Extra shot of adrenaline at the Dead Road in Bolivia

Name “Dead Road” definitely does not come in a first place to any mind as a casual attraction. Originally named Yungas Road became well-known as a silent killer of thousands. Famous for being most dangerous road in the world that contributed to many deaths of drivers in the past and some cyclists in recent years. All as a result of how and where the road has been constructed. A combination of a single track road, 900m high cliffs, rainy weather, limited visibility, rockfalls, waterfalls and lack of guardrails participated in all death. Luckily, and finally, Yungas road was modernized to include two driving lanes, asphalt pavement, drainage systems and guardrails. New road has been opened in 2009, as an alternative of a must choice, replacing the dangerous 64 km stretch. All traffic being diverted to the new road. I am really glad motorists can now travel from La Paz to Coroico without fearing the journey may be their last. New road, apart from the fact that has already saved hundreds of life, left Bolivia also with one of the coolest, adrenaline giving and very adventurous tourist attraction in this country. People from all around the world visit this part of Bolivia to cycle down trough the original way. I did too.ddfdfdfd

Some statistics to give you the idea

“200 to 300 estimated death drivers yearly along Yungas Road and as late as 1994 there were cars falling over the edge at a rate of one every two weeks.”

“One of Bolivia’s most tragic road accidents happened on July 24th 1983 when an overcrowded bus veered off the side of the road and into a canyon killing more than 100 passengers.”

“Even with these improved conditions, Yungas Road shows no mercy. Nowadays, the death toll is limited to local workers and daredevil backpackers still using the infamous road. It is believed that more than 22 cyclists have lost their lives on Bolivia’s “Death Road” since 1998.”20160202_101011

To do or not to do

The answer for me is definitely YES TO DO. I wasn’t thinking even for a minute whether I should do it or not. It was definitely one of the coolest thing I did in South America. However, it really is not for everyone. Most agencies will not be very honest with you, as they just want loads of people to sign for it for the profit. There is no limit of age, fitness etc, but since I have done it, I can set some average requirements. Here they are:

  • Dead Road is suitable from very confident cyclists to, of course, experts. A bit higher than average fitness and above. In particular for everyone above 16, but mostly done by younger group of people, usually at the age gap of 20-30. I did have two people at the age of 50-60 in my group. They both were fit and did well. Having said that, our group was one of the fastest, starting last, finishing first, so I am sure it can be done by not perfectly fit people, but maybe get some advice on best company to go with, if that’s the case for you.
  • Most of the road is very stony and dusty. The whole road is 64 km long, and, thought, you mostly going downhill, you have to be a confident cyclist with some experience to keep up with the group.
  • You have to be very very careful, you need a perfect eyesight. The whole road is mostly thin and going via many waterfalls. Mentioning good eyesight meant to warn you that at the beginning road is extremely foggy, and it is difficult to navigate. Waterfalls are very tricky, as the group do not stop to pass them, you will go trough them at your max speed.20160202_122240
  • Keep in your mind that it is pretty much “fast and furious” activity. You do not have a choice, but just go at max speed, well…at least my group was fast. So think twice if you want to do this. Trust me, I felt on my head, destroying the helmet, having an open wound on my left elbow, that got swollen as well. Yet, I still had 30 kilometers to go….gosh that was painful. Another guy broke his leg too.
  • Cycling will last 5 hours, at high performance. Road is approximate downhill: 90% (one section contains a few small uphills). You have to be ready for sore hands.
  • The drop in altitude means travelers experience both chilly conditions in the Altiplano highlands and hot humid conditions in the rain-forests below. Your body needs to be ready for it. Highly not recommended for people, that already feeling light-headed at the high of 2000m.

Once the answer is yes

  • Even that you will be provided with food and water, take an extra bottle with you. You will start in very cold environment, but once half way trough, you will be surrounded by tropical hot weather, and that`s the time when your body will need some extra hydration, so you will drink loads at the end.
  • Take a good waterproof jacket, as is usually raining near the top.
  • As the temperature will be going up, proportionally to the distance cycled downhill, have something under to wear after, preferably with long sleeve, unless you will be provided with elbow protection.20160202_094517
  • Take maybe old cloths. I thrown away my shoes after.
  • Have some wet tissues, your face will be constantly covered with mud.
  • Lucky you if you own GoPro, you can record the whole way, attaching your camera to the bike or helmet. Few of my group-mated done it.
  • Do not book you trip if you just landed in La Paz. You body needs few day to adapt to the altitude. Yungas Road climbs to around 4,650 meters, from where you will start.
  • Check the weather for the next day. No worries, you can book a trip just one day before, even before 17.00 pm. The bottom line is not to rain that day!
  • Have a phone in your pocket. Thought you will have just quick breaks, you will have few chances to take some photos of this absolutely outstanding landscape and scenery.
  • Remember! 21 cyclists and 5 guides have died since the road had been opened for mountain bike trips. It might not be the most dangerous road in the world anymore, but it is still the Death Road. Don`t be to cocky on the road.
  • Most likely your agency will not cover the entrance fee for riding a bike. it is 50 Bs now – 25 Bs at the start and 25 Bs at the end of the road.
  • You really should be covered with medical insurance for this!20160202_122003

Prices and booking

Dead Road is usually done from La Paz, the city in Bolivia. There are loads of agencies to provide you with their service, especially around city center area. Every single hostel and most hotels can book you in too. It really isn’t a problem to buy this trip. It is relatively cheap. Prices depend on agency and mostly the kind of the bike, you will be provided with. It will be between 50-100$, as of 2016. I rented the worst bike, and I think being cheap about the bicycle is not the best idea. Get a double suspension one and from a good agency. Never go with Luna Tours agency (see photos above to recognize uniform and logo). I went with them and was promised to be provided with photos and movies of us while cycling. They did film a lot, took loads of photos, and at the end agency provided us with CDs where all media suppose to be. After few moths, when I came back home exited to show movies to my sister and her kids (to show how cool is their aunt), I discovered that there is no photos or movies of us!!!  Just old movies to promote agency. I was extremely disappointed and angry, I have only few photos from my phone. DSC_0830.jpg

