3 Short Yet Challenging Hikes In Guyana

3 Short Yet Challenging Hikes In Guyana

There are several nice hikes in Guyana. The most famous and challenging one is a 5 day hike to Kaieteur Falls. Most people who visit this beautiful country in South America do so in order to enjoy its nature and wildlife, and hiking is a great way to get closer to nature. The country, famous for its thick rainforest, does have some nice mountains that make for some great hikes. Roraima, with its 2810 meters and marking the border with Brazil and Venezuela, is the most famous one – though the hike can officially only be done via Venezuela.

To discover more about Guyana, head over to my post “13 Amazing Things To Do In Guyana.” And if you care to find out more about its wildlife, read my post “The Most Amazing Wildlife in Guyana.”

You know me, and how much I love hiking. I try to do that wherever I go. Sure enough, I didn’t want to miss on the opportunity to go hiking in Guyana, and despite the terrible heat and humidity I made the most of it and truly enjoyed the experience.

This post highlights 3 nice, short yet challenging hikes in Guyana that I have the chance to do when I visited, and provides some tips to make the most of the experience.

hikes in Guyana

The sunset view from Awarmie Mountain makes this one of the top hikes in Guyana

3 Short Yet Challenging And Rewarding Hikes In Guyana

Awarmie Mountain Hike

The one to Awarmie Mountain is one of the nicest hikes in Guyana, and a classic for anybody who visits the North Rupununi region. The overall hike is about 1.7 km long – which isn’t much at all; and the peak is located at around 300 meters above sea level – which, again, isn’t much at all.

Yet between the heat and the humidity, the steepness of the trail and the muddy, uneven terrain (which apparently is the normality when hiking in Guyana), I found this hike as hard as some of the hikes I have done at a good altitude, such as the hikes in the Dolomites I did last summer.

The trail starts at the bottom of the mountain, and it is fairly easy to follow. It goes through some agricultural land where some people of the Rewa community live and work – here it is possible to see how they cultivate cassava and how they prepare farine.

Most of the trail is in the shade, as it goes through the thick forest – but this doesn’t mean that it isn’t hot! The initial part of the trail is quite flat, but soon after crossing the indigenous settlement the trail becomes steep, and on several points it is necessary to to hold on to the railings.

The first view point, from where there is a stunning view of the river, is at about 20 minutes walk from the starting point. After that, the only other view is from the top. Once the view opens up, it becomes clear why this is one of the nicest hikes in Guyana. It is simply splendid!

It shouldn’t take more than one hour and 15 minutes from the starting point to the peak. It took me around 50 – but I sprinted up a bit because I was really looking forward to the view, which was nothing short of stunning (easy to see why to me this is one of the must do hikes in Guyana!). In one direction, there are uninterrupted views of the Rupununi River and the Kanaku Mountains in the distance. In the other direction, the view goes all the way to the Iwokrama Mountains in the distance, and the Makarapan Mountain, much closer.

Important things to note when hiking Awarmie Mountain

Classified as a moderate hike, this (as many of the hikes in Guyana) turns out to be more on the difficult side for anyone who is not accustomed to the heat of this part of the world. The overall hike (there and back) takes little over 2 hours.

Rewa Ecolodge organizes guided hikes to Awarmie Mountain, providing transportation (a boat ride) to the starting point; setting up a camp (hammocks, mosquito nets and a dug out toilet) at the top, so it is possible to spend the night there and waking up to a magnificent sunrise; and providing meals and water to drink. The overall experience is amazing, making this one of the most beautiful hikes in Guyana.

How to reach Awarmie Mountain

The best starting point to hike Awarmie Mountain is Rewa Ecolodge. From there, it is a short boat ride (around 20 minutes).

hikes in Guyana

As far as hiking in Guyana, Surama is one of the best!

Surama Mountain Hike

When visiting Surama, it is pretty much a must to hike Surama Mountain. It is one of the nicest hikes in Guyana. The trail is longer than the one to Awarmie Mountain – a total of a bit less than 7 km there and back; but like Awarmie, the peak (well, at least the highest point that can be reached on the trail) sits at a bit less than 300 meters above sea level.

Once again, between the heat, the steepness and the terrain the hike can be rather difficult. Virtually all of the hike is in the shade, as it goes through the forest. The first part of the hike is nice and flat, though the terrain is rather uneven as it follows a creek (where there is no water during the dry season).

However, at about one third of the way the path starts going uphill, and it becomes steep and more difficult as it is necessary to climb over several unsteady rocks, and there isn’t much to hold on to.

As opposed to other hikes in Guyana, such as Awarmie Mountain, there are no in between view points here. In order to get a view it is necessary to go all the way to the top. Once there, this opens up all the way to Surama, showing the village and the mountains in the distance.

Important things to note when hiking Surama Mountain

Like most hikes in Guyana, the hike to Surama Mountain is classified as a moderate difficulty one. Once again, it is the heat that causes most of the difficulty. The top can be reached in around one hour and 10 minutes, and it takes just as much to get back to the starting point (so calculate around 2 and a half hours for the entire hike).

Once at the top, there is a very limited space from where to enjoy the view and it is not possible to camp overnight.

As it is necessary to walk all the way back, make sure to keep track of the timing as there isn’t much light in the forest even well before the sun goes down. Make sure to carry a torch or a headlamp to be on the safe side.

How to reach Surama Mountain

The best starting point to hike Surama Mountain is Surama Ecolodge, where it is possible to hire a guide (it’s probably a good idea, because the forest is so thick that it is easy to get lost) and from where it is possible to catch a ride to the beginning of the trail.

hiking in Guyana

Iwokrama is one of the nicest nature walks in Guyana

Iwokrama Forest Trail

The Iwokrama Forest Trail is more a nature walk than an actual hike. However, since there is a steep part that requires some puffing up a hill, I like to mention it among the hikes in Guyana.

