Arrive at any time as there are no planned activities. We will be departing by noon on Day 2 - so check into our centrally-located hotel in Copacabana and enjoy the city. "God made the world in six days, the seventh he devoted to Rio." So say the Cariocas, residents of this beautiful city. Few cities enjoy such a dramatic setting as Rio. Brilliant, white beaches at Copacabana and Ipanema, deep blue waters of the Atlantic, the luminescent green of Guanabara Bay, the bare blue slopes of the Sugar Loaf and the steep green hills behind, combine to make Rio unique. Standing over it all, atop Corcovado, is the huge statue of Christ the Redeemer, which is the best place from which to appreciate the city. From the top of the Pao do Açucar (Sugar Loaf), which can be reached by cable car, you will see superb panoramic views of the city and area. Head to some of the famous beaches, and prepare yourself for an experience unlike anything else on Earth. There are many optional activities your tour leader can help you to arrange. Few cities enjoy such a dramatic setting as Rio, whose images of the Corcovado (Christ the Redeemer) and Pao de Açucar (Sugar Loaf) are synonymous with Carnival and the joie de vivre embodied by the Cariocas. Head to some of the famous beaches like Ipanema or Copacabana, and prepare yourself for an experience unlike anything else on Earth.
From Rio we head south along the Atlantic coast to the port of Angra dos Reis, and onward by ferry to Ilha Grande. Relax and enjoy a cool Caipirinha on the beach, or try surfing. Further down the mainland coast we encounter the quaint colonial town of Paraty, an architectural gem famous for its churches. After Paraty we head west to the magnificent Foz do Iguaçu, or Iguassu falls, which borders Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina. In order to see the falls properly you need to view them from both the Brazilian and the Argentine side. The Brazilian side offers the grand overview, and the Argentine side a closer look. The best time of the year to see them is from August to November, as from May to July you may not be able to approach the swollen waters on the catwalks. We spend a couple of days to take full advantage of the many opportunities and activities, which include an exhilarating optional boat tour at the falls, or simply marvelling at nature’s breadth and the roar of the falls. Note: If you have booked the Iguassu Falls Boat Ride Theme Pack, you will do it on day 9 or 10 when visiting the Argentine side of the falls.
From Brazil we cross through Argentina into Uruguay, and stay in the city of Salto for some welcome relaxation in the thermal baths… or go have a blast at the water park! Next, spend some time in the capital city Montevideo, by far the country's largest city, founded by the Spanish in 1726. Over half of the population (about 1 million) lives here and the city dominates the commercial and cultural life of the nation. It's very lively and modern with many architecturally interesting buildings, yet the city also maintains a very quiet atmosphere. There are several good museums not to be missed, as well as some very good beaches just outside the city. Lastly travel along the shores of the Rio de la Plata to the charming colonial city of Colonia del Sacramento. Experience the relaxed, pleasant Uruguayan culture and stroll down its cobble-stoned streets before crossing into Argentina.
Cross the Rio de la Plata by ferry to reach the dynamic city of Buenos Aires. There is much to do in this vibrant metropolis, with plenty of museums, theatres, and historical areas. Known as the ‘Paris of the Americas,’ Buenos Aires is a vibrant city full of life. Be sure to visit the districts of La Boca, Recoleta, and San Telmo, or catch a tango show at one of the many famous tanguerías or tango houses. Wander the pedestrian walkways and see some dancing in the streets. Whatever you do, Buenos Aires is sure to leave lasting memories. The capital city of Argentina, Buenos Aires is the ultimate cosmopolitan city. Travellers find that it has more in common with the cities of Europe than the rest of South America. Nearly 40 per cent of Argentina’s 33 million citizens live in Greater Buenos Aires, and the Porteños are justifiably proud of their home. The city is comprised of a number of distinct neighbourhoods, some of which have become top tourist draws. For many, the highlight of their time in the capital is a visit to San Telmo for the weekend antiques market and street artists’ displays. La Boca was originally settled by the successive waves of immigrants that contribute to the capital’s unique character. Its brightly coloured walls and buildings draw Porteños and tourists alike. Posh Recoleta, with its cafés, museums and cemetery, is a pleasant place to spend an afternoon. During colonial days, Buenos Aires was the seat of the Viceroy of La Plata. Almost completely rebuilt since the turn of the century, the heart of the city is the Plaza de Mayo, with the historic Cabildo (Town Hall), where the Independence movement was first planned, the Casa Rosada (Government Palace) and the Cathedral, where San Martín, the father of Argentine independence, is buried. When you are done exploring, settle your weary feet and enjoy a drink in one of the many sidewalk cafés and restaurants, and you will begin to understand the contemplative Argentine way of life. Buenos Aires will be your first chance to try the succulent bifé and parrilladas, so dig in and enjoy!
