48 Hours in Lima

During our trip we have tried to visit the capital of each county, despite sometimes hearing mixed reviews about a few of them. Lima was no exception, and being the largest city in Peru (with a population of over 8 million) we were curious to see what the capital had to offer. We had heard that the food was second to none, and being home to some of the world's best restaurants we couldn't pass up the opportunity to sample some of the best Peruvian cuisine. Good food also comes at a cost, so we decided to spend just a couple of days there so we didn't end up blowing our budget!

From Huacachina we got an early bus northbound along the coastline for around 4 hours before arriving in the main bus terminal at mid day. We found that one of the best areas to stay was Milaflores, a barrio on the south side of the city close to the coast. We checked into Family Backpackers Club hostel, a pink town house with quirky interior but a rather quite vibe. We dropped our stuff and headed out for lunch, keen to try some world-renowned sea food. Nearby was the well reviewed Costazul, a small pub-like seafood restaurant that seemed like the perfect place. We ordered seafood saltado and seafood pasta, which were both fresh and delicious, and a great welcome to the city of Lima.  

Life on the move isn't always as exciting, and being the first big city we'd arrived at in quite a few months we decided our first afternoon should be spent doing admin. This included a much needed visit to the hair dressers (it had been around 5 months and Joe's hair was turning into dreadlocks). They did a really good job, and luckily didn't end up with a mullet that was a high risk in Bolivia and Argentina. As Stef had half an hour to kill, it only seemed fair that she got her nails pedicured and painted ready for the beach whilst waiting!

(Note: Not Joe's nails pictured below!)

On our first evening we researched a few places to eat, and came across Panchita, a restaurant located in the Milaflores district. The restaurant is famous for generous servings of grilled meat and fish and a bustling atmosphere. We arrived at 7.30pm and got some Pisco Sours in the bar area whilst waiting for our table. The restaurant was pretty big, with many tightly packed tables, but the waiters were still very attentive and personal. We ordered a ceviche starter to share, which was fantastic with beautiful chunks of perfect seasoned fish and corn sides. For mains we had the swordfish skewers with Andean vegetables and the Soupa de Langostinos that came in a huge bowl with generous servings of large shrimp. It was a fantastic meal and the food and service was just what we'd hoped for in Lima.

The next day was set aside for sight seeing around Lima, and we decided to visit Parque Kennedy in Milaflores, a small but pretty park known for its many resident cats that had claimed the area. It was quite strange seeing so many cats roaming around the park, but they seemed very relaxed there, and the locals didn't seem to mind, with many of them sat contently petting them.

As with most cities we've visited on our travels we decided to take the free walking tour. We met with other members of the group and headed to La Cachina bar to get a free craft ale to kick off the tour. We were all given name badges, which was a bit dorky but helpful to get to know the others quicker. After the bar we all jumped on the local bus and headed to the Plaza Mayor de Lima in the historic centre. In the plaza were many beautiful buildings including the Cathedral de Lima and the Government Palace of Peru. As it was a Saturday we were able to catch the changing of the guards in the palace, which had drawn a pretty big crowd of locals and tourists alike.

After the main square we walked to the Monastery of San Francisco where our guide gave us a brief history of Lima, including the conquest of the Incas by the Spanish. He also explained how the architecture had been destroyed by heavy earthquakes, meaning many of the buildings had been rebuilt 2, or even 3 times. After a quick snack break (where we took advantage of the fresh churros!) we headed to a beautiful old railway station with a glass ceiling and intricate metal arches. Our guide explained that it is now used as a royal post office. 

The tour was concluded in the central market, where we sat down and were told about the various types of Pisco, a brandy made from distilled grape wine, including Puro (pure), Acholado (blend), and Maracuja (passion fruit) Pisco. We got to sample each one, some being more pleasant than the others, but it was a nice gesture from our guide and interesting to sample the different types. Overall the tour wasn't quite as interesting as other cities we had visited, but the effort the guide made was very apparent, and we still got to see a few sights we otherwise would have missed by ourselves. After our tour we headed to the Barranco district and wandered around the boutique shops and quaint cafes.

