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Patagonia, Chile

You’ve probably heard of this place, or at least seen the pictures form this epic mountainous range, tucked away in Chile’s Patagonia region lies the unforgettable Torres Del Paine national Park. This was for us the MOST monumental hike we had ever done, and certainly the most breathtaking views. Torres Del Paine encompasses a variety of different hikes for different abilities, but the one we chose based on time and resources was the 9 hour return day hike that takes you to the base of the parks 3 granite peaks known as Torres Del Paine. From left to right, Torres d’Agostini, Torres Central and Torres Monzino. They extend up to 2,500 metres (8,200 ft) above sea level, and are joined by the Cuernos del Paine.

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Ensure that you purchase your national park entrance ticket a the lodge prior to setting out on the hike otherwise you will need to track back and purchase or risk getting a fine. For Aussies the current conversion is around $37, while the USD is currently at $25.

There are a variety of other popular hikes to do whilst in the national park. Most experienced or adventurous hikers opt for the more challenging hikes like

  • O circuit, a full length 120km loop of the park which can take anywhere from 7-11 days or

  • W circuit, 4-5 day route covering 52km*

PATAGONIA QUICK FACTS

  1. Patagonia is not a country, it is a region

  2. It is not isolated to just Chile, it covers almost more than 50% of Argentina as well.

  3. The main tourist attraction are the hikes, with Torres Del Paine in Chile, to El Calafate in Argentina

  4. Both countries speak Spanish as the native tongue, but most regions will have their own dialect of Spanish that can be difficult to understand at times

  5. There are 11 national parks within Patagonia, make sure you know which one you want to visit before hand

  6. Chile & Argentina have different currencies, make sure you have both the Chileno Peso & the Argentine Peso

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Perito Moreno

Never seen a glacier before? Don’t worry, neither had we. Bit difficult when you live in Australia. And let me tell you this one took our breath away. To get here if you’re in Chile, we recommend taking a bus (its pretty much your only option) from Puerto Natales (the main town) to El Calafate. Bus companies like Big Sur will get you there. Not cheap..you’ve been warned! It’ll take you anywhere from 5-8 hours depending on time schedules and weather. Or how many times the bus breaks down or federal police stop the bus to ask for your passports. And if your anything like us, finish the trip with x2 stolen passports! (another story for another time)

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Perito Moreno Glacier is in the South West region of Argentina’s Patagonia region, and is one of the only Glaciers in the entire world that is constantly growing from the rear. Meaning; if you see it break off from the front, dont worry its always replacing itself. And its seriously MASSIVE! 30km long and 5km wide, it will take you a FULL day of exploring to really take in and appreciate this natural masterpiece. So get there early, take lots of photos, have a break in the main lodge at the start of the boardwalk and get back out there for part 2 of your day.

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PERITO MORENO QUICK FACTS

  1. It is still within the Argentine side of Patagonia, a short drive from El Calafate

  2. It is constantly replacing when its glacial shelves drop off, so dont worry its not climate change

  3. You can walk along the Glacier for an hour or so and if the weather holds up you can go inside one of the ice caves. All for a cost of course.

  4. The cost to access Perito Moreno is $800ARS ($16AUD)* because it is inside the Los Glaciares national park. They may get you to pay at a stop along the way before you get to the Glacier so make sure you have Argentine pesos on you to pay up front, they most likely will not accept credit card.

  5. There are always signs out the front of most tourist attractions that will show you the difference in ticket price between residents and non-residents. Its a foreign concept but always look for the wording ‘tarifa general’ (general fee) OR ‘extranjeros’ (foreigners). You will always be charged more as a non-resident all across South America

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IGUASSU FALLS

Hailed by Sir David Attenborough (my naturalist hero) as one of the largest waterfalls in the world. It’s is 2.4km (1.5miles) across and cradles the borders between Brazil and Argentina. An absolutely breathtaking sight to behold, you literally feel mother nature move as you take in this beast of a waterfall. For the most explosive action, head to Garganta Del Diablo (throat of the Devil) where you will see 3-4 falls colliding into the same bed of water, creating a mist as high as the waterfall itself. We made a video from our time here which you can check out right here

