Latin America Adventure 2022 (Trip Recap)

At the beginning of 2022, we set out on a 10 week trip through Latin America. Ever since our 5-month long trip to Latin America got cancelled in 2020 due to COVID, we had been trying to resume some of our travels there. In 2021, we spent about 2 months traveling around various parts of Mexico, but did not venture into Central or South America. By 2022 we were ready to see more!

This was an overview of our plans for this trip, and here is Jared’s recap and expenses from the trip. In this post I’ll give a more in depth recap of everywhere we went and everything we did during our 10 weeks throughout Latin America!

Planning This Trip

We always have something going on, and in recent years we’ve been planning our trips around various conferences and other “work” related trips. 2022 ended up being a whirlwind, with us only being home a total of 8 weeks for the entire year, broken up into various 1 to 2 week stretches between trips! That means we were traveling away from home for 44 weeks total last year!

For our Latin America trip, we were working around just getting back from a road trip to Florida to go to some of the National Parks, followed by going to San Antonio, Texas for the APTA CSM conference (American Physical Therapy Association’s Combined Sections Meeting, aka the biggest PT conference of the year), and then a few weeks later, an all-inclusive trip in Mexico hosted by one of the travel healthcare companies we work with.

Tough life, we know.

To try to fit everything in, we actually made Texas the first stop on our trip to get down to Latin America, to go to the conference in San Antonio. Then the plan was to make a few stops in Mexico, Guatemala, and Costa Rica, before returning to Mexico for the traveler trip. Followed by Colombia and Peru.

Here’s a rough outline of what we were planning for this trip before we left. As stated in our first article about planning this trip, this outline was “definitely subject to change,” and as you’ll see below, it definitely did change due to some unforeseen circumstances!

  • San Antonio, Texas (CSM): 5 days
  • Puerto Vallarta, Mexico: 1 week
  • Mexico City, Mexico: 4-5 days
  • Guatemala: ~10 days
  • Costa Rica: ~10 days
  • Cancun, Mexico (“work trip”): 5 days
  • Colombia: ~2 weeks
  • Peru: ~2 weeks

The First Leg of the Trip

We flew from home in Virginia to San Antonio the first week of February. We were excited to finally return to CSM for the first time since COVID. One of the travel staffing companies we work with sponsored us to attend their booth at the conference. This was a great opportunity to connect with students and clinicians who are considering Travel PT. We talked to hundreds of attendees and educated them about travel therapy. We also got to connect with friends, colleagues and former classmates who we hadn’t seen in a while! Additionally, we hosted a social meet-up (sponsored by another one of the staffing companies we work with) where we got to have more personal connections with many current and aspiring travelers. The conference was a success & a great start to our trip!

Onto Mexico

Our next stop was Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, where we met up with my mom for some rest & relaxation at a resort! This part of the trip was very chill with most of our time spent at the pool & beach. We had been to Puerto Vallarta before, but this was my mom’s first time there. It’s a really nice area & we were happy to return!

It was also convenient to meet up with my mom at this stage of the trip, because we sent a bag back with her that had our conference clothes, shoes, and jackets in it, since it was surprisingly cold in San Antonio. We didn’t need to be lugging all of that stuff with us on our two months traveling around Latin America where it’s very warm! Plus, as many of you may know, we try to always pack using only carry-on luggage to make moving from place to place easier, so it was great to lighten our load before the next stop.

After our week of resort life, we said goodbye to my mom and headed to Mexico City to truly begin our Latin America explorations. We had heard great things about the city, but we personally aren’t “big city people,” so we were planning on just staying a few days to check it out before making our way down to Central America.

Change of Plans

Unfortunately, we both became ill during our time in CDMX. At first we thought, oh just a cold, but we were ultimately diagnosed with COVID, so our plans got derailed.

The only good thing about getting sick on this part of the trip is that we actually had not booked anything beyond Mexico City yet. A lot of times on past trips we would book most of the trip, including flights and accommodations, before leaving home. But with uncertainty due to the pandemic, and having been burned on our 2020 Latin America trip with having several months of it already booked out then having to cancel, we decided this trip not to book too far ahead.

Once we got diagnosed with COVID in Mexico City, we realized we were going to have to stay put a little longer there to recover before moving to our next destination. This ended up taking a lot longer than expected. What was supposed to be a short 4 nights in Mexico City, turned into almost 2 weeks stuck there. We had the worst sore throats and were symptomatic for nearly 2 weeks. We kept having to extend our stay and actually had to move Airbnb’s twice. Needless to say, we did very little at all in Mexico City, other than just a little bit of walking around outdoors, but the majority of our time was spent quarantined inside our Airbnb’s.

