On December 17, 2014, Barack Obama and Raúl Castro announced the start of normalizing Cuba-US relations. At that very moment, we were wandering the streets of Havana, unaware of this historic day due to the lack of internet. The latter is just one of the many consequences of an economic embargo and communist rule for half a century. It is what makes Havana a city like no other, breathing history but longing for a future.
When moving to Argentina for a yearlong exchange, I expected a bustling city like Buenos Aires or Córdoba. Instead, I landed in a humid little town up North, separated from the nearest city by fifty miles of palm trees. Little did I know this would make my experience all the more special.
Mendoza can be divided in three wine-making regions: Maipú, Lujan de Cuyo and Valle de Uco. The latter is said to produce the best wines on the most beautiful grounds, with the snowcapped Andes peaks towering out over the vineyards. After visiting four wineries in Mendoza, I would have to agree.
Other than producing delicious wine, Argentinean provinces La Rioja and San Juan are known for two remarkable parks. Ischigualasto and Talampaya National Park contain a unique fossil record of the Triassic Period, often called the Age of the Dinosaurs. The desert area also hosts the annual Dakar Rally.
The provinces of Salta and Jujuy are home to some of the most scenic drives in Argentina. We picked colonial Salta as a base to explore the northwest’s dramatic landscapes. Let it all sink in with a glass of Torrontés in wine-heaven Cafayate.
Iguazú National Park comprises hundreds of waterfalls, right on the border of Argentina and Brazil. The views from both countries are entirely different, making a visit of each side imperative. A clear winner came out of our trip, which we continued South to the ruins of San Ignacio Miní.
Five years after my AFS exchange in Argentina, I showed my parents why I fell in love with this country. We started our trip with an eventful passage through Buenos Aires. Midnight fireworks, tourist traps, passionate tango and ingenious robbery were all part of the introductory program.
We topped off our amazing trip to Peru with a relaxing three-day stay in the Peruvian Amazon. A short boat ride from Puerto Maldonado lies Tambopata National Reserve, home to an abundance of wildlife. Limited accessibility makes this a relatively undiscovered part of Peru.
The Salkantay trekking to Machu Picchu is a unique four-day hike through extremely diverse scenery. We passed snow-covered peaks, turquoise lakes, coffee plantations, hot springs and more on route to Peru’s Wonder of the World. The tropical storms and frozen fingertips only added to the adventure. On day four, we explored the majestic Inca city before the crowds arrived.
Peru’s Cusco region has something on offer for everyone. Savor Andean specialties, explore the Inca Empire or hike through stunning landscapes. These are ten activities not to be missed in and around Cusco.
After our intense morning exercise in the Colca Canyon, we could sit back and relax on a ten-hour bus trip to Puno. Following a spectacular sunrise over Lake Titicaca from our hotel room, we launched our kayaks onto the world’s highest navigable lake.
So far we had discovered Peru by air, sea and sand; now we would do so by land. Following a day in Arequipa, we put on our hiking boots for a two-day trek in the world’s second deepest canyon.
We started our two-week trip to Peru along its Pacific Coast. The country welcomed us with excellent seafood, a shower of bird shit and a private jet ride.