For those of you who have been following along via the blog and instagram, you’ve likely gotten a little preview of our most recent international vacation to South America. For those of you who are new to the blog- we recently went to South America!
And it was seriously life changing.
I had never been to South America before, so like my first trip to Europe, this vacation will always hold a special place in my heart.
(Not to mention this was the first trip where I’ve gotten to see llamas in their natural environment and not at a zoo).We went on this trip with our wonderful friends Emily and Colin, who are probably the only other people in the world who could have tolerated me and Dave, as well as the pace of this trip, for this length of time in a foreign country- thank you for being you!
Before I get into the meat of the trip, I just want to say that my experience in South America was absolutely life changing and, for anyone who has ever traveled to a developing nation, you will understand when I say that this trip has forever changed my views and perspectives on humanity and the world. Witnessing the daily life of those less fortunate provided me a perspective and empathy for others I had kind of forgotten I had, but also a firm respect for those who work incredibly hard for (by my perspective) so little.. but who can still find happiness, security, and community. It forced me to wonder about my own values and my beliefs about what truly makes a life worth living.
And made me feel pretty darn selfish and materialistic…
(Maybe travel is an exercise in masochism?)
So on that sobering note, let’s start in Chile, a country that we found to be much more similar to the US than expected (and certainly not the part of the trip that inspired my aforementioned reflections). I give you- Chilean Wine Country.Our first stop was at Indomita, an amazing winery slash restaurant with stunning views of the mountains and countryside. They are known for their Zardoz, which is a red blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere grapes. I was blown away by this wine, and purchased it to take home with us. We should talk about the fact that this wine was not only fantastic in terms of flavor and balance, but it was the most expensive wine at the winery and cost only about $25 USD. The next winery we visited was Casas del Bosque. We enjoyed a glass of wine on their patio while enjoying an almost completely private view of their grounds and fountain. I would highly recommend this experience.
Of note, both wineries served food in addition to wine. We didn’t eat at Casas del Bosque, although their menu looked great. The food at Idomita was absolutely delicious, however.
We trecked into downtown Santiago for dinner, ate a leisurely meal in the Bellavista district, and then went back to our hotel where we got a few quick hours of sleep and then boarded a plane to Easter Island…
Here’s where our trip began to pick up in intensity. Easter Island only has 2 flights per day- 1 departure and 1 arrival flight. So given time restrictions that we had on our agenda, we decided to only spend 1 night on the Island. We picked the Marae Cabanas, which ended up being a pleasant and very functional cabin that met all of our needs- it included 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, and a living room with kitchen area. We were able to rent an SUV through the Cabanas, which was critical for our excursion around the island.We toured by ourselves to numerous ruins of the Moai statues, which Easter Island is known for.And also got to see tons of wild horses that populate the island.
And we were just completely blown away by stunning views of essentially unadulterated paradise. I could not believe how few people and tourists we saw on the island- obviously we didn’t have the place completely to ourselves, but at many of the sites we were the only people there. One of the most incredible sights that we saw on Easter Island was sunrise the following day over the Moai. We picked a spot on the island where we would be guaranteed to see the sun rising through the Moai. Just FYI, if anyone is interested, this particular site is called Ahu Tongariki and includes a line up of 15 Moai statues that face inward toward the island as the sun comes up. Our final destination on Easter Island was to view the Quarry where the Moai were originally carved. This mountain held numerous Moai, sitting on the side of the hilly slopes, ostensibly waiting to be moved by the native people to their final destination. No one knows why they were never moved, but the hillside remains a very impressive sight to be seen.
After Easter Island, we flew back to Santiago and boarded a connecting flight to Cuzco, Peru. From Cuzco we took a cab to our destination town of Ollantaytambo, in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. This was to be our starting point for touring the Inca ruins at Machu Picchu and the surrounding area.
(Incidentally, if anyone is curious, the cab was arranged through our hotel The Kamma Guest House, and was very professional and safe). Exhausted, but happy, we woke the next day to board our train to Machu Picchu.As we arrived in Machu Picchu there was a cloud hanging over the ruins, but almost as if a timer had gone off at our arrival the clouds began lifting and exposed the ruins. It was truly one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen.
We took a brief hike along the side of the mountain to see the Inca Bridge, which was both magical and vertigo-inducing. And, of course- llamas!! They were grazing all over the sides of Machu Picchu on the terraces that were previously used for agriculture. I suspect they are the Machu Picchu version of grounds keepers. After a long day of hiking and photographing we returned, by bus, to the town of Aguas Calientes where we rested and waited for our train back to Ollantaytambo. There were stalls set up all over the place selling Peruvian wares and trinkets.
Our final day of touring we spent in our home-base of Ollantaytambo and explore the ruins in the area. Ollantaytambo is known for having numerous Incan archeological sites and there were plenty of opportunities for hiking and site seeing in the area. A view of the town from the mountainside.
Scenes from the Ollantaytambo town center.
Rainfall and snowmelts from the Andes rushed through the cobbled streets of the Incan town. Our final tour was a brief visit back to Cuzco before getting on our 5pm flight back to the US. We briefly checked out the Plaza de Armas, a very European looking city center, created during the Spanish Colonial era of Peru.
This is our final goodbye to our amazing driver who drove us through the Andes and took us throughout Cuzco to view the city.
So- if you made it to the end- thanks for visually sharing this life-changing vacation with me. I hope you enjoyed it! If you are heading to any of these destinations in the near future feel free to shoot me a message or email and I’d be happy to give you more info or recommendations!