In just 1 month I discovered the north of Chile, Bolivia and Perú with my boyfriend, it was the first time he joined me in my backpacking adventures. This travel route is very common in the backpacking culture here in Latinomérica, I wish I had more time to stay more than 2 nights in my favourite spots, but sure I will be doing this again in the future.
I wasn't aware of the magnitude of this trip until I wrote this. If you are interesed I tried to put all the info I've recolected in this trip. Here I go:
SAN PEDRO DE ATACAMA
I started this trip in a city I've never been to: San Pedro, wich is near the dryest desert in the world: Atacama. I flew from my city, Santiago, to Calama and then I took a van from the airport directly to San Pedro. I stayed in an AirBnb called Casa Lickanantai wich was a very cheap, nice, clean and comfy studio, because all hostals there are very expensive. I stayed 3 nights and did 4 tours. Neither was an astronomical one, but I recommend you to seach information because Alma's proyect it's quite important in the scientific world.
I took the Valle de la Luna tour, Geysers del Tatio tour and Laguna Cejar tour with Turismo Layana, and Lagunas Escondidas de Baltinache tour with Turismo Pukarumi. I booked all tours through www.denomades.com and they were very cheap because I bought it on Black Friday. I recommend you to booked in advance or take tours from San Pedro, but keep in mind it's a very small town and very touristic, so maybe you won't be able to find tours on the exact date you're in, same count for hostels. There's no public transport to do activities it by yourself if you are backpacking... Unfortunately Chile is a very expensive country to sleep, eat and travel... So keep that in mind if you want to visit my country.
On the other side, very close to San Pedro, BOLIVIA offers you a lot of adventures and that you'll be able to save so much money if you cross the frontier. I decided to take a tour from San Pedro to Uyuni in a 4x4 truck with Sol Andino Expeditions, wich was very cheap considering it's a 3 day expedition that includes ALL meals, transportation and hostels. In the last night we slept in a hostel made entirely of salt, it was incredible and actually very cozy. I had so much fun and mindblowns experiences in those days I can't even put it in words. Please do this tour if you want to explore lagoons, volcanos, deserts and visit the most giant salt flat on earth (that can be see from space!). Laguna Colorada was my favorite spot in this trip, JUST LOOK AT THAT PHOTO!! I recommend this 4x4 tours a 100% BUT be prepared for high sickness, car sickness and no-wifi for 3 days.
From Uyuni I took a night bus to La Paz, wich let me save money on that night accomodation. It wasn't a good sleep though, because I was adviced that's very common that bags gets stolen on the route from the under-sitting area, so I asked if I could bring my bag inside with me (in the sitting area) and they rudely denied. I slept with one eye open and I was very scared everytime the bus stopped in the highway and opened the bag area... Nothing bad happened, but I was so tired the next day and couldn't do anything more than sleep... I recommend you choose the expensive buses (that aren't really that expensive), because everybody said that you pay for your confort and security depending on the price.
I stayed in the York BnB hostel in the center of La Paz, and honestly the sheets were full of hairs and defenitely weren't clean at all. When I saw that I started reading online reviews on TripAdvisor and one girl reviewed that fleas bite her 2 weeks before... SOOO I sleept in my sleeping bag for 2 nights. Honestly this was my least favorite hostel and city in all the trip, because La Paz it was very busy and loud! So many cars and drivers were very rude with the walking people.
I visited Mercado Camacho, Plaza Murillo, Museo Nacional de Etnografía y Folklore (MUSEF) and the Mercado de las Brujas. I took the teleferic to go to the highest point in the city and walk almost everywhere. I wish I had one more day to go biking on the Death Road, my best friend did it 3 years ago and told me it's a very adrenalinic way to explore and see how the weather varies as the altitude changes.
I decided to buy on www.boliviahop.com the Bolivia and Peru Hop ticket bus package that allow you to take several buses in those countries, they are affordable if you plan to travel for weeks, months and even one package sells the year membresy. I took the La Paz - Copacabana - Puno - Cuzco , but I recommend book that route plus Arequipa - Nazca - Huacachina - Paracas - Lima (finish). I did not booked that route because I had booked in advance a very cheap flight from Cuzco to Lima.