Brief overlook of the day trip to do the Dead Road

  • My meeting point was at the cafe in La Paz at 7.00 am where we had a breakfast, and we briefly discussed the plan for the next 10 hours. Please note that some agencies can pick you from the hotel.fdf.jpg
  • At 8.00 am our bikes got uploaded to the top of the van, we sat in, and we went off from La Paz, which is at a height of 3,600 meters (11,810 feet), to the foot of the Andes Mountains towards the summit, which was at 4,700 m.
  • Approx at 10.00 am we arrived at the starting point of La Cumbre Pass. We then proceed to get the specialized equipment for each of us. The guides make recognition of our teams. We were also explained of all the rules at the road, how to sign with your hand, and what our schedule will be.
  • We were fitted into our gear that was: a jacket, pants with knee pads to put under, gloves, and a full-face helmet. Then we tested our mountain bikes: breaks and sit high. Our guide rechecked all again to make sure all is safe, and we went off.
  • Starting the adventure at around 11.00 am.
  • First 20 kilometers is via new asphalt road to Coroico. Actual Dead Road will start after that length. In this bit we can get used to the bikes and enjoy the road before difficult part.
  • Quick break for a snack before getting in to actual Yungas Road.
  • Dirt road begins at a height of 2,700 meters (2,953 feet) above sea level. In the beginning of the Bolivian jungle. Exactly where the paved road ends begins the most dangerous road in the world.
  • Keep cycling through rivers, waterfalls, along with the wide variety of beautiful flora and fauna with few breaks to keep the team together.
  • At 15.00 finishing and arriving at the bridge, congratulating each other. At the end of the road, you will get a well deserved beer or coke and a t-shirt. I picked coke…hmmm, I must have being still in shock after my fall :D.
  • After a little rest heading off for a well deserved dinner with swimming pool on the side and showers to refresh.
  • At approx 16.30-17.00 heading back to La Paz, arriving at around 18.30-19.00.

Funny things we have learned from backpacking

  • It really is possible to wash all your underwear everyday even for six months.
  • Hostel kitchen is better than tripadvisor.
  • You are happy changing location so quickly, so people don’t see that you wear same clothes ever so often.
  • Nobody likes upper bed on a bunk-bed.
  • Poorer you get, better chef you become.
  • Calling you a tourist is like the worst curse.
  • You drink and smoke too much.
  • Your brain switched to “cheaper food taste better”.
  • Your sense of smell is not so sharp anymore.
  • You felt in love with hammocks and suddenly it is your favorite furniture.
  • You are planning a second trip, before finishing the first one.
  • You haven`t had that many bruises since childhood.
  • You don’t mind chickens in the bus for 8 hours.
  • You have a high tolerance to the noise.
  • Your style is called “comfortable”.
  • It is a leisure to change your socks everyday.
  • Your not the only one on limited daily budget.
  • You can make a friend in 5 minutes, you can lose a friend in 3.
  • Available TV is like top pleasure, doesn’t matter you don`t understand the language.
  • WiFi is more often available than hot water.
  • People actually like you.
  • You love locals with all your heart, but you still have to guard your back pack like everyone is a potential theft.
  • Police is cool.
  • You will walk 10 kilometers to the hostel, but never skip a party.
  • Beer is good only in Europe.
  • Your not as good in negotiation as you thought you are.
  • You rarely may tip, but not as much.
  • You think you are so important, because you leave a feedback on booking.com.
  • You know there is a female in your room, because she dries her panties on the side of the bed, like you (female) do.
  • You know there is a male in your room, because he doesn’t dry his underwear on the side of the bed like you (female) do.
  • You prefer to go out in the evening, than eat the next day.
  • Every breakfast equal toast.
  • You think you are cooler than any tourist.

Backpacking South America, my route, total cost and few tips

It took me 4 months to save money and to plan my backpacking trip around South America. Being busy earning cash for my travel, I was also occupied thinking about packing, researching visas issues, planning my route and budget. It really is not so complicated, but it was my first backpacking trip in my life, and I did not have any friends that done it before, who could help me with some tips, to share some experience. I had to heavily rely on internet info and other blog posts to prepare. Yet, I still think there is not that much information about it. Here, I will share with you some knowledge about places, I have visited, how I was getting from A to B, my budget, packing and some other tips.

Planning your route 

I have to admit that I am very proud of my path. I have visited all major attractions (like Iguazu Falls, Atacama Desert, Salar de Uyuni, Machu Picchu, Titicaca Lake, Dead Road), and I stayed in really amazing places. The only thing I haven’t seen was Angels Falls, as my plane from Bogotá to Caracas, in Venezuela, got cancelled, so I decided just to skip this one. Now, I am thinking that I shouldn’t. Venezuela is truly beautiful, and you can see Amazon from there as well. Basically, I did not plan my whole way around SA back home. I did only think that I will try to visit all countries on this continent, and I set major things I want to see, then I was building my expected way around these places. I think I did well at the end, as I saw 9 countries in total. I booked my hostels/hotels only in 3 first locations, and I planed my route only in the country I started from, Brazil. Then after everything was natural, I was planning my way on weekly basis, changing my mind from time to time. Everything turned out pretty well, and I do highly recommend to fallow my way, but not staying as long in Florianopolis, Santiago and Montanita, as you can add some extra locations to your trip, in Paraguay for example, or just adding Venezuela at the end. I think 6 days is an absolute maximum to stay in one place.

Please note, that real-life vikitravel can be found in every hostel`s kitchen, since there is loads of other backpackers to share their experience and recommend great places to see. Always worth listen and talking to them!

Brazil: Sao Paulo (3 nights) – Florianopolis (8 nights) – Foz do Iguaçu (4 nights) – Paraguay: Ciudad del Este (1 day) – Argentina: Buenos Aires (6 nights) – Uruguay: Colonia del Sacramento (1 day) – Argentina: Mendoza (2 nights) – Chile: Santiago (11 nights) – Valparaiso (1 day) – Vina del Mar (1 day) – San Pedro de Atacama (6 nights) – Bolivia: 3 days trip via desert from San Pedro to Uyuni – Uyuni (3 nights) – Potosi (6 nights) – Sucre (6 nigts) – Cochabamba (3 nights) – La Paz (4 nights) – Copacabana (2 nights) – Peru: Puno (3 nights) – Cuzco (4 nights) – Aquas Qalientes, Machu Picchu ( 1 night) – Cuzco (2 nights) – Lima (3 nights) – Mancora (6 nights) – Ecuador: Guayaquil (1 night) – Montanita (10 nights) – Banos (4 nights) – Quito (3 nights) – Colombia: Cali (6 nights) – Bogota (7 nights).

Transport

I traveled around South America only by bus. Just once I used a ferry from Buenos Aires to Uruguay. There are loads of bus companies to choose from in every single country, offering different comfort (except in Bolivia) from normal to fully recline chairs with hot meals served onboard. Mostly possible to book online in advance, again, except Bolivia. Flying is very expensive and a bit pointless while backpacking. Train is an option too, especially now is getting more and more popular, but since I have not used it even once, I can not advise you on this service. I found this blog to be very useful for people who want to travel by train. For bus prices in each country you can have a look at my other post here. Regarding buses, they are very comfortable, except Bolivia (most amazing country anyway), and mostly affordable, except Argentina, Brazil and Chile.

