Posts tagged adventure

Celebrating 3 Thriving Years of On My Canvas – And Future Plans

And just like that, On My Canvas completed three thriving years on the internet.

Congratulations to us all who have been part of this budding platform through which I want to spread love, life, and hope. I cannot thank my readers enough for sticking with me all the while, for sending me immensely inspirational messages day and night, and for asking me to write more and more. On some hard days, I could not have done it without your endless emails and witty comments.

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Your Guide to Finding Isolated Hotels in Madikeri, Coorg

We all have been stuck inside homes for about six months now. Though usually, I am planning a birthday trip around this time of the year, as September approached I got anxious that I might want to go somewhere. But would I be able to step out of Bengaluru or even my house?

Then I remembered the article I had written on traveling in the Pandemic. For those who have read the guide know that I only suggested traveling by car to an isolated homestay or a guesthouse near the woods. Thus you can change your view, hike around, be in nature, and even work with the lush forest swaying in front of you. 

Remembering my idea, I started searching for isolated hotels in Karnataka (I don’t feel like crossing the border, yet). But as I pored over hundreds of hotels and guesthouses over various websites, I decided to dedicate an entire guide to isolated hotels in Madikeri, Coorg as most of the properties I liked were from this area. 

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Chile Visa Fiasco – When I Was Stranded at the Bolivia-Chile Border

When I Couldn’t Get a Chilean Visa at the Border and Bolivia Wouldn’t Take me Back.

My cheeky Canadian friend Alison walked towards me from the immigration counter at the Bolivia-Chile border in San Pedro de Atacama. Fanning herself with the green Chile tourist card that boasted her free entry into Chile for ninety-days, she smiled.

Now it was my turn. The young immigration officer looked at me and gestured me to come closer. I walked to his desk. He asked for my passport. I slid my blue passport through the gap under the glass that stood erect between us. 

Instead of handing me a green card as he issued to other tourists, the officer turned the pages of my passport and squinted to read the various visas and immigration stamps I had collected over the years. When he found my Chile temporary resident visa stamped on one of the passport pages, he asked for my RUT. 

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A Surreal Drive Up to the Ulun Danu Beratan Temple, Bali

A Misty Day at the Ulun Danu Temple, Bali

Located on the shores of the Lake Bratan in the Bedugul region of Bali, the Ulun Danu Beratan Temple, or Pura Ulun Danu, is a popular Bali temple and one of my favorites. The road to the temple undulates up and down with majestic views of the Bedugul highlands throughout— the Ulun Danu temple is at a height of 1500 meters.

When I visited the Pura UlunDanu I didn’t know that the drive would be so surreal and that we were driving to the second largest lake in Bali which irrigates the entire Bedugul region’s rice fields.

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A Scooter Expedition to Goa’s Secret Butterfly Beach

In Search of the Hidden Butterfly Beach, Goa

The sunrise at the Butterfly beach is beautiful, said Manveer, our Airbnb host. Then he gulped down his entire glass of orange juice.

But where is this Butterfly beach? Didn’t you say it was hard to find? I exclaimed.

I will show you the directions on the phone

Manveer walked to our table. He swiped right on his son’s photo wallpaper on the phone, tapped on the Google map application, and zoomed in.

I was staying at Manveer’s place, which is on the Agonda beach in Goa, for the second time. The first visit was two years earlier when I had gone to Goa to get some alone time. 

Remembering that fun trip when I had read Hemingway while basking in the sun on the beach and watched India England one-day series with an English traveler, I showed up at Manveer’s Airbnb again, this time with a friend. As soon as Manveer recognized me, our friendly banter began in no time.

Though I wasn’t sure if Manveer was avenging me for my raillery by sending me to this secret Butterfly beach in Goa, the idea of watching a romantic sunrise on an isolated beach thrilled me. 

We decided to go to the Butterfly beach the next morning to watch the sunrise and have a picnic by the seaside.

After devouring a dinner of grilled Kingfish, with charred eggplant, juicy cherry tomatoes, proud broccoli, and crisp zucchini along with a big bottle of Budweiser on a beachside grilled-seafood restaurant run by a Goan chef, we went to bed at ten that night. But not before packing our swimwear, water bottles, a few aloo parathas that we had asked Manveer’s cook to prepare for us, and a towel to spread on the beach.

As my room didn’t have air conditioning and April’s hot air scorched even at night, I sprinkled water on the curtains and the bed and then left the windows wide open. This sprinkler trick from my IIT Delhi days when summer used to be cruel and students weren’t allowed to keep air conditions or water coolers have come handy many times.

Soon I was sound asleep. Our alarms woke us up before dawn.

We put our backpack in the dickie of the rented Activa, and I drove while my friend sat behind. 

If you are from India or have traveled enough in India, you wouldn’t be surprised when I tell you that there were no streetlights. My friend switched on the flashlights of both our smartphones. 

The early morning cold breeze ruffled through our hair and woke us up. We were finally going to see Goa’s Butterfly beach which Manveer had been praising non-stop since the day we had arrived.

Adhering to Manveer’s advice, we followed the Google maps directions to the Leopard Valley gate, ahead of which lay a secret mud path that was to lead us to the Butterfly beach. When I drove by the gate slowly, we both searched for a clearing in the dense forest that fringed the roads on both sides. But we couldn’t see any path. I turned around and drove even closer to the forest to spot a trail while my friend flashed the torches on the sleepy black foliage. 

After a few minutes, we saw a narrow clearing on our left that seemed promising. But a mud trail ran through the dense forest on the right side of the road, too.

Though we couldn’t hear the Indian ocean and we had gone too far from the beach to direct ourselves using the sea’s orientation, I assumed that the ocean was on our right side. A faint recollection that Manveer had somewhere mentioned a right nudged us towards the right track, too. 

My friend spent a few minutes understanding which direction was right and which was left, a conundrum he hasn’t solved in the twenty-seven years he has been on this planet.

When I saw that the mud track was laden with broken stones and bricks, I transferred the driving rights to my friend. While I was a novice scooter driver, he had been driving for eight years. 

My friend clutched onto the left handle of the scooter, over my hand, and I slipped out from the right side. Then he handed me both the phones with their flashlights on, and I leaped onto the scooter seat behind him for when you are in a dark jungle without phone signals or any kind of help until far far away, you cannot be your usual sloth-like. 

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This was the beginning of the path we took.

We drove on the rocky pathway which soon started twisting and curling like an angry snake. The tree branches and bushes that overgrew on the path from both sides suggested that not many people drove on that road(cut) way. If your attention is gone for even a second, you would either skid on a rock or an imposing branch would hit you in the face. 

The beach was most probably deserted. Manveer wasn’t the bad guy after all.

Though a bit disoriented, my friend is a good driver, but I still got down of the scooter whenever the path felt too rocky to not fall flat onto a stone. The blue arrow of the GPS crawled, but the landscape, which would have been clear if we had loaded the map offline, was now blank. When we didn’t spot any landmarks that Manveer had mentioned, we knew we were lost.

Soon, cicadas, crickets, and half-asleep birds started breaking the silence of the South Goan jungle. Indian flying fox bats flitted between trees.  

Every few minutes, our white Activa would screech and grunt as if begging us to take her back to a less hostile path. We could get stuck in the mud or skid on the stones at any time now. We couldn’t see much. We didn’t know the route. Our phones had lost networks a while ago. And the dense jungle seemed to be getting deeper with every meter. 

Even though we knew we were neither approaching the Indian ocean nor the Pacific, we kept driving. In a few minutes, the darkness started slipping away slowly. Sun must have been shining close to the horizon as the tall trees that towered above us seemed to be rooted in the twilight. Birds chirped dissolving away the melancholy of the night. Every pixel was suffused with a light whose source we still could not see.

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Random scenes from the drive when we came out of the wilderness.

Hunger pangs rising from our stomachs now erupted into our throats. We were now driving on a steep trail covered with tiny sharp stones. I kept insisting that we could still find the beach but my friend concluded that to go further was not only a stupid idea but most probable a dangerous one.

My emergency driver declared that he wouldn’t drive any further. And I finally obliged.

We turned around and tried retracing our way through the dense forests. While driving back we stopped a few times to wander into mangroves and plucked yellow and green cashew nut fruits. We also went inside a farm and picked the fallen mangoes. But suddenly a swarm of honey bees surrounded us, and one of the many red ants bit my friend’s arm. And we thought that the farm owners hadn’t employed any guard.

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Exploring the Goan jungles.

Instead of going to the Agonda beach, we went to Palolem to have breakfast.

Palolem beach was lively. 

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Fishermen rushed around the beach in their half-folded lungis, some pushing their boats into the ocean, and some pulling their fish-loaded boats out of the sea. Fisherwomen paced up and down the beach in their half-folded saris and red round bindis adorning their forehead. 

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Silvery wafer-thin fishes gazed with their open eyes while throbbing against the red plastic net hoping to get some water. Crows and kites took turns to pick these tiny ones out of their nets. 

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https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/pw/ACtC-3dOGbsyUFzhJu_XlcxTTXeHa85VKIQOFZPHlUIuZbSz3zAwe9PCWf4pI3CJROTlr8rmYrZM7WXT1dLDnuMB6uDsFGf7quFXi6H1x-u8kX5qVTUzeDucJNYQ9PDlk9Hrn9D1Pl_u_rCyOYo6mJl_yJP31w=w667-h1000-no?authuser=0

Travelers and locals watched the ocean and the beach waking up to the day’s hustle.

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After having a heavy breakfast of some more aloo parathas, juice, and tea at a restaurant, we drove home. Our search for Goa’s Butterfly beach had failed us. 

We handed over the mangoes to Manveer’s kitchen staff. When Manveer saw us handling fruit with so much passion, he asked us if we could climb a papaya tree in his backyard to pluck the ripe papayas. 

Stop teasing us. You don’t know where the beach is. Do you?

Where did you go?

We drove to the Leopard valley gate, then didn’t take the path next to it, as you had told us, and then went further searching for a mud trail. Then we went towards the right side on a rocky path.

Why did you avoid the trail that runs next to the Leopard Valley board? That is where you had to go.

I was finally losing my patience. 

You had told us not to go inside the Leopard Valley ten times. So we avoided that trail and went on another mud path. It was a deadly trail.

You had to take the path going from the Leopard Valley board. That is not the Leopard Valley gate. That is just the marketing banner for the nightclub. I had warned you from going inside the actual Leopard Valley club.

Why would you not tell us to take the path next to the marketing banner? And why would you ask us not to go inside the Leopard Valley if it was not even on our way? 

He smiled. I could have punched him but we hadn’t established fighting rules. 

So we had to take the path that ran adjacent to the obscure wall on which “Leopard Valley” was painted. It was not the gate to the nightclub but just awareness propaganda.

