The diversity of Argentina

About 4 years ago, I traveled the world for six months. If people asked me which country I liked most, that was a tough question to answer, but I always mentioned Argentina because this is such a diverse country. Argentina is so much more than Buenos Aires; the city of the tango. Especially for nature and wine lovers, Argentina is the place to go. Here are some of my favorite sights.

Ushuaia

El fin del mundo: Ushuaia is the most southern city in the world. A lot of people come here for a trip to Antarctica. The close-by national park Tierra del Fuego, is beautiful. You can walk a various number of routes, and if you’re lucky you can see beavers, a fox, or even a whale.

Perito Moreno

Perito Moreno is probably the most famous glacier of Argentina. You can do several tours here; one at which you will walk on the glacier itself, or you can jump on a boat and sail along Perito Moreno and a few other glaciers. This might be a bit confronting, as the trip also shows the effect of climate change since you can very clearly see how much the ice has melted over the years.

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Perito Moreno Glacier

El Chaltén

El Chaltén is a very small and cozy village from where you can hike in the Parque Nacional Los Glaciares. This is one of the few national parks in Patagonia that doesn’t have an entrance fee. In the village, you can rent all the equipment you need for a 2-day (or more) hike; a tent, sleeping bags, a map, etc. There are different routes to take but the most famous one takes you to Mount Fitz Roy. If you sleep at the camping of the national park and head off to the viewpoint early morning, you might be lucky enough to see what is supposed to be an amazing sunrise at the foot of Mount Fitz Roy.

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Stunning Mount Fitz Roy

Bariloche

Bariloche is the heart of the lake district of Argentina. Although nature here is quite different from the more southern Patagonia, it is also very beautiful. You can rent a car (of bike if you’re very sporty) to ride along the seven lakes. You can also take the cable car to Cerro Campanario, from which you have a great view over the surroundings. Bariloche is also home to a lot of outdoor activities. You can for example go rafting or canyoning. I can highly recommend the latter, because here you will have the opportunity to descend a waterfall and that is just a great experience.

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View from Cerro Campanario

Mendoza

Mendoza is most famous for its wines. Almost all Argentinian wines come from the Mendoza valley. A very good way to try a variety of wines here is to rent a bike and cycle along different wineries. Almost all of them offer a free tour and tastings for a very reasonable price.

I think all these sights together show what a diverse country Argentina really is. I know that there are many more places to discover here, so I will definitely go back again sometime. What about you? Is Argentina already on your bucket list?

Love,

Dionne

Best countries to visit for when you’re on a budget

If you have the wanderlust virus , you know you feel need to travel as much as possible. However, your bank account doesn’t always agree. If you still want to enjoy the beauty of a long stretched beaches, feel the sun glowing on your skin and discover new cultures, we are happy to tell you that you can do this on a small budget. These are 8 countries you should visit if you don’t want to break the bank.

1. Cambodia, Asia

Daily budget: 15 euro or less

Cambodia is a very cheap destination, even by Southeast Asian standards. If you’re really on a budget and you keep your daily spending to a minimum, you can live on an amount of 10 to 15 euro’s per day. Firstly, accommodation can be found for as little as 4-5 euro’s per night (for a simple hut or hostel) and even the alcohol is cheap here. Secondly, if you eat the local food, you won’t spend more than 4 euros on a 2 course meal. Flights cost about 500 euro’s if you book ahead of time.

Angkor Wat. travel on a budget
One of the cheapest countries for travel

2. Thailand, Asia

Daily budget: 20 euro or less

If you’ve been to Thailand, you know you can live there as a King or a Queen. When I was there I had a massage almost every day and it only cost me about 5 to 10 euro’s. Thailand has one of the finest cuisines in the world but you can dine here for about 5-10 euro’s per person. (this includes your drinks!) It’s the ultimate backpacking country with a lot of cheap accommodation available. Thailand also has many options, you can make it as expensive as you want.

Koh Lipe. best countries to visit when you're on a budget
It’s never boring in Thailand

3. Georgia

Daily Budget: 27 euro

This destination is high on demand and made it on many top destination lists for 2019. Why? Adventure seekers have discovered the stunning nature of this country, plus it’s very affordable! Because Georgia isn’t rampaged by tourists, prices remain low, also for accommodations. If you decide to go backpacking for 14 days, you can do it with a budget of 400 euro per person. This is unheard of in western European countries. Time to out Georgia on your bucketlist? 

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Stunning Georgia

4. Albania

Daily Budget: 28 euro

Never though of Albania? Well, time to change that! Albania is an underrated country with many mountains, canyons and the Ionian coastline. Albania isn’t full of tourists and therefore prices are very good! Be the first to discover hidden beaches and coves, or walk around in the Albanian Alpes. 

Albania, countries to visit when you are on a budget

5. Nicaragua

Daily Budget: 28 euro

We do not understand why we haven’t been here yet, because this place has it all. Untouched beaches, cute towns, rough nature, volcano’s and it’s extremely cheap to trek around. Above all, the country is relatively tourist free, which is also a big plus for many amongst us. Hotel rooms are an average of 15 euro per night. On average, a couple can live comfortably in Nicaragua for 1200 euro per month, not bad!

