South America tour (September - November 2017)

This year I spent more time travelling than ever - my second longer tour took me to South America in early September when summer was pretty much over in Finland (and spring was on its way on the opposite side of the globe). This continent was mostly unknown territory for me before this tour as I had only been to Peru and Bolivia before this trip. I booked open jaw flights from Helsinki to Rio de Janeiro and then back to Helsinki from Santiago. Like usually I did not have a very detailed itinerary in my mind when I left home- just a couple of must-see destinations like Tierra del Fuego and Easter Islands. 

My Spanish skills are almost non-existent so I was expecting some language barrier which proved out to be true. There were a couple of occassions when I found it really difficult to sort out some practical things like buying bus tickets but in general it was fairly easy to survive and I also managed to pick up some Spanish eventually.  I felt safe traveling in almost all the locations I visited except for the big cities in Brazil: Sao Paulo was one of the dodgiest places I have ever visited and the only attempted scam took place in Rio de Janeiro.

I did not know how many kilometers I travelled but there must be thousands of them. I took a couple of flights to save time even though buses are good and comfortable there. I ended up visiting five countries: Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, Uruguay and Chile. I kept coming back to Argentina quite a few times (eventually passing the border to Argentina four times). I spent the first weeks in the heat of Brazil before heading to south where the weather was almost freezing still. My final destination was Chile where the weather ranged from chilly spring weather of Torres del Paine to the cruel daytime heat of Atacama desert. 

In general I enjoyed this tour but traveling such big distances took its toll and it was good to come home. I visited several amazing places I had dreamt of for long, chilled out properly and experienced some of the most memorable football matches so far. Again two and half months was just the right duration for a tour like this - at least for me! When I returned I did not feel like booking flight tickets (at least for a while) - all in all I had been abroad for almost 6 months during this calendar year...

Below is a summary of the countries I visited, see diaries and photo gallery pages for more details! The diary entries are in Finnish (except for the summaries) at it is easier to express my feelings with my native language.

  1. Brazil: Rio de Janeiro, Paraty, Sao Paulo, Foz do Iguacu (incl. trip to Argentina side)
  2. Paraguay: Ciudad del Este, Encarnacion
  3. Argentina: Buenos Aires
  4. Uruguay: Montevideo, Cabo Polonio, Punta del Diablo, Montevideo, Punta del Este, Colonia
  5. Argentina: Buenos Aires, Ushuaia
  6. Chile: Punta Arenas, Puerto Natales, trip to El Calafate (Argentina), Punta Arenas, Iquique, Calama, San Pedro de Atacama, Calama, Santiago, Easter Islands, Santiago

Brazil
I did not know what to expect from this huge country and I just managed to cover the most popular tourist destinations during the three weeks I spent in this country. I enjoyed my time in Rio de Janeiro and spent a lot more time there than I originally planned. The football matches I went to were really good fun and there is so much to see in this huge city. Sao Paulo was bit scary place but fascinating in its own way. Iguazu falls were just as magnificent as I thought!  

Photo gallery
Diary

Paraguay
This little country (at least by South American standards) did not sound so exciting when I was doing my research before the trip and I would still say so - even though I spent just a couple of days there. Compared to the other countries in the area there are no world class sights in Paraguay and tourists were nowhere to be seen. I just stayed in the border towns of Ciudad del Este and Encarnacion before I decided to move on to Argentina - wonder what kind of place the capital would have been?  

Photo gallery
Diary

Argentina - part 1
I took a long night bus ride from Paraguay all the way to Buenos Airea where the spring time had just begun. I spent about one week in this huge city that has a surprisingly European vibe. Again I went to some excellent football matches and enjoyed visiting the numerous sights that this megacity offers: anything from tango shows to graffiti spotting and long walks in this pedestrian-friendly city. Before exploring other areas of this huge country I decided to cross the bay by ferry and head to Uruguay for some time...

Photo gallery
Diary

Uruguay
I really liked Uruguay - as a country it feels bit less chaotic than its neighbours but there is a kind of mellow and relaxed vibe everywhere: people just enjoy their mate drinks and take things easy. I would have been nice to experience the beach scene during summer time - now I was there maybe one month too early and the beach resort towns were almost deserted. One of my highlights in Uruguay was to watch the football World Cup final qualifier match in the legendary Montevideo stadium. I spent around two weeks in Uruguay before it was time to return to Buenos Aires.

