Unveiling El Chaltén: Nature’s Masterpiece in Argentina

Nestled in the Patagonian region, El Chaltén is a haven for nature lovers, adventure enthusiasts, and anyone seeking tranquility amidst stunning landscapes.  Known as the trekking capital of Argentina, El Chaltén is surrounded by majestic peaks, pristine lakes, and vast stretches of untouched wilderness. The iconic Mount Fitz Roy dominates the skyline and offers an awe-inspiring backdrop for outdoor adventures.

This unique destination, nestled within Los Glaciares National Park, is the epitome of “Off-the-Beaten” path with an estimated population of around 1500 people.  From Buenos Aires, Argentina you’ll take a 3 hour flight to El Calafate, followed by a 2.5 hour drive to El Chalten.

The main street of El Chaltén is a charming and picturesque thoroughfare that serves as the heart of this small Patagonian village. Despite its modest size, it exudes a vibrant energy and laid-back atmosphere that perfectly reflects the spirit of the surrounding wilderness.

Lined with cozy cafes, rustic restaurants, and colorful shops, the main street invites visitors to wander leisurely and soak in the local culture.  It serves as a nexus of activity and a gathering place for adventurers from all corners of the globe. Whether it’s sharing stories over a pint of local craft beer or simply taking in the breathtaking views, there’s a sense of camaraderie and exploration that infuses every corner of this vibrant village.

Where to eat a casual meal?

La Tapera

La Tapera in El Chaltén, Argentina, is a must-visit dining spot for several compelling reasons. Firstly, it offers a true taste of Argentina with a menu featuring classic dishes such including grilled meats, soups, salads, and homemade pastas. The use of locally sourced ingredients ensures freshness and authenticity in every bite.

The restaurant boasts a warm and inviting ambiance, perfect for relaxing after a day of trekking and exploring the stunning natural beauty of El Chaltén. The rustic décor and friendly staff contribute to a homely and welcoming experience. The chefs at La Tapera are skilled in bringing out the best in traditional Argentine recipes, making each meal a memorable culinary experience.

Additionally, La Tapera offers a selection of excellent local wines, allowing diners to enjoy a well-rounded Argentine dining experience. The staff is knowledgeable and can recommend the perfect wine pairing for your meal. Its reputation for delicious food and excellent service makes it a standout dining option.

Overall, eating at La Tapera provides a wonderful opportunity to indulge in delicious Argentine cuisine within a charming and comfortable setting, enhancing your visit to the beautiful region of El Chaltén.

Thirsty for a great beer after your hike?

La Cervecería Chaltén

Look no further than La Cervecería Chaltén. The brewery is renowned for its high-quality craft beers, which are brewed on-site using pristine Patagonian water and locally sourced ingredients. Each beer is crafted with care, resulting in a variety of unique and flavorful brews that cater to a range of palates.

The ambiance of La Cervecería Chaltén adds to the appeal, making it a perfect spot to unwind after a day of exploring the breathtaking landscapes of El Chaltén. The cozy interior, adorned with rustic wooden accents and warm lighting, creates a welcoming atmosphere where visitors can relax and enjoy their drinks. Additionally, the outdoor seating area provides stunning views of the surrounding mountains, allowing guests to immerse themselves in the natural beauty of Patagonia while savoring their beer.

Whether you’re winding down after a hike, meeting up with friends, or simply looking to enjoy a quality beer in a beautiful setting, La Cervecería Chaltén provides an unforgettable experience that celebrates the best of Patagonian craft brewing.

Looking for a great hike near El Chaltén?

Laguna de los Tres

One of the best hikes near El Chaltén is the trail to Laguna de los Tres. This iconic hike offers breathtaking views and a rewarding challenge, making it a must-do for anyone visiting the region. The hike begins just outside El Chaltén and takes you through some of the most stunning landscapes in Patagonia.

The trail to Laguna de los Tres is approximately 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) round trip and typically takes around 8 to 10 hours to complete, depending on your pace and the amount of time you spend at the viewpoints. The path is well-marked and varies in difficulty, with moderate sections interspersed with more strenuous climbs.

Starting from El Chaltén, the trail winds through a beautiful lenga forest, offering shade and a chance to spot local wildlife. As you ascend, you’ll cross streams and pass through open meadows, with the majestic peaks of the Fitz Roy massif coming into view. The scenery is awe-inspiring, with towering granite spires and glacial valleys creating a dramatic backdrop.

One of the highlights of the hike is the viewpoint at Laguna Capri, approximately halfway to Laguna de los Tres. This serene lake provides a stunning reflection of Mount Fitz Roy on calm days and is a perfect spot for a rest and a picnic. From here, the trail becomes steeper and more challenging as you approach the final ascent.

Hiking in Patagonia

The last kilometer is the most demanding part of the hike, involving a steep climb over rocky terrain. However, the effort is well worth it. At the top, you are rewarded with panoramic views of Laguna de los Tres, a turquoise glacial lake nestled at the base of Mount Fitz Roy. The sight of the jagged peaks towering above the pristine waters is truly breathtaking and offers one of the most iconic views in Patagonia.

The hike to Laguna de los Tres is not only about reaching the stunning destination but also about enjoying the diverse and beautiful landscapes along the way. Whether you are an experienced hiker or an enthusiastic beginner, this trail provides an unforgettable experience and a chance to connect with the raw beauty of Argentine Patagonia.

Interested in watching a movie with a connection to El Chaltén?

“The Alpinist” (2021)

“The Alpinist” is a documentary film that explores the life and extraordinary climbing achievements of Marc-André Leclerc, a young Canadian alpinist known for his daring solo ascents of some of the world’s most challenging mountains. Directed by Peter Mortimer and Nick Rosen, the film provides an intimate look at Leclerc’s philosophy, his minimalist approach to climbing, and his remarkable feats in the mountains.

The film highlights Leclerc’s passion for alpinism and his commitment to pushing the boundaries of what is possible in the sport. It showcases his ascents in various locations, including Patagonia, where El Chaltén is situated. Patagonia, with its dramatic landscapes and formidable peaks, is a region that attracts some of the most skilled climbers in the world.

El Chaltén is surrounded by some of the most iconic and challenging climbing destinations, such as Mount Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre. These peaks are renowned in the climbing community for their technical difficulty, unpredictable weather, and stunning beauty.

Marc-André Leclerc’s connection to El Chaltén is significant because he completed solo ascents of some of these challenging peaks. His climbs in the area exemplify his exceptional skill, courage, and dedication to the purest form of alpinism—climbing alone, without ropes or support.

“The Alpinist” showcases Leclerc’s solo ascent of Torre Egger, one of the peaks in the Cerro Torre massif near El Chaltén. This achievement underscores the extreme risks and profound solitude associated with his climbing style. The film captures the essence of what makes El Chaltén and its surrounding peaks a mecca for climbers: the raw, untamed beauty of Patagonia and the allure of conquering some of the world’s most formidable mountains.

In summary, “The Alpinist” is not only a tribute to Marc-André Leclerc’s incredible talent and spirit but also a testament to the allure and challenge of the Patagonian peaks around El Chaltén. The film beautifully illustrates why this region holds a special place in the hearts of adventurers and climbers worldwide.

Looking Explore El Chaltén?

7-Day Trip – Hiking Patagonia – The Land at the End of the World

If you’re looking to explorer El Chaltén and Patagonia then join Go Get Lost as we explore one of the most magnificent natural areas on the planet, the mythical Patagonia region at the tip of South America. It’s on every hiker’s bucket list, over 400,000 square miles of sparsely populated wilderness between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, with undulating steppes, forests, deserts, lakes, rivers, fjords, the Andes mountains and over 350 glaciers, many of which are still growing! We’ll base ourselves in Argentina, in two of the best towns for exploring the region. Each day will be filled with exciting adventures amid the trails and peaks of this vast and beautiful area…and each evening will be spent at a cozy and relaxing hotel, drinking in the local ambiance and dining on fine Argentinian cuisine.

You can find more information on our 7-Day tour of Patagonia here: https://www.gogetlost.com/hiking-patagonia/

9 Best Hikes in Amalfi Coast Italy

The Amalfi Coast, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Italy, is renowned for its stunning coastal scenery, charming towns, and, of course, its spectacular hiking trails. Whether you’re an avid hiker or just someone looking to take in the breathtaking views, the Amalfi Coast offers a range of trails that cater to all levels of experience. Here are the 9 best hikes in the Amalfi Coast that you shouldn’t miss.

Best Amalfi Coast Hiking Trails 

1. Path of the Gods (Sentiero degli Dei)

  • Length: 7.8 km
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Highlights: Panoramic views of the coast, Positano, and Capri.

The Path of the Gods is an iconic trail offering breathtaking views of the Amalfi Coast, the Tyrrhenian Sea, and the Isle of Capri. Starting in Bomerano, this path weaves through ancient mule tracks and terraced vineyards, leading to the picturesque village of Nocelle. Along the way, hikers can explore historic ruins and enjoy the fragrant Mediterranean flora. The trail can be extended to include a descent into Positano, a colorful cliffside village.

*Featured in our Our Tuscany & Amalfi Coast Hiking Tour

2. Valle delle Ferriere

  • Length: 6 km
  • Difficulty: Easy to moderate
  • Highlights: Waterfalls, ancient paper mills, lush vegetation.

This enchanting trail takes you through the heart of the Valle delle Ferriere nature reserve. The path is a green oasis, home to a variety of rare plants and wildlife. As you walk, you’ll encounter cascading waterfalls and the fascinating ruins of ancient paper mills, a nod to Amalfi’s historical paper-making industry. The trail is a perfect blend of natural beauty and historical intrigue, offering a peaceful escape from the bustling coastal towns.

3. The Walk of Love (Il Sentiero dell’Amore)

  • Length: 3 km
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Highlights: Romantic path, views of the coastline, ideal for sunset.

Il Sentiero dell’Amore, or The Walk of Love, is a charming and relatively easy trail that offers stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea and the rugged coastline. It’s a perfect choice for a leisurely stroll, especially for couples seeking a romantic setting. The path is lined with fragrant wildflowers and offers numerous spots to sit and enjoy the sunset. The trail’s end provides a panoramic vista that’s particularly enchanting at dusk.

