Planning South America: Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, & Peru


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March 2017: Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru.

    We are excited to announce that we have accepted jobs as English teachers in Peru, not sure which city quite yet, but we’re leaning towards Cusco or Arequipa. Being travelers at heart, we’re leaving early to do some backpacking in Central and South America as we make our way to Peru.

    When we travel, we look for these three categories:  Unique Things to See & DoHistory & Culture, and Food & Drink.

     It’s important to note, when we backpack, we hardly have anything booked ahead of time. Our travels are mostly spontaneous and we never know what we are going to get into. We book one-way tickets, see what we want to see, but leave enough time to wander around and have serendipitous adventures; then, when it’s time to move on, we decide where we want to go next, at that point.

    Below is the list of countries we’d like to visit and the things we are interested in seeing and doing. We will update the blog as we go.

    The Game Plan

    On March 14, 2017, we leave from Calgary, Canada and fly to Panama City, Panama. This is booked, so it’s here, that we will begin our journey.


    Population: 4 million

    Main Cities: Panama City (capital), San MiguelitoTocumen

    Languages: Spanish

    Currency: Panamanian Balboa. The Balboa is pegged to the US Dollar, so it has an exchange rate of 1:1.  US Dollars are accepted in Panama.

    History & Culture

    The history of Panama is quite fascinating! The Paleo-Indians were the first to inhabit the Isthmus of Panama region. Later, Panama became a Spanish colony. The country was explored by famous historical figures such as Rodrigo de Bastidas, Christopher Columbus, and the infamous pirate captain, Henry Morgan.

    Panama has since become a melting pot of cultures. Panamanian culture is derived from several groups including Afro-Caribbean, Spanish, and Native Americans. Spanish is the official language of Panama, however, English is widely used in business and tourism.

    Food & Drink

    Panamanian cuisine is a unique mix of local, fresh ingredients prepared in a variety of ways depending on the culture and its customs.

    Panama is known for their coffee, fresh fruit juices, coconut water and local rum. Popular Panamanian Beer brands include Panama, Soberana, Atlas, and Balboa. There is also a growing craft beer scene.

    Popular Dishes

    • Snacks/Appetizers
      • Platanitos: Thinly-cut, fried plantains.
      • Yuca Frita: Fried yucca.
      • Orejitas: A sweet doughy puff pastry cookie.
      • Carimañola: Fried meat pie with yucca and cheese.
      • Tamale de Maíz: Corn dough with vegetables and sometimes meat, wrapped inside of a banana leaf and then steamed.
      • Ceviche de Corvina: Sea bass ceviche with garlic, lime, onion, and cilantro.
    • Breakfast
    • Lunch/Dinner
      • Sancocho: Chicken soup with ñame (yam), yucca and cilantro.
      • Tamales: Corn dough filled with chicken or pork with local spices wrapped in a banana leaf and boiled.
      • Arroz con Polo, Arroz con Guandú: Rice with chicken, rice with guandu bean.
      • Corvina: Sea bass served with a variety of sauces/fried/ or served as ceviche.
      • Plato Típico: Plate with white rice, lentils/beans, fried yellow plantain, potato salad, roasted chicken/ fried whole fish/chopped beefsteak/pork-chop in pineapple sauce.
    • Drinks
      • High-Quality Coffee: Café Durán, Kotowa, the Jansen Family, and Café Ruiz are popular brands.
      • Fruit Juices: Local varieties like passion fruit, tamarind, pineapple, lemonade, orange, mango, etc. It’s not uncommon for rice or corn to be mixed in. They are usually made with natural cane sugar.
      • Batidos: Variety of different smoothies like strawberry, papaya, banana, etc. They are usually made with sweetened condensed milk.
      • Agua de Pipa: Coconut water.
      • Seco: Local gin.
      • Ron Abuelo: Local Rum
      • Cerveza Nacional: National Beers – Atlas, Balboa, Panama, Soberana
    • Desserts
      • Raspado: Snow cone with local fruit flavors and sweetened condensed milk.
      • Duro: Panamanian popsicle made with fruit juice.
      • Flans: Light egg custard in a cartelized sauce.
      • Pastel Tres Leches: “Three Milk Cake” – Rich cake made from regular, evaporated, and condensed milk. and heavy cream.

    Best Cheap Eats

    1. The Fish Market: Seafood – Ceviche is supposed to be the thing to get. $10
    2. Taqueria Mordida de Burro: Hole-in-the-wall taco place. $8-$13.
    3. Malibu Spirits & Eatery: Local pub in Casco Viejo with American style food. $9.

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    Panamá City, Panamá

    Things to See & Do in Panamá City, Panamá

    • Gamboa: Gamboa is 30 minutes outside of Panamá City, in the Soberania National Park, where the Charges River and the Panamá Canal meet. From here, you can adventure into the Rainforest for activities like Indigenous Community visits, hiking, enjoying the local flora and fauna, visiting a wildlife rescue center, riding a gondola high above the rainforest, or fresh water fishing. $50-$100
    • Biomuseo: The Bio Museum of Panamá City.  This museum teaches visitors about the diverse Panamanian ecosystems and its impact on Earth. The museum takes you on a journey through time, where you can learn about the diverse ecosystems of Panamá (and Earth), from the beginning of time – to present day. $11-$22
    • Panama Canal: The Panamá Canal connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.  The best place to visit the Canal is the Miraflores Locks. Here, you are able to visit the Canal Museum, learn about the history of the canal, and watch ships as they pass through the canal. $15
    • Casco Viejo: Spanish for “Old Quarter,” this area of Panamá City is a historical and cultural district as well as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Casco Viejo a great place to walk around, marvel at the beautiful colonial, neoclassical, and Art Deco buildings, and check out the restaurants, cafes, pubs, and craft shops. There’s a good chance that we will be staying in one of the hostels in this area.
    • Panama La Vieja: Built in 1519, this was the location of the original Panamá City. Today, the city is nothing but a ruin. In 1671, pirate Henry Morgan attacked and destroyed Panamá City looking for treasure, making Panama La Vieja a UNESCO World Heritage site. A good place to start, when visiting the ruins, is the museum.  Learning about the history will make exploring the old city much more interesting.  They have rebuilt the Lookout Tower, where you can walk up and enjoy the view of old and new Panamá City.
    • San Jose Church: This is one of the most important and ancient places in Cusco Viejo and Panamá City. The story goes, that on January 18, 1671, pirate Henry Morgan and his pirate army attacked Old Panamá in the early morning hours. They ransacked and burnt much of the city to the ground. However,Henry Morgan was after Panamá  City’s famous Altar de Oro, or Golden Altar.  When Morgan entered the church, all he saw was a dirty, black altar. He asked the priest where the Golden Altar was and the priest said that they didn’t have anything like that, they were too poor. In reality, the black altar was the Golden Altar, the priests covered it in mud to protect it. The priest then told Morgan how they needed more money to finish their altar. To this, Morgan reached into his pocket and gave the priest a few silver coins and replied, “I don’t know why, but I think you are more of a pirate than I am…” After the pirates left, the priests took the altar to the new Iglesias de San Jose, the church that the Golden Altar now resides in, in Casco Viejo.
    • Cinta Costera:  A busy waterfront park with a nice view of the Ocean. Many people like to walk or sit in the park.
    • Mi Pueblito: Also know as Ancon Hill, this is an area of the city that has preserved the local history and culture of Panamá City.  It is home to many Afro-Caribbean people and Caribbean-style homes.  This is a great place to walk around and take in the culture of the city.
    • San Blas Islands: These gorgeous, picturesque islands are in the Caribbean Sea.  San Blas is made up of 300+ islands and is home to the indigenous Kuna-Yala tribes.

