On arrival in Santiago you will be met and transferred to your hotel. The day is free to spend at your leisure. 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. Here you find 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).
Spend the day enjoying Chile's tastiest export, wine. Tour different wineries in the Maipu Valley, learn the history of the region's wineries and learn a thing or two about the art of wine making.
Fly south to Puerto Varas and Chile's beautiful Lake District, where you have a couple of days to explore the area and will visit the Petrohue region for some hiking and a glimpse of the volcano. Optional activities include an excursion to the lakeside villages of Frutillar. Encompassing a narrow strip of land between the Pacific Ocean and the high peaks of the Andes-approximately 180 km (112 miles) wide, but with a coastline stretching over 4300 km (14104 ft), Chile's 'geografia loca' (as termed by Benjamin Subercasseaux) includes the driest desert, the Atacama in the north, the agriculturally rich Central Valley, snow-covered volcanoes, forests and tranquil lakes of the near south, and the wild and windswept glaciers and fjords of the far south. And the cuisine at times rivals the natural setting! There are few areas in the world that can match the Chilean Lake District for scenic grandeur. South of the Rio Tolten and sprawled across the provinces of Valdivia, Osorno and Llanquihue, you'll find everything from snow-capped mountains to deep-blue and emerald lakes, smoking volcanoes, forests and glaciers. Outside noisy cities, such as Puerto Montt, the loudest sound you're likely to hear is the roar of waterfalls streaming down cliff faces into crystal clear pools. 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 European homes and churches of the 19th Century. This is due to the significant number of immigrants from central Europe (largely Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Italy) 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 also 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.
Travel by bus and ferry to Bariloche, Argentina. Enjoy the sights as the ‘Cruce de los Lagos’ is considered one of the most scenic cruises in the world. Option to take a boat excursion to visit Puerto Blest. Option to cruise the Blest arm of Lake Nahuel Huapi, passing by Centinela Island and landing at Cantaros Port from where we will be able to walk through the forest and enjoy views of Lake Los Cantaros and the adjacent waterfalls. Founded in 1902, Bariloche is on the shores of Lake Nahuel Huapi and is surrounded by mountains and forests. Its name is a play on the words "Carlos Wiederhold", who settled down the first general store in the area (that is what "San Carlos" stands for), and a deformation of the word "vuriloche" ("different people, people from the back or from the other side"), used by the Mapuche people to refer to other native dwellers from the eastern zone of the Andes Mountain Range before their own arrival in this region. Bariloche is the gateway Nahuel Huapi National Park, second largest National Park and the first established in Argentina (1903). The region boasts a broken mirror puzzle of lakes, forest, mountains and rivers running along sharp fluvial valleys and dominated by Cerro Tronador (“Thunder Hill”), an inactive volcano that rises 3554 metres above sea level, with 3 glacier covered summits and 8 glaciers falling on eithe sides of the mountain which make it a reference mountain in Patagonia. Other mountains such as López, Catedral, Capilla and Negro, all rise above 2000 metres in altitude and are visible from town and from the different viewpoints along local roads. It lies 1,640 kilometers from Buenos Aires and it offers first-class accommodation and gastronomical services. In the summer, trout and salmonidae fly-fishing and sports recreation (especially hiking, river rafting and walks around ancient forests, as well as climbing most of the peaks surrounding the city) are some of the activities enjoyed by visitors to this great city. During the winter, the first snowfalls announce the beginning of the ski season and the practice of winter sports at mythical Mount Catedral, considered one of the most important ski resorts in the country. Tours on mountain bike, rowing and horseback rides with the possibility of camping in the thick forests with natural rivers and lakes turn the city outskirts into an ideal setting to have fun with the family. For all these reasons, Bariloche, where youths have spent their graduation trip for decades, has everything all generations look for. The urban centre of the Argentine Lake District, 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. Careful—Bariloche is also famous for its quality and quantity of chocolate! Day 5 Travel: Puerto Varas to Bariloche Approximate journey time: 10-11 hours Note: This journey is by comfortable bus and scenic ferry and crosses the Chilean/Argentine Border. Travel time is approx. and based on time of year and weather conditions.
Argentina is the second giant of South America with a landscape nearly as varied as its people. Modern and sophisticated, Argentina has much more in common with Europe than with the rest of its neighbours. Enjoy a half-day city tour to familiarize yourself with its sites and sounds. The capital city of Argentina, Buenos Aires is the ultimate cosmopolitan city. 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 artistís 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, 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. When you are done exploring, settle your weary feet and enjoy a drink in one of the many sidewalk cafes and restaurants and you will begin to understand the contemplative Argentine way of life. And since Buenos Aires will be your last chance to try the succulent bife and parrilladas, dig in and enjoy! Please note: You should be especially careful when wandering about the capital city on your own, particularly at night. Tourists are easy prey for individual pickpockets or groups of two or more people working as a team on the streets. Pay particular attention to anyone who 'accidentally' spills anything on your clothes or belongings (mustard, etc.), then apologizes and offers to help clean up. They will clean you out instead! Be safe and leave your passport, credit cards, travellers cheques and cash funds you won't be using immediately in the hotel's safety deposit box. Most Porteños are honest and genuinely helpful and friendly, but be safe and enjoy the city!
Our visit to Brazil begins with the magnificent Foz do Iguaçu, or Iguassu falls, bordering Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina. It's a frenzied city that does not have a lot on offer but serves as a jump-off point for a visit to the Falls. 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 it 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-meter 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; guided tours of the complex are available several times a day. 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 visit is from August to November, as during rainy season from May to July, flooding will likely prevent closer viewing from the catwalks. 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 10 or 11 when visiting the Argentine side of the falls.
A travel day takes us to the Atlantic coast and the gorgeous coastal town of Paraty. 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 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 favourite 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 Parati was a busy port, the second most important in Brazil during the Golden Century. The historic centre 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 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.
We continue along the coast through superb scenery before rounding the cliffs at Vidigal, where we get our first glimpse of one of the most memorable cities in the world Brazil’s ocean-side jewel, Río de Janeiro. Enjoy your free time to explore the city using our centrally-located hotel in Copacabana as a base, 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 (Hunchback), 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 Bahía 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.