This blog post is way overdue. Not because we haven’t blogged in a while, but because we haven’t had the chance to go through our several thousand pictures from our Labor Day vacation through Bolivia, Chile and Argentina until now.
Back in August, we took some time off before the Labor Day holiday, and being Jordan and Cassie, what did we want to do? Travel of course! Traveling is already part of our everyday lives as missionary video storytellers for Silent Images, but we wanted to see some other parts of South America and decided while we’re in the continent, why not! So the day before our vacation time started, we booked our flights for the following night and mapped out our travel from Peru to Bolivia, Chile and Argentina. We knew why we wanted to go to each place, but we had no idea what kind of natural beauty we would find until we arrived.
We began our vacation by taking a red eye flight from Lima, Peru to La Paz, Bolivia and arrived around 3am. We thought it might be a grueling beginning to our trip, but we really wanted to maximize our vacation time. So there we were, at the highest capital in the world at 11,975 feet above sea level, in much need of a power nap. We curled up on some airport chairs and found rest before catching a taxi to a bus to our first stop: Lake Titicaca. We found rest again on the four hour bus ride, which at one point involved us disembarking on foot to cross a lake on a small boat. Our empty bus drove onto a raft and met us on the other side, and we continued our drive to Lake Titicaca. At this point, we felt like we’d had a full night’s sleep and were quite excited about our trip that had officially begun.
Lake Titicaca & Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun)
The Peru and Bolivia border runs through the middle of Lake Titicaca. Cassie had visited this high elevation lake from the Peru side many years ago, so we decided to see it from the Bolivia side. When we arrived in the Bolivian town of Copacabana via bus, we took a boat to have lunch on a “floating island”, which was nothing like the actual floating islands on the Peruvian side, but rather a floating dock sprinkled with hay. After a delicious lunch of fried fish from the lake, we headed to Isla del Sol.
In the time of the Incas, it was believed that the sun god was born here, hence the island’s name (Island of the Sun). Isla del Sol is a rocky, hilly island. There are no cars or roads on the island (nor internet), making it a very quiet, relaxing get-away. Here we toured some of the ruins on the island and found a room to stay in that had beautiful lake views from our bedroom window. The next morning, we hiked across the entire island, and since we didn’t have a map, we blazed our own trails (unintentionally)! A few hours later, we eventually made it to the small town of Challapampa, which is on the opposite side of the island and we took a boat ride back to mainland Bolivia.
Salar de Uyuni (Salt Flats of Uyuni)
Bussing it back to La Paz, we got back in the nick of time to catch an overnight bus to Uyuni, Bolivia. When we awoke the next morning, we were in Uyuni and it was COLD! We added a few more layers and went searching for a tour company, which we quickly found. After a complimentary breakfast in a warm cafe, we headed out for our three day tour across the salt flats.
The tour started at a railroad graveyard and then continued on to the main attraction, Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat (4,086 square miles)! There was salt as far as you could see, and at some points it was hard to see where the white salt flats ended and the sky began. It offered many opportunities to take funny pictures that messed with perspective. Then, we headed to Isla del Pescado (Fish Island), which is a prehistoric coral reef covered in cacti that sits in the middle of the salt flat. After watching the sunset, we spent the night in a hotel made of salt. The next two days of the tour were spent driving through the mountainous desert and stopping at colored lakes, geysers, and hot springs. These areas are a major breeding ground for several species of flamingos so we many opportunities to see the beautiful, pink birds, as well as wild foxes, vicuña and alpaca.
Our three day tour ended at the border of Bolivia and Chile. After many events that we won’t get into, we had to hitchhike across the border in a tractor trailer with a nice, Chilean man, who gave us a ride to the town of San Pedro de Atacama.
The views we saw from the 18-wheeler were incredible. These were the same landscapes we had seen in Bolivia, but here it seemed to be all spread out in front of us in incredible panoramic views. We passed volcanoes and canyons and drove closer to the mountain range in front of us. We spent just one night in this quaint town that seemed like it belonged in the south-western U.S., before flying to Chile’s capital, Santiago, and hopping on a bus to Valparaíso.
Valparaíso is a colorful port city that is known for its arts and culture. The hills that rise up out of the bay are covered in brightly colored houses stacked on top of each other that can be reached by rainbow-painted staircases or a series of cable elevators. We found a bed and breakfast run by a crazy Frenchman who gave us advice on how to get to everywhere in the city (or small town, as he insisted), although he didn’t know distances in inches, he kept telling us! Here we wandered the hilly streets, visited the house of the Nobel-Prize-winning Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, discovered tons of amazing street art, and ate very well too! It was nice to be in one place for two nights and we really had time to unwind and just enjoy the city around us.
We woke up early after our second night in Valparaíso and took a bus straight over the Andes Mountains, passing by ski lodges and the peak of Aconcagua, the highest mountain outside of Asia, which reaches 22,838 feet! Coming down the other side of the mountains, we entered Argentina and reached our destination — Mendoza.
Mendoza is a beautiful mountain town in the heart of Argentina’s wine country, famed for Malbecs and other red wines. We passed up many opportunities to tour these vineyards and decided to spend our two days eating red meat, exploring the four mini plazas that form a square around the central plaza, and seeing the natural beauty inside General San Martín Park.
Our 10-day vacation was maxed out, and we felt so blessed to have seen so many beautiful places during our time. We ended our trip with a special treat in the Santiago airport, as we were given passes to the largest LATAM VIP lounge in the world! We relaxed in leather chairs, eating sushi and Häagen-Dazs ice cream while we waited for our flight back to Lima and reflected on all the things we had seen and experienced.
Thanks for following us along on this journey, as we hope to show you the beauty we see and capture around this beautiful, crazy world!