4. Monte Tre Calli Hike

  • Length: 5 km
  • Difficulty: Challenging
  • Highlights: Panoramic views of the Amalfi Coast and Capri.

The Monte Tre Calli Hike is a challenging but rewarding ascent that offers some of the most spectacular views of the Amalfi Coast. Starting from the village of Bomerano, this trail climbs to the summit of Monte Tre Calli, where hikers are rewarded with a 360-degree panorama encompassing the coastline, the Lattari Mountains, and the Isle of Capri. The path is steep and rocky in places, making it an exhilarating challenge for more experienced hikers.

5. Punta Campanella

  • Length: 4 km
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Highlights: Views of Capri, historical sites, marine reserve.

Punta Campanella is a historic and scenic trail leading to the tip of the Sorrentine Peninsula. Along the way, hikers can explore ancient ruins, including a temple dedicated to the goddess Minerva. The path offers stunning views of the Gulf of Naples and the Isle of Capri. The trail ends at a lighthouse, where the views of the surrounding marine reserve are unparalleled. This hike is a journey through history, nature, and mythology.

6. Furore Fjord

  • Length: Variable
  • Difficulty: Easy to moderate
  • Highlights: Unique fjord landscape, beach, and ancient fishing village.

The hike to the Furore Fjord is a unique experience, descending to one of Italy’s most picturesque fjords. The trail takes you through a landscape of steep cliffs and lush vegetation, leading to an ancient fishing village nestled at the fjord’s base. The beach at the end of the trail is a serene spot, perfect for relaxing after the descent. The Furore Fjord, with its turquoise waters and dramatic cliffs, is a hidden gem on the Amalfi Coast.

7. Ravello to Amalfi Walk

  • Length: 6.5 km
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Highlights: Views of Ravello and Amalfi, historical sites, vineyards.

This picturesque trail connects the historic hilltop town of Ravello with the coastal town of Amalfi. The path winds through terraced lemon groves and vineyards, offering stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea. Along the way, hikers can explore ancient churches and villas, including the famous Villa Cimbrone in Ravello. The trail descends into Amalfi, allowing hikers to explore its famous cathedral and bustling piazzas.

8. The Lemon Path (Il Sentiero dei Limoni)

  • Length: 7 km
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Highlights: Lemon groves, coastal views, historical mills.

Il Sentiero dei Limoni, or The Lemon Path, is a delightful trail that meanders through lush lemon groves, a signature of the Amalfi Coast. The path connects the towns of Maiori and Minori and offers stunning coastal views. Along the way, hikers will pass by historic mills and charming farmhouses. The scent of lemons fills the air, making this walk a truly sensory experience. The trail is a testament to the region’s agricultural heritage and its connection to the land.

9. Scala to Minuta and Pontone

  • Length: 4 km
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Highlights: Medieval architecture, panoramic views, ancient ruins.

This trail offers a journey through time, starting from Scala, the oldest town on the Amalfi Coast. The path leads to the picturesque hamlets of Minuta and Pontone, each boasting medieval architecture and ancient ruins. The trail offers panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and coastline. Along the way, hikers can explore the ruins of the Basilica of Sant’Eustachio and other historical landmarks. This hike is a blend of natural beauty and historical exploration, perfect for those interested in the rich past of the Amalfi Coast.

For more great trails, check out our other lists of the best hikes in Italy.

10 Best Hikes in Sardinia Italy

Sardinia, an Italian island known for its rugged landscape, crystal-clear waters, and rich history, offers some of the most beautiful and diverse hiking trails in the Mediterranean. From coastal paths with stunning sea views to mountainous treks in the heart of the island, Sardinia’s trails are a paradise for hikers. 

Here are the 10 best hikes in Sardinia that showcase the island’s natural beauty and cultural heritage.

Top 10 Best Sardinia Hikes and Trails

1. Selvaggio Blu Trek

  • Length: 40 km
  • Difficulty: Challenging
  • Highlights: Dramatic coastal views, remote beaches, rugged terrain.

The Selvaggio Blu Trek is one of the most challenging and rewarding hikes in Italy. It traverses the wild, unspoiled coastline of the Gulf of Orosei, offering breathtaking views of the Mediterranean. The trail includes steep ascents, descents, and requires some climbing, making it an adventure for experienced hikers.

2. Gola Su Gorropu

  • Length: 14 km
  • Difficulty: Moderate to challenging
  • Highlights: Europe’s deepest canyon, unique flora and fauna, limestone walls.

Gola Su Gorropu, often referred to as the Grand Canyon of Europe, is a spectacular gorge with towering limestone walls. The hike to the canyon is a journey through diverse landscapes, including ancient forests and riverbeds. Inside the gorge, hikers can marvel at the sheer scale of the canyon walls and the unique ecosystem.

3. Cala Goloritzé

  • Length: 4 km
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Highlights: Iconic beach, turquoise waters, limestone arch.

The hike to Cala Goloritzé leads to one of Sardinia’s most iconic beaches. The trail descends from the high plateau of Baunei, offering stunning views of the coastline and the Mediterranean Sea. The beach, with its white pebbles, crystal-clear waters, and a striking limestone arch, is a breathtaking reward at the end of the hike.

4. Capo Testa

  • Length: Variable
  • Difficulty: Easy to moderate
  • Highlights: Granite rock formations, lighthouse, panoramic sea views.

Capo Testa, located in the northern part of Sardinia, is known for its unique granite rock formations sculpted by the wind. The area offers a network of trails that lead to hidden coves, the historic lighthouse, and provide panoramic views of the Strait of Bonifacio.

Explore More of Italy on Foot With Our Italy Hiking & Walking Tours

5. Monte Limbara

  • Length: Variable
  • Difficulty: Moderate to challenging
  • Highlights: Mountain landscapes, granite peaks, panoramic views.

Monte Limbara is the highest mountain range in northern Sardinia. The trails here offer a change of scenery from the coastal paths, with rugged granite peaks and lush forests. The summit provides panoramic views of the island and, on clear days, Corsica.

6. Tiscali

  • Length: 8 km
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Highlights: Ancient Nuragic village, mountain views, archaeological site.

The hike to the archaeological site of Tiscali is a journey into Sardinia’s ancient past. The trail leads to a hidden Nuragic village nestled inside a collapsed cave. The surrounding landscape of the Supramonte mountains adds to the mystical atmosphere of this historic site.

7. Cala Luna

  • Length: 7 km
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Highlights: Scenic coastal path, caves, beautiful beach.

Cala Luna is one of Sardinia’s most beautiful beaches, and the hike to reach it is just as spectacular. The trail follows the coastline, offering views of the sea and cliffs. The beach, known for its caves and crystal-clear waters, is a perfect spot to relax after the hike.

8. Punta la Marmora

  • Length: 12 km
  • Difficulty: Challenging
  • Highlights: Sardinia’s highest peak, panoramic island views, unique flora.

Punta la Marmora, the highest peak in Sardinia, offers a challenging hike with rewarding views. The trail takes you through the heart of the Gennargentu National Park, home to unique flora and fauna. From the summit, hikers can enjoy panoramic views of the entire island.

9. Coastal Path of Alghero to Bosa

  • Length: 45 km
  • Difficulty: Moderate to challenging
  • Highlights: Coastal scenery, medieval towns, diverse landscapes.

This long-distance coastal path connects the charming towns of Alghero and Bosa. The trail offers a mix of landscapes, from rocky shores and secluded beaches to rolling hills and vineyards. Both towns are worth exploring for their historical and cultural significance.

10. Isola di San Pietro

  • Length: Variable
  • Difficulty: Easy to moderate
  • Highlights: Island exploration, lighthouse, Mediterranean views.

The Isola di San Pietro is a small island off the southwestern coast of Sardinia. The island offers a variety of trails that lead to scenic viewpoints, the iconic lighthouse, and along the rugged coastline. The tranquil atmosphere and stunning views make it a perfect day trip for hikers.

Tips for Hiking in Sardinia

  • Stay Hydrated: The Sardinian climate can be hot, especially in summer.
  • Wear Sun Protection: Sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses are essential.
  • Check Local Regulations: Some trails may require permits or guides.
  • Respect the Environment: Stay on marked paths and protect the natural landscape.
  • Explore the Local Culture: Sardinia has a rich history and unique traditions worth exploring.

When is the Best Time to Plan a Hike in Sardinia? 

The best time to plan a hike in Sardinia is during the spring (April to June) and autumn (September to November) months. These periods offer the most favorable conditions for hiking, with several advantages:

Spring (April to June)

  • Pleasant Weather: Spring in Sardinia brings mild temperatures, making it comfortable for hiking. The average temperature ranges from 15°C to 25°C (59°F to 77°F).
  • Wildflower Bloom: The landscape is particularly beautiful in spring, with wildflowers in bloom, adding vibrant colors to the trails.
  • Fewer Crowds: Spring is less crowded compared to the peak summer months, offering a more peaceful hiking experience.
  • Wildlife: This is a great time for birdwatching and observing other wildlife, as animals are more active in the cooler temperatures.

Autumn (September to November)

  • Ideal Temperatures: Autumn also provides comfortable hiking conditions, with temperatures similar to spring. The sea is often still warm enough for swimming, which can be a great way to relax after a hike.
  • Changing Colors: The landscape begins to change, with autumn colors providing a different kind of beauty.
  • Harvest Season: For food enthusiasts, this is the season of harvest, with various local festivals and the opportunity to taste fresh produce like grapes, olives, and chestnuts.
  • Less Tourist Traffic: Like spring, autumn sees fewer tourists, making for quieter and more enjoyable hiking trails.

Considerations for Summer and Winter

  • Summer (July and August): While popular for beach holidays, summer in Sardinia can be extremely hot, with temperatures often exceeding 30°C (86°F). This can make hiking challenging and less enjoyable, especially on trails without shade.
  • Winter (December to February): Winters are generally mild, but the weather can be unpredictable with higher chances of rain. Some higher altitude trails may also be inaccessible.