That evening we met up with Daniel and Amanda, an Australian couple we'd met a few times before in Peru who are doing a similar trip (you can follow their great blog here) and headed for some dinner. As we were in the city of world-class food we wanted to treat ourselves and so headed to La Locanda, a restaurant situated inside the Swissotel in the San Isodro neighbourhood with great reviews.

On entry we noticed the restaurant was pretty fancy, and felt a bit under dressed, but the waiters seemed friendly and quickly sat us down at our table. We decided to share two starters, grilled octopus and ceviche, which were both delicious. For main course we ordered the short rib cannelloni (recommended by the waiter) and the pork shoulder with vegetable risotto. The presentation was amazing, and the flavours didn't disappoint.

After our fantastic meal we headed to the Parque de Reserva, a centrally located park with many water fountains, and we haggled down a taxi as much as we could and made our way there in a hurry before it shut. We thought it closed at 9pm, but on arrival we realised we had an extra hour which made it a lot less stressful. After paying 10 soles each we walked through the entrance and were met with an amazing 40 meter high illuminated water fountain with classical music playing around us. 

As it was late we pretty much had the place to ourselves, and spent a fun hour waking around the various colorful fountains. Some of them were interactive, including a timed fountain that you could walk inside of, and one that even arched right over you to create a tunnel. It was a great way to end our short time in Lima.

(Photo Credit: Daniel Tran

On our final morning we had booked a bus to Mancora at 2pm, and so headed for a breakfast in the nearby Buenavista cafe for a great view of the ocean. We wandered through the Parque Isaac Raban to the cafe perched on the hilltop overlooking the sea. We ordered apple pie, corn bread and hot chocolate and relaxed and watched the surfers in the distance before our long 18 hour bus journey to the northern beaches of Peru. 

For us, Lima was never a key stop-of during our trip, and although short, we felt 48 hours was enough to fit in everything we wanted to do. The food was by far the highlight of our visit, and definitely the best we'd had in South America, making it worth the trip for that alone. Seeing the water fountains at night was a nice bonus for us, and it was nice to enjoy an evening with friends we had made on our travels. We were glad we stayed in Milaflores, as it was a nice and safe area, but the city just didn't to have the vibrancy or interest of Buenos Aires or Cusco, and so we didn't feel too bad that our visit was short but sweet.

Galapagos Planning in Mancora

Before heading to the much anticipated Galápagos Islands we needed some time to research the different options for cruises, diving and day trips, as well as work out a budget to keep our expenses minimal. To do this, we wanted to stop off in a place not too far from Guayaquil airport, and Mancora, a relaxed surf town in the north west coast of Peru, seemed like the perfect choice. We got a comfortable overnight bus (Cruz del Sur) from Lima that took 21 hours, and arrived at the small, slightly run down town just before lunch.

We checked into Laguna Surf Camp, a hostel located a stones throw from the beach, and complete with grass huts, hammocks and a small pool. It was the perfect stop-off for which to do our research. The only downside of the hostel was the absence of the owners, who didn't seem to be around at all for advice or help on what to do in the area. This didn't matter too much as luckily there was wifi so we could crack on with our research for the Galapagos.

The following day we took a break from research and headed to the beach. We stopped off at Green Eggs and Ham for breakfast, a wooden clad house in the beach serving excellent breakfast options. We then strolled down to the left side of the beach away from any crowds and sunbathed and swam for a few hours.

That evening we headed to Aqua for food. It was one of the best restaurants in Mancora, although due to the size of the town we weren't expecting anything amazing. On arrival the place was full, and we sat down and ordered some cocktails while we decided what to have. We ordered the tempura prawn starter followed by the seafood curry, which were both really tasty! It was a nice surprise to have such great food in an otherwise fairly basic town. The following day we took a bus with CIFA to Guayaquil where we were to get our flight to the Galápagos Islands!

Salta and Jujuy Province

Due to the huge distance from Santiago to Salta, we decided to stop off at Mendoza to sample the best wines in the region. The stop off felt immediately worth while due the incredible bus journey through the Andes to get to Mendoza. With roads that wound through the dramatic and constantly changing scenery, it felt like we were watching a movie! The border crossing into Argentina took quite a while, but it didn't detract from the beautiful scenery.