Photo gallery
Diary

Argentina - part 2
I stayed for a while in Buenos Aires before it was time to catch a flight all the way to Tierra del Fuego that is the southermost tip of this continent. Flying to Ushuaia is like taking the plane from Helsinki to Spain and as expected the weather changed completely when I landed. I saw some snow during the following days but in general the weather was not that much different from the typical spring days in Finland. I spotted some cute penguins and did some good hiking in the national parks around Ushuaia - would recommend this area for everyone who is interested in nature and getting an overdose of fresh air!

Photo gallery
Diary

Chile
I spent the final weeks of my tour almost entirely in Chile (except for the short trip to Perito Moreno glacier in Argentina). I took several flights because distances are huge in this "skinny" (and tall) country. First I continued exploring the southernmost parts of the continent and after that I headed all the way to northern Chile to see the magnificient desert of Atacama. I took another flight to the capital and after a quick pit stop it was time to make the long journey to Easter Islands - a place that had been on my to-do list for a while. Rapa Nui was truly amazing and after several days there it was time to fly back to Santiago and start preparing for the long way home...    

Photo galleries: Chile: part 1 / part 2 and Argentina / part 3
Diary

My locations by date (based on where I stayed overnight)

6.9.2017 Flight from Helsinki to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
7.9.2017 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
8.9.2017 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
9.9.2017Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
10.9.2017 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
11.9.2017 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
12.9.2017 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
13.9.2017 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
14.9.2017 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
15.9.2017 Paraty, Brazil
16.9.2017 Paraty, Brazil
17.9.2017 Sao Paulo, Brazil
18.9.2017 Sao Paulo, Brazil
19.9.2017 Sao Paulo, Brazil
20.9.2017 Foz do Iguacu, Brazil
21.9.2017 Foz do Iguacu, Brazil
22.9.2017 Ciudad del Este, Paraguay
23.9.2017 Encarnacion, Paraguay
24.9.2017 Encarnacion, Paraguay
25.9.2017 Night bus to Buenos Aires, Argentina
26.9.2017 Buenos Aires, Argentina
27.9.2017 Buenos Aires, Argentina
28.9.2017 Buenos Aires, Argentina
29.9.2017Buenos Aires, Argentina
30.9.2017Buenos Aires, Argentina
1.10.2017 Buenos Aires, Argentina
2.10.2017 Montevideo, Uruguay
3.10.2017 Montevideo, Uruguay
4.10.2017 Cabo Polonio, Uruguay
5.10.2017 Cabo Polonio, Uruguay
6.10.2017 Cabo Polonio, Uruguay
7.10.2017 Punta del Diablo, Uruguay
8.10.2017 Punta del Diablo, Uruguay
9.10.2017 Montevideo, Uruguay
10.10.2017 Montevideo, Uruguay
11.10.2017 Punta del Este, Uruguay
12.10.2017 Punta del Este, Uruguay
13.10.2017 Punta del Este, Uruguay
14.10.2017 Punta del Este, Uruguay
15.10.2017 Punta del Este, Uruguay
16.10.2017 Colonia, Uruguay
17.10.2017 Colonia, Uruguay
18.10.2017 Buenos Aires, Argentina
19.10.2017 Ushuaia, Argentina
20.10.2017 Ushuaia, Argentina
21.10.2017 Ushuaia, Argentina
22.10.2017 Ushuaia, Argentina
23.10.2017 Ushuaia, Argentina
24.10.2017 Punta Arenas, Chile
25.10.2017 Puerto Natales, Chile
26.10.2017 Puerto Natales, Chile
27.10.2017 Puerto Natales, Chile
28.10.2017 El Calafate, Argentina
29.10.2017El Calafate, Argentina
30.10.2017Punta Arenas, Chile
31.10.2017Iquique, Chile
1.11.2017Iquique, Chile
2.11.2017 Calama, Chile
3.11.2017 San Pedro de Atacama, Chile
4.11.2017 San Pedro de Atacama, Chile
5.11.2017 San Pedro de Atacama, Chile
6.11.2017 Calama, Chile
7.11.2017 Santiago, Chile
8.11.2017 Santiago, Chile
9.11.2017 Easter Islands, Chile
10.11.2017 Easter Islands, Chile
11.11.2017 Easter Islands, Chile
12.11.2017 Easter Islands, Chile
13.11.2017 Easter Islands, Chile
14.11.2017Santiago, Chile
15.11.2017Santiago, Chile
16.11.2017Flight from Santiago, Chile to Helsinki
17.11.2017Helsinki
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