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Have another beer in Nicaragua!

6. Greece, Europe

Daily budget: 30 euro or less

I’m speaking out of experience because as you might know because I have been to Greece many times. Firstly, food is one of the cheapest in Europe. For instance, you can feast on a large main course for only 6-9 euro’s. A beer will cost you about 2 euro’s. You will pay double the price in places like Mykonos and Santorini but if you visit the main land or Islands like : Folegandros, Lefkas or Naxos, you can definitely add Greece to your budget destination list.

Greece is great if you're on a budget
Lefkas (Lefkada) is great for budget travel

7. Philippines, Asia

Daily budget: 25 euro or less

It’s not the cheapest of the Asian countries we’ve mentioned but it certainly deserves a place in our top 8 and the reason it’s at number 7 is because of the long flight. The flight is by far the most expensive part of your trip but if you’re lucky you can get a cheap flight at around 600 euro’s per person. On the other hand, the Philippines are pretty untouched by mass tourism (unlike Thailand for example), as a result it can be more difficult to get around sometimes. That’s way you tend to spent more on boats, domestic flights etc. Read more about The Philippines.

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Relaxing in the Philippines

8. Bolivia, South America

Daily budget: 25 euro or less

Bolivia is a very popular destination for backpackers, simply because it’s very affordable to travel. There is something for every budget. Even the good hotels offer reasonable prices. (a 4 star hotel is available for as little as 80 USD) 

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Chill.. cuz your money isn’t going anywhere

In short, budget travel is possible, it just depends on the country you want to visit. And let’s be honest, the above options aren’t so bad right?

Love,

Wander-Lust

More tips?

Panama » the perfect exotic holiday destination

Panama has it all, for me, it’s the perfect exotic holiday destination! It’s small in size but it offers a big variety which is easy to reach; exotic tropical rainforests, beautiful beaches, more than a 1000 islands, best surf spots, an incredible nightlife, breathtaking views, Spanish colonial architecture, jungle, rafting and kayaking. Panama really surprised me and here are my personal tips!

Panama


Panama City

Downtown of Panama
When you enter Panama you will immediately see a very impressive skyline on the right side that is surrounded by tropical rainforest and on the left sight you see the beautiful ocean where people are surfing. In Panama city you will find the business district on one side, with lots of hotels and restaurants with the best shopping opportunities, and on the other side you will find Casco Viejo district, historical center built in the 17th centuryThere’s a lot to discover and activities like jungle trips, a visit to Panama canal are just a few hours away from the city.

Panama still struggles with crime and poverty. In some areas you’re not allowed to enter, which you will know when the police will tell when you try to enter a street.  Panama is definitely tourist friendly, you feel save during the day and night, but people recommend you to take a taxi in the evening.

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The skyline of Panama is so impressive!


Casco Viejo

The Old Town
We stayed in the historic district of Panama City, Casco Viejo – which means old quarter in Spanish, and is only 10 min. away from the business district by taxi. Casco Viejo is small, but you can wander around for days, since this cozy neighborhood has a lot to offer: numerous bars, various restaurants where they service top notch food, great nightlife with some very nice bars where you can order delicious local beers and fresh cocktails, street art, castles, museums etc.

We only had two days to explore Casco Viejo, before heading to the islands, which was too short and therefore we came back again on the end of our trip! You feel at home right away; the locals are very friendly and the area is so incredibly beautiful. Take a walk along the beach where you will have the impressive ocean view, wander through the streets and admire the Spanish architecture with beautiful pastel colored buildings, have a coffee at one of the quality coffee shops, stroll at Plaza de La Independencia Market where I bought this handmade Wayuu Mochila bag, check out the Panama Canal, wander and end your evening with a very nice dinner and have some fresh cocktails at the oceanfront art bar.

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Catedral Metropolitana  & Market at Plaza de La Independencia


Bocas Del Toro

Bocas Town
A propeller plane took us from Panama City to Bocas Del Toro. After one hour you see the Caribbean Sea, the archipelago’s nine islands, surrounded by hundreds of tiny uninhabited islets and the mainland, Bocas Town.

It takes a 10 min.walk to enter Bocas. Bocas is a hotspot amongst travelers all over the world where most lodging and restaurants are. Water taxi’s depart from this mainland to the different islands. During the day you can wander the streets for shopping, drinks and food and in the night Bocas is known for their famous party’s.
Are you looking for a more quit holiday, then you should definitely stay at one of the island like we did. Each island has its own unique vibe and offers travelers diversity.

We skipped the mainland and went directly to Isla Bastimentos by boat, that takes 2 min. We’ve found this tropical romantic Caribbean beach front villa where we relaxed for almost one week. We stayed longer than planned since we really enjoyed the vibe and the surrounded islands with lots of activities.
We swam in crystal clear water, enjoyed beautiful sunsets while drinking delicious cocktails and ate fresh fish which the local fisherman caught. We slept in a very nice cabin where you hear the sounds of lapping waves, parrots and monkeys.
In the night we took a boat to the mainland for dinner and drinks.

