali, where we only stayed for around 12 hours as well. Salento was the first place that I properly explored in Colombia and I couldn’t have gotten a better introduction to the country.

With its colourful houses and red-tiled roofs, Salento is a beautiful town. Add to that the coffee farms in the surrounding hills and the nearby Cocora Valley and you have found a little paradise. I recommend staying for at least two days so you can enjoy the region as much as I did. There are plenty of things to do in the area, and when you’re done, you can always relax in a hammock in your hostel.…

Alpacas on Mount Chimborazo, Ecuador

From white beaches to smoking volcanoes, jungle and giant turtles, Ecuador has it all. Despite its small size (it is only about half as large as Spain and smaller than the US-state Nevada), it has a lot to offer. This country full of contrasts can keep visitors busy for weeks.

Personally, I spent a bit more than three weeks here but I didn’t get to see nearly as much as I would have liked. As I said, Ecuador has it all. And to help you choose which activities to do and which places to visit, so you can easily put together a trip around the country, here are my personal highlights that I recommend to you and that you should not miss:…

Grilled Plantains, typical food in Ecuador

Ecuador is not known for its amazing food.

When I thought of Ecuador, I thought of the Galapagos Islands, of giant turtles, sea lions and white sand beaches. And of volcanoes and beaches, and the second-highest capital in the world. I certainly did not think of its cuisine.

But after spending a few weeks travelling around the country, I have gotten to know the most typical Ecuadorian dishes and found a few that I really liked. To help you discover the country’s unknown cuisine, I have put together this guide for you. Read up on the most delicious food and enjoy your stay here!…

Panecillo, Quito, Ecuador

If you visit Ecuador, you will sooner or later end up in Quito – just like me. When I visited Ecuador, my plane tickets to Galapagos left from the capital, so I didn’t have a choice but to come here. After a bit of research, I found out that it’s the perfect city to base myself for a couple of days. There are lots of things to do in the area, both in the city as well as in the surroundings. I could easily have spent a week or more in Quito and now regret that I only had a couple of days.

Quito is the second-highest capital in the world (if you want to go higher, you have to go to La Paz) and the one closest to the equator.…

Pyramids in Caral, Peru

Ever since I heard about Caral, I wondered why it isn’t more popular with travellers. The oldest ruins in the Americas, constructed at the same time as the first pyramids of Egypt. Who would not want to visit them? I was sure that going there would be easy and that I could spontaneously arrange a day trip from Lima, hopping on a bus with lots of other tourists.

Turned out I was wrong. Despite the significance of Caral, it was surprisingly hard to get there. I looked up tours but most of the companies only offered private trips and I wasn’t willing to pay a fortune. Surely, there had to be a better way?

There is! Caral can easily be visited independently as a day trip from Lima for a fraction of the price you would pay for a private tour.…

Marine iguana at Turtle Bay, Santa Cruz, Galapagos, Ecuador

The Galapagos Islands are known for being one of the most expensive destinations in the world.

If you google them, you will find beautiful cruise ships that take you around the archipelago for thousands and thousands of dollars. You will see luxury resorts and tours promising you the best experience – if you pay them enough. The islands have the reputation of being expensive and it is possible to spend a small fortune coming here.

Yet, it is also possible to experience the wonderful nature and wildlife without blowing your budget. While the Galapagos Islands will never be the cheapest destination in the world, I have travelled here for less than 60$ a day. This included a double room with a private bathroom, two excursions and lots of awesome wildlife encounters that I wouldn’t want to miss.…

Ceviche, Peru

It is no longer a secret that Peru is a foodie destination. Over the past years, the country’s cuisine has gotten more and more international attention. So when I travelled to Peru, I was excited to try ceviche and… well, ceviche. It was the only Peruvian dish I knew of.

After a month and a half of travelling through the country, I now know that there is far more to Peru than ceviche. I tried lomo saltado, rocotto relleno and chicha morada. I joined a food festival in Lima and ate dishes unique to the Amazon region.

Here are my favourite pieces of Peruvian cuisine.…

Village in the Amazon near Iquitos, PEru

“Put on your rain jacket,” the Kiwi guy said.

I looked up at the blue sky, with no cloud in sight.

“It protects you against mosquitos,” he added. “Trust me, I’ve been here for a couple of days already.”

Have you ever ended up in the middle of nowhere and realised that you forgot to pack the most essential items? For me, one of the biggest appeals of staying in a jungle lodge in the middle of the Amazon was its remoteness. Far away from cities, traffic and big malls, I could enjoy nature. But it also meant I had to be extra careful when packing so I wouldn’t forget anything important.

Believe me, you do not want to visit the Amazon without insect repellent.…