Country #28 - Argentina Day 1

Travel Day

Today was almost entirely a travel day, but it was still a good day. I started the morning off with an awesome omelet breakfast at CasaSur Charming Hotel. I loved the communal table breakfast area and think it’s such a great idea - I met a really cool couple from Brazil who gave me recommendations for my time in their country. I also met Eduardo, one of the owners, at breakfast as well. He was so cool and is a huge proponent of travel. He owns the hotel with his wife, and they just had a new baby! I loved getting to speak with him and to learn more about Santiago and how much it is growing from our conversation. I cannot thank Eduardo enough for the incredible stay that I had at CasaSur. I ended my stay on a high note as well, when I was gifted with an incredibly cute three-legged pig meant for good luck! Thanks so much again to CasaSur!

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I took an Uber to the airport for my longest flight in weeks. Many cities in Central and South America are within one or so of each other by plane, but Santiago, Chile, to Buenos Aires, Argentina is a little over two hours plus an hour time difference. This still isn’t huge, but I was amazed at how short my flights had been up until this point. When I landed in Argentina around 3PM it took about an hour for an Uber to pick me up at the airport, but it was over $20 cheaper than a cab so totally worth the wait. I think Buenos Aires is another place where Uber is just starting to catch on.

I arrived at my hotel, L'Adresse Hôtel Boutique, which has a great location in Buenos Aires. I was able to check-in and drop off my things, rest for a bit, and then head out for dinner. My room was very stylish and the lobby was really cool as well. I cannot thank L'Adresse Hôtel Boutique for sponsoring this night of my trip!

By the time I arrived in the city it was already dinner time, so I found a great burger place near my hotel, called El banco rojo. It was really yummy and really cheap which I really appreciated. After dinner it was about a ten minute walk to my hotel past many other cool restaurants and shops. I arrived back at L'Adresse Hôtel Boutique very full and very tired. I again fell asleep without trouble, and am really looking forward to tomorrow! I get to explore Buenos Aires with one of my best friends from Vanderbilt, Courtney’s, cousin who is from Buenos Aires and I am very excited to have a local show me around!

28 countries down, 169 to go.

For more information on Argentina click here to read my guide.

To learn more about L'Adresse Hôtel Boutique click here.

Country #27 - Chile

Stunning Santiago

I really enjoyed getting to sleep in a little more than normal this morning before heading down for a great breakfast at Casa Fusion. Thank you so much to the man who gave me the really cute Casa Fusion postcards featuring the famous La Paz, Bolivia Mi Teleférico cable car system - I love them! After saying goodbye to the super sweet Ximena I headed by cab to the airport. The flight was fine until I landed and realized $100 had been stolen out of my bag. I normally always keep my carry-on sized rolling suitcase with me, but I flew LATAM and they made me check it. LATAM was super unhelpful and had horrible customer service. I’ve obviously flown a ton over the last few weeks but has been the only time so far that I have felt like an airline did not care about its customers.

All complaining aside, the flight itself was amazing. The plane flew over the Salt Flats in Bolivia as well as the Andes mountains. Everyone in the plane was glued to their windows for the entire flight. The French girl next to me even jokingly apologized for leaning over me to take so many pictures - I would have done the same if I hadn’t luckily had the window seat! It was truly incredible, and one of the only flights I have just been truly fixated by what I am flying over. I have never seen anything like the Salt Flats from the air before, and they were so cool that they are now at the top of my list to go back and see in person.

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I arrived in Santiago, Chile mid-afternoon and took a shared shuttle (that was significantly cheaper than a taxi) straight to my hotel. You can find these shuttles easily in the arrivals terminal. I arrived at my hotel, CasaSur Charming Hotel, after about an hour. I was so excited for this hotel stay, and even more excited when CasaSur not only met but exceeded my expectations for an awesome hotel. I cannot thank them enough for sponsoring this night of my trip!

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From my first moment at the hotel, I was greeted as an old friend. Sarah kindly helped tell me all about Santiago before showing me to my amazing room. It was so incredibly comfortable, modern, and yet also simplistic at the same time. The hotel is in a really cute neighborhood with restaurants all around. After getting settled in and learning more about the area I headed to Sky Costanera, which is the tallest building in Latin America.