We had no chances of finding the butterfly beach for we had taken the wrong path since the beginning. And we had ignored the correct trail because Manveer had given us puzzling instructions. Or we were just two confused souls in general.

Then Manveer showed us the entire Butterfly beach directions on his phone and my friend put markers on his Google map. Then we downloaded the offline Google maps for the entire South Goa. 

The next morning felt like a Deja Vu. We were driving in the dark again, had flashlights on, there were new aloo paranthas in the bag, but this time we took the Leopard Valley path. This one-hour drive was much simpler and when we reached the end of the motorable trail, we found two bikes parked. 

After a little walk through the forest dense with koronda berry, we were at the beach. 

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Once we were at the butterfly beach, we realized that we cannot see the sunrise from there as the ocean was on our West. Something Manveer had never mentioned when he said that you should go there for the sunrise.

The sea was calm but the sky was cloudy. As expected, the beach was almost empty. Apart from us, there was only a small group of men who had climbed higher onto one of the rocky cliffs that circumscribe the beach. 

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We took off our shoes, climbed up a cliff, and ate our paranthas. The fatigue from waking up so early for two days straight got hold of us and soon I found myself fast asleep on the rocks. 

My friend shook me up. We went into the water a little bit but it was cold in those early hours. 

Well, at least we had found the beach. It would have been nicer if instead of early morning, we had gone there for a sunset or during the afternoon to just sit and relax and swim and play. Taking a boat up there is also a good idea. 

You would see amazing photos of Goa’s Butterfly beach on the internet. Most of them are taken by drones and the photos I share are the best I could manage with a phone(I was camera-free then). 

The beach was empty, the trees rustled, and I could hear the ocean cracking against the rocky cliffs. That was more than one can ask for from a morning. 

And more than the view on the Butterfly beach or its emptiness, I had loved the journey to the beach. After all, it had taken us two days to find it.

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Some hazy pictures as if this was from 1970s.

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How to reach Butterfly beach Goa, India?

You can also go to the butterfly beach from Agonda beach or Palolem beach in a boat. Maybe I would do that the next time.

And if you want to drive to the beach, then follow the route that I am sharing in this screenshot.

I was torn between the idea of sharing the directions to butterfly beach versus keeping it a secret. But I had to give in as a travel writer who wants to share the beautiful places in the world.

Please be respectful. Leave the beach clean. While walking to the butterfly beach Goa I found so much plastic and wrappers at one spot that I was ashamed. It is always a good idea to bring back some garbage from pristine natural places and do our part.

I am only able to share the route to this secluded beach on my blog assuming that we all will help it clean and will respect other travelers there. No loud music, nothing of the sort that could make others uncomfortable.

If we all keep the beach clean, I would assume that I did the right thing by sending you there.

Now it is up to you.

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A close look of the directions.

Where to stay in South Goa? Is there a good place to stay near Goa Butterfly Beach?

Stay at the Forget Me Not Resort on Agonda beach if you are looking for a comfortable and right-on-the-beach stay. Manveer, his wife, his cats and dogs, and his staff will do everything to make you feel comfortable and ensure that you have a good time. Or browse for good places to stay in Goa here.

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Will you go to the Butterfly beach in Goa? Tell me in the comments.

Featured Image licensed under CC BY 2.0 license. Thank you, Nicolas Vollmer.

Image licensed under CC BY 2.0 license. Thank you, Gili Chupak.

Sunrise and Shan Noodles at Mandalay’s U Bein Bridge, Myanmar

A Travelogue of the U Bein Bridge, Myanmar.

 

U Bein Bridge is in a township of Mandalay called Amarapura, which was once the royal capital of Myanmar. 

Amarapura, literally the city of immortality in Pali(अमरपुर in Hindi), was the capital from 1783 until 1857, for almost 75 years. In 1857, when entire India was about to burst in its first revolt against the British East India Company, Burma’s King Mindon was building Mandalay as his new capital.

In the construction of the capital, the King wanted to use the old material from Amarapura as the second Anglo-Burmese war, (in which many Indian soldiers fought as one can see the graves of the sepoys in a Yangon cemetery), hadn’t left the royal treasure in blooming conditions. Elephants obeyed their king’s wish by hauling the building material over the 11-kilometer distance between Amarapura and Mandalay. 

 

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U Bein bridge, a 1.2 kilometer-long teak bridge, spanning Taungthaman Lake, was built during this move by the then-mayor U Bein. He put the 1000 or so Burma teak columns from the royal palace to good use as one can see in the picture above and below.

 

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We are not talking about Mumbai’s sea link or the US’s Golden Gate bridge, but this footbridge is the oldest teak bridge in the world. (And contrary to popular belief, perhaps not the longest wooden bridge as Guinness World Record says Horai Japanese bridge holds this title.). Taking the name from the mayor, the U Bein bridge has already stood sturdy for about 170 years with only some of its wooden logs replaced by concrete. 

U (in the mayor’s name) here serves as a respectful prefix, something like Sir, or maybe Lord. I request the Burmese readers to please let me know the real implications of U in the comments.

 

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I was at the U Bein Bridge on a cold December morning. As it was the dry season of Burma, the water level of the lake was low. I have heard that in monsoon(June-September), the water from the lake almost kisses the bridge. 

I often say, when in Burma, do as the Burmese, and rise before the sun kisses the sky yellow. As my friend and I had decided to spend that December dawn at the popular Burma bridge, we brushed and plonked our sleepy selves in a kind tuk-tuk. 

When we arrived at the West end of the bridge in Amarapura, tourists and locals had already starting to flock. Swarms of crows were flying out and about. The faintly blue sky was studded with light clouds that the rising sun filled up with an orangish hue. 

It was almost as if someone had dropped a dollop of orange on an otherwise white pool.

 

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Related Read: Exploring Inle Lake, Burma

 

I couldn’t miss the hoards of tourists who had stationed themselves on the lake’s west bank to click the pictures of a fisherman. The entertainer was putting on a show by casting the fishing net in the lake. The travelers, mostly Chinese, captured his every move, and one could sync the click-click of the camera shutter with the fisherman’s muscle movement.

On that note let me tell you that more than 220,000 Chinese travelers had visited Mandalay city through January to April 2019: an increase that irritated locals in a way that it was published in the Myanmar Times

 

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Well, we can’t blame the tourists here as all credits for the showmanship go to the Burmese fish guy. Once, I was taught how to throw the fishing net by a Malaysian man on the banks of the Kinabatangan river. And as you can expect, I failed, horribly. My teacher, though, caught small fishes in his first throw just minutes after my embarrassing display of clumsy body movements.

 

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If you see wooden boats on the West end of the bridge, you can request the boatman to take you on a ride on the lake. I don’t know how much the ride costs, but well, you are in Myanmar.

 

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I didn’t hop on a boat. As I moved my attention from the drama, I saw that the sun was coming up the horizon. After taking a few photographs of the sunrise behind the bridge from different angles, I climbed up. 

 

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Soon I was surrounded by the many locals, tourists, vendors, and monks, who were all starting their day, along with me, at the Mandalay bridge. Some were exercising, some were photographing, some paced up to the other end, and the others were just hanging out.

I saw many photoshoots in that hour or two when I was at the top. Couples were getting clicked together. Some dressed in Elvis Presley-ish clothes were photographing each other in turns. And a few, like me, wanted to capture others’ lives on their camera roll. 

 

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Though all the articles on the internet suggest seeing a U Bein bridge sunset, I found the sunrise there quite calming, and, of course, gorgeous. As a result of the internet advice, the number of people at dawn was definitely lesser than the number of people who would head to the bridge in the evening.

 

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For us, travelers, the bridge was all about sightseeing. But the locals have been using the bridge to go from one end of the lake to the other for more than a hundred years now. Children go to school by walking across the bridge. Monks go asking for alms via the bridge. Men and women get to their work, some of them carrying bamboo baskets over their heads, through the bridge. Some locals were even on bicycles giving the photographers a perfect silhouetted shot while the bridge lay spanned across the lake. 

 

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The reflection of the sun and the bridge in the lake water caught my eye. So after we had clicked and rested and relaxed in all lengths of the bridge, we got down to walk around the lake.

 

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While we strolled under the bridge, we found small restaurants and snack shops run by locals. One such restaurant not only served as a quick tea joint but saved two homeless travelers by giving the keys to their bathroom which we used to full advantage. 

 

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The girls from the restaurant helped us wash our hands by pouring water, and I was suddenly sent back to my parent’s home. 

In my small hometown, we lived traditionally and wouldn’t even touch the tap with our potty hands(excuse me for the childish language but I believe I never grew up for that is how I still refer to this business.). And when I say potty hands, I am being literal for we used traditional Indian style, or squat, toilets. Neither did we know about toilet papers nor did we have hand showers that most of us can’t live without. 

In the absence of a better tool, we cleaned ourselves by throwing water from a mug, and if need be, used our hands, too. I would spare you further details as Wikihow has explained this process generously. When one family member would exit the bathroom, the other would come with the precious jugful of water. The culprit would lather her hands with soap, and the helper would pour the holy water.

No one judged because soon it would be the turn of the other person. 

And that happily forgotten childhood scene was repeating now. The only difference being that I had wiped myself with toilet paper, my hands were clean, and instead of my family, two young, benevolent, but giggly, Burmese girls were washing my hand while their mother, also giggly, instructed them from the background. 

 

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Friends, always carry toilet paper in Burma.

After this long toilet saga, I would not feel bad if you leave this travelogue right now. But what are travel stories without a bit of truth? Haven’t you ever been stuck abroad in a toilet without any toilet paper or a hand shower and no one to call? What did you do? And let us not blame Asia. My Airbnb host in Kelsterbach, Germany forgot to keep the toilet paper in the bathroom, and what followed on that period day is a story that I will tell in another lifetime. 

Life was slow in that family-run food shop. And I can’t even imagine how it would be to run a restaurant under a bridge. But with the lake and the stunning nature shows and lost travelers looking for the toilet, it wouldn’t be that bad?

 

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Now feeling fresh, we walked to the Amarapura market near the bridge hoping to eat. 

 

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My friend had been hypnotized by the Shan noodles. So when we asked about them at a family-run food shop, and a little boy nodded, we ran inside. 

I would tell you more about Shan noodles in upcoming Burma stories, but for now, I thank Burma for introducing me to the great Shan noodles. I even bought a few packets of the noodles from the San Bogyoke Market in Yangon and now I make them back home in India. Just fry some garlic in oil, add chunky tomatoes, some spices, and add this to boiled Shan noodles. Voila.

 

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We ate Shan soup, snacked on the tea leaf salad, and sipped herbal tea. Soon the restaurant filled with families and some more giggling and smiling ensued.

 

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What a morning it was! And as if the sunrise and the shan noodles weren’t enough, I caught sight of a Burmese longyi shop that seemed to carry simple designs and none of that floral overhyped.