We decided to spend a day hiring bikes to explore the Maipú region of Mendoza, and visited some great vineyards including Tempus Alba and Trapiche where we got to taste world class reds. Maipú itself, however, turned out to be a bit of an industrial estate, and wasn't particularly safe to cycle around. We were pretty underwhelmed by Mendoza overall and without much charm or sights we were glad to move on to the more interesting regions further north. 


After a 17 hour night bus ride from Mendoza we arrived in Salta, northern Argentinian. We wanted to use Salta as a launch pad in order to visit the many interesting places around the area including Cafayate, Purmamarca and Humahuaca, all which boast breathtaking scenery and a more traditional local culture. We decided to spend a day exploring the centre of Salta before booking 3 day tours to the key sights with a local company.

With its colonial architecture and peaceful vibe we immediately warmed to the city of Salta. The main Plaza 9 de Julio was surrounded by beautiful 18th and 19th century buildings including the Cathedral de la Virgen del Milagro and the Museo de Arqueologia de Alta Montana. It was a lovely place to relax and soak up the atmosphere after a long journey. We also visited the amazing red and gold Iglesia San Francisco, with exterior equally impressive as it's exterior.

We then walked a few blocks, passing some interesting street art (and a vintage car show!) to the small but charming craft market to pick up a few things we needed. On our walk back to the plaza we stumbled across a beautifully designed boutique shop called FED that was selling wonderfully quirky hand-made interior bits and pieces. We then headed back to the square to visit the Museo de Arqueología de Alta Montaña, or MAAM (Museum of High Altitude Archaeology).  

Luckily the museum was open until 9pm so after a quick empanada at the bakery (Salta boasts the best) we arrived at the archaeological museum, home to the Children of Llullaillaco, arguably the best preserved mummies of all time. The collections of inca artefacts that had been found on the top of the Llullaillaco volcano were fascinating, and due to cold temperatures and ice had all been perfectly persevered. We learnt about the ancient rituals of child sacrifices in the mountains, ceremonies that took place to praise gods or when an Inka ruler died. On display was El Niño, the mummy of a 8-year-old boy with perfectly preserved clothing, hair and skin in a foetal like position. We weren't allowed to take photos, but it was totally surreal to see someone who had been dead for 500 years so intact.

(Photos by Maria Stenzel)


Our first tour from Salta was to the town of Cafayate, 3 hours south of the city with various points of interest along on the way. The drive is know to be one of the most beautiful in South America, with stunning mountains, giant valleys and interesting rock formations that make up the Quebrada de las Conchas. Our first stop was the ‘Devils Throat’, a tall, narrow passageway carved into a cliff face. Locals played traditional Inca music on flutes as we walked through the terracotta coloured rock that towered around us.

The next stop just around the corner was the ‘Amphitheatre’, a huge natural arena of rock that surrounded you on all sides. Inside there was a busker playing ‘Wish You Were Here’ by Pink Floyd, and the echoing acoustics were truly magical. The wall of rock was so big it was difficult to get a full photo, and without a person in the shot the scale was totally lost.

After driving for a few more kilometres we stopped at a lookout over the Valles Calchaquíes. We were given 20 minutes at the viewpoint to get some pictures of the incredible view of the dramatic orange and green mountains. We were driven past other interesting and appropriately named rock formations including the El Titanic, the Nail and China Town.

For lunch, we stopped in the small town of Cafayate, which was a pretty place although the restaurant chosen by the tour guide wasn’t the best (we learnt that choosing our own was a much better option when on a tour). The food was average but we got to try the local dish Locro and listen to some traditional live music. We then had a walk around the picturesque town and handicraft stalls before getting back on the bus.

After lunch we continued to the Finca Quara vineyard where we got to sample local wines and tour the factory. Unfortunately the tour was only in Spanish, but luckily we had an english-speaking Argentinean on our tour who helped translate most of the information. We sampled some amazing reds including Malbec and Cabinet Sauvignon, and even bought a bottle for our evening meal. The prices were ridiculously cheap, around £1.60 per bottle! Cafayate was how we envisioned the wine regions of Argentina to be: a charming town nestled amongst vineyards and beautiful countryside. We could easily have stayed a night!


