Vibrant, diverse, and completely captivating, South America is unlike anywhere else we have ever been.
After driving through the Pan-American Highway stretching from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, to Ushuaia, Argentina during our Great Indian World Trip, we wanted to show the beautiful, yet untouched and unexplored sites of South America to the people.
As a result, after carefully curating an itinerary that was thoroughly tested and approved by yours truly expedition leaders and world travellers, Sanjay Madan and Tushar Agarwal, South America Expedición 2018 was launched.
A road trip from the top to the bottom of South America was definitely not going to be a cake walk. Yes, we are talking about the entire continent. But with 8 passionate road-trippers from India, Tanzania and UK, we were ready to conquer this continent and strike off some surreal experiences from our bucket list along the way.
Our journey of 1000 miles (over 15,000 kms in our case) began from Cartagena in Colombia on 3rd September.
Colombia: Colourful pueblos, fascinating cities, stunning national parks and idyllic beaches – Colombia has it all. It wasn’t all that long ago that tourists avoided Colombia, but times have definitely changed. Colombia was our first country on the expedition and we couldn’t be more excited to begin our drive. During our 8 days in Colombia, we took our time to soak in the Country’s vibe in Cartagena before driving to quaint cities like Monteria, Medellin and Popayan. We specially enjoyed our time in Medellin, which was once dubbed as the “most dangerous city on earth”. In today’s time, Medellin is a delightful place to explore. From visiting Casa Museo – the house of Pablo Escobar to streets filled with graffiti art, from the whimsical Botero Statue Park to the Barefoot Park… we enjoyed our one-day rest in the beautiful city of eternal spring. We even managed to have a small bonfire birthday party for our dear friend – Mohanraj in Pereira, where everyone got a chance to tap their feet on the beat of Salsa and enjoyed live music, good food and great company.
In just about 8 days, it was time to bid our farewell to this beautiful country and our first border crossing on the expedition. Before crossing the Colombia – Ecuador border, we visited El Santuario de las Lajas at Ipiales, which is one of the world’s most beautiful churches. This Gothic church built across a bridge on a canyon over the Guaitara River is commonly referred to as “a miracle of God in the abyss”. It was truly a sight to behold.
Ecuador: Located on the equator in South America’s northwest, Ecuador is known for its great biodiversity, high altitude capital city, Andean history, and exciting array of activities. Though most people know it simply as ‘Ecuador’, the official name is, in fact, República del Ecuador. This translates from Spanish to the ‘Republic of the Equator’. Ecuador is one of South America’s smallest countries by land mass, but while it may be small, it definitely had a lot to offer.
Continuing our drive on the high-altitude mountain ranges of the Andes, we reached Quito, the second highest capital in the world which is located right on the Equator. We ticked one more iteam off our bucket list after our trip to the Middle of the World (Intinan Museum)! From watching the eye-opening demonstrations of the Coriolis effect to balancing an egg on the head of a nail, we did all the fun Equatorial Shenanigans. We feel proud to claim of Standing in Both Hemispheres at ONCE! After exploring the fascinating city of Quito, we were ready to cruise in to the mystical, mysterious and the fascinating jungles of the Ecuadorian Amazon rain forests.
An Amazon River Cruise isn’t like any typical cruise. While many other cruises are about creating entertainment and activities, an Amazon River Cruise is about experiencing life on the world’s largest river and exploring the culture, wildlife and beauty of the world’s largest rain-forest and that’s exactly what we did!
We spent three days experiencing the remote and pristine areas of the Ecuadorian Amazon, kayaking, going on jungle walks, fishing for Piranha and more. Now it was time to cross the border and enter the next country, Peru.
Peru: Peru is one of the most versatile countries on this planet. There are high mountains, deep valleys, a lovely coastline, ancient culture and pristine nature. In fact, there are so many unique things to do in Peru that it’s hard not to fall in love with this country. We certainly couldn’t resist! While driving through the Inca empire, we took our time to visit Machu Picchu, got a 360 degree view of the enigmatic Nazca Lines, followed the rainbow (not quite literally) at the Rainbow mountain, ate a furry friend (Because When in Rome, do as the Romans do; when in Peru, eat guinea pig), and took selfies with locals (read Llamas).