 

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Not this one. That one. Not brown. Colorful. Not printed. Plain. Not silk. Cotton, please. And a few more this and that later, I found myself wrapped in the perfect, striped, multicolored longyi that would come home with me. And by chance, I am wearing the same longyi while writing this piece.

Some souvenirs and sunrises are to keep I guess. 

 

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Where to stay in Mandalay, Burma?

We stayed at the tall Gold Leaf Hotel in the main Mandalay area. Even though it is a big hotel with the standard, dull check-in and check-out process, not something I prefer as I am a homestay and a small guesthouse person, I liked the place for its view and vibrancy. 

The other, practical reason to stay at Gold Leaf was that in that New Year’s week not many hotels were available. Damn these world travelers. Gold Leaf has a large breakfast buffet with unlimited soup. There, I sold it. 

Click here to see the prices and book the hotel. If you want to avoid the corporate-ness of Gold Leaf, go here to see other hotels in Mandalay. 

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What is the best time to visit Mandalay city and the Mandalay bridge?

Winter is a good time to visit Myanmar, but summers are not. Avoid the months of May to July. 

August would bring a lot of rainfall, so humidity, but lower temperatures.

December was perfect weatherwise. Mornings were a bit cold and breezy but afternoons would be warmer and not hot at all.

 

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Would you love to see the sunrise at the U Bein Bridge, Mandalay? Do let me know if you buy a longyi.

 

Like this post? Please pin it so that others can find it on Pinterest. Thank you. 

Sunrise and Shan Noodles at Mandalay’s U Bein Bridge Myanmar u bein bridge photography | u bein bridge sunsets | u bein bridge sunrise | Mandalay city | Amarapura Myanmar | Myanmar Travel | Southeast Asia travel | Photo Essay | Travel stories from Myanmar | Southeast Asia Travel | Burma Backpacking | Most beautiful sunrises photography | Countries to visit in Southeast Asia | places to visit in Burma #myanmar #burma #travel #budgettravel #offthebeatenpath #Asia #southeastasia

Serendipitously Spotting Sloth Bear and Leopard in BR Hills, Karnataka

From Bangalore to BR Hills – Venturing Into the Hearts of Karnataka Jungles.

Biligiri Rangana Betta hills or popularly known as BR hills lie about 180 km south of Bengaluru. 

Just a 4–5 hours drive away from Bangalore, it is no surprise that the hills make for a perfect weekend getaway. Having been stuck in the city for two months straight for personal reasons, I was in desperate-need-of-greenery-and-fresh-air and quickly finalized upon Biligiri Hills as my weekend destination. The trip was with my husband so it had to be short to accommodate his full-time job. But even a 2–3 days road trip soaked us in so much nature that we savored it through the next few months of the dry pandemic era in which even stepping out of our tiny abode for groceries felt like a luxury.

I hadn’t expected to see much wildlife in BR hills, as my ventures into the hearts of the Karnataka jungles (such as the Dandeli Sanctuary) before hadn’t borne me much fruit, or, to say, I never saw the big cats or even the tail of an errant elephant. But little did I know that my desire to see Karnataka wildlife would finally come to color in the Biligiri Rangana Hills, officially known as the BR Hills Wildlife Sanctuary which was formed in 1974. 

At an altitude of 3500 feet above sea level, BR hills stand where the Western Ghats meets the Eastern Ghats, and make for an ecological hotspot. In addition to the location exoticism, the BRT wildlife sanctuary is quite large, 540 km² in the area to be precise, and is also an official tiger reserve.

 

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Map of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve(part of Western Ghats). Source: http://www.cepf.net/ / CC BY-SA

 

Not only did we see two sloth bears, at different times, sprinting across in front of our jeep, but we also spotted a leopard hidden behind the thickets, wild bisons appearing all macho, mama and baby chital(spotted deers), an Indian grey mongoose tottering around, a tortoise couple resting on a log in a pond, vultures and owls perched on high and dry tree branches, lone sambhar deers, barking deers melting us with their innocent eyes, Malabar squirrels nibbling through nuts perpetually, colorful birds of various kinds, langurs, wild monkeys, and wild boar. Phew. 

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Travel Inspires Change and One Small Change Can Transform Our Life.

Everything begins with a story.

Let me recite a story from Charles Duhigg’s book The Power of Habits. This is a true story of a woman named Lisa(as per the records) who was the subject of a scientific study for understanding behavioral change and habits.

Please note: Though the story is the key to appreciate this article, I am summarizing the story for those readers who don’t want to read it. If you want to read the story, go to it here. Else continue reading the summary. 

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Things To Do in Chile – 50 Incredible Experiences

My List of top things to do in Chile.

Table of Content.

  1. Best Things To Do in the North of Chile
  2. Best Things To Do in the Central Valley of Chile
  3. Best Things To Do in the Lake region, known as Los Lagos in Chile
  4. Best Things To Do in the South of Chile, known as Patagonia
  5. Some General Top Things To Do in Chile.

 

I spent six months in Chile that were spread across July 2016 to April 2017.

Here I am sipping coconut water and writing about the best things to do in Chile, but a few years ago, I didn’t know much about Chile. I just decided to travel to Chile and teach English there on an instinct.

After I had been to Chile, an artist in Pushkar told me that Chile is like a long river, flowing on the edge of the American continent. And Pablo Neruda describes Chile as a long, thin ship. Running from the Atacama desert in the North to almost into Antarctica in the West, every corner of Chile has been well-planned by nature to surprises its residents and travelers alike. 

Though you might think that Chile is a long but small country, let me warn you that there are an unprecedented number of things to do and beautiful places in Chile. From watching the penguins ganging up on the glaciers to hiking in fjords, from participating in a community activity minga to eating mussels steamed underground, from exploring a cavernous moony landscape to stargazing at night — you can do something new in all the many places to visit in Chile.  

If you are going to Chile for two to three weeks, you should have a rough or an exact Chile itinerary. Otherwise, you would get confused about choosing between the plethora of the fun things to do in Chile at the last minute. But if you are visiting Chile for longer, you can wing your trip a little bit.

When in Chile, leave all the worries behind. Por tienes que disfrutas – You have to make the best of it!

 

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Let me get started now. 

I have described the geography of Chile in detail in the Chile travel guide, and you can read it here. To summarize — Though Chile is divided into sixteen administrative regions, I have divided Chile into four main geographical regions for the narrational ease. These regions are The North, the Central Valley, The Lake region also known as Los Lagos, and the South that is known as Patagonia. 

 

Best Things To Do in the North of Chile

The highlight of the North is the dry Atacama desert that is a perfect setting for any Hollywood or Hindi drama. Nature dons a surreal robe in the Atacama. 

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1. Start your journey with San Pedro de Atacama village

This tiny adobe town is the gateway to the Atacama desert. Frozen in time, San Pedro is the perfect place to slow down, explore a fairly laid-back Chilean lifestyle, visit adobe houses and adobe church, and see the surrounding desert. 

San Pedro is a bit more expensive than the rest of Chile, so pay attention to your expenditure.

Accommodation: Stay at the eco-friendly La Casa EcoExplor that is 200 meters away from the bus stand and offers budget dorms, private rooms, and a kitchen. 

How to go: Take a bus from Santiago to Arica and then another one to San Pedro. Or fly from Santiago to Arica and then continue by road. 

 

2. Visit the Miscanti and Miñiques lagoon, Piedra Rojas, and Chaxa lake in the Atacama desert

Start your Atacama expedition with these lagoons and the red rocks(Piedra Rojas in Spanish) as they make a comfortable day trip. These out-of-the-world destinations are bound to overwhelm you. 

The blue lagoons of Miscanti and Miñiques are surrounded by amber grass and backdropped by copper mountains. The volcanic red rocks lead up to a flamingo-studded emerald lake circumscribed by smooth peaks. The Chaxa lake is the perfect reflection of the purplish volcanoes that rise like gigantic ice-cream cones in the dry desert. If you get dizzy because of the high altitude, flamingoes feeding in the lake could be misconstrued as strolling between the upturned volcanoes. 

How to go: Either take this GetYourGuide tour or rent a car and drive. Download the offline Google maps and have a hard copy of the map in case your phone runs out of battery (which is often not the case now for we all carry power banks). Many travel companies in San Pedro also arrange regular tours to these destinations. 

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Surreal. Ain’t it?

3. Walk in the Moon Valley (Valle de La Luna) in the Atacama

About 13 km from San Pedro, the Moon Valley of the Atacama gets its name from its moon-like surface. Various sand and stone formations have been formed in the valley by the continuous wind and water action. 

The cavernous valley is fringed by volcanoes, and one can get a good view of a sunset over a volcano by sitting on the high rocky hills or the sand dunes. The best time to go is the sunset when the color of the sky changes from pink to purple to finally dark. 

How to go: Either go for an all inclusive tour or drive yourself

 

4. Float in the Natural Salt Lake (the Laguna Sejar)

The natural salt lake Laguna Sejar lies in the Cordillera de el Sal (mountain range of salt). Floating in this lake is one of the most fun activities to do in the Atacama — you float effortlessly under a clear blue sky in the middle of this vast desert while gazing over the volcanoes and mountains in the distance. 

Combine the trip with Ojos del Salar and Tebinquinche lake. If you are on a tour, you would be served pisco sour, a popular Chilean drink, at sunset over Tebinquinche.

How to go: Take this all-inclusive GetYourGuide tour or drive yourself. 

 

5. Stargaze all you want under the clear Atacama sky – One of the best things to do in Chile

Due to less air pollution, dry air, and a lot of cloudless nights, Chile is a perfect place for astronomers. And due to less light pollution, Atacama is the best even in Chile. 

Make sure you keep one extra night or more for stargazing in the desert. Many travel companies arrange stargazing activities. You can also camp on the roof of your hotel to get some sky action. 

How to go: Take a stargazing tour or camp in the desert with a local’s help.

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Tip: Some of my other favorite things to do in the Atacama were visiting the hot Geysers del Tatio and relaxing in natural hot pools. Here is the hot pool to and fro transfer I took. You can get a tour of the geysers or drive there early morning to see steam shooting out of the geysers and into the sky. 

 

6. Take a Uyuni Salt Flats tour from San Pedro

Bolivia’s Uyuni salt flats are one of the world’s most bizarre landscapes. This vast salt desert is close to the border of Chile. 

Most people go for a 3-4 day salt flats tour that could either begin in San Pedro or the Uyuni town of Bolivia and end in either one of these. On the cross-country tour, you would see many natural reserves of Chile, geysers, blue lagoons, flamingo colonies, and the salt flats of Bolivia. If you take a salt desert tour, you can skip the geysers and the other lagoons I mentioned above for you would see similar landscapes on the tour. 

Here is a GetYourGuide tour that starts from San Pedro and goes to Uyuni in Bolivia.