I am afraid missing bags from the storage space under the bus are very common, thought nothing like that happened to me, other travelers, I have met, experienced it. There is nothing you can do about it, just hope that it wont happened to you. Always keep all valuable stuff in a small bag pack with you in the bus, try not to have expensive gear, clothes and shoes, not to miss it too much, just in case.

Border crossing

As a Polish nation, I do not need any visa for any country in South America. There is no fee to pay too, not even a tax (that you pay sometimes in Central America). That is for most of the European countries, even England, Germany and France. Border crossing was always nice and smooth for me, with no any hassle, trouble or any major issues. Actually, border personnel was always extra nice and very interested in me, probably due to the fact that not so many polish people travel in that part of the world. Blond hair and green eyes helped too, I guess. Just queuing for the stamp out/stamp in was annoying sometimes (especially at night). Please note that basic Spanish is essential, as they may ask where are you going to stay, or what is your occupation. It can be also a great time to eat, as there are always loads of food stands around to choose from (not between Mendoza, Argentina-Santiago, Chile). Bus driver always wait for everyone and count passengers to be sure all are in, before continuing journey, unless he doesn’t give a damn about it..nah joking, usually he does. Don`t try to smuggle anything, sniffing dogs are present at every border, and in Colombia, even on any route to stop the bus and search bags and passengers. Thought, I did not have any problems at the border, I’ve heard some stories from male travelers that were experiencing some problems, or being asked to pay a fee, that, of course, wasn’t required.

Budget

For the 4 months of traveling, excluding flying to this continent from Europe, I have spent 5.800-6.000$, that including everything, staying 70% of the time in hostels, rest in hotels, all the bus travel, food, trips, activities, tickets, parties, clothes, souvenirs…. Please keep checking fly4free website for cheap deals on flights to South America. I bought mine from Belgium to Sao Paulo in Brazil with return for 600$, but can get even cheaper than that. Here is my other blog post, where I look in to prices of each country with estimated daily budget.

Health insurance

Absolutely essential and one of the most important things before traveling. Can be easily purchase online, and is very affordable. You can buy it just day before your departure, and the price will be still the same. If you are not planning anything like surfing, winter-sports, just buy the cheapest one to cover medical bills. Otherwise, if you have some crazy plans, read what your insurance will cover, trust me, I am a lawyer. No point to buy an extra option for electronic losses (phones, tablets, laptops..etc), unless, of course, it is a very good and expensive policy. My friend had her staff covered, and after being theft from her expensive Nikon camera, got 35$ as of insurance for it! Medical cover is the most essential one for a backpacker. I bought mine for around 120$ for 6 months of my travel.

Safety

Just go. Safety is your last thing to worry about before backpacking. People are mostly travel alone now anyway, especially in South America. It is a very safe place, even for solo females, like myself. Just be intelligent and don’t act stupidly (walking alone at night, going out with strangers….etc).

Apps

Maps.me is the most important application. Please don’t take a fancy phone with you, unless you can afford losing it, but good smart phone that runs this app smoothly is essential. Old samsung s series are probably the best. I say it, as I was robbed in Chile, losing my camera, tablet and good glasses, so I experienced it myself. Coming back to maps.me, it is an application that allows you to store and later use maps without wifi. You will be even able to use navigation that will show you your location and directions (no wifi needed, as it runs on GPS). I have to say, I was impresses, as GPS was working for me even high in Bolivian mountains, just almost everywhere, and always in cities and town. Apart from street names, there are almost all hostels, hotels, shops, places of interest, all public offices (post office, police, etc). You gonna use it a lot, like I did. App is free of charge.

Other app I used was booking.com, but please note, booking in advance is more expensive than just good old way of turning at the hostel doors and checking in.

Flickr app is great too. It upload all your photos from your phone automatically (once connected to the internet, just turning the app on), so you are avoiding losing them with your phone. Free app again, but just need to create an account (that is free too).

Kindle/ebook/app to read ebooks is essential for every book lover, like myself.

Packing

Hmm, it is a very good question. I can just give you a few tips, I found to be useful during all my backpacking trips:

  • Less is more! First and most important. Do not take much with you, take half what you are planning in the first place. Clothes are very cheap in South America, especially in Bolivia and Colombia, and by buying them you are getting an amazing souvenir too. Something special in your wardrobe, trust me. I had an umbrella, but haven’t used it even once, so pointless to take. Shoes: funny story, as planning loads of hiking, especially in Bolivia and Peru, I bought and took very expensive Timberlands – throw them to the bin already in Brazil and was just wearing converse (for all my hiking, at the beach, on snow, salt, swamps, deserts….). 2 pairs are max to take.
  • Good light waterproof jacket and cover for backpack is a must. Here, I really love The North Face jackets, they just wont let you get wet!!
  • For girls: hairdryer is not needed, but you may want to use it in Bolivia sometimes, as of a cold temperature. Still, not worth taking it with you, there are always females around to borrow one, if needed.
  • Nova-days, we just can’t live without our smartphones, so it is very important to have an extension for the socket, as in many hostels they are far away from your bed.
  • Don`t try to save money buying a cheap backpack. It is one of the most important things and your home for next months. It will be on your back for many many hours, so very good, comfortable straps are essential. It really needs to be a top quality one. I bought a cheap one, had to sewn it many times, and I’ve had wounds on my shoulders from a very bad straps. Trust me, hurted a lot! Before my next backpacking trip I bought a good one and that made a big difference.
  • Apart from the shoes, I binned quickly, Lonely Planet book on South America got left in my third hotel, simply because I didn’t want to carry such a heavy guide-book, since everything I needed was online. Maybe for people staying in tents, when internet connection is not always available, might be helpful, but otherwise you will be just fine with your smart phone.

Injections

It is wildly required (according to an official info) to have a yellow fever injection and a proof of it! There are 5 more you may want to take. I did all of them, and I’ve had a little book to prove my yellow fever one. I read that you wont be able to enter without it (YF). However, in reality nobody checked it at the border…nobody, even once. But better to take them, just in case and for the peace of your mind.