The trail goes through the forest to reach Iwokrama Canopy Walkway, and it is a fantastic way to appreciate the thick jungle of Guyana. It isn’t a difficult trail at all, save for the 160 steps that must be climbed to reach the starting point of the Canopy Walkway, and for the fact that the area tends to be very wet and muddy.

The trail is about 1 km long from its starting point at Atta Lodge to the beginning of the Canopy Walkway, though the actual trail goes on for much longer into the forest. I would have gladly walked some more of it, where it not for the fact that I was caught in a thunderstorm the minute I made it to the Canopy Walkway and had to run back to the lodge for shelter.

The trail is a great place to observe more of the local flora and fauna, with several kinds of trees clearly signaled for visitors.

Important things to note when walking in Iwokrama Forest

This is more a leisurely walk than a real hike, but the terrain gets muddy so it is easy to slip and fall. Wearing good boots is a must! The trail is fairly easy to follow, but keep in mind that as the forest is very thick, there isn’t much light as soon as the sun starts to go down. It’s better to carry a torch.

How to reach Iwokrama Forest

Iwokrama Forest can be easily reached from Atta Lodge, one of nicest community lodges in Guyana, which is actually set right in the middle of it.

hikes in Guyana

The best time to set for hiking in Guyana is the early morning

The Best Time For Hiking in Guyana

Guyana knows two season: the dry one is between September and December, and the rainy one in December and January and May to July. The main difficulty when hiking in Guyana is the terrible heat, and there is no way to avoid it. The best time to go hiking in Guyana, then, is during the dry season, when there are less chances of rain.

Tips For Hiking In Guyana

Go early in the day (or later in the afternoon)

The hikes in Guyana that I have mentioned can all be walked in a couple of hours or little more. As I have said before, the best time for hiking in Guyana is during the dry season. Either way, however, it will be hot. Having said so, even though the heat in Guyana is pretty much incessant, I still recommend avoiding the central hours of the day, when there is no escaping the sun. Make sure to go either early in the morning, or in the late afternoon.

Dress appropriately

Though one may be tempted to wear tank tops and shorts to get a little break from the terrible heat of Guyana, it is important to note that in this country malaria-carrying mosquitoes and other insects such as ticks and chiggers are an issue. It’s better to wear long pants, a light cotton long sleeve shirt, and good hiking boots that hold the ankle. Make sure to also wear a hat, and regularly apply sunblock and mosquito repellent.

Read my post on what to pack for Guyana, which includes plenty of tips on what you should carry should you intend to hike.

Drink lots of water

In the heat of Guyana, it is easy to get dehydrated. Make sure to drink lots of water during a hike – carry at least a liter even on shorter hikes, more for longer ones. Water gets warm quite fast because of the heat, so a flask that holds the temperature may be the best solution.

Other tips for hiking in Guyana

Most of the hikes in Guyana that I have described in this post are on the easy side for anyone used to hiking. However, save for Iwokrama, the trails aren’t well marked and between that and the fact that the forest is very thick, it is easy to get lost. I recommend hiring the services of a local guide to take you around, and to give back to the local community.

Legal Disclaimer: I was a guest of the Tourism Board of Guyana during my visit, and wish to thank them for the wonderful welcome and the incredible experiences. The views expressed in this post remain my own.

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Guyana, in South America, is a fantastic destination for nature lovers. Learn more about the most amazing hikes in Guyana | Guyana Travel #guyananice via @clautavani

Ten Reasons To Visit Trentino In The Summer

Ten Reasons To Visit Trentino In The Summer

I was only 10 the first time my parents decided to visit Trentino for our summer holidays. I don’t have detailed memories of the places we visited (my mother refreshed my memory and told me we visited Val di Fiemme and Val di Fassa), but I do remember that we kept being wowed by the incredible scenery and we had a great time. It’s there that I was introduced to the incredible world of hiking, which is now one of my favorite things to do.

Without the shadow of a doubt, Trentino is one of the nicest places to visit in Northern Italy. It’s a lovely region, located between the Southern Alps and easily reached from Venice or Verona. Its main feature is the Dolomites, a fabulous, unique mountain range which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and which it shares with Alto Adige, Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia.

Trentino is a land of mountains and lakes; of gorgeous valleys where nature rules (I am still drooling over my pictures of Val di Fassa). Adding to this already fantastic mix there are great food, welcoming people and a few touches of affordable luxury that make it an excellent destination for families, adventure travelers and, needless to say, solo travelers like myself.

places to visit in Northern Italy

My parents would take me to visit Trentino in the summer, as a child

That’s why my parents kept wanting to visit Trentino. We spent a few summers there, and one summer in Chamonix, France, until I turned 18 and decided that cool kids would not travel with their parents but would rather stay home alone in Sardinia during the summer.

After that, I didn’t really visit Trentino until a few weeks ago, when I finally decided it was time to go again and made my way to visit Val di Fiemme and Val di Fassa to participate in Suoni delle Dolomiti, one of the best summer music festivals in Italy.

I am so glad I did! I know Trentino is a very popular destination in the winter time, when snow covers the mountains and it’s possible to ski; but I encourage everyone who loves walking and hiking to visit Trentino in the summer.

Yes: Trentino is a great place to spend summer holidays in Italy. In this post, I highlight 10 reasons to visit Trentino in the summer.

things to do in Trentino

Those who visit Trentino get to see the Dolomites: need I say more?

Ten Reasons To Visit Trentino In The Summer

It’s home to the Dolomites

I could have just said mountains, but the Dolomites are not “just mountains.” They are unique, mighty and won’t stop surprising visitors, their vertical walls springing up and diving into the sky at every turn. If most people who visit Trentino will be happy enough to admire the peaks of the Dolomites, those who like adventure sports will want to put their hands on them, quite literally.

Adventure lovers will be happy to know that one of the nicest things to do in Trentino, that is best enjoyed during the summer, is rock climbing: the Dolomites provide plenty of opportunities for that.