    Panamá City Costs ($ is USD)

    • Flight: Calgary, Canada to Panamá City, Panamá $300.
    • Hostel: $10-$20/night.
    • Food & Drink: Street food is $3-$4, sit down restaurants can be very expensive. We will primarily be eating at street vendors and cooking for ourselves Beer is $.50 – $1.50.
    • Transportation: $3-$5. We will be walking around most of the time. Taxis will try to rip you off, so if we have to hitch a ride, we will try to take the bus.
    • Activities: You can do most things for under $20.
    • Max: $60/day
    • Goal: $35/day

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    Panamá to Colombia

    On March 18, 2017, we will be leaving Panamá in route to Colombia. The area on the Panama-Colombia border is known as the Darién Jungle, or Darién Gap, and is one of the most dangerous places on Earth. This area is a highway for drugs as well as home to several armed guerrilla groups like the FARC.

    To avoid this, we decided to take a boat through the Caribbean, to Colombia. We had to book this in advance because spaces on the boat fill up fast, especially in peak season.

    We booked our trip through San Blas Adventures. This is a four-day island hopping boat trip through the beautiful San Blas Islands. We leave from Carti, Panamá and arrive in Sapzurro, Colombia.

    Along the way, we stop at several islands where we will spend most of our time swimming, exploring, and learning about the indigenous Kuna culture, as we will be staying in some of their villages.

    Kuna Cuisine

    • Red Snapper: Fish is served with coconut-flavored rice. The fish is caught and served on the same day. One fish will usually serve 2-3 people.
    • Lobster and Crab: Fresh from the sea, served with coconut rice.
    • Coco Loco: If you order this drink, a Kuna Indian with go to the nearest Palm Tree, cut down a coconut, cut it open and pour some cheap brown rum into it, then hand it to you with a straw. However, you can not get a coconut for yourself, or take the coconut from the island, or you run the risk of being fined or even deported from Panama.

    Panamá-Colombia Costs ($ is USD)

    • Jeep 4×4 from Panamá City to Carti: $30
    • Boat Trip: $445 (Four Days). Covers transportation, food, fees, and accommodation.
    • Drinks and Coconuts on the islands are $1-$2. Every coconut on the islands belongs to someone. In order to have a coconut, you have to track down who owns it and pay them. Also, fun fact, you must ask permission to take a photo of the native Kuna people and they will probably ask for $1 or so.
    • Kuna art and jewelry: are $5-$30.
    • Max: $565 for trip.
    • Goal: $470 for trip.

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    Population: 48.5 million

    Main Cities: Bogotá (capital), MedellínCartagenaCali

    Languages: Spanish

    Currency: Colombian Peso. Conversion: 1 USD=3,067.77 COP

    History & Culture

    Archaeological sites in Colombia date as far back as the Paleo-Indian Period (18,000-8000 BCE). There are sites, such as the Lost City, that pre-date the Inca Empire by 650 years. Later, in 1536, Conquistadors led their first expeditions into Colombia, officially colonizing it as part of Spain. Colombia became a recognized independent country in 1819.

    Colombia is notorious for drugs, violence, guerrilla groups, and political unrest. Until recently, Colombia was one of the world’s most dangerous countries. It is much safer today; however, these problems still exist.

    Cultural influences come from Native American, Spanish, Afro-Caribbean, European, and Middle Eastern cultures. Not surprisingly, Spanish is the official language.

    Food & Drink

    Tradition Colombian food varies depending on culture, region, and city. Colombians eat a healthy variety of local fruits and vegetables, corn, beans, rice, chicken, pork, beef, and seafood.

    Colombia is known for their coffee, hot chocolate, and fruit drinks. The national liquors are Aguardiente (Firewater)- made from anise and sugar cane, and Rum. The most popular Colombian beers are Club ColombiaAguila, Costeña, and Poker.
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    At the end of the boat trip, we land in Sapzurro, Colombia. From here, we take a quick boat ride to Capurganá.

    Capurganá is a beach and nature-lover destination located on the Caribbean sea. It has crystal clear water, white sand beaches, and plenty of coral reefs to snorkel. Capurganá is surrounded by mountainous rainforests filled with wildlife and waterfalls. There aren’t even any vehicles in Capurganá as it is actually cut off from the rest of the country by dense rainforest.

    Capurganá Cuisine

    The options are pretty limited since we are in a tiny, remote beach village, mostly seafood.

    • Snacks & Appetizers 
    • Lunch/Dinner


    Things to See & Do in Capurganá

    • El CieloThis is a hike through the jungle to a waterfall with a natural swimming pool.
    • La Piscina de los Dioses: (Pool of the Gods) is a Caribbean beach with a sheltered area that creates a natural swimming pool.
    • Snorkel and Scuba Dive: The Caribbean waters off of Capurganá are crystal clear and they host one the largest coral reefs in the world. Here, you can explore some world-class dive sites, or you can just spend the day snorkeling on your own. $17-$300
    • Hike from Capurganá to Sapzurro: This hike will take you about an hour, however, it is not an easy hike. It is a tough hike up and over a mountain, through the jungle. The view from the top overlooks both Capurganá and Sapzurro.
    • Hike to Panamá & La Miel: From Sapzurro, you can hike to Panamá in about 30 minutes, depending on how fast you walk. Once into Panamá, you can visit La Miel, a tiny town with a  gorgeous beach.

    Capurganá Cost ($ is USD)

    • Boat from Sapzurro to Capurganá: $4, 10-15 minutes.
    • Hostel: $10-$15/night.
    • Food & Drink: Street food is can be as inexpensive as $0.30, a basic plate at a café is around $3-$4, and a sit-down restaurant can be pretty pricey.
    • Transportation: We’ll be walking everywhere.
    • Activities: Unless you are scuba diving, most activities are free as they involve hiking or just beaching!
    • Max: $30/day
    • Goal: $15/day

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    Cartagena, Colombia

    After Capurganá, we have a full day of travel to our next destination, the walled colonial city of Cartagena. This city played a key role in the expansion of the Spanish empire and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

    The city became very wealthy, and as such, became susceptible to raids by pirates, privateers, and thieves. This is when the city decided to strengthen their defenses by building a wall and several fortresses.