Hiking in Sardinia is an unforgettable experience that combines natural wonders, historical sites, and breathtaking landscapes. Each trail offers a unique way to explore the island’s diverse beauty, making Sardinia a must-visit destination for outdoor enthusiasts and adventurers.

12 Most Walkable Cities in Italy

Italy, known for its rich history, stunning architecture, and vibrant culture, is home to some of the most walkable cities in the world. Exploring these cities on foot allows you to immerse yourself in the local atmosphere, discover hidden gems, and truly connect with the essence of Italian life. 

Here are 12 of Italy’s most walkable cities, each offering a unique and unforgettable experience.

Italy’s Most Walkable Cities

1. Florence

Florence Italy

Florence, the cradle of the Renaissance, is a city where art, culture, and Italian history come alive in every corner. Its compact and pedestrian-friendly streets make it a delight to explore on foot.

Highlights: Renaissance art, the Duomo, Ponte Vecchio.

Experience: Stroll through the birthplace of the Renaissance, marvel at masterpieces in the Uffizi Gallery, and wander across the iconic Ponte Vecchio.

Learn More About Out Small Group Walking Tours in Italy!

2. Venice

Venice Italy

Venice, a city built on water, is a maze of canals and narrow alleys, free from the bustle of cars, making it a unique pedestrian experience. This floating city captivates with its romantic charm and historical grandeur.

Highlights: Canals, St. Mark’s Basilica, Doge’s Palace.

Experience: Navigate the labyrinth of canals and bridges, explore the grandeur of St. Mark’s Square, and lose yourself in the enchanting alleyways.

3. Rome

Rome, known as the Eternal City, offers a fascinating journey through time, with its ancient ruins and vibrant street life. The city’s historical center is a treasure trove of landmarks, easily explored on foot.

Highlights: Colosseum, Roman Forum, Trevi Fountain.

Experience: Walk through centuries of history, from the ancient ruins of the Roman Forum to the bustling streets leading to the Trevi Fountain.

4. Siena

Siena, a quintessential medieval city in the heart of Tuscany, is famous for its well-preserved historic center and Gothic architecture. The city’s fan-shaped piazza and narrow streets invite leisurely exploration.

Highlights: Medieval streets, Piazza del Campo, Duomo.

*Featured in our Amalfi Coast & Exploring Tuscany Tour

Experience: Experience the charm of medieval streets, the stunning Piazza del Campo, and the magnificent Siena Cathedral.

5. Lucca

Lucca, encircled by Renaissance walls, is a gem in Tuscany, known for its charming cobblestone streets and verdant public spaces. This city exudes a peaceful ambiance, ideal for walking and cycling.

Highlights: Renaissance walls, cobblestone streets, Piazza dell’Anfiteatro.

Experience: Wander around the well-preserved Renaissance walls, explore the quaint streets, and visit the unique oval piazza, Piazza dell’Anfiteatro.

6. Verona

Verona, the setting of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” combines romantic allure with rich Roman history. Its ancient amphitheater and enchanting old town make it a walker’s paradise.

Highlights: Roman Arena, Juliet’s Balcony, medieval architecture.

Experience: Discover the romance of Juliet’s Balcony, the grandeur of the Roman Arena, and the charm of medieval streets.

7. Bologna

Bologna, known for its culinary delights and medieval architecture, is distinguished by its miles of covered porticoes. These unique walkways make exploring the city a pleasure in any weather.

Highlights: Porticoes, Piazza Maggiore, medieval towers.

Experience: Walk under the city’s famous porticoes, explore the vibrant Piazza Maggiore, and climb the Asinelli Tower for panoramic views.

8. Naples

Naples, a city with a vibrant spirit and rich cultural heritage, is famous for its lively streets and historic center. The city’s bustling atmosphere and historic landmarks are best experienced on foot.

Highlights: Historic center, vibrant markets, Castel dell’Ovo.

Experience: Immerse yourself in the lively atmosphere of the historic center, explore bustling markets, and visit the seaside Castel dell’Ovo.

9. Bergamo

Bergamo, divided into the Upper and Lower towns, offers a fascinating blend of history and scenic beauty. The Città Alta (Upper Town) is a medieval world of its own, perched atop a hill and surrounded by Venetian walls.

Highlights: Città Alta, Venetian walls, Piazza Vecchia.

Experience: Discover the charm of the Città Alta (Upper Town), surrounded by Venetian walls, and the beautiful Piazza Vecchia.

10. Matera

Matera, known for its ancient cave dwellings, is a city that has captivated visitors with its unique landscape and historical depth. Walking through its stone-carved streets feels like stepping back in time.

Highlights: Sassi cave dwellings, rock churches, canyon views.

Experience: Explore the ancient Sassi cave dwellings, visit centuries-old rock churches, and enjoy stunning views of the surrounding canyon.

11. Turin

Turin, an elegant city with a rich royal history, is known for its grand boulevards and baroque architecture. The city’s layout and spacious squares make it ideal for exploring on foot.

Highlights: Elegant boulevards, Royal Palace, Mole Antonelliana.

Experience: Stroll along the city’s elegant boulevards, visit the Royal Palace, and see the iconic Mole Antonelliana.

12. Palermo

Palermo, the capital of Sicily, is a city where diverse cultures and histories converge. Its streets are a mosaic of Arab-Norman architecture, bustling markets, and baroque churches.

Highlights: Arab-Norman architecture, bustling markets, Palermo Cathedral.

*Featured in our Unveiling Sicily Tour

Experience: Experience the unique Arab-Norman architecture, wander through lively markets, and visit the impressive Palermo Cathedral.

Tips for Exploring Italian Cities on Foot

  1. Wear Comfortable Shoes: Cobblestone streets and uneven paths are common.
  2. Stay Hydrated: Carry a water bottle, especially during warmer months.
  3. Embrace the Pace: Take your time to soak in the sights, sounds, and flavors.
  4. Get Lost: Sometimes the best discoveries are made when you stray off the beaten path.
  5. Respect Local Customs: Be mindful of local culture and etiquette.

Walking through these Italian cities offers an intimate and enriching way to experience Italy’s regions, timeless beauty, captivating history, and vibrant culture. Each city, with its unique character and charm, invites you to slow down and savor every step of your journey.

Regions of Italy: The Ultimate Guide

Italy, a country synonymous with history, culture, and unparalleled natural beauty, is divided into 20 distinct regions, each offering its own unique blend of sights, flavors, and traditions. This guide delves into each region, highlighting their most notable features, major cities, renowned attributes, and connected entities.

How Many Regions Are In Italy?

There are 20 distinct administrative regions in Italy, each offering a unique blend of culture, cuisine, and geography. From the alpine landscapes of Trentino-Alto Adige in the north to the sun-drenched shores of Sicily in the south, these regions encapsulate the diverse heritage and rich history of Italy.

They range from highly urbanized and industrial areas like Lombardy and Piedmont to more rural and traditional regions such as Molise and Basilicata, showcasing Italy’s varied economic and social fabric.

List of Italy’s Regions

1. Abruzzo

Abruzzo is known for its diverse landscape, featuring both stunning coastlines and rugged mountain ranges. The region is a haven for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.

Major Cities: L’Aquila, Pescara

  • L’Aquila: Known for its medieval architecture and being close to the Gran Sasso mountain.
  • Pescara: A significant port city famous for its beaches and vibrant nightlife.

Renowned For: Abruzzo is famous for its national parks, such as the Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga National Park, and traditional cuisine, including Arrosticini (lamb skewers). Abruzzo has a strong agricultural tradition, producing fine wines like Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.

2. Basilicata

Characterized by its mountainous and hilly terrain, Basilicata is also home to the unique city of Matera, known for its ancient cave dwellings. The region’s cuisine, particularly its breads and pastas, are also highly regarded.

Major Cities: Potenza, Matera

  • Potenza: The highest regional capital in Italy, known for its scenic beauty.
  • Matera: Famous for its Sassi di Matera, ancient cave dwellings.

Renowned For: Basilicata is celebrated for its rich history, ancient architecture, and the Matera European Capital of Culture 2019.

3. Calabria

Calabria is the toe of Italy’s boot, surrounded by the crystal-clear Ionian and Tyrrhenian Seas. It’s known for its rugged landscape and pristine beaches.

Major Cities: Reggio Calabria, Catanzaro

  • Reggio Calabria: Famous for its waterfront and the Riace Bronzes at the National Archaeological Museum.
  • Catanzaro: Known as the “city of two seas,” located between the Ionian and Tyrrhenian seas.

Renowned For: Calabria is famous for its spicy cuisine, particularly its use of chili peppers, and beautiful coastal towns like Tropea. The region is also a significant producer of citrus fruits and olive oil.

4. Campania

Campania is rich in cultural heritage, with ancient ruins, stunning coastlines, and vibrant cities. It’s home to the famous Amalfi Coast.

Major Cities: Naples, Salerno

  • Naples: Known for its historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and as the birthplace of pizza.
  • Salerno: Offers a mix of medieval and modern charm, with beautiful beaches and historical sites.

Renowned For: Campania is famous for its archaeological sites like Pompeii and Herculaneum, the stunning Amalfi Coast, and its culinary delights, especially pizza and seafood. The region is also known for its production of buffalo mozzarella and Limoncello.

5. Emilia-Romagna

This region is known for its rich gastronomy, medieval cities, and Renaissance art. It’s also home to several famous car manufacturers.

Major Cities: Bologna, Parma, Modena

  • Bologna: Renowned for its historic center, the oldest university in the Western world, and its culinary tradition.
  • Parma: Famous for Parmesan cheese and Parma ham.
  • Modena: Known for its balsamic vinegar and as the home of Ferrari and Lamborghini.

Renowned For: Emilia-Romagna is celebrated for its culinary contributions, including Bolognese sauce, Parmesan cheese, and traditional balsamic vinegar. 

The region is also a hub for automotive excellence, hosting brands like Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Maserati.

6. Friuli-Venezia Giulia

This region, bordering Austria and Slovenia, is known for its multicultural heritage, stunning alpine scenery, and coastal resorts.

