Today is an arrival day, so there are no planned activities; we will be leaving Rio by midday on Day 2. Our journey sets out from the most famous of Brazilian cities and one of the most memorable cities in the world, Río de Janeiro. Enjoy any free time by exploring the wonders that this city has to offer from our centrally-located hotel in Copacabana or take an optional city tour. "God made the world in six days, the seventh he devoted to Rio," so say the Cariocas, residents of this beautiful city. This is a densely packed city of over 9 million inhabitants, whose economic foundations lie in the cultivation of sugar cane and gold mining. Referred to as the “cidade maravilhosa” (Marvellous 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 combine to make Rio unique. Standing over it all, atop Corcovado, is the huge statue of Christ the Redeemer, the best place from which to appreciate the city. Superb panoramic views of the city and area can also be found from the top of the Pao do Açucar (Sugar Loaf), reached by cable car. Head to some of the famous beaches, and prepare yourself for an experience unlike anything else on Earth. Although the Portuguese first sailed and entered the bay, it was the French who first established a settlement in the area, logging Brazil wood along the coast. Their first permanent settlement lasted a brief five years, when they were attacked and driven from the area by the encroaching Portuguese. A series of skirmishes ensued, with the Tomaio people allied with the French against the Portuguese. In 1567 the Portuguese began construction of a fortified town to repel any invaders, naming it Sao Sebastiao do Rio de Janeiro. Amassing wealth with the gold rush of Minas Gerais, in the early 18th century Rio became Brazil’s most important city and a great temptation to the French who, in 1710, waged war against the Portuguese and held the city for a sizeable gold ransom. Again in the 19th century, under threat of Napoleon’s invasion, what remained of the Portuguese monarchy fled to Brazil where they set up court in grand style; many of today’s older structures date from this period. The gold rush was followed by a coffee boom in the mid-1800s and the wealth generated led to the city’s initial modernization. Replacing Salvador de Bahia as the colonial capital in 1763, the city remained the capital until 1960, when it was replaced by Brasilia. Today, the city is a magnet for tourists who come to walk the beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana, and generally partake in the Carioca zest for life. Many ascend the Sugarloaf Mountain (Pao do Açucar), whose image is nearly synonymous with Rio and Carnival. Modern Rio is perhaps best known for the contrasting images offered by the favelhas (shanty towns), and the glitz and glamour preferred by the Samba schools and their Carnival celebrations.
From Rio, we head south along the Atlantic coast to the port of Angra dos Reis, and onward by ferry to Ilha Grande, with almost 100 beaches for you to choose from. Known for its beauty, the island offers other activities for the visitors: surfing, hikes, diving,biking and snorkling. You can also take a boat tour to visit some of the beaches and enjoy the scenery while drinking a caipirinha; Brazil's national drink. Ilha grande truly defines what we imagine when thinking of a tropical beach paradise. Cars on the island are limited to essential services only (fire, ambulance etc), it is largely undeveloped and there are huge amounts of trails leading to deserted white sand beaches. Once a favoured hangout for Pirates, slave traders and up until the late 20th century a political prison. Now Ilha Grande is a pristine remnant of Brazil’s atlantic rainforest. The local fauna and flora in Ilha Grande, a Nacional Patrimony protected area, are extremely diverse. The state park was created in 1971 and encompasses 4.500 hectares of wilderness. Mountain range, coastal, mangrove and prairie vegetation are all found here, along with an astonishing collection of bird life, including parrots, woodpeckers, Brazilian thrushes and saracuras. There are also different kinds of monkeys, squirrels, armadillos, pacas, hedgehogs and snakes, as well as endangered species such as the Alouatta Fusca, generally known as Bugio monkey. . Day 2 Travel: Rio to Ilha Grande Approximate distance: 151 Km Approximate travel time: 3.5 hours (1 hour by ferry)
Further down the mainland coast we encounter the quaint colonial town of Paraty, an architectural gem famous for its churches. Take a trip to visit an old Fazenda to sample cachaca or enjoy a boat ride to visit some of the many secluded beaches outside of town. Paraty is a lovely colonial town. Sitting on Brazil's southeastern coast, it lies on the border of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo states, and it is a popular among those who want to get away from it all —Brazilians and visitors alike. Considered one of the world's most important examples of Portuguese colonial architecture by UNESCO, the historic centre is a well-preserved national historic monument, and today has been closed to vehicles to preserve its laid-back colonial ambience. During high tide, the portuguese cobblestone streets are partly flooded by seawater, adding to the fairy tale atmosphere. Founded in 1531, the original settlement was on the opposite side of the river, where a church was built