Category Archives: South America

5 Reasons to Visit Costa Rica

Costa Rica Volcano photo via CC license by dotpitch via flickrLet’s face it, holidays to Costa Rica aren’t the most convenient in the world if you’re travelling from the UK.

You can’t fly direct, so the only way to get there is to travel via Spain or the USA, which is a notoriously frustrating place to transit through, thanks to its over-zealous security officials and lengthy queues.

Therefore, you need a few compelling reasons to book a trip there online  and then travel practically halfway around the world to begin your getaway. Well, here are five of them for you:

 1. To stand in the shadow of a volcano

While the UK might be able to boast some impressive mountains, one thing it can’t offer is volcanoes – something Costa Rica has in abundance. One of the most spectacular is Arenal, which is located within its very own national park.

This perfectly shaped conical giant stretches some 5,500 ft into the sky, and is a breathtaking sight from whatever angle you look. It’s also the main source of entertainment in the region, whether you are walking across its solidified lava flows, riding across its slopes on horseback or bathing in its hot springs.

2. To leave footprints on a palm-fringed beach

Although Bournemouth has a few palm trees, its beach isn’t exactly tranquil and certainly not tropical.

Costa Rica, on the other hand, has some simply stunning strips of sand, backed by palm trees and lush rainforests and lapped by water that’s practically bath temperature.

You’ll find many of the finest beaches in Manuel Antonio National Park on the Pacific coast. I forgot to mention Costa Rica has not one but two coastlines, the other being on the Caribbean no less.

3. To see the world’s most beautiful bird

Granted, there is some wonderful birdlife in the UK: kingfishers, puffins and golden eagles can captivate any twitcher.

However, no bird comes close to Costa Rica’s resplendent quetzal in terms of sheer beauty. With its huge, flowing tail feathers, iridescent green and red body, and spiky mohawk haircut, this bird looks ready for the catwalk.

And as if the quetzal wasn’t enough, Costa Rica is also home to the keel-billed toucan and the blue-crowned motmot – just two more of many stunningly colourful birds living in the cloud forests of Monteverde.

4. To zipline above the rainforest

If the sight of toucans and the like soaring over the treetops makes you wish you could sprout a pair of wings, Costa Rica has the next best thing: ziplining.

Climb into your harness, clip in and hang on as you fly above the canopy at speeds of up to 50mph as high as 300ft in the air. Exhilarating, breathtaking and fun-filled, ziplining will be one of the highlights of your trip.

5. To surf without a wetsuit

Along with ziplining, one of Costa Rica’s most popular activities is surfing. And no wonder.

With conditions to suit all abilities, from rolling breakers that are perfect for learners to overhead barrels for the pros; stunning scenery (as mentioned above); and water that’s as warm as a bath (no need for a wetsuit here), there’s so many reasons to paddle out in Costa Rica.

It’s easy to see why the national catchphrase is pura vida – the pure life.


South America for Adrenaline Junkies

Guest Article by Max Walsh

Backpackers heading to South America are in for a treat. Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires and La Paz are some of the world’s most famous and intriguing cities. And the beaches; everyone goes for the beaches. But the life of a backpacker is more than sightseeing and sunning yourself on the beach; any trip has to be the adventure of a lifetime.

So, there’s bungee jumping, skydiving, and snowboarding in New Zealand and Australia; but what does South America have to offer? Here’s what.

Mountain biking the death road, Bolivia

Riding the Deathroad in Boliva cc image by Wanderlass on Flickr
You may be a mountain biking specialist, knowing all there is to know about Shimano shoes and Specialized bikes, but that won’t necessarily prepare you for cycling the death road in Bolivia. Don’t worry you won’t just be grabbing any old rusty bike and taking your chances on your own; it’s one of the biggest attractions in the country. That doesn’t make it any less scary though!

Descending 3,400m from a high mountain pass near La Paz to the tropical lowlands of Coroico, the North Yungas Road is said to be the most dangerous in the world. Prior to the new road being constructed in 2006, the narrow unpaved highway was responsible for hundreds of deaths every year, with cars and busses toppling over the cliff sides at the rate of one each week. Nowadays you can throw on your cycle clothing, jump on the back of a bike and ride hard with one of the many tour companies offering trips.