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Taxi’s will bring you to different breathtaking islands where you can snorkel, surf, tan and relax.

Red Frog Beach
We often took the boat to some other islands. One of them is Red Frog Beach which is 10  min. from the mainland.

We found this very cozy place, Palmer Tent lodge, where we met some very nice people, one of them was the owner. Unfortunately it was fully booked, we really wanted to stay for a few days. This Eco-friendly beach front place offers lots of activities like; surfing, hiking, zip line riding, yoga and most important you can really just relax in a hammock. They have a small but yummy affordable menu.
I really enjoyed surfing, the teacher was so friendly and patient that I got the change the learn it even better.

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Red Frog Beach, chilling and surfing at Palmer Tent lodge

Tips

» Bring Sunscreen SPF30, you can get burned very easily in Panama, my favorite is Lancaster
» Make sure to bring dollars or exchange your money into their local currency balboa
» Book your domestic flights upfront to save money, Air Panama
» Try to combine Panama with another country when planning a few weeks, like Costa Rica
» Book your stay at Bocas upfront, since it’s a very popular destination and fully booked very easily, check here

Costs

» Tickets cost around 800 euro
» Cabins at the beach start from 35 dollar
» We spent around 50 euro a day per person

We didn’t managed to go to the San Blas islands because unfortunately illness struck me for a few days. It’s suppose to be heaven so hopefully we will get the chance to travel there again!

Love,

Sarah

Interview » From corporate life to adventure in Ecuador

Ever felt like making a completely new start? Leaving the good-old familiarity behind and follow your hunger for adventure? Rebecca Braak, owner of Ecua Horse Rides and Rebecca Adventure Travel, took the challenge and did exactly that. She followed her heart and moved to the sunnier side of the planet. New places, new people, new possibilities, new everything. It’s the ultimate out-of-your-comfortzone-challenge. The human version of rebooting your system.

I asked her 7 questions on how she made it work. From corporate KLM in Amsterdam to her own travel company in Ecuador, from rain to sunshine and routine to absolute happiness. Read and learn!

When did you come up with the idea of living in Ecuador?
Immediately after my MBA graduation I got a wonderful position at my dream company KLM – Royal Dutch Airlines. I had a good job, great colleagues a nice house in Amsterdam and of course my friends. Everything was going well, but something very important was missing in my life; Horses! Life is short, so I decided the change had to be made right away. I decided to take 3 months off and looked for a place in the world where I could volunteer with horses. After spending some time on google I found a ranch where they could use some help with the training of horses, so I took my chance and a couple of weeks later I left to Ecuador to work on a horse ranch in the middle of the Andes.


Rebecca when she was little

You turned your hobby into a travel agency, how did you come up with this idea and how did you make it work?
I just decided to follow my heart and tried to build my life on the other side of the world. I had to earn money and therefore I decided to organize horseback-riding tours for the KLM staff who were having a 48 hour break in Quito. I bought a jeep and every day I sold the tours to guide them the next day. I really thought this was my dream job; horseback riding every day with new people through the beautiful Andes. But I did miss the business aspects and the dynamic which I experienced when I was working for KLM. Therefore, I decided to create two websites where guests could book tours online. Her website ecuahorserides.com became a hit and I can now proudly say I am an official tour operator in Quito.

With offering my tours in Latin America I hope that I can carry out this happiness that I experience in Ecuador to others. – Rebecca Braak

Was it hard for you to leave your comfort zone and start a new adventure overseas?
I can not say that it has always been easy and there were definitely moments that I would have loved to pack my stuff and go back home with the first KLM flight, but I am happy that I pushed through. Sometimes I realize how much luck I have had to have this chance and how happy I am that I went on with it.

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What are the positive and negative aspects of living in South America?
It is a lot easier for me to recall the positive sides of living in Ecuador then the negative ones. Living here is a lot more relaxed than in Holland. The nature is beautiful, it has a great culture to discover, the people are very friendly and you have got to love the Latin American music. One of the biggest negative aspects of living in Ecuador would probably be the poverty and the fact it can be dangerous at times. In the Netherlands you can go anywhere, anytime by yourself on your bike, in Quito you should be way more careful at night.

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The colors of Ecuador

Which sights or activities (beyond the tourist traps) would you recommend when going on holiday to Ecuador?
Stay as long as you can and see as much as you can. Absolute must visits are the Amazon, the Galapagos, the beaches and the volcanoes. If you like hiking you will definitely enjoy the peace and quietness of the nature around Quito.

Do you miss home and family sometimes?
Of course I have times in which I really miss my friends and family. Mainly when things are not going that well. Of course Skype, email and WhatsApp make it far more easy to stay in touch. Although it not the same as being home, it definitely helps. During bad days it helps me to realize I probably also would have had a bad day if I would have been in Holland.

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Making new friends

And finally, do you have any tips for readers that are considering moving abroad?
Maybe this doesn’t sound that original, but I would strongly recommend to ‘follow your heart’. If you really feel like doing it, nothing should stop you. Don’t forget you will always have your save base in Holland where you can fall back on. I truly believe it is better to regret something you did than regret something you did not do.