Last tips

  • Please, wherever you are flying to, don`t stay just one night in your first location. Your body needs to rest after a long fly and adapt to the new climate. It took me 4 days when I landed in Brazil in November from a cold Europe.
  •  I`ve had 50 Euros always in my purse, just in case. Cash machine is not always available. US Dollars are good too.
  • When it comes to thieving and robberies, South America is a leader. Please, always keep an eye on your valuables. Do not keep your backpack behind, always on one arm on the side or on your chest. I was also tightening straps from the zip together.
  • Don`t drink a tab water anywhere, unless it’s confirmed by staff in hotel/hostel or by sigh close to the tap.
  • Planning to buy outstanding sweater, cardigan? Leave it for Bolivia and Peru! Best quality (especially alpaca`s wool) and price.
  • Try to, if possible, have to different types of your cards. I`ve had a Visa and MasterCard, and I found that sometime just first one worked, sometimes second. My MasterCard (credit card) was definitely more acceptable. 
  • Your passport and your wallet is your main priority! Never leave it alone, even in a locker in hostel! You don`t even realize how easy is to open it for professional. I got robbed this way in Santiago, in Chile.
  • Before departure, I gave my mother copy of my passport, insurance, injections, I took, all pin numbers and account details, just in case and for peace of my mind. Please do so as well, leave it with someone you trust and memorize phone number, you newer know what might happen.
  • Take 2 types (thin and thick) of padlock. Some lockers got a thin holes (to use smaller one). Don`t worry if you will forget, they are widely available to purchase almost everywhere, along with socket extensions and adapters.
  • Do not panic if there is an error in a cash machine, it may not be your card, but machine might be just empty. It really is a common problem. I remember, in Buenos Aires, I’ve had to try 6 of them, before finding one with money in it.
  • As a budget backpacker, always check general prices in each country. You can have a look here too. A very expensive trip on Amazon trough a rain forest from Brazil might be very cheap from Bolivia, Colombia or Venezuela.

Tenerife in photos

  Definitely would not recommend Tenerife as a holiday destination to anyone for a few good reasons, I will spare writing about, thought a very special place to me on another hand. My first solo trip and time when my feel of endless love for traveling and hanger for discovery began. Hers some photos of this very important week capturing this Spanish island, uncapturing myself at the same time.

Guide on Lisbon with entrance fesses and directions

  This time, spearing you some hassle to read, and me some trouble to write, a brief description about Lisbon to start with, I will take you straight to must see places once in capital of Portugal. Thought, there are many free tours available to pick, with a schedule offering almost any possible time and many places to start from, somehow there are travelers, like myself, who always prefer to do everything alone in their own time. This kind of a “extremely social and normal” group of world wanderers, again like myself, may find my guide useful. If you are planning to spend some time there and visit loads of places, I would suggest getting a Lisboa Card that can get you a free admission to many places, and you can use Lisbon’s metro, buses, and trams. Anyway, so what is worth seeing in Lisbon then?

  • Mosteiro dos Jerónimos

    This imperious 15th-century Manueline monastery was built to commemorate Vasco da Gama’s “discovery” of India. It is also his resting place. The main attraction is the delicate Gothic chapel that opens up on to a grand monastery, in which some of Portugal’s greatest historical figures are entombed. 

    Address: Praça do Império, Belem. You can take a tram 15 from the city center.

    Entrance fee: 10€. Free on the 1st Sunday of each month and with Lisboa Card. Mosteiro dos Jerónimos + Museu Nacional de Arqueologia: 12€. Mosteiro dos Jerónimos + Torre de Belém + Museu Naciona de Arqueologia + Museu de Arte Popular + Museu Nacional de Etnologia + Museu dos Coches: 25€.

 Open 10AM-5PM (Oct.-April), 10AM-6PM (May-Sept.). Closed Mondays.

  • A monument to sea exploration

    The 50 meters high Padrão dos Descobrimentos (seen under) was built to mark 500th anniversary of Henry the Navigator’s death – one of Portugal’s greatest sailor. You can also get a nice view of the mouth of the River Tagus. 

    Address: Avenida de Brasilia, Belem. Accessible by tram number 15 from the city center.

    Entrance fee: free

    Open: 10AM-6PM (closed Mondays).

  • Torre de Belém

    UNESCO world heritage site and one of Portugal’s most famous monuments. Perhaps a great suggestion to start with. Very close to the city center and harbor, Gothic towers dates back to 1500. It is very close to Jeronimos Monastery, just further to the west.

    Address: Belém Tower, Av. Brasília, 1400-038 Lisboa, you can take a tram 15 from the center.

    Entrance fee: 6€ or free with the Lisboa Card. Jerónimos Monastery/Tower of Belém: 12€.

    Open: October to May  from 10.00AM to 5.30PM (last admission at 5.00PM)  May to September From 10.00AM to 6.30PM (last admission at 5.00PM). Closed: Mondays and 1 January, Easter Sunday, 1 May, 13 June and 25 December.

  • Castelo de São Jorge

    Towering dramatically above Lisbon, the mid-11th-century hilltop fortifications of Castelo de São Jorge sneak into almost every snapshot. Roam its snaking ramparts and pine-shaded courtyards for superlative views over the city’s red rooftops to the river.

    Address: Castelo de S. Jorge 1100º 129 Lisboa. The nearest metro station is Rossio (Green Metro Line), but involves a 20 minute walk. Mini bus service 37 goes directly to the main entrance, while the tram 28 is more enjoyable option, but also does require a slight walk.

    Entrance fee: 8.50€/5.00€/20.00€ adult/child/family.

    Open: 09:00AM to 09:00PM (peak season) and 09:00AM to 06:00PM (low season).

  • Take a tram 28

    The Remodelado trams were built in the 1930s, and I do recommend the very pretty Tram 28 route. You can jump off and explore one of the passing neighborhoods, or use it as a way to get up the steep hills. Highly recommended to do so, to explore the city. The route screeches through the hills of Alfama before passing through downtown Baixa and on to the Estrela basilica.

    Entrance fee: Single ticket for this 40 minute tour of Lisbon costs 1.45€ when purchased from the ticket machines in the metro, 2.90€ when bought from the driver.DSC_052.jpg

  • Elevador de Santa Justa: An Antique Elevator With City Views

    A very odd-looking Santa Justa Lift, a neo-Gothic elevator and the most eccentric and novel means of public transport in the city, creates a very interesting panorama next to surrounded buildings. It was built as a means of connecting the Baixa with the Largo do Carmo in the Bairro Alto neighborhood, a trendy area of the city. At first glance, its riveted wrought-iron frame and battleship-grey paint conjure images of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and there is a connection: the French architect Raoul Mésnier du Ponsard, an apprentice of Gustave Eiffel, designed the elevator, which was inaugurated in 1901.

    Address: south east of Praça Dom Pedro IV (Rossio Square) in the Baixa district and the closest metro station is Rossio. In the city center.

    Entrance fee: 2.80€

    Open: 7.00AM-11PM.

  • Main square in the city is Praça do Comércio 

    The main square in the city is Praça do Comércio, a lively place with restaurants on both sides.

  • Cool down on the beautiful beach in Cascais

    Close by Cascais can be a perfect place for a break from the busy streets of the city. The beach in very beautiful and it is only 30 minutes away from Lisbon, so could be a perfect one day trip to rest, swim, get a sunbath and just relax.

    Train ticket: A single ticket from Lisbon to Cascais costs €2.15/€1.10 (adult/child). There are no return tickets so the price of a return would be €4.30/€2.20 (two single tickets).

