Our favourite 10 highlights from South America
South America is a destination that will make you fall in love with life. The Latino soul is addictive, with music and dance so deeply ingrained at the heart of everything.
After our big trip in Asia, we spent a further 15 months travelling in South America and absolutely loved it. We found it an enthralling destination, with something to capture everything we love when travelling. Most countries are extremely gay friendly, with places like Bogota in Colombia having the largest club we’ve ever been – Theatron, and Sao Paolo Pride attracting over 3 million people making it the largest pride event in the world.
As foodies, we loved the culinary scene of Argentina and in Lima, Peru. For culture, indigenous traditions can be seen everywhere, particularly from the Incas in Bolivia/Peru, as well as the Maipuche Indians in Chile. And finally, for trekking adventures, Patagonia is a must. These are our 10 favourite highlights from South America following our big trip there in 2016/2017.
#1 The Galapagos Islands (Ecuador)
The Galapagos are an archipelago of volcanic islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, around 600 miles (1,000km) from Ecuador’s coast. This is one of the few places in the world where you can get so close to wildlife. There’s also a rich underwater world to discover – we saw sharks, rays, turtles and many tropical fish each time we went snorkelling.
The islands here also have some very dramatic landscapes, which are crying out for a space in your Instagram gallery. We loved the Galapagos Islands so much, we visited twice during our big South America trip. Check out our video from our trip here:
#2 Trekking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu (Peru)
For us our Inca Trail to Machu Picchu was a definite highlight of South America. It’s a tough 4 days trek through the Sacred Valley, reaching altitudes of up to 4,215m (13,828 ft).
The Inca Trail is one of the most famous treks in the world. It is 27 miles (44km) long, and was initially part of a highly advanced network of around 40,000 trails built by the Incas to connect the distant corners of their kingdom. It also had religious and ceremonial importance to the Incas as it was part of their route of pilgrimage to Machu Picchu.
The real highlight of course is on the final day when you finally reach Machu Picchu.
#3 Dancing same-sex tango in Buenos Aires and Montevideo (Argentina/Uruguay)
Dancing tango as a gay couple was one of our favourite memories. It’s very romantic!
At its inception in the 1880s, the tango was danced between 2 men. It was particularly popular amongst the Italian immigrants in Buenos Aires (Argentina) and in Montevideo (Uruguay). The tango is also a UNESCO listed Cultural Heritage following a successful joint application by Argentina and Uruguay in 2009.
There are many milongas (tango halls) in both cities, which is a must for any visitor. Most offer classes in the evening, which is then followed by a show. There are also numerous milongas offering same sex tango classes, which we strongly advise gay travellers to try. Check out our gay guide to Buenos Aires and Montevideo for more, and watch our video from our gay tango class at the Solis Theatre in Montevideo:
#4 Trekking in Patagonia (Argentina/Chile)
Patagonia is synonymous with adventure and mountaineering. If you love trekking, this should be high up on your bucket list of places to visit in South America. Patagonia has two trekking highlights: Torres del Paine in Chile and El Chaltén in Argentina.
Torres del Paine in Chile is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and also voted one of the 8 Wonders of the World by VirtualTourist.com in 2013. The most iconic part is the base of the Paine towers, which has a volcanic lake just in front of it.
El Chaltén lies in the Santa Cruz region of Argentina, close to the Chilean border. There are many trails around El Chalten of varying levels of difficulty. Our favourite was the intense full day trek to Laguna de Los Tres. The climax point is when you reach the lake and you have this phenomenal view of the Fitz Roy mountain in the background:
#5 Partying at Theatron gay club in Bogota (Colombia)
Theatron in Bogota in Colombia is the largest gay club in South America. It’s also the largest gay club we’ve ever been to!
Theatron is a former theatre hall turned into a gay boy’s playground. On Saturday evenings, up to 5,000 come here to party into the early hours. It is split into 13 mini clubs, which are spread over 5 floors. Each one has its own theme, for example one room is devoted to 1980s hits, another to salsa music, there’s one which is men only, one just for women, and many more.
We would return to Bogota simply to come and party here again. It was our favourite night out from our trip in South America. For more, check out our gay guide to Bogota.
#6 Gorgeous landscapes of San Pedro de Atacama (Chile)
The San Pedro de Atacama desert in North Chile has some of the most stunning landscapes we’ve ever seen. Our favourite was the Capur Salt Flats, which has a mix of colours all merging into one perfect portrait, with flamingoes adding their unique splash of pink into the background.
Another pretty landscapes here worth visiting is the Moon Valley (El Valle de la Luna), which also has the Cordillera de la Sal mountain range. Walking in the Moon Valley was unique and quite surreal – it felt like we were exploring the surface of the moon. We based ourselves at the luxurious Alto Atacama hotel, which has terrific, passionate guides who took us to each setting in San Pedro de Atacama.
#7 Foodie discoveries in Peru
Peru is well regarded for being the culinary capital of the continent. There are many highly rated restaurants in the city, including 3 from The World’s 50 Best Restaurants for 2016: Central in 4th place, Maido in 13th and Astrid y Gastón in 30th. In addition, according to the World Travel Awards, Peru was voted the World’s Leading Culinary Destination for 2016, and has won the award every year since 2012.
There are many culinary highlights in Peru you need to try. Some of our favourites include ceviche, pisco sour cocktails, grilled alpaca meat, chaufa (Chinese/Peruvian fusion food), anticucho (chewy cow’s hearts) and tacu tacu (Creole inspired rice and beans).
Peru has also given us one of the hottest chefs ever to walk this Earth. If you don’t know him, check out Franco Noriega showing off his, er, chia pudding recipe…
#8 Hiking across Perito Moreno Glacier (Argentina)
Have you ever hiked across a massive glacier before? Nope – neither had we until we visited the Perito Moreno Glacier near El Calafate in Argentina. This is another highlight from South America not to miss, which you can mix in with your trip to Patagonia.
The Perito Moreno Glacier is huge: 35km (22 miles) in length, with a depth of up to 180m (590ft). We hiked across it as part of a tour, which definitely ranks as one of the most unique things we’ve ever done. What could top this? Finishing the tour with a glass of whiskey, with fresh fresh ice from the big giant glacier of course!
#9 Getting up close to the magnificent Iguazu Falls (Argentina/Brazil)
The Iguazu Falls are a bucket list destination for all travellers visiting South America. It was voted as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World by a poll in November 2011. It’s a mesmerising experience. You can stand here for hours just marvelling at this sheer force of nature, whilst getting completely soaked from the powerful spray.
The Iguazu Falls are located in Northeast Argentina in the Misiones province, straddling the Brazilian border. Most visitors to Argentina make this their main destination after Buenos Aires. We visited Iguazu Falls as part of our road trip in Northeast Argentina.
#10 Falling in love with red wine in Mendoza and Santiago (Argentina/Chile)
Red wine discoveries was one particular souvenir from our big South America trip, especially Argentinian Malbec and Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon. Now back home in Europe, we pay more attention to the South American section of the red wine shelf in supermarkets.
We did many wine tours in Mendoza and Santiago, visiting bodegas and learning more about each grape. Our favourite experience was staying at the luxurious Entre Cielos wine hotel in Mendoza, located in the middle of a large vineyard. We also recommend checking out the Vendimia grape harvesting festival in February/March, which also includes a gay segment called Vendimia Para Todos (meaning “Vendimia for everyone”). For more, check out our gay guide to Mendoza.