Rebecca’s story tells us we should never silence our hearts or let fear control it. With the right mindset, anything is possible. So, are you inspired yet?

Love,

Eva

*Eva is one of our guest bloggers from Amsterdam. She’s a city girl who only leaves her heals at home when wearing a backpack. Living by the urge to be where she’s not, to explore, experience, fall and get up. You can follow her on Instagram.

The Cuba Experience

It has been said a million times: “go to Cuba now, while it is still authentic”. And people will probably say it a million times more. Before the Americans flood this paradise, with their all-inclusive resorts and McDonald’s and the Cuban culture is lost. But after spending three weeks on this island, I am convinced it will take a lot more than some Americans and hamburgers for the Cuban culture to get lost. These people are proud of their country, of their food and of their way of living. Even if they don’t own a fortune and have some struggles. So. I would like to rephrase that sentence “Go to Cuba”. Into; it will be authentic for a pretty long time if you ask me, it’s a hell of a country. And while you are there, here’s what you definitely should do to enhance that Cuba experience:

1. Turn of your phone and enjoy the ride
If you are as addicted to your smartphone as I am, this might sound a bit scary. But after a few days of digital detox, you’ll ask yourself why you have never done this before. You see, in Cuba internet and WIFI are not that common. A lot of people don’t even have an internet connection in their homes, let alone on their mobile phones. And they don’t miss or need it. Some Cubans even believe that the internet should be banned from their country since it is making people less and less social. Do as the Cubans do, let go of the feeling of always wanting to be connected to the whole world. Yes, this also means no Google maps and no Instagram. Just look around you, talk to people and feel completely lost and happy.

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2. Drink a Mojito every day, wherever you are
Relax, you’re on a holiday, a little boozing and snoozing won’t hurt. Specially not when you are in Cuba, home of the Mojito. This delicious rum cocktail is what it is all about in this country and you should try as many as possible. No Mojito is the same, whether it’s because of some secret ingredient, the vibe or the view. Not to mention that fact that this elixer of life usually is cheaper than a cola. So it’s best to take another one.

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The Cuba experience is not complete without a Mojito!

You can get one on every street corner, but these are my favourite places:
Hotel Nacional – Havana Vedado: this famous hotel bursts with history and the drinks come with an amazing complementary view.
The little beach hut on Playa Los Cocos – Playa Giron: where the lifeguard is your bartender and the prices will have you order round after round. Centro Recreativo La Punta – Cienfuegos: in a little park, at the southern tip of Cienfuegos, a perfectly well dressed bartender will create a masterpiece for you with precision and craftsmanship. Of how I wish I was there right now. Hostal Colina – Trinidad: on the road to disco Ayala, this casa particulara offers ‘special Mojito’s’, and they sure are special. Just like the garden you will be in while drinking them.

3. Travel with a Taxi collectivo, even if it is just once
Getting around Cuba is easy if you book the Via Azul tourist busses. But it’s fun when you book a taxi collectivo! You’ll share this oldtimer ride with as many people that fit in the vehicle (and sometimes even more) and your luggage on top. This is traveling in style, Cuban style. it’s easy to arrange your taxi collectivo on the streets, many drivers offer their services. Usually it’s easy to bargain and to come to an agreement of the price. Just never pay in advance, you can settle that with the actual driver on the day of your trip.

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4. Only stay at Casa Particulara’s
Thinking about booking a hotel in Cuba? Don’t even bother (unless you have unlimited funds and are aiming for an ultimate high-end holiday). Try a casa particulara, you won’t be disappointed. these casa’s are rooms that are rented out by the Cubans. Usually they come with your own bathroom, your own rocking chair on the porch and sometimes your own entrance. And if you are lucky, with breakfast. It’s the best way to travel for a reasonable price and feeling the local vibe. Also, Casa owners have lots of friends and family in other cities, so if your traveling onwards they always know a new casa and will even arrange it for you. Easy does it!

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Check out:
Casa Eliza – Rafael Trejo, Vinales: spotless rooms, your own entrance and breakfast under the gazebo. Oh and it’s just on street behind the mainstreet, hello centre location!
Casa Hostal El Castillito Yaya y Monolito – Playa Giron: great food, big rooms and Yaya is like a mother to the guests.
Casa Castro & Anita – between C43 and C44, Varadero: big rooms, great location and sweet people. What more can you ask for?

5. Taking a dive
Cuba is home to some real sweet diving spots. However, the best ones are hard to reach and will eat half of your budget. But there is this one place, between two very tiny villages, where the water calls your name and you won’t loose oxygen over the price. Bahia de Cochinos (Bay of Pigs) is where you need to be. There are several dive spots, suited for beginners to the more advanced Dive Masters. First timer? At Playa el Tanque you can go into the water without a boat. Just put on your tank and goggles and go! Best village to stay for this dive trip: Playa Giron. It offers not more than about 4 dusty roads, some houses and a war museum. But it has a beach, some restaurants and the divers bus to take you to the fishes. Dive and chill, my friends.