Our second day tour was a trip to the small town of Cachi, a 3 hour drive west of Salta. The route reaches altitudes over 5,000 metres, and we could start to feel it as we climbed the hills in our small tour bus. The locals on the bus kindly offered us some Mate, a bitter tea and tradition popular with Argentinians.

We were also advised to take coca leaves to help with altitude sickness, and our tour guide showed us the technique of rolling up 10 leaves into a small bundle and keeping them inside your cheek for around half and hour. We weren't sure if they worked or not but they seemed to calm us down a bit, and it was interesting to try something that was so integral to South American culture. We wound high up into the giant green hills and stopped at the lookout where a small shack was selling Llama Salami!

From there we continued to the small town of Cachi. There wasn’t too much to do in the town to be honest, and besides a small Inca artefcats exhibition we found the tour to be a little less interesting compared with our trip to Cafayate the day before. On the way in and out of the town we noticed large red fields where the local farmers were drying vast quantities of sweet red peppers. Unfortunately we didn’t get to stop and look as we were on a quite tight schedule, but it would have been interesting to see the fields up close.

After leaving Cachi we set off to the final stop, the Los Cardones National Park. It was a huge expanse of land filled with giant cacti as far as the eye could see. We spend 20 minutes or so taking pictures and wandering around the desert landscape. The tour guide decided to play a trick on us and pretended to drive off, leaving us stranded with nothing but our cameras in the desert! We eventually saw the funny side once the bus stopped and the doors opened!

Humahuaca and Purmamarca

Our third and final tour was to Humahuaca, but we wanted to use the tour to travel up towards our next stop, San Pedro de Atacama. The road to San Pedro passes through the small but beautiful town of Purmamarca, so we decided to stay there after our tour and catch the bus en route to northern Chile. Due to a political protest, we didn’t stop at the city of Jujuy on our tour, so an hours drive later we stopped in Purmarmarca where were treated to a small but bustling town with locals selling colourful garments and a handful of decent restaurants. As we'd decided to stay in Purmamarca we popped into a recommended hostel and booked a nights stay before continuing north with our tour.

We continued onwards passing amazing colourful zig-zagging mountains until we stopped at Tilcara, a small town with ruins of a pre-inca fortification nearby (Pucará de Tilcara). We took a short guided tour of the ruins, learning about the purpose and layout of the structure. It was a shame to see that archeologists had destroyed part of the ancient ruins to build a memorial for themselves (something that the guide was rightly quite upset about!)

Our lunch stop was in Humahuaca, another small city in Jujuy Province. Having learnt from a couple of bad lunch experiences we decided to break from the group and head to a small restaurant specialising in empanadas. They had about 10 varieties, and we sampled a range of the local specialties which were both delicious and cheap. The town was very similar to Purmamarca, if not a bit bigger, and had some impressive steps surrounded by market stalls selling knitted goods and ceramics.

After an hour were were summoned back to the bus, and by our request they dropped us back in Purmararca where we made our way to our very quiet hostel, El Viaje Algarrobo. We spent that evening in a nearby restaurant called Tierra de Colores, listening to a brilliant local band over a steak dinner with cheap (but good) Argentinian wine. 

The following morning we woke up at 6am to see the sun rise over the Cerro de los Siete Colores (Hill of the Seven Colours) that puts Purmamarca on the map. We scrambled up the dark, rocky hillside to the viewpoint and waited for the sun to rise. As the light increased, the colours of the mountain got more intense, revealing the greens, reds and orange layers of minerals and metals that gives the mountain its name. The town was very peaceful and beautiful in the morning light, especially as there was nobody else around except a couple of gauchos on an early morning horse ride.

Serranias del Hornocal

Although our tours were a great way to see the surrounding sights of Jujuy, we felt they were a little rushed. Because of this we had missed a sight we were really anticipating: the 14 Coloured Mountain, or Serranias del Hornocal, about an hours drive north of Humahuaca. The only way to get to the mountain from Humahuaca is by tour van or jeep, meaning we had to get a bus back to Humahuaca first. After some negotiations with locals and a bit of luck bumping into people we’d previously met on our trip, we managed to get a spot on a jeep. We drove along a bumpy, dusty road until we reached about 5000 metres above sea level. Two of us had to sit in the back, which was definitely the more fun and picturesque option!