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Hiking in Val di Fassa is one of the unmissable things to do in Trentino

There’s some fantastic hiking trails

To me, mountains is sinonymous with hiking. One of the top reasons to visit Trentino in the summer is to enjoy the multitude of hiking trails in the Dolomites. I have done 3 short hikes in the space of 4 days, in the Val di Fiemme and Val di Fassa areas, and all felt very rewarding with incredible views and unique cultural experiences.

Read more about my hikes in the Dolomites.

I also love multi-day treks (hiking Poon Hill, in Nepal, has been one of my favorite experiences to date), and there’s an abundance of those in Trentino. While I was entertaining myself with the gorgeous views of Val San Nicolò, my friend Margherita challenged herself with a 3-days hike in the Brenta Dolomites. I am pretty sure that the next time I visit Trentino in the summer I will head straight there to hike!

It’s also home to Suoni delle Dolomiti

One of the biggest reasons that prompted me to visit Trentino in the summer is Suoni delle Dolomiti, a music festivals where concerts of various music genres are held in the open, free for everyone to attend. Some of the best classic and jazz musicians are invited. I love jazz so I planned my trip around the jazz concerts.

I went to see Yamanaka Electric Female Trio in Val di Fiemme, and it was a fantastic experience: people of all ages sat on the grass as the band played, pine trees at their back. The concert lasted 90 minutes, which went by in a zip. I was also scheduled to attend a sunrise concert, but when I woke up at 4:30 am to get ready to go it was pouring and I learned that the concert had been rescheduled.

Needless to say, Suoni delle Dolomiti is only one of the many events that those who visit Trentino in the summer can enjoy.

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A violin carved into a tree trunk: Suoni delle Dolomiti is just one of the many musical expressions of Trentino

Music is everywhere – literally

I don’t mean to say that, wherever one goes in Trentino, music blasts loudly. In fact, it is peaceful and quiet (unless an event such as Suoni delle Dolomiti is on!). But there’s always a musical theme. Music lovers may already know that Antonio Stradivari, the famous Italian liutist who lived between the 17th and the 18th century, got the spruce wood he used to build his violins in Val di Fiemme.

Those who visit Trentino should not miss the chance to visit the Bosco Che Suona (“music forest”) where the best quality spruce trees that are used to build violins and any other string instruments can be found. Each year, musicians that play at Suoni delle Dolomiti are invited to pick their own tree. Other than the great cultural and musical value found in the forest, this is a great place for a walk or a hike!

But there’s more. Located in Tesero, in Val di Fiemme, there’s Ciresa. This is a factory that works the local spruce to produce soundboards for pianos, as well as violins and any other string instrument. In recent years, Ciresa has patented natural loudspeakers: these are beautiful looking wooden boards that reverberate the sounds at an incredibly high quality level, and on top of it look like works of art. Visiting Ciresa is one of the nicest things to do in Trentino.

things to do in Trentino

Castello di Fiemme is one of the lovely villages those who visit Trentino will be able to enjoy

The villages are just too pretty

There’s no going wrong for those who visit Trentino: all villages are simply beautiful. I was lucky to have a car when I went, so I could drive around and explore. The only issue I had was that I kept stopping for pictures, so it took me forever to go from one place to the other!

Cavalese is one of the largest villages in Val di Fiemme. It’s a pleasant place to walk around, and there’s an interesting history museum where it is possible to learn more about the history of the valley, as well as a contemporary art gallery. It’s a great place to stop for a late afternoon drink or a good gelato, or – even better – a slice of strudel. After all, eating is one of the nicest things to do in Trentino.

Castello di Fiemme is a lovely small village, also in Val di Fiemme. It’s a very quiet place, with narrow cobbled street and a beautiful church that can be seen from a distance, driving down to the village. It’s the kind of place where life goes by slowly, and night brings silence and peace – and it’s a great base from where to visit Trentino.

Val di Fassa also has some gorgeous villages, and those who visit Trentino should not miss an opportunity to explore them. Canazei, Vigo di Fassa, Pozza di Fassa are all nice, but my favorite is Moena, where the majority of the people actually speak Ladin (one of Italy’s 12 minority languages). The first testimony of the village dates back to 1164, which means that it’s probably much older. As I am a lover of narrow alleys, I loved walking around the Quartiere Turco (Turkish Quarters), named after a legendary Ottoman lone soldier who ended up there and decided to settle.

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Not just on a rainy day! Those who visit Trentino will enjoy some lovely art galleries. This one is in Cavalese

There’s some very interesting museums

I get it, most people who visit Trentino in the summer are interested in hiking. The chances of rain during the summer in Trentino are high at night, but slim during the day. But what if it actually rains? Worry not! Trentino is one of the top places to visit in Northern Italy even for history, culture and art lovers. I truly enjoyed visiting the Palace of the Magnifica Comunità di Fiemme, in Cavalese, where I could admire some great paintings by local artists and, most importantly, learn about the history of the region.

The Palace of the Magnifica Comunità di Fiemme is open every day except for Tuesdays, from 10:00 to 12:00 and from 15:00 to 18:30. Guided tours are offered, and I recommend taking one and it includes a visit to the underground jails, where prisoners have carved some truly interesting lines and drawings on the walls. Learning about its history is one of the nicest things to do in Trentino.

Cavalese is also home to a great Contemporary Art Museum, which is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 15:30 to 19:30. It hosts some very interesting pieces by contemporary local artists, and it’s recently gone all the way to acquire its own permanent exhibit. There’s also an art room for children, to get them drawing and painting and overall just closer to art and culture – so a fun place to spend a couple of hours for anybody who visit Trentino.

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One of the nicest things to do in Trentino is enjoying the food

The food is delicious

Those who visit Trentino never go hungry. I can’t comment on the cheese as I am (sadly) lactose intolerant, but cold cuts such as carne salada (salted, cured beef) and speck (an incredibly tasty cured kind of ham) are fabulous, especially if accompanied by rye bread, which is a local specialty too. Polenta accompanies many a dish, first and foremost the delicious slow roasted pork shank.