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6. From Cienfuegos to Trinidad through the mountains

Cienfuegos, it’s a pretty town a lot of travellers skip. Which is a shame since it is the perfect city to do absolutely nothing for a day or two (and sip on those amazing Mojito’s I mentioned earlier). But beside that cocktail, there is one reason why I would urge you to go to this city, and that is the way out to Trinidad. In Cienfuegos you can book a tour at Cubanacan to travel to Trinidad through the beautiful Parque Natural Topes de Collantes, including the amazing El Nicho waterfalls. At the end you will be dropped off in Trinidad. This private tour will take you through the mountains in a jeep, with a real Cuban tourguide. He can tell you all about the surroundings as well as the (communist) culture and lots of other stories. Plus, he knows exactly when El Nicho is not flooded with tourists and you have the natural swimming pools to yourself (oh and he can take stunning pictures from you). You’ll drive past small, simple villages (which have a school and a discotheque) and taste the most amazing coffee you will ever taste at this small cafe in the middle of the mountains. If you are lucky, you’ll also have the chance to sing along to The Backstreetboys playing on an old CD in the car. Here’s your authentic experience!

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Cuba’s nature is stunning too

Enough said. Go to Cuba. Enjoy it to the fullest.

Love,

Jill

Read Jill’s tips about New Zealand here:

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The Salt Flats in Bolivia, A Must Visit!

Reflections, crystal-white salt, never ending views, ice scraped mountains, wildlife, and this all above 4000 km height.  Combine breath taking colorful lagoons with steamy volcanoes, geysers and warm hot-springs. This popular destination is without doubt an unforgettable and magical journey that you will never forget! Experience the world’s largest salt flats: Salar de Uyuni

Salt Flats

The view from the air is exquisite, you can already see the Salt Flats from here

How to get there:
I traveled from La Paz to Uyuni by plane and I paid 1350 Bolivianos for a return flight (this is around 190 euro). The flight only takes 50 minutes and it departs at 7am with Amazons airlines or at 8am with BOA airlines. The view from the air is exquisite, you can already see the Salt Flats from here.
From the airport you need to take a taxi that will bring you to the center of Uyuni for just 10 Bolivianos (1.40 euro).  You can also take a bus from La Paz to Uyuni, that will only costs you 30 euros for a return ticket and they will drop you in the center of Uyuni.  It takes around 8 or 9 hours one way (depending on the traffic).

SALT FLATS

TIP! Make sure you arrive in the center of Uyuni before 10am, so you will have enough time to arrange your tour. The tour starts around 11am.

Tours
The Salar de Uyuni tours range in length from one to four days. During a one day tour you will experience the salt flats as well as a few other sights in the surrounding area and you’ll do it by jeep. The three or four day tours will take you deeper into the desert where you will see steamy volcanoes, geysers, colorful lakes, warm hot-springs, unique wildlife and a lot more…..I definitely recommend a three or four day trip if you like a little adventure.

Salt Flats

Where To Buy Your Ticket
You can choose to book your ticket in La Paz (or another city), but we’d heard that it’s cheaper and also super easy to fix in Uyuni , so we decided to book it there. When you arrive in the center of Uyuni in the early morning you will find many local agencies who all want to sell a ticket to you. They will attack you and it’s hard to choose. For your info, they all offer the same tours, it’s just the price that diverse from the other. Eventually it’s cheaper to book your ticket in Uyuni. We paid 680 Bolivianos for 3 days, including food, drinks and 2 night’s stay.

TIP! Try to find at least 5 people and start to negotiate (every jeep will take a group of up to 6 people).

The Tour
Day 1: 

  • Arrive at the small village of Colchani where you will have the chance to buy some local souvenirs 
  • The original Salt Hotel 
  • Salar de Uyuni (Uyuni salt flats), where you get enough time to make pictures and see the sunset
  • Uyuni center where you will have dinner and spend the night

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Mirror mirror on the wall..

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The Sunset at the Salt Flats is something else..

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Image by Nancy 

Day 2:

  • Wake up at 7am and leave at 8am
  • Breakfast in a small village on the way to the next stop (Bread with jam and coffee or tea)
  • Exploring the Cementerio de trenes 
  • Valle de Rocas where you get lunch (meat with salad and potatoes
  • Small desert of Chiguana on the south side of Salar de Uyuni where you stop at a lookout to view steamy volcanoes
  • Breathtaking colorful Lagoons: Hedionda, Onda with many flamingos , Lagoon Colorodo National park (protected where you need to pay 15o Bolivianos)
  • Eat and sleep in a hostel. You get a tea and coffee with cookies when you arrive and for dinner we got this nice vegetable soup and spaghetti with a bottle of red wine

TIP! Bring your own wine! Or…. If your wine is finito and you wish for more than you can buy it in the small village where you are staying (around the corner), that sells beers, wines, cookies, chips and more.

