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A week in Santiago

After Mendoza we headed across the Andes to Santiago, Chile.  All the Andes border crossings are so scenic!

Mendoza-Santiago Border

After more than a month of only spending a few nights in each city we visited, we decided to do a full week in Santiago and rented a room in an apartment.  It was so nice to unpack a bit and get into a little routine.  Our routine for the whole week was: sleep in, work out (there was a gym in the building!), late breakfast, wander around, snack, more wandering, drinks/dinner, bed.  It was awesome!  The only big to do on our visit was to stock up on trekking clothes.  When we left the U.S. we weren’t planning on doing any multi day treks so we needed to do a little shopping before we got to Patagonia (the region, not the store).  Luckily we found a few blocks of second hand stores and got a ton of stuff – including boots and waterproof pants for both of us – for under $100.


Second hand shopping

I visited Santiago in 2007 and for some reason I didn’t have a super favorable impression of the city – but I loved it this time around!  We had a lot of fun exploring different neighborhoods and parks and we really liked the city.  Well, except for the smog.Park in the city center Chilean Flag Santiago street

Ped Street

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As soon as we arrived in Santiago, everyone we talked to asked us if we had tried a terremoto. So we set out to try one. And by try, I mean order a 1.5 liter pitcher of it.   Although white wine, pineapple sorbet and fernet seemed like a strange combination, it was one of those dangerous drinks that went down waaaay to quickly.


We put some serious mileage on our Fitbits in Santiago – we walked almost everywhere for the first few days. Then we decided to try out the Santiago metro and didn’t look back. It was great to use public transportation again (well public transportation that didn’t involve half sitting on a Bolivan man in the backseat of a taxi truffi). The Santiago metro was so fast and clean and smooth! The El in Chicago jerks every which way, but you didn’t even need to hold onto anything to keep your balance on the metro in Santiago.


We took a bus out to Valparaiso and Viña del Mar one day. We did a walking tour of Valparaiso and saw the highlights – colorful houses on hills and lots of cool graffiti. Then we took a little metro (Chile for the win with another great metro system!) to Viña del Mar to check it out. Viña del Mar seemed like a great resort town – if only it would have been just a little bit warmer, we would have hung out at the beach longer.

Valparaiso Steps B&E Valparaiso Vina del Mar

On our last full day in Santiago, we took the metro to the end of one of the lines and then jumped in a cab for a quick ride out to Concha y Toro Winery. Concha y Toro is the largest wine producer in Latin America and has a beautiful winery just outside the city. However, we decided to skip the hour and a half tour and just do the best part of a winery visit – tastings. We hunkered down at a table in the restaurant patio for lunch and then ordered two wine flights and then a few more glasses.  After all the wine we had in Mendoza and then this trip, I think we are well on our way to becoming South American wine experts 🙂

Concha y Toro Somm



Mendoza – Wine and Mountains

We were pretty excited to head to Mendoza after leaving Cordoba. Mendoza is the 4th largest city in Argentina and is in probably the most popular wine region of South America. In addition to being a popular wine region, Mendoza is also quite close to the highest mountain peak of South America, named Aconcagua, which is the highest non-Himilayan peak in the world. So Wine + Mountains were our main objectives in the Mendoza area and we were able to check out both in our 4 night stay in the area.

It was on our second day in Mendoza that we took a day trip out into the mountain range that contained Aconcagua, and it was absolutely gorgeous. Below are a smattering of photos of the mountains that do not really do justice to what it looks like in person.

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On our fourth day we went out to the Maipu region (small town outside of Mendoza where a lot of wineries are) to do a bike tour of some of wineries in the area. We rode our bikes to 3 wineries that day. A couple of which had distribution to the United States (and one which we have had before, from ‘Trapiche’). While the region is famously known for its Malbecs, our favorite wine of the day was a Torrontes.

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Outside of mountains and wineries, Mendoza is a charming little city on its own, so we spent the rest of our time exploring the area (and drinking the free wine provided by our hostel 🙂 )

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Cordoba and Oktoberfest

Puerto Iguazu to Cordoba was another long haul bus ride – 22 hours.  We were excited when we when finally got in, especially since it was the first “big city” we’d seen in a while.

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We spent the first day walking around, checking out the sights.  The sights included some cool churches and parks, and that was mostly it.  We also might have found a movie theater playing Gone Girl in English.

