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Touring in South America


Iguazú Falls, Brazil
Iguazú Falls, Brazil

Undoubtedly one of the most diverse and inspirational destinations, South America is perfect for touring, whether on a private basis or as part of a small group.


Whilst on the seas, I managed to spend a season cruising around the continent to get a flavour, but I am keen to revisit, as the Galápagos Islands and the Nazca Lines in Peru are on my bucket list, along with a desire to explore some inland areas.


My experiences in Brazil included Carnival in Manaus and seeing the sights of Rio before cruising south to Montevideo and Buenos Aires and then heading further south along the coast of Argentina to visit Patagonia.


On some cruises we would visit the Falkland Islands, sail around Cape Horn and arrive in Ushuaia, Chile, before voyaging north to Punta Arena, where I visited the penguin colony in Magdalena Island and Puerto Montt to enjoy the Chilean Lake District.


Penguin on Magdalena Island
Penguin on Magdalena Island

I spent time in the wonderful city of Santiago, had the pleasure of escorting an overland tour in Peru, travelling from Lima, across to Cusco and Machu Picchu and stood on the equatorial line in Quito, Ecuador.


Equatorial Line in Quito, Ecuador
Equatorial Line in Quito, Ecuador

That was a splendid introduction, but it would take several visits to get remotely near everything this awe-inspiring continent has to offer.


Whether for a first-time journey or returning for the next adventure, there are fantastic touring options I would recommend that maximise time. I have selected a few highlights that feature in many of the exciting Latin America itineraries on offer.



Iguazú Falls in Argentina and Brazil



An astounding wonder of nature, the almighty Iguazú Falls is a chain of 275 separate waterfalls stretching along the border of Argentina and Brazil, deep within a vast tropical natural park, rich in flora, fauna and wildlife.


They can be accessed from both countries and with the contrasting yet equally magical experiences offered by each, it is a must to visit both sides if you can.


The Brazilian side offers the quintessential panoramic views, whilst the Argentinian side provides the opportunity to get a little closer, walking along boardwalks and feeling the spray.


There are several ways to experience this remarkable wonder of nature with networks of walkways on both sides, exhilarating boat safaris and helicopter rides all available.


Whichever you choose, witnessing the sheer power, magnitude and thundering roar at close quarters is an extraordinary never-to-be-forgotten experience.



Brazil


Brazilian lady in Salvador
Brazilian lady in Salvador

The largest country in the region dances to the rhythmic beat of outstanding variety, with pulsating cities, wild rainforests, abundant wetlands, timeless colonial towns and palm-fringed beautiful beaches, all part of its captivating make-up.


From exploring the legendary Amazon rainforest by a river cruise to the wildlife haven of the Pantanal, there is plenty for lovers of nature, but this is also a country where you can party, relax, explore and dance, like no other.


Rio de Janeiro, backdropped by the incredible sites of Sugarloaf Mountain and Christ the Redeemer, is the capital of samba with its celebrated carnival and the infamous electricity of the iconic shores of Copacabana and Ipanema.


Sugar Loaf Mountain, Rio de Janeiro
Sugar Loaf Mountain, Rio de Janeiro

The dreamy villages of Paratay and Búzios provide a more sedate pace, and along with the charming island of Ilha Grande, are just perfect for a few days of relaxing after an active South American adventure.


Búzios
Búzios


Argentina


Bariloche, Argentina
Bariloche, Argentina

From its wetlands to winelands and gauchos to glaciers, Argentina is a safe, friendly and accessible place of immense beauty and spectacular variety.


An outdoor lover's paradise with an exhilarating diversity of adventure, landscapes range from arid desert and sub-tropical jungle in the north, through endless pampa plains and vineyards moving down through the majestic Lake District and peaks of the Andes to the mighty glaciers of Patagonia.


The Fourteen Coloured Mountain, Serranía de Hornocal
The Fourteen Coloured Mountain, Serranía de Hornocal

The land of estancias is famed for its horse riding, steaks with chimichurri and delicious red wine but that's a mere snippet of what this wildly intoxicating country has to offer.



Buenos Aires


Tango in Buenos Aires
Tango in Buenos Aires

A visit to the irresistible capital and the passionate home of tango is essential for any trip to Argentina. Buenos Aires is a bustling hub of activity that will inspire any city dweller with its stylish architecture, tree-lined avenues, eclectic mix of modern, bohemian and more traditional neighbourhoods, and a host of exquisite boutiques and fabulous restaurants.


Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires

It seems to have inherited the best of its Spanish heritage whilst maintaining a very individual flair. I highly recommend spending some time wandering the city streets and getting lost in the story of Eva Perón before indulging in some of South America's finest cuisine.



Iberá Wetlands


Iberá wetlands wildlife
Iberá wetlands wildlife

A collection of swamps doesn't sound massively appealing at first but delve a little deeper and you will find one of the largest nature reserves on earth.


A protected area, access is limited because of the strong focus on preserving biodiversity. It's not the easiest place to get to but it is so worth the effort.


Home to over 350 species of bird, it is a haven for rare wildlife with caimans, capybaras, swamp deer, pampas deer, howler monkeys, giant otters, anacondas and greater rheas amongst the inhabitants.