Salt Flats
Cementerio de trenes

Unusual places to visit before you die
Train tracks leading to…

Salt Flats
Valle de Rocas

Salar de Uyuni

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Lagoon Onda

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

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Lagoon Colorodo

Day 3:

  • Wake up at 6am, have breakfast (delicious pancakes for breakfast in the morning with tea and coffee) and leave at 7.30am
  • Visit the Sol de Mañana” geysers while the sun comes up
  • The natural hot-springs. The volcanic activity produces some thermal springs. Best way to get warm again. 
  • Laguna Verde – the green lake – only green in October and November due to the change in alga’s
  • Lunch on the way back – salad with tuna, vegetables and pasta with a beautiful view (6 hour ride back to Uyuni)
  • Last stop is the local market 1 hour before Uyuni. Time to go to the toilet and buy some drinks

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Sol de Mañana” geysers

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Sunset at the geysers

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The natural hot-springs 

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Laguna Verde

You can describe the Salt Flats tour in one word: Memorable! 

Love,

Sarah

Read more about Sarah’s adventure in Bolivia and the main reason she went there:

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Women with a mission in La Paz, Bolivia

Peace on earth, the freedom to make your own decisions, is what the leaders of Catolicas Por El Derecho A Decider in La Paz pray for.
Men make decisions for their women when they get married: How many children they get, when they can visit a friend, the approval for a medicine…. and a lot more. The leaders in La Paz are on a mission, they want to inform women about their rights and their possibilities in Bolivia.



Before speaking with the local leaders of Catolicas Por El Derecho A Decidir about their mission, we made an offering of seeds and water to Pachamama (Mother Earth). Together we prayed for women inside and outside La Paz, for a brighter future where men and women are equal! It was a special moment to experience.

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“I wanted to end my pregnancy, but my husband forbid me to do so”

We spoke with three incredible and strong leaders of the organization in La Paz:

Eugenia “I need my husband’s permission to leave the house”

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She’s 60 years old, makes handmade clothes and sells it to friends and family, she has 4 children and is married.
She found a very nice husband, but in the beginning he was super jealous and therefore she couldn’t leave the house. “He expected me to cook, clean, wash and that’s it. I spoke with other women in my village and some of them were studying and I wanted the same!” Eventually she was allowed to take some courses and after their children were old enough her husband changed his perception. Since then she can do whatever she wants as long as she tells him. She’s is super happy that she can inform and help other women and she wants to do this until her last day!

Encarnacion “Women who want to explore are not worthy.”



She’s 41 years old, bakes cookies and cakes and sells it on the local market, she has 5 children and is married. 
“My dad was an alcoholic and hit my mother on a daily base. My mother protected us, so we stayed unharmed. One thing I know for sure is that I didn’t want to end up with a guy like my father. I found a super sweet man, but his family was horrible. They told him many times that women who wanted to explore are not worthy. So I was not allowed to do anything (work, study.. etc.) and I had to stay home. It got better when other women in our village talked about projects where they learned to sew and cook. This is how I learned to cook even better and eventually I got in contact with Catolicas por el derecho a decider where I now give workshops to my own village people. My husband supports me completely and his family has to deal with it.

Alejandra “I wanted to end my pregnancy, but my husband forbid me to do so”

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She’s 24 years old, studies Communication on the University in La Paz, she has one little daughter of 4 years old and she’s divorced.
Alejandra got accidentally pregnant when she was 20 years old. She wanted to end her pregnancy, because she was still studying, they didn’t had money and her relationship wasn’t that great, but her husband forbid her to do so. He humiliated her when he found out that she wanted to kill their baby. She didn’t have another option, so decided to keep it. Within a few weeks her husband left her and their child for another woman. Luckily her parents helped her out and so she continued her study. She is in her last year, she gives workshops and leisure’s about the possibilities for women on high schools. She talks with young girls in the hope that they have the opportunity to make their own decisions. She’s super optimistic about her future.

Workshops at High school 
After lunch we traveled together with some of the leaders to a Highschool where Catolicas por el derecho a decider gives workshops to young children about gender equality and more. A big problem with young female women is that they get pregnant on a young age and they have no idea what their options are. This day they introduced something new, a card game with questions: What would you do when you got pregnant? Is it OK to enjoy seks? Where to go to when you are pregnant? They try to inform children in a fun way.


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Donate!

One of our reporters Renske appointed it perfectly in her article: “You read a lot about Servië, Iran and Eretria, but we only read about Bolivia in travel magazines. 
The prays and life lessons of these leaders plus the workshops of Mensen met een missie are needed as you can tell. Please donate of you haven’t done yet here!!!

Love,

Sarah

A memorable day in Bolivia

For some women in the world the 8th of March is just another ordinary day, but for women in Bolivia it is ‘the day’ that they fight against violence. We marched on the streets in Sucre (Bolivia) with around 50 women who all have something in common; they are humiliated and scarred for life. I’ve asked myself the question, will this ever stop?!

Sucre – ‘la ciudad blanca’ or white city, is the capital of Bolivia which lies at an elevation of 2,810 meters. Many of the buildings in the center of this beautiful white-washed town date back to the 16th century.  It’s famous for it’s historic buildings, indigenous culture, nightlife, bars and restaurants. An old-world charm place that is unlike any other. It seems so peaceful, but a lot happens behind doors.

A memorable day in Bolivia we will never forget!

In the early morning we walked with our group of volunteers to the Levantate de Mujer office where around 50 women were ready to march the streets of Sucre. And we marched with them!

