Koala Den Potosi, Bolivia

Visiting Potosi, Bolivia

The overwhelming percentage of travelers who stop in the town of Potosi, Bolivia do so just for a few days to take the exhilaratingly authentic tour of the city’s silver mine. While Koala Den (Potosi) conveniently organizes the tour for its guests, complete with pick-up from the hostel, the rest of our experience there was borderline hellish.

Cerro Rico in Potosi, Bolivia

Cerro Rico in Potosi, Bolivia

Koala Den Hostel in Potosi

It’s overpriced at 150 Bolivianos per night for a private room with an ensuite bathroom. The room they put us in was dingy and dark and the bathroom had a suffocatingly strong odor of something chemical. We were afraid the toilet was going to explode. It was nauseating and so we asked for another room. They kindly acquiesced. Unfortunately, the next room was the same.

Koala Den Hostel in Potosi

Koala Den Hostel in Potosi

Dining at Koala Cafe in Potosi…

Starving, we asked for a restaurant recommendation and they directed us to their affiliated Koala Cafe. We devoured our dinners and headed back for a good night’s sleep (in cozy beds, actually!) before heading out early for our tour.

And its consequences…

Poor Vic had no visions of sugarplums that night, however. He woke up in the middle of the night with a horrific case of food poisoning and spent the next 18 hours expelling his Koala Cafe burger in the revolting bathroom, surrounded by mold and literally kneeling in shower water while tossing his beans because the shower head is directly above the toilet.

Bathroom of the Koala Den in Potosi

Bathroom of the Koala Den in Potosi

I chatted with some fellow travelers who we met in the cafe, and one of them also suffered from food poisoning.

The next morning I explained to the staff that we had to reschedule our tour due to Vic’s sickness and they were less than thrilled to accommodate my request. Not very nice.

Potosi Silver Mine Tour with Koala Den

They do have a nice breakfast, however. That’s their one strong point. And the mine tour is FABULOUS. It’s just too bad that Koala Den is one of the only options in town.

We’ve stayed in quite a few crappy hostels, but this is the only one I feel compelled to write a negative review about because our experience was so atrocious. From here on out, only the positive!

More Photos of the Koala Den

La Dolce Vita in Sucre, Bolivia

La Dolce Vita in Sucre: A Backpackers Hostel

Whenever we’re traveling in a cramped overnight cross-country bus, the wish that I have in the back of my mind the entire time is that we’ll arrive in a clean, comfortable hostel with an inviting bed that will beckon me to rest my cramped muscles and weary bones. My stars were aligned that night, because when we found ourselves at the doorstep of La Dolce Vita in Sucre, Boliva at 7 a.m. after one such ride, my wish was granted.

La Dolce Vita in Sucre Bolivia

La Dolce Vita in Sucre Bolivia

Definitely The Best Hostel in Sucre

Sucre is lovely, lovely and I wish we had spent more time there. I felt like I was walking in the clouds after navigating the frenetic hustle of La Paz. Local regulation mandates that its building owners whitewash their exteriors annually, which adds a nice sparkle. But since Sucre is a university city, self-expression still finds its way to the walls. La Dolce Vita offers serenity and charisma that matches the city itself.

Atrium of La Dolce Vita in Sucre Bolivia

Atrium of La Dolce Vita in Sucre Bolivia

La Dolce Vita Hostel Offer

We spent 140 Bolivianos per night for one of the most enormous and clean private rooms with ensuite bathroom that we’ve stayed in. The rooms surround an open-air courtyard and the terrace on the rooftop is perfect for eating the meals that we cooked in the kitchen. By the way, La Dolce Vita doesn’t offer breakfast, but making our own was actually a welcome change from the bland white bread that most Bolivian hostels serve in the morning.

The Immense Bedroom We Were Offered in La Dolce Vita

The Immense Bedroom We Were Offered in La Dolce Vita

Our Stay in La Dolce Vita Hostel

Vincent, the French owner (who’s also fluent in English and Spanish) makes La Dolce Vita what it is. He sells wine at a good price and organizes everything from the traditional Bolivian dinner/dance at which we celebrated Vic’s birthday to our excursion to the market in Tarabuco.

Our Bathroom in La Dolce Vita

Our Bathroom in La Dolce Vita

Superb hostel. 100% recommended.  Scope it out at La Dolce Vita website.

Finca Magdalena in Ometepe

A Sleep Over on a Volcano Side

What Finca Magdalena does not provide at the diner table, it delivers in sights and experiences. Rarely have Jess and I been in such exotic settings. Our little cottage basks in the early rays of the sun while butterflies are dancing in the flower bed by our window and the howler monkeys are screaming their morning territorial calls. I open an eye onto Volcano Concepcion in the distance, gathering all the energy it will take to climb Volcano Maderas on the side of which we slept last night.Finca Magdalena Ometepe Nicaragua Main Lodge

Finca Magdalena’s Accommodation

Finca Magdalena’s level of accommodation vary fully according to budget. Whereas, as customary in our travels, we chose a matrimonial bedroom with private bathroom down from the main lodge, there is also find plenty of dorm space and single rooms.

Finca Magdalena Cabin Ometepe Nicaragua

The room itself was splendid, a flower welcoming us on our bed, and the separation from the main lodge adds to the ethereal atmosphere. That and the late night encounter with a horse in front of the cabin, from which I thought Jess would never recover.

Finca Magdalena Ometepe Nicaragua Private Room

On the main patio, you can swing on a hammock was gazing across the fields at a volcano. We were enirely mesmerized by the charms of the place.

Where Are The Fresh Produces?