    Cartagena Cuisine

    • Snacks/Appetizers
      • Paletas: Artisanal popsicles with flavors from fruity mango and passion fruit to caramelly Colombian dulce de leche.
      • Pandebono: Colombian cheese bread.
      • Arepas: Buttery and fluffy, filled with everything from cheese to chicken, pork, or beef.
      • Empanadas: Cornmeal pastry, fried in oil, with egg or meat and cheese.
      • Tropical Fruits from Las Palenqueras: Las Palenqueras are Cartagena’s famous fruit vendors. They are the women in brightly colored dresses that carry bowls of fruit on their heads and cut it all to order for their customers.
    • Breakfast
      • Arepa con Huevo: Breakfast along Colombia’s Caribbean coast. A deep-fried cornmeal dough stuffed with raw egg.
    • Lunch/Dinner
      • Fresh Ceviche: Fresh seafood with citrus and herbs.
      • Pargo Rojo Frito: Crispy-fried whole red snapper with plantains, and sweet coconut rice.
      • Fresh Seafood: Lobster, calamari, and shrimp are sold fresh with cocktail sauce or lime, fresh off of the fishing boats each day.
      • Sancocho: A stew made with hen, fresh seafood, fish, plantains, yucca, corn on the cob and cilantro served with rice and avocado on the side.
    • Dessert
      • Tamarind Balls: This is a sweet and tart treat made from tamarind pods and sugar.
      • Cocadas Blancas: A sticky, sweet treat made with fresh shredded coconut, sugar, coconut water, whole milk, and cinnamon.
    • Drinks
      • Mojitos: Café del Mar is said to have some of the best mojitos and views around. You can have a mojito while you watch the sun set over the fortress Castillo de San Felipe, and white sands of Bocagrande Beach.
      • Coconut Cocktails: Piña colada, caipirinha, or coconut water served in a fresh coconut.
      • Fruit Juice: Banana, mango, papaya, lulocuruba, & guanabana are popular fruits to make juices from.

    Best Cheap Eats

    1. Beer & Laundry: American, Pizza, Pub. Literally a laundromat. You can go and have your laundry done, and while you are waiting, you can grab a pizza and beer. Prices are $3-$7.
    2. La Mulata: Caribbean, Latin, Seafood.
    3. Espíritu Santo: Caribbean, Latin, Seafood.

    Things to See & Do in Cartagena

    • Walled City of Cartagena: The walled city itself is a fantastic place to walk around and get lost in. This UNESCO World Heritage site is a beautiful colonial town full of culture, history, great shopping, and fantastic cuisine.
    • San Felipe de Barajas Castle: Built in 1536, this fortress was built by the Spanish to protect Cartagena from pirates and enemy privateers. The castle saw a lot of action from 1697-1816. It was fought over by the French, English, and Spanish. It was also attacked by privateers and pirates. $5
    • La Ciudad Vieja: “The Old City” has three main neighborhoods: Centro, San Diego, and Getsemaní. Getsemaní is the fun neighborhood, full of street art, street parties, backpacker hostels, and awesome Cartagena locals.
    • Museos: Cartagena has plenty of museums. Two of the most popular are the Museum of Gold and the Museum of the Inquisition. $2-$6
    • Beaches: There are several gorgeous beaches in and around Cartagena. Two of the best are Rosario Island and Playa Blanca, both are just a short boat ride from the city. Bocagrande is one of Cartagena’s most popular beaches. $20-$50
    • La Popa Hill: At 150m-high this is the highest hill in Cartagena and is home to a convent. This hill offers a great view of the city, best at sunset.
    • Las Bóvedas: A series of 23 structures that were built into the city walls during the 16th century. They were used as vaults for weapons, ammo, or anything that the Spanish wanted to hide from invaders. Later, during the civil wars, they were used as dungeons. Today, they have been made into local shops, boutiques, and local goods stalls.
    • Iglesia de San Pedro Claver: This church was once the monastery where Saint Peter set out on his mission to improve the lives of the slaves that the Spanish were bringing in by the boatload.

    Cartagena’s Cost ($ is USD)

    • Travel from Capurganá to Cartagena: Capurganá to Necocli – 1.5 hours via boat, $20. Necocli to Cartagena via van – 8 hours (Necocli-Monteria is 3 hours, Monteria to Cartagena is 5 hours), $22. Taxi from the bus station into the walled city is $5. Total trip cost = $47.
    • Hostel: $7-$15/night.
    • Food & Drink: Street food is can be as inexpensive as $1, a basic plate is $3-$5, and a sit-down restaurant is about $11-$20. A domestic beer is under $1 at a store and $1-$7 at a bar. Cocktails are anywhere from $4-$11. A bottle of Aguardiente is $16.
    • Transportation: City buses are $0.65-$1. Taxi is about $2-$5.50. Hopefully, we will be walking most places.
    • Activities: A lot of things are free, however, we will want to buy food and souvenirs while walking around. Museums are $1-$2. Cultural events, like salsa dancing, are no more than $20. Day trips to the islands and beaches can be around $100.
    • Max: $55/day
    • Goal: $17/day

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    Santa Marta, Colombia

    Santa Marta was founded on July 29, 1525, by the Spanish conquistador Rodrigo de Bastidas. Before the Spanish, the Tairona populated this area, mainly in the Sierra Nevada territory. This was a group of indigenous people that date as far back as 4000 BC.

    Santa Marta is a coastal Caribbean city. As such, it’s economy revolves around tourism, trade, fishing, and agriculture.

    Santa Marta Cuisine

    The food in Santa Marta is very similar to the food in Cartagena.

    Best Cheap Eats

    1. El Rego Gastro Bar: Pub, Fusion, Gastropub. Avg. price: $4-$13.
    2. Nunzio’s Pizza & Pasta: Italian. Avg price: $4-$13.
    3. 039 Restaurante: Caribbean, Colombian. Avg. price: $4-$15.

    Things to See & Do in Santa Marta

    • Ciudad Perdida: Also know as the “Lost City.” This city was built by the Tayrona people over 1000 years ago, pre-dating the Inca Empire. After the Spanish occupation dispersed the Tayrona, the city was reclaimed by the jungle, never to be seen again until the early 1970’s. If you want to visit the Lost City, be prepared to do a multi-day, 44km trek through the hot, humid jungle terrain. $200
    • Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona: Tayron National Natural Park is a protected area of jungle and beach near Santa Marta. It makes for a great day hike. $15
    • Cabo San Juan: This is a protected beach in the undeveloped paradise in Tayrona National Natural Park. This is one of Colombia’s prettiest beaches.
    • Diving and Snorkeling off Taganga: Taganga is a small fishing village 5km North of Santa Marta. Here, you can find great dive and snorkel spots just off the beach. $23-$280
    • Visit Minca: Minca is a small mountain town Southeast of Santa Marta. Minca is a big coffee area where you can tour an organic coffee farm. You can also swim in waterfalls and look for exotic birds.
    • Valencia Brook’s Waterfalls: These refreshingly cool waterfalls are a 15-20 minute trek from the town. Once you get to the falls, you will find a small waterfall with a deep pool. However, if you climb up the waterfall rocks, you will find another pool with an even taller waterfall. You can do this several times. It’s a great place to spend the day relaxing and playing in the water.

