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.
Find out more about Colombia.
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.
Read more about Peru!
When I crossed the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua, I decided to go straight to San Jose. Compared to the coast, the weather inland in Costa Rica was very pleasant and I managed to relax and live the Pura Vida life to the fullest. I know most people don’t like San Jose, but I totally enjoyed it. Read here to find out why.
My next stop was Tortuguero. This is one of the most touristic places in Costa Rica. However, it is surprisingly quiet – although I was not there during the turtle season! I enjoyed the lovely isolated village, the Jamaican community, the wildlife and its peacefulness. I then moved to Puerto Viejo, to experience the even more laidback side of Costa Rica and immerse myself in its rastafarian and surfers community. It was great! Puerto Viejo was my last stop in Costa Rica before making my way to Panama.
Costa Rica is more expensive than the rest of Central America, much to many backpackers disappointment. I actually found it about as expensive as Panama, with the major difference that Costa Rica is actually spotless clean and geared to environmental protection and recycling, very tourist friendly, very well organised and efficient; not to mention that the people are lovely even in big cities like San Jose. Besides, if you do look around you may even manage to get a private room, with private bathroom, for as little as 9 USD per night per person. That is a bargain!
My plan is to visit Costa Rica again, to explore more of it famous biodiversity.
To read more about this beautiful country, click here!
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!
My one and only stop in Honduras was Copan Ruinas, which I reached after a full day of travelling from Flores (Guatemala), where I boarded a Fuente del Norte bus heading to Chiquimula, to then hop on a chicken bus to El Florido where I crossed the border. Copan Ruinas is very close to the border.
Despite Honduras reputation as one of the world’s most dangerous countries, I found Copan Ruinas to be safe and quiet. Surely my experience is not representative of the real situation in the country, yet I would encourage other backpackers – especially if interested in Mayan archeological sites – to visit, as it is well worth it.
It is a lovely little town, and as Lonely Planet would say, it is the most traveler oriented in Honduras. Imagine its cobblestone streets, adobe buildings, lively bars and great restaurants, and surprisingly friendly people. The amazing archeological site of Copan Ruinas is 1 km away from town, at a pleasant walking distance. The site is immersed in the forest and populated by colourful macaws, which I also saw at the Macaw Mountain. This is a bird sanctuary dedicated to saving endangered species.
I had a great time zip lining too.
From Copan Ruinas, I took a direct shuttle bus to Leon (Nicaragua) – an 18 hour trip that went through Guatemala and El Salvador too.
Care to know more about Honduras? Click here!