I arrived about when the sun was setting, which was honestly perfect. I was able to look out at the amazing view and see both day-time, and then in a matter of minutes night time, Santiago. The view was incredible. Santiago is a major, constantly bustling city and there was no better place to see this than from Sky Costanera. You could also see the Andes Mountains that surround Santiago. The mountains are so cool to see from the city, but this view was really the best.

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After I finished walking around Sky Costanera I a quick walk to the mall located at the bottom of the building. In case anyone was wondering, Chilean malls are just like American malls if not nicer! It was huge and really modern. After a few minutes, I headed out to catch an Uber which I found to be relatively inexpensive in Santiago. I headed to Patio Bellavista, which is an amazing area for food in Santiago. It took about an hour to go what should have taken ten minutes thanks to traffic, but it was worth the wait. The Patio Bellavista area was so cool and modern, and there were so many restaurants to choose from! I had Chilean food for dinner with a really interesting rolled ice cream for dessert. It was a tasty evening!

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After I finished I walked through the area for a bit and then took an Uber back to CasaSur Charming Hotel. I fell asleep quickly after another exhausting but amazing day. My biggest disappointment in Chile was the lack of time that I was able to spend there. Of all of the major cities that I have been to, I think that Santiago is firmly at the top of where I would like to visit again. There was so much that I wish I could have seen and done, and so much to explore in Chile as a whole. I felt incredibly safe throughout my stay. There were countless people out and about at all hours of the day and it honestly felt like I was in New York at times. I loved everything that I saw of Santiago, but I really cannot wait to go back and see a lot more. Thank you, Santiago, for a great day!

27 countries down, 170 to go.

For more information on Chile click here to read my guide.

To learn more about CasaSur Charming Hotel click here.

Country #26 - Bolivia

Altitude

Today I was able to sleep in slightly before starting my travels from Peru to Bolivia. I headed to eat breakfast at Sonesta Hotel Cusco, and I was able to meet Adriana, who helped to coordinate my stay, as well as her team who helped to coordinate the surprise Fourth of July decorations in my room last night. I had an amazing breakfast the next morning and loved meeting the women in traditional attire in the lobby. I got a great photo (it's pretty funny I know) from the hotel with them wearing the attire!

Everyone that I met at the hotel worked to learn and remember my name. I felt so welcomed, and even more so after my long day in Machu Picchu. I truly cannot recommend Sonesta Hotel Cusco enough. It was one of the most heartwarming acts of kindness, and everyone there was truly just so kind and great to meet. Thank you so much to everyone at Sonesta Hotel Cusco!

The hotel had a free shuttle to the airport but as it was only a five-minute ride away I decided to Uber to make sure I would be on time. I flew into La Paz, Bolivia with no issues. Upon arrival in La Paz it took a while for immigration officials to show up to process our arriving flight. I headed to the bathroom and then stood in the back of the line where I made a new friend! I started talking with Mia, who is so cool and from Norway, about my trip and how I had no plans for the day. She was just in La Paz for a few hours before flying on to meet a friend in another part of Bolivia. We decided to meet up after immigration and spend the day exploring La Paz together!

I say that we had to meet up because, as a U.S. citizen, you have to have a visa for La Paz. You can get your visa on arrival, but it takes a few extra minutes. There are quite a few pieces of information that you need to have readily available, but I was very organized with it all and it was a breeze. Within five minutes they had printed out my visa and I headed through customs. If you want to learn more about the Bolivian visa process head over to my page on Bolivia.

After customs, I met up with Mia and we took a cab to my hotel, Casa Fusion. I arranged the cab through Casa Fusion to make sure there would be no problems finding one at the airport. The cab driver was really nice and stopped on the drive in to let us take pictures of the absolutely amazing view out over La Paz. Fun fact: La Paz is the highest elevated capital city in the world, at over 12,000 feet (3,600 meters). At times it got as high as 13,000 feet. I don’t usually experience altitude sickness but it was impossible not to feel it when the entire city is elevated higher than most mountain peaks in Colorado.

