South America is home to an astonishing variety of living and ancient cultures, displaying some of the most beautiful craftsmanship the world has to offer. In 2014, we spent 4 months travelling 6 countries, each one spoiled us with awe-inspiring views and bedazzled us with the beauty and skill of the craftsmanship, art and inspirations on show.
At traditional markets you can haggle over colourful textiles and wood-carved ornaments – many techniques still used today have been passed down from previous generations. The architecture and landscapes are a complementary blend of shapes and celebratory colours – stone churches, sparse lakes, wooden huts, crowded cities, jungle ruins and beach towns. The artwork on show varies from street graffiti to world-renowned photography, much of it free to the public to view.
So if you’re planning a visit but you’re unsure where to prioritize – we have listed a few pit stops below that showcase some of the spectacular inspirations that South America has to offer or as we liked to call it ‘A South American Treasure Hunt’. Although we were privileged enough to experience the more well-known sites like Iguazu Falls, Machu Picchu and the Amazon Jungle, these places are less well-known and not often talked about among travel bloggers or route advisers. We believe for art-lovers alike, they are well worth a visit if you get the chance.
Feira Hip: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The Ipanema Hippie Fair (Feira Hipe) is held in the Praça General Osório, in the Ipanema neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro Brazil. The market takes place every Sunday and has done since the 1960’s. It started as a rather small affair consisting of several stalls, it has now grown into a must see array of artwork and crafts.
Malba Gallery: Buenos Aires, Argentina
The Malba gallery is an Art Museum located on Figueroa Alcorta Avenue, in the Palermo section of Buenos Aires. We were lucky enough to catch a Mario Testino exhibition whilst visiting – having studied his work several years ago, we were thrilled to have the opportunity to view some of his work first hand. You shouldn’t need to book ahead but check the website for upcoming exhibitions.
Gomero De La India: Corrientes, Argentina
The Gomero De La India is a huge Indian Gum tree better known as the Higuera de la India or Higuera de la Pagoda. The tree is located in Miter Park, which is considered one of the most traditional and historical points of the city, not only because of the successive transcendental events that took place in the 19th century but also because it preserves this incredible specimen, thought to be 101 years old and is the only one of its kind in South America.
Great Train Graveyard: Uyuni, Bolivia
The Great Train Graveyard is probably the best known treasure of this bunch. The remains of rusted carriages can be found otherwise deserted on the border of the Bolivian city of Uyuni. This city is renowned as a transportation hub in South America, connecting many major cities. In the 19th Century the government made plans to build a large network of train routes out of the city, but the project never came to fruition due to disputes with neighbouring countries – what remains is an array of weathered, hollowed and graffiti-tainted locomotives.
Misfit Hostel: Mancora, Peru
The Mistfit Hostel in Mancora, Peru is a hub of inspiration – a hand-built selection of crooked huts that home up to 6 residences at a time. Each building has been lovingly created by the owner Rodrigo and manager Adam with self sufficiency in mind. The internal decor of each hut has been individually hand-painted by travelers and during our visit we were offered the opportunity to leave our mark on a 4m by 2m canvas (see below).
Inspiration in South America was never very far away, if art, crafts and nature aren’t your thing – there are plenty of other reasons to add this trip to your bucket list so get researching.