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Signature Argentina and Brazil: Amazon, Pantanal and Iguazú Falls

15 days from £4,097pp

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Signature Argentina and Brazil: Amazon, Pantanal and Iguazú Falls:
Trip Dossier

This private journey concentrates on the twin wildernesses of Brazil, the Pantanal wetlands and the Amazon basin, but gives you time at the end in the lively city of Rio de Janeiro. Brazil has an incredible diversity of landscapes and flora and fauna, from tropical rainforests to vast wetlands, and one of the world's most impressive waterfalls. Here, we take you to all of them. 

However, the holiday begins in Argentina: Buenos Aires, the soi-disant Paris of Latin America, before continuing north to the Iguazú Falls, the immense, roaring cataracts which straddle the frontier of the two countries.

The vast Pantanal wetlands are a paradise for nature lovers, especially for wildlife observation. Unlike the areas of high jungle, the Pantanal is an open area of swampy grasslands, leaving some of the highest concentration of fauna in the continent exposed to view. Stay at one of our favourite eco lodges: there are plenty of excursions by boat, trail and on horse-back.

For many the seemingly impenetrable wilderness of the Amazon, sprawling across half of South America's vast territory, conjures an unrivalled sense of adventure which taps into some of their very earliest images of the exotic. Here you can make childhood dreams a reality, with a stay of several days at a jungle lodge not far from the city of Manaus but surrounded by the wilds of the rainforest.

Short itinerary

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Buenos Aires. Transfer to hotel in the chic Recoleta district.

Day 2

City tour in Buenos Aires.

Day 3

At leisure in the Argentine capital.

Day 4

Fly to Puerto Iguazú; transfer to Brazil via the Argentinian side of the Iguazú Falls

Day 5

Guided tour of the Brazilian side of Iguazú Falls.

Days 6-8

Fly to Cuiabá in the Brazilian Pantanal wetlands. Transfer to lodge. Activities from the lodge.

Day 9

Fly to Manaus in Amazonia. Transfer to jungle lodge.

Days 10-11

Activities from the lodge.

Day 12

Fly to Rio de Janeiro. Transfer to hotel in Copacabana.

Day 13

Excursion to Corcovado mountain and Tijuca forest.

Day 14

At leisure in Rio; optional excursions.

Day 15

Transfer to airport.

Detailed itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Buenos Aires. Transfer to hotel in the chic Recoleta district.
 

You will be met at the airport and escorted to your hotel in the chic residential district of Recoleta by one of our local representatives.

Buenos Aires is an elegant, cultured and cosmopolitan city famed for its interesting museums and the fascinating port district of La Boca, with its cobbled streets and brightly painted houses. It was here that the tango was born, and Diego Maradona honed his footballing skills.

The centre of town is home to the colonial heartland, government buildings and churches, as well as chic shopping districts, which have a nostalgic Parisian feel. The bohemian quarter of San Telmo is full of quaint old houses interspersed with antiques shops, tango bars and classy restaurants. Slightly further out of the centre is the Recoleta district, even more evocative of French belle époque and Italian influence.

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The barrio of La Boca, Buenos Aires

Day 2

City tour in Buenos Aires.
 

Your guided city tour takes you along Avenida 9 de Julio, one of the widest boulevards in the world and studded by the Obelisk - an emblematic symbol of the city. Along this majestic highway is the 19th century Teatro Colón which, in terms of its architecture and design, as well as its excellent acoustics, is considered one of world’s best. On to the Plaza de Mayo, enclosed on three sides by the Metropolitan cathedral, the Town Hall and the Casa Rosada, the presidential palace. The tour continues to bohemian, arty La Boca, which was settled and built by Italian immigrants and has streets lined with brightly painted corrugated iron-clad houses. Visit the residential district of Recoleta, in the cemetery of which Evita Perón was laid to rest.

Evening guided visit to a tango show with dinner. The passage of time has given respectability to a dance once confined to the seedy underworld bars of the red-light La Boca district. Nowadays, a number of 'tango houses' offer a dinner and show as an evening out. This tango house in the San Telmo district of the capital occupies an early colonial building, founded in the 1920s in the art deco style of the time. It's a smart and evocative place with effective use of wood, tiles and columns to create atmosphere.