    Santa Marta Cost ($ is USD)

    • Travel from Cartagena to Santa Marta: By minibus, it takes 4-5 hours and will cost around $17.
    • Hostel: $6-$15/night.
    • Food & Drink: Street food is $1-$2. A cheap restaurant will cost you about $4-$13. A nice sit-down restaurant can cost you $7-$26.
    • Transportation: Santa Marta to Tayrona National Park: $1-$2. Minibus from Santa Marta to Taganga: $0.33 and takes 15-minutes. Taxi from Santa Marta to Minca: $3. Bus from Santa Marta to Valencia Waterfalls: $2.
    • Activities: The lost city trek is $200 for the 5-day trek. Tayrona Park entrance fee is $20. Valencia Waterfalls fee: $1.
    • Max: $60/day
    • Goal: $25/day

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    Bogotá, Colombia

    From Santa Marta, we fly to Bogotá, Colombia’s Capitol. The flight is a quick 1-hour trip on either LATAM or Avianca Airlines. The cost is about $50/seat.

    Situated high on a plateau in the Andes Mountains, Bogotá is one of the highest capital cities in the world. The average height is 2,640m (8,660 ft). Bogotá has a population of about 9 million divided into a collection of 20 districts. Bogotá, in the 1990’s, was one of the most violent cities in the world. Since then, the government has gone to great lengths to reduce crime, going from a murder rate of 81 per 100,00 people to 16.9 per 100,000 people in 2012.

    Bogotá Cuisine

    • Breakfast
      • Arepa: Cornmeal biscuits.
      • Oatmeal: Here it is cold cream oatmeal.
    • Lunch/Dinner
      • Bandeja Paisa: This is Colombia’s national dish. It’s a plate with rice, beans, beef, chorizochicharrón, arepa, avocado, platano, fried egg, and morcilla. Good with a side cup of ají.
      • Ajiaco: Chicken, potato, and corn soup served with rice and avocado.
      • Chiguiro: Chiguiro is the Colombian word for Capybara, a very large rodent. It’s served with pork ribs, steak, potatoes, platano, arepa boyacense, and avocado.
      • Fish: Fish is a very popular dish. It’s cooked in many different ways but usually served as a whole fish. Many people eat it with their hands and they eat everything but the bone.
      • Fruit: Fruit is also very popular. There are heaps of exotic fruits in Colombia, and we are going to try them all.
      • Arroz con Pollo: Rice and chicken, with vegetables and spices.
      • Morcilla: Sausage stuffed with cooked blood, rice, and peas.
      • Lechona: Pork, rice, and peas stuffed into a pig carcass, then cooked.
    • Dessert
      • Ensalada de Frutas: Chopped fruit, cream, ice cream, and cheese.
      • Arequipe: Whole milk, brown sugar, cinnamon boiled and mixed. Add to a chocolate crepe, or with cheese and figs.
      • Obleas: Giant, thin wafer with fruits, sweets, cheeses, and/or cream on top.
      • Coco Frito: Sweet, fried coconut.
    • Drinks
      • Fresh fruit juices
      • Tinto: Street coffee vendors.

    Best Cheap Eats

    1. La Puerta Falsa: Colombian cuisine
    2. Quinua y Amaranto: Colombian cuisine
    3. Crazy Mongolian Flaming Barbecue: Asian, Fusion. Avg. Price: $7

    Things to See & Do in Bogotá

    • Mount Monserrate: Sitting at 3,172m (10,407ft) above sea level, and located in the center of Bogotá, this mountain offers a fantastic view of the nation’s capital. Here, you can visit a 17th C. church as well as several bars and cafés. The top is accessible by cable car, incline plane railway, or you can hike it. $5
    • Museo Nacional: Visit collections of Colombian history, art, and culture. $1
    • Mercado de las Pulgas de Usaquen: Popular Sunday street market. The area is a great spot to walk around, shop, and eat.
    • Plaza de Bolivar: Bolivar Square is in the heart of Bogotá’s Historical District. On the Northern side of the square is the Palace of Justice or Supreme Court. This was the site of the M-19 guerrilla movement in 1985. Here, the guerrillas fought the Colombian army in what is called the “Palace of Justice Siege.” On the Southern side is the National Capitol and Colombian Congress. To the West, sits the building of Bogotá’s Mayor. To the East, is the Primary Cathedral of Bogotá.
    • Plaza de Mercado de Paloquemao: This market is the real deal, messy, Colombian market. Here, you will engage all of your senses. Friday and Saturday are flower days.
    • Palacio de Narino: This is the official home and workplace of the Colombian President. It houses the main offices of the Executive Branch. The building is guarded by the Army’s 37th Infantry Battalion AKA the Presidential Guard Battalion.
    • Mercado de las Pulgas: Authentic Colombian flea market.
    • Coffee Tours: Visit Colombian haciendas or private coffee plantations. Here, you will tour the farm, see the different coffee plants and how the coffee is grown, how it is harvested, dried, roasted, and packaged, then, you will get to taste test!
    • Graffiti Tour: Bogotá is a city full of colorful graffiti. Unlike in the US and Canada, Colombia’s graffiti is actually considered cultural street art. Many companies will even commission work from graffiti artists. Not only does this add a colorful piece of art to the building, but it protects the building from other graffiti artists. The artists will not tag someone else’s artwork out of respect for the original street artist.
    • Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá: The cathedral was built within the tunnels of a salt mine 200m underground.

    Bogotá Cost ($ is USD)

    • Flight from Santa Marta to Bogotá: $50, 1 hour.
    • Hostel: $7-$15/night.
    • Food & Drink: Street food: $1-$2, a basic plate $3-$5, and a sit-down restaurant is about $10-$20. Domestic beer: $1-$2.
    • Transportation: City buses are under $1.
    • Activities: <$125
    • Max: $60/day
    • Goal: $15/day

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    Salento, Colombia

    Salento is a little town about 9-10 hours west of Bogotá via bus. The economy revolves around tourism and agriculture. Know for its small-town, peaceful nature and beautiful scenery, Salento is a major tourist spot on the weekends. Here, you can enjoy fantastic hikes and sip on locally grown coffee.

    Salento Cuisine

    • Lunch/Dinner
      • Trucha al Ajillo: Fried trout in a cheese and milk sauce.
      • Trucha Marinera: Like Trucha del Ajillo, but with other seafood like calamari, shrimp, and other fish.
    • Drinks
      • Coffee, it’s coffee country.