 

7. Gape at the Hand of the Desert – Mano del Desierto 

This giant structure constructed by the artist Mario Irarrazabal who depicts humans’ helplessness and vulnerability in the hand is 70 km away from the Antofagasta city. If you are around, pay a visit. 

 

**What not to miss in the North: My favorite places in the desert were the Chaxa lake and the Moon Valley. Oh, do try quinoa ice cream in San Pedro and the delicious Chilean wines in the village plaza. 

The Atacama is poetry. Won’t you agree?

 

 

Best Things To Do in the Central Valley of Chile

The Central Valley of Chile might not be as surreal as the North but it has its beaches, velvety countryside, vineyards, artists, graffiti, and colorful residential hills to flaunt. 

Central Valley is known for its big cities: Santiago, Valparaiso, Viña del Mar,  Valdivia, and Concepcion. All of these are connected to each other by bus, flight, and road. 

 

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The view of the Andes over Santiago.

8. Keep a few days for Santiago

Although I might have been looted in Santiago once, I would recommend traveling in Santiago for a few days because trying to understand a country without seeing its capital is like drawing a map without the North. 

Chile might be about its deserts, beaches, and glaciers, but it is also about its cosmopolitan capital where you feel unsafe as soon as you step out of the center, and even in the center sometimes. My (and about hundred other Santiago local friends’) best safety tips for Santiago are: find a hotel in a safe neighborhood, stay inside at night, hold your bags and mobiles closer especially in the metro, bus, and crowded or empty places, keep an eye on people around you, and carry limited cash. 

Some of the best things to see in Santiago are: Plaza del Armas (the main square), Santiago Metropolitan Cathedral (the main church), Santa Lucia hill (remains of a 15-million-year-old volcano), National Astronomical Observatory of Chile at Cerro Calán (you might have to contact the observatory in advance), San Cristobal Hill (for good views), Santiago Museum of Contemporary Art and the Chilean National Museum of Fine Arts(for us art lovers), Museum of Memory and Human Rights(to know more about the Pinochet rule), Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino(another museum), Palacio de La Moneda, and the Bahá’í Temple of South America. 

How to commute: Use metro, bus, and Uber(still illegal but functional). Prebook a pickup from the airport to your hotel if you are arriving in Santiago for the first time. If you are going to stay in Santiago a bit longer, consider this introductory tour to Santiago with a local guide.  

Where to stay in Santiago: I have handpicked the below accommodations from throughout Santiago as per safety, locality, reviews, experiences, prices, and services provided.

Guest House Mery, Barrio Brasil – Run by a Chilean family, in downtown Santiago, close to historical places and metro, amazing reviews, kind staff, beautiful rooms, and patio, and pick up and drop from the airport at reasonable prices. Best for solo or couple travelers.

Book the hotel here on Booking. This place gets sold out well in advance.

Amistar Apartments – In downtown Santiago near Santa Lucia hill, entire apartment for 3/4/5 people, clean accommodation, kind owners, great reviews, and pick up and drop service from the airport. Best for a group of friends or families. Browse the apartments here on Booking.

And now for the hostel lovers.

Hostal Rio Amazonas: In central Santiago near Baquedano Metro Station, boutique hotel, gorgeous interiors and paintings, comfortable rooms with private bathrooms, friendly staff, inhouse bar, and wifi. Best for couples, family, and solo travelers.

Click here to see the availability and book Hostal Rio Amazonas.

 

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Santiago’s main plaza.

9. Soak poetry in Pablo Neruda’s houses – One of the best places to visit in Chile

 

Neruda is one of the most loved poets of Chile who is not only known for his love poems but for his odes to things like socks and vegetables. His three homes: La Chascona in Santiago, La Sebastiana in Valparaíso, and the one in the Isla Negra are all open for public on all days of the week except Monday. 

If you haven’t read Pablo’s poetry, let me first recite a few verses to raise your curiosity,

It pleased me to grow with the morning,

to bathe in the sun, in the great joy

of sun, salt, sea-light, and wave,

and in that unwinding of the foam

my heart began to move,

growing in that essential spasm,

and dying away as it seeped into the sand. 

From October Fullness, The Essential Neruda

 

These words are only a drop in Pablo’s ocean of poetry. The Essential Neruda poetry book I have linked above is a collection of some of his best poems in both their English and Spanish versions. His poetry can only beckon good things, I promise.

La Chascona: Fernando Márquez de la Plata 0192, Barrio Bellavista, Providencia, Santiago, 56-2-2777-8741; fundacionneruda.org. Named after Pablo’s secret lover, this house is at the foot of Cerro San Cristóbal. Pablo bought this house for his secret lover and himself. 

La Sebastiana: Ferrari 692, Valparaíso, 56-32-225-6606; fundacionneruda.org. Sits on a Valparaíso hill overlooking the city. 

Isla Negra: Poeta Neruda s/n, Isla Negra, El Quisco, 56-35-2461284; fundacionneruda.org: This house is on the coastline about an hour away from Valparaíso. Pablo is buried here along with his third wife. On the way to the house, you can visit many vineyards and fine restaurants some of which still serve Pablo’s favorite food. 

If you want to go with a tour, this one goes to the Isla Negra house, explores the beach, and then takes the tourists for wine tasking in Casablanca valley.

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10. Lose yourself in the Central Market of Santiago (Mercado Central)

One of my dear friends introduced me to Mercado Central. Abundant seafood, typical Chilean preparations, fresh fruits and vegetables, pulses and porotos(read beans), everything can be found in this market. I do remember eating in the dingy backside of the market but it has a great food court where you can get fresh seafood preparations. 

Mercado Central is one of the most interesting places in Chile to understand the Chilean culture. Don’t miss it.

How to go: Take this bike tour that also goes to the market amongst other things or visit on your own. The nearest metro station to the market is Puente Cal y Canto. You can also take a bus and get down near the market. Though illegally, Ubers, also work in Santiago.

Must-try dishes: Porotos(red beans), pasta del choclo(corn preparation), seafood, humitas(another corn preparation) along with some Cusquena beer or wine

 

11. Hike in Maipo Valley (Cajon del Maipo)

Cajon del Maipo is a canyon in the Santiago Metropolitan Region of Chile.

Many rivers including the el Maipo River, El Volcan River, Colorado River, and Yeso River merge in this valley. The turquoise rivers circumscribed by the tall Andes make the canyon a perfect hub for adventure.

Cajon del Maipo offers a potpourri of activities ranging from hiking in the canyon, skiing, river rafting, hiking a volcano and visiting hot springs, exploring the national park, and relaxing with beautiful views. The trails in the Maipo Valley are both tough and easy, so choose yours as per your fitness level and comfort. Mostly, travelers head to Cajon del Maipo for a day or a weekend, but you can even book one of the cabins there and stay for long. 

Look for a place to stay here, and I have linked to the tours with the activities above. 

 

12. Gaze over the Pacific from the Wulff Castle, Viña del Mar

About 120 km from Santiago, Viña del Mar is a coastal city that is close to another popular coastal destination called Valparaíso.

Located right opposite the Cerro Castillo (Castillo hill), the Wulff castle was built by the Wulff family, first as their home, and then the home was remodeled into a castle. The castle doesn’t have an entrance fee, has beautiful art exhibitions as now it is a government heritage center, and the view of the Pacific from the castle is stunning. 

Viña del Mar: Browse through Viña’s accommodations here.

 

13. Ride the squeaky funicular elevators of Valparaíso

Only 120 km away from Santiago, Valparaíso (or lovingly known as Valpo amongst the locals) is a colorful city built over steep hills on the shores of the Pacific. Like other port cities, it is a bit random and unstructured, and thus colorful. Valparaíso is the only Chilean city where street art is legal so you can imagine why I call it colorful. 

People reside on the hills of Valparaíso, and these elevators, or cable cars, were built to carry people up and down on the steep hills. Although once there were about 31 elevators, now only about 14 of these are functional. 

 

How to go: The two most popular and easy to access funiculars are the Acensor Reina Victoria (connecting Avenida Cumming with Paseo Dimalow) and the Acensor El Peral (connecting Plaza Sotomayor with Paseo Yugoslavo.) Carry some cash or coins for the ticket price is about 100-200 pesos.

If you are short of time, take a tour from Santiago to Vina del Mar and Valparaíso that goes through the main sites of both the cities.

Tip: While in Valparaíso, you can check out the Botica Salcobrand medical shop on Plaza Aníbal Pinto where the pharmacy is ready to take you for a spin in the past. 

Where to stay: Click here to see and book accommodations in Valparaíso

 

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14. Tour vineyards when in the Central Valley – One of the cool things in Chile

The Central region of Chile has the perfect temperature and most accommodative soil for grapes. Viña del Mar, Valparaíso, Santiago, and Casablanca, a white wine city between Santiago and Valparaiso, are stuffed with vineyards that encourage tourists to visit. And travelers go for Chilean wine is one of the best wines in the world.

How to go: Here are some brilliant winery tours you can take: Concha y Toro official winery tour (one of the most popular and the oldest in Latin America), Undurraga vineyard in Maipo, or visit the wineries of Casablanca from Santiago. You can also hire a car and drive around yourself.

 

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15. Immerse in the graffitis of Valparaíso

Valparaiso started becoming an art center when Pablo Neruda, a resident of the city, invited his Mexican friends and painters to the city. Soon the city’s walls, steep staircases, cobbled streets, dainty shops, and open roofs all were covered in graffiti. In no time, locals joined the artists, too.

During the dictatorship in Chile, the wall art of Valparaiso was one of the most effective ways for revolutionaries to communicate and to encourage people to keep fighting for freedom. Now the city has legalized street art, and property owners argue over who would get the best artist to paint their garages and roofs. 

Valparaiso is dense with these wall paintings, and you would find them in the most obscure places. Go up a narrow street or stroll in the back lanes or peek behind a dusty car, if you will, and you are bound to run into some heartening display of color. 

The best places to see the local art are the hills of Carcel, Miraflores, Alegre, Pateon, Concepcíon, and Bellavista. You should also go to the open-air museum that holds the art of more than 70 artists who put their art together after the dictatorship. 

Be careful while roaming in Valparaiso for the place is known for delinquents who love snatching off bags and phones. Walk in the city in daylight, be with a friend or group preferably, keep your belongings close to you, and don’t wander in a deserted street even in daylight. 

Valparaiso is one of the most important places in Chile to understand the country’s artistic growth. So be cautious, but do visit. 

How to go: The safest and most informative way to explore Valpo’s art would be to take a tour with the locals

 

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16. Celebrate the New Year eve in Valparaíso by watching firecrackers put on a colorful show over the Pacific – One of the most unique and best things to see in Chile

For about half an hour, the sky above the Pacific shore near Valparaiso dazzles with colors as hundreds of firecrackers are busted there at midnight. People gather over their rooftops, in balconies, and on the beaches to see the celebration with champagne spilling out of their glasses and empanadas spilling out of their tables. 