COPACABANA & ISLA DEL SOL
If you are not a very city loving person, in stead of La Paz, I recommend you to spend more days in Isla del Sol (to explore and relax) or Copacabana if you want to meet people, have a good time and doing different tours everyday if you can afford it. To make it more budget friendly I decided to sleep in Isla del Sol and explore it by ourselves on foot. This island do not have cars and it's very prepared for daily turism that come and go on stablished hours, so evenings and nights are very calm. There are several ports to come from Copacabana, but keep in mind there's a political issue with the indigenous people, so there's a part of the island that banned the turist (north part), but the southern people are very friendly and always smile at you. Please bring money to buy souvenirs here because it's the only way people survive.
I stayed at the amazing Hostal Puerto Yumani, placed in the amazing Yumani port, they have private rooms at a very affordable price in comparison of the mayority of hostels and AirBnBs (breakfast included). The rooms were SO cute, giant and with an amazing view to the Titicaca lake, the highest navigable lake in the world. Prepare your trekking shoes, your rain cape and go explore everywhere! I visited the Sun inca temple, the inca Stairs and the little town near the Yumani port.
Talking with the hostel owner, an old indigenous native, they explained me that since Evo Morale left the presidency the've struggled with tourism, so I asked if he does other activities so I could help him. He offered me his boat to return to Copacabana at the same price as the one's I've arrived. He took us to the near part of the continent and show us the amazing Yampupata peninsula in his car! I recommend you to go to his hostal and ask him if he can take you to Copacabana by his boat/car. It's a diferent way to do tourism, but it was worth it because I helped him and discover a new place I defenetly want to came back!
I took the Bolivia Hop ride to the Peruvian frontier, where a Peru Hop bus was waiting us on the other side. The ride to Puno is quite long (4-5 hours), so I recommend you to take the last bus to arrive with sun light to the city. I arrived at 8 p.m. but Puno was in carnival: Festival de la Candelaria iluminated the city from miles away! I stayed in the Titicaca river once again, but this experience was very different. I rented an Airbnb in a floating island. Yeah, that's right, the Uros floating islands are made from totora, a thick, buoyant reed that grows abundantly in the shallows of the Titicaca. I reserved my stay in Isla Quechua (part of the Uros community) by the name of Misky Puñuy Lodge, you can find it on Booking or AirBnB. Jhene was an amazing and lovely host, she even gived me a goodbye gift and delicious free breakfast every day! She managed our Taquile Island tour (recommended 100%) and my boat back to Puno. This experience was so crazy, you could notice the waves in bed, the sunrise was something from another planet... I really enjoyed staying there, it was very relaxing comparing I was going to Puno everyday to watch the carnival. The centre is quite pintoresque and the port is the most amazing place I watched, a peatonal bridge with nice sculptures cross the Titicaca in a nice way! I also heared Lampa (a city near Puno) has very interesting inca ruins to watch, daily tours go there but I didn't do any.
I took the night bus (by Perú Hop for the last time) from Puno to Cuzco, but I don't remember exactly how long it was because I slept the entire time, those buses were incredible. They had USB ports, they give you blankets and water. We arrived at the morning and inmediatly fell in love with the city. Cusco has an amazing historical feel and surrounded by greenery, this contrast is very unique. Even if this is the most touristic city in Perú, I recommend you to take at least 3 days to explore it! AAAAAND it's quite famous for being the nearest point to Machu Picchu, wich is actually VERY far away.
From Puno, but more close to Cusco, it's the famous Rainbow Mountain. I was going to do that tour but Machu Picchu left me without energies and I was starting to get very car-sick so I didn't want to spendt more hours traveling by car. I stayed 1 night in Cusco, then left to Machu Picchu and stayed there 2 nights, then I came back and stayed another 2 nights in Cusco.
I visited the Mercado Central de San Pedro (A+ for their juices and lunches at a VERY CHEAP PRICE!!), Qorikancha Temple, Plazoleta de San Blas, Plaza de armas, Cristo Blanco and Saqsaywaman, wich is the biggest inca's build, EVEN more important than Machu Picchu and so close to the city center!
I stayed at Pachacuteq Hostel first, wich was very nice and clean, but then I spent 2 nights in the Tupackers Hostel wich wasn't very nice, there were no windows in my room and the bedding was smelly... I slept in my sleeping bag and also, I almost die electrocuted in the kitchen, so please don't go there. The only good thing is that they had 2 nice lounges and a very interesting library (as a literature enthousiastic I was very surprised that most of the books seemed very read and used ahhaha).
