Places we Visited in 2017 But Did Not Write About

At this time of the year, most travel bloggers publish an annual review of their travels. Here is ours, but with a twist: places we visited in 2017 but did NOT write about.

You might ask: why did we leave out some places we visited? Well, the reasons vary. Some locations never really inspired us; in several cities we didn’t spend enough time to write anything comprehensive (we’re just not ‘city people’); other places are so popular that they have been covered by dozens of websites – we didn’t have anything new to add…

Our end-of-year summary: places we visited in 2017 but did not write about. Here we explain why these locations weren't mentioned on our blog.

Our end-of-year summary: places we visited in 2017 but did not write about. Here we explain why these locations weren’t mentioned on our blog.

The majority of places we didn’t report about, are in Peru. This might sound like we didn’t find much worth writing about. On the contrary: in 2017 we published 18 posts from Peru , but most are either very specific or cover our time in the east of the country – away from the Pan-Americana corridor.


The Coast of Peru

…is basically one big desert – with a few rare green spots around water sources. Last trip, in 2008, we mostly followed the Pan-American Highway along the coast, with only 2 detours into the mountains. Back then, we found the coast not only boring, but also very depressing and grey.

The coast of Peru is over 2,400 kilometres long; nearly two-thirds of it looks as boring as this stretch of road. Enjoy the ride!

The coast of Peru is over 2,400 kilometres long; nearly two-thirds of it looks as boring as this stretch of road. Enjoy the ride!

This time, we were earlier in the year, before the typical ocean mist arrives in late March or early April, which is responsible for the depressive atmosphere. The sun was shining, the ocean sometimes looked almost blue, and some of the sand and rock colours came out much more clearly. But, in general, we were still happy to get away from the coast as often as we could.

Yasha had planned to write a short gallery post about the coast of Peru – in the end we didn’t find it worth it. We encountered a few interesting places, like the Ité Wetlands . We also crossed a few green valleys full of agricultural crops like olives, rice, and grains – wherever there is some fresh water the nitrate-rich sand can actually produce unbelievable yields. The coast is also full of isolated beaches, many not safe to camp overnight. Hence, overall we couldn’t get very exited – once again.

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.


Peru’s Capital Lima

For a long time, we were certain we wouldn’t go back to Lima. But then Yasha caught a really bad gastric bug she couldn’t get rid of, so we decided to drive into the capital city for its better medical facilities.

We based ourselves at the Hitchhikers’ Hostel in Miraflores, a more up-market suburb near the ocean front. Right around the corner was a large medical centre, which Yasha visited every morning for a check-up.

We met a number of interesting travellers at the hostel, so more time was spent with chats than with going out. We had explored most of the city’s sights in 2008 and weren’t overly keen to go back. Except for one museum, the Larco Collection , which we had enjoyed tremendously in 2008. What a nice surprise it was: since then the museum has been renovated, the entire collection has been reorganised, all exhibits are now much better labelled (in multiple languages), and the flow of the history is really easy to understand.

If you are looking for other things to do in Lima, all we can contribute is our post about the Pachacamac Archaeological Site south of the city – highly recommended. For more you will have to search the internet or consult a Footprint guidebook .

The famous "Kiss" statue along the beach front of Miraflores.

The famous “Kiss” statue along the beach front of Miraflores.

Lima has some very upmarket shopping centres - as to be expected in a capital city.

Lima has some very upmarket shopping centres – as to be expected in a capital city.


Coastal Tourist Attractions near Lima

Many tourists come to Peru for 2 or maximum 3 weeks – we spent over 6 months in Peru. Tourists often fly directly from Lima onward to Cusco to visit the Sacred Valley . If they have time to spare, some might decide to visit the famous sand dunes of Huacachina, or Paracas and Pisco. All these destinations are quick and easy to reach by bus from Lima.

By the time we reached these places we had driven well over 1000 kilometres through a similar looking barren landscape – without any popular tourist attractions and the accompanying crowds. So to us the above mentioned places offered very little appeal.

Sunset at a beach in the Paracas Natural Reserve in Peru.

Sunset at a beach in the Paracas Natural Reserve in Peru.