    During daylight hours there is a departure every 20 minutes. The last trains of the night depart from both Cascais and Lisbon at 0:30am, 1:00am and 1:30am (correct at spring 2017).

  • Sé: Lisbon’s Imposing Cathedral

    Cathedral is a wonderful ancient complex that is steeped in history and no holiday to Lisbon is complete without visiting this magnificent monument.DSC_0553.jpg

    Address: Sé Lisbon is situated on the main road from Baixa to Alfama. The nearest metro station is Rossio (Green Metro Line) but involves a 20 minute walk. Mini bus service 37 goes directly to the main entrance, while the tram 28 is more enjoyable option but does require a slight walk.

    Entrance fee: 2.50€/1.00€ (adult/child).

    Open: 7:00AM until the evening mass, held in Portuguese, at 07:00PM.

  • Take the Lavra funicular to Miradouro de Sao Pedro de Alcantara as 2 in 1

    This is one of the most attractive viewpoints, with a pleasant garden and the castle standing on the opposite side. It is especially beautiful at night when the city is lit up below. Best to take the iconic Lavra funicular to climb up the hill of mirador.

    Address: Largo da Anunciada – Rua Câmara Pestana for Lavra funicular, then the viewpoint is just on a right hand side.

    Entrance fee: 3.60€ (return) for funicular rides (one-way tickets not available).

    Open: Monday to Saturday 7:50AM to 7:55PM, Sunday and public holidays 9:00AM to 7:55PM for Lavra funicular.

     

Buenos Aires-Uruguay by ferry

 It would be a crime not to pop in to any of Uruguayan cites or towns while in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Especially if you will fallow my way of thinking: “common Anna, you may not have this occasion in your life again”. Visiting close by Uruguay is well easy and well possible, but that, of course, if you have some spare time. There are few available options of transportation to get there from Buenos Aires. Apart from the bus, that can take you everywhere in South America, you can fly (very expensive and a bit pointless) or just take a ferry. Here, we will look in to the last mentioned option, simply because I used it for my one day trip to Uruguay, to Colonia del Sacramento specifically. Ferry, apart from being nice option for a trip, can be a great way to move to your next location while travelling around South America. I guess, buses are the cheapest option, and there is loads of info about timetables and prices online, so I will just concentrate on the water-path. The ship, as a way quicker option than bus, can be also a great break from bus traveling, as if you are backpacking, like I did, you will be spending loads of time in them, I mean looooads.

 So basically, you can choose between two kind of trips (places) you can reach by ferry. First one will take you all the way to Montevideo, capital of Uruguay. Second, to Colonia del Sacramento, a cute, quiet and small colonial town by the cost. As stated before, I took a trip to Colonia, but definitely would pick Montevideo over now. You can also see both, if you have time of course, as from Colonia you can catch a bus to capital that takes 3 hours of journey. Please note that these companies do operates between other towns and cities, but Montevideo and Colonia are, in my opinion, best one to see, that’s why I am not mentioning other places here.

Companies, service and routes

 The Buenos Aires – Montevideo or Colonia del Sacramento ferry route is currently operated by 3 companies. The Buquebus service runs up to 13 times per week, while the Colonia Express service runs up to 3 times per day. The Seacat company is the third option to choose from.

Buquebus provides two services to Colonia del Sacramento – one faster and more expensive, and the other is slower and therefore cheaper. The faster Buquebus catamaran ferry (1h15mins) is usually quite crowded with day tourists and travel groups.IMG_2588 Cheaper prices are well possible to find when booking in advance and online. The fast boats have a free wireless internet. The slower boat takes about 3 hours, and it is the one I took. However, checking now the web page, I can no longer find this service. Shame, I really loved my 3 hours on the endless sea. Both kind of boats have a restaurant, cafe and an off duty shops. Buenos Aires to Montevideo service takes 2h15mins and arrives at the Ciudad Vieja district of Montevideo, situated very close to the downtown. Terminal (dock) is located at Antártida Argentina 821, Puerto Madero, Buenos Aires (same as for Seacat).

Colonia Express takes roughly 1h to reach Colonia and 3h45mins to reach Montevideo. There is no wifi provided, but there is a duty-free shop and a small bar selling snacks and coffees. Terminal (dock) is located at Av. Elvira Rawson de Dellepiane 155, Puerto Madero Sur, Buenos Aires.

Seacat ferry to Montevideo takes 4h15mins, to Colonia – 1h. Termina is located at Antártida Argentina 821, Puerto Madero, Buenos Aires (same as for Buquebus).

Prices as of July 2017

Busquebus (webside here) is the most expensive and offers one way economy class ticket to Montevideo from 93$. However, return ticket starts at 43$ (can’t believe I picked this company!). Day trip to Colonia cost around 80$ (same day return) economy class fast 1h15min boat, which doesn’t seems like a great discount, as a single journey starts from 47$.

Colonia Express (website here) offers a day trips (with return the same day) to Colonia that cost from 70$ (the cheapest) up to 115$, depending on time and day. One way to Colonia cost around 38$ in the cheapest economy class. To Montevideo, one way ticket cost around 45$ in the cheapest economy class.

Seacat (webside here) day trip to Colonia (return the same day) ferry cost from 75$ (economy), and it seem to be a steady price. Buenos Aires-Montevideo cost 43$ for one way cheapest economy class.

Buying a ticket

  It is not necessary to pre-book your ticket online, but it can save you some money, and it is a good idea during a holiday when loads of people travel on this route. Buying in advance can also save you some stress, as there might be a long queue to get a ticket just before the departure. As mentioned, you can purchase your ticket online, thought the web page for Busquebus is very poorly designed with a very misleading currencies in dollars. However, if you are not in Buenos Aires, it is best to book and buy online before the departure. My hostel was very close to the Busquebus terminal, so I just walked there, and I bought a ticket at the agent located inside. I can’t say stuff speaks well English, but we closed the deal without any major hassle. You can pay by cash or card, and as far as I remember, I purchased a day return the cheapest option to Colonia (3h of journey each way) and I paid around 70-80$ in total (December 2015).

Remember to check-in

  Please do remember that this is an international journey that required you to check-in at the doc with your passport and bag, if you have one. Same as at the airport, you will have to get in a queue lane towards your check-in desk. You should also be at the terminal at least an hour and a half before the departure for immigration purposes etc. Your passport will be checked, but you will get stamped after check-in, but before waiting area. I can’t remember seeing off duty shops there, but they are at the ferry, with a very good prices, especially for cosmetics. Liquor is also available to purchase.

Time change

 Please do keep in you mind that a time difference between Uruguay and Argentina, with Uruguay being ahead, is one hour. Important to know the proper return departure time. I wasn`t aware of it, and I arrived at the dock an hour ahead, when I could enjoy the Colonial old town longer.