The food is less than spectacular, particularly for a farm harvesting their own produce but for a few days it sufficed. When my sweet tooth called, we found under the direction of Benji some delicious organic chocolate bars on our -long long- way up to the Finca itself, in one of the tiendas on the path side.

Volcano Concepcion from Finca Magdalena in Ometepe Nicaragua

Hiking Volcano Maderas from Finca Magdalena

I understand that the best point of entry for the hike up Volcano Madeira is via Finca Magdalena. This could very well be true, it does not make this hike any easier. At 7 hours, its length is appropriate for a day. In the short 4 hour of ascension, we had to conquer the 1400 meters of the peak and to do so, the hiking path itself is definitely steep. Thankfully a serious and knowledgeable guide hired from Finca Magdalena took us all the way to the lake filled crater, very respectable of the different paces in our small group of six hikers. Jess and I did manage to take one of our most glorious naps in the crater at the top. One of the aforementioned chocolate bars also made our recovery much quicker.

Hiking Volcano Maderas from Finca Magdalena in Ometepe

Ometepe Petroglyphs

A shorter hike in Finca Magdalena, still at a decent incline, led us to some of the petroglyphs of Ometepe. These boulders sculpted by the Chorotegas and Niquiranos around 4th century A.D. are disseminated across the property and depict spirals, turtles, and prehistoric animals.

Ometepe's Petroglyphs in Nicaragua

Pirwa Hostel in Nazca, Peru

Central Location of Pirwa Hostel in Nazca

After the 7 hour ride from Lima, we arrive in Nazca with enough steam to walk to Pirwa Hostel. It does not take too long to navigate Nazca’s downtown area and with a little help along the way we quickly find our road, Avenida Maria Reich, just off the main square. The street itself is upside down, under renovations following a recent earthquake. Dust covers everything but luckily the works stop at the front door of our hostel where Fernando seemed to be waiting for us.

Pirwa Hostel Nazca Patio

Bed & Breakfast Atmosphere

In fact Fernando is often to be found at his front door. Very affable, he welcomes us warmly and takes us to our room. If the decoration is slightly antiquated, cozy like Grandma’s according to Jess, the place is quite comfortable. The bed is comfortable and the room even has a small den where the computer fits easily. This is all the better since the Wi-Fi reaches throughout the whole establishment and the only computer to be used is the one at the front desk.

Pirwa Hostel Nazca Bedroom

The common area is set around a small patio populated by birds. The dining area is inside. Overall, Hostel Pirwa has more the feel of a bed & breakfast than a communal hostel.

Pirwa Hostel Nazca Dining Room

Booking Tours in Nazca

This is obvious as well when looking for information. Everything revolves around Fernando who is full of guidance and can organize tours at your convenience. We took him on his offer to fly over the Nazca lines with Aeroparacas and he reiterated in the afternoon to go to Chauchilla Cemetery. Read Jess’ account of the Nazca lines and Chauchilla Cemetery. The price that he proposed for the Nazca lines with Aerocapas are correct: a $5 charge over the airline $95 price. The visit to the cemetery was unbeatable at 25 soles although obviously the guide was not so delighted with this last minute load.

Final Review

With a one night stay at Pirwa Hostel Nazca, Jess and I felt very comfortable and pampered by Fernando. The breakfast and advice was appreciated although if you are planning to do something on your own, you might want to look a little further.

Hostel El Indio Viejo in Ometepe, Nicaragua

UPDATE: Please do not visit this establishment. Read the comments below to find out more about the dangerous individuals who run El Indio Viejo in Ometepe.

Finding Our Way to Hostel El Indio Viejo in Ometepe

Hostel El Indio Viejo provided us with much more than just accommodation on Ometepe. Thanks to the warmth of its owner, we were granted a fantastic insight into the some of the gems this island has to offer.

From Granada to Moyogalpa via Altagracia

But we almost forewent our reservations at first. We traveled by boat from Granada on one of the semiweekly ferries and arrived late in Altagracia firmly expecting a chicken bus to transit across the island. This proved to be a vain expectation. Instead, we found nothing but taxi services prepared to charge us $20 for the hour drive. Luckily we split the tab with two other backpackers and arrived nice and starved in front of hostel El Indio Viejo where the best burrito in the world was waiting for us. I know what you ´re thinking, you ´ve already had 3 of the best burritos in the world before, some probably late at night. Just you go and try that one and come back and let me know.

El Indio Viejo Social Center of Moyogalpa

If Moyogalpa does not look like much at first, one quickly realizes that this is the heart of the island. And in the middle of the town  lies  El Indio Viejo, once known as Hospedaje Central, making it an obligatory stop for locals and travelers alike. The aforementioned restaurant is always lively making it a great common area and the owner seems to always be prepared to share with you what ever you have come prepared to listen to. Do not judge this man too quickly by his shamanic dread, instead sit down and listen, in French if possible since his goal is to return the language to his former splendor.

Discover the True Rhythm of Ometepe

I have rarely spent 6 night in a row in a hostel. Here is the exception. Was the bed fantastic and the bathroom spotless? Not quite, but everything was clean and up to par with what you will find in Nicaragua. However, there is no better place to come and get infused with the culture of Nahuas tribes. I won ´t give you any spoiler but instead make sure to inquire about the three mysteries of the island.

Throughout our stay there, we also biked the island of Ometepe, climbed volcano Madeira rented out a motorbike to go and visit Ojo del Agua. Everything was arranged under the guidance of El Indio Viejo.

In conclusion, not only would I go back there, but I would encourage anybody who is looking for a different experience to spend some time at this hostel.