On arrival we were met with a jaw-dropping view of the 14 coloured mountain. It was incredible, and definitely the most beautiful mountain we’d seen around the Jujuy province. We decided to walk another 10 minutes down hill to the ridge where you get the best view. Coming back up hill was definitely a struggle with the altitude, but well worth extra effort. After a good half an hour of taking photos and gazing in awe at the view we jumped back into the jeep and descended back towards Humahuaca, before getting a cab to Purmamarca.

We really warmed to the city of Salta, and found it to be a perfect base to see the sights of the Jujuy region. It was also a treat to stay in a hostel for more than just one night, allowing us to focus on enjoying the surroundings without packing up our bags so frequently. Although a little rushed at times, the tours were a relatively economic option that allowed us to explore the surrounding mountains, viewpoints and towns that we may otherwise have missed. The colourful landscapes of Jujuy were spectacular to see, and accompanied by the peaceful towns, local traditions, food and clothing, we felt that we'd really started to experience a much more traditional way of Andean life.  

Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires was much talked about during our travels, so we were keen to find out what made everyone love the city so much first hand. After arriving from Colonia by ferry we made our way in a cab (BA yellow cabs are fast and cheap) to our apartment in Palermo. We had opted for an AirBNB apartment to give us a bit of space after staying in quite a few shared dorms. The apartment was great and came with everything we needed plus a balcony with a great view and even a rooftop pool! With 9 days dedicated to exploring Buenos Aires, it was the perfect launchpad for us to see the city we were so eager to visit.

The Historic Center

On our first day we headed straight to the centrally located Plaza de Mayo and took in the many impressive, politically important buildings including the Piramid de Mayo, Casa Rosada and the Metropolitan Cathedral. We then walked past the Obelisco, an iconic spike-shaped landmark, before ending up in a small square in front of the Teatro Colón for lunch where we befriended by a baby parrot!

We ended the day with a meal at Las Cabras, a traditional Argentinian Parilla (Steak House). Wanting to try everything, we ordered the 'Completo', the must try dish. It arrived on a huge tray! The chorizo pan, chicken escalopes and steaks were really delicious, the intestines and blood sauce were definitely a required taste and the quantity of food was completely obscene! (we had to doggy bag it). We left feeling totally stuffed having definitely had the ‘Completo’ Argentinian meat experience!



Palermo is known for being a stylish, trendy and upbeat area with world-renowned restaurants, lively nightlife and some beautifully well-kept parks in the north of the district. As the weather was good we decided to walk around the Largos de Palermo and Tres de Febereo Parks, which had tranquil lakes and a very impressive and picturesque rose garden. We also visited the Japanese Gardens, which was very therapeutic (although a little overpriced).

Spanish Class

Since arriving in South America we had wanted to improve our Spanish skills. After a recommendation from fellow travellers we decided to book ourselves in for private tutoring with a charming BA resident named Yanina. Neither of us had any prior Spanish-speaking knowledge so it was challenging, but great to have one-on-one lessons with our wonderful tutor. After the lesson we were offered some Mate (pronounced Mat-ay), a traditional bitter tea and important part of Argentinian culture. As Brits and big tea fans we appreciated the tips in Mate etiquette and were fascinated by the meticulous preparation!


Our Spanish tutor had given us lots of good recommendations for authentic tango bars in Buenos Aires, so that evening we headed to El Boliche de Roberto, a cosy and traditional looking bar in the Almagro neighbourhood. We were a little surprised to discover it was a singing-only tango night, but we grabbed a table at the front, ordered a beer and waited for them to start. The duet were totally captivating from the moment they began, with beautifully harmonious tango ballads that the locals heartily sang along to. We sat and watched for a few hours, completely enthralled by the music.

The following night we decided to try out Yanina's second recommendation: a 'tango disco' night at La Catedral, a club in the same neighbourhood of Almagro. Neither of us are natural dancers so we decided to take Tango lessons. The teachers initially seemed pretty unsympathetic to beginners, but after a few attempts we eventually got the steps right and had a fun hour circling the dance floor. Once our lesson ended we watched local couples dance well into the early hours. There was also a band that made an appearance, playing typical South American music with flutes, guitars and drums accompanied by traditional tap dancing.

