Highlights of Colombia

Highlights of Colombia

I arrived in Cartagena by plane, from Panama. It was my first stop in Colombia, and I was immediately welcomed by the amicable people. It is a very pretty city, and I took the chance to visit its centre and points of historical interest such as the Palacio de la Inquisicion, the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, the Puerta del Reloj, the Cathedral and the neighborhood of Getsemanì. I loved the street murals, the colonial buildings, the cobbled streets and I enjoyed the breeze coming from the sea in the afternoon to cool down the city. I met many locals and found them ever so friendly. I even took the chance to do a private boat tour of the beautiful Islas del Rosario.

My second stop was San Gil, the adventure capital of Colombia, where I arrived after a 17 hours bus journey from Cartagena. A relaxed, small and truly Colombian city, it is set in an area perfect for exploring its natural beauty. I had a great time rafting the Rio Suarez and mountain biking in the Parque Nacional Santuario de Igaque, which also allowed me to visit the beautifully preserved colonial city of Barichara.

I then made my way north to the gorgeous Villa de Leyva, a colonial settlement that feels like a walk-through museum; and continued on to Bogotà, where I explored La Candelaria neighborhood, the Botero museum, and enjoyed the view from the Cerro de Montserrate.

A long and almost scary but very scenic bus journey took me to Salento, the beautiful small city that perfect to visit the Eje Cafetero – where I could learn the secrets of Colombian coffee – and the incredible Valle de Cocora, with its 60 meters high wax palm trees.

My final stop, on the way to Ecuador, was Popayan, a very well preserved example of Spanish colonial architecture.

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Highlights of Peru

Highlights of Peru

My first stop in Peru was Trujillo, in the North. The city, which is surrounded by the desert, is very lively and interesting. I visited the nearby site of Chan Chan. A long bus journey across the desert took me to Lima, the incredible capital, where I visited the main attractions around Plaza de Armas and in Miraflores. Not far from Lima (although it is a long ride), I hiked Marcahuasi.

I then went south, to explored the Islas Ballestas, Paracas, sandboard in Huacachina and finally reach Nazca, where I took a bumpy place to fly over the lines and where I visited the many surrounding archeological sites. From Nazca, I made my way to Arequipa, the white city, from where I hiked the Canyon del Colca.

My next stop was Puno, which I used as the starting point to visit the islands of Lake Titicaca. A flight then took me to Cusco, the capital of the Inca empire, and an incredible city altogether: it offers so many attractions and even its surroundings are packed with archeological sites, such as Saksaywaman and Pucapucara. I further visited the Sacred Valley – the sites of Moray, Pisac and Ollantaytambo, which was my stop before embarking on the incredible experience of the Inca Trail. I got to see the sunrise over Machu Picchu from the Inti Punku, I explored all of the site and even hiked mountain Huayna Picchu.

Cusco was my last stop before having to fly back to Italy.

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Highlights of Panama

Highlights of Panama

When I decided to leave on a 6 months trip, Panama was high on the list of must see places. I had great expectations from it, but unfortunately I was really disappointed with it. Despite being a top tourist destination in Central America, the services offered to backpackers are dim – I found it very expensive for what was actually offered.

My first stop in Panama, where I arrived from Costa Rica, was Bocas del Toro. I spent one night in Bocas Town, which I found really crowded and terribly dirty (picture garbage everywhere), then made my way to Isla Bastimentos (less crowded, but equally dirty). The weather was not great, and I caught some kind of bug so I was sick for most of my time there. Yet, I managed to go snorkeling and enjoyed seeing some star fish, and I went to Red Frog Beach. The problem with Bocas del Toro is that due to the constant heavy rain the visibility when snorkeling is not great, and the entire place is very muddy and it is not easy to move around unless wearing rain boots. I was so disappointed with all of this, that I looked forward to getting better so that I could move to another place.

When I was finally ok, I moved to Playa Las Lajas. It was so quiet, definitely off the beaten track. Here I relaxed and enjoyed some spectacular sunsets and downtime at the long, sandy beach. I then made my way to Panama City, which I totally enjoyed. I explored Casco Viejo, went to the fish market, and went to see the amazing Panama Canal. I then went to San Blas (another disappointment), before making my way back to Panama City to then fly to Colombia.

Care to know about my adventures in this country? Click here.

Highlights of Guatemala

Highlights of Guatemala

The typical starting point for a tour of Guatemala is Antigua, its old capital. That was my first stop too. I loved visiting the numerous churches, plazas, walking along the cobbled streets, admiring the colonial buildings and beautiful gardens, and enjoying a lively nightlife. Antigua is also a great starting point to hike an active volcano, such as Pacaya – I opted for the sunset tour and loved the view.

My second stop in Guatemala was Lake Atitlan, which I fell in love with immediately. The view of the 3 volcanoes from Santa Cruz la Laguna was stunning, and I enjoyed hiking around the area. From the main port of entrance to the lake, Panajachel, I hopped on several chicken buses to head to Chichicastenango and shop at its great market. It was great and I got a lot of bargains, and I enjoyed the atmosphere at the market, especially around the food stalls. I even visited the not-so-visited site of Iximche!

I then felt it was time for a bit of jungle and made my way to Semuc Champey, where I hiked around the natural pools. My final stop in Guatemala was Flores, from where I visited the amazing archeological site of Tikal, immersed in the nature and where you can see and hear wildlife, including racoons and hauling monkeys. I even visited Yaxa! From Flores, I then continued South to Honduras.

To read more about my adventures in Guatemala, click here!

Highlights of Nicaragua

Highlights of Nicaragua

I arrived in Nicaragua after a long bus ride from Copan Ruinas (Honduras). It took me 18 hours on what probably was the least comfortable private transportation of Central America. Leon was my first stop in Nicaragua, and I took the chance to take it easy there. It is a very interesting city, with a rich history (it actively participated in the revolution), and it retains all of its original character. I relaxed in Poneloya beach, on the Pacific Coast; I hiked Volcano Cerro Negro – where I also tried volcano boarding; I browsed around the city many museums and churches; I explored its history and visited the ruins of Leon Vieja.

After a while, the heat in Leon took its toll and I went to Estelì (not before stopping in Managua for a few hours), where I enjoyed the lovely fresh air and chilled atmosphere. I then headed to Granada to enjoy its splendour, explore the lake and its Isletas, visit the Laguna de Apoyo and eat in its great restaurants. Granada is definitely the most touristic destination in Nicaragua, yet I managed to get a hostel bed for as little as 5 USD per night.

From Granada, I reached Rivas where I boarded a ferry to Isla de Ometepe and went to spend Christmas at Finca Magdalena, in Balgues. It was lovely, immersed in the forest and isolated, and reading while laying on the hammoks was a great pastime. I rode a motorbike around the island, explored the laguna and the volcanoes. A few days later I managed to find a Tica Bus from Rivas to San Josè (Costa Rica) and left Nicaragua – but not forever!

Care to know more about Nicaragua? Read here!