I checked in to the hotel where I met the super sweet Ximena. She had great recommendations and was so wonderful to talk with. Before I left she was so sweet and gave me handmade bracelets that she makes to take with me on my trip. After checking in we struggled to walk up three small flights of stairs to drop my bags off in my adorable room. I say struggled because thanks to the altitude those few steps make you entirely out of breath. My room was very charming, clean, and comfortable, and was located on the top floor with a great view of Mi Teleférico, the cable car public transportation system in La Paz, and the city.

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We headed out and took a ride up the Mi Teleférico. It was filled with mainly other local users. You sit in a few person cable car and it takes you up even higher in La Paz. We tried to find a good view once we made it to the top, but we were in more of a local area. We did find a grocery store where we got more water and some Bolivian snacks.

We waited in line for a few minutes to then take the Mi Teleférico back down into the city. We stopped by the hotel and I called an Uber to take us to the heart of town. Uber is new to La Paz so there was a bit of a wait, but there were no problems with the ride. We headed to the Witches Market area of town. There are lots and lots of shops, with an abnormal number of them selling soccer jerseys. We walked for a while before finding a restaurant to stop and eat. I got a great smoothie along with a ham and cheese sandwich.

The weirdest thing happened while we were eating though. Mia thought she saw someone she knew outside, she headed out to check, and it was someone that she knew from Norway! It was so incredibly random but goes to show just how small the world really is. After we ate we walked down the street to see the Church of San Francisco and the Plaza in front of it. It was really an immaculate church and well worth the stop. The plaza was a very popular place and there were tons of people, tourists and locals alike, in the area.

We then headed back towards the hotel because Mia needed to head to the airport. We walked for a while until we decided to take a taxi the rest of the way. We found a reputable looking taxi (make sure to not just hop in any taxi in Bolivia) and headed back. I hated to say goodbye after a great day! It was so fun to unexpectedly have someone to spend the day with, and I loved getting to know Mia. Thank goodness for Facebook so we can keep in touch and I can hopefully stop by Bergen when I visit Norway!

Once I got back I worked on things for a little while, and also headed downstairs to meet Rodrigo who also works at the front desk. He called me and asked me to come downstairs - he wanted to meet me and thought my trip was so cool! He was so interested in my trip and what I am doing - we made sure to take a picture together! I also got a call from the owner of Casa Fusion to make sure that I was having a great stay. I cannot thank all of the wonderful people I met and spoke with at Casa Fusion for helping me to have an amazing stay.

After a long day at 13,000 feet, I was exhausted. That night I fell asleep so early without even thinking about eating dinner. I had a great day in La Paz making new friends and seeing a great city!

26 countries down, 171 to go.

For more information on Bolivia click here to read my guide.

To learn more about Casa Fusion click here.

Country #25 - Peru Day 2 (Machu Picchu!!!)

Machu Picchu

Today was a very busy day but it was one of my favorite days of my trip if not one of my favorite days ever. I started the day with a 5:20AM flight out of Lima to Cusco, Peru. My flight landed at 7:00AM which meant I had an hour to check into my hotel and then make it to the train station. Luckily, this was one airport in Central / South America that was not an hour outside of town. Within five minutes I was at my hotel, Sonesta Hotel Cusco, and was able to drop off my things and reduce the weight of my backpack substantially for the day. I called an Uber and headed off on the thirty-minute drive to Cusco Poroy station which is on the edge of town. Be careful when calling an Uber in Cusco as taxi drivers will try to pretend they are your Uber driver - this happened to me when leaving the airport but it was not a big deal as it was such a short ride. Always check the license to make sure you are getting in the right car! I was in a hurry and forgot, but it was a nice reminder to make sure I do so in the future to avoid it ever potentially being a problem.

The drive to Cusco Poroy station was winding and very highly elevated. At one point we were up in the clouds! I was regretting not dressing warmer when I arrived at the station and it was freezing. However, light clothing would pay off later in the day. I made it to the train station with about twenty minutes to spare. I boarded the train and luckily had an empty seat next to me for the trip. The man sitting across from me was really cool - he was an American who is also traveling around the world and spent time working in Antarctica. So many of the tourists were actually American it was a little surprising. However, it was also the Fourth of July so it was kind of nice to be surrounded by other Americans for the day.

