Exploring Uruguay’s Hidden Oasis: Esteros de Farrapos National Park

Tucked away in the northwestern corner of Uruguay lies a hidden oasis waiting to be discovered by adventurous travelers and nature enthusiasts alike. Welcome to Esteros de Farrapos National Park, a pristine wilderness area teeming with biodiversity and natural beauty. Join us as we embark on a journey through this captivating landscape and uncover the secrets of one of Uruguay’s best-kept treasures.

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Uruguay: Unveiling South America’s Hidden Gem

Uruguay: Unveiling South America's Hidden Gem

Tucked Away Between Brazil and Argentina, Uruguay often finds itself overshadowed by its larger and more boisterous neighbors. However, this small country is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered by intrepid travelers seeking authentic experiences, stunning landscapes, and rich cultural heritage. From its pristine beaches to its charming colonial towns and vibrant urban centers, Uruguay offers a diverse array of attractions that will captivate any visitor. Join us on a journey through this enchanting land and uncover the secrets of Uruguay.

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Eagle Beach

Eagle Beach Aruba, Caribbean

Eagle Beach

Fronting a line of low-rise resorts just northwest of Oranjestad, Eagle is a long stretch of white sand that regularly makes lists of the best beaches in the world. There are shade trees in some areas and you can obtain every service you need, from a lounger to a cold drink.

Eagle Beach is a leatherback-turtle nesting area, so parts of it may be closed from March to July.

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Laguna Parón

Laguna Parón

Laguna Parón

The largest lake in the Cordillera Blanca — a snowcapped range of the Andes in west central Peru — and a gorgeous natural reservoir, Laguna Paron is a unique destination for hikers, rock climbers, and nature enthusiasts.

Located within the Huascaran National Park and 62 miles north of the hiking mecca Huaraz, the 17.1 square mile lake is distinguished by its striking turquoise hue due to high concentrations of dissolved lime. From its shores, visitors can take in precious views of formidable peaks blanketed in fresh snow (including Artesonraju, the pyramid peak many believe to have inspired the Paramount Pictures logo).

Listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site since 1985, Laguna Parón can be reached by car or foot. Having arrived at this awe-inspiring body of water at 4185 meters above sea level, the serene environment welcomes one to meditate, rock climb, kayak, or even set up camp near the quiet shores.

How to get to Laguna Parón
Most people visit the lake as part of an organized tour out of Huaraz or Caraz (from S/50), as the logistics of getting to Laguna Parón — whether by car, hike, or combo — can become complicated.

From Lima, Huaraz can be reached by an 8-hour bus ride (take a night bus to pass the time sleeping). Various companies whose offices are spread throughout the capital city offer the commute. One of the better recommended is MovilBus.

The city of Huaraz is not large, and a short stroll around the plaza will lead you to numerous offers from local agencies and guides for full-day tours of Laguna Parón. Be sure that the direction you hire is certified for Laguna Parón, and expect to pay between S/50-70 per person for a group tour. Reputable tours won’t set out until 7:30  a.m. or 8 a.m. the following day, so take the first day in Huaraz to acclimatize (the city is 3052m/10,013ft above sea level).

If you want to venture to Laguna Parón alone, you must commute from Huaraz to Caraz by “combi” (public shuttle van). The 45-mile ride takes less than two hours and costs between S/6-8 per person. These vans depart throughout the day and can be found on Jr. Cajamarca, a 10-minute walk north of the Plaza de Armas in Huaraz.

Having arrived in Caraz, find a taxi (no rideshare apps here) willing to take you to the lake and wait until you are ready to return. Including a wait time of 2-3 hours, a round-trip taxi ride will cost between S/150-180. The bumpy ride takes nearly two hours.

Walking to Laguna Parón
Those in physical shape and with proper acclimatization to the altitude can hike to Laguna Parón from the town of Parón, an S/8-10 combi ride from Caraz. The 8-mile hike can take three to five hours, depending on stamina, as it is steep and rocky.

Just to let you know, signs along the route are few and far between, which is another reason to hire a local guide. Apps such as Maps. me can help navigate the way even without a Wi-Fi or data connection.

Trekkers looking to return to Caraz the same day must return to Parón before 3 p.m., when the last shuttle van leaves, or should coordinate for a taxi to wait at the park entrance.

