Arrive in Buenos Aires and transfer to the hotel. There are no planned activities, so check-in and enjoy the city. In the evening we will meet our fellow group members to go over the details of our trip. Check the notice board (or ask reception) to see the exact time and location of our group meeting. The capital city of Argentina, Buenos Aires is the ultimate cosmopolitan city. Travelers 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 neighborhoods, 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 artist displays. La Boca was originally settled by the successive waves of immigrants that contribute to the capital's unique character. Its brightly colored walls and buildings draw Porteños and tourists alike, and it is here that the world-class football team, Boca Juniors, plies its trade. A Sunday afternoon match at the fabled Bombonera is not to be missed. Posh Recoleta, with its cafes, 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. Be sure to enjoy a drink in one of the many sidewalk cafes and restaurants to understand the contemplative Argentine way of life.
This morning we will explore the city with on a walking tour of Buenos Aires. Our experienced guide will uncover the diverse culture and history shown in this ‘Paris of South America’. We'll take a wander through the pedestrian walkways and see some dancing in the streets in this most European of Latin cities. Our guide also provides a Mate demonstration and tasting - Mate is the national drink of Argentina that's rapidly gaining popularity in the world as an alternative to coffee and tea. Later in the day we'll get the opportunity to discover the true Buenos Aires and the passion of Tango. In the early evening we'll go to one of the oldest Tangueras in Buenos Aires where we'll begin by tasting some prize winning Argentine wines with an expert sommelier. This is the perfect courage builder for the Tango Lesson which will follow. Expert dancers from the show will take us through the basic steps of Tango. Once we have built up an appetite it is time to try the famed Argentine "Bife de Chorizo" whilst watching how this passionate and complicated dance is brought to life on the stage. Argentine Tango is traditionally danced with a close embrace, but with time it has opened up to allow space for embellishments. The dance essentially is walking with a partner in time with the music, but a good tango dancer will make us see the music. A major part of Tango is improvisation, and although many steps are considered common, true Tango dancers will tell you that there is no basic step. It is different to traditional couple dances as it does not have a strict pattern and relies upon instinct and understanding between the couple The exact origins are lost in history, but the generally accepted theory is that during the mid-1800s African slaves were brought to Argentina and began to influence local culture. Whatever the origin, it became renowned with the place where African slaves and free African Americans came to dance. It is most likely that Tango rose from African-Argentine dance venues frequented by compadritos, young native men, with little money and dressed in sluch hats, neckerchiefs, heeled boots and the customary knife tucked into the belt. These compadritos took the dance back into the poorer districts of Buenos Aires and it became commonplace in bars, dance halls and brothels. It was in these places that the African rhythms met the Argentine milongo music (a fast-paced polka) and very quickly the first steps of Tango took form.
Travel one hour out into the countryside of Buenos Aires to an organic farm home to a loving couple who are raising a group of youth who are taught essential life skills in a loving and idyllic subsistence farm environment. Well-known chefs from Buenos Aires visit the farm to teach the kids menu planning, food preparation and cooking skills using organic produce directly from the farm. Here we learn the skills of cooking local dishes with a professional Chef, assisted by young students. On day 2 or 3 we will also take an introductory Spanish class, to learn the basics in getting by in Argentina.