The train ride in itself was an amazing start to the Machu Picchu journey. Other than hiking it is the only way to visit Machu Picchu. The train winds through the mountainous terrain, and the train cars have huge almost floor to ceiling windows to allow you to enjoy the stunning views. You lose cell service almost the second you depart from Cusco, but it does not matter because you spend the entire four-hour train ride staring out the window. The train also played traditional music and would talk about interesting places that the train was passing by. I rode on a PeruRail train. They served a meal on the train which was much appreciated. It wasn’t the best food ever, but it was something.

After the long ride, I arrived in Aguas Calientes, the town below Machu Picchu. When you exit the train you walk through a giant touristy market to get to town. You can ask anyone where to go for the bus up the mountain and they will point you in the right direction. Basically, just look for the main street with all of the busses and you’ll have no trouble finding it. The bus is another expense to consider, costing $50 round trip for the ride. It may seem steep, but when you see how steep the drive is you are willing to pay that much. The drive takes over thirty minutes, and it is literally straight up the side of a mountain. The bus winds and winds over and over and the faint of heart should not look out the window at the sheer drop (with no railing) from the side of the bus. After the ride, you finally make it to the entrance. I bought my ticket ahead of time so I don’t know the specifics on buying tickets at the gate.

I know this is a bad picture but it's just to give you an idea of how uphill the walk is.

I know this is a bad picture but it's just to give you an idea of how uphill the walk is.

Just when you finally think you’ve made it to Machu Picchu, you get hit with a major uphill hike. It took me probably thirty minutes of walking up to finally reach the top, and by that point, I was very glad to have dressed lightly for the day. The hike is not too bad, as people of all ages were making it, but it definitely wears you down. However, it was 110% worth it. All of the travel today was. When you finally get to the top and look out and see Machu Picchu it’s such an amazing feeling.

I only had about three hours before I needed to head back down, so I spent tons of time just walking around. I first walked around above Machu Picchu with more of an overhead look down onto it. This area is the best for taking pictures (I took literally hundreds today) and for meeting llamas. The llamas are very friendly and photogenic. There are also ruins all along this area as well. I then made my way to walk around the actual ruins for a bit.

My only complaint was the lack of information/maps at Machu Picchu. Many people (with much larger budgets) had guides, so it was almost impossible not to overhear information which was a plus. I definitely had lots of reading to do when I got back tonight about the history of Machu Picchu (which is super interesting and you should definitely check out; one fun fact is that Machu Picchu went undiscovered until 1911!).

After thoroughly exploring the main area I started the journey back down. The walk down was much easier, though the bus ride down was just as terrifying. I was a little early to the train station so I walked around the market for a little while and bought a few inexpensive souvenirs. I boarded the train and my seat was in the middle of a family of four, so the train found a seat for me to move to allow that family to all sit together. I was pretty excited about it because the family had a very, very excited but would have gotten old very quickly seven year old, and because I moved to sit with an awesome family of three from Chicago!

They were so cool; we literally talked the entire four-hour train ride back. I laughed so much and just had such a great time talking with them about anything and everything. Meeting people when you travel is one of the best parts about it, and tonight reminded me of that. I left the train with a giant smile on my face from laughing so hard during the ride from our great conversations! There is also a weird fashion show put on by the train that involved a very smelly man in a bird costume that was pretty hilarious on its own.

After making it back to town I bargained with a taxi driver to get a reasonable rate, as there were no Ubers within range at such a late time. I was exhausted by this point and so happy to make it back to Sonesta Hotel Cusco. Until I walked in my room and none of my things were there. I was panicked for about thirty seconds until I remembered an email I got from my contact at the hotel, Adriana, that they had moved me to a new room with a “surprise”. I walked with a still elevated heart rate back to the front desk and they gave me my new room number and key with no problems at all.

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And the new room was definitely worth a moment of shock - Sonesta Hotel Cusco did one of the sweetest things that I have ever seen. Remember how it was the Fourth of July? They decorated my room for the Fourth! There were balloons all over my room, a sweet note, an American flag cut-out, and yummy chocolates to help celebrate. I honestly could not believe the kindness when I arrived back from my long day visiting Machu Picchu. The smile on my face was, once again, huge. It was such an incredibly kind and thoughtful gesture and I can never thank Sonesta Hotel Cusco enough! It was the perfect ending to an incredible day.

