Hi! We are Carolina and César, from Argentina in South America. At the beginning of 2017, we decided to make a change in our lives – to get out of the comfort zone. We bought our VW Bus, converted it, and in October of that same year, we hit the road of America with the idea of reaching Alaska. Since then, we have been living a nomadic life for more than two and a half years and we have already traveled much of Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, and Mexico. Touring Central America had to wait because while in Ecuador we found out that we were going to have a baby! We decided to cross directly from Colombia to Mexico, which was where our daughter Lupe was born.
Our favorite spots in South America
Today due to the global situation, we are back in Argentina, together with the family and enjoying being parents. This time helps us to think, plan, evaluate options of how, and in what way our journey will continue. We are definitely going to continue, although now with one more member.
Below you will find the top places we have visited in the past two and half years of travel in South America. We have selected the following places taking into account how they impacted us, what feelings they generated in us, the experiences we lived, and the memories that we have. The places are listed in the order of how we experienced them on our journey.
1. Perito Moreno Glacier, Santa Cruz, Argentina
Located within a National Park 80km from the city of El Calafate, it is one of the few glaciers that is still growing. The park has very well located walkways that allow you to appreciate the glacier, which ranges between 40 and 70 meters high. Approximately every 4 years a unique phenomenon occurs, the glacier advances until it hits the ground and in this way separates the two arms of Lake Argentino. Such is the pressure exerted by the water that it ends up forming the famous “ice bridge”, which culminates in its spectacular breaking. Anyway, there are ice wall breaks throughout the year. The Park opens from 8 am to 8 pm, it is not possible to spend the night inside.
2. El Chaltén, Santa Cruz, Argentina
This small and picturesque town, surrounded by forests, lakes, and small glaciers, is the national capital of trekking. It has all the options you can imagine related to the mountain and its main attraction is Mount Fitz Roy, which can be reached by walking to its base. All accesses to the trails are free
TIP: At the base of the hill there is a free campsite, we recommend going up early to see the sunrise since the first rays of the sun illuminate Mount Fitz Roy.
3. Austral Highway, Chile
Located in the South of Chile, this route is approximately 1200km, running from the city of Puerto Montt to Villa O’Higgins. Most of the route is asphalt but there are also dirt roads. On the road, you can find a variety of rivers, waterfalls, lakes, glaciers, and wild animals. Some of the highlights are General Carrera Lake, the confluence of the Baker and Neff rivers, Puerto Tranquilo (marble caverns), Villa Cerro Castillo, and Hanging Ventisquero (glacier). You can park practically anywhere, for free, and you will find yourself surrounded by pure nature.
TIP: The best time to visit it is between December and April.
4. Serranía del Hornocal, Jujuy, Argentina
This great mountain range is located 25km from the city of Humahuaca at an altitude of 4700m above sea level. It has the peculiarity of having “layers” of different shades, which gave it the name “Hill of 14 colors”. You can get to the viewpoint by vehicle, by dirt road, and with some sectors of the precipice.
TIP: arrive around sunset when the sun illuminates the whole mountain range and you can appreciate the colors well.
5. Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
It is the largest salt desert in the world located about 20kms from the city of Uyuni. It is free to access and you can sleep anywhere within the salt flat itself. Caution is recommended, as there are no established roads and it is very easy to get disoriented. Between January and February, it is the rainy season so the salt flat becomes a unique mirror where the notion of the horizon is lost. The negative aspect is that you cannot see the floor, which leads to tripping over wells, and the salty water damages the body of the vehicle (in any case, in the city of Uyuni they offer you a washing and disinfection service).
TIP: Do you like night photography? We recommend going on days where there is no moon and you will find the best sky and milky way to photograph.
6. Laguna Parón, Peru
This is one of the most beautiful lagoons in South America, turquoise in color and surrounded by snow-capped peaks in the Peruvian Andes. It’s about two hours along a rather rugged dirt road from the quiet town of Caraz. You have to pay an entrance fee of $5 and you almost get to the edge of the road with the vehicle. It is possible to sleep for free in the vehicle or tent. Otherwise, there is the option of staying in a humble mountain refuge for approximately $3. The lagoon is 4200m above sea level. There is a viewpoint you can climb to and a path that surrounds the entire lagoon. Also, the locals can take you by boat around the lagoon for $20.
TIP: Spend a night there to get up at sunrise and contemplate the snow-capped peaks illuminated by the sun. Excursions are not abundant in this paradise so most of the time you can take advantage of the place in solitude.
7. Duck Canyon, Peru
It is one of the routes that you can take to return from the Andes area to the Peruvian coast or vice versa. It is one of the most beautiful scenic roads in South America but also the most dangerous, since it runs along the canyon that reaches, at times, up to 60m deep. On the way, the route passes through more than 35 mountain tunnels, in which you must honk the horn before crossing since the route is very narrow and 2 vehicles cannot circulate at the same time. Beautiful landscapes and adrenaline at the same time, to enjoy and make funny videos (always with caution).
8. Ecuadorian East, Ecuador
We really loved the route of the East or Ecuadorian jungle. You really get to experience the rainforest of South America combined with the traditions of native peoples. Like all of Ecuador, with routes in excellent condition, we did the road that runs from Cuenca, passing through Macas, Puyo, and Tena to the viewpoint of the Reventador volcano, which is currently active. On the way, you come across a dense and humid jungle full of vegetation, rivers, waterfalls, some wild animals, and locals with very good vibes.
TIP: Within the Cayambe-Coca National Park you can park and spend the night, from there there is a path to the San Rafael waterfall, the largest in Ecuador. From this same point, you can see the Reventador volcano.
9. Cocora Valley, Salento, Colombia
Beautiful nature and jungle environment located in the Colombian coffee axis. This valley is known for its special palm trees, which can reach up to 60 meters in height. Unique in the world and in danger of extinction, since the animals that are in the valley feed on the seeds of the trees. Access is free, although you can find some walks inside the farms where they charge entrance as they are private. There are few areas on the street where you can park and stay overnight for free. Anyway, there are inns and lodgings to stay. It is a very popular attraction so at certain times of the year you can meet many tourists. It is located very close to the town of Salento, very picturesque for its beautiful and colorful facades.
Bonus spot outside of South America: San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico
This is one of the many “magical towns” that exist throughout Mexico. It has a remarkable colonial style, narrow streets, and picturesque little houses. With a cool, pleasant climate and where respect and practice of the traditional and the ancestral are still breathed. But also, for us it has something even more special, our daughter Lupe was born here, she came to enlighten us and fill us with energy and a lot of love. In this city we shared our first months of her life, together with getting to know each other and learning to be a mother, father, and daughter.