Let me not get started with desserts! Just the thought of apple strudel is enough to make me want to pack my bags again. For sure, one of the greatest things to do in Trentino, especially after a long day of hiking, is eating all the mouthwatering food. Rifugi are typically good places to have a taste of the local specialties at very convenient prices.

And so are the drinks

I love wine – or else I wouldn’t have spent 4 days wine tasting in Stellenbosch! Trentino produces some great wines. Local grape varieties include Nosiola, Marzemino and Teroldego, but there’s also Chardonnay and Trentodoc, a local sparkling wine. If eating is one of the nicest things to do in Trentino, those who visit Trentino will have to agree that accompanying a fantastic meal with a just as fantastic wine is a must.

Trentino also has some excellent breweries. And let me not forget about grappa. I visited Distilleria Marzadro, right outside Rovereto, and truly enjoyed learning about the history of the distillery and about the way grappa is made. Grappa originally was poor people’s alcohol, made with the skins, pulp, seeds and stems that are left over when pressing the grapes for making wine. Nowadays, it is a much more sophisticated drink. Trying grappa is a must for those who visit Trentino.

things to do in Trentino

QC Terme is a great place to get some pampering, and a must for those who visit Trentino

It’s a great place to get pampered

Is there anything better than getting pampered after having hiked for one day or more? I don’t think there is! That’s why those who visit Trentino can enjoy QC Terme, a fantastic spa in Pozza di Fassa.

I spent a whole day at QC Terme, at first thinking that my active self would get bored after a couple of hours of doing nothing. I guess I was wrong, because I ended up staying the entire day (I also enjoyed lunch and a light delicious dinner there), moving from one treatment pool to another, from a sauna to a relax room, napping, chilling and enjoying the incredible views of the mountains.

The atmosphere is super chilled

One of the things that make me fall in love with a place is the atmosphere. That’s why I love Tel Aviv, and why I would go back to Cape Town any time. Trentino is the kind of place where I felt I could relax completely. The vibe is very friendly, welcoming: people who visit Trentino all share a love for nature, adventure sports and good food; locals are friendly, genuine and generous – the kind of people that I can’t help but warm up to.

I am sure that these are more than enough reasons to visit Trentino in the summer, and for those who decide to do so, here’s some logistics information to organize a trip there.

things to do in Trentino

Next time I visit Trentino, I hope to stay in the gorgeous Val San Nicolò

Where to stay and eat in Trentino

Those who visit Trentino will be happy to know that there’s an excellent range of accommodation options, as well as some fantastic restaurants. I have selected a couple of hotels in Val di Fiemme and Val di Fassa that also serve dinner – though I recommend eating out for the best food!

As eating is one of the best things to do in Trentino, I recommend going to the following restaurants to enjoy food at its best:

  • Miola di Predazzo, in Predazzo, Val di Fiemme, offers some of the best traditional food in the area. I had a delicious salad with walnuts and local apples, a selection of local cold cuts which included “carne salada” (salted cured beef) and pork shank.
  • Baita Paradiso, in Val di Fassa Passo San Pellegrino can be reached from the ski-lift (Seggiovia Costabella) or after a short hike, has the best beef fillet cooked in a bread shell along with onions and pine needles; as well as the best polenta in the area (not to mention an incredible selection of wines.

How to get to Trentino

There are no international airports in Trentino. Those who visit Trentino are better off flying to Verona, which is roughly a 2 hours drive from Val di Fiemme and Val di Fassa, and then rent a car to go all the way there, or get a bus to one of the many beautiful villages in the region. Other airports would be Bergamo Orio Al Serio, a budget airlines hub, or Venezia Marco Polo, which is better connected internationally.

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Dressing appropriately is one of the things to do in Trentino

What to pack when visiting Trentino in the summer

Those who visit Trentino in the summer should make sure to carry comfortable clothes that allow layering up, as it may be quite warm in the middle of the day, but chilly in the morning and early evenings and night. Here’s what I recommend packing:

  • A pair of hiking boots, best if water proof and with good ankle support. Also pack a pair of comfortable walking shoes.
  • Hiking pants, best if water repellent. My favorite pants for hiking  are the Kuhl Kliffside Convertible and I find the Kuhl Skulpt Skinny to be easy to dress up if I wear a nice top.
  • Plenty of cotton shirts. I love Kuhl Kyra and Nora Tank. I find Alva to be the top pick on colder days.
  • A sweater (I love Kuhl Lea Pullover). I also recommend taking a wind and rain proof jacket. My favorite is Kuhl W’S Airstorm Rain Jacket.
  • A small backpack for the hikes. I recommend the 20 liter Osprey Daylite Plus.
  • A flask – tap water in Trentino is really good and it’s better to drink that than keep buying bottled water and cause unnecessary waste.
  • Sunglasses to protect from the sun and the wind, and a hat.
  • Sun screen with a high protection factor, since the sun can be really strong when at an altitude.
  • A swimsuit for those moments at the spa.
  • An umbrella, as it may well rain.
  • A good camera and lens to capture the magnificent views. I have a Nikon D3300 and a 70-300 mm wide lens. I also travel with my iPhone 6S Plus, which takes some pretty sweet shots.

Would you ever visit Trentino in the summer? What would you like to do there?

Legal Disclaimer: I was a guest of Visit Trentino during my trip, and I wish to thank them for showing me their incredible region. Needless to say, the views expressed in this post are my own.

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Discover why you should visit Trentino in the summer via @clautavani

Three Places To Visit In Chile In Just Ten Days

Three Places To Visit In Chile In Just Ten Days

There’s many incredible places to visit in Chile: I have been there twice, both times hardly long enough to get to know the country properly. The first time there, I crossed the border for a couple of days during a longer trip to Argentina, and just visited Torres del Paine National Park.

The second time I visited Chile was during a backpacking trip across South America that started in Bolivia and ended in Uruguay. I saw some incredible places to visit in Chile that made me fall in love with it.