My new room was great even without the surprise - it’s much bigger with a balcony that looks out over the city. I can safely say that Sonesta Hotel Cusco is without a doubt one of my favorite hotels on my trip so far. I can’t thank them enough for sponsoring this night of my trip. If you ever visit Machu Picchu, be sure to look them up! After such a long day I fell asleep almost instantly. Thankfully tomorrow morning is not a super early day, but I am very excited to head to the highest altitude capital city in the world: La Paz.

Overall, I had an amazing day filled with incredible experiences and the kindest people. I would definitely love to visit Machu Picchu again in the future and spend much more time exploring it. But even just getting to spend a few hours was such an amazing experience. I cannot emphasize enough how amazing that it is to see in person. You should definitely add this one to your bucket list, and if you ever have the chance to visit you should without hesitation take it. It is worth all of the effort and then some!

25 countries down, 172 to go.

For more information on Peru click here to read my guide.

To learn more about Sonesta Hotel Cusco click here.

Country #25 – Peru Day 1 (Lima)

Churches, Catacombs, and Chicken Sandwiches

After a restless night, I woke up ready to get out of my hotel and see Lima, Peru. I met the manager of the TUPAC on my way out for the day and she again made sure I was okay after the fireworks scare last night. I got an Uber from the hotel to the heart of historic Lima, Centro Historico. Uber is so inexpensive here it is great and really helpful. My driver did not speak English, but we were stuck in traffic for a while and began to communicate using Google Translate on his phone which was pretty cool.

The drive was through some pretty rough looking neighborhoods, but once we crossed into Centro Historico it looked like a completely different city. I ate lunch at a restaurant called T’anta and then walked around the main square of Lima, Plaza Mayor de Lima. The square is lined by beautiful buildings including Catedral de Lima, the Archbishop’s Palace, and Palacio de Gobierno del Peru.

I tried to visit the Cathedral first, but the lady inside would not take my $10 USD because it had a small crease which I found pretty ridiculous. Fortunately, the ticket was a joint ticket with the Archbishop’s Palace, so I visited the Archbishop’s Palace first where they readily accepted my money. The Archbishop’s Palace was beautiful and very decorative - it is where the Archbishops of Lima used to reside. The Cathedral is also really amazing. It was partly under renovation but still worth seeing for sure.

I then took a lot of pictures of the Government Palace next door before walking some more around Centro Historico and then heading to the Catacombs of the Convent of San Francisco and the Basílica y Convento de San Francisco de Lima. The Catacombs were really creepy but also so interesting. You walk through the Convent first, which was a stunning building. Then you go down into the Catacombs where there are just thousands and thousands of bones. The bones are in different pits depending on the type of bone. It was definitely a unique experience as I had never visited Catacombs before. Afterwards, I headed into the Basilica which was as beautiful as the Convent.

From there I briefly visited the Convento de Santo Domingo and then headed on to eat dinner in the Miraflores area at La Lucha Sanguchería Criolla. It is a small shop with outdoor seating but it was very trendy and the chicken sandwich was one of the best I have ever had. I was stunned when there was a Pinkberry next door. Pinkberry is my favorite frozen yogurt and I had no idea they had a store in Lima! After some fro-yo for dessert, I headed to the Miraflores Lighthouse and to walk along the water for a bit.

The Miraflores area of Lima is very modern and trendy and walking along the water was one of my favorite parts of the city. The views were amazing and even though it was quite chilly it was nice to just sit and enjoy Miraflores for a bit. I then took an Uber back to TUPAC. The ride was over an hour but somehow was still very cheap. It was fine other than when the driver told me to lock my doors in a not so nice part of town. After a long day on very little sleep, I had no problem falling asleep tonight. I have a super busy day in Peru tomorrow filled with travel to make it to Machu Picchu - I’m really looking forward to it!

26 countries down, 171 to go.

For more information on Peru click here to read my guide.

To learn more about TUPAC Airport Hostel click here.