This morning we'll fly to Iguassu Falls. Over the course of 2 days, we will tour the falls from both the Brazil and Argentine sides with expert local guides. Tours utilize trails and catwalks adapted to the landscape of the area, and walking is easy for all ages. In order to experience the falls properly we have tours with an expert guide on both sides. The Brazilian side offers the grand overview, and the Argentine side a closer look at the falls. 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. There will also be some free time for us to explore on our own and an optional visit to Itaipú, Dam. Note: If you have booked the Iguassu Falls Boat Ride Theme Pack, you will do it on day 4 or 5 when visiting the Argentine side of the falls. 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-Guaraní tongue. The falls are protected by two National Parks—one in Brazil and another in Argentina. The waterfall system stretches across 1.67 miles (2.7 km) of the Iguaçu River. Numerous rocky and wooded islands on the edge of the escarpment over which the Iguaçu River plunges divide the falls into some 275 separate waterfalls or cataracts. The highest individual fall is about 269 ft (82 m) in height making it the fifth highest waterfall in the world, though the majority of the falls only reach 210 ft (64 m). The bulk of the falls are found on the Argentinian side, but can be seen equally as spectacular on from either country. In 1986 Iguassu Falls were declared a Natural Heritage of Mankind by UNESCO. The falls are the result of the confluence of the Iguacu River and the Parana River. The falls discharge water over the edge of massive basalt cliffs at a rate that varies between 985-21,325 square ft (300 and 6500 cubic m) per second. This massive volume of water causes the basalt cap to recede up to 1.2 in (3 mm) per year. The shear power of the cascading water creates a roar that can be heard from miles away. Due to the high humidity caused by the spray the vegetation of the area is rich and varied, ranging from semi deciduous to tropical. Contrasts are also abundant, with orchids growing next to pines, bamboos next to palm tress, and mosses next to colorful begonias and lilianas. The Iguazu river flows over a plateau that was formed when eruptions of basaltic lava broke through chasms in the earth’s crust more than 135 million years ago. The falls were created 200,000 years ago when a shift in the geographical fault transformed the mouth of the Iguaçu River into a half moon shaped cliff. Faults are vertical cracks in the earth’s crust created by horizontal and vertical movement of continental plates. A system of these faults is present throughout the Iguaçu region and the principle channel of the Iguaçu River flows along one of these faults. Erosion has been greater in this channel giving the cliffs on either side of the river. Also of interest in the area is Itaipú, the second largest hydroelectric complex in the world, just a short distance outside of Iguassu Falls. This incredible construction where every second the same quantity of water that flows over Iguassu Falls, powers though just 2 units of the man made marvel, is worth an optional visit. Itaipu produces the equivalent of 90% of Paraguay's energy or 19% of that consumed by Brazil.
Today we'll fly from Foz to Sao Paulo and continue by bus to the gorgeous coastal town of Paraty. We visit the home of family Goncalves Amaral, where the same family has been living for the past 140 years, since 1870 when Paulo Delfino bought this house Marechal Santos Dias. The family will cook us a traditional Brazilian style churrasqueria (BBQ) and other local specialties, so sit back, relax and make some new friends. Before arriving to the house, we will visit a traditional cachaça distillery, learning the process of how this popular alcohol is distilled from fermented sugarcane juice from a local expert. Once we know the product we will be given the opportunity to make the perfect Caipirihna, the famed Brazilian Cocktail. On day 8, our time is at leisure for various optional activities. Wander the cobblestone streets, take a boat trip to the nearby islands in the bay, or visit one of the many white sand beaches that make Brazil famous. Paraty is a lovely colonial town 125 miles (200 km) from Rio de Janeiro on Ilha Grande Bay, Brazil's southeastern coast. It lies on the border between Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo states, and is a favorite with those looking to get away from it all, Brazilians and visitors alike. 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 import in Brazil during the Golden Century. The historic center is a well-preserved national historic monument, and today has been closed to vehicles. Founded in 1531, the founders named it Nossa Senhora dos Remédios, with Our Lady of the Medicines as the patron saint, and they built the main church in her honor. Enlarged and remodeled 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 Virgin though the town, adorned with gold and silver jewelery. Approximate Distance: 253 miles (408 km) Estimated Travel Time on day 9: 7 hours (1 hour flight)
A dramatic road will take us north from the port along the coast through superb scenery before rounding the cliffs at Vidigal, where we'll get our first glimpse of one of the most memorable cities in the world, Brazil’s ocean-side jewel, Río de Janeiro. Here we will take us to the famous sites such as Sugar Loaf, Christ the Redeemer and the Maracana Football Stadium. "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 Ocean, 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. 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 to 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 sizable 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, which 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. 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, whose image is nearly synonymous with Rio and Carnival. Modern Rio is perhaps best known for the contrasting images offered by the favelas (shanty towns) and the glitz and glamor preferred by the samba schools and their carnival celebrations. Estimated Travel Time on day 12: 4 hours