Recoleta Cemetry

One of the main attractions in Buenos Aries is the famous Recoleta Cemetery, a town-sized graveyard filled with decadent graves dedicated to the rich, famous and elite Argentinians. The extremely rich even had mausoleums built for themselves and their families, from small rooms to full-sized chapels where people could visit and pay respect. It was fascinating to see how much money and effort had gone into the resting places of the deceased. We spent a couple of hours walking up and down the narrow rows of the cemetery, peering into the creepy cobweb covered graves and tombs.

Close by in the Plaza de las Naciones Unidas was the Floralis Genérica, a giant metal solar powered flower sculpture designed by architect Eduardo Catalano. Unfortunately after a mechanical failure the flower petals no longer open and close, but it still looked great


As the weather was looking a bit grey on one of our days we decided to visit The Latin American Art Museum (MALBA) to get a taste of old and new artworks throughout South American history. We really enjoyed all the exhibitions, ranging from Inca artefacts, European-influenced paintings depicting the simple life in the Andes to more weird and wonderful mechanical sculptures and abstract art.

Our favourite exhibition was entitled 'Marcados' (Marked) by artist and photographer Claudia Andujar, a Polish Jew that had been liberated from Belson concentration camp as a young girl. She had embarked on a project later in life to help immunise the Yanomami tribe in the Amazon. The provocative and moving black and white portraits were taken once tribe members had been immunised and given a numbered badge, and questioned the ethics of being 'branded' for either life or death, drawing comparisons with Nazi concentration camp badges.

San Telmo

The bohemian barrio of San Telmo was next on our list, and we spent an afternoon wondering down the old colonial streets, peering into the many eclectic antique shops in the area. We had a quick coffee in Bar Plaza Dorrego, one of the oldest bars in San Telmo that overlooked the cobbled plaza.

We then stumbled into Pasaje La Defensa, a restored two-story mansion tucked away from the main street with a beautiful tiled courtyard and terrace filled with small cafes, artist studios and antique shops. We spent an hour strolling around the the sun-filled space, taking photos and enjoying the peace away from the crowds.

La Bocca & Lanín

When researching things to do in Buenos Aires, images of La Boca always cropped up, so we were keen to visit the area despite reading that it had turned into a bit of a tourist trap. Although the shanty-town style buildings made from brightly coloured timber and corrugated iron were really eye-catching, the atmosphere was a little tacky. It was a shame to see that a once traditional part of the city had fallen to cheap souvenir shops and locals flogging photo opportunities, but was worth a visit non-the-less. 

After seeing the main streets we didn't hang around too long, so after taking a few snaps we decided to visit a gentrification project we had read about on Lanín Street. On arrival we were greeted with an amazing street lined with mosaic-tiled houses fronted with colourful yarn bombed trees. It was definitely the coolest street we'd seen in Buenos Aires. From Lanín Street we decided to walk 20 minutes to the nearest metro (Constitution), but as we made our way we definitely felt unsafe and were lucky to avoid trouble before we reached the station. We later found our walk in a map of areas to avoid (worth a look if you are visiting BA).

Feria de Mataderos

Another tip from our Spanish tutor was to visit Feria de Mataderos, a traditional Gaucho market about an hours bus ride from Palermo. After figuring out the bus system we jumped the 55 bus across town and arrived at the unofficial flea market not far from the beginning of the market. We wondered past the various stalls selling everything from delicious local delicacies to hand-made musical instruments and brightly coloured woollen blankets.


Tigre is a small town an hours train ride north of Buenos Aires. It’s a popular escape from the bustle of the city, and we were recommended to go by our airBNB host. Unfortunately we’d timed it badly as we visited it on a Monday where pretty much everything was closed aside from a short boat tour showing life on the waterways. We managed to sneak into the museum grounds to get a few photos, but to be honest we left feeling a little disappointed with Tigre.