    Best Cheap Eats

    1. El Rincon de Lucy: Colombian. <$3
    2. Yerbabuena Coffee Place: Colombian Cafe. <$3
    3. Cavalli Cafe Video & Bar:  Cafe with Colombian appetizers. Around $10.
    4. Cafe Jesus Martin: Cafe – Supposedly some of the best coffee in the world.

    Things to See & Do in Salento

    • Santa Isabel Glacier: This hike will take you an entire day. Santa Isabel is one of the last tropical glaciers in the world. If you want to see it, you better go soon because it is rapidly melting. $50-$100
    • Cocora Valley: Part of the Los Nevados National Natural Park, this is the location of the national tree and symbol of Colombia, the Quindío wax palm. This is a major hiking and camping area because of the beautiful scenery and outdoor activities.
    • Coffee Tour: There are several fincas around Salento. Many are small, family-run organic plantations. Tours will last around an hour and cost $2-$5.
    • Play Tejo: A game that involves gunpowder and beer. Well, you play for free if you’re buying beer. To play the game, you throw 1 lb weights at gunpowder filled pieces of paper on a metal ring in the center of a clay pit. Points are accumulated based off of where your weight lands and if you set off the gunpowder. So… it’s kind of like cornhole in America… just like cornhole.

    Salento Cost ($ is USD)

    • Bus from Bogotá to Salento: Bus from Bogotá to Armenia: 7-9 hours, $16; Armenia to Salento: 1 hour, $1. Bus from Bogotá to Pereira: 6-8 hours, $20; Pereira to Salento: 45 minutes, $2. Total: 9-10 hours, $17-$22.
    • Hostel: $8-$20/night.
    • Food & Drink:$10/day.
    • Transportation: Mostly walking, Jeep to Cocora Valley: $1.
    • Activities: $50-$100
    • Max: $50/day
    • Goal: $15/day

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    Population: 16.5 million

    Main Cities: Quito (capital), CuencaGuayaquil

    Languages: Spanish, Quichua

    Currency: US Dollar

    History & Culture

    People have lived in Ecuador since the end of the first ice-age. During the 15th C., the Incan empire stretched into Ecuador only to be met with heavy resistants from Ecuadorian tribes. In the 16th C., Spanish Conquistadors, led by Francisco Pizarro, set out to conquer Ecuador. Finally, in 1820, Ecuador became its own independent country.

    Spanish is the official language of Ecuador, however, 13 Amerindian languages are recognized. Ecuador is a developing country and its economy is dependent on commodities like petroleum and agricultural products.  The country is a democratic presidential republic.

    Ecuador is one of 17 megadiverse countries in the world. There are plants and animals that can only be found, here, in Ecuador. Ecuador is also home to the Galápagos Islands, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

    Food & Drink

    Ecuadorian cuisine is very diverse, varying by region, altitude, and agricultural conditions. A traditional meal consists of three courses: soup, a dish with rice, meat and/or beans, then dessert with coffee/tea. Cuy, also known as guinea pig, is a very popular food. On the coast, seafood is the main dish.

    Ecuador has fantastic coffee. The national liquor of Ecuador is aguardiente, like Colombia. The most popular beers are Pilsener and Club Premium.

    Bus from Salento, Colombia to Otavalo, Ecuador.

    From Salento to Otavalo, we have quite the trip. We leave Salento and head to Pereira: 45-minute bus, $3. From Pereira, we take the overnight bus to Ipiales: 13-15-hour (10:30p – 11:30a) bus, $40.

    Ipiales, Colombia

    Once to Ipiales, we are going to take a break before crossing into Ecuador. After we lock up our bags at the bus terminal, we’re taking a quick taxi to Las Lajas Cathedral Sanctuary. The taxi will cost $1-$2.

    • Las Lajas: A basilica church located near the border of Colombia and Ecuador. The church is built inside the Guáitara River canyon. This neo-Gothic church was built between 1916-1944.

    After taking a taxi back to the bus terminal, we catch a collectivo, or taxi to Tulcán, Ecuador for under $3.50. From Tulcán, we take a bus to Otavalo, a 3-hour trip, for around $3. The bus will drop us off on the Pan-American Highway. From here, it’s a 10-minute walk into town.
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    Otavalo, Ecuador

    Otavalo is an indigenous town with around 90,000 inhabitants surrounded by mountains and a volcano.

    This indigenous town is known for its market. On Saturday, its busiest day, almost a third of the town turns into a market. Here you can buy cultural goods and much more. Otavalo is famous for its textiles and crafts.

    Otavalo Cuisine

    Best Cheap Eats

    1. Daily Grind: Café with great coffee and fresh baked goods. $4 Avg.
    2. Balcon de Imbabura: Mexican, Gastropub. Around $7.
    3. Taco Bello: Mexican, vegetarian-friendly.

    Things to See & Do in Otavalo

    • The Market: A large indigenous market that is famous for their textiles and handicrafts.
    • Peguche Waterfall: A 50 ft. (18m) waterfall that is considered to be a sacred site by the indigenous people.
    • Lagos de Mojanda: A lagoon inside an ancient volcanic crater. Lagos de Mojanda is a great day hike with fantastic views. Taxi: $20 for the day.
    • Museo Viviente Otavalango:  A museum that is dedicated to preserving and interpreting the Kichwa culture of the indigenous people. $5
    • Laguna Cuicocha: A crater lake at the foot of Cotacachi Volcano that is perfect for hiking. Taxi: $3-$4

    Otavalo Cost ($ is USD)

    • Hostel: $9-$15/night
    • Food & Drink: $8-$20/day
    • Transportation: $2-$20/day
    • Activities: Mostly hiking, which is free, and wandering around the market.
    • Max: $55/day
    • Goal: $20/day

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    Quito, Ecuador

    Quito is the capital city of Ecuador. It sits at 9,350 ft. (2,850m) above sea level and is the highest capital city in the world, as well as the closest one to the equator. The city is surrounded by volcanoes, some snow-capped. Around 2.7 million people call Quito home.

    Quito dates as far back as 980 AD when the Caras tribe set up the Kingdom of Quito. Later, the Spanish invaded and Quito became part of the Spanish empire.

    Quito’s  major industries include textiles, metals, and agriculture like coffee, sugar, cacao, rice, bananas, and palm oil.

    Quito is home to one of the largest, least-altered, and most preserved historic centers in the Americas and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

    Quito Cuisine

    • Snacks/Appetizers 
    • Breakfast
      • Bolónes: Fried ball of plantain served with meat and cheese inside. Served with spicy ají salsa.
    • Drinks

    Best Cheap Eats

    1. BamBao: Fast food, Fusion. $2-$6.
    2. Cafeteria Fabiolita: Ecuadorean. Known for their lamb stew and ham sandwiches. Avg: $5.
    3. Frida Tacos: Mexican. Traditional Mexican taquería.