Chile is an amazing, diverse country that has a lot to offer to its visitors. Chile tourist attractions include incredible natural sites – from the deserts of the north, to the mountains of windy Patagonia in the south; beautiful cities; a thriving cultural life; and superb food and wine – not to mention the fabulous Pisco Sour cocktail.

I don’t think 3 months would be enough to enjoy all the things to do in Chile. But the average traveler doesn’t have that long, unfortunately. Picking the places to visit in Chile when the time is limited can then become a real challenge. There’s also many tours in Chile that, for great value for money, allow to explore the country.

The following is a selection of just three places to visit in Chile. They are the ones that I enjoyed the most when I went and they at least give a rough idea of this unique country.

Three Places To Visit In Chile In Just Ten Days

Santiago de Chile

Santiago de Chile isn’t nearly as beautiful as other cities in South America such as Buenos Aires or Rio de Janeiro, but it is charming and full of life. It definitely is one of the places to visit in Chile that should not be missed.

It is without doubt that visiting Santiago is what to do in Chile to get a taste of the local culture and vibe. This is the cultural and political centre of the country, and where people from the rest of Chile go to manifest their dissent against the government.

Santiago It is packed with good restaurants, a great seafood market and lots of glamorous bars. If eating delicious food is one of the things to do in Chile, Santiago is the place to go. But there’s more than just that.

Here’s a few things to do to get to know Santiago better.

Take a free walking tour

Santiago de Chile can be explored on free walking tours that depart every day from the Catedral Metropolitana. Groups can be large, but the guides are local and experienced and they provide good insights about the city. Tours depart twice a day, the morning one also going to the market. Going on a free walking tour of Santiago is one of the nicest things to do in Chile.

Enjoy street art

People who enjoy street art will find several great examples of it in Chile. While Valparaiso is generally considered one of the top places to visit in Chile for street art, even Santiago has some great examples of it, scattered around the city centre.

Learn about the stray dogs

One of the nicest things to do in Chile (and in Latin America, in fact) is volunteering at animal shelters. Stray dogs are unfortunately common in all of Central and South America. In most countries, they are not taken care of and can be seen wandering around, looking for food or fighting for the control of territory. I have separated a few dogs myself when I was in Cuzco, Peru.

Dogs would hardly qualify as one of Chile tourist attractions. But in a (nice) way, they are. Santiago, and the rest of Chile, have a large population of strays. They are known as quiltro, and they are nicely taken care of. They are a bit like communal dogs, belonging to the public who seems to care for them – feeding them, offering companionships and helping getting them sterilized. It is not uncommon to find dog houses in parks and squares around the city.

Visit the Human Rights Museum

As a former human rights lawyer, the highlight of my visit to Santiago was the Human Rights Museum, locally known as Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos. This is by far one of the best places to visit in Chile, to learn about the difficult past of the country.

Though this isn’t a jolly place, visiting the Human Rights Museum is one of the best things to do in Chile. The exhibit and the organization of the space make it very user friendly. It’s easy to spend a few hours browsing the various documents and videos and going from room to room.

Where to stay and eat in Santiago de Chile

Picking the right place to stay in a city as big as Santiago is important, so as to have access to the best Chile attractions in town. When I visited, I stayed at Hostal Che Lagarto and while it was fantastic in terms of rooms and services (great breakfast), I thought the area didn’t have a very good selection of good restaurants. CasAltura Boutique Hostel is a great alternative, and is close to the central market.

Trying local food is one of the nicest things to do in Chile, and the Mercado Central is one of the top picks in Santiago to do have lunch – there’s a fantastic selection of seafood. Bar Nacional in the center of Santiago, and Liguria in Providencia are also great options.

Torres del Paine

Torres del Paine may well be the best national park in South America. It has to be included in the list of places to visit in Chile, though getting there is quite a trip from Santiago. It is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve since 1981, and a place to observe wildlife such as ostrich-like rhea (called ñandú), condors, flamingos, as well as guanacos.

Hiking is for sure one of the best things to do in Chile, and Torres del Paine is the ultimate place to go in order to hike. Remember though, this is Southern Patagonia: wind is typically strong, and with it comes the danger of quickly spreading fires such as the one caused by a visitor and that in 2011 destroyed over 40000 acres of old forest, killed animals and burned various buildings in the area.

What makes Torres del Paine a perfect place to hike and as such one of the nicest places to visit in Chile is the incredible array of hiking trails. Most trails are for multi-day hikes. The Paine Circuit takes between 7 and 9 days, but there’s some that are shorter, such as the W circuit or the hike between Refugio de las Torres and Mirador Las Torres, from where there’s a gorgeous view of the towers.

Another short hike that offers magnificent views to one of the nicest places to visit in Chile is that to Salto Grande, a gorgeous waterfall. From there, adding an hour walk it is possible to reach Mirador Nordernskjöld, with incredible views over the lake and mountains.

Torres del Paine National Park is scattered with camping sites and refugios where it is possible to sleep, though reservations are necessary. One way to go around the issue of having to make reservations and having to bother with organizational issues is going on a guided trek which will include all meals and accommodation – this may be one of the best things to do in Chile.

Here’s a guide to more hiking in Patagonia and here’s one on what to pack for a hiking trip in Patagonia.

San Pedro de Atacama

At a whopping 24 hours bus ride (or a couple of hours flight) from Santiago, there’s San Pedro de Atacama, one of the nicest places to visit in Chile. The village (no more than 5000 people living there year round) is at 2400 meters above sea level and is a lovely series of adobe buildings, with a nice 17th century church, a lovely square, and a bunch of good bars and restaurants.

More importantly so, San Pedro de Atacama is a great starting point to explore the rest of the region, which is among the unmissable places to visit in Chile, and to try out a series of activities that are by far among the most fun things to do in Chile.

Here’s a few unmissable things to do and places to visit in the Atacama region.