Don’t miss this experience if you are in Chile around the new year.

How to go: Book a hotel in Valparaiso and get to the roof or your balcony in time. Don’t forget to bring some of that delicious Chilean wine. 

 

**What’s not to miss in Central Valley: Wine, art, and poetry.

 

 

Valdivia is neither part of the Central Valley nor of the Los Lagos region of the South. So I am putting it here in between the two.

17. Visit the Mercado Fluvial in Valdivia

Valdivia is an old city set at the junction of the Calle-Calle and Cau-Cau rivers and is slightly above the lake region. 

Valdivia’s vibrant local grocery market Mercado Fluvial sells a myriad of fish, mussels, prawns, street food, vegetables, fruits, handicraft, and wooden artifacts. The market is on the shores of the Valdivia River, and sea lions resting on the wooden planks behind the market behold the sight of the visitors rather than the trouts and the avocados. And while the shop keepers get distracted with customers, the seagulls fly off with a few anchovies now and then.

On a sunny afternoon, the market is a great place to eat, buy a handmade souvenir, or you can also start a boat tour through the interconnected network of canals and rivers from the market. 

Where to stay in Valdivia?

Airesbuenos Hostel y Permacultura, Valdivia– I stayed at Airesbuenos (350 m away from the bus terminal) for about 2 nights. Great affordable place for solo or couple travelers. Wifi, breakfast, and a shared kitchen included. Find the availability of Airesbuenos on Booking here.

And if you don’t like this hostel, then feel free to browse through other options in Valdivia.

 

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18. Cruise through the Valdivian rivers visiting old forts

As the fourth settlement founded by the Spanish, Valdivia has many forts and castles that are spread around the city. 

Mercado Fluvial is the starting point of a boat ride through the network of waterways that go through the many Valdivian rivers. Along with a pleasant ride, you will also visit the historical places and forts on the way. Fort Niebla is one of those popular forts and flaunts its own beach(playa) and a local market (feria).

 

19. While in Valdivia, don’t miss the Kunstmann brewery

Chileans love their wine, but they are no less a fan of beer. 

Kunstmann, one of the oldest and popular Chilean beer, has a big brewery in Valdivia. Understanding the brewing process while sipping honey or cinnamon Kunstmann could be a fun thing to do on a windy evening in Valdivia. 

 

Best Things To Do in the Lake region, known as Los Lagos in Chile

 

The lake region marks the beginning of Patagonia, the South of Chile, and from here you enter the zone of some of the world’s most beautiful places. 

Los Lagos is known for its deep blue lakes, azure rivers, active volcanoes, lush national parks, and scattered islands. Some of the main towns of the region are Puerto Varas, Osorno, Puerto Montt, and Pucon. 

 

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20. Chill in the Chiloé island or the Isla Grande – One of Chile’s best places to visit

I stayed in Castro, the capital of Chiloé, for five months and taught English to government school students as part of a volunteer program. So its only natural that I talk about this island far more fondly than the rest of the places to go in Chile.

Rolling countryside hills of the island houses colorful stilt homes(palafitos), wooden heritage churches, and apple fields. The windy beaches of the island aren’t very busy for the water is cold throughout the year. The only known attempt of someone swimming there was of a friend who was dissuaded after his first attempt as he almost froze while dipping in, shouted for help, and was driven home in his swimming trunks by a stranger.

Chiloé and the people of Chiloé, who are lovingly called Chilotes, are known for their signature seafood and folklore. The homes here are covered with bright multi-colored shinglings of various shapes and sizes. 

 

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My host mother Cecilia in the picture. Notice the blue shinglings.

 

Chiloé is a place to slow down in Chile — Wake up in a stilt house or in a wooden cabin, eat bread and cheese or algae soup for breakfast, stroll in the countryside, pluck a peach or two, walk by the beach, eat as much seafood as you like at a cocineria (food court where locals make almost home food), visit a World Heritage wooden church, and then go to another local restaurant for a hearty meal with wine. 

 

Where to stay in Chiloé?

Let me recommend some places in and around Castro for you will start your island trip from there.

I highly recommend these private domes in Castro(on Airbnb) that are owned by a lovely Chilean couple and my best friends. Veronica and Marco are the warmest hosts who don’t let their guests leave without serving them amazing pisco sours and homemade seafood preparations. This could be one of the best places to stay in Chile for location, comfort, and hospitality. Do try. And if you do, tell Vero and Marco that you read my blog. You would definitely get a few extra piscos.

 

But if you are not on Airbnb or don’t like this place, here are some other good stay options.

Palafito WaIwen – Located by the Gamboa river and only about .6 miles from the Castro center, double rooms and dorms with heating, ocean and city views, wifi, kind staff, complimentary breakfast, shared kitchen, and a terrace overlooking the ocean. Best for couples and solo travelers.

Click here to book this stilt house.

 

Casa Chilota B&B – In downtown Castro, a typical Chilote home with wooden flooring, friendly and kind Chilean owners, and clean rooms with a complimentary breakfast spread. Best for families, couples and solo travelers.

Look at the pictures and see Casa Chilota on Booking.

Cabañas Lomas de Ten Ten– Located in Ten Ten, a small countryside area about 4-5 km away from Castro downtown, beautiful wooden cottage, kitchen included, and ocean view from the cabin. Ideal for families or a group of friends. Book these cabins on Booking here.

Apart from these, do look for cabins and wooden cottages out in the countryside. Chiloé has some beautiful and secluded scenic accommodations and you should get one for yourself. Find some here.

 

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Castro’s purple and yellow church. Very high amongst the traveler’s places of interest in Chile.

Here are some of the specific things to do in Chiloé.

21. Spend a day or two in Castro, the capital of Chiloé (One of the most famous places in Chile but for the right reasons)

Walk around the main plaza, admire the purple and yellow San Francisco Church there, eat at the seafood restaurants, buy fresh fish or eat ceviches in the Mercado Municipal near the harbor, look for some souvenirs in the market, drink wine at the cozy bars(43 was my favorite), and participate in a minga or get invited to a party and see the locals’ way of celebration. 

Oh, stroll around the viewpoint Gamboa, walk along the harbor in the direction of ten-ten, and eat in one of the palafitos there while looking over the ocean. 

 

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Palafitos (stilt houses) of Castro.

22. Visit the Cocineria of Dalcahue (food court where locals make home food)

The quiet Dalcahue serves as a boarding point for the ferry of Achao(another island I would suggest you visit), but Dalcahue can be visited for just its cocineria. 

The several restaurants of the food court run by eight local families sit in a small wooden house that overlooks the ocean and serves homemade preparations of Chilote’s best-known dishes. 

Find seafood preparations here, casuellas(soups), algae and potato preparations, porotos granados(red beans), and the famous colorful Chilote potatoes. 

Carry cash as cards wouldn’t be accepted.

Insider tip: Another great place to visit in Dalcahue is the artisan fair that happens twice every week where artisans from all over Chiloé come to Dalcahue to showcase and sell their products. 

 

23. See the heritage wooden churches of Chiloé – One of the unique things about Chile

When the missionary Jesuits arrived in Chile in the 17th century, the building techniques of Spain were merged with the local Chilote wooden boat construction techniques. One thing led to another and nailless churches emerged. 

Chiloé had 51 of these larch and cypress wood churches out of which only 15 remain now. But, less is more couldn’t be more true than in the case of these heritage churches as they stand timeless, some even earthquake safe, and keeping the people inside them warm (such is the wooden insulation) from the fierce cold in Chiloé. 

Achao has the largest wooden church on the Chiloé archipelago, Curaco de Velez has the oldest, Tenaúm’s church is gorgeous, and Castro’s is colorful. And there are more. 

 

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Nercón Church.

PC: Srikanth_Jandy, under CC BY 2.0

 

24. Buy Chilote artisanal souvenirs and wooden artifacts 

I wish I could share the picture of that handwritten wooden chai mug that I bought for my father from the Mercado Municipal in Castro, but he has the mug. But not just mugs, you can buy handpainted or handwritten wooden pocket mirrors, pen, hairpins, spatulas, cutting boards, and other paraphernalia, too.

As Chiloé is cold and wet for a large part of the year, locals knit and sell woolen sweaters, hats, socksponchos, and other cute warm clothing. Oh, there is copper handmade jewelry, too, of which I have a few pieces. 

Walk around the artisanal markets in the many towns and villages of Chiloé for the sake of friends back home. 

 

25. Eat typical Chilote food

I lived with a Chilean family for five months and that implies I mostly ate at home. I wish I had tried more restaurants, but the home food was great, and eating with a bunch of crazy Chileans, British, and Americans(volunteers who also taught English) won over outside food every time. 

I was soon introduced to the greasy milcao — potato patty stuffed with pork and deep-fried(this was store-bought), colorful red, purple, and black potatoes that are local to the island, empanadas — pastries stuffed with potato or chicken or beef or seafood, and curanto — mussels and seashells steamed with potato and/or pork underground over coal. These are all unique to the island(except empanadas) so do try.

Chiloé is especially known for its seafood preparations such as casuella(soups)- they even have algae casuella, grilled fish, ceviche, etc. And oh, the portions increase in Chiloé without warning.

 

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Chicken casuella(soup) made at home. I can’t have this delicacy now. No more chicken for me.

 

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You do see a long purple Chilote potato on this plate of curanto: clams, pork, and potatoes cooked underground. I don’t eat pork or other meat now (I am a pescatarian) but I did want to show you how curanto looks and that is why this picture that I find slightly disturbing now.

26. Go island-hopping on Chiloé archipelago

From Chiloé, take a ferry to the many nearby islands of the archipelago such as Lemuy, Caucahué, Quinchao, and explore the churches and the countryside of these places. 

How to go: Getting to another island is as easy as taking a bus that directly goes to the island or walking to the ferry point and taking the ferry to the other island. Have coins or smaller notes to pay. 

Where to stay: Either stay in the Castro area and make a day trip to other islands. Or look for some cool accommodation on the destination island. Booking is my friend for this task.

 

27. Kayak around the Chiloé archipelago

Kayaking in the rivers and in the inland water around the Chiloé archipelago could be a lot of fun on a bright day. Ask your hotel or homestay for more information. 

 

kayaking chiloe island landscapes.jpg

Photo by jeffreywarren (CC BY 2.0)

 

28. Visit the regional museum (Museo regional) in Ancud, Chiloé

Though Ancud, the former capital of Chiloé, is now a mundane town with regular buildings and docks, Museo Regional de Ancud (Ancud’s Regional Museum) is a good place to know more about the Chilote culture and mythology. 

 

29. Take a ferry to the Penguineria Islands near Ancud (Monumento Natural Islotes de Puñihuil)

From Ancud, a ferry goes to a collection of islands that penguins have unabashedly colonized. The best time to see the friendly creatures is December. 