Sea kayaking the Patagonia, Chile

This is a haven for extreme sports junkies, with climbing one of the biggest draws here. Coming in a close second is sea kayaking. Travellers will find hundreds or glacial lakes and crystal clear waters traversing the Andean Mountain Range and the fjords. The scenery is awe-inspiring. Get yourself on a tour (ranging from 2-9 days) as much of the lakes are un-spoilt, so a guide is essential.

Sandboarding in Huacachina, Peru

Sandboarding Instructions in Peru ccImage by Palegoldenrod on FlickrWhen you mention getting on a board in South America, snowboarding in Argentina probably springs to mind; but for those heading to Peru there’s the chance of some adrenaline fuelled action without the snow. Sandboarding in the large dunes found in this spot 5 hours outside Lima is the perfect alternative for those winter sports lovers dying for their fix. It’s not as fast, but it’s still cool.

Piranha fishing in the Amazon, Brazil

OK this one may not involve throwing yourself down a sand dune or pushing your body to the limit, but piranha fishing is still pretty damn scary. Your guide will take you out in a boat on the Amazon while you drop a line for these feisty fish.

Other favourites include ziplining in Ecuador, Bungee jumping in Brazil, kitesurfing on the Brazilian coast and canyoning in Mexico. What will you choose? 

Getting the Most Out of Argentina

Guest Story by Vera Petryk

The Stunning Landscape of Argentina cc Image courtesy of Mazzallmadi on FlickrA trip to South America cannot be complete without visiting the brightest and the most interesting country – Argentina. Argentina is the country of contrast, a country of hot sun and golden beaches and ice-cold Patagonia, beautiful gardens and mighty Andes Mountains, deep canyons and glacier lakes.

Argentina starts in its capital Buenos Aires – a city of charming architecture and a passionate tango. Second Paris or the most European city in South America is one of the most elegant cities in the country. It has great entertainment, interesting people and vivid La Boca. La Boca can be described as an architectural rainbow of the city. Here you will find numerous multicolored buildings, street tango dancers and a wonderful museum of football. You can stay in a nice hotel Adelai, where you will be fed and taken care of.

Once you explore Buenos Aires I suggest you take Route 40, which is an analogue of route 66 in the USA. It is the longest road in South America. This road is the most interesting and at the same time it is the most extreme way to explore Argentina. Route 40 (Ruta 40) is divided into 2 parts: southern and northern. Once you hit the road be ready to numerous adventures. The first stop that you should do is Mendoza – it is a beautiful province filled with vine yards, charming landscapes and friendly people. Though it is a rare case to find somebody who speaks English you won’t feel left out. Mendoza citizens are very tolerant and open-hearted they will surely make you try delicious Mendoza vine. There are also many interesting festivals. They are held throughout the year and include a tasty food, a folk singing and all night dancing.

 Iguassu Falls  ccImage courtesy of Claudio Mufarrage on FlickrMoving forward you will get to the most powerful place in Argentina – Iguassu waterfall. Not everybody knows that it is higher than Niagara and wider than Victoria. But it is not the size that attracts thousands of tourists to this place every year- it is an incredible beauty of the nature. There is also a great museum dedicated to different types of trees, which I highly recommend to visit.

Last but not the least stop on your Ruta 40 journey is a severe Patagonia. Patagonia is the coldest province in Argentina with deep canyons, glacier lakes and breathtaking Ushuaia – the most southern city in the world. Ushuaia is the place where the time stops and all you see is nature. You will see hundreds of penguins, whales and different birds. Don’t forget to take a tour on the “End of the World train”, which will take you to enormous national park “Tierra del Fuego” (Fire Island).

If you dare to travel more, prepare that the road can get really rocky as most of the rest roads are not paved and some will not fit a car. In total, travelling in Argentina is a lot of pleasure. The only tip is to learn a little bit of Spanish and prepare to sleep less to see all of it.