After a full day exploring the capital city we will board a night bus southbound for Bariloche, in Upper Patagonia. Situated on the shore of beautiful Lake Nahuel Huapi, Bariloche is a year-round playground for skiers, hikers and outdoors enthusiasts of all types. A popular resort town for Argentines, the spectacular surroundings of Bariloche offer loads of outdoor options, like hiking, biking, parapenting, lake tours, and skiing/snowboarding (in season). Bariloche is also famous for its quality and quantity of chocolate. So wander around the city, enjoy the landscapes and eat chocolate! The urban centre of the Argentine Lake District, San Carlos de Bariloche in many ways resembles alpine resorts of Europe. During winter ski season the town fills to capacity with jovial Argentine and Brazilian vacationers whose favourite pastime seems to be eating and drinking. Their gusto is understandable; Bariloche has some of the best food in the country. Sample a beefy parrillada, or a variety of fresh salmon or lake trout, then work it off during a day hike around Cerro Catedral or while practicing your salsa at one of the town's salsotecas.
After a beautiful journey through the Andes of Southern Argentina, we cross into Chile and arrive at Puerto Montt. This is Chile’s most important southern port and it is the gateway for explorers going further south into Patagonia. Take a day trip to the island of Chiloé and sample the seafood! In Puerto Montt there are still many reminders of its German influenced past. The area was settled by Germans in the mid-19th century and many houses are of northern European design, faced with unpainted shingles, high-pitched roofs and quaint, ornate balconies. Though timber houses make up a large share of Puerto Montt's housing, the pioneer image has long since faded. The large cathedral in the main square, built in 1856 entirely of redwood, is the oldest building in the city and one of the most important reminders of the city's early days. Today it is the gateway to the southern end of the Lake District, and for the Chilean Patagonia.
From Puerto Montt we continue north to the Lake District of Chile, and the town of Pucón. This is a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts, with activities galore. Climb a volcano, hike in one of the many national parks, go rafting, mountain biking or of course there is skiing and snowboarding (in season). There are few areas in the world that can match the Chilean Lake District for scenic grandeur. South of the Rio Toltén and sprawled across the provinces of Valdivia, Osorno and Llanquihué, you'll find everything from snow-capped mountains to deep blue and emerald lakes, smoking volcanoes, forests and glaciers. This is a favourite vacation ground for domestic tourists, visitors from across the Andes, and around the globe. The region’s architecture is unique in that older structures are wooden and resemble central European homes and churches of the 19th Century. This is due to the significant number of immigrants, largely Germany, Switzerland, Austria and some Italian, who settled here over the last half of that century. The regional cuisine also reflects this, with many restaurants specializing in kuchen and other baked delicacies. Seafood dishes abound in this region. Of particular interest to visitors is the curanto Chilote, a hearty seafood stew that’ll leave you ready for a siesta. Villarica is one of the chief resort towns of the Lake District, with impressive views of the active Volcan Villarica. This is a beautiful place to hike, boat, or to sit back and take in the beautiful scenery and reflect on your trip so far. Pucón, the nation’s outdoors and adventure tourism capital, is located on the eastern end of Lago Villarica, opposite the town of Villarica. We spend a couple of days exploring the area, where there are endless options for outdoor pursuits like kayaking, rafting, hiking, mountain biking, wind surfing and horseback riding.
Santiago is Chile’s largest city and capital, with internationally recognized vineyards and Andean ski resorts very close by. Explore the many museums and parks, and visit the vibrant neighborhood of Bellavista to see some handicrafts and trendy cafés. Optional Day-trips include a trip to Valparaiso and Viña del Mar, Chile’s premier beach resort, and to Isla Negra, Pablo Neruda’s seaside home.
Santiago is Chile’s largest city and capital, with internationally recognized vineyards and Andean ski resorts very close by. Explore the many museums and parks, and visit the vibrant neighbourhood of Bellavista to see some handicrafts and trendy cafés. Day-trips include a trip to Valparaiso and Viña del Mar, Chile’s premier beach resort, and to Isla Negra, Pablo Neruda’s seaside home. Although Santiago covers an immense area, the central core of the city is relatively small. It is a roughly triangular shaped region, bounded in the north by the Río Mapocho, in the west by the Via Norte Sur and in the south by the Avenida del Libertador General Bernardo O'Higgins (more commonly known as the Alameda). The apex of the triangle is the Plaza Baquedano, where O'Higgins forms a junction with two of Santiago's other main thoroughfares, Avenidas Providencia and Vicuña MacKenna. The centre of this triangle is the Plaza de Armas, the chief plaza of Santiago, bounded on its northern side by the main post office and on the western side by the cathedral. The streets between the Plaza de Armas and O'Higgins are wall-to-wall shops, restaurants, snack and fast food bars, cinemas, expensive hotels and office blocks. The Presidential Palace, La Moneda, is on Avenida Moneda, facing the Plaza de la Constitución. Near the Plaza de Armas is the National Congress building. One of Santiago's main parks, Cerro Santa Lucía, is in the triangle facing O'Higgins. The other main park is Cerro San Cristobal, or Huelén, in the Mapuche tongue. It is a large hill that rises dramatically from the plain to the north of Avenida Providencia. Between this avenue and the mountain, on either side of the Avenida Pío Nono, is Santiago's 'Paris quarter', the barrio Bella Vista. There are many beautifully landscaped parks and gardens, artists' colonies, and impressive views over the city, including the snow-capped peaks of the Andes (when the weather and thick smog permit).