Last tips

  • Argentinian pesos are widely used in Colonia. I paid in the restaurant by them for my bill.
  • Very cute touristic old town in Colonia by the cost is easily accessible just on food, so no need to take a taxi.
  • For a budget backpacker is better to get your own food and take with, as restaurants in Uruguay are very expensive, with pizzas and burgers starting at 10$, as the cheapest option. You can get a snack with you for the time of journey too, as again, restaurant inside the ferry is very pricey and, to be honest, not the best one.
  • 3-4 hours is more than enough to visit Colonia del Sacramento.
  • If you plan to pick Montevideo over Colonia del Sacramento, which I really think is a better option, you need to stay a minimum of one night in capital to do a proper city-seeing, unless going very early, returning with the last service.

  • Please consider buying a ticket in advance for weekends and the peak season (Christmas until the end of February).

Tical, then back to the future

  And I`ve done it! Yet, still can’t believe it. How lucky and fortunate can someone be to visit 3 major and most significant remaining sides of a magnificent Mayans (Tical), Incas (Machu Picchu) and Aztecs (Teotihuacan) empires, pretty great thing for someone who always was interested in archaeology. As a great Star Wars fan too, along with discovering the ruins, I could put my foot on one of the locations used in Episode IV and Rogue One movies, how cool is that! Time for Maldives now ;). Day tour to Tical definitely was one of my most amazing days in Guatemala. Despite the fact that I took an organized tour, it still felt very adventurous walking in the jungle, discovering structure by structure, temple by temple, hiking some of them, and finally finishing the whole tour by watching disappearing sun in to the rain forest from the highest Mayan`s construction. Remaining, in combination with Tical`s remote location, create a mysterious atmosphere that only few other Mayan sites possess. These temples signify are one of the most important Mayan cities that dominated much of the Maya world politically, economically, and militarily for centuries. The impressive structures lie scattered around the area. Today, many ruins are still covered by jungle. Tikal is just spectacular with their mystery labyrinth of limestone structures. You can wander around for hours. From a grassy central plaza alone through palace courtyards and bedrooms, or scramble up the north acropolis, with its jumble of temples, stumpy, pillar-shaped altars and carved-stone stellar, some with hieroglyphs still visible.

 The side is best done in organized tours. They are very affordable at just 10-15$ for a day tour to Tical that include transport and guide. The ticket to the side cost around 20$. Having tour guide, in my opinion, is very important, otherwise you can miss on loads of information. It is also good to hear the history from local blood. You will be given enough time at the side to properly look around and discover the park. Trip can be book in most of the hostels/hotels, tour agents. Flores is just full of them, and prices and trips are very similar, so no point to look around for too much. You can either book an early morning one, or an afternoon one. The first trip offers experiencing a raising sun over the park, but please note that it is watchable from the last and biggest temple, so I really think its best to leave at the end. Not even mention that you have to get up early, and the price is way higher. The afternoon option offers watching a sunset, so you will basically spend time at the side, walking around the jungle, discovering loads of temples and structures, to finally finish at the biggest one, waiting for the beautiful time of sun disappearing in to magnificent panorama of temples and rain forest. I really suggest to book this trip, unless of course you have to rush. However, if you prefer to do it alone, you can catch a bus that goes there. Regular second class buses leave from the Santa Elena (located south from the Flores island) bus station to Tikal at 06:00, 06:30, 07:00, 08:30, 10:00, 11:30, 12:30, 13:00 and 15:00 arriving two hours later. It cost around 4$. A bus will stop in Tikal between 16:00 and 16:30 and continue onward to Uaxactún. The local buses do not run on Sundays. Beware about buying a round trip ticket from “Exploradores de la Cultura Maya” from the Santa Elena bus station as they may sell you a return ticket for a bus that doesn’t exist. The park’s main gate opens at 06:00, and officially closes at 18:00. Good advise is to take with you as much water as possible, 2-3 liters, before entering. I don’t think I have to explain you how hot is in this part of the world, not even mentioning that you will spend about 5-6 hours at the side, climbing some high temples. There are no shops inside, only, if you’re lucky, one man got a stand next to the highest, and last (!), temple with some drinks to sell. Whatever way you will choose, the main thing is to visit Tical! It is a number one attraction in Guatemala, its is a “Machu Piccu” of Central America. It is really amazing to discover how the pyramids were build, along with other structures, hidden in the jungle. To experience and access the ancient world. Its like going back in the past, but without DeLorean and a crazy doc.3101

sdfsdfsd

Central America in numbers-cost of accommodation, transport and food

Similarly to my blog post about cost of traveling around South America, I will compare prices of each country in Central America. Hopefully this will help you to plan your backpacking trip better trough this beautiful part of the world. Please note that it is just a basic info, as we all have a different style of traveling. Some like to explore more and spend more money on it, some have a very tight budget and can spend daily way less than stated in this blog-post. I, for example, traveled around Central America, from Panama up to Mexico City, for 2 months, and I have spent around 3.200$, excluding all my flights. That is around 50-55$ a day. However, I stayed mostly in hotels, and I was always going out with people, if there was a party going on, spending a lot on drinks and street food. In expensive Costa Rica I was even going out everyday….what can I say. Apart from that, I visited most of the worth seeing places, and I did solo activities combine with organized tours. Having said all that, if you will stick just to hostels, not going out as often as me, you can easily do it at 25-30$ a day (including buses to travel from A to B). Anyway, let’s have a look at costing.


Belize

Overlook: Third most expensive after Costa Rica and Panama, thought not too pricey for such a popular tourist destination with one of the most beautiful Caribbean cost line.
IMG_2578

Accommodation: In most expensive places hostels start at 12$, hotels at 35$ (Caye Caulker). Belize City offers expensive hostels from 15-20$ only because not so many of them around. Hotels start at 20$ there.

Transport: Affordable in general.

    Buses: Public buses are very affordable and start from 3-4$ for 1h of journey. Chicken buses are the cheapest at 1-2$ for an hour of journey. Loads of  private, expensive companies available to choose too.

    Public: Cities and towns in Belize are very small with 8,000 living in the capital, so the public transport is not as complex and include only buses and taxis. In Belize City is probably best to use a taxi, thought Chicken buses can start from 0.50$ for a journey.

    Taxi: No official data, but I paid 7$ for around 8 minutes of ride in Belize City (from docks to bus station).

Food: Not so cheap in restaurants, but rich range of street food available to pick. Caribbean chicken, rice and salad can be found from 4$ on the street in Belize City, but in very touristic Caye Caulker from 6-7$ as cheapest option for lunch. Restaurants offer a dinner from 10-12$.

Daily budget: Can start at 25$-35$ a day.