Resuming Our Travels

Finally, after 12 days in Mexico City, we were feeling almost back to normal and we tested negative, so we could resume our trip. We had planned to go to Guatemala and then Costa Rica, spending about 10 days in each, before returning back to Mexico to the all-inclusive healthcare traveler trip. But, since our time had been reduced, we decided only to go to Guatemala since it’s the closest to return back to Mexico afterward, and we planned to tack some time in Costa Rica onto the end of the trip instead. This worked out great and we actually got to do some extra things in Guatemala we hadn’t planned before.

Exploring Guatemala

First, we went to Antigua, Guatemala. This was a very cute, historic town. We loved the colonial feel of the town and the views of the surrounding volcanoes. Here we did a walking tour, enjoyed the local food, and did some short local walks to get good views of the volcanoes. One regret we had after talking to some other travelers was not doing the nearby hike to Volcano Acatenango, which has amazing views of the active Volcán de Fuego. Once we learned about it, we didn’t have time to fit it in since it’s an overnight, guided excursion, plus we were feeling extremely deconditioned after spending nearly 2 weeks being sedentary and ill with COVID. If you get a chance to go to this region, we would highly recommend doing this hike if at all possible. We’d love to go back and do it in the future.

One thing we learned about Guatemala is that it’s not very easy to get around, and typically it involves long bus or taxi rides, over windy mountain roads. We later learned it’s similar in Costa Rica. Our next stop after Antigua involved taking a bus to the town of Panajachel at Lake Atitlán. From there, we took a boat taxi across the lake to the village of San Juan La Laguna. We absolutely LOVED this little village and the lake itself. We rented the cutest bungalow, and each day we explored a new village by taking a boat taxi across the lake. At the recommendation of a good friend whose mom goes to Guatemala regularly for mission trips, we took a cooking class in the village of San Pedro La Laguna with their local friend, Anita. This was an amazing experience, and we highly, highly recommend if you go to Lake Atitlan to take Anita’s Mayan Kitchen Cooking Lesson!

After Lake Atitlan, we made our way back to Guatemala City to catch a flight to Flores, Guatemala to go visit the Tikal Mayan Ruins there. In 2021, we had toured a few Mayan archeological sites throughout Mexico, so it was neat to see a different site in Guatemala. The ruins in Tikal are really in the jungle, so part of the day it was like going on a nature walk/hike, and we also saw many wild animals, particularly dozens of coatis. Many of the pyramids at this site are not even excavated yet and just look like hills. It was amazing to us that you would never even know with the naked eye that there are huge structures under the “hills.” We enjoyed our stay in the cute little town of Flores as well which had some beautiful views and sunsets.

Back to Mexico

From Flores, we flew to Cancun, Mexico to meet up with fellow healthcare travelers at the Club CoreMed all-inclusive trip. We stayed one night on our own in Cancun city before going to the resort.

Having spent 8 weeks traveling all over Mexico in 2021, and nearly 3 weeks earlier in this trip in Mexico, we were pretty familiar with traveling around there on our own. So, naturally we had some street tacos around the corner from our Airbnb that first night before heading on to the resort the next day. And naturally, with our luck, we got food poisoning from said street tacos. It really felt like we could not catch a break on this trip! The food poisoning definitely was not the worst that we’ve had, and we have had our fair share of food related illness in our travels, but it did put somewhat of a damper on our time at the resort.

Nonetheless, it was still an awesome time being at the beautiful resort and connecting with fellow healthcare travelers. This was our second time going on this trip, with the first being in 2019 prior to COVID, and this time it was in a different location and with a completely different group of travelers, so it was cool to meet so many new faces!

Onward to South America!

After what seemed like our thousandth week in Mexico, we were FINALLY ready to pull the trigger and fly to South America for the very first time! This trip, we didn’t have quite as many weeks set aside as our original plans in 2020, when we had planned to go to almost all of the countries in South America. So this time we just planned to go to Colombia and Peru.

