A few days after leaving and a little relaxation later, we can properly reflect on our 3 months on the continent. We figured an easy, informative and hopefully entertaining way to do that is via some awards! So, here’s our own limited rankings of our experiences…
Best overall experience
Inca Trail. A hard, wet, hot four days… but we’d do it all over again.
Runner-up: Galápagos Islands as a whole. Otherworldly.
Buenos Aires. Argentina’s capital has a little bit of everything. From old-school latina areas like San Telmo, bohemian Boca to modern Palermo and the parks just outside the city, this may be the most liveable city in South America.
Runner-up: Mendoza. Mecca for wine, and it’s a beautiful city with wide, tree-lined streets.
Cusco. It felt like everything an old Inca city should be with its sandy colours, squares and white buildings. Like a desert Mediterranean.
Runner-up: a surprising one, San Pedro de Atacama! A proper wild-west town, complete with sand roads and wooden-door saloons.
Alto el Fuego, Bariloche. Bariloche didn’t have a lot else, but this restaurant was incredible. The morcilla (like a black pudding) haunts our dreams, whilst the steak is up with the best of Argentina and the USA. Throw in a beautiful bottle of Malbec, all for a very reasonable price and… 😍
Best ice cream
Blu. Barranco, Lima
Runner-up: Queso Helado at the Mercado Central, Arequipa (go to the tiny cafe on the top floor for this one)
Wake-Up in Punta Arenas. Good coffee in South America cafes was surprisingly hard to come by, given the continents reputation.
Zanguan, Cali. Overpriced dry fried food dressed up as gourmet, with incredibly crap service.
Most frustrating currency
Argentinian Peso. Nothing like queuing for 7 different ATMs to find they’re all out of cash and you’re one of millions in a city trying to get pesos because nowhere accepts card.
Winner: Sea Lions of the Galapagos
Runner-up: Stray dogs of Patagonia
Most unexpectedly useful travel item…
SD card to iPhone adapter!
Honorable mentions: earplugs, eye masks.
…Least useful travel item
Refillable water bottles. We had great intentions for these, but as almost nowhere in South America provides access to safe drinking water, plastic bottles are the norm.
Trendy Host Barranco, Lima. It was amazing having our own space for a week and an actual couch to sit on! Barranco was also a really cool neighbourhood in Lima, and the apartment was a very short walk from the main attractions.
Runner-up: Rincon del Andino in Ushuaia. It was so cosy and warm in such an Antarctic climate. Oh, and the host Sylvia kept calling us beautiful so that was pretty nice.
Hostel Buenos Aires in El Calafate, Argentina: Nothing like paying through the nose for a room where the radiator won’t turn off, the windows don’t open properly, the walls are paper thin and only one of you can stand up and move around at a time.
Runner-up: Casa Naranja in Mancora: Cool setting and lovely staff but finding a NEST OF FLYING ANTS in our bedroom and choking on bug spray isn’t our idea of a good time. We did get moved to another room quite quickly though.
Bus from Mendoza to Santiago. The views!
El Chalten to Bariloche 26hr bus including a breakdown on the side of the road at 10pm when we were meant to arrive at 9pm
Runner-up: Viva Air changing the Lima to Iquitos flight by 7 hours and failing to notify their passengers.
Being in Cali, one of the world’s most dangerous cities, walking up an overpass to cross a motorway when a guy came up so silently behind us and tried to pass between us that Lauren yelped because she was on edge… We all laughed awkwardly and he walked off fairly quickly, seeming a bit embarassed!
Ben: The food! I have been genuinely disappointed in South American food in general. Yes, Argentina has fantastic steaks and the empanadas are decent but the cuisine is nothing on Asia, continental Europe or the USA. And, as aforementioned, good coffee is unbelievably hard to find.
Lauren: Marmalade. Strawberry jam is called “mermeleda” everywhere in South America. It caused disappointment every morning.
How expensive Ecuador is and how cheap Colombia is! We thought it’d be the other way around.