Major Cities: Trieste, Udine

  • Trieste: Known for its Habsburg legacy, vibrant coffee culture, and as a literary hub.
  • Udine: Rich in Venetian-style architecture and art.

Renowned For: Friuli-Venezia Giulia is famous for its white wines, San Daniele ham, and the seaside town of Grado.

The region has strong cultural ties with Central Europe, reflected in its architecture, cuisine, and languages.

7. Lazio

Lazio, the region of Rome, is the heart of ancient Roman history and Catholicism. It offers a mix of historical sites, natural beauty, and vibrant urban life.

Major Cities: Rome, Latina

  • Rome: The capital city, known for its ancient ruins like the Colosseum and Vatican City.
  • Latina: A city known for its modernist architecture and nearby beaches.

Renowned For: Lazio is famous for its historical and cultural significance, including sites like the Roman Forum and the Sistine Chapel.

It’s also the center of the Catholic Church and has a strong film and media industry.

8. Liguria

Liguria, famous for its picturesque coastline, is home to the Italian Riviera, including the Cinque Terre, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Major Cities: Genoa, La Spezia

  • Genoa: Known for its important role in maritime trade, its historic center, and as the birthplace of Christopher Columbus.
  • La Spezia: A significant naval base and gateway to the Cinque Terre.

Renowned For: Liguria is celebrated for its stunning coastal scenery, pesto sauce, and charming seaside towns. The region’s economy is heavily influenced by its port activities and tourism.

9. Lombardy

Lombardy is an economic powerhouse, known for its fashion, finance, and the stunning Italian Lakes.

Major Cities: Milan, Bergamo, Como

  • Milan: A global fashion and design capital, also famous for the Milan Cathedral and Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper.”
  • Bergamo: Known for its Venetian walls and beautiful old town.
  • Como: Famous for Lake Como and its luxurious villas.

Renowned For: Lombardy is known for its economic significance, fashion industry, and beautiful lakes. It also hosts major fashion brands and financial institutions.

10. Marche

Marche is characterized by its rolling hills, beautiful coastline, and rich artistic heritage.

Major Cities: Ancona, Urbino

  • Ancona: A major port city known for its historic sites and beautiful beaches.
  • Urbino: A Renaissance city, home to the Palazzo Ducale and the birthplace of Raphael.

Renowned For: Marche is known for its footwear industry, Renaissance art, and picturesque landscapes.

The region has a strong tradition in high-quality craftsmanship, especially in footwear and furniture.

11. Molise

Molise, one of Italy’s smallest and least known regions, offers a glimpse of rural Italy with its unspoiled landscapes and ancient traditions.

Major Cities: Campobasso, Isernia

  • Campobasso: Known for its medieval castle and archaeological sites.
  • Isernia: Rich in history, with Paleolithic sites and Roman ruins.

Renowned For: Molise is celebrated for its natural beauty, traditional crafts, and tranquil countryside.

It maintains a strong agricultural tradition, producing olive oil, wine, and truffles.

12. Piedmont

Piedmont, bordering France and Switzerland, is known for its fine wines, sophisticated cuisine, and the Alps.

Major Cities: Turin, Alessandria

  • Turin: Famous for its baroque architecture, the Shroud of Turin, and as the headquarters of Fiat.
  • Alessandria: Known for its military history and the Citadel of Alessandria.

Renowned For: Piedmont is famous for its truffles, Barolo and Barbaresco wines, and the Slow Food movement.

Piedmont is a major automotive and aerospace industry hub, with companies like Fiat and Avio Aero.

13. Puglia (Apulia)

Puglia, the heel of Italy’s boot, is celebrated for its whitewashed hill towns, centuries-old farmland, and lengthy Mediterranean coastline.

Major Cities: Bari, Lecce

  • Bari: Known for its old town, Basilica of Saint Nicholas, and vibrant street life.
  • Lecce: Famous for its Baroque architecture and rich history.

Renowned For: Puglia is known for its olive oil production, distinctive trulli houses, and beautiful beaches.

The region has a strong agricultural focus, particularly in olive oil and wine production.

14. Sardinia

Sardinia, an island in the Mediterranean Sea, is known for its rugged landscape, pristine beaches, and unique cultural heritage.

Major Cities: Cagliari, Sassari

  • Cagliari: The island’s capital, known for its medieval architecture and beautiful beaches.
  • Sassari: Known for its historical center and cultural festivals.

Renowned For: Sardinia is famous for its stunning coastline, the Nuragic civilization, and its distinct language and traditions.

The island has a strong pastoral tradition and is known for its pecorino cheese and Cannonau wine.

15. Sicily

Sicily, the largest island in the Mediterranean, boasts a rich history, diverse landscape, and a wealth of archaeological sites.

Major Cities: Palermo, Catania

  • Palermo: Known for its vibrant street life, historic palaces, and markets.
  • Catania: Located at the foot of Mount Etna, known for its Baroque architecture and vibrant nightlife.

Renowned For: Sicily is celebrated for its ancient Greek and Roman sites, Mount Etna, and distinctive cuisine, including arancini and cannoli.

The island has a strong agricultural base, particularly in citrus fruits, olives, and wine.

16. Tuscany

Tuscany is famed for its picturesque landscapes, Renaissance art, and fine wines. It’s the epitome of the Italian dream for many.

Major Cities: Florence, Pisa, Siena

  • Florence: The cradle of the Renaissance, known for its art, architecture, and the Uffizi Gallery.
  • Pisa: Famous for the Leaning Tower and its historic university.
  • Siena: Known for its medieval cityscape and the Palio horse race.

Renowned For: Tuscany is celebrated for its cultural heritage, Chianti wine, and its influence on high culture.

Tuscany is a hub for art and history, with numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

17. Trentino-Alto Adige

This region in the far north of Italy is known for its stunning Alpine scenery, Germanic influences, and outdoor activities.

Major Cities: Trento, Bolzano

  • Trento: Known for its Renaissance architecture and the Castello del Buonconsiglio.
  • Bolzano: A unique blend of Italian and German cultures, famous for its Christmas markets and the Ötzi museum.

Renowned For: Trentino-Alto Adige is famous for its ski resorts, hiking trails, and the Dolomites.

The Trentino-Alto Adige region has a strong focus on sustainable tourism and is a leader in renewable energy.

18. Umbria

Known as the “Green Heart of Italy,” Umbria is celebrated for its medieval hill towns, dense forests, and local cuisine.

Major Cities: Perugia, Assisi

  • Perugia: Known for its historic center, chocolate production, and the Umbria Jazz Festival.
  • Assisi: The birthplace of St. Francis, known for the Basilica of Saint Francis.

Renowned For: Umbria is famous for its religious heritage, truffles, and the Sagrantino di Montefalco wine.

Additionally, Umbria has a strong tradition in agriculture, particularly in wine and olive oil production.

19. Valle d’Aosta

This small, mountainous region is known for its Alpine peaks, including Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn, and its unique Franco-Provençal culture.

Major Cities: Aosta

  • Aosta: Known for its Roman ruins and proximity to some of Europe’s highest peaks.

Renowned For: Valle d’Aosta is famous for its winter sports, castles, and Fontina cheese.

Also, it is a popular destination for skiing and mountaineering enthusiasts.

20. Veneto

Veneto is a region of great contrasts, from the watery wonders of Venice to the peaks of the Dolomites.

Major Cities: Venice, Verona, Padua

  • Venice: A city built on water, famous for its canals, gondolas, and the Venice Biennale.
  • Verona: Known for its Roman amphitheater and the setting of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.”
  • Padua: Renowned for its university, one of the oldest in the world, and the Scrovegni Chapel.

Renowned For: Veneto is celebrated for its artistic heritage, Prosecco wine, and the Venetian Carnival.

Veneto also has a strong industrial base, particularly in textiles, wine production, and tourism.

Each of these regions offers a unique glimpse into the rich tapestry that is Italy, blending history, culture, and natural beauty in a way that is distinctly Italian. Whether you’re exploring the ancient ruins of Rome, the

9 Best Hikes in Argentina

Argentina, a country of vast natural diversity, offers some of the most breathtaking hiking experiences in the world. From the glacier-carved landscapes of Patagonia to the subtropical rainforests of the north, every trail tells a story of the earth’s power and beauty. This guide will walk you through the 9 best hikes in Argentina, each promising an adventure that will resonate with your soul.

1. Perito Moreno Glacier Trek – Santa Cruz Province

Location: Los Glaciares National Park

Duration: Half-day to full-day

The Perito Moreno Glacier is one of the most iconic sights in Argentina. Hiking on this massive glacier is an otherworldly experience where you can witness deep crevasses and azure ice formations up close. Equipped with crampons and an experienced guide, you can explore the surface of this natural wonder and listen to the ice crack and groan as it slowly moves.

2. Mount Fitz Roy Trek – Chaltén

Location: Los Glaciares National Park

Duration: 4-8 hours for day hikes, multi-day for full circuit

Mount Fitz Roy, known locally as Cerro Chaltén, is the crown jewel of Patagonia’s hiking scene. The trek to its base offers some of the most stunning views of the sharp peaks that dominate the skyline. The most popular day hike leads to Laguna de los Tres, providing a breathtaking vista of Fitz Roy’s sheer cliffs. For the intrepid, a multi-day circuit around the mountain reveals Patagonia’s true rugged beauty.

Featured in our Patagonia Trekking Tour

3. Iguazu Falls Trails – Misiones Province

Location: Iguazu National Park

Duration: Half-day to full-day

The Iguazu Falls, straddling the border between Argentina and Brazil, are a series of massive waterfalls that can be explored through a network of trails. The Paseo Garganta del Diablo is a must-do, leading you to the Devil’s Throat, where the roar of water plunges into a misty abyss. The surrounding subtropical rainforest is also home to colorful birds and butterflies, adding to the magic of the hike.

4. Quebrada de Humahuaca Trek – Jujuy Province

Location: Quebrada de Humahuaca

Duration: 1-3 days

The Quebrada de Humahuaca is a UNESCO World Heritage site, featuring a dramatic valley with multicolored rock formations. Hiking here feels like stepping into a painting, with the Hill of Seven Colors in Purmamarca being a highlight. Longer treks can take you through ancient Incan trails and to remote villages where time seems to stand still.