Valle de la Luna

At 13 km west of San Pedro de Atacama, Valle de la Luna is one of the most incredible places to visit in Chile. It is a large valley with beautiful sand and stone formations carved by wind and water. Some of them, like Tres Marias, have interesing shapes to the point that they look man made.

The colors and the terrain of Valle de la Luna are so peculiar that walking there feels like walking on the moon. The best time to visit is in the late afternoon, when, climbing a sand dune, it is possible to reach a view point from where there’s a spectacular sunset. Watching the sunset from Valle de la Luna is one of the top things to do in Chile.

Valle de la Muerte

Valle de la Muerte is also known as Mars Valley – and upon visiting, it is easy to see why. Located in the Salt Mountain range, and very close to San Pedro de Atacama, this is one of the nicest Chile tourist attractions. It is generally visited on a tour that includes a visit of Valle de la Luna and Tres Marias.

El Tatio Geysers

El Tatio definitely is one of the coolest places to visit in Chile that can be accessed from Atacama. The geysers are located at over 4300 meters above sea level and they are the world’s highest geyser field. They are a surreal sight, better admired at sunrise when it really feels like walking through a giant steam bath. Tours of El Tatio usually include a dip in the hot, thermal baths.

Sandboarding

The dunes of Valle de la Muerte are a perfect place to go sandboarding, not to mention one of the best places to visit in Chile. There are various companies in San Pedro de Atacama that offer sandboarding expeditions. It’s possible to go in the morning or in the afternoon. Mornings are usually better though, as the temperatures are too hot in the afternoon.

Carrying a board (which is pretty much the same one would use when snowboarding), people go up a 150 meters high dune, to then slide down at full speed. The result is incredibly fun, though expect to be covered in sand for a few days and many showers afterwards.  Sandboarding is definitely one of the most fun things to do in Chile.

Star gazing

Atacama desert is the driest place on earth. It virtually never rains there – which means the sky is always perfectly clear, during the day and at night. The dryness, the clear skies and the altitude all contribute to making Atacama the best place on earth to go star gazing. In fact, this is one of the nicest things to do in Chile.

Where to stay and eat in San Pedro de Atacama

Being one of the most famous places to visit in Chile, San Pedro de Atacama has a great range of accommodation options for pretty much any budget, from hostels and campgrounds to all inclusive resorts. Hostal Ayni and Hostal Campo Base are good budget options; whereas Tierra Atacama is perfect for those wanting to splurge.

On the main street of San Pedro de Atacama there are a bunch of good bars and restaurants. Eating local food and sipping good wine are among the best things to do in Chile. The best restaurant in town is La Casona. There’s also a bunch of street food places not far from the center, in a parking lot on the northern edge of town.

Have you ever been to Chile? What are your favorite places to visit in Chile?

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Discover three incredible places to visit in Chile - via @clautavani

My Perfect Tenerife Itinerary

My Perfect Tenerife Itinerary

It’s been two years since I published a post about the 11 places I’d want to visit in the following year. It was November 2015 and I was making plans for 2016. I said I’d visit Angkor Wat, in Cambodia, and Sapa Valley, in Vietnam. And I did – I went with my sister in March 2016. I promised I’d go to Bergamo, in the North of Italy. And kept that promise.

I wrote that I intended to go to the Maldives and to Etna. And I went – a year later than I had intended, but I did go. In fact, I so wanted to go to Maldives that I decided to pay a visit even though I’m still single (and learned there are many things to do in Maldives that aren’t just for couples). And I didn’t just hike Etna, but also Vulcano and Stromboli.

Tenerife

Volcanoes and gorgeous beaches – that’s Tenerife

But of those 11 places, there’s some I still have to visit. The thing is, at time life gets in between me and my travel plans. And other times, I simply don’t have any plans, because I am too tired to plan anything, and because I like the idea of having at least some level of flexibility.

Tenerife though… I still have to go. And seriously, I won’t be able to stare at my own reflection if I don’t go in 2018. I’ve read about it, I have been drooling over pictures, I have been dreaming of myself conquering Teide, and I have even thought of a rough itinerary that I’d love to follow there, something that puts together my thirst for adventure, my love for small villages, and my desperate need to relax and just do nothing.

Here’s what my perfect Tenerife itinerary looks like.

Teide

It’s the hiking I am after, in Tenerife

My Perfect Tenerife Itinerary

Enjoy lots of hiking

Most people go to the Canary Islands, including Tenerife, to enjoy the beautiful beaches. But it’s the hiking and adventures I am after.

Check out what the best Canary Islands are in my latest post. 

Tenerife is where the highest volcano in Europe, Mount Teide, is located, and Teide National Park has a series of incredible trails that I am keen to hike. Montaña Blanca, the path to Teide summit, is meant to be hard, but I am eager to challenge myself. Other trails there are the Roques de García and the Dogollada de Guajara. The latter one starts in Teide National Park and ends in Vilaflor.

But there’s more. Teno Rural Park has various trails, of varying difficulty. One goes from Los Silos and terminates in El Palmar. A tougher one starts in Garachico and ends in Chinyero mountain.

These are all volcanic trails – which would quench my thirst for volcano hikes. But there also are forest trails, such as those of Anaga Rural Park, and coastal trails such as Malpaís de Güímar.

Tenerife

Coastal villages in Tenerife

Discover the beautiful villages

Whenever I travel, anywhere in the world, I like having a mixture of adventure and hiking with culture and sightseeing. Ideally, I alternate hiking days with days during which I visit a city or, even better, a bunch of villages. The best is actually hiking to a village.

Tenerife is packed with coastal and rural villages – some of them connected by beautiful hiking trails. In my time there I plan to visit as many as possible. Here’s just a few of them.

Among the unmissable villages to visit in Tenerife there is Masca, which is perched on a rock needle and characterized by narrow cobbled alleys and bougainvillea gardens.

Tenerife

There’s more than just beaches in Tenerife

Garachico is another village I am keen to visit. It is a tiny port that has been threatened by the forces of nature throughout time, but has somehow managed to survive (and shine).