How to go: My plan to visit these penguin colonies failed three times due to unexpected earthquakes, strikes, and so on. But finding that bus stand in Ancud from where a bus goes to the ferry point wasn’t easy. You would have to ask the locals or confirm at your hotel. You need to take a bus from Ancud to a ferry point and then you board a ferry or a small boat that takes you to the colonies. If you don’t want to arrange the trip by yourself, here is a GetYourGuide tour that first explores parts of Chiloé and then goes to the Caulin and Puñihuil Penguins Colony.

 

30. Go to the Dock of Souls, known as Muelle de Las Almas in Spanish.

Muelle de Las Almas is a popular wooden pier in the Chiloé National Park near the village of Cucao. 

The popularity of the dock is attributed to the local legend where a boatman Tempilkahue used to carry souls over the river into eternal rest. These souls would wail for the boatman to take them but Tempilkahue didn’t carry them all. If they couldn’t pay him, the souls would linger on in the surrounding cliffs. 

When the Chilean wood sculptor and art professor from Santiago designed a long wooden bridge, a pier, at the cliff, the place was named as the Muelle de la Almas. 

Stories say that the wails of the dead can still be heard at the pier. This quirky pier is one of the best places to go in Chile for the gorgeous viewpoint and the adventurous hike to the bridge. Don’t let a few ghosts scare you off.

How to get there:

Rent a car to drive or get a local bus, known as micro(pronounced as mee-crow), to Cucao. After about a 1.5 hour drive, the bus will drop you outside a restaurant called Terrasa de Cucao, and then from there another bus drop at the beginning point of the hike, or you can say the parking lot, in about 30 minutes. The last bus to the hike leaves from the restaurant at 3 pm. 

After the bus ride, hike for about 45 minutes to one hour through the undulating hills and pastures of the national park to get to the dock. Get there in the morning to get bright views over the ocean and to make the most of the day. 

Remember that the last bus from the pickup point (to the restaurant) leaves at 5:30 pm. In case you miss this one, like we did because someone forgot her phone at the top of a hill, walk for an hour or hitchhike to get back to the restaurant for the next bus.

muelles de las almas cucao chiloe.jpg

Photo by f3nc0r3. (CC BY 2.0)

 

31. Visit the Pablo Fierro Museum in Puerto Varas, Chile

Pablo Fierro museum would be a great stop before Chiloé to understand how the Germans, who entered the island in 1850, influenced the Chilote culture.

How to go: The Museum is free to enter and is a short stroll along the waterfront from the Plaza de Armas of Puerto Varas on the 225 Road heading towards Ensenada.

 

32. Take a ferry to Hornophiren – One of the best places in Chile for nature lovers

Hornophiren is a beautiful town in the lake region. Most backpackers and travelers miss this beauty on their Chile trip for it is not on a typical travel route. 

But as if it is out of a fairy tale, Horniphiren has misty volcanoes, deep blue lakes, huge national parks, hot thermal pools, solitary mountains, white rivers, open pastures studded with birds and horses, amongst other things that can lure any adventurer. 

Hornopirén’s national park is easily accessible, and we biked up the Andes in the park and then came down flying, all safe. The rivers have good viewpoints, too. There are volcanoes to be hiked, but you would need good weather to climb. 

Oh, don’t forget to try the yerba mate and cheese empanadas at the local artisanal joint near the square.

How to go: Get a bus or drive there but remember you would have to get up on ferries a few times.

Where to stay: Have a look at the wooden cabins of Hornopirén here

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A typical day in Hornophiren.

 

33. Hike active Volcano Villarica, Pucon

Climbing up hiking Villarrica is the goal of many travelers when they travel to Pucon, the adventure hub of Los Lagos. 

Originally known as Rucapillán or House of the Pillan — home of a powerful disastrous spirit, the volcano hasn’t erupted for many years now. For a hiker, climbing up Volcan Villarica would be one of the top 10 things to do in Chile. Plan your trip to have a few days in Pucon so that at least one of them has favorable weather for the hike. 

My Villarica hiking experience can be read here.

How to go: Take a guided tour to go up the volcano as you can’t do this on your won. The hike would take your entire day. 

Where to stay in Pucon? I stayed at the Chilli kiwi hostel which was comfortable and had ample double rooms and dorms. You can also book any of the adventure activities, hikes, or tours from Chilli Kiwi. Click here to find the availability in the hostel and to book it.

Insider Tip: In the winter, you can ski in the Centro de Ski Pucon (ski center of Pucon). 

 

volcano villarrica in chiloe chile.jpg
Villarrica, with its ever famous smoke whirling into the blue sky.

34. Chill at the Caburga lake beach in Pucon

Relaxing at the Caburgua lake beach after climbing the volcano would be a smart thing to do. 

35. Kayak in the quiet Villarrica lake and find remote beaches

Borrow or rent Kayaks from the hotel and explore the lake. You are bound to find some empty beaches. Make sure you aren’t intruding in anyone’s private property and jump in. 

 

36. Hitchhike to the deserted Salto del Claro waterfalls near Pucon.

This waterfall is mostly deserted, and you might want to start early from Pucon as it takes about 4-5 hours of walking to reach there.

The waterfall is about six kilometers out of Pucon, so you can either hike all way or bike or take a taxi and walk or hitchhike. 

Make sure that you carry enough water, snacks, a towel, and keep your phones charged as there are no shops or restaurants near the waterfall. If you are lucky, you would be able to hitchhike back to the town. 

 

**What not to miss in the Lake Region: People, food, beautiful landscapes, adventure activities, and the unique culture.

 

Best Things To Do in the South of Chile, known as Patagonia

In the South of Chile, Andes rise on the mainland to form Patagonia. This no man’s land is nothing but icy peaks with glaciers suspended atop, deep blue and turquoise rivers, labyrinthine fjords, gorgeous lakes, and natural caves. Patagonia is mostly uninhabited because of the crazy climatic conditions. 

The Carretera Austral or the Southern highway runs along this nomad’s land from Chaiten till the Tierra del Fuego or the land of fire which culminates in Cape Horn, the last stop before Antarctic Peninsula — Patagonia leads our way into the end of the world. 

range-andes-chile-mountain-snow.jpg
Woah!

37. Hike in Torres del Paine

Torres del Paine National Park is one of the most sought-after parts of Patagonia. Even though thousands of people trek in this park every year, such is the park’s wilderness, that most of them never run into each other.

Though Torres’s terrain is difficult, it has all levels of hiking trails: easy, moderate, and high difficulty level for enthusiasts and hikers to choose from. From 4-9 multi-day circuits to a day-long hike, one can find them all. One of the longer hikes known as the W trek is one of the most beautiful trails of the park and extends over 8-9 days. Sleeping in pre-booked camps and eating packed meals throughout the trek makes the hike challenging but thrilling. You can also book the W trek and get all the arrangements done. 

Or take a full-day tour from the city of Puerto Natales to see the park’s main viewpoints and walk a little and then decide what would you like to do there.

How to go: Frequent flights are available from the major Chilean airports to the two main cities Puerto Natales and Punta Arenas of Patagonia.

Where to stay in Puerto Natales: Browse through hotels and check the prices here.

Where to stay in Punta Arenas: Find a comfortable accommodation in Punta Arenas here.

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Hiking in Torres del Paine is one of the top ones on the Chile things to do for adventurers and nature lovers.

38. Take a boat trip to Glacier Grey 

Part of the Torres del Paine National Park, Glacier Grey is part of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field –one of the largest ice stretches on the planet. 

The boat takes up to a point near the glacier from where you can admire the 40-meter high river of ice.

 

glacier-patagonia-chile-ice-4788112-.jpg

39. Visit the Mylodon Cave located outside Torres del Paine National Park

The Milodon Caves are said to be formed at the end of the ice age from the erosion of a glacier. Excavations have found animal bones, old tools, and even hints of humans. 

A boat ride to the cave definitely adds to the fun. 

 

40. Sail through the Magellan Strait

Ferdinand Magellan discovered this strait when he sailed from Europe to America while making his way around South America through the rough Pacific waters. 

How to go: Boat tours for the Magellan Strait leave from Puntas Arenas, one of the two major inhabited towns of Patagonia. Here is one tour that sails through the Strait of Magellan to go to the Magdalena and Marta Islands to observe Magellanic penguins, Patagonian sea lions, and other marine life.

Watching the penguins play around on a remote Southern island could be one of the most interesting things in Chile, or in the world. Go. 

chile-south-america-patagonia magdalena strait

41. Go for white river rating in the Futaleufú river

 

42. Visit the Marble Caves

Cuevas de Marmol or the Marble caves are carved into the Patagonian Andes by 6000 years of wave washing up against the calcium carbonate. Marble caves are located in the General Carrera lake, which spans the border between Chile and Argentina. 

The smooth, swirling blues that you see in photos on the cave are reflections of the lake’s azure water on the marble. To get the best colors, visit during September and February when the water is turquoise. Early mornings are the best for the perfect lighting. 

How to go: Take a ferry from Puerto Río Tranquilo village. In spite of the remoteness, Marble caves is one of the most tourists places in Chile so you should not have a hard time making a trip to them.

 

marble caves patagonia.jpg
One of the most unique amongst Chile places to visit.

Photo by jvieras  (CC BY 2.0)

 

43. Robinson Crusoe Island — Juan Fernández archipelago, Chile (400 miles west of South America in the South Pacific Ocean)

Named after the DeFoe novel Robinson Crusoe inspired by a sailor stranded on this same island for four years with a musket, gunpowder, a knife, a Bible, and carpenter’s tools, the island is an endemic hub of rare plants and extreme beauty. 

The island is inhabited by only about 500-600 people most of whom make a simple living by selling lobsters.  

Robinson Crusoe island houses beautiful coral reefs, white-sand beaches, blue lagoon, palm trees, traditional thatched huts, tropical fruits, and abundant seafood. Activities such as hiking, horseback riding, birdwatching, snorkeling, sport fishing, and scuba diving are available on the island.

How to go: During the prime season, small planes of up to ten passengers leave Los Cerrillos and Tobalaba airports in Santiago daily. After a two and a half hour flight, a boat ride from La Punta would take you to the island. Carry cash as there are no ATMs on the island.

Where to stay: I can’t seem to find any Robinson Crusoe hotels on Booking. I would update this post when I find more credible information.

 

**What not to miss in Patagonia: The feeling that you are almost at the end of the world.

 

 

Now some general fun things to do in Chile.

 

44. When in Chile, ski

Valle Nevado resort is one of the best ski resorts in Chile. Located on the foothills of the Andes Mountains, this is just one ski option but the country is full of ski resorts and icy slopes. 

Or consider this tour that goes skiing in the Andes.

 

45. Fly off to the Easter island, known as Rapa Nui or Isla de Pascua

While the Easter island is one of the most remote places in Chile, thousands of travelers and Chileans visit Easter island every year for its clear natural beauty. 