5. Aconcagua Base Camp Trek – Mendoza Province

Location: Aconcagua Provincial Park

Duration: 5-7 days

Aconcagua is the highest peak outside of Asia, and reaching its base camp is an achievement in itself. The hike takes you through changing landscapes, from lush green valleys to the stark, moon-like terrain near the mountain’s base. The trail offers a glimpse of the high-altitude world of mountaineers who come to tackle the summit.

6. Lanín Volcano Ascent – Neuquén Province

Location: Lanín National Park

Duration: 2 days

The symmetrical cone of Lanín Volcano is an imposing sight and climbing it is a challenging but rewarding experience. The ascent requires a guide and proper equipment, but reaching the snow-covered summit gives you a panoramic view of the Andes and the satisfaction of conquering one of Argentina’s most iconic peaks.

7. Tierra del Fuego National Park – Tierra del Fuego

Location: Near Ushuaia

Duration: 2-4 hours to full-day

At the southernmost tip of the continent, Tierra del Fuego National Park offers a variety of trails that meander through forests, bogs, and along the Beagle Channel with views of Chilean islands. The park’s remote beauty is a testament to the harsh and windswept landscapes of the far south.

8. Talampaya National Park – La Rioja Province

Location: Talampaya National Park

Duration: Half-day to full-day

Talampaya is a desert region where red sandstone cliffs rise dramatically from the earth. Guided hikes can take you to see ancient petroglyphs, bizarre rock formations, and the remnants of dinosaurs that once roamed this Martian landscape.

9. Los Alerces National Park – Chubut Province

Location: Los Alerces National Park

Duration: 2-6 hours for day hikes, multi-day for full circuit

Named after the ancient alerce trees, some of which are over 3,000 years old, this park offers tranquil hikes along crystal-clear lakes and rivers. The trails are less traveled, providing a peaceful experience in the midst of lush forests and snow-capped mountains.

End of the Road

Argentina’s trails are as diverse as they are stunning. Each hike offers a unique window into the natural wonders of this vast country. Whether you’re trekking on the ice fields of Patagonia, through the subtropical forests of Iguazu, or across the high-altitude deserts of the Andes, hiking in Argentina is sure to leave an indelible mark on your heart. 

Remember to respect the natural environments you explore, prepare adequately for each region’s challenges, and immerse yourself fully in the splendor of Argentina’s great outdoors. Happy trails!

Hiking in Cinque Terre: A Complete Guide to Italy’s Coastal Trails

Nestled along the rugged coastline of the Italian Riviera, Cinque Terre is a hiker’s paradise, known for its breathtaking views, vibrant villages, and the azure blue of the Ligurian Sea. This UNESCO World Heritage site comprises five historic villages: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore.

Hiking in Cinque Terre is not just a physical journey but a cultural and sensory experience. This guide will take you through everything you need to know to make your hiking adventure unforgettable.

Understanding the Trails of Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre boasts a network of trails that connect each of the five villages. The most famous path, Sentiero Azzurro, or the Blue Trail, is a 12-kilometer route that links all five villages and offers stunning coastal views. However, there are numerous other trails, each varying in difficulty and scenery.

Featured Tour – Italian Riviera & Cinque Terre Exploring Tour

The Blue Trail (Sentiero Azzurro)

This trail is divided into four sections, each connecting two villages. The entire path can take about 5 hours to complete, but many choose to hike it in sections. The trail can be steep and narrow in places, but it is well-maintained and the most popular among tourists.

The Red Trails

For those seeking a more challenging hike, the Red Trails ascend into the hills and vineyards above the villages, offering panoramic views and a quieter experience. These trails are less crowded and more rugged, providing a more strenuous workout.

The Green Trails

These paths wander through the olive groves and terraced fields between the villages and are ideal for those looking for a more leisurely hike with plenty of opportunities to taste the local produce.

Preparing for Your Hike in Cinque Terre

Best Time to Visit

The best time for hiking in Cinque Terre is from late spring to early fall, with April, May, and September being the ideal months. The weather is mild, and the summer crowds have yet to arrive or have just left.

What to Bring

Pack light but don’t forget essentials such as water, sunscreen, a hat, and comfortable walking shoes with good grip. The trails can be rocky and uneven, so sturdy footwear is a must. A camera is also essential; you’ll want to capture the stunning views and colorful villages.

Trail Passes

Some sections of the trails require a Cinque Terre Card, which includes access to all the footpaths and trains connecting the villages. These can be purchased at the train stations or tourist offices in any of the five villages.

The Hiking Experience

Monterosso al Mare to Vernazza

This is one of the most challenging sections of the Blue Trail, with a steep ascent and descent. However, the views of the terraced vineyards and the sea are spectacular. Vernazza, with its natural harbor and medieval tower, is a rewarding sight after the hike.

Vernazza to Corniglia

Continuing on the Blue Trail, this section is slightly easier and takes you through olive groves with magnificent views of the coastline. Corniglia, the only village not directly by the sea, sits atop a promontory with panoramic views.

Corniglia to Manarola

This section is currently closed due to landslides, but alternative routes through the vineyards offer a serene detour. Manarola is known for its picturesque harbor and colorful houses that seem to rise from the sea.

Manarola to Riomaggiore

Known as the Via dell’Amore, or Lover’s Lane, this is the easiest and most famous section of the trail. It’s a flat, paved path that offers romantic views of the coastline. Riomaggiore, with its steep streets and high-perched houses, is a vibrant end to the trail.

Want more Italian Hiking Destinations? Check out some of our small group Italy Hiking Tours.

After the Hike

After a day of hiking, indulge in the local cuisine. Cinque Terre is famous for its fresh seafood, pesto, and Sciacchetrà wine. Each village has a variety of restaurants and cafes where you can relax and enjoy the local flavors.

Staying Overnight

If you decide to spread your hike over several days, there are numerous accommodations available, from luxury hotels to cozy guesthouses. Staying overnight in the villages allows you to experience the tranquil beauty of Cinque Terre after the day-trippers have left.

End of the Trail

Hiking in Cinque Terre is an experience that combines natural beauty, exercise, and cultural immersion. The trails offer something for everyone, from casual walkers to serious hikers, and the reward is some of the most spectacular coastal scenery in the world. Prepare well, respect the environment, and immerse yourself in the charm and beauty of Cinque Terre. Buon viaggio!

Is Travel Insurance Worth It? 6 Reasons You Should Consider

Traveling is one of life’s most enriching experiences. Exploring new destinations, immersing yourself in different cultures, and creating lasting memories are all part of the adventure. However, amidst the excitement and anticipation of your next trip, it’s easy to overlook an essential aspect of travel planning: obtaining quality travel insurance.

In over 25 years Go Get Lost has been in business, we’ve seen many, many cases where people were either thankful or were kicking themselves because they didn’t.

Two of the most common scenarios we often see that prevent a person from traveling is a death in the family or an injury/medical condition that arises prior to their trip.  For most travelers, they have a significant investment in non-refundable expenses, such as deposits, airline flights, hotels, etc.  Because the expenses are non-refundable, without travel insurance, these expenditures are simply lost.  For a couple, it’s not uncommon for the amount to exceed $10,000 – $15,000. 

Not only have we seen things happen before the tour, but we also have seen them happen while on the tour.  It can be something as simple as a broken ankle, or something more serious such as a brain injury.  This is why travel insurance not only helps before the trip, but helps after the trip has started, providing medical coverage while you’re away.

In this article, we’ll explore why travel insurance is vital and discuss important factors to consider when selecting the right policy for your journey.

Why is Travel Insurance Important?

Protection Against Unexpected Events

While no one likes to dwell on the negative aspects of travel, the truth is that unexpected events can and do happen. Travel insurance is your safety net when things go wrong. It can provide coverage for a wide range of unforeseen situations, including trip cancellations, medical emergencies, lost luggage, and even natural disasters. Without insurance, you might find yourself in a difficult and expensive situation that could have been easily avoided.

Peace of Mind

Travel can be stressful, and knowing that you have a financial safety net in place can provide peace of mind. With the right insurance policy, you can enjoy your trip without constantly worrying about potential mishaps. Whether it’s a minor illness or a major travel disruption, you’ll have the assurance that you’re financially protected.

Medical Coverage Abroad

Your health should be a top priority when traveling. International medical bills can be exorbitant, and in some countries, healthcare may not be readily available. Travel insurance often includes coverage for medical emergencies, ensuring that you receive the necessary treatment without incurring overwhelming expenses. This is especially important if you have pre-existing medical conditions or require specific medications.  One thing Go Get Lost always includes when quoting travel insurance is “Hospital of Choice”.  Essentially this is an inexpensive upgrade that helps you get to your hospital of choice, rather than the “nearest adequate medical facility”.  When traveling internationally, it’s important to consider where a medically necessary procedure might take place.  For us, we want the choice of returning to the United States if any critical medical procedure needs to be done.

Trip Cancellation and Interruption

Life is unpredictable, and sometimes you need to cancel or interrupt your trip due to unforeseen circumstances. Travel insurance can help you recover non-refundable expenses, such as plane tickets, hotel reservations, and tour bookings. Whether it’s a family emergency, illness, or a job-related issue, having insurance in place allows you to reschedule or recoup your losses.

Coverage for Lost or Stolen Belongings

Losing your luggage or having valuable items stolen can quickly turn a dream vacation into a nightmare. Travel insurance can cover the cost of replacing lost or stolen belongings, including passports, cameras, and electronics. This coverage can be a lifesaver when you’re far from home.

Medicare Coverage Outside the United States

In most situations, Medicare won’t pay for health care or supplies you get outside the U.S. The term “outside the U.S.” means anywhere other than the 50 states of the U.S., the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands.  If you are on Medicare and are traveling outside the United States, you essentially have no coverage unless you have additional insurance beyond the base Medicare coverage.