What to do at Laguna Parón
The lake continues to promote water-based activities even though its water level was lowered from 75 meters to 15 meters in the mid-1980s to prevent the collapse of Huandoy’s moraine. You can rent a kayak and navigate the smooth, frigid waters for half an hour (S/20). Families may be interested in taking a boat ride, though it is costlier and lasts far less time (S/10 per person and just 15 minutes).

Rock climbers will find a challenge at Torre de Parón, known as the Sphinx. There are at least 13 wall routes on the granite monolith.

You can take an easy hike to the lookout point, the Mirador. This 30 to 40-minute trek is well-marked and leads to a prime view (and plenty of photo opportunities) of the turquoise lake. But please take your time as you move forward in altitude.

Are you looking to make the most of your time in Laguna Parón? Campers are welcome and can camp without a fee, though no amenities or equipment are available on site. You’ll need to bring a tent, a warm sleeping bag, plenty of layers and all your food. The following day, be sure to take everything with you, including your trash, to continue preserving this pristine natural gem.

Tickets and other practicalities
Entrance tickets to the lake can be purchased once you’ve reached Huascaran National Park. The entrance fee is S/5.
Buy food and water in Huaraz or Caraz, whichever will be the final city/town, before heading up to the lake, as there are no guarantees of finding vendors at Laguna Parón.

The best time to visit is between April and September when it is sunnier and dry in the Andes.
Take a day or two in Huaraz or Caraz to acclimatize to the high altitude. The lake is over 4,000 meters above sea level, and rushing to the top can result in stomach sickness or extreme headaches.

Restaurant options in Caraz are slim, though La Peña del Gordo is a prime spot to try local flavors, including charqui, dehydrated meat, typically beef or alpaca.

Have plenty of Peruvian soles on hand, as all transportation, restaurants, and entrance fees are all paid in cash, not with a bank card.

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Cheapest Places to Travel

Cheapest Places toTravel in the World

Cheapest Places toTravel in the World

Traveling on a budget doesn’t mean sacrificing exciting experiences. Several destinations around the world offer affordable travel options without compromising on fun and adventure. Here are some of the cheapest places to travel in the world:

  1. Vietnam: From the bustling streets of Hanoi to the serene landscapes of Ha Long Bay, Vietnam offers a rich cultural experience at a fraction of the cost compared to many other Asian destinations.

  2. Cambodia: Home to the magnificent Angkor Wat temple complex, Cambodia boasts affordable accommodations, delicious street food, and a welcoming atmosphere.

  3. Bolivia: This South American gem offers stunning landscapes, including the otherworldly Salar de Uyuni salt flats. Prices for food, transportation, and accommodations are relatively low.

  4. Indonesia: With its beautiful beaches, lush jungles, and vibrant culture, Indonesia is a budget traveler’s paradise. Bali, Lombok, and the Gili Islands are popular destinations.

  5. India: India is known for its diverse culture, historical sites, and delicious cuisine. Traveling within the country is affordable, making it an ideal destination for budget-conscious travelers.

  6. Nepal: A haven for trekkers and adventure seekers, Nepal offers breathtaking mountain views and a range of affordable activities.

  7. Bulgaria: Eastern Europe provides an opportunity to explore charming cities like Sofia and Plovdiv without breaking the bank. Bulgaria offers affordable food, accommodations, and sightseeing options.

  8. Thailand: While some areas in Thailand can be expensive, overall, it is a budget-friendly destination with affordable street food, accommodations, and transportation.

  9. Morocco: Morocco offers a fascinating blend of cultures and landscapes, with affordable markets, accommodation options, and local experiences.

  10. Nicaragua: This Central American destination offers beautiful beaches, colonial cities, and diverse nature at relatively low prices.

  11. Portugal: Portugal provides an affordable European experience with stunning coastlines, historic cities, and delicious cuisine.

  12. Egypt: Discover ancient history and explore iconic landmarks like the Pyramids of Giza at affordable prices in Egypt.

Remember that even in affordable destinations, your travel budget will depend on factors like your travel style, activities, and accommodation choices. By researching and planning ahead, you can enjoy incredible adventures and cultural experiences while staying within your budget. Additionally, consider traveling during the off-peak season or taking advantage of deals and discounts to stretch your travel funds even further.