Yes, there are a few interesting archaeological sites near Paracas, the small museum at the park entrance has a number of nice exhibits – but nothing really worth writing home about (from our point of view).

The dunes we drove past in the south, were much more impressive. All they lacked was a small green oasis in the middle – the picturesque feature of Huacachina. I still remember being caught in traffic jam caused by smelly tourist dune buggies – not what I’m travelling for! That was when we decided to leave the coast and drive inland .

The oasis of Huacachina attracts countless tourists. They come mostly for sand boarding and dune buggy drives.

The oasis of Huacachina attracts countless tourists. They come mostly for sand boarding and dune buggy drives.


Popular Sights in Southern Colombia

Sanctuario Las Lajas

Almost every Pan-Am traveller stops off at the sanctuary of Las Lajas, outside Ipiales in the South of Colombia. In 2008 we actually didn’t even walk down to the church, because we couldn’t find parking for our truck camper. The car parking situation has now improved, so we walked down to the church.

Well, it’s a rather “kitschy” neo-gothic construction. For the locals the reported miracle is of much larger importance. You can read about it on Wikipedia . For us it is just another church, made more impressive by its location on a narrow cliff spanning across a deep river gorge.

The location of the Las Lajas sanctuary is probably the most outstanding feature.

The location of the Las Lajas sanctuary is probably the most outstanding feature.

Plenty of devotional plaques compete for space along the path leading to the Las Lajas sanctuary.

Plenty of devotional plaques compete for space along the path leading to the Las Lajas sanctuary.

Laguna de la Cocha

Some travellers visit Laguna de la Cocha outside Pasto, the second largest lake of Colombia. It’s a nice place with lots of picturesque little wooden houses around it, which almost remind me of Switzerland or Austria. It’s now a protected environment, but under pressure from tourism and farming. Trout farming and fishing are the main source of income; we bought some yummy smoked trout.

The small wooden restaurant houses on the shore of Laguna la Cocha look actually very idyllic.

The small wooden restaurant houses on the shore of Laguna la Cocha look actually very idyllic.

If you want, you can continue along the same road to eventually visit the tombs of San Agustín . For this you have to drive the infamous Trampolino de la Muerte . Don’t worry: it’s not that dangerous!

Sibundoy

Along this way you come past the provincial centre of Sibundoy, where the unpaved Trampolino de la Muerte begins. We highly recommend veering off the main road and visiting the central plaza of this small town! It’s filled with amazing wooden statues, carved from tree roots and nicely painted. They are reminders of the indigenous heritage of this region. These statues, and some of the murals, are a precious, unexpected find!

A group of carved statues in front of Sibundoy's church.

A group of carved statues in front of Sibundoy’s church.

One of the many carved statues in the square of Sibundoy.

One of the many carved statues in the square of Sibundoy.

Popayán

The economic and political centre of the south is the city of Popayán. It’s a clean city with a beautiful historical centre, full of white-washed houses. But one thing you have to realise: most of these colonial buildings were meticulously reconstructed after Popayán’s devastating earthquake in 1983 .

The old colonial cathedral in Popayan, white as all buildings in the historic centre.

The old colonial cathedral in Popayan, white as all buildings in the historic centre.

Sun reflection of the white buildings in Popayan's historic centre.

Sun reflection of the white buildings in Popayan’s historic centre.


Our Stay in Medellín

We wrote about 2 tours we joined in Medellín, the city walking tour and the Comuna 13 street art tour . Both were really impressive and touched us deeply.

But we spent over a month around this city – so that can’t have been all! Or?

Well, in a way, that was all that we found worthwhile writing about. You see, our first week was taken up with medical appointments, for which we stayed with friends in Envigado – at the edge of the city. If you’ve been on the road as long as we have, check-ups like this have to be scheduled along the way.

Then we ran around (or drove in taxis) to get our Colombia visa and vehicle permit extended – more days without sightseeing. And honestly, the most interesting sights in the centre of Medellín were covered by the walking tour. Although, I might add another dedicated street art post for the inner city.

Some beautiful street art in Medellin. Maybe I will publish another street art post.

Some beautiful street art in Medellin. Maybe I will publish another street art post.