See Our Other Travel Guides >>

What to Consider When Purchasing Travel Insurance

1. Trip Details

Before you purchase travel insurance, it’s essential to know the specifics of your trip. Consider the destination, duration, and activities you have planned. Some policies are tailored for specific types of travel, such as adventure sports or international cruises. Make sure your policy matches your trip’s characteristics.

2. Coverage Options

There are various types of travel insurance coverage available. Common options include trip cancellation/interruption, medical, baggage loss, and emergency evacuation coverage. Review the inclusions and exclusions of each policy to ensure it meets your needs.

3. Pre-Existing Conditions

If you have pre-existing medical conditions, be sure to disclose them when purchasing travel insurance. Some policies may exclude coverage for these conditions, while others may offer coverage with certain conditions. Be transparent about your health to avoid any issues when making a claim.  Also, it’s not uncommon for travel insurance providers to have timelines on when you purchase your insurance to get Pre-Existing Medical Condition coverage.  For example, some insurance providers require you to purchase your insurance within 15 days of purchasing your trip and any additional add-ons.  Remember, this pre-existing conditions coverage often applies to those around you that could prevent you from traveling, for example, when a family member passes away from a pre-exiting medical condition.

4. Policy Limits and Deductibles

Understand the policy’s limits and deductibles. These are the maximum amounts the insurance company will pay out and the amount you need to cover before the insurance kicks in. Ensure these limits are sufficient to cover your potential expenses.

5. Compare Policies

Don’t settle for the first travel insurance policy you come across. Shop around, compare different policies, and read reviews to find the best coverage for your needs. Consider factors such as the reputation of the insurance company, customer service, and the ease of filing claims.

6. Covered Reasons

Make sure you understand the “covered reasons”.  These reasons guide you on when and when you are not eligible to file a claim.  It’s the “why” when making a claim.  For example, a death of a parent, loss of job, death of a travel companion.  It’s critical to understand the various covered reasons of your plan and whether or not the likely reasons you might cancel are covered.  If a likely reason is not covered, you may consider a “Cancel For Any Reason” policy.  These policies give you the most flexibility when cancelling, but also come with the highest price.  In addition, many “cancel for any reason” policies do NOT cover the full amount of what you have paid, so pay special attention to coverages.

7. Travel Insurance Providers

Choose a reputable and well-established insurance provider. Read customer reviews and check their financial stability to ensure they can fulfill their commitments in case you need to make a claim.

Purchasing travel insurance is an essential aspect of responsible travel planning. It provides peace of mind, protects you from unforeseen events, and ensures that you can enjoy your journey without financial worries. Before embarking on your next adventure, take the time to explore your insurance options, understand the coverage, and choose a policy that suits your needs. Remember, when you’re well-prepared, you can fully savor the joy of travel, knowing that you’re safeguarded against unexpected bumps in the road.

Go Get Lost has been partnered with Travel Guard for over 20 years and we continue to recommend them to our clients.  There are many providers, take your time and find the one you are most comfortable with.

10 Benefits of Hiking Everyone Should Know

Hiking is more than just a way to get some exercise; it’s a window to the world that offers a myriad of benefits for both the body and the mind. From the physical exertion of scaling a peak to the mental peace found in the quiet of a forest, hiking presents a unique blend of advantages. 

Let’s explore the top 10 benefits that make hiking an exceptional activity for enhancing your life.

Top 10 Hiking Benefits

1. Cardiovascular Strength

Hiking is a powerful cardio workout that can improve your heart health. Each step on the trail is a step towards a stronger cardiovascular system. The varying terrains and elevations encountered on hikes challenge your heart and lungs, which must work harder to supply your muscles with blood and oxygen. 

Over time, regular hiking can help lower your risk of heart disease, reduce blood pressure, and strengthen your heart muscle, all while you’re enjoying the great outdoors.

2. Muscle Tone and Strength

The natural resistance of hiking trails provides a dynamic environment for building muscle strength. As you navigate over rocks, up inclines, and through uneven surfaces, you engage and tone a wide range of muscles. 

Your quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves all get a workout, leading to improved muscle tone, strength, and endurance. This isn’t just about looking fit; it’s about building a body capable of taking on life’s challenges.

3. Weight Management

Hiking is an excellent way to burn calories without the monotony of a gym routine. The effort required to propel yourself forward, especially on inclines, means your body is burning a significant amount of energy. 

This calorie burn can contribute to weight loss and help you maintain a healthy weight, all while you’re immersed in the beauty of nature, making it a rewarding and effective way to manage your weight.

Interested in exploring some great hikes across the globe? See our list of walking & hiking tours in destinations like South America and Europe!

4. Mental Health and Stress Reduction

There’s a serene quality to the trails that has a profound effect on mental health. Hiking is a form of ‘green exercise’ that can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. The combination of physical activity, outdoor environments, and the quiet of nature helps to lower cortisol levels, the body’s stress hormone, and encourages the production of endorphins, which elevate your mood and sense of well-being.

5. Improved Sleep Quality

Regular hikers often report better sleep patterns. Physical activity, particularly in natural light, helps to regulate your circadian rhythm, which controls your sleep cycle. The energy exerted during a hike means your body is more ready to rest at the end of the day, leading to a deeper and more restful sleep. 

Plus, the peace and quiet of the outdoors is a perfect antidote to the overstimulation that often hampers our sleep in the digital age.

6. Enhanced Creativity and Focus

Disconnecting from the digital world and immersing yourself in nature can lead to enhanced creativity and focus. Hiking allows your mind to wander freely, which can foster a creative form of thinking known as ‘divergent thinking’. 

Additionally, the natural environment can increase attention span and problem-solving skills by as much as 50%, according to some studies. This mental clarity is a valuable benefit for anyone looking to boost their creative or professional life.

7. Connection with Nature

Hiking provides an intimate connection with nature that’s increasingly rare in our urbanized world. This connection can lead to a greater appreciation for the environment and a deeper understanding of our place within it. 

Experiencing the diversity of flora and fauna on the trails can foster a sense of environmental stewardship, an important benefit as we face ecological challenges globally.

8. Social Engagement

While hiking can be a solitary activity, it also offers opportunities for social engagement. Joining a hiking group or hitting the trails with friends or family can build stronger social bonds. These shared experiences can lead to lasting friendships and a sense of community, as well as providing a support system that encourages regular participation in the activity.

9. Bone Density and Joint Health

Hiking is a weight-bearing exercise, meaning it helps build bone density. Walking and climbing put stress on your bones, which encourages bone tissue to grow stronger. Additionally, hiking can improve the health of your joints by lubricating them and strengthening the muscles that support them. This can help prevent osteoporosis and osteoarthritis, keeping your skeleton strong as you age.

10. Longevity and Overall Well-being

Perhaps the most compelling benefit of hiking is the potential for a longer, healthier life. Studies suggest that regular physical activity like hiking can lead to a longer lifespan by reducing the risk of chronic diseases. 

Moreover, the holistic benefits of hiking, such as improved mental health, social connections, and a deeper appreciation for life, contribute to an overall sense of well-being that can’t be measured in years alone.

Hiking is not just a pastime; it’s a pathway to a healthier, happier life. The benefits are as varied as the trails you’ll explore, each with its own unique beauty and challenges. So lace up your boots, pack your essentials, and step into the world of hiking, where every trail leads to a better you. And if you are the type of hiker who enjoys company then contact Go Get Lost about our worldwide hiking tours!

15 Types of Hiking: Different Kinds of Hikes Explained

Hiking is not just a simple walk in the woods—it’s an adventure that takes many forms. Whether you’re looking for a leisurely stroll or a challenging trek, there’s a type of hiking that fits your needs. 

In this guide, we’ll explore the 15 most popular types of hiking, each offering a unique way to experience the great outdoors.

1. Day Hiking

Day hikes are the perfect introduction to the hiking world, offering a chance to explore nature without the commitment of an overnight stay or packing lots of hiking gear. These hikes can vary from short, local trails to more strenuous full-day excursions, often leading to stunning viewpoints or serene picnic spots.

  • Gear Needed: Comfortable footwear, a daypack, water, snacks, and weather-appropriate clothing.
  • Difficulty Level: Beginner to intermediate.
  • Popular Destinations: National parks, local trails, and nature reserves.

2. Backpacking

Backpacking is an immersive experience that combines hiking with wilderness camping, allowing you to carry your life on your back as you traverse through diverse landscapes. It requires careful planning and self-sufficiency, as you’ll be spending one or several nights under the stars, far from modern conveniences.

  • Gear Needed: A backpack, tent, sleeping bag, food, water purification system, and a stove.
  • Difficulty Level: Intermediate to advanced.
  • Popular Destinations: The Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and other long-distance trails.

3. Thru-Hiking

Thru-hiking is the ultimate endurance test for hikers, entailing months of walking long-distance trails from end to end. This transformative journey not only challenges your physical limits but also offers a unique, introspective experience as you navigate through varying terrains and climates.

  • Gear Needed: Similar to backpacking but with more emphasis on lightweight and durable gear.
  • Difficulty Level: Advanced.
  • Popular Destinations: The Appalachian Trail, Continental Divide Trail, and the Camino de Santiago.

4. Section Hiking

Section hiking allows adventurers to complete a long-distance trail in segments, which can be tackled over weekends or vacation days spread out over months or even years. It’s a flexible approach that lets you experience the thrill of a thru-hike without the extensive time commitment.

  • Gear Needed: Varies depending on the section and duration of the hike.
  • Difficulty Level: Intermediate to advanced.
  • Popular Destinations: Any long-distance trail can be section hiked.

5. Urban Hiking

Urban hiking turns cityscapes into adventurous trails, encouraging explorers to discover the hidden gems and iconic landmarks of an urban environment on foot. This type of hiking often reveals the historical and cultural layers of a city that might otherwise go unnoticed.

  • Gear Needed: Comfortable walking shoes and a city map or GPS.
  • Difficulty Level: Beginner.
  • Popular Destinations: San Francisco’s stairways, the Freedom Trail in Boston, and the High Line in New York City.

6. Mountain Hiking

Mountain hiking takes you to the higher altitudes, offering breathtaking vistas and challenging climbs. It’s a way to test your stamina and enjoy the solitude of high peaks, requiring a good level of fitness and an appreciation for rugged terrain.