Bomba de Tiempo

We had been recommended to go to the popular drumming show by fellow travelers we'd met in Brazil. We had intended to go on the previous Monday, but as it was cancelled we had to wait a week. It was well worth the wait! We made our way to the Ciudad Cultural Konex, an open-air music venue in Almagro, and by the time of the show was about to start an eager crowd had already filled the space. The drumming was sensational and the crowd, including ourselves, we're loving it. Once it finished we randomly bumped into two people we'd met on our travels, so we joined forces and set out for the after party.

With its combination of European-esque style and it's Latin American soul we fell hard for Buenos Aries, and we couldn't have enjoyed our stay more. From elegant buildings and tango culture to amazing culinary delights and wild nightlife, we found BA to be a fascinating city of layers and surprises: for us it was the perfect introduction to Argentina.

Adventures in Uruguay — Part 2

Punta del Este

We'd heard that Punta del Este was the 'Miami of Uraguay’, so not knowing if that was a good thing or not we decided to spend just one night there to suss it out. On arrival, we found the description matched more or less exactly: the plush apartments, glassy sky scrapers and fancy shops were a drastic change from the small hippie towns we had left behind. After being dropped at the bus station we walked to Playa Brava beach where we could see the iconic 'Mano de Punta del Este' hand sculpture we'd seen frequently photographed on travel blogs. It was a little underwhelming in real life, but worth a picture during a sunset at the right angle.

One thing nearby that we were excited to see was the Casapueblo Hotel, so after wandering around the fairly uninteresting streets of Punta del Este we took a 30 minute bus ride up the coast and walked 15 minutes down hill to get to Casapueblo. Once the residence of the late artist Carlos Páez Vilaró, it now functions as a hotel, restaurant and art gallery containing many of his colourful abstract paintings and sculptures. The castle-like building was otherworldly, with brilliant white organic domes, turrets and balconies that jutted out from the steep cliffside where it overlooked an incredible ocean view.

Keen to find out more about the artist, we entered the museum and were immediately surrounded by Vilaró's expressive and colourful artwork as well as geometric sculptures and hand-painted pottery. It was a pure delight, a beautiful combination of cubist style with tribal influences from South America. We watched a 20 minute video about his adventurous expeditions he would embark on to inspire his work, largely revolving around the struggle of black populations, starting in Brazil and then spanning around the world.

After taking a final wander around the hotel balconies we decided to head down to the rocks below and take a swim in the clear, calm and incredibly inviting sea where we could get a perfect view of the entire building. Unfortunately there was no impressive sunset, but it didn't detract from what had been a truly memorable experience.


After speaking to fellow travellers and locals about Montevideo, we decided not to spend too much time in the capital as there were more exciting places ahead. We arrived in the early afternoon and strolled from the bus station down the grand yet tired-looking streets and dropped our bags at our hostel ‘Buenos Vibras’ (or good vibes!). We spent the evening drinking beers with other hostel guests and exploring a few of the many decent local bars in the area.

The following day we had a quick breakfast in the hostel before getting on our bus. In hindsight we felt we should have given Montevideo a bit more time so that we could explore what the city had to offer properly, but we were excited for our next and final stop in Uruguay: Colonia del Sacramento.

Colonia del Sacramento

Located two and a half hours bus ride from Montevideo, Colonia is a beautiful old town and UNESCO heritage site with cobbled streets, pastel-coloured houses, boutique art galleries and quaint cafes and restaurants spilling out onto the streets. It was a great place to amble around on a sunny day and enjoy a lazy lunch surrounded by Colonial history. 

We found a great little restaurant that served freshly made Paella, and we sat in the sunshine drinking wine and feeling like we were holidaying in the Mediterranean! After a rather disappointing view from the lighthouse (we wouldn't recommend paying, far to crowded!) we got a tub of Dulce de Leche gelato and found a patch of grass to chill on.

That evening we decided to head to Bistro Charco, one of the best restaurants in the area. It was a very stylish stone building with a dimly lit garden area and slick, minimal interior. We ordered steak and salmon, which were both beautifully cooked, accompanied with delicious Chilean Wine. We enjoyed treating ourselves after a week of much more basic hippie living!

We felt that a one nights stay in Colonia was more than enough to see everything, and although the town was very pretty in places, we found it didn't really compare with the overall beauty of Paraty's old town. It was still well worth a visit (especially as we had such great weather) and as we boarded the ferry to Buenos Aires we felt glad we'd had the chance to explore Uruguay's incredibly varied coastal towns during our trip.