Machu Picchu has come to define Peru and once you get here, you’ll understand why. There’s something unexplainable about standing in these ruins and connecting with Pachamama in her absolute element. Also, let’s not forget the fact that Machu Picchu is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the seven wonders of the new world. We had to tick this one off our bucket list.
Bolivia: Quaint and charming whilst also adventurous and vibrant, Bolivia is a country of contrast. We personally think Bolivia is an incredibly interesting country with some of the most incredible sights and historical wonders.
There is probably no traveller or tourist that leaves Bolivia without having visited the main tourist attraction in Bolivia, the Salar de Uyuni. So, this world’s largest salt flat (4,086 square miles) was on top our list. The harsh beauty and desolateness of Salar de Uyuni definitely made for an incredible experience and we all enjoyed endless stretch of driving on the salt flats before stopping in and appreciating our picnic lunch spot. In Bolivia, we visited quite a few places. From the highest capital in the World – La Paz to Bolivia’s most striking sight, Laguna Verde and legendary moon, we couldn’t have had enough of this country.
Chile: “There is no place quite like Chile.”
From the driest desert on Earth, high altitude geysers to the frozen mountains, Chile is a country of great beauty and contrasts. Being the longest country in the world (stretching over 2,670 miles from tip to top), Chile varies in landscapes, terrains & climate and we were happy to experience it all during our expedition.
On entering Chile, we reached San Pedro de Atacama and drove through the Atacama Desert. There are few places around the world that truly takes your breath away, but the Atacama Desert is one of those places that left us breathless… and that’s not just because of the high altitude!
We lost ourselves amongst the endless stretches of tarmac and perfect landscapes. The Atacama Desert really is like nowhere else we’ve been. We continued our drive in Chile and took some time to visit La Serena, one of Chile’s top beach destination and went sightseeing in Santiago, Chile’s capital and largest city.
Chile also happens to be one of the best locations in the world for observing the unfiltered and unadulterated night sky and we spent hours gazing at the Milky Way which felt so close, we could almost reach out and touch it. We were truly starstruck.
Argentina: The classic combination of food, football and Tango makes Argentina a country like no other. Fun, free-spirited and passionate, this South American nation truly has everything.
One of the biggest highlights from not just our time in Argentina, but also in South America has to be the visit to the Perito Moreno Glacier, El Calafate. Looking out onto an endless sea of blue, white and grey ice moulded into jagged peaks and then watching sections of the glacier calve and fall was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Next up has to our journey to the end of the world. How many people can possibly say that they’ve been to the end of the earth? We can! Ushuaia is the largest city in Tierra del Fuego and is often referred to as “Fin Del Mundo, or The End of the World”. The name is well-deserved since the town is located at the southernmost tip of not only South America but of the world! Any further south and we would have been driving across the ocean to Antarctica (that’s probably best saved for next time).
In Argentina, we even got a chance to go Whale Watching in Puerto Madryn and we meet the King Penguins. It’s hard to express the joy of watching whales and seals in their natural habitat. We were lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. It was peak whale-watching season in Puerto Madryn when we visited, and we got to experience close encounter with these massive creatures.
After reaching Buenos Aires aka the last destination on our expedition, we took to the streets of La Boca in Buenos Aires and learned to tap our feet on the tunes of Tango, after all Tango is considered the deepest dance in the world and we didn’t want to leave this country without learning a step or two.
We spent over two months in this continent and still feel we only scratched the surface. In these two months, we got a chance to experience glaciers, deserts, oceans, ancient ruins, exotic cities, mountains, rain forests, mysterious waterfalls and more all in this one epic journey. What more we could have asked for? Now it’s time for more exciting expedition across the 7 continents.