to their patron "St. Roque." Around 1640, the Indians who used to live here were driven away and the town moved to where it stands now. The founders named it Nossa Senhora dos Remédios ( Our Lady of the Medicines) as the patron saint, and they built the main church in her honour. Enlarged and remodelled over the years, the church is now the focal point of the annual Festa de Nossa Senhora dos Remédios on September 8. The festival has been celebrated for over 300 years since a wealthy and reverent benefactor, Maria Jácome de Mello, donated the land to the town for the church, requesting only an annual mass in return. The mass has grown into a procession of the wooden effigy of the Virgen though the town, adorned with gold and silver jewellery. In the 1700's, when the mines of Minas Gerais were pouring out gold, the perfect bay of Paraty was a busy port, the second most important in Brazil during the ‘Golden Century.’ The best pinga or cachaça (sugar cane liquor) of Brazil was produced here and the name Paraty became synonymous with the liquor. Later, coffee was brought from the valley of Paraiba to be shipped to Portugal, sparking another economic boom. In 1888 with the end of the slavery, Paraty became almost forgotten in time, and a large exodus left only a population of around 600, a considerable difference from the 16000 when the town was in its prime. In 1954, a road was opened linking the town to the inland through the valley of Paraiba, but it was not until 1973-75,with the opening of the highway BR-101, that Paraty’s rebirth as a tourist town began. It was declared a national monument in 1966. Paraty's bay is filled with over 65 tropical islands and dozens of beaches, each offering something different, and all covered with vegetation that remains lush and colourful year-round. The water of the bay is always the right temperature for swimming, diving and snorkeling. The national parks that encircle the town are filled with trails, wildlife and waterfalls. Hiking or horseback riding, for the sports minded, or a jeep or van tour are both excellent ways to appreciate this natural wilderness. Day 5 Travel: Ilha Grande to Paraty Approximate distance: 100 Km Approximate travel time: 2.5 hours (1 hour by ferry)
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 Brazilian and Argentinean sides. 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 include a visit to both sides and you will spend a couple of days taking advantage of the many opportunities and activities, which include an exhilarating optional boat tour at the falls or a trip to the bird sanctuary on the Brazilian side. The torrential Iguassu River crosses the State of Paraná in Southern Brazil from East to West. A few kilometres before its junction with the Paraná River forms one of the most splendorous natural beauties of the world: Iguassu Falls. Over 2.7 kilometres long and an average flow of 1.750 m3/s, this wonder is located in a very special place. The contrast between the green of the vegetation and the dark colour of the basalt rocks with whirring waters plunging from a 72 metre high cliff is magical. At Iguassu there are 275 falls in all, spread over a 3-km area, some over 80m (262.4 ft) in height, making these cataracts wider than Victoria Falls and higher than Niagara! It should come as no surprise that UNESCO declared the region a World Heritage Site in 1986. Originally “discovered” in 1541 by the Spaniard Juan Alvar Nuñez, he named the falls Saltos de Santa María. The name we use today means “great waters” in the Tupi-Guarani tongue. The falls are protected by two National Parks—one in Brazil and another in Argentina. Tours utilise trails and catwalks adapted to the landscape of the area, and walking is easy for all ages. Film buffs will remember that Iguassu was the site of several scenes from the film “The Mission.” Not far from the falls, the ruins of the Jesuit missions of the era can still be visited on a day trip. Also of interest in the area is Itaipú, the largest hydroelectric complex in the world. Experience an exhilarating optional boat tour or helicopter trip for a bird's eye view, or simply marvel 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. Day 7/8 Travel: Paraty to Sao Paulo Approximate distance: 314 Km Estimate travel time: 5 hours Sao Paulo To Foz do Iguacu Approximate distance: 1028 Km Approximate travel time: 14.5 hours
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! Day 10/11 Travel: Puerto Iguazu Concordia Approximate distance: 868 Km Estimate travel time: 12 hours Concordia to Salto Approximate distance: 20 Km Approximate travel time: 1.5 hours
As we continue through Uruguay, we 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. 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. Accommodation in Colonia may be multi-share. Day 12 Travel: Salto to Montevideo Approximate distance: 498 Km Estimated travel time: 6 hours Day 14 Travel: Montevideo to Colonia Approximate distance: 177 Km Approximate travel time: 2.5 hours
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 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 is the ultimate cosmopolitan city, and many 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 is also your chance to try the succulent bifé and parrilladas, so dig in and enjoy! Day 15 Travel: Colonia to Buenos Aires Approximate travel time: 1 hour by ferry
Depart at any time.