Adventures in Uruguay — Part 1

Punta del Diablo

After a month of traveling down through Southern Brazil we were on to our next country: Uruguay. We’d read that the coastal area of Rocha was full of small hippie fishing villages disconnected from society, so naturally we were really excited to experience what Uruguay had to offer. From Florianópolis we took a 14 hour overnight coach that left at 2pm and dropped us at 4.30am on an empty road about 5km from Punta del Diablo, our first destination.

There were no buses or taxis at that time, so we had to take the hour-long walk into town. As we made our way, a group of friendly dogs joined our side and kept us company. Punta del Diablo only has dirt roads, and the small quaint houses with thatched roofs and individual character gave the impression that the place was lost in time. Walking through the town in the early morning light was the perfect way to see it for the first time. We arrived on a picturesque, empty beach (Playa del Rivero) just as the sun rose, with one dog that had decided to stay with us (we named her Sandy). After a spectacular sun rise, we took a few hours nap on the shoreside rocks and waited to check in to Hostel Mar de Fondo.

The hostel had a relaxed but social atmosphere, and was located, as most of the town is, a stones throw from the beach. We spent the first day strolling around the beach shacks, tropical cocktail bars and eating local delicacies such as Buñuelos de Algas (seaweed fritters) and Chivitos (a mega steak sandwich, and Uruguays national dish).

A 20 minute walk North of Playa del Rivero got us to the aptly named 'Player Grande', a large stretch of beach with more peaceful waters for swimming and only a few people there. That evening we ambled around the town and found a small, bustling restaurant for dinner with live guitarists and decent wine. Even though we only had a couple of days in Punta del Diablo, we felt totally at home there, and loved the chilled atmosphere and beautiful, uncrowded beaches.

Cabo Polonio

As the Summer season had just ended, the direct buses that link Punta del Diablo to Cabo Polonia weren’t running, so we had a slightly longer journey to our destination with two separate busses. Once we arrived in Puerta del Polonio station we had to get a huge heavy-duty dune buggy through the hilly sand dunes to get to the town. It was an exhilarating and bumpy ride through the scenic national park before the sandy road opened out onto a beautiful white beach with roaring waves and in the distance, the tiny town of Cabo Polonio. 

Once we reached the settlement the magic of town became apparent. Locals had each built themselves small, brightly coloured and very charming eco houses from repurposed and recycled materials. Our beach-side hostel Veijo Lobo was no different, nestled amongst small shacks and the odd cafe, complete with a rainbow tin roof and hammocks swinging outside. As we'd arrived off-season the atmosphere was very peaceful, and we enjoyed soaking up the carefree atmosphere that makes Cabo Polonio so attractive to visit.

At night it got a bit more chilly; after only a month of tropical temperatures we had forgotten what being cold felt like! However, it was a great opportunity to head to the local shop, pick up supplies and test out the rustic kitchen before wrapping up and chilling out in our wonderful little hippy house.

The next morning we headed to the lighthouse to get panoramic views of Cabo Polonio, and more excitingly to watch the sea lion colony that resides here. The colony reaches the thousands, and from the lighthouse you could see them resting on their rocky island, patrolling the seas and taking it in turns to go fishing.

On our last day we decided to take advantage of the cooler weather, so we grabbed the sand board from our hostel and head to the dunes. We were excited to test our previous (and modest) snowboarding & skateboarding skills on the sand and we spent a fun few hours sliding down the deserted dunes. That evening we caught up with a group of travellers we’d previously met in Punta del Diablo for some drinks at their hostel on the beach, and enjoyed a night of listening to the crashing waves and getting into the swing of life in Cabo!

Both hippy towns, Punta del Diablo and Cabo Polonio, resonated charm and had incredible coastal settings. It was interesting to see how the local Uruguayans lived such simple, sustainable lives, and after our visit we could completely understand why they would choose to. Getting back on the 4x4 dune buggy to the station we felt a little sad, but we were also pleased to get our first taste of Uruguay's beautiful coastal towns, and eager to see what else the small yet progressive country had to offer.