Costa Rica

Overlook: Most expensive in Central America. Accommodation is affordable, but food is one of the most expensive in the world, with the cheapest 1.5L bottle water from 2$, and cheapest sliced toast bread from 2-3$. Aldi say……whaaaaaat???? 😉

Accommodation: Hostels in San Jose starts at 6$, hotels at 16$. By Caribbean Coast, hostels starts at 9-10$, hotels at 20$.

Transport: The best bus company, I found, was Tica Bus. Very comfortable with toilet and wifi, but expensive to travel from Costa Rica. This company operates trough the whole Central, starting from Panama, all the way up to Mexico. Chicken buses operates between cities and towns at very affordable price.

    Buses: Again, Tica Bus was my best option to travel around, especially between capitals. Ticket from San Jose to Tegucigalpa cost 56$, so a bit expensive, but there is not many companies to choose between anyway. For bus from Puerto Viejo (town by Caribbean Cost in Costa Rica) to San Jose, the capital, I paid just 10$ (5h of journey), so domestically is very affordable to travel.

    Public:  For most city buses fares range between 0.35-0.70$, to be paid in cash, as a general rule. Costa Rican bus drivers will pick you up anywhere, so just stick out your arm and flail wildly when you see your bus.

    Taxi: Taxi starts (normal tariff) from 1.14$ with 1.16$ for 1 km after in San Jose.

Food: Very expensive to buy food even in discount shops. Meals at restaurants start at 15$ as the cheapest to be found, but street food can be more affordable, starting from 5$ for a take away small lunch-snack.

Daily budget: Can be done from 25$, but only covering own cooking and cheapest possible accommodation, no activity and transport, otherwise be ready to spend 35-55$ a day.


El Salvador

Overlook: Very cheap in all fields: eating out, hotels, transport. Possible to fully enjoy and indulge yourself.

Accommodation: Hostels start at 6$, hotels at 15$ (San Salvador). Santa Ana is just a little bit more expensive, hostels from 8-10, hotels 15-20$.

Transport: Buses are very affordable, especially domestically between towns and cities.

    Buses: Buses that operate between cities and towns are very cheap. I think it can starts from 0.50$ for one hour of journey. I paid around 1$ to travel from San Salvador to Santa Ana (2h of journey) in a Chicken Bus. Tica Bus from San Salvador to Guatemala City, in Guatemala, costed me less than 35$.

    Public: Public buses are very cheap and relatively easy to use. They do have stops, but you can get off anywhere you like, just tell the driver to stop. The ticket costs around 0.15-025$, depending on the length of your travel.

    Taxi: Taxi starts (normal tariff) from 5$ with 3$ for 1 km after in San Salvador. Please note, this is an official info. However, I do remember they were way way (third) cheaper than presented data.

Food: Very very cheap to eat out. Possible to grab a good breakfast with coffee from 1-1.5$. Good big lunch can start from 2-3$. No point to waste your time to cook. Fresh fruits and veg on the street at a very low price too. Mercados are the best places to shop.

Daily budget: It can be well possible at just 20$ a day, easily can be done cheaper.


Guatemala

Overlook: Very similar to El Salvador, nice and cheap, so we love it!

Accommodation: Hostels start at 5$, hotels at 16$ (Guatemala City). Touristic Flores, from where travelers do biggest Mayans side (Tica) luckily at the same prices, if you will book in advance and look well before, otherwise hostels start from 7$.

Transport: Very similarly to El Salvador, Guatemala offers a very cheap local and international bus transport.

    Buses: Few choices to pick, starting from the cheapest chicken bus that can cost as little as 0.50$ for an hour of journey. Shutter service available in most areas, especially touristic. Tica bus from Guatemala City to Tegucigalpa in Honduras costs 44$.

    Public: Chicken bus starts from 0.20$ to get around the city.

    Taxi: Taxi starts (normal tariff) from 3.40$ with 0.68$ for 1 km after, in Guatemala City.

Food: No point to cook anything. Ready made delicious food is very cheap. You can grab a breakfast for 1$ and lunches start at 2-3$, but from street stands. Restaurants can be very cheap too. Mercados offer cheapest and best fruits, veg, cheeses and meat.

Daily budget: Same like El Salvador, can start from 20$ a day, possible at 15$-17$ as the lowest.


Honduras

Overlook: Can be affordable, just tiny more expensive than El Salvador and Guatemala, especially Caribbean islands and coast.

Accommodation: Hostels start at 7$, hotels at 13$ in Tegucigalpa. Most popular Roatan Island offers hostels from 8$, hotels from 18$.

Transport: From very cheap chicken buses to expensive shuttle transport.

    Buses: Very affordable to travel between towns domestically in chicken buses and vans which cost around 1-2$ for an hour of journey. International Tica Bus cost 44$ from Tegucigalpa to Guatemala City, in Guatemala.

    Public: One way ticket bus cost 0.48$ in Tegucigalpa.

    Taxi: Taxi starts (normal tariff) from 2$ with 3.69$ for 1 km after in Tegucigalpa. Again, like in San Salvador, Honduras is relatively cheap, and I do think taxis are way cheaper than what is stated in official info.

Food: A little more expensive than Guatemala and El Salvador, yet still very cheap. Lunch can be found from 4$. Loads of discount shops to choose as well, as mercados, with fresh range of food. Street food stands offer snacks from 0.5-1$.

Daily budget:  Can start from 20$ a day in cheaper places to 25$ in touristic areas like Roatan.


Mexico

Overlook: Probably the cheapest on my list. Nice break for our purse when coming from Belize, like myself. Well possible to fully enjoy, even for a budget backpacker. Apart from traveling and discovering, it is very cheap just to relax at massage center, spa, etc.

Accommodation: In Mexico City hostels start at as little as 3$, hotels at 10$. In very touristic Caribbean cost town, Cancun, hostels start at 7$, hotels at 14$.

Transport: Very cheap for short distance travel between towns, more expensive with a greater distance, as buses are more exclusive, and you have less companies to choose from.

    Buses: Can be very affordable, but distances are great in Mexico, and bus tickets can cost around 90$-100$ for 22h of journey (Chetumal-Mexico City for example). Good to do some research, as sometimes is cheaper (and more comfortable) to buy a plane ticket.

    Public: 0.28$ for public transport in Mexico City.

    Taxi: Taxi starts (normal tariff) from 0.55$ with 0.29$ for 1 km after (Mexico City).

Food: Very cheap. No point to cook anything (from breakfast to supper). 5 tacos can cost as little as 1.50$. Big burrito, with loads of cheese, even for 2 people, can be found at 3$. Portions are usually very big and satisfying.

Daily budget:  Can start at 20$, but well possible even from 15$.


Nicaragua

Overlook: Nicaragua is a very cheap, again, place to travel around. Eating out is the best option. Breakfast (rice, eggs, meat, beans plus coffee or tea) can start at just 1$, lunches from 2-3$.