When on the island, see more than the moai statues. The Ana Kai Tangata (Cannibal Cave) is also a visit. This half-day archaeology tour is a good option to understand the history of the island from locals.

How to go: You can fly to the Easter island from Santiago.

Where to stay: Check out these properties in Hanga Roa, the capital of the Isla de Pascua.

 

chile-easter-island-moai-rapa-nui.jpg 

46. When in Chile, drink Pisco Sour

Specific to Chile and Peru, Pisco is a liquor made of grapes. Both countries fight on Pisco’s origin and make it with egg white, lime juice, and sugar syrup. Pisco is one delicious drink and goes well with Chilean food. 

Don’t miss it.

 

pisco sour in making in chile
Drinking Pisco. Just one of the regular things to do Chile.

47. Take a Chilean cooking class

Even though Chilean cuisine isn’t the most respected or loved around the world, its empanadas, casuellas, choclo con queso, and other seafood preparations are special. If you think you would want to make any of these back home, get into a cooking class and learn a few of these while sipping up some pisco.

Your best bet would be to take a course in a small city or island such as Chiloé for an authentic and personalized class. 

This food tour in Santiago might interest you if you are a foodie. 

 

48. Learn Spanish in Chile

Chileans speak superfast slang-studded Spanish so Chile isn’t the best place to learn Spanish. But if you start understanding Chilean Spanish, you can converse in any kind of Spanish. So give it a chance. 

If I can do it, you can, too. And here are my best language guides to help you:

 

49. Teach English in Chile

If you are looking for a paid volunteer program to teach English while traveling, the English Open Doors program in Chile is the answer.

I taught English to government-school students on Chiloé island for five months. The experience was challenging but well worth the efforts. The program provides food and accommodation and a basic stipend for the entire duration. Read all about the application process and the program here

 

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50. Last but not the least, hang out with the sweet Chileans

Chileans are the nicest people I have met who are ready to help out at any cost. Do accept when Chileans invite you to their homes, which they would. Oh, but do remember that Chileans are as punctual as Italian trains. I talk more about the Chilean people and Chile’s culture here

 

marina a chilean lady in cauquenes

 

Phew! Now go have fun.

 

Would you love to see Chile? Which of these top places to visit in Chile intrigued you the most? Tell me in the comments.

Disclaimer: This article includes affiliate links to products I love. If you choose to click through and make a purchase, I will earn a little bit at no extra cost to you. Thank you.

Te Quiero, Chiloé

The island of Chiloé in South Chile will be marked in my memories forever. When I applied to the English Open Doors program in Chile, I didn’t realize that the program would give me some of the best times of my life.

Run by the government of Chile and the United Nations, English Open Doors invites international volunteers to teach English to government school students in Chile. As a near-native English speaker, I could apply for the volunteer program.

Until I landed in Santiago, I didn’t know that I would be placed in Chiloé. When the program coordinator told me that I had to teach students in Castro, the capital of Chiloé, I ran back to my room and Googled Castro.

Rainbow-like stilt houses lined up against an azure shore. Velvety-green hills filled my screen. Stout lambs grazed over those hillocks in groups. Steam smoked out of a chimney in a hut-shaped roof.

Wooden churches were flaunted in abundance. Legendary and mythical were the keywords on-screen.

Azure rivers, dense national parks, fresh seafood brought a grin to my face.

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11 Top Things To Do in Peru – And My Bonus Secret List

Top Things to do and Best Places to Visit in Peru

The five weeks that I backpacked in Peru flew by me. I didn’t have to go out of my way to look for the top things to do in Peru.

While one moment I was hiking down the Colca Canyon, another moment I was tasting the indigenous Peruvian food cooked in earthen pots in Arequipa. One day I was walking in the rain-sodden streets of Puno in my pink rain jacket, the next day I found myself playing with a cute little girl on one of the faraway islands of the Lake Titicaca

If the sunny plaza del armas of Cusco was the hangout for the afternoon, the evenings were spent cooking quinoa in the hostel kitchen with French and Mexican friends. Machu Picchu was a two-day trip, but the Manu National park in the Amazon rainforest was a four-day journey. 

Taking a bus to the Sacred Valley near Cusco was as much on the plan as finding my way to the isolated Temple of the Moon on the outskirts of Cusco. Eating huge meals in chifa restaurants was as tempting as gorging upon roadside cheese empanadas. 

Rainbows dancing over countryside skies filled the days and trains whistling while they rushed past the scenic high Andes filled my memories. I remember the colorful potatoes I dug on the Amantani island but I also cannot forget the pink-purple-red-black chips I made in the Puno hostel with the rainbow of potatoes I bought from the local market. 

Peru was poetry.

There are so many places to visit in Peru that a first-timer to Peru can feel a bit overwhelmed with the choices. As I realized that the internet is filled with Peru must see places, I decided to make my guide a unique one.

So my What to see in Peru list is divided into two — 

    1. A standard list of the best things to do in Peru that will give you an idea of the cities, towns, and islands to see and the activities you can do. 
    2. A list of things to do and unique places in Peru that I personally found the most special — you wouldn’t want to miss these on your trip to Peru. 

Let’s get it rolling my good friends. 

watching the countryside from cusco in peru

Best things to do in Peru – List 1

1. Visit Cusco, Peru 

Cusco is the fairytale land of Peru that is situated high above in the Andes mountains. At a height of 4000 meters, Cusco was once the headquarters of the Incas, the impressive rulers of South America before the Spanish, who left intriguing historical sites spread around the city. 

You need about two weeks to see the major attractions of Cusco, go to Machu Picchu, visit the Sacred Valley near Cusco, and spend some time in Cusco markets. If you want to do a long hike to Machu Picchu, then see the next bullet (and then two weeks ain’t enough.) 

What is my favorite part of the city? The vibrant streets, unplanned carnivals, the plaza del armas (or the main square), chaotic markets, small stalls selling chicha murada (a local purple drink made with corn), and the Andes surrounding the city that makes for a perfect afternoon walk. 

The best tip to survive Cusco – As Cusco is at a high altitude, give yourself a few days to acclimatize before doing any strenuous physical activity. 

For more detailed information on the things to do in Cusco and the logistics of traveling Cusco, refer to the linked guide. 

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2. See Machu Picchu, one of the seven wonders of the world (one of the most famous places in Peru but for good reasons)

I am sure you have heard about this wonder of the world settled in the south of Peru. Machu Picchu is the royal citadel that the Incas, the same people we were gossiping about before, built at a height of 2500 meters in the Andes range outside of Cusco. 

While more than a million people visit Machu Picchu every year, you can get to this palace in many ways. 

Either take a train from Cusco to Aguas Calientes(the town where you spent the night to visit Machu Picchu in the morning), walk from Ollantaytambo(ruins near Cusco), or hike the popular Inca, Salkantay or Lares trails with a tour or on your own to arrive at Machu Picchu. 

I walked from Ollantaytambo and then hiked up from Aguas Calientes to reach Machu Picchu. You can read my guide to visiting Machu Picchu by yourself to plan a trip to this historical site. And if you are too worried about planning all by yourself, consider this full-day Machu Picchu tour that will take you from Cusco to Machu Picchu and back with all train, taxi, bus, and the site tickets included.

My favorite part about Machu Picchu? The journey to Machu Picchu itself. The citadel sitting gloriously in the Andes was majestic, especially when you visualize how it would be to live there in your royal attire. But the bus journey from Cusco, then the walk alongside the railway tracks, climbing the 3000 stairs to the top early morning, and throw a one-way train to the mix along with some new friends, it had to be special. 

The best tip to survive Machu Picchu – Arrive at the ruins early(6 is the earliest) to make the most of your trip and to avoid crowds. 

see machu picchu one of the must visit places in peru

3. Get into the Amazon rainforest from Cusco or Iquitos (Go here if you aren’t sure where to go in Peru next)

If I repeat one more time that I had dreamt of going to the Amazon and even volunteering there since I was a little girl who watched way too much Discovery channel with her parents, you would kill me.

So let me say that if you are in Peru, or traveling anywhere in South America, go to the Amazon rainforest. 

You don’t have to necessarily go until Iquitos to see the Amazon jungle. You can visit the Manu National Park, part of the Amazon Rainforest Peru, from Cusco. There are options of three to seven-eight day trips and this is the time to go all-in I think. 

I have written all about the Manu National Park in Peru so start planning your trip now. 

My favorite part about Manu National Park? The feeling of being inside a fifty-five million years old thick rainforest where tribes that have never seen civilization still live unseen and untouched.
The best tip to survive the Amazon jungle — Remember that you are in the jungle and the insects and bugs are not the intruders, we are. 

 

4. Don’t skip Puno, a town on the shores of Lago Titicaca (One of the Peru must see)

If I had skipped Puno, as many travelers suggested, I would have missed the best part of my Peru trip. 

Puno is a small town located in the South of Peru on the bank of the Lake Titicaca, the largest, highest, and deepest lake in South America. Lake Titicaca is shared between Bolivia and Peru. Legends say that the God Viracocha made the sun and the moon (and possibly the Incas) in the Lake Titicaca, and hence the lake is quite an important site for both Peruvians and Bolivians.

I spent about fourteen days in Puno and the islands on Lake Titicaca and loved every minute because the places were nothing like I had ever seen and the people were friendly. 

Though I have written about all the amazing things to do in Puno and Lake Titicaca, I can add that this cultural town has delicious fried trout, forgiving countryside, empty beaches, and unlimited access to about 42 Titicaca islands each of which has its own unique culture, sights, and potatoes. 

If you are fretting about planning a visit to the islands, try this two-day tour to the Uros, Amantani, and Taquile island. You stay with a Quechua island family that feeds you, clothes you, and dances with you. I loved the tour and hope that my skirt doesn’t come off the next time I go dancing with the family. 

Puno is also the border town to Bolivia. 

Thank me later, alligator. 

My favorite part about Puno and Titicaca? Getting soaked in rain and then rushing back to the hostel to get some coca tea. Or maybe hiking in the countryside and chatting with the friendly locals. Oh maybe walking along the beach with nothing on my mind. I don’t know. 

The best tip to survive Puno — Get a good place to stay if you want to slow down here. Cozy hostel was pretty great. 

visiting lake titicaca is one of the top things to do in peru and you can see lady by the Titicaca shore here

 

5. Wander in the white city Arequipa 

Arequipa is a city in the South of Peru that is known as a white city as its houses and its buildings are made of sillar, a white volcanic stone.

While El Misti volcano looms above Arequipa, the center of the city is filled with neoclassical cathedrals, ancient nun monasteries, museums and mummies, colorful markets, and even one amazing Indian restaurant called India along with many great Peruvian ones. Either take a free city tour(no countryside visit) or get this GetYourGuide four-hour tour that takes you through the city and the countryside with a local guide.