Our first stop was Medellín, Colombia. The city was surrounded by beautiful mountains, and we had a great skyline view from our Airbnb apartment. Unfortunately we did find that the city center was very dirty and had a lot of problems with homelessness and drug abuse. This seems to be more of a trend in our travels since COVID, even in the major US cities we’ve been to on our road trips. We unfortunately found that Colombia was one of the countries where we felt least safe in our travels so far. In fact, this was the only place that we’ve traveled so far in over 40 countries where one of us was very nearly pickpocketed. Jared actually felt someone’s hand in his pocket, with their hand around his phone, while we were on the metro. Luckily he grabbed the person’s hand and squeezed it, and they let go and did not get the phone. This happened during rush hour and as we were exiting a packed train, and we weren’t necessarily being as vigilant as we should have been. We are well aware that this type of crime can happen anywhere in the world, and we are actually very fortunate it has never happened to us before, or after, this (so far). But, it definitely contributed to our overall feelings about Colombia.

While in Medellín, we took a couple of walking tours that were very informative about the history of Colombia, including their past issues with drug cartels. We particularly enjoyed the tour of Comuna 13 and seeing the rich culture of this area. We also enjoyed riding the sky tram up to Parque Arví for some incredible views. Getting out of the city and into nature was definitely more our vibe. We also took a day trip to the beautiful resort town of Guatapé, which had a stunning lake and some very colorful streets in the small town.

Our next stop in Colombia was Cartagena. This is a lively port town on the Caribbean coast, and it definitely had more of a Caribbean feel to it. We did a couple of walking tours here as well and enjoyed seeing the colorful buildings, with vibrant street art and murals, as well as seeing and hearing the varieties of music and dance. The Getsmani neighborhood had a vibrant night life and culture that was fun to experience. One night we made some friends and went to the famous Café Havana to experience Salsa Dancing.

Overall I would say that our time in Colombia was interesting, but not our favorite place we’ve ever been. But of course that’s just our opinion based on our limited experience there, and we have heard lots of other people say they love it there!

Next Stop: Peru!

We were mostly very excited for our next destination: Peru! We had been looking forward to going to Peru for a long time, to experience the delicious food, history, and natural beauty.

First, we went to the capital city, Lima. We absolutely loved Lima. It felt almost like a European city to us, with lots of different cultural influences. We explored many different areas of the city, sightseeing on our own and taking a guided walking tour of the city center. One evening we came upon a big rally for the Peruvian fútbol team who was playing an important game. It’s always fun to see how excited some countries get about their local sports, especially fútbol! We of course tried so many different kinds of foods while we were there. We already knew we loved Peruvian food, but being in Lima, the food capital, really solidified it. We even took a guided food tour and tried out the some different dishes. We could definitely see returning to Lima again in the future!


Next it was time to head to the destination we were most excited about: Cusco! We planned to visit this area mainly to go to Machu Picchu, but after talking to a friend who is from Peru originally, she connected us with a tour guide who recommended touring several other places in the region as well. We normally don’t book our trips through a tour guide, but since we were connected directly with this one based on a recommendation, we decided to let her help us with our planning. She did offer to arrange everything for us, from flights, to accommodations, to activities, but we are very comfortable booking our own flights and accommodations, so we just let her book the tours for us. This ended up being four full days of activities, which was a whirlwind, but we saw some of the most incredible sights!

The tours we did included:

  • Cusco City
  • Sacred Valley
  • Machu Picchu
  • Rainbow Mountain

Touring the city of Cusco was a great introduction to our time in this region. We learned more about the history of the area and the ancient people. We visited: the Museo Casa Concha, the Incan historical site of Saqsaywaman, the Puka Pukara Archaeological Complex, and a couple of other locations.

The next day we toured the stunning Sacred Valley. This area has so much natural beauty, we were in awe. We learned a lot about the ancient agricultural systems of the Incan civilization, and got to see the impressive terraces they built for farming. Some of the significant historical sites we visited included Pisac and Ollantaytambo.

During our first two days of tours, we also visited some places to see the way that the local people make clothing and other goods from Alpaca wool. I should also note that we ate delicious Peruvian food all throughout our time in Cusco and the surrounding areas! Every meal was delicious!

Trying to get to Machu Picchu

The next day we were set to go to the main highlight of the trip: Machu Picchu. Unfortunately we had a really challenging time trying to get there and back due to issues with the transportation system and local people striking in the area. This turned into a massive saga that I’ll explain below!