They were holding brown papers and shouted what rights they should and want to have: the right to study, the right to work, the right to choose who to marry…… To make an end to discrimination based on gender!




Interview with local radio and tv!

We gathered around at Playa Major with lots of other women and luckily also some men.
Aracely, 21 years old – Marilena, 17 years –  Ligia, 36 year – these are a few of the names and ages of women who are murdered, beaten to dead or burned. These names are visible on a ribbon of waving flags on the square. The leaders of Levantate de Mujer gave interviews to local radio and tv shows. The problem is clearly visible today and that’s definitely needed.


Ribbon of waving flags of women who are murdered, beaten to dead or burned

In the afternoon we spoke with some of the women who participate in projects of Levantate de Mujer. 

Patricia – “My husband punched me several times. I got 3 fractured ribs and a damaged face and more.. But even worse, he physically humiliated me.”


Tears in her eyes

Her story got me. She closed her eyes and began her story:
” I haven a violent past, my husband punched me several times. I got 3 fractured ribs and a damaged face and a lot more.. But even worse, he physically humiliated me. I wasn’t good enough for him and my children. He tortured one of  my children and she died. I still didn’t know what to do, so I let him do his thing for many years. Eventually I got in contact with this organization via a neighbor. I left my husband and I’m still so happy that I did! My children an I spoke with a psychologist and we learned how to move forward. I want to be there for my children, so therefore I learned how to cook, sew etc. I got my confidence back and my children do much better!”

We cried with her and we were quiet for a few minutes….

There’s still a lot of violence against women, but with the help of the workshops of Mensen met Een Missie  there’s an opportunity for these women!
So if you haven’t donated yet, than please do
here!

You will find more info about Levantate de Mujer and Mensen Met een Missie here

All images are shot by Ilsoo van Dijk 


Love, 

Sarah

International Women’s Day: Violence against women in Bolivia

You won’t see me sipping on cocktails on a white sandy beach these next couple of weeks. Nope, this time you will see me visiting various local organizations in Bolivia for Dutch organisation ‘Mensen met een Missie’. Wander-Lust and a group of volunteers are here to support the human rights for women.  


Women from different backgrounds at Levantate Mujer in Sucre with all the reporters 

There’s a lot of violence against women in Bolivia. Seven out of the ten women are dealing with physical or sexual abuse. I haven’t seen any violence in the streets in Bolivia so far, but it happens at home where you won’t see it.

I thought it was normal that my husband physically humiliated me – Patricia

‘Mensen met een Missie’ supports young people and victims and I got the chance to talk with these women and to share their stories with you.
Today it’s International Women’s day, the day where we celebrate women’s achievements and opportunities worldwide. A very important day for these women in Bolivia.

The Women from Bolivia with a story:

1. Jacqueline
“I learned to be independent”

A woman of 37 with two kids of 17 (student of a university) and 11 (student) wasn’t afraid to share her story. She was a victim of violence, but not anymore.
She learned via workshops how to stand up for yourself, how to treat your kids and how to be independent. She has her own business in kids clothes and is happy that her kids are doing great. She’s very thankful that she got the support which helped her to be where she is right now.

2. Patricia
“I thought it was normal that my husband physically humiliated me”



My husband told me day in and out that I was stupid, not good enough for our kids, that I was ugly and a lot more. I got in contact with Levantate Mujer (local organisation which Mensen met een Missie supports) via my neighbours and after a few workshops from Mensen met een Missie I learned that it was not normal how my husband treated me. Within a few weeks Patricia got an enormous amount of confidence and decided to leave her husband. She learned how to educate her children (5 kids between 4 and 15) and her goal is to give them a ‘normal’ future. She now works on a local market where she sells bags and more handcrafted items.

3. Noellia
“I got beaten up by my husband several times in the past, but he changed since he started following the workshops of Mensen met een Missie.”



I met this young and talented mother of 2 kids at Levantate Mujer in Sucre. She told us that her husband changed since he got in contact with this organisation.  “Before he didn’t accept that women study, but now he does. He’s is a different man and he supports me in my ways. I now study history and work as a teacher at Levantate Mujer.”

“They all survived, but not all of them have. Some go back to their husband anyway.”

About Mensen met een Missie
Mensen met een Missie was founded in 1931 and is involved in about 350 initiatives of partner organizations in 16 target countries, Africa, Asia and Latin America. They join forces and coordinate their program with other stakeholders in each of the 16 countries. One of the countries is Bolivia, where they support local organisation Fundacion Levantate Mujer in 5 different cities. Levantate Mujer, means women who stand up’ is the organization who helps women to build up an independent life and teach them the rights for women (that’s it not normal that their husband is beaten them up).  These women have has a hard time: now money to feed their kids and there was no place where they could go to. Finally there’s a place where they can go to.

One of the things they are focusing on is reducing the violence against women by learning women what their rights are. Mensen met een Missie is supporting this topic with workshops. Women get the change to enter one of the shelter homes of Fundacion Levantate Mujer where they learn how to cook, sew, knitting and more for free.