  • Gear Needed: Hiking boots, trekking poles, navigation tools, and layers for changing weather.
  • Difficulty Level: Intermediate to advanced.
  • Popular Destinations: The Rockies, the Alps, and the Himalayas.

7. Summit Hiking

Summit hiking is all about the ascent, focusing on reaching the peak for that unparalleled sense of achievement and panoramic views. It often involves early starts to catch sunrise summits and can require technical skills depending on the mountain’s difficulty.

  • Gear Needed: Mountain hiking gear plus additional safety equipment for higher altitudes.
  • Difficulty Level: Advanced.
  • Popular Destinations: Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Fuji, and Mount Rainier.

8. Scrambling

Scrambling is a thrilling mix of hiking and climbing, often requiring the use of hands to navigate steep, rocky sections where trails fade into rugged terrain. It’s a step up from traditional hiking, offering a hands-on approach to reaching your destination.

  • Gear Needed: Helmet, gloves, and sometimes a harness and rope.
  • Difficulty Level: Advanced.
  • Popular Destinations: The Teton Range, Lake District in the UK, and the Canadian Rockies.

9. Bushwhacking

Bushwhacking is for those who prefer forging their own path through untamed wilderness, often without the aid of trails or markers. It’s a true backcountry experience, demanding a strong sense of direction and a high tolerance for navigating through dense vegetation.

  • Gear Needed: Durable clothing, a machete or hiking pole, and a GPS or compass.
  • Difficulty Level: Advanced.
  • Popular Destinations: Remote wilderness areas.

10. Coastal Hiking

Coastal hiking showcases the dramatic interface between land and sea, with routes that hug the shoreline, climb coastal bluffs, or meander through beach and marsh. The sound of waves and the salty air accompany hikers, and the terrain can range from sandy stretches to rocky cliffs. They’re also a popular type for group hiking tours and excursions.

  • Gear Needed: Windbreaker, sun protection, and shoes suitable for sand and rock.
  • Difficulty Level: Beginner to intermediate.
  • Popular Destinations: The Pacific Coast Trail, the South West Coast Path in England, and the Cinque Terre in Italy.

*See our Cinque Terre Hiking & Walking Tour

11. Winter Hiking

Winter hiking transforms familiar trails into wonderlands of ice and snow, offering a serene and stark beauty along with the challenge of colder temperatures and unpredictable weather. Specialized gear is a must to navigate the slippery paths and to stay warm and safe.

  • Gear Needed: Insulated boots, ice axe, crampons, and layers for extreme cold.
  • Difficulty Level: Intermediate to advanced.
  • Popular Destinations: Mountainous regions during winter months.

12. Night Hiking

Night hiking offers a unique perspective as the wilderness whispers under the moonlight, and the stars guide your way. It’s a peaceful experience that heightens your senses and brings a new dimension to familiar trails.

  • Gear Needed: Headlamp, reflective clothing, and extra batteries.
  • Difficulty Level: Intermediate.
  • Popular Destinations: Trails known for nocturnal wildlife and stargazing.

13. Waterfall Hiking

Waterfall hiking is a quest for the mesmerizing sight and sound of water cascading down rocks, often involving hikes through lush forests and across streams to reach these natural wonders. The reward is not just the destination but the refreshing mist and the chance to cool off in the pools below.

  • Gear Needed: Waterproof gear, non-slip shoes, and a camera for the views.
  • Difficulty Level: Beginner to intermediate.
  • Popular Destinations: The Columbia River Gorge, Plitvice Lakes National Park, and Yosemite National Park.

14. Desert Hiking

Desert hiking is an exploration of extremes, where vast, arid landscapes offer stark beauty, silence, and solitude under the expansive sky. Hikers must be prepared for the challenges of heat and scarce water sources, but the rewards are the stunning vistas and unique flora and fauna.

  • Gear Needed: Sun protection, ample water, and layers for temperature shifts.
  • Difficulty Level: Intermediate.
  • Popular Destinations: The Mojave Desert, the Atacama Desert, and the Sahara.

15. Eco-Hiking

Eco-hiking emphasizes the importance of conservation as you tread lightly on the earth, often on trails that are maintained to minimize environmental impact. It’s a responsible way to enjoy the outdoors while also contributing to the preservation of natural habitats.

  • Gear Needed: Eco-friendly gear, reusable water bottles, and biodegradable soap.
  • Difficulty Level: Beginner to advanced.
  • Popular Destinations: Eco-trails and sustainable nature reserves worldwide.


Hiking is a versatile and accessible activity that can cater to a wide range of preferences and abilities. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or just starting out, there’s a type of hiking out there for you. So lace up your boots, pack your gear, and set out on a journey that will lead you through some of the most breathtaking landscapes the world has to offer.

How to Choose the Right Hiking Gear

Embarking on a hiking adventure is both thrilling and rewarding. Whether you’re wandering through peaceful forests, ascending mountain peaks, or trekking across diverse landscapes, having the right gear is crucial. 

Not only does it ensure safety and comfort, but it can also make or break your overall hiking experience. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the essential steps in choosing the perfect hiking gear for your next adventure.

How Do You Choose the Right Hiking Equipment?

1. Understand Your Needs

Before diving into gear choices, it’s essential to assess the kind of hiking you plan on doing. Are you heading out for a short day hike or a month-long thru-hike? The duration, terrain, and climate of your chosen trail will significantly influence your gear needs.

2. Footwear: Your Most Vital Investment

The right hiking boots or shoes can be the difference between an enjoyable trek and a painful ordeal. 

Here’s what to consider:

  • Type of Hike: Day hikes might only require lightweight shoes or trail runners, while multi-day trips demand more robust, supportive boots.
  • Fit: Always try on hiking footwear with the socks you plan to hike in. Ensure there’s no pinching or rubbing, and that your toes have wiggle room.
  • Material: Leather boots offer durability, whereas synthetic materials are lighter and often more breathable. Waterproof options, like those with Gore-Tex liners, are beneficial in wet conditions.

You can read our Keen Targhee II Hiking Shoe review

3. Clothing: Layering is Key

When it comes to hiking apparel, think layers.

  • Base Layer: This wicks sweat away from your body. Materials like merino wool or synthetic fibers work best.
  • Insulation Layer: This keeps you warm. Fleece jackets or lightweight down jackets serve this purpose.
  • Outer Layer: This protects against rain and wind. Look for breathable yet waterproof jackets. Remember to avoid cotton, as it retains moisture, which can lead to hypothermia in colder conditions.

4. The Backpack: Your Trusty Companion

Your backpack should correspond to the length of your hike and the gear you need to carry.

  • Daypacks: Suitable for single-day hikes, typically ranging from 20 to 30 liters.
  • Multi-Day Packs: Designed for longer trips where you’ll be carrying more gear, food, and possibly camping equipment. Capacities range from 40 to 70+ liters. Always try packs on in-store, loaded with weight, to ensure they fit your body shape and are comfortable.

5. Navigation: Know Where You’re Going

Even well-marked trails can sometimes be confusing. Equip yourself with:

  • Map and Compass: These old-school tools don’t rely on batteries and can be life-savers in tricky situations.
  • GPS Devices or Apps: Modern tech can offer detailed route information, but always have a traditional backup.

6. Shelter and Sleep

For multi-day hikes, you’ll need somewhere to sleep. 

Your choices include:

  • Tents: These offer full protection against elements. Ensure it’s suitable for the season (3-season tents are the most versatile).
  • Sleeping Bags: Like tents, ensure they’re suited for the season. Check their temperature ratings.
  • Sleeping Pads: These provide cushioning and insulation from the cold ground.

7. Nutrition and Hydration

Staying fed and hydrated is crucial. Pack more food than you think you’ll need and opt for lightweight, nutritious options like trail mix, energy bars, and freeze-dried meals. 

For water:

  • Water Bottles or Hydration Reservoirs: Ensure you have enough capacity for your trip.
  • Water Filters or Purification Tablets: These are vital if you’ll be sourcing water from natural sources.

8. Safety and First Aid

Never skimp on safety. Carry a basic first aid kit tailored to your trip length and group size. Other safety gear includes a multi-tool or knife, a headlamp with extra batteries, and fire-starting materials.

9. Personalize Your Gear

Everyone’s needs are slightly different. You might want to bring a lightweight stove, a book, or a camera. Maybe you have specific medical needs or prefer certain comfort items. Adjust your gear list according to personal preferences.


Choosing the right hiking gear is a blend of understanding your needs and knowing the options available. Investing time in making the right decisions ensures not only safety but also enhances the joy of your hiking experience be it self guided or a hiking tour abroad. Remember, while gear is essential, the true spirit of hiking lies in the journey itself and the connection with nature. With the right preparation, all that’s left is to hit the trail and enjoy the adventure!

Patagonia Region

The region of Patagonia in Argentina is vast and diverse, encompassing a range of geographical and cultural attributes. We’ve put together this very short overview of the region.

Patagonia Geography

  • Location: Southern section of South America, shared by Argentina and Chile.
  • Topography: Characterized by the Andes mountains to the west and south, plateaus, and low plains to the east.
  • Climate: Generally cold and dry, with considerable variation ranging from the Andean ice fields to the northern deserts.

Natural Features

  • Glaciers: Notably the Perito Moreno Glacier, among others within the Los Glaciares National Park.
  • Mountains: Including the iconic Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre.
  • Lakes and Rivers: Such as Lake Argentino, Lake Viedma, and the Rio de la Plata basin.
  • Flora and Fauna: Unique species adapted to the cold environment, including the Andean condor, guanacos, and Patagonian mara.

Protected Areas in Patagonia

  • National Parks: Los Glaciares National Park, Nahuel Huapi National Park, and Tierra del Fuego National Park.
  • Biodiversity: Conservation of unique ecosystems, including the Valdivian temperate rainforests and the Patagonian steppe.

Cultural Aspects

  • Indigenous Peoples: Historical presence of indigenous groups such as the Mapuche, Tehuelche, and Selk’nam.
  • Settlements: Including the towns of Bariloche, El Calafate, El Chaltén, and Ushuaia, which is often referred to as the southernmost city in the world.
  • Economy: Predominantly driven by tourism, sheep farming, and oil extraction in some areas.