There were concerns at the time that the people striking would block the roads, preventing anyone from coming or going on the main route to leave Cusco. Because of this, our tour guide recommended that we stay overnight in Ollantaytambo the day that we took our Sacred Valley tour to that area, then go from there in the morning to Machu Picchu, rather than returning back to Cusco for the night then going early in the morning to Machu Picchu as planned. Since we already had our accommodations in Cusco, we didn’t really want to go stay overnight elsewhere. Plus it would mean having a bag or suitcase with us when we were touring Machu Picchu, and in addition we would miss out on the second half of the day tours returning from Ollantaytambo to Cusco. So all in all we did not want to do this unless absolutely necessary.

Since the situation was evolving and no one knew exactly what would happen with the strike, there was no clear and definitive answer for us the day leading up to Machu Picchu. So we just did our Sacred Valley tour as planned, then returned to Cusco that night to sleep and get ready for Machu Picchu the next day.

The original plan was to leave Cusco at 4am, drive 1.5-2 hours to Ollantaytambo, where we would catch the train around 6am to go to Aguas Calientes, the closest town to Machu Picchu. From there you take a bus to the archeological site.

Well, before we went to bed, the tour guide said that it would be best if we left even earlier just in case there were any road blocks in the morning, so that we wouldn’t miss our train. So they suggested we leave at 2:30am instead. This was very early, but we figured, oh well we’ll make it work. So we went to bed about 9-10pm thinking we will get up and leave at 2:30.

Suddenly at 11pm after only being asleep for about an hour, we get a frantic phone call saying that we need to leave NOW. They had received new intel that the strikers may block the road starting at Midnight instead of in the morning. So we needed to leave Cusco before Midnight to ensure we would make it out of the city. This was all so insane and chaotic, but luckily we had our bags packed for the day and ready to go, so we hopped out of bed and met the bus downstairs full of other wary tourists.

So we arrived in Ollantaytambo at 1:30am, but the train wasn’t until around 6am. They said they would take us directly to the train station, but we really wanted to try to get at least a little sleep, so we were hopeful we could find a hostel or somewhere to lay our heads for a few hours. Since it’s a small town I guess that local people had been notified, and some of them greeted us there on the bus. We met a nice older lady who had a private room at a small hostel that we could stay in for a few hours for about $16. So we went and took a nap at the hostel, then made it to our train in time!

Machu Picchu

This was such a chaotic mess, but fortunately it all worked out in the end, and we finally made it to Aguas Calientes and then Machu Picchu! We took a guided tour of Machu Picchu which was very interesting. This was early 2022 and there were still rules in place due to COVID restricting the number of people who could enter, and requiring all tourists to be with a guided tour to enter. In some ways it was a bummer to only be able to explore with a guide, but also according to what we were told, it was a lot less busy due to them restricting the number of people who could enter, so that was a positive.

The weather was kind of foggy and rainy when we first got there, but we were fortunate that the clouds cleared up at the right time to allow us to get some great photos of the famous Machu Picchu view! It did continue to rain intermittently throughout the day, but we came prepared with rain jackets/ponchos and it was fine. Overall we had an amazing experience at this magical historical site, set in the stunning Andes Mountains. It was definitely a Bucket List experience for us!

We got to explore the cute town of Aguas Calientes a bit before and after our Machu Picchu guided tour which was nice. We also ate a delicious lunch in the town, possibly some of the best food we had in our time in Peru, and that’s saying a lot because every meal there was amazing. We also met some other travelers from our tour group who we ate with, so that was fun.

Finally after a very long saga to get to Machu Picchu, we were ready to head back to Cusco for some rest. But, not so fast, our saga apparently wasn’t quite done yet. On the train ride back from Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo, there was a landslide on the tracks, and our train got stopped for TWO HOURS. We were very concerned because we were just stuck on the tracks in the middle of no where. No one really knew what was going to happen at this point. Fortunately they did get the tracks cleared and we were able to make it back to Ollantaytambo and eventually Cusco later that night.

This whole ordeal turned into almost 24 hours of travel time to get to Machu Picchu and back! This is definitely an experience we will never forget. But visiting Machu Picchu made it all worth the hassle we endured. It was truly an amazing and magical place that we feel everyone should visit at some point!

Feeling Unwell

The day after the Machu Picchu saga, we fortunately already had a rest day built in, because we did not want too many days of back to back activities. This rest day turned out to be a life saver since we were so sleep deprived from the long day trying to get to and from Machu Picchu.