Women learn how to sew

They also have the opportunity to learn how to work with computers. 
Mensen met een Missie offers workshops every month where women get informed about women rights and how to educate their kids. This local organisation offers child service upstairs for their kids between 2.5-5 years old and for kids from 5-6 years old they help out with school stuff for their children that go to school. This way they make it a lot easier for women to take courses and workshops since they don’t have to babysit.

Hopefully it’s gives you a better understanding of where the money will go when you donate. If you haven’t done so yet then please do! It’s a beautiful initiative and they need your help to keep on supporting these women!

Donate here

All images are shot by Ilsoo van Dijk 

Love,

Sarah

Dancing around Cuba » Don’t miss these 7 highlights

Cuba, a destination where you, so to say ‘travel back in time’. Its most distinguishing mark are probably its old-timers. You just can’t ignore all the Plymouths, Chevrolets and Pontiacs driving around. But, Cuba is much more than that. It’s a diverse country with an interesting history, beautiful beaches, great nature, lovely people, charming cities and not to forget tasty rum, good cigars and spectacular salsa. Literally in every restaurant and on each plaza there’s a salsa band playing the famous Guantanamera, Chan Chan, or another salsa song. With this music, I felt like dancing around Cuba. My favorite places:

1. Havana: a great way to start your holiday
The capital of Cuba is quite touristic, but it definitely has its charm as well. Especially Havana Vieja has a great ambiance with its cosy streets, beautiful colonial buildings and amiable plazas where you can enjoy a local beer or mojito while listening to (or dancing on) the first salsa tones. Outside Havana Vieja, the fortress El Morro, Plaza de la Revolución and the Malécon are also worth a visit. Altogether, my boyfriend and I got a nice first glimpse of the Cuban culture here.

Havana, Cuba
A local bar on one of the main squares in Havana

2. Valle de Viñales: a good dose of nature
We explored the Valle de Viñales by doing a five-hour tour on horses. Once entering the national park, the so-called mogotes, lime-stone cliffs, start rising from the bottom of the valley which makes it a spectacular view. During the tour we also visited a cave, a coffee plantation, a lake and a cigar plantation. The cigar is another signature of Cuba, so the farmer that showed us how they’re made, insisted I also tried one, because I otherwise did not really visit Cuba. To be honest, it didn’t taste as bad as I thought it would, mainly because the farmer had dipped the cigar in a bit of honey to make it sweeter (as the Cubans basically do with everything).

3. El Nicho: imposing waterfall
The trip to this waterfall, just outside the national park Topes de Calientes, was sensational on itself. All of a sudden, you’re driving around in this green, mountainous region. At some point, our taxi could not cope very well with these hills and the driver had to give the motor some water every 500 meters. When we finally arrived, we still had some hiking to do in order to reach the waterfall. It was quite hot, but the view of the waterfall, and the ability to jump into its cold water, was definitely worth it.

El Nicho
The EL Nicho waterfall

4. Trinidad: city of the salsa
Trinidad is a city with an amazing vibe, one that can hardly be described. You just have to go there to experience it. The city centre is quite small and picturesque with its Spanish colonial architecture. At night, the main square, Plaza Major, is filled with lots of people. Not only tourists, but also the Cubans gather here to listen to live music and dance the salsa. Since the salsa also is a characteristic of Cuba, we wanted to learn dancing it ourselves. So, we took a salsa class at a dancing school in Trinidad. We actually felt like doing a pretty good job; until later that night we watched some Cubans dancing in the square… that was something different!

5. Playa Santa Lucia: beautiful beaches and fantastic diving
Santa Lucia is a small town at the north coast of Cuba. It was the most peaceful town of our trip. There were nearly no tourists, so we really felt like we were amongst Cubans. Next to the beautiful beaches (best one is Playa Los Cocos, just 8kms outside Santa Lucia) it’s also a great place for diving. During our dive we saw a 66m long ancient shipwreck with beautiful coral on top and nice fishes swimming around. I can tell you, that’s really impressive.

Playa Los Cocos Cuba
Playa Los Cocos

6. The city of the revolution: Santa Clara
Santa Clara is mainly interesting because of its history. This is the city where Che Guevara successfully derailed an armoured train, which was a key tipping point in the Cuban revolution. This train, called Tren Blindado, can still be seen on the exact spot where it derailed. On the other side of town, at Plaza de la Revolución, you’ll find a massive monument of Guevara together with the mausoleum that houses the remains of this famous revolutionist and a museum that tells you all about him.

7. Las Cuevas de Bellamar in Matanzas: some impressive caves
At first, we were not sure whether to visit the Caves just outside Matanzas, since we’ve seen stalactites and stalagmites before. In the end we did decide to go, and boy was I happy with this decision. All previous caves were dwarfed by this supposedly 24kms long cave. Only 2kms are open for visitation, in which you can see spectacular halls and galleries, that all have their own names. Feels like walking around in a completely different, almost fairy-tale like world.

Bellamar caves in Cuba
One of the galleries in the Bellamar caves

Are you ready for some dancing around Cuba?

Love,

Dionne

*Dionne is one of our guest bloggers from the Netherlands, currently living in Den Bosch. In everyday life she works as a marketing-communications professional. She loves to travel to distant destinations, but I also enjoy a city trip closer to home.