You can spend a few days in the city but make sure you also plan a trip to the Colca Canyon nearby. And the mention of this canyon brings me to my next point. 

My favorite part about Arequipa? Sitting on the first and second floor of the plaza and watching the people from there. 

The best tip to survive Arequipa— Tonnes of tour agents will buzz on you like bees insisting you to book a Colca Canyon tour with them. Tell them you went there already. 

the white city of arequipa and el misti volcano one of the best places to visit in peru

6. Make sure you experience the Colca Canyon near Arequipa

Twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, Colca Canyon is located about 200 km from Arequipa and almost tops the list of the places to see in Peru. If you hike, there is no doubt that you should hike down the Canyon with a tour or on your own. 

Whilst in the canyon, take time to talk to the villagers who farm and live on the slopes of the canyon. Oh, doing this hike on your own gives you ample time to do this. 

Read my honest guide to the Colca Canyon hike to plan your journey. If you are not into hiking or just not in the mood, think about this guided tour with a local that will take you to wildlife and Condor viewpoints, to the El Misti volcano viewpoints, and drive you to the Colca Canyon. 

My favorite part about the Colca Canyon? Watching the panoramic views and letting the surreality of the canyon take over. 

The best tip to survive Colca Canyon Hike — Take the climb slowly and don’t let the guide push you into hurrying or feeling guilty. 

hiking colca canyon in arequipa peru.jpg

7. Visit Lima but don’t get too comfy there else you will miss something that you really want to see

Like every other capital, the beach town of Lima is a mix of hip bars and pubs, fine restaurants, skyscrapers, and baroque cathedrals and plazas (because it is a colonial city). 

Seaside Barranco is the safest and the most beautiful place to stay. You can find a good hostel in the Barranco area here. Relax at the beach, play football, eat delicious ceviche, visit some cathedrals, and practice some Spanish with the locals while enjoying the nightlife. 

Or go for a pre-arranged night live magic water show with dinner, take a full-day Lima culinary and cultural tour, eat through a four-hour tour where you taste 16 dishes at 8 restaurants while exploring Barranco with a local (or choose this vegan option), or immerse in a Shanty Town tour run by a local NGO that takes you through the real-life of Lima and helps you interact with the community.

I have covered how can you keep safe in Lima in the last section on staying safe in Peru. 

My favorite part about Lima? I haven’t been to Lima but after reading so much about it and talking to my friends I think I would just love to lie on a beach and eat ceviche.  

The best tip to survive Lima — Don’t overstay, a lot of my friends told me.  

lima in peru.jpg
Oh, you can paraglide in Lima.

8. Get those surfboards on in Máncora

I am not into surfing but they say that Mancora, a border town next to Ecuador, is your best bet to surf in Peru. Mancora is 17 hours by bus from Lima so you better surf there if you go. 

If you are in Mancora between July and October, you can see humpback whales breeding in the Pacific. 

My favorite part about Máncora? That I never went there. Hey, I don’t surf. But I miss the whales.

The best tip to survive Máncora — Avoid the expensive beachside and stay in the quiet Playa del Amor.

 

9. Sandboard in Huacuacina and drink wine in Ica 

Huacuacina is a little oasis in the desert in Southwest Peru that is also known as the Everest of the desert for some of the dunes are 300 m high. Ica is the closest town to Huacuacina.  

If you want to try sandboarding, Huacachina has a good reputation amongst travelers. Also, buggy riding, in which you sit in a 12-seater buggy while a driver takes you around the desert at steep angles, has given some travelers quite a heart attack. When you get bored of sandboarding, go try some local wine in the wineries of Ica. 

My favorite part about Huacuacina? I didn’t go there but I wish I did. Huacuacina had me at the Everest of deserts and I love (almost) freefalling on steep slopes.

The best tip to survive Huacuacina Book an evening tour to avoid heat and to watch the sunset.

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10. Take a flight over the mysterious Nazca lines (one of the most absurd places to see in Peru)

Nazca lines are geoglyphs that are shaped like animals, plants, and other designs and are located about 400 km in the South of Lima. Though there are many theories around their origin and time, no one knows for sure why and how the lines got drawn in the coastal plains. Experts say that the lines are at least 1000 years old. 

If you fly above the Nazca desert, you can see these mysterious figures that some contest could be the work of the aliens.  

Have a look at this 35-minutes Nazca lines flight (starting from Nazca city) with a local guide. 

My favorite part about Nazca lines? That they are mysterious. 

The best tip to survive — I think you can manage a half an hour flight without any tips but do read up a little bit about the history of lines so that you can make the best of your trip. 

 

11. Choose Huaraz as your base and hike in the Peruvian mountains, the Cordillera Blanca (One of the top things to do in Peru for the hikers)

Peru is a heaven for hikers as the country is home to the Andes mountains, the second-highest mountain range in the world. 

If you love hiking, make sure you keep some time to visit Huaraz in the North-West of Peru. Huaraz is about 3000 meters above sea level and its bordered by the snow-capped Cordillera Blanca in the east. 

The Huascarán National Park which encompasses most of the Cordillera Blanca houses the 70 tall (4000 meters and above) peaks, even Peru’s tallest mountain, Huarascán, and about 200 lakes. 

Make Huaraz your base and explore the mountains. 

My favorite part about Huaraz or the Peruvian mountains? I love the mountains and the challenge they pose. Also, I haven’t visited Huaraz yet as I didn’t even know about it back on my Peru trip. So I have one amazing thing left to do for sure.

The best tip to survive — Get acclimatized first before hiking in the high mountains. 

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Now the most awaited list.

My list of the coolest and the most unique places to go in Peru – List 2

These are highlights from my Peru journey.

Here I have added only the best places to visit in Peru and things you shouldn’t miss. Things that aren’t highlighted about Peru, but you would regret if you missed them and heard about them from someone later. 

  • Overeating at chifa restaurants in Puno — Chifa is a fusion of Chinese and Peruvian and I think everyone deserves at least one chifa meal. I found most of the chifas in Puno.
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This is not chifa, but Peruvian food, in general, is pretty good.
  • Getting soaked in rain and rushing back to the hostel to drink coca tea — Peruvian monsoons are from January to March. You can think about avoiding Peru in rain for hiking is tough in that season, but if you love monsoon, try to get in Peru for a few days of the monsoon at least. 
  • Watching trains go by — You don’t need to be on a train. Just keep an eye out for trains in the countryside of Peru. 
  • Drinking coca tea — Though South Americans drink coca tea as it is energizing and help with the altitude, you can make a few friends while sipping coca tea on an idyllic afternoon in the hostel.
  • Find the farthest islands of Lago Titicaca and visiting them — While keeping my base as Puno, I visited Uros, Amantani, Taquile, and a few more islands on the lake. My travel friend and I would spot the most isolated tiny piece of land on the lake and asked our favorite travel agent to get us there. She always did. And then we stayed with the family for an extended time. If you are looking to slow down or for some solitude or a closer look at the Peruvian island life, I suggest you find yourself a reliable travel agent and get onto that boat to explore another island out of the 42 every few days. I have shared the link to the Titicaca guide above but here it is in case you don’t want to scroll up.
  • Soaking in rain on a tiny boat with an Aymara family on the giant Titicaca huddled under a plastic sheet while having to pee — The wind was crazy, the waves were high, and the rain crashed harder every passing minute but that boat ride is still one of my most memorable days from Peru. You can’t recreate the same memory but I hope you find your own. 
  • Just sitting by the Titicaca shore on the islands

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  • Visiting the Sillustani ruins from Puno (one of the best places in Peru) — The journey to and fro from Puno was more exciting than the ruins but the ruins are out of this world as well. 
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I captured this view on the bus journey from Puno to Sillustani.
  • Visiting the Temple of the Moon near Cusco — Walk beyond the temple and find that tiny stream gurgling through the neon grass. Walk beyond and hike through those mountains where farmer families live away from all. Keep walking and you would soon find a way back to Cusco. I have written more about the temple in my Cusco guide
  • Cooking in the hostel with all the fresh vegetables, spices, quinoa, and potatoes —Make the many-colored potato chips with the colorful potatoes. 

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  • Filling my water bottle with chicha murada bought from a roadside vendor who also sold amethyst stones(A must do in Peru )— Who needs water?
  • Pubbing in Cusco with hostel friends — I don’t party a lot while traveling but sometimes places and people call for it. Cusco is a great place to hang out at night. But be safe. 
  • Watching the Cusco carnival — When in Peru, plan your city visits as per the festivals. 

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  • Buying stones and silver — My jewelry trinkets are my souvenirs from around the world. Centro Artesenal Cusco is a great place to shop for some unique stones and abalones studded in silver. I still have mine. 
  • Obsessing over the Amazon — Don’t miss it.
  • Staying put in a city longer than I had planned — While Peru has a lot to do, it is also that one country where you should slow down if you can. 

I hope you enjoy both the lists but follow only your heart.

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Safety Tips for Peru

  1. Avoid ATM threats – Never carry more cash than you need. Keep your cards and extra cash at the hotel after you have withdrawn. Think about getting a travel card in which you keep topping up from your main account so that your main account stays off-limits to the robbers.
  2. Wear a fanny pack for your important stuff. 
  3. Book a safe transfer from Lima airport to the hotel here, especially if you are arriving at night. Not all taxis in Peru are legal and you can read more about it here. Only hire the four-door legal taxis. 
  4. Carry your camera sling style or wear it on your neck.
  5. Keep your valuables with you on the bus. Make that bag a pillow but don’t leave it on the shelf above the seat. 
  6. Don’t get distracted if someone (even an old lady) throws paints at you or make your clothes dirty on the road. These are just distractions to rob you off your bags.  
  7. Don’t go alone in unknown streets after the sunset. Duh.
  8. Drink spiking is known in some pubs in the big cities so never leave your drink alone.
  9. Contact the Policia de Turismo (Tourism Police) if something happens with you. Here are some of the contacts of the government’s tourist protection committee. 
  10. Carry LifeStraw (a water bottle with an inbuilt filter) with you as tap water in Peru is not clean to drink. I have been using this bottle for over a year now and I have avoided buying so many plastic bottles because of it. Saves plastic, saves money, and saves time and energy.

 

Are you still wondering what to see in Peru? Which of these places in Peru did you love the most? Looking forward to hearing from you in the comments.

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This guide to the best places to visit in Peru also has a secret list of my favorite things to do in Peru. Inspired by a 6-week Peru trip. Must Visit Places in Peru | Peru must see | What to see in Peru | Top things to do in Peru | best things to do in Peru | Peru safety tips | Where to go in Peru | backpacking Peru | Peru solo female trip | Most beautiful places in Peru | Peru backpacking trip | Peru travel tips | food in Peru #peru #southamerica #perutravel #solofemaletravel #Cusco #lima

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