Patagonia Tourism and Recreation

  • Hiking and Trekking: With numerous trails and outdoor activities in the Andes and surrounding areas. See our Patagonia Hiking Tour
  • Ski Resorts: Such as Cerro Catedral near Bariloche, offering winter sports opportunities.
  • Cultural Tourism: Including visits to local estancias (ranches), museums, and cultural heritage sites.


  • Transportation: Key airports in Ushuaia and El Calafate, and the presence of the famous Route 40 that runs along the Andes.
  • Accommodation: A range of options from luxury lodges to backpacker hostels catering to tourists.

Environmental Concerns

  • Conservation Efforts: Addressing issues such as deforestation, glacier retreat, and the impact of invasive species.
  • Sustainable Development: Balancing the needs of tourism with the preservation of natural resources.

Population (Demographics)

  • Density: Patagonia is one of the least populated regions in Argentina, with vast areas of uninhabited land.
  • Distribution: The population is unevenly distributed, with most people living in a few urban centers and small towns.


  • Spanish: The predominant language spoken in Argentine Patagonia is Spanish, with local dialects influenced by indigenous languages and European immigration.
  • Indigenous Languages: Languages such as Mapudungun (Mapuche language) are spoken by indigenous communities, although they are less common.
  • Foreign Languages: In tourist areas, English and other European languages can often be heard due to the international visitors and immigrant history.

The Palio of Siena

The Most Exciting Horse Race That No One Has Ever Heard Of

Many of those who travel abroad have heard of the charming city of Siena, in central Tuscany. And in fact many who have vacationed in Italy have visited Siena, often as a day stop while on a bus from Rome to Florence. What’s amazing is that while tens of thousands of people visit Siena every year, almost none of them understand what they’re looking at as they wander the city, admiring the colorful flags that line the charming cobblestone streets. A few of them may have heard of the Palio, a horse race held there twice a year, but very few comprehend the significance of that event, and how it has transformed Siena into one of the most fascinating and complex cultures on the planet. Certainly anyone who has wandered the winding cobblestone streets of Siena’s lovely historical center has noticed the many colorful outdoor light fixtures that line the neighborhoods and the huge vibrant banners that hang over the streets.  Hang around until evening and, if you’re lucky, you might even see a small but enthusiastic neighborhood parade, complete with flag-tossing, drum beating, and passionate singing.

All of this pomp and merriment is because of a horse race? Yes…and no. First and foremost, it’s not JUST a horse race, not by a long shot. The palio is a social, political, historical and religious event that permeates life in Siena so completely it’s hard to get your head around the concept. It’s also definitely not an event held for tourists, it’s for the Sienese, who are totally consumed by it. They don’t mind if you watch, but don’t get in their way. When most of us think of the excitement surrounding an event like this, we think of it in sports terms…the passion of team rivalries, the emotion of the Olympic games, the “thrill of victory and the agony of defeat”, and so on. That doesn’t really scratch the surface of the Palio, but it’s a start.

The origins of the Palio go all the way back to the medieval times, 1656 to be exact. About a hundred years earlier Siena was finally defeated by its arch-rival Florence, after nearly 300 years of intermittent warfare. After the war the Sienese were disarmed and their army disbanded. Looking for an outlet for the energy and passion of their neighborhood-based soldiers and citizens, they adopted several ferocious pursuits, such as bull-fighting, buffalo racing, horse racing and lavish pageants. All of these pitted neighborhood (called contrada, or contrade for plural) against neighborhood, much as the different units of the army had been organized.  Eventually this all evolved into a bareback horse race around the central piazza, or square, by ten horses, one from each of ten contrade. (Although there are 17 contrade, only ten race at once.)

You have to understand that the contrade of Siena are far more important to their citizens than we might suspect. Each contrada is a mini-town, completely self-sufficient, with its own church, square, fountain, daycare, senior center, council, and all of the other institutions necessary for a smoothly running community, including taxes. They even have their own colors, mascot, and museum to house important memorabilia, like the Palios they have won.

And just what is a “Palio”?

The race takes its name from the prize, the “Palio”, which is a large silk banner lavishly painted by an Italian artist, depicting the Virgin Mary, the horses, Siena, and the year of the race. Each Palio is a unique piece of art. After the race the Palio is paraded around the town by the ecstatically happy winners, (and when I say ecstatic, that doesn’t quite do it justice…think singing, screaming, crying, and hugging…and that’s just the men), eventually ending up back at the contrada museum, to take its place next to the dozens of previously won Palios, sometimes dating back several centuries. These Palio, needless to say, are the most treasured possessions of the contrada.

The Palio race is a year-long event, not just a race held on July 2nd and August 16th. The planning, plotting, dinners, and strategy meetings last all year, building to a fever pitch and culminating in the spectacle of the race.

There is also a history of friendship and warfare between contrade. Nearly every contrada has an ancient “friend contrada” and likewise an ancient “enemy contrada”. Each contrada spends much time and energy, all year, making plans to aid their friendly contrada and hatching various plots to defeat their enemy contrada. Keep in mind that the best thing in life for a Sienese is for their contrada to win the Palio, and the second best thing is for your enemy contrada NOT to win. For in the Palio there is only one winner, the rest are all losers. In fact, second place is considered the worst type of loser!

To make it even more interesting, the horses are NOT from the contrada, or even from Siena, but are brought in from outside and then awarded by lottery just a few days before the race. The race officials make sure there is a mix of fast, average, and slow horses, so you really don’t know if you’ll have a fast horse or a slow one…It’s all about luck. As you can imagine, immediately after the lottery there begins an even more extreme round of plotting…for you want to try to win, but in case bad luck awards you a slow horse, then your strategy turns to plots and intrigue aimed at making your enemy contrada NOT win…which is nearly as good.

How, you might ask, is it possible to affect a race to make another contestant NOT win? It’s not too difficult in a race where there are virtually no rules. The jockeys, called fantinos, are by tradition hired from outside Siena. They are paid enormous sums, and win large bonuses for winning, rumoured to be sometimes over a million Euro. (The day after the race, the citizens of the winning contrada happily and proudly line up to pay their share of the fantino payment.) They also can be bribed to perform badly, or can be paid to work together to hamper another jockey or horse. They can hit each other with their whips, and can block, hinder, and pretty much do whatever they want to each other. Each of them also has a sizeable “war-chest” of money that they are authorized to use at the last minute, as the horses line up, to make a last-second deal with another fantino.   A plot, within a scheme, all wrapped in a conspiracy, and no one trusts anyone.   Some of the rivalries and vendettas go back many, many generations. Believe me, to the Sienese, all of this is not a game, they take it very seriously. After all, whichever contrada wins the Palio has bragging rights for an entire year….which is a bitter pill indeed for their rival contrade.

How serious are the Sienese about their contrada and the palio? I personally have witnessed my friends, natives of Siena, teach their first-born son to say the contrada name as his first word…not Mama, or Papa, but Chiocciola (snail). They were so proud they could burst!

Another friend of mine from a different contrada once related a story to me of how a young mother was spoon feeding her baby, and naming each spoonful for a different family member…”This one is for mama!”…”This one is for papa!” and so on. Each time the baby would happily open its mouth and mom would shovel it in. Then mom said “This one is for the goose!” (which was the enemy of her contrada), as the smiling baby again opened his mouth for the spoon, mom suddenly dumped the spoon onto the ground and said firmly “NO, NEVER for the goose!” This was repeated until the baby learned just who was the enemy.

It’s not forbidden for young people to marry outside of their contrada, after all, this IS the 21st century. However, it’s also common for a “mixed-marriage” couple to separate during the ten days or so leading up to the race. Tensions are just too high, and neither wants to unwittingly give away any contrada secrets or strategy to their spouse.

So let’s watch a video to get an idea of the excitement and emotion…here is the July 2013 race. Some notable points to watch:

  • The starting procedure is for the horses to line up between two ropes. One horse, chosen by lottery, gets to hang back and start the race by crossing the line of the back rope. They have a lot of power, and can start the race whenever the time is right. In this race, the Nicchio horse in dark blue is the starter. Their enemy is the Montone contrada, in the light pink uniform on the far left. The Nicchio contrada has obviously made a deal with a couple other contrada to block out the Montone horse at the start. The jostling went on for a good ten minutes before they could slyly maneuver the Montone horse behind them, then the Nicchio abruptly started.
  • The fantino for Istrice, in the striped uniform, immediately starts beating the fantino of its enemy contrada, the Lupa, for the first hundred yards.
  • Several jockeys fall off their horses during the race, but the horses can still win, even without the fantino. The riderless horse of the Pantera nearly slips in front near the end of the race, but the fantino for the Oca deftly cuts him off.
  • Lupa nearly passes Oca in the home stretch, but once again the fantino for Oca cuts him off. The Lupa fantino and horse then fall, leaving Oca to win the race.

You can watch the entire hour long video on You Tube…very interesting!

When we take our Go Get Lost groups to Siena we like to stay in the town for several days to give everyone time to wander and try to go native. We’re also the guests of one of the contrada that is running the race, so we’ll get to visit their museum, attend their private pre-race dinner, hang out with them, and cheer “our” horse on in the race!  We start the stay with a presentation about the Palio from some knowledgeable local friend of ours, and then take everyone on a visit to a contrada museum. Once you understand the significance of the contrada and the constant daily influence of the Palio, the spirit of Siena will come alive, and you’ll feel like a part of it all!

We occasionally plan trips for small private groups to experience the Palio. We watch the drawing of the horses, (mega-exciting), take part in the dinner and festivities with the contrada, and of course we’ll be in a private apartment (with food, wine…and a bathroom!) overlooking the square to watch the race, screaming for our contrada! We also manage to get out into the lovely Tuscan countryside to visit some vineyards, taste some wine, learning how to cook Tuscan-style, and have plenty of free time to explore on our own.  We generally only have 12 people on our Palio extravaganza, drop us a line if you’re interested.