On this article we will tell you all about our little South America tour around Bolivia, south of Peru and north of Chile. In our latest article (view here) we talked about our experience in San Pedro de Atacama and Uyuni salt flat. Right after arriving at Uyuni we took a flight to La Paz, the administrative capital of Bolivia (the constitutional capital is actually Sucre).
La Paz & Copacabana, Bolivia
We arrived at La Paz at night and we got impressed right away by this city, its topology and its lights. In facts, La Paz is the highest Capital city of the world and also has one of the biggest height differences between the highest point of the city (4000m) and the lowest (3020m). The airport being located on the high part, you can only expect a stunning view when going down to the center at night and here you go:
We stayed 1 night in La Paz, in a very good, well located and super cheap hostel called La Paz Travellers House. One of the things to do in the city is to take one of the cable cars (they are a replacement for subway lines as the city is located on many hills) and get a nice view of the city and its mountains. La Paz has a great atmosphere with its mixed ancient and modern architecture, typical colorful dresses, old public buses, cheap shops and restaurants, etc…
In the afternoon, we took a bus to Copacabana (not the one in Rio de Janeiro, of course) on the edge of the Titicaca lake. Our hostel Olas del Titicaca was very nice and we would totally recommend it. Copacabana is a very charming little town offering really beautiful sunsets between the lake and the mountains. You can enjoy many restaurants and rooftop bars for Happy Hour. On our second day in Copacabana, we went on a boat tour to Isla del Sol and Isla de la Luna. Those islands are very beautiful and are worth being visited as you would not only see beautiful landscapes, but also some ruins of Inca civilization. However, to be totally honest, after all the amazing natural beauty we saw in Atacama and Uyuni, we were not that impressed by those Islands.
After 2 nights in Copacabana, we kept on with our journey and left Bolivia to go to Peru and explore beautiful Arequipa. Reaching Arequipa was quite a nightmare as we spent the full day on one of the most dangerous bus ride of our lives. Before starting our trip we had been advised not to travel by bus in Peru and OMG this advice was a good one, too bad we didn’t take it. Seriously, unless you can’t avoid it, do not travel by bus in Peru!! Bus drivers are just crazy and the roads are very dangerous as you mainly have highways on the edge of mountains. We were so happy when, after more than 12 hours on the road, we arrived in one piece at La Puerta del Sol hostel. Once again we picked a good hostel (we are becoming booking experts 😉 ), it was very well located just one block away from the monastery Santa Catalina in the old town and with a nice rooftop.
Arequipa is such an interesting city as you can clearly see the Inca culture mixed with the European one. One of the best ways to know more about the city once you are there is to take the Free Tour Downtown Arequipa. The guide will take you to the most importante and typical spots of the city, providing you with history and fun facts, plus you usually end the tour with a free pisco sour on a rooftop at the Plaza de Armas. Something not included in the tour and we really advise you to do is to visit the inside of the Cathedral and the Monasterio Santa Catalina. Although we really enjoyed the visit of the Cathedral and the view you have from its rooftop, we didn’t visit the monastery for financial reason (it costs around 50 soles – 14€ per person – however we heard it is worth it).
On our second day in Arequipa, we went on a guided tour to the Colca Canyon. If you have time and you like walking, you can do the 2 or 3 days trek through the Canyon. As we didn’t match any of the criteria above, we booked the 1 day tour on a van that was already quite nice… Even if we were forgotten by our guide, who by the way was very rude during the morning pick-up, another company gave us a ride till our van so we could change buses. If we put aside our shitty guide (who bribed the security at the park to let us pay less to get in and then kept part of the money to himself), the tour was spectacular between volcano, mountains, the Colca Canyon and its huge Condors flying over it, and some beautiful hot springs to end the day.
After 2 full days in Arequipa, we took the bus in the morning and went back to Chile to catch our flight back to Santiago in Iquique. The bus ride was once again quite long but felt much safer and after 2 buses and a shared taxi to cross the border, we made it to the coastal city of Iquique. When we arrived we could clearly see we were back in Chile as even the very poor areas seemed much more structured. Peru, at least to our eyes, seemed like a very poor country where misery is pretty visible. The idea was only to spend the night in Iquique in order to catch our flight the next day, but as we realized we would have a free morning in the city, we decided to go to Humberstone, an old Salpeter work city. Nowadays, Humberstone is a ghost city as all working activities have stopped in the area in the 60’s, visiting it gives a weird feeling of loneliness. We totally recommend the visit if you are in the area though.
After this very intense mini-trip we went back to Santiago and stayed there for 2 nights before catching our plane to Cancun, Mexico. We didn’t visit much Santiago because we had been there before, but it was the perfect time to relax and catch up with a friend living there.
As we said, this trip around Bolivia and Peru was really intense, too much to see in too little time but it was also so beautiful and so diverse (also totally last minute planned as our initial idea was to go back to Atacama after the Uyuni tour). That was quite a different way for us to travel as so far we had mainly stayed for a long time in the places we were volunteering, but it was so great and now we have our camera and our heads full of incredible memories.
Stay tuned for our next adventures in Caribe 😉