    Things to See & Do in Quito

    • Quito Old Town: Area of Quito that dates back to the early days of the colony. Here, you will find old churches, plazas, museums, and the Presidential Palace.
    • Cotopaxi Volcano and National Park: A day-trip from Quito, you get to hike the 19,000 foot (5,900m) active volcano and see the Limpiopungo Lagoon. $20-$40
    • Intiñan Museum and Equator Line: This is a museum that sits near the equator. There are two equator lines, one is a mistake and “fake” line, the other is the true equator line. Here, people like to do things like balance an egg on the head of a nail and try to walk in a straight line, with your eyes closed, without falling over. $4

    Quito Cost ($ is USD)

    • Bus from Otavalo to Quito: $2, 2-hours.
    • Hostel: $7-$20
    • Food & Drink:  Street food: $1-$2. Local food: $3-$5. Sit down restaurants: $10+. Grocery: $15-20/week.
    • Transportation: $2-$6
    • Activities: $3-$40.
    • Max: $60/day
    • Goal: $18/day

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    Baños, Ecuador

    Baños de Agua Santa (Baths of Sacred Water) is a small city in the Andean highlands of Ecuador settled at the base of volcano Tungurahua. It gets its name from the hydrothermal springs that are common in the area.

    Baños is the adventure capital of Ecuador. It is a big hub for outdoor sports, hiking, and jungle tours. People travel here more for the activities around Baños, rather than the city itself. The town is quite touristy. The streets are lined with hotels, restaurants, souvenir shops, and tour agents.

    Baños Cuisine

    • Breakfast
      • Llapingachos: Fried mashed potatoes, chorizo, fried egg, avocado, and salad.
    • Lunch/Dinner
      • Cuy: Guinea Pig
      • Yaguarlocro: Tripe soup with avocado, onion, and dried blood.
      • Librillo: Tripe served with rice, variety of sides like fried egg or chorizo.
    • Dessert
      • Melcocha (Cane Sugar Taffy): Super sweet taffy that is stretched on wooden pegs in the doorways of candy shops.
    • Drinks
      • Sugar Cane Juice: Get it as juice, or buy a stalk and chew on it like the locals.

    Best Cheap Eats

    1. Alto Caribe: International, Fusion, Caribbean. $2-$8.
    2. Leoni Pizzeria: Pizza, Italian. Wood oven pizzas. $4-$10
    3. Cafe Blah Blah: Café. Great coffee and fresh sandwiches.
    4. Ponche Suizo: Ecuadorean Café. Great coffee, juice, and food.

    Things to See & Do in Baños

    • Waterfalls: Cascada de la Virgen – Waterfall near the city center that empties near thermal baths. Manto de la Novia – Waterfall with two chutes and has a cable car ride. Pailon de Diablo – An impressive waterfall that you can hike.
    • Rafting: Choose from several rafting trips with various degrees of difficulty.
    • Jungle Tours: Baños is the gateway to the Amazon. There are many different excursions. Choose from day trips to multi-day trips, where you will visit indigenous communities, camp, canoe, swim, and explore the Amazon Jungle.
    • Bridge Jumping/Swinging: Like bungee jumping, except it is set up to use your momentum to swing instead of bouncing up and down after you jump.
    • La Casa del Arbol: “The Tree House,” AKA “The  Swing at the End of the World” is a three-hour hike from Baños up a mountain, to a treehouse with a swing that will let you sail over the edge of a steep hill.
    • Rappelling/Canyoning: A fun day of trekking, abseiling/rappelling, canyoning, swimming, and exploring.
    • Paragliding: Fly high in the mountains and marvel at the view of the Andean landscape.
    • Rock Climbing: Half-day or two-day trips with varying degree of difficulty.
    • Biking: Choose the trip based off of you fitness level. Bike and enjoy the Ecuadorian nature and landscapes.
    • Thermal Baths: There are several thermal baths in Baños. Some are best in the morning, others at night, and some are said to have healing properties.
    • Massage & Spa Treatments: A popular activitiy in Baños.

    Baños Cost ($ is USD)

    • Bus: Quito to Baños – 3.5 hours, $3.50.
    • Hostel: $4-$8
    • Food & Drink: Street food: $1-$2. Full meals: $2-$4. Restaurants: $5-$10. Beer: $1-$3. Cocktails: $2-$5.
    • Transportation: $0.25-$5.
    • Activities: $1-$50
    • Max: $60/day
    • Goal: $40/day

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    Montañita, Ecuador

    Montañita, “little hill,” is a small beach town. In the past, it was a hippie hotspot. Today, it’s a backpacker’s and surfer’s paradise. During the day, people play in the water and enjoy the cafes and restaurants. At night, the party lasts until the sun comes up.

    Montañita Cuisine

    • Snacks
      • Empanadas
      • Meats on Sticks: Lamb, beef, chicken grilled to perfection. Some are made into gyro like treats with lettuce, tomato, sauce, and french fries.
    • Breakfast
      • Panaderias, or bakeries, serve delicious cakes, pastries, and fresh bread.
    • Lunch/Dinner
      • Ceviche: Seafood cooked in citrus.
      • Quesadillas: Pentagonal shaped pastry filled with a savory-sweet baked cheese filling.
      • Gyro: Skewered lamb shaved thin, wrapped in a pita with lettuce, tomato, and sauce.
      • Sushi
    • Dessert
    • Drinks
      • Coffee
      • Fruit Smoothies

    Best Cheap Eats

    1. Tambo Sabores Peruanos
    2. Amor Infinito: South American
    3. Poco Loco: Pizza, Pub. $3-$13

    Things to See & Do in Montañita

    • Surfing: Montañita is a surfing town. The waves can be quite large at times (6 ft.)! Lessons are popular for beginners. $15 for 2 hours. Rent a board: $5/hour or $20/day.
    • Beach: Walk, tan, swim, play pick-up soccer, or just sit and do nothing.
    • Study Spanish: The Montañita Spanish School sits above the town and offers group or private Spanish lessons. It also offers other classes like dance, surf, or even spearfishing! $80-$240/week.
    • Isla La Plata: (Poor Man’s Galapagos) Here, you can check out some boobies (Blue Footed Boobies), watch Frigate birds, swim with sea turtles, and check out the sea lions. $25-$30.
    • Party: Montañita is a big party town. After 11 pm, many party-goers make their way to “Cocktail Avenue.” From here, you hop bar to bar, ending at the high-end nightclubs near the beach. The party goes all night.
    • Zip Line: Zip line through the canopy. $20.
    • Scuba Diving: $350-$400.