Staying in a remote lodge, enjoying jeep safaris and getting face to face with the residents is heavenly for lovers of nature.



El Calafate


Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina
Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina

The enchanting lands of Patagonia house crystal blue waters, towering glaciers, mountains and volcanoes. El Calafate is a popular town near the edge of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, known as the gateway to Los Glaciares National Park and home to the massive Perito Moreno Glacier.


Taking a catamaran to see other glaciers, visiting a ranch for a taste of the real Patagonia and a trip to El Chaltén, home to Mount Fitz Roy on the Chilean border are other popular excursions in this scenic region; and of course the Tierra del Fuego archipelago, the southernmost tip of South America, nicknamed the 'End of the World' where the Antarctic cruises depart from Ushuaia.



Chile


San Pedro de Atacama, Chile
San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

Combining a trip to Argentina with Chile is an increasingly popular itinerary.


Chile stretches almost half the length of South America with one side of the country dominated by the Andes Mountains and the other by the dramatic Pacific coastline.


It offers some of the world’s most outstanding, awe-inspiring and varied landscapes from ancient forests, volcanoes and the driest deserts to the fjords and vast, spectacular, epic wilderness of Patagonia’s glacial fields.


Highlights include...


Santiago - the bustling, cosmopolitan capital city, home to Chile’s fascinating culture and the Central Market, famous for its cuisine and fish stores.


Mercado Central de Santiago
Mercado Central de Santiago

Heading north to the incredible Atacama Desert – the highest, driest desert in the world, filled with red rock landscapes and outstanding natural phenomena.


Valle de la Luna, San Pedro de Atacama
Valle de la Luna, San Pedro de Atacama

The dramatic mountains and bright blue icebergs of Torres del Paine National Park, the crown jewel of Patagonia.


Torres del Paine, Patagonia
Torres del Paine, Patagonia

Valparaíso, a coastal bohemian town filled with poetic inspiration and colourful buildings.


Valparaíso
Valparaíso


Peru


Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru

The potential for an adventure across Peru’s diverse landscape, with both group and tailor-made tours at your disposal, is endless, the only question is, what would you like to experience first?


The 16th-century citadel of Machu Picchu, the ancient ‘Lost City of the Incas’, sat deep in the Andean mountains is one of the most impressive archaeological sites in the world.


Originally designed to be completely self-contained, surrounded by natural springs and agriculture to feed the population, the Inca citadel was only rediscovered in the early 20th century.


Despite its popularity with travellers, the site still retains its mystery, and the ruins are accessible by train and bus, or for the more adventurous, a four-day hike.


Cusco, the gateway to Machu Picchu, is a bustling hub and home to some delightful historic treasures. Filled with colonial architecture and cobblestoned streets, the city has been beautifully preserved.


Cusco
Cusco

Speaking of great mystery, the Nazca Lines, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a group of geoglyphs etched into desert sands. Spread over 500 square kilometres, these surreal line drawings have puzzled academics for many years.


The best way to see the glyphs is by air with scenic flights available from the nearby town of Nazca.


Nazca Lines
Nazca Lines

Once colonised by pre-Inca civilisations, Colca Canyon at 3,400 metres is one of the world’s deepest canyons and both a cultural and natural highlight.


Formed by a geological fault between two volcanoes, the site is now home to famous residents, the mighty condor, who can be seen riding the updraughts of the canyon’s thermals.


Colca Canyon
Colca Canyon

Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world and the largest in South America.


Floating islands made of reeds are home to the indigenous people, Uros, who have been living this way for centuries and non-floating islands offer homestay opportunities for those wishing to experience the traditional way of life.


Lake Titicaca
Lake Titicaca

Covering over half the country, the lush Amazon jungle is an ecological treasure. You can venture out from the cities of Puerto Maldonado or Iquitos to spot monkeys, birds, river turtles, caiman and capybara.


The nation's capital, Lima has a population of 8.5 million people. Its museums are a great way to learn about the region’s culture and early civilisations, and with an abundance of restaurants and cafes, it’s the perfect place to sample Peru’s delicious cuisine.


Peruvian ceviche
Peruvian ceviche


The Galápagos Islands


A blue-footed booby
A blue-footed booby

The Galápagos is an archipelago of tiny volcanic islands, found 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador and home to miraculous species of native wildlife, sea-life and vegetation.


A Galápagos cruise is nothing short of paradise for lovers of the natural world and regarded as one of life’s ultimate wildlife experiences and a major bucket-list tick.


Getting up close to large seabirds such as frigates, albatrosses and blue and red-footed boobies will delight birdwatchers, whilst the Galápagos giant tortoise is the largest of its kind in the world, in contrast to the endangered Galápagos penguin, the world’s second-smallest and the only of its kind residing north of the equator.



One of the most popular inhabitants is the Galápagos marine iguana, who, unlike most lizards, can also forage underwater, an ability well-suited for the environment.


Galápagos marine iguana
Galápagos marine iguana

Other South American countries such as Ecuador, Uruguay, Bolivia and Colombia have plenty to offer too.


From its culture to its gastronomy, and landscapes to wildlife, an assortment of wonderful experiences and memories can be created in a variety of ways depending on personal interests and the time available to explore.


Just let me know what you want to see and do, and I can sort the rest.


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