The new 7th wonder of the world was in my bucket list the past 10 years. Since I was a teenager I'd heared so many storys of people's adventures and trips that involved Machu Picchu, I'd readed an amazing book in the expect of my trip I recommend to you if you enjoy reading: "The history of Tahuantinsuyo" by María Rostworowski. Surely it's no easy to arrive here.
There are many ways to get to Machu Picchu, the most expensive and fastest way is to take a train from Cusco to Aguas Calientes or better known by the name of Machu Picchu city. Clearly this can only be allowed by people with a very good economic situation. The ticket to Machu Picchu is already quite expensive and difficult to get, so I recommend you get your ticket 1 month in advance if you only want to see the citadel, but 2 months before if you include a mountain (Machu Picchu or Wayna Picchu, which is the one that I climbed). But let's get back to exactly how to get there. First you must find a transport from Cusco to the hydroelectric, the most common is to hire them at the Terminal Terrestre De Cusco and they will pick you up from the hostel where you are staying in the morning. They are vans that seem to support the long and intricate road well. There are several hours, there are stops to eat, go to the bathroom and take good photos, do not worry. You will arrive after noon to the hydroelectric plant, where you must start a 12-kilometer walk, they all say it is 4 hours, but I did it in 3 stops, with rain and taking photos every so often. This hike is done on the edge of the train line, but I assure you that it is much more worth living on foot than on a train that goes quickly through the wildest landscapes of Peru. It is practically a jungle at height, you are always surrounded by mountains, green, ravines and tropical sounds.
For your reward, Aguas Calientes or the city of Machu Picchu is very prepared for tourism, there are restaurants everywhere and the city is quite picturesque. The sound of the river is wonderful and everything is made to rest after long walks. Almost all arrive exhausted and fall asleep early to climb Machu Picchu before the sun rises. I stayed at Kaypi MachuPicchu hostel, which has good hot showers and a beautiful view of the river, 100% recommended.
To get to Machu Picchu I bought a bus ticket, which was very worth considering that I was going to get pretty tired climbing the Wayna Picchu. It was wonderful to climb that mountain, I recommend that they do it, because they lengthen the hours of stay in the park and it is the only mountain that allows re-entry to the park, which allowed me to go out to eat something after climbing and enter to see the Machu Picchu citadel for the second time and take photos with the different lights of dawn and noon. We went down to Aguas Calientes on foot to save the bus and it didn't take us more than 25 minutes, record time because we did it running. It was a bit risky, we know, but the adrenaline and happiness was so much that I did not mind dying because I had already known Machu Picchu hahahaha.
I stayed two nights in Aguas Calientes, which allowed me to rest the day before and after visiting Machu Picchu, but normally people choose to stay only one night due to how expensive the city is. To return to Cusco you have to hike back to the Hydroelectric and look for your hired van in the midst of great chaos. Please bring a phone from the travel agency and a SIM card in case you cannot understand the language, since they usually shout names and not pronounce them correctly. I heard many horror stories of people who were left lying in the Hydroelectric because their van left them.
This was the icing on the cake that completed my overland journey. I took a plane (very cheap) from Cusco to Lima and spent the third week touring the central coast of Peru.
I loved this city! It is such a big metropolis to which I must return :). I stayed in the best AirBnB in Pueblo Libre neighborhood, the shared apartment was wonderful and the guest (Daniel) gave 100% of his profits to his social development NGO. I leave your data for you to consider this beautiful option: https://es.airbnb.com/rooms/11639290?s=67&unique_share_id=f4da2113-033f-4093-87bd-f54ac261f1a5
In Lima I visited the Plaza de Armas De Lima, the Desamparados train station, Catacombs of the Convent of San Francisco, the Magical Water Circuit, the Huaca Pucllana Site Museum, Barranco and the Bridge of Sighs. For lovers of literature, the Casa de la Literatura Peruana is a must-see site near the Plaza de Armas that is very extensive and rich in contemporary and indigenous culture. I forgot to take photos, as I often do on big cities, so I'm sorry for not putting any this time...