We actually did not sleep well all throughout our time in Cusco unfortunately, even on the nights we had the opportunity to sleep 8 or more hours. We’re not really sure why that was, but it could have had something to do with the altitude.

A lot of people get altitude sickness going to this region, because Cusco is located at over 11,000 ft elevation, and if you go to Rainbow Mountain it’s over 16,000 ft. We have never really had any issue with altitude sickness ourselves, but we weren’t sure what to expect.

We definitely felt lightheaded a few times and short of breath when going up a lot of stairs, such as at our Airbnb on the 4th floor and at Machu Picchu. We did use some local remedies to help ward off any ill effects of the altitude, including tea with coca leaves, Muña Tea, and candies made with the coca leaves. Overall we did pretty well with the altitude and never really felt “sick” from it, but we could definitely tell we felt a bit off and weren’t sleeping well.

Rainbow Mountain

Our final adventure in Peru was going to Rainbow Mountain! The main “Rainbow Mountain” that most people know if is actually called Vinicunca. Unfortunately when we were in Peru, this mountain was closed to visitors due to land disputes between locals. But there is another mountain that has the same beautiful colors called Palccoyo that we were able to visit, and we had a great experience there.

Palccoyo is still over 16,000 ft elevation, but the hike to get there and walking around the area is a lot easier than the hike at Vinicunca, so we weren’t upset about that. We still had an awesome time and got to see some stunning views at Palccoyo!

We had such an incredible time with all of our tours and activities in Peru. The natural beauty of the entire Cusco region was amazing. We loved learning more about the wonders of the ancient Incan Civilization. The local people were all so friendly and welcoming. And the food just blew us away. Despite some hiccups in this part of the trip, Peru absolutely lived up to our expectations, and we could see returning there in the future!

Last Leg of the Trip: Costa Rica

After all of our activities in Peru, traveling around for about 9 weeks total on the trip, and being sick several times, it’s safe to say that we were feeling pretty exhausted at this point.

As mentioned before, we had decided to “tack on” a few days in Costa Rica at the end of the trip instead of squeezing it in earlier in the trip. But in all honesty, at this point of the trip, we would have both been content just to go straight home after Peru.

But nonetheless, we had booked a flight, so we headed to Costa Rica after Peru. As I mentioned before, we learned that getting around Costa Rica is not easy. Most flights go into the capital city of San Jose. From there you pretty much have to rent a car or hire transportation to get anywhere, driving several hours over mountainous roads. With only about 6 days to spend there, we considered going to two different locations, but since we were exhausted, we really did not feel like moving to two different locations and driving all over the mountainous country. So instead we only went to La Fortuna, in the center of the country, for our time in Costa Rica.

I really feel like we didn’t give Costa Rica a fair chance because we only went to one location, and we went at the end of an already long and exhausting trip. So with that said, we had an okay time there, but it wasn’t our favorite.

We basically did one big adventure day where we hit all the highlights in the La Fortuna area, including: La Fortuna Waterfall, hiking at Arenal Volcano, exploring the jungle at Arenal Hanging Bridges Park, and going to the hot springs (hot river). This was a really fun day tour and we experienced a lot! Besides that, we mostly hung around the Airbnb and walked around the little town of La Fortuna. We did enjoy some good food there as well!

We would definitely be open to returning to Costa Rica in the future to explore some different areas, such as the coastline and beaches. We have always heard great things from people who travel to Costa Rica, so we really need to give it a better chance in the future!

Wrapping Up Our Trip

Needless to say, by the end of our time in Costa Rica, we were ready to head back home!

We had some amazing highs and also quite a few lows on this trip. Between getting COVID, being stuck in Mexico City, having food poisoning, nearly being pickpocketed in Colombia, feeling wary from the altitude and sleep deprivation in Cusco, and our whole ordeal with Machu Picchu — this was definitely the trip with the most problems that we’ve ever experienced! Traveling isn’t always perfect, and you often have to roll with the punches and be adaptable. That was definitely the case for us on this trip!

But we were excited to finally visit a few places in Central and South America. We experienced some of the most amazing history, food, and culture. It left us wanting to visit even more! Some of the top places we’d like to travel in the future are: The Patagonia Region (Argentina & Chile), Ecuador, Panama City, Belize, Nicaragua, and El Salvador.

Have you traveled in Latin America? What are some of your favorite places? We’d love to hear your insights and recommendations for future trips! Let us know in the comments!

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