Tegueste is meant to be one of the prettiest villages in Tenerife: set in the gorgeous countryside, it has a lovely square and a farmer’s market buzzing with life.

Vilaflor is Spain’s highest village and that’s enough for making me want to visit. It is backed by mountains, surrounded by a forest of pine trees, and it is said there’s flowers all over.

Last, but definitely not least, Granadilla, home of an 18th century baroque church and a Franciscan convent.

Tenerife

La Caleta is one of the best beaches in Tenerife

Relax at the beach

I did say that to me a good trip has a good combination of adventure and culture. I should however add that the ultimate trip would end with some relaxing time and some pampering, possibly at a lovely beach.

I feel incredibly attracted by the possibility of sitting in the sun and swimming in the sea even in April (Sardinia is still too cold at that time of year). Add to this the fact that Tenerife is packed with beautiful beaches – and it is easy to see why I am keen to go.

Among the best beaches of Tenerife there’s La Caleta, which is thought to be the hidden jewel of the island for its idyllic setting and quiet environment. There’s even a few traditional fish restaurants there.

Similarly to La Caleta, Playa del Bollullo is one of the most remote beaches of Tenerife, though there is a footpath which makes it quite easy to reach. It is a black volcanic sand beach (typical of Tenerife), of plain, wild beauty and surrounded by gorgeous cliffs. The beach is very popular with surfers as it is often swept by winds that bring in good waves.

Playa Jardin is an urban beach, and as the name says it is completely surrounded by palm trees and cacti, a bit like a garden. As many other beaches in Tenerife, it often gets big waves.

Tenerife

Tenerife has great waves

Los Gigantes beach is located in western Tenerife, in a secluded place where nature rules. It is a resort, but the beach is meant to be gorgeous, with golden sand and clear waters, and surrounded by cliffs that reach 800 meters.

Another resort beach is Playa del Duque. It is characterized by golden sand and the water is clear and warm. The beach is completely serviced: sunbeds, restaurants, and it is so clean that it’s been awarded the blue flag.

Located in Playa del Duque there’s the Iberostar Grand Hotel el Mirador, which sounds like the perfect place to end a trip packed with adventure. It has a spa, it boasts view of the beach, there’s restaurants that serve only the best local cuisine and it’s motto is tranquility, which is just what I like.

Have you ever been to Tenerife? What did you like the most about it? Do you have any insider’s tip about places I should add to my itinerary?

This post is written in partnership with Iberostar.

Why Vulcano Is The Perfect Adventure Island

Why Vulcano Is The Perfect Adventure Island

I went to Vulcano to experience yet another volcano hike, and discovered an island that has so much more to offer than I ever expected.

When I finally arrive in Vulcano, after more than 12 hours of traveling from Spain, the night has fallen already. I have heard the island (one of the seven of the Aeolian Islands archipelago, and the closest one to Milazzo, in Sicily) is beautiful. But I can’t confirm this, right now: it’s so dark that I can’t see a thing.

I have also heard that Vulcano has a strong smell of sulphur. This, I am immediately able to confirm, on the other hand. The air does smell like rotten eggs. I wonder if I’ll get used to it.

The acrid smell of sulphur is only one of the many things that, in my time on the island, remind me there’s a reason why Vulcano has that name. It’s the same smell I sensed on other volcanoes, such as Masaya in Nicaragua, or Mount Bromo in Indonesia. Volcanic activity here has been going on since 120000 years. There’s craters and calderas all over. It’s what prompted me to visit – after all, I only have a mild obsession with volcanoes.

Vulcano

Vulcanello peninsula can be seen from the Gran Cratere of Vulcano

Vulcano: The Perfect Island For Adventure And Relaxation 

It’s 7:00 am in the morning when I open the blinds of my room at Therasia Resort and marvel at the view in front of my eyes. The light is magic at that time of day. Right in front of me there’s Lipari, the biggest of the Aeolian Islands. In the distance, I can see Alicudi, Filicudi, Salina and Stromboli, which will be my next stop on my volcano tour of Sicily and where I also plan to go on a hike.

Read about my adventure in Stromboli on my post “Why Mount Stromboli is the best volcano hike.”

Behind me, I can see the base of a volcano. That may be the one I’m meant to hike in the afternoon (I later learned that it was Vulcanello). Meantime, I decide to explore the village and the beaches.

Vulcano

The mud of Vulcano is said to have beneficial properties

The buzz of the summer months has gone. It’s mid October, and the crowds of tourists are mostly gone: soon enough all businesses will be closed and only the roughly 500 people that live in Vulcano throughout the year will remain. To date, there’s a lot of vineyards and olive trees on the island, though the main revenue is obviously tourism.

A few tourists lay at the beach. It’s still warm and sunny. There’s two beaches on each side of the isthmus that connects the main island to a smaller one known as Vulcanello. Both beaches are characterized by dark, volcanic sand. It’s so different from the white beaches of Sardinia I am used to, or from the incredibly turquoise waters of the Maldives that I have visited only a month ago. Yet the sea is incredibly transparent.

Some other tourists seem to enjoy the mud baths Vulcano is famous for. They are said to have incredibly beneficial properties. It is only €3 to get in, but the sulphur smell is so overpowering that I pass on the opportunity to cure my asthma.

I’d much rather climb the “faraglioni,” the rock stacks from which I may get a good view of the bay, but the guy at the ticket booth of the mud baths doesn’t seem too eager to let me in. I convince him to let me go under the promise that I won’t jump any fence and won’t have to be rescued.

Vulcano

The clear waters and the “acque calde” of Vulcano are inviting for a swim, even in the fall

I get all the way to the top to admire the view. A few people are swimming in what are known as “acque caldo” (warm waters). Tens of submarine volcanic fumaroles eject hot steam, giving the water the effect of a natural jacuzzi. I can see why people love it.

Continuing my wanders around the village, I stop at the coffee shop right in front of the harbour and order a granita. I may as well indulge in this typical, refreshing Sicilian treat before I go on my daily hike.