We take a bus to Pisco, from where we take a private taxi to Willys House hostel in Paracas. This is a coastal and beach city where you can dive and go on tours to islands and nature reserves. The two great attractions are the Islas Ballestas National Reserve and the Paracas National Reserve. The first consists of an island tour that lasts the entire day, and the second tour is done in mini buses that go from beach to beach within the Reserve. Due to the high price that both cost, we decided to hitchhike the second one. I am not lying to you that the walks in full sun, and even more so in the morning, through the desert are quite exhausting. But I was lucky that a fisherman took us in his truck and, due to his condition as a worker, we did not pay entrance to the park! He left us in Lagunillas and the view was the necessary emotional boost to continue walking on the hot sand. Many warned us that we would burn our feet with the sand, but we went with slippers and not sandals, with which most people walked. We arrived at El Raspon Beach and we had the most refreshing dip of all, we rested a few hours and we had our sandwiches prepared in advance for lunch. Our last adventure was walking to Playa las Minas as well, where we saw the sunset relaxed on the sand. From there we took a taxi to Paracas and stayed one last night before leaving for Ica by bus, the city near the Oasis of Huacachina. To the east of Paracas is situated the Morón Oasis, but considering that my next stop was another oasis, I decided to skip it.
As a last fact, I highlight Fruzión's ice cream / juices as unmissable soft drinks in the city.
You have probably seen photos of this place, and it is quite beautiful, although not very large. You can hire different tours to explore the desert, such as snowboarding, buggies or both. I stayed at Hospedaje Villa del Sol between Ica (the city) and the oasis (a good place to stay if you can afford it), but I do not recommend this location since there was no place to buy food or restaurants nearby. As I stayed two nights, the day after touring the oasis and desert, we decided to go to Nazca for the day and discover the beautiful Nazca lines (Geoglyphs belonging to the Nazca culture that inhabited this area before the Incas), something unique and enigmatic. 100% recommended, both tours (the sandbord and buggie in Huacachina and the Nazca lines) I organized with Peru Enjoys at a very good price, but many told me that it was cheaper to go to Nazca by bus from Ica and buy an air ticket directly with AeroParacas, which is the same line of planes I flew with. They gave me a nice flight certificate that was a nice souvenir.
Here I said goodbye to my boyfriend, who flew from Lima home, and I started a trip to southern Peru. I visited Tacna for a day and then crossed the border into Chile. But that day was quite beautiful! I stayed at the Hotel Bolívar and toured the center and the market. There is a train that goes from Tacna to Arica and the trip is quite picturesque, I recommend it 100%!
In Arica my parents, my brother and his girlfriend were waiting for me, we spent a week in this incredible city, which has many tourist attractions and is quite cheap compared to the capital and San Pedro de Atacama (where I started the trip). As my father knows how to drive and we were fed up, we agreed to rent a car. Within the city we visit Humedal Rio Lluta, Chinchorro Beach, San Marcos Cathedral, Morro de Arica for a giant staircase and a panoramic view of the city, El Laucho Beach, Corazones Beach, Cuevas de Anzota and La Liserilla Beach. We also went to Iquique, a big city on the south coast, for one day and stopped at Humberstone, but the beachy city of Iquique got a little bit boring from my experience of just walking on the coast path, I woudn't recommend it. Panoramic Buses depart from the Plaza de Armas Cristóbal Colón at noon to different tourist spots in the city, which I highly recommend because I took one of the coastal edge one day that my family wanted to rest and I wanted a little adventure that day.
We decided to go to the Chungará Lake, which is a must see if you visit Arica. But trip, which runs through the Chacalluta valley, has a lot to offer, so it is worth making a few stops! Highlights: Geogliflos Cerro Sombrero, San Miguel Azapa, Pocónchile (which houses the oldest church in the region called San Jerónimo), Pukará de Copaquilla (which overlooks some hills with incredible formations), Tambo de Zapahuira, Parinacota and Mirador Cotacotani. Once you get to Chungará, you will be less than 8 km away. With the Bolivian border, it is amazing how close Chile, Peru and Bolivia are, so this place was the best place to end this beautiful trip!
This is a highlight video I made of this trip!
This is my Brazil guide to backpack the northest region: Recife to Salvador de Bahía I made here too.
I have a few Rio tips, so if you want me to elaborate on please comment.
Safe travels! 😀
If you are planning a long trip to an unknown country, I recommend reading Lost Ways Book first. This is a useful book with lots of tips on surviving in extreme conditions.
Would love to do a trip like this once that's an option again... Thank you for sharing!!
Wowowow!!! Another incredible, information-rich post. And those pictures 😍 You should have your own travel blog! Also, I totally get your night bus feelings. I stopped taking them in Ecuador because of all the horror stories of buses falling of cliffs 🤢
Omg you have me dying to visit 😍Thanks so much for sharing! Such wonderful info here and gorgeous pictures too!