    Montañita Cost ($ is USD)

    • Bus: Baños to Montañita – $10, 10 hours.
    • Hostel: $10-$20
    • Food & Drink: Street food: $1-$2. Full meals: $2-$4. Restaurants: $5-$10. Beer: $1-$3. Cocktails: $2-$5.
    • Transportation: <$5.
    • Activities: $5-$400
    • Max: $50/day
    • Goal: $25/day

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    Population: 23 million

    Main Cities: Lima (capital), CuscoArequipaIquitos

    Languages: Spanish, Quechua, Aymara

    Currency: Peruvian Sol (Conversion Ration: 1 USD=3.36 Sol)

    History & Culture

    People have been living in Peru since 2500 BC. Peru is best known for being the home of the mighty Inca empire and its stronghold, Machu Picchu. In 1532, Francisco Pizarro and the Spanish conquistadors arrived in Cusco and ushered in the downfall of the Incan empire and the rise of the Spanish rule.

    Today, Peruvians cherish their tradition ways. They celebrate their heritage with festivals, rituals, cooking, clothing, and folk art. The culture varies depending on which part of the country you are in; from coast to mountains to the Amazon Jungle.

    Food & Drink

    Peruvian cooking varies by region. Seafood, like ceviche, is popular on the coast; hardy stews are popular in the mountains; and fruits popular in the Amazon region. Meats like guinea pig and llama are widely eaten in Peru.

    Peru’s national drink is Pisco. Pisco is distilled from grapes and usually used to make a Pisco Sour: Pisco, lime juice, syrup, egg white, & Angostura bitters. Other popular drinks include fruit juice/smoothies, Inca Kola, Tea, and beer. Most popular Peruvian beers are Pilsen CallaoCusqueña, and Cristal.
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    Zorritos, Peru

    After a 14-hour bus ride, we arrive in Zorritos, Peru. This will be home for the next four weeks! We will be staying at the Sunset Club beach resort while we work on our TEFL teaching certificate.

    Zorritos is a small beach town which only has one season, summer. There really isn’t anything to do in Zorritos except sit on the beach and relax, that’s the whole point of going there.

    Restaurants in Zorritos

    1. Casa Kresala: Seafood
    2. La Muna: Peruvian
    3. Costa Nueva: Peruvian, Seafood

    Things to See & Do in Zorritos

    Zorritos Cost ($ is USD)

    • Bus: From Montañita to Zorritos: 14-hours, $20-$50
    • Hostel: We are staying an all inclusive resort which is included with the TEFL class. $0
    • Food & Drink: Included with Class. $2 for drinks
    • Transportation: $0.30-$0.60
    • Activities: $0
    • Max: $2/day
    • Goal: $0/day

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    Lima, Peru

    After Zorritos, we are probably headed to Cusco. Cusco sits at 3,399 m (11,152 ft.) above sea level. So, instead of fly straight into Cusco, we are going to take a bus and visit several cities as we begin to acclimate ourselves to higher elevations. First stop, Lima. Lima’s elevation varies from 0-1,550 m (0-5,090 ft.).

    Lima is the capital and largest city in Peru with a population of 10 million people. This city was founded by the Spanish conquistador, Francisco Pizarro. Lima is known as the Gastronomical Capital of the Americas, it’s a huge foodie city! The food is a mix of African, European, Chinese, Japanese, Creole, Chifas (Peruvian Chinese food), Cebicherias (Ceviche), and Pollerias (Chicken) cuisine.

    Lima Cuisine

    • Breakfast
      • Quinoa: Cooked like a porridge, this grain-like superfood is high in protein. Street vendors sell quinoa with fruit, served hot or cold.
    • Lunch/Dinner
      • Ceviche: Usually raw fish in citrus juice, fresh herbs, and chili peppers. However, in Lima, nothing is by the book. The foodie culture demands that chefs take something and become creative.
      • Lomo Saltado: Strips of beef marinated in vinegar, soy sauce, and spices, sautéed with chilies, onions, and tomatoes, then served with fried potatoes.
      • Guinea Pig: Tender, dark meat.
      • Aji De Gallina: (Creamy Chicken) Shredded chicken in a thick sauce of cream, ground walnuts, cheese, and aji amarillo.
      • Papas a la Huancaina: (Potatoes in spicy cheese sauce) Meat or potato covered in a sauce of queso fresco, aji amarillo, garlic, evaporated milk, lime juice, and saltine crackers.
      • Causa: Mashed potatoes with lime, oil, and spicy aji amarillo sauce. Then, they add Shredded tuna, salmon or chicken with mayo and layers of avocado, hard-boiled eggs, and olives. This mix is then topped with more potato.
      • Rocoto Relleno: Red aji rocoto chilies stuffed with ground beef, onions, garlic, olives, raisins, herbs, and spices, then topped with queso fresco and baked in an egg and milk sauce. This pepper is way spicier than the average jalapeño pepper.
      • Anticuchos de Corazón: Alpaca or beef heart, marinated in vinegar, cumin, aji, and garlic, then grilled medium rare.
      • Arroz con Pato: Rice with duck
    • Dessert
    • Drinks
      • Pisco Sour: Pisco, lime juice, sugar, egg white, and Angostura bitters, shaken. But in Lima, variations are abundant, sometimes served with Coca Leaf.

    Best Cheap Eats

    1. Sangucheria la Lucha: Peruvian fast-food.
    2. Burrito Bar: Mexican fast-food.
    3. Republica Fast Food: Peruvian fast-food.

    Things to See & Do in Lima

    • Larco Museum: Collection of pre-Columbian art. The museum is housed in an 18th C. vice-royal building built over a 7th C. pre-Columbian pyramid. $11
    • Miraflores: A district in Lima, this is an exclusive residential and upscale shopping district. This area is perched above the sea. The Miraflores Boardwalk, or Malecón, is a six mile stretch of boardwalk that offers stunning cliff-top views of the coast.
    • Historic Center of Lima: Home to the Plaza Mayor, where the Government Palace, Cathedral of Lima, Archbishop’s Palace of Lima, the Municipal Palace, and the Palace of the Union are located.
    • Huaca Pucllana: An ancient adobe and clay pyramid dedicated to a local god of protection.
    • Caral: A large, ancient city in the Supe Valley. This city was inhabited between the 26th-20th C. BC.
    • Marcahuasi: A plateau in the Mountains east of Lima know for its curious shapes of human faces and animals in the rocks. There are some pre-Columbian structures in the area, mostly ancient tombs. $20-$50

    Lima Cost ($ is USD)

    • Bus: Zorritos to Lima: 20-hour overnight bus, $30
    • Hostel: $10-$15
    • Food & Drink: $1-$10
    • Transportation: $0.60-$4
    • Activities: $0-$100
    • Max: $65/day
    • Goal: $20/day

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    Peru Hop

    From Lima, we are traveling to Cusco via bus. Peru Hop is a hop-on-hop-off bus service. This bus is perfect for travelers. You simply put in which city you’re departing from, and where you’re going to, then it creates an itinerary for you. You do not have to follow it, exactly. If you want to stay in a city for a few extra days, that’s fine, just catch the next bus.