That reminds me, I am in Vulcano to hike the Gran Cratere. It’s meant to be a sweet, easy hike, yet rewarding. Here’s a recollection of what I saw and experienced during the hike, followed by some tips to make the most of it.

Hiking the Gran Cratere e Vulcanello

I decide to hire a guide to take me around Vulcano, thinking that since I am there for a short time I need to make the most of it. Our first stop is Vulcanello, located on the north of Vulcano. This used to be a separate island, formed with an eruption in 183 BC, which through a series of eruptions, was eventually joined to Vulcano via a small isthmus by 1550 AC.

Vulcano

The view of Lipari from the caldera of Vulcanello

Vulcanello was the youngest vulcano of the island, and the one with the shortest life too. It’s fairly easy to reach once the guide points the trail, which is well hidden in the vegetation. There’s a very large caldera – a volcanic depression that was formed after a violent volcanic eruption, when the cone of a volcano collapses in the space left after the magma is expelled.

We then go to Valle dei Mostri (Monster Valley), located in Vulcanello. This looks almost like a natural anfitheater, with statues all around – which actually are the result of the erosion of the lava rock by the sea and the wind. They look like monsters – hence the name of the place.

Nowadays, only a few remain. With time, many have been completely eroded.  I can understand that. Others have been taken away by the owners of local villas to place them in their gardens. I leave wondering how the local authorities have allowed this to happen.

Vulcano

The eroded lava stone took the shape of a dinosaur

It’s almost 4 pm when we start hiking to Gran Cratere. The afternoon is warm, but there’s a lovely marine breeze. I puff along the steep trail, but the view is so beautiful that I often stop to take a photo. From the top, I can see all of the Aeolian Islands archipelago – Lipari and Salina, really close; Alicudi, Filicudi, Stromboli and Panarea in the distance. On a very clear day it is also possible to see the northern coast of Sicily and Etna.

It takes me less than one hour to reach the main crater, known as Caldera de La Fossa. The caldera is huge, with a 500 meters diameter. The last eruption here occurred in 1890, but there’s plenty of fumaroles that eject steam. It isn’t possible to get inside the crater, because the concentration of gas that is accumulated in the depression makes the air almost impossible to breathe.

Vulcano

A splendid view of the Aeolian Islands during the Gran Cratere hike

The fumaroles are mostly composed of sulphur, which gives the terrain its red and yellow color, and which fills the air of the typical acre stench. I walk through the fumaroles wearing a mask (good thing the guide carried one), yet the smell almost nauseates me.

I spend about 15 minutes at the top, admiring the view around me. I can see the port of Levante, where I landed the day before, and Vulcanello and the Aeolian Islands on one side; and Piano, one of the villages of the island, on the other.

Thankfully, I don’t have to walk through the stinky fumaroles to reach the path to go down again.

Vulcano

The fumaroles in Vulcano: the yellow of the rocks is due to the sulphur – which also makes the air smell like rotten eggs

Practical Facts

Vulcanello, the Valle dei Mostri and Gran Cratere can all be accessed for free and without a guide, though having one will obviously make the experience more complete with information and tips.

Valle dei Mostri can be reached on an easy 30 minutes walk from Porto di Levante (the largest village, where the hydrofoils to the other islands and to Sicily depart from) and it is well signalled. The path to the caldera of Vulcanello, on the other hand, isn’t as well marked and it may be necessary to ask directions to the access point.

The entry point to the path to Gran Cratere is located at around 10 minutes walk from Porto di Levante. The walk to the crater and back takes no more than 2 hours, though the path is steep and sandy in some points and the lenght of the walk depends on one’s level of fitness.

Vulcano

The Gran Cratere of Vulcano

Gearing up for the hike

The hike to Gran Cratere is short and not too demanding, but wearing and carrying the proper gear is always recommended. Here’s a useful list of what to wear and take:

  • Hiking boots: some people wear plain running shoes, others even attempt to hike with walking shoes or flip flops. But keep in mind that the terrain is sandy, rocky and slippery in some points; not to mention the ground near the fumaroles is very hot. Hiking boots provide the much needed ankle support and protect from the heat.
  • T-shirt and either shorts (in the summer months) or hiking pants: also add asweather and a wind proof jacket. The wind is quite chilly at the top.
Vulcano

A scarf or, even better, a mask is needed if wanting to walk through the fumaroles

  • A scarf, or a bandana: the sulphur at the crater makes the air stink so much that wearing a scarf around the nose and mouth is a must! If possible, wear a mask.
  • A hat: especially if walking in the summer months and in the hottest hours.
  • Sunglasses: it is so dusty that they are necessary to protect the eyes.
  • A daypack: use it to carry the extra layers and a lots of water.
  • A camera: the view is so breathtaking that taking pictures is a must!
Vulcano

A splendid view of the Aeolian Islands from the top of Gran Cratere in Vulcano

Where to stay and eat in Vulcano

As with the rest of the Aeolian Islands, there are plenty of sleeping and eating options in Vulcano. I arrived there at the end of 6 weeks of hectic travels, so I felt the need to pamper myself and opted to stay at the marvelous Therasia Resort. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.

Aside from a gorgeous, spacious room with views of the sea and the rest of the Aeolian Islands, I enjoyed eating at the two delicious on site restaurants (the breakfast buffet is one the best I have ever seen!); I jumped into the beautiful infinity pool; and I treated myself to the spa where I could pick from a great variety of treatments.

How to get to Vulcano

Vulcano can be reached via hydrofoil in a little over one hour from Milazzo, near Messina. From Vulcano, there are regular hydrofoils to the rest of the Aeolian Islands and to Milazzo.

Legal Disclaimer: I was a guest of Imperatore Travel during my time in Vulcano. All the views and opinions expressed are my own and based on my personal experience. The views expressed are honest and factual without any bias.

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Learn how to enjoy Vulcano - via @clautavani