The Beauty in Southamerica’s Nature

Between extremes – jungle, glaciers and deserts

Volunteering with Intiwawa not only gives you the opportunity to get to know the Peruvian culture but also other southamerican countries either before, after or even during your stay in Arequipa. Having traveled through this wonderful continent for several months, I tried to sum up the most breathtaking places for you. Due to Latinamerica’s diversity and mixture between vivid megacities, stunning landscapes and interesting historical landmarks, I separated our highlights into different topics.

8. Titicaca Lake

Titicaca Lake is the world’s highest navigable lake and can be found at the boarder between Bolivia and Peru. It contains several ancient islands, some of them are called floating island as they are simply made out of reed. Hopefully, you’re lucky enough to discover the lake’s real beauty: in the sunlight the water turns into a deep blue colour and if the sight is good enough you will see the Andes in the background, wow!

7. Vulcano Villarrica

This volcano stands for every volcano in Southamerica. In ancient beliefs volcanoes were seen as warriors while mountains represented beautiful women. Visiting this continent you should definitely climb one of these warriors, as they shape the majority of the picture of the Andes. I chose this active volcano in Chile, and even though it was one of the most exhausting things I had ever done in my life, it was completely worth it. The view inside the crater is absolutely stunning and maybe you’ll even be able to catch some magma.

6. Geyser Sol de Manana

I visited this geyser on our Jeeptour in Bolivia. It is over 5000m high, but that isn’t the only thing that will take your breath away. Other than most of the geysers this one doesn’t spit water, but mud. The sound, the smell and also seeing pieces of silt jumping out of the small craters are really disgusting at first. But for some reason you’ll discover a special beauty in that place looking at its strong colours, some are blue or green, one of them is even bright red

5. Salar de Uyuni

I don’t know a single travelguide that would leave out this salt flat when talking about Southamerica, deservedly so. You really don’t know what to say driving for hours straight and all you see is salt. You won’t even meet a single tourist, the expanse of this place is simply impressive. Don’t miss out on the sunrise on the Isla Incahuasi, where you’ll sit between hundreds of beautiful cactuses!

4. Iguazu Falls

Same with this highlight. Although it is pretty touristy you shouldn’t think about leaving it out. This waterfall system, that is shared between Brazil and Argentina, is the biggest in the world, as it contains around 280 single waterfalls. Being located in the rainforest you’ll also be able to spot some exotic animals and plants. This visit is an unique experience, as you’ll get wet, can barely talk because of the noise and see the masses of water running down the edges on which you are standing

3. Perito Moreno glacier

This glacier in Patagonia, southern Argentina, is one of the view glaciers left on earth that are still growing. By walking on different paths you can either get really close to this icy monster or get an overview of the whole scenery. You can also just find yourself a spot and observe the glacier, I promise, it won’t get boring. Due to its calving, big pieces of ice break and fall into the water making incredible noise, you will have the impression that it is a living creature.

2. Atacama desert

The Atacama desert in the north of  hile is the world’s driest desert, here you would need one year to fill a small cup of water with rain. Knowing this you’ll expect a Sahara-like desert only made out of sand, but it is so much more diverse. You can find volcanoes, lagoons, geysers, valleys of rocks and last but not least the clearest night sky in the world. Don’t miss out on an astronomic tour, especially when you’re from the northern hemisphere, you’ll discover stars and galaxies that you cannot see at home.  

1. Torres del Paine

At the other end of Chile you can find this impressive Nationalpark, that I still can’t believe it’s true. It’s famous for its three remarkable mountain peeks, the ‘Torres’, but even though they aren’t always visible, this park has so much more to offer. There are four different micro climates and due to the strong wind, the weather changes crazily rapidly. Honestly, I’ve never experienced a wind like this: Busses started shaking and sometimes you couldn’t even stand straight anymore. Next to the glaciers and the cute guanacos, they belong to the family of the llamas, that can be found everywhere, the most stunning thing for me were the lakes. Made out of water from the glaciers, every lake has their own tone of colour, but all of them are so bright and almost artificial blue, that you’d believe you’re part of a picture in a travel magazine that writes about some paradise oceans. A must-see in Southamerica!

What’s good to know before you go

Southamerica might be a completely new world for most of us when coming to this continent for the first time. You’ll get used to it really fast, though, and knowing some things, some are necessary some are only recommendations,  before you leave will definitely make it easier:

  1. The most important thing is to not be afraid! Some people and books create an impression of this really dangerous continent, it is not, at least if you follow the most simple rules like not taking a cab when it is dark outside, carrying your personal belongings in a fanny bag, avoid the more risky parts of city (like everywhere else) but most crucially, don’t loose your common sense! If you trust your good judgment, you’ll be safe most of the time.
  2. Depending on where you’re from you will have to get used to a different mentality. Everything will be more relaxed, everything works slower, don’t worry that much, just go with it, maybe it’s good for you, too, to leave the stressful environment at home.
  3. In case you plan on traveling around, pack light and functional! You won’t need that many clothes, and especially nothing uncomfortable. Be prepared to layer as the weather can change really fast some times.
  4. Coming from more western countries, we always assume that the price we’re told to pay for something is fix. It’s not. Most of the time, especially because you will look like a tourist, there’s space to bargain: with taxi drivers or tour guides. But attention, it is inappropriate to negotiate the price of food!
  5. Talking about touristic tours: don’t book them online and in advance, it will be significantly more expensive! Just go to that place and visit some tour operators. Do some research on how much a tour like this should cost, we’ve been on tours where we’ve paid a fourth of what other people had to pay!
  6.  Looking for accommodations, I would always go for AirBnBs. If you’re not alone, it is really cheap but most importantly, you get to live like the locals, which brings you closer to the culture.
  7. If you haven’t already noticed, buses are the way to get around, but they work differently than at home. Basically, they stop whenever you want them to stop, no matter if you want to get on the bus or get off. It can be confusing at times, you may always find the right bus to use but you never know when to get off. That’s why I’d recommend you to download an offline map (I was incredibly happy with, so that you can follow along.
  8. A great way to save some money is changing of where and what you eat. Many restaurant have special promotions, if you follow those, it will be way cheaper. But especially, don’t shy away from food trucks or old ladies cooking in the streets. I had my best and most traditional meals eating at places like this, sometimes for not even 1€!
  9. You cannot throw the toilet paper into the toilet!!! And you should always carry some with you, as it’s not provided everywhere.
  10.  And one last recommendation for all the German volunteers: In case you don’t have a credit card yet, go for the DKB Visa. You can use it everywhere without having to pay fees for the card itself. Once you’ve arrived in Arequipa, there are banks that won’t charge you anything with this card!