Beautifully preserved colonial cities, breathtaking mountain views, serene beaches, bustling capitals and much, much more. South America is a travelers dream, and I’m thrilled to have had the opportunity to explore it during six months. We visited a total of eight countries and saw both known locations, as well as hidden gems.
Bertrand and I could not have missed Machu Picchu, nor Rio de Janiero, but we were keen on discovering the less known places. With this post, I’m trying to give you a good overview of both the hidden gems of South America, as well as the more touristy, but equally interesting destinations.
Six months in South America
I met Bertrand in London when I was working in sales, and he was a researcher at a university in the North of England. From the beginning of our relationship, we realized that we wanted to travel together, and not just a city break here and there but hardcore travel :). We were tired of our jobs, and we wanted to see the world. So one day, after Bertrand sent me a link to a Ted Talk about this entrepreneur who closed his business every 7 years to go traveling for 12 months, I said: “Let’s do it!”. Bertrand didn’t need any convincing, so we started planning our trip to South America. Ten months later we were boarding a plane to our fist destination: Buenos Aires, Argentina.
During the trip, we had some great moments, as well as some hard ones. Nothing is perfect, and when you travel for such a long time, not encountering problems is quite unlikely. Also, spending 24h together for six months is not an easy task. At one point you get on each other’s nerves, due to tiredness or just disagreeing on different things, like where to go to eat :). However, all the little annoyances and arguments fade when you look back and realize the great adventure you experienced, and more importantly, that you experienced it with the person you love. “Awww”, I can hear you all say :).
Argentina: Buenos Aires, Patagonia, and Jujuy
November-December 2015. Our first destination in South America was Buenos Aires where we spent about three weeks. During this time, I started having hay fever and what seemed to be “South America withdrawal”. Basically, I was afraid of being so far from what I knew and it took some time for me to accept and embrace the new reality. However, once I did, it was quite refreshing.
Although Buenos Aires was not my favorite destination, we did see some interesting places and discovered two hidden gems outside the city: Tigre and San Antonio de Areco. Whilst we were in Buenos Aires, we also took a short trip to Montevideo and Colonia in Uruguay. The latter was my favorite: a small colonial town with major charm and a must see when in Uruguay (or Buenos Aires).
After so much time spent in the capital city, it was time for us to really start the trip. Our next stop was the equally expensive and breathtaking, Patagonia. I have some of my fondest memories from this part of Argentina: the first time in years going to the mountains, seeing the biggest glacier in the world, trekking for the first time. From the Perito Moreno glacier to the two amazing treks in El Chalten, and the lakes heaven that is Bariloche; Patagonia is a destination not to be missed!
Another highlight from Argentina was the Jujuy region, home to the major tourist attraction that is The Hill of 14 colors, one of the most photogenic places we have seen…
Chile: Valparaiso, Valle del Elqui, and the Atacama Desert
December – January 2016. From Argentina, we made our way to country number three: Chile. We spent a few days in the capital city, Santiago, after which we headed to Valparaiso for New Years. I confess that I did not connect to the city; however, I can’t deny its appeal. Besides being a hidden gem, it’s the place with the most street art that I have ever seen. If you go, just be careful with the stray dogs, the dodgy people, and mind the dirt :).
Our next destination was one of my favorite places in Chile and a true hidden gem: Valle del Elqui. We asked locals where we should go, as we had a few days to kill before heading to the Atacama Desert, and they all said: Valle del Elqui. We went, and we were not disappointed. From admiring the breathtaking views and exploring the cutest little villages to trying solar cuisine and the national drink (Pisco), this was one enriching experience. We loved it so much that we have placed it on the “we need to go back” list :).
Also on the list is the Atacama Desert. Although I suffered from altitude sickness most of the time there, I could not be struck by this natural wonder! We went on two-day tours to Valle de la Luna and Piedras Rojas, both awarding us with stunning views.
Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
January 2016. So far in the trip, we had visited bustling capital cities, seen amazing mountain views, discovered charming colonial towns and the almighty desert. You would say it’s pretty good. I mean, what can top that? Well, Salar de Uyuni can…
All about Salar de Uyuni and other magical places in South America like Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru, can be found here.
Photography by Bertrand Delvaux.