Accommodation: In Managua (capital) hostels start at 8$, hotels 18$. In a very touristic Granada, hostels start at just 7$, hotels at 12-15$.

Transport: Vans and chicken buses are the cheapest, probably best to pick when traveling short distances. Longer journey is more expensive, as the buses offer a better comfort and sits.

    Buses: Vans and chicken buses cost around 1-2$ for an hour of journey domestically. International Tica bus from Managua to Tegucigalpa in Honduras costs 30$.

    Public: Public transport costs 0.25$ in Managua.

    Taxi: Taxi starts (normal tariff) from 1.01$ with 1.02$ for 1 km after in Managua.

Food: Very cheap to eat out. Loads of stands on the street that offer a good lunch for as little as 2$, a snack or small lunch cost around 1$.

Daily budget: Can start at 20$.


Panama

Overlook: Panama City is a very expensive place, especially restaurants and bars. however, 1-2 nights is enough to explore it and move to the next location. Caribbean coast can be affordable, especially when it comes to accommodation.

Accommodation: In Panama City hostels start at 8$, but they are far away from the city center. In the city center hostels starts at 11$, hotels starts from 14$, but from 23$ in the center. Most popular Bocas del Toro offers hostels from 10-12$, hotels from 18-20$.

Transport: I think it is a bit pricey comparing to the rest of Central America, especially between Panama and Costa Rica. Bus is the cheapest option as flying can be very expensive.

    Buses: International Tica bus costs 40$ from Panama City to San Jose. Bus from Panama City to Bocas del Toro (Caribbean island) costs around 27$, plus 5$ for water taxi.

    Public: 0.25$ for a single ride in Panama City, but you need a card to use it. You can also pay to someone to swipe you in. 

    Taxi: Taxi starts (Normal Tariff) from 2$ with 2$ for 1 km after in Panama City.

Food: Eating out can be very expensive, especially in the capital. Lunches starts at 15$ in the cheapest restaurants. Sea food cocktails at fish market starts from 10$. Street food stands can be found, but not around Avenida Balboa (business center with skyline).

Daily budget: Can start at 30-35$.

Say hello to my little friend

  Learning salsa, visiting places, meeting new people, chatting with locals, enjoying night life. My time in Colombia was definitely beyond my expectations and came as a highlight. I just wish I could have more time to spend there. As just of my 12 days slot before flying to Panama, I could only see Cali and Bogotá. Sadly, I had to skip Medellin, the city I always wanted to visit. However, I`ve had enough time to absolutely fall in love with locals. They charmed me with their kindness, passion for dance, music and general love for life. Thought, Latino are well known for being very enthusiastic about dance and music, yet they still managed to surprised me how much they really do love it, and how important it is in their lives. And here we are in Cali, the city where salsa is coming from. Walking around, high on a coffee, I was able to truly discover this, once one of the most dangerous in the world, city. I saw people enjoying their life, dancing on the streets, being always surrounded by the music that could be heard from cars, houses, phones, cd players, literally from every corner. You really have to try hard to find a quiet place there. So many things happen always around, leisure areas are usually full of people. This can be hardly found in busy western countries that seems so gray next to colorful and vibrant Colombia. I met loads of local friends there along with other travelers. Not surprisingly, they all said that Colombia was one of the best destinations of their backpacking trips. I am just hoping, I will go back to to this country. There is still so much to experience and discover for me. Hopefully one day…

My highlights

  • Enjoying live events in Parque Artesanal Loma de la Cruz.
  • Watching Colombians dance salsa on the street.
  • Lunch in mercado with just locals.
  • Late night in Salsa Club, where I learned to dance it.
  • Starting every morning with the best coffee in the world.
  • Chilling on the hill around San Antonio Church.
  • Enjoying rice and beans almost as good as in Brazil.
  • Hanging out with Manu Chao crew, as they stayed in my hotel during his tour.
  • Few scary night walks back to hotel.
  • White rum with Russian version of Jack Sparrow (hello Anton;).
  • Sweet bamboo juice.
  • Making loads of amazing friends.

Titicaca Lake, Copacabana vs Puno

  Holding title of the highest navigable lake on the planet, as well as on my list of the most beautiful water basins in the world, tucked away high in the Andes between snow-covered peaks, Lake Titicaca is one of the most popular places to see in South America. Known for its unique panorama during the day and the night time, crystal-clear air and water, combine with mountain range around. Believed to be the birthplace of the first Incas, along with the sun, moon and stars, when creator came out of the lake.

  The main two bases to explore Lake Titicaca (and other sites in the region) are Puno, in Peru, and Copacabana in Bolivia. I did visit these two mentioned towns, and I stayed a minimum of two nights in each, which gave me some time to look around and discover them. If you’re backpacking and having loads of time, you can stop in both to see the Bolivian and Peruvian side of Titicaca, as they are very different. However, if you’re rushing a bit, I would definitely suggest staying just in Copacabana in Bolivia. Why? Well, for few reasons really. From there, most tour operators run a day trips to the Isla del Sol, with a quick stop at the Isla de la Luna. Bolivian town is way smaller and cutter. Very touristic too, which I don’t always like, but can be handy when it comes to accommodation and organized trips. Lake is looking really amazing (way better) from this side as well, you can hike some mountains around to spot the stunning panorama of the pool and surrounded areas. In Puno, the lake side can`t be really accessible properly, there is no beach to sit and enjoy, and there’s not so many hills from where you can get a good grip of Titicaca. Having said all that, I loved Puno for its truly Peruvian vibe. There is loads of street food stands around, loads of mercados to grab a very tasty local meal, stand with fresh fruits, vegetables, colorful ladies with coca leafs…everything really. 

This can not be found in Copacabana, I was really struggling there to find a proper local food, and once I even ended up ordering a pizza. Not so cool. However, It’s just a food, and I think exploring the lake is the reason we are there in the first place, so again, that points us towards Copacabana over Puno. There is also loads of hotels by the lake (I was lucky to be in one), when in Puno you can hardly find any so close to the water. So I think we have a winner at the end-Copacabana. However, again on another side, Puno hold a very strong argument of having a famous Floating Islands, a must see while there. Yet, I think the trip can be booked from Copacabana too. The other reason (to cheer you up really, if you cant do both) to stay at just one place is the fact that any route you will take to get there, you will be able to have another good look at the lake, as streets are usually around the lake. If you will come from  La Paz, like myself, to Copacabana, you will even cross Titicaca on the boat.

Verdict:

Just for the lake and islands Copacabana is a winner, but if you want to feel the true vibe, less touristic place, traditional food and real life more than lake, then Puno is definitely for you! 

Either way you will choose, the bottom line is not to skip this place. Trust me, Titicaca will stay in your heart forever.