But we made an effort to see a few attractions outside the centre. One day we went to the Museo de Arte Moderno de Medellín (MAMM). But our timing couldn’t have been worse as all temporary exhibits were closed for replacements. (Why? Why can’t this be staged so that only one at a time is closed?) Let’s just say the small permanent exhibition left us a little underwhelmed…

Our overall impression of Medellín: it’s big, very big. And the hills are steep, very steep. That’s because the city sits in a narrow valley. And its buildings are tall, very tall! Well, at least in many parts of the city. The majority of Paisas (the citizens of this state) seem to live in apartment buildings, often 30 floors tall. This is partly for the added security such buildings offer. Only our friends Nicole and Guido lived in a row house in a gated estate, with their own small garden in the back.

But there’s no lack of green in this city! That’s one thing I commented on repeatedly. Most vegetation is very tropical: large, moss-covered stems, broad leaves, lush green. Major arterial roads are often lined with such old trees, new subdivisions and housing projects seem to leave at least a few mature trees standing and surround these with densely planted tropical garden beds.

Medellin is full of little green oases in the middle of the city, like here in Poblado.

Medellin is full of little green oases in the middle of the city, like here in Poblado.

Getting into cities with our large truck is always a little difficult, to park it safely even more so – hence we spend a lot of time well outside the city limits. For most of the time we were at “Al Bosque”, an overlander meeting place. We chatted with fellow overlanders, published our new “Butterfly Calendar” (thanks to excellent WiFi at the campground), and caught up with photo sorting and blog posts.

With fellow overlanders at Al Bosque glamping near Medellin.

With fellow overlanders at Al Bosque glamping near Medellin.


The Time I Did Some Gardening

We also met a really inspiring woman in Medellín: Lucana! She’s a solo-overlander who drives a classic 1961 Mercedes 180B sedan. We featured her in our first post What inspired you to travel the Pan-American? .

Anyhow, Lucana invited us to stay at her ‘finca’ to the west of the city, near San Jeronimo. At Al Bosque we’d been always cold because this campground is at over 2,600m. Lucana’s place is much lower. We stayed over 10 days, in which time I offered to plant a garden around her newly constructed waterfall feeding into the swimming pool.

The hill for the waterfall is really steep, so the work was rather difficult and back breaking. In the end I didn’t get to finish the whole project because I discovered that part of the waterfall, the rock edge, needed to be re-concreted. Unfortunately all her workers were too busy getting the second storey of her new house finished in preparation for the roof, which was going to be delivered two weeks later…

Me in the midst of the gardening. All the tropical plants I like at home too: ginger, helaconias, palms...

Me in the midst of the gardening. All the tropical plants I like at home too: ginger, helaconias, palms…

I didn't get much further with my garden for Lucana. The red edging plants are in on the left, the ground cover is also done on the left. On the right we needed a second palm as I couldn't split the one we bought into halves...

I didn’t get much further with my garden for Lucana. The red edging plants are in on the left, the ground cover is also done on the left. On the right we needed a second palm as I couldn’t split the one we bought into halves…

I envy Colombians: beautiful helaconias cost here less than $2.50 for a healthy plant – big enough that you can divide it straight away! At home they are close to $20 each.


Summary

It’s likely that I forgot to include one or another place that we visited in 2017 and didn’t write about. But if I don’t remember them, then they are probably not really worth mentioning… We still have to catch up on more posts from 2017, the next one will be a summary of the things we did in 2017. Then we’ll write about our two weeks in Bogotá and its amazing – really amazing – street art! But by then we’ll be well into the new year, possibly at the coast of Colombia…


Disclaimer: the link to the Footprint guide book on this page is primarily for illustration purpose; it is an affiliate link for Amazon (where we get a small commission but you don’t pay more).

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Most 'End-of-Year' posts describe last years highlights. In our post we list places we visited in 2017 but did not write about. In hindsight we think they deserve a mention, so we have bundled several interesting locations into one summary. From the Peruvian desert to the glitzy capital of Lima, from the sanctuary of Las Lajas to the historic centre of Popayan in Colombia – all places we hadn't written about...