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I visited Cordoba when I studied abroad and while it is a nice city, it wasn’t originally on our list of places to visit because there isn’t really much to do in the city as a tourist (at least not compared to other places we wanted to visit).  Cordoba quickly got added to our must see list when one of our roommates in Cochabamba reminded me that there is an Oktoberfest celebration nearby!  Luckily the timing was perfect, so after our first night in Cordoba, we jumped on a bus for a two hour ride to Villa General Belgrano.  Villa General Belgrano is a village of about 6,000 people settled by German sailors in the 1930s and was also apparently popular with Nazis escaping to Argentina after WWII.  The town is adorable with tons of Bavarian influences and it seemed like the village belonged in the Alps instead of the middle of Argentina.  And there was lots of German food and beer!

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We went to the festival on a low key Tuesday about an hour after the gates opened and were some of the first people to arrive, but eventually the venue filled to about half way.  There really wasn’t much German beer, but there were around 20 craft breweries from around Argentina.  In most of South America, there isn’t much craft beer (and if there is some, you probably don’t want to drink it!) so we’ve been drinking a lot of Budweiser-type beer.  While not all of the craft beer we had was great (mint? no thanks), it was at least a nice change from the usual tasteless stuff.  And the day was beautiful  – 70’s and sunny – so we had a great time sitting outside drinking beer and listening to polka bands.

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Iguazu Falls

It was a bit of a journey to get to Puerto Iguazu (town near the falls) from Salta. It took 3 different buses and 25 hours of bus riding before we finally arrived at our destination.

Our main objective for visiting this area of Argentina was to check out Iguazu Falls, one of the largest waterfalls in the world (6th largest in terms of average annual flow). We ended up heading to the national park that contained the falls on our second day in Puerto Iguazu. The park was approximately 30 minutes from town, so was pretty easy to access.

The park contained a few trails which you could take to get different views of the falls and the surrounding environs. Here is a selection of the photos of the falls we took:

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Apparently the water hasn’t always been this brown. The color of the water is a result of deforestation along the river. So when the water level is high, instead of passing over nearby vegetation, it is passing over soil, giving it its brown color. When Erin had visited in 2007, the water was clear. Here are two pictures that show the stark contrast in color, and in general water volume. (Erin’s photo from 2007 is first, and our recent trip is second):

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While ‘soiled’ water isn’t as picturesque as crystal clear water, the falls were still massive and well worth the visit. I was even able to capture a mystical double rainbow on one of the side waterfalls!


We didn’t do much outside of our visit to the Iguazu Falls in Puerto Iguazu. The only other thing we checked out was the ‘Tres Fronteras’, which was a viewpoint in Puerto Iguazu where you could see 3 countries at once: Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil.


Here is me with my hands in Paraguay and Brazil, while standing in Argentina:



After exploring San Pedro de Atacama for a few days, we left Chile and headed to Salta, Argentina.  Since we had to do a border crossing, we took a day bus (we generally try to do night buses whenever possible – long rides go faster when you’re asleep plus you don’t have to pay for lodging for a night!) and were treated to some beautiful scenery!  We had to cross over the Andes to get into Argentina and when we got closer to Salta, there were some very colorful hills.

Road to Salta

Colorful Hills

When I studied abroad in Argentina in college, I didn’t make it all the way north to Salta, so I didn’t know what to expect of the city.  After so much time in Bolivia, the city seemed very western and the architecture a bit European.  There was a nice plaza in the center of town with a cool pink church on one side and tons of cafes with outdoor seating lining the other sides.

Brandon in Salta Church on the Square Outdoor Dinning Salta Street

We spent our time exploring the different neighborhoods, parks and restaurants.  On my list of restaurants to check out was a little place called Patio de la Empañada.  It was sort of like an empañada food court with tables in the middle and different restaurants lining the walls.  When you walk in, every one of the ladies tries to get your attention to go to her booth – it was a little intimidating!  We ended up just going with the first lady we saw and tried a variety of baked and fried empañadas.

El Patio de la Empanada

There was a hill on the edge of town with a nice park at the top that we went to a few times.  One day we took the teleferico up and down but the day we left, we walked it instead – we figured it would be good for our legs to get a little movement before our 25 hour bus trip to Puerto Iguazu.

Teleferico Ride View from the Top