    Our trip will be 5-7 day/4-6 nights and cost a grand total of $179 (accommodation and food not included)

    Here’s our trip itinerary from Lima to Cusco.

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    Day One: Lima to Paracas

    • Picked up at our hostel in Lima.
    • Cristo Pacifico: A 37 meter (121 ft.) statue of Jesus erected on a tall hill that offers a spectacular view of Lima. Many say that this statue looks a lot like Christ the Redemer in Rio de Janeiro.
    • Pachacamac: Ancient, pre-Inca ruin that was first settled around 200 AD. This civilization flourished for 1,300 years before the Spanish invaded.
    • Chincha: Chincha is the home of Afro-Peruvian Culture. Here, we will explore secret slave tunnels. These tunnels served three main uses: smuggle slaves from the port to avoid paying taxes, hide from pirates and other thieves, and later, they were used as catacombs.
    • Arrive in Paracas, a small, beautiful sea town.
    • Max: $145
    • Goal: $56

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    Day Two: Paracas to Huacachina

    • Short bus ride to Huacachina. Huacachina is the only desert oasis in South America.
      • To Do:
        • Dune Buggy & Sandboard: Hop into a 4-wheel drive dune buggy and race up and down the dunes at high speeds, then, sandboard down. It’s like snowboarding, but with sand… obviously. $23
        • Explore the desert, dunes, and oasis.
      • Cheap Eats:
      • Hostel: $6-$20
    • Max: $63
    • Goal: $40

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    Day Three: Huacachina to Nazca

    • Depart Huacachina
    • Visit Pisco Vineyard: A 100+ year-old vineyard where you can sample Pisco, the national drink, and the red wine that is produced in the traditional fashion, first introduce by the Spanish conquistadors.
    • Nazca Lines: Ancient geoglyphs in the desert that were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. These images can be up to 370 meters (1,200 ft.) long. No one knows who created these or what purpose they served.
    • Depart Nazca for Arequipa. (Overnight bus)

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    Day Four: Nazca to Arequipa

    • Arrive in Arequipa. Arequipa is situated high in the Andes Mountains at 2,335 meters (7,661 ft.). This is Peru’s second largest city, and one of the prettiest. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is famous for its historic heritage, natural scenery, and cultural sites.
      • To Do:
        • Colca Canyon Trek: 3 day/2 night trek through the Colca Canyon. Check out the diverse vegetation and geological formations of the canyon, and hang out with the locals. $170
        • White Water Rafting:  Raft down the Chili River between two massive volcanos, Misti and Chachani. This adventure will take you 7km down river in freezing class 2-4 rapids. $40
        • Misti Mountain: Misti is an active, 5,822 meter (19,101 ft.)  volcano that towers over Arequipa. In 1998, several mummies were discovered inside the crater rim, confirming that the Incas sacrificed people here. $70
        • Historic Center: A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this area is an amazing place to walk around and explore. It’s building are built from mostly white or pink volcanic rock. The city has large doorways and windows, walls, archways, and open courtyards. Earthquakes are an ever-present threat to the city.
      • Cheap Eats:
      • Hostel: $6-$10
    • Max:$190
    • Goal:$20

    *There’s a good chance that we’ll stay an extra night or two in Arequipa to acclimate to the altitude before heading up to Cusco.

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    Day 5: Arequipa to Cusco

    • Depart Arequipa.
    • Stop in Pukara for lunch: Pukara is a small town that sits at 3,000 meters (13,000 ft.). This town is most famous for its ancient ruins of a fort. This fort was part of the Incan defense network for Cusco, the capital city.
    • Arrive in Cusco. Cusco is the ancient Incan capital and our new home! The city sits at an elevation of 3,400 meters (11,200 ft.) above sea level and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
      • To Do:
        • Centro Historico De Cusco: The historical center of Cusco. Cusco is a beautiful city with a rich and complex history. In Cusco, there are Spanish colonial buildings built on the foundations of Incan palaces and walls. Cusco has a large indigenous population that is often seen on the streets in traditional clothing.
        • Sacred Valley: This was the most important area to grow maize in the heartland of the Inca Empire. The valley runs east to west and includes everything along the Urubamba River between the Inca ruins at Pisac to Machu Picchu. Here, you can spend a night in the Skylodge, a glass pod bolted to the side of a cliff. $100-$1,500.
        • Sacsayhuaman: This was another Inca citadel, first built by the Killke culture around 1100 AD. They had massive rock walls that were fitted together so well that you could not fit a pin between the individual rocks. $75
        • Inca Trail & Machu Picchu: The Inca Trail is the path that leads out of the capital city, Cusco, to the citadel, Machu Picchu. There are several trails with Inca ruins on the way to Machu Picchu. Some routes require hikers to ascend to beyond 4,200 meters (13,800 ft) above sea level. Most treks take four days to reach Machu Picchu. $300-$1,400.
        • Salinas de Maras: A town in the Sacred Valley best known for its nearby salt evaporation ponds that have been in use since the Inca. Salt water is fed into a system of pools then allowed to evaporate leaving behind salt crystals.
        • Cerro Colorado Vinicunca: Peru’s Rainbow Mountains are out of this world. This 2 day/1 night trek will take you to the most colorful mountains that you have ever seen.  $150-$400.
      • Cheap Eats:
      • Hostels: $6-$8 
        • However, we are here to stay! Rent per month: $150-$270.

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    Trip Overview ($ are USD)

    • Days: 83
    • Countries: 4
    • Cities: 16
    • Distance Travelled: 9,247 miles (14,881.6 km)
    • Accommodation Total (Hostel, Hotel, Camp): $350-$700
    • Spending Total (Activities, Shopping, Food): $1,160-$5,000
    • Transportation Total (Plane, Boat, Taxi, Bus, etc.): $1,000-$1,200
    • Entire Trip Cost: $2,700-$6,800 ($3,500-$9,000 CAD)
      • We will be in the $3,000-$4,000 ($4,000-$5,200 CAD) range. The max of $6,800 ($9,000 CAD) is if we are doing every activity, eating at the nicer restaurants, staying in private rooms, and shopping a lot. In reality, we really aren’t planning on doing many of the touristy excursions, we actually prefer the street food to the nice restaurants, we like the social environment that the shared dorms offer in the hostels, and we don’t have any room in our bags to do a lot of shopping, so we will be at the lower end of the trip cost estimate.

    That’s it, that’s our trip! Again, this is just a tentative plan, what we will actually end up doing is anyone’s guess? We have a few things that we really want to see and do in each country, but other than that, we plan to just go-with-the-flow and see where our adventure takes us. We don’t have anything booked, other than the flight to Panama, boat trip to Colombia, and our TEFL course.

    We will be updating the blog as we go so that you can see what we actually end up doing, and we’ll be adding photos and videos!

    *Photos are not our own, we’ve never been to South America. We will be adding photos as we are traveling. Photos are from pixabay.
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