What you will need to pack is a rain jacket, because if you get close the falls, you will get wet! Your two options to consider when deciding on Iguassu falls is from which side to view it from. Its a bit like Niagara Falls, do you see it from the Canadian or American side? Because we travelled north from Buenos Aires into Brazil, we chose the Argentinian side. It is far more beautiful and powerful than the Brazilian side and you will spend more time taking in the sights in Argentina than you will in Brazil.

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QUICK FACTS

  1. If you want to see if from the Brazil side, you will need to cross the international border, and for Aussies that means you will need a Visa in advance. So be sure to check DFAT before you consider this.

  2. If you’re feeling brave enough, you can take the boat tour from the bottom of the falls which takes you right up to the foot of one of the falls and get covered in mist! In terms of time, we did it in one day, but to really soak it up (pun intended) take the two days and give yourself (and your memory card) enough time to process this day.

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AYAMPE, ECUADOR

I guarantee you have never heard of this town before! Nestled in the West coastline of Ecuador (and keep it to yourself, its a hidden gem so lets try and keep it hidden for the most part). We didn’t plan on stopping in Ecuador at all if were being honest, it was a county NEVER on our imagined itinerary. But I’d take a stab and say that Ecuador is easily my new favourite country in South America, in particular Ayampe. Most people venture further south to the party town of Montanita, but dont..just..dont.

Ayampe is a chill, peaceful, surfy town that has a vibe that will make you stay for weeks on end. A good mix of ex-pats, international volounteers, friendly locals & the best daily surf you can find. Did I mention incredible food? If your ideal holidays is to surf everyday, eat good food and just rest on a hammock on the beach listening to the waves, then this is the place for you. Make sure you are subscribed to our mailing list as there will be a lot more in goodness coming to you about all of these places.

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We originally intended to stop here for 2 nights based off the recommendations of some other travellers, but landed here for a full two weeks on the sand. we had been staying in Puerto Lopez weeks prior, and enjoyed our stay but my advice to to definitely check out Ayampe. If you’re keen on a yoga, meditation and healing retreat in the most fascinating tree house you’ve ever seen in YOUR LIFE?! Hit up our friends Brett & Kylie at WildChild, tell them we sent you 😉

QUICK FACTS

  1. We stayed at La Tortuga, a beautiful beach accomodation with private cabins that literally sit on the sand of the beach. The restaurant is run by an Aussie expat called Vin, An awesome guy who will look after you, tell him Chris & Laura sent you 😉

  2. Theres a surf hire shop attached to La Tortuga right next door that you can rent boards for $5 a session (last time we went). They’re super chill and the surf is amazing every afternoon. But avoid the winter months as it’s a constant down pour every day.

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HUACACHINA, PERU

The only desert Oasis in the entire continent of South America is a short bus ride away from the nearest major city. Instagram is loaded with photos form this place, and for good reason. It is a tiny oasis surrounded by shops and restaurants in the middle of a beautiful serene desert. The main attraction to this place is the sand-boarding and dune bugging, which to be fair is all we did given the short time we spent here, but if you’re feeling brave you can take a walk to the top of the dunes for an incredible view of the area..with sunrise and sunset being magical.

If your lucky enough you can even get some great astrophotography here at the right time of the year when the Milky Way core is visible.

The closest city of Ica has no airport, so you cannot fly. Hence you will need to take a bus from Ica to Huacachina that will take you 8 minutes. Likewise if you’re coming from Lima, the capital city you can also take a Bus from there to Ica, and change buses to Huacachina, which is exactly what we did and that will take you 3-4 hours.

PRO TIP: Rest assured as well, taking buses through Peru is profoundly less expensive than its southern cousins of Chile and Argentina. Another rule of thumb, the more North you travel in South America, the less expensive travel becomes.

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