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Juergen

webmaster, main photographer & driver, second cook and only husband at dare2go.com. Freelance web designer with 20 years of experience at webbeetle.com.au

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16 Responses

  1. Katie says:

    Oh some great travel adventures! I would love to visit Lima, it has been on my bucketlist for some time! Your pics are great too! Good luck for 2018, I hope it brings you many more awesome travel experiences.

  2. Aditi says:

    wow, i feel like putting the place in my bucket list, loved your pictures, they look amazing and competing enough to visit

  3. Dada says:

    I really find your post funny! And honest! There many places I have visited and never bother either to write about. Many do it anyway and the posts often come out very boring and uninspiring!
    I have never been to Peru but thanks to your post I wish I could go and see for myself if I would like Lima. I normally love desert but I guess when driving with the same scenery for too long it could be very boring. I hope that your partner got better from the stomach flue! My husband had it for three month in Nepal and India.
    Happy new year!

    • Juergen says:

      Thanks for your kind wishes. It was unfortunately more than just a ‘stomach flue’ – she couldn’t even hold any liquids and was seriously dehydrated. But all is good now.

  4. Lisa says:

    I enjoyed reading this immensely, as you’re right, many other bloggers have written about their travels over the year. Medellin looks wonderful, and very interesting with the mix of urban and green landscape. I did laugh about the coast of Peru being a bit boring; I can see why you would think that if the coastline is nothing to write home about!

    • Juergen says:

      Don’t forget: the coast of Peru is over 2400 kilometres long – and it almost all looks the same – way into the north of Chile.

  5. I really like your writing style Juergen. In particular, I like the diction and pacing of your story. You covered a year worth of travel that was, by definition, the in between of major stories and events. You did this without wallowing in the minutia or being pulling into the substance of the previously published pieces. You were able to just allude, link, and move on.

    At the end of the story, I could imagine what life would be like on overlanding in South America. I could imagine unplanned trips to Lima for medical resources, visa runs, and the myriad of friendships that develop along the way. Thank you for sharing your adventures with us.

  6. What an interesting take on a round up post, and with some super awesome (well to me anyway) places to read about! I especially love your story about staying with Lucana and building a garden – even though you didn’t finish you did such a great job – I’m sure it will blossom into something lovely.

    • Juergen says:

      I hope the garden will turn out the way I envisaged it: pleasing to the eye and low maintenance. I can’t wait to see photos a couple of years down the track.

  7. Megan Jerrard says:

    I love this twist on an end of year recap! Because often it’s difficult to write about the places which leave us feeling uninspired, but I think it’s good hearing about that too. You definitely have a different perspective on Peru than most tourists would, because I think those who drive the length of the country (as opposed to flying) would be very very few. I did personally really like the area surrounding Paracas, with the dunes, but I can see how inland Peru might be quite monotonous after a while with not a lot to do.

    Can’t wait to hear about your time in Bogota!

    • Juergen says:

      Meg, you understood one thing the wrong way around: the inland of Peru with all its mountains and small, often historic towns, is quite interesting! We don’t tire of the vistas in the Andes. It’s the coastal strip, with all its desert, which is so boring.

  8. Rachelle says:

    I really do enjoy yearly recap posts, and this one was a pleasure to read. I think at times bloggers feel the need to write about simply everything they saw and experienced, leaving nothing to themselves, portraying an idealistic lifestyle. I think it’s awesome that you were able to spend some time helping Lucana with her garden. I’m sure it felt great to have a project to work on, even if you weren’t able to complete it. It really does look beautiful, even partially complete!

    • Juergen says:

      Maybe because we don’t post as often as other bloggers we don’t fall into the trap to divide every location into micro topics, like ‘Best Sights in…’, ‘Best Coffee in…’, ‘Best Tours in…’, and so on. I believe it’s not the volume of posts, which counts in the end.

  9. Anne says:

    I’ve just returned from Milan and felt like that. I really struggled initially to find anything I liked but the city grew on me a little over the course of our stay. I don’t think I will ever be able to wax lyrical about the place

    • Juergen says:

      I’m surprised to read that you found Milan initially uninspiring. Yes, it’s a busy city, one of Italy’s main centres of commerce. But to me it still has that quintessential Italian feel to it.

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