Of course, some of the visitors are tourists, but usually the audience is mainly porteños (residents of Buenos Aires) to whom each doleful ballad, each melancholy air, each sensual step, is part of their heritage. Included is dinner including local specialities such as bife de chorizo steak, and regional wines. 

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Tango show, Buenos Aires

Day 3

At leisure in the Argentine capital.
 

At leisure in Buenos Aires. Stroll round Puerto Madero, the refurbished port district where former dock installations and features have been preserved alongside a string of excellent restaurants and loft conversions. Beyond the city limits, consider a trip across the River Plate to Colonia in Uruguay. Travel along a forest-fringed estuary, dotted with upmarket residences, to this peaceful little port, where you can wander among cobbled streets lined by colonial houses, or have a meal or drink in the yacht club.

Alternatively, venture into the watery delta to the small town of Tigre, set on the banks of the Luján river. Have lunch at one of the restaurants on the shores of the Río Paraná, while watching fisherman at work and river-craft gliding by. A third choice would be a trip out to one of Argentina’s famous estancias (ranches) on the grassy plains of the pampas.

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Buenos Aires

Day 4

Fly to Puerto Iguazú; transfer to Brazil via the Argentinian side of the Iguazú Falls
 

Transfer to the airport and fly to Puerto Iguazú in the subtropical northeast corner of Argentina (2hrs). Transfer over the border to your hotel just outside the national park which embraces the Iguazú Falls. These immense cataracts form unquestionably one of the most extraordinary natural phenomena in the world. A total of 275 falls thunder over a rust-coloured cliff surrounded by dense tropical forest. The U-shaped Devil’s Throat is the most dramatic sight, here the frothing water of the Iguazú river crashes over a 1.5km-wide precipice and columns of vapour are thrown skyward.

Elsewhere the river flows decorously through the rainforest breaking up into dozens of smaller cascades. You can usually spot colourful toucans and many other exotic birds perched in the foliage above the tumultuous waters.

En route, visit the Argentine side of the falls. Drop in at the National Park Visitor Centre, where there is a display illustrating the biodiversity of the region’s tropical rainforest, and from here a little train chugs to Cataratas station where the Upper Walk begins. This sequence of causeways and passarelles links dozens of tiny basalt islands at the top of the sheer rock face and the walkways cross the myriad of streams of the Iguazú river as they cascade over the lip of the precipice: the water thunders on to the rocks below. The train continues to Devil’s Throat station and from here a kilometre-long walkway leads across the river to the thunderous Garganta del Diablo, (Devil’s Throat). From this spectacular vantage point you can feel the incredible power of the water, and the flow is mesmeric as it plummets into the vortex below.

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Toco toucan, Iguazu national park

Day 5

Guided tour of the Brazilian side of Iguazú Falls.
 

Guided tour of the Brazilian side of the falls which offers a totally different viewpoint from that of Argentina, providing an overall panoramic vista of their full majesty. A 1.5km paved walkway leads down the cliff to near the rim of the Floriano Falls where you overlook the Garganta del Diablo. There is an elevator which takes visitors to the top of the falls and leads to Porto Canoas which has a small shop, snack bar and terrace. In the afternoon, you have free time to relax at the hotel or choose from various optional excursions and activities: a trip to a quirky bird park, jungle safaris, zip lines and boat trips.

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Iguazu Falls - from the Brazilian side

Days 6-8

Fly to Cuiabá in the Brazilian Pantanal wetlands. Transfer to lodge. Activities from the lodge.
 

Transfer to the airport and fly to Cuiabá (3hrs) in the heart of Brazil’s interior. Continue by road to your lodge in the depths of the Pantanal wetlands. There is a swimming pool, shady patio and thatched restaurant. Thanks to its position at the point where the Rio Mutum merges with two lakes, there are frequent sightings of giant river otter from the lodge. The surroundings are quite thickly forested and support a rich variety of bird life; red and green macaws are seen in abundance.

This huge expanse is considered to have the world's most dense flora and fauna ecosystem, and in the wet season 80% of the land is submerged by swollen rivers which nurture a rich variety of aquatic plants. Each day combines a number of excursions into the surrounding area. Take a 4WD photo tour through the open grasslands, stunted cerrado vegetation, swampland and permanently flooded bays. Ride a horse across the savannah, motorboat or paddle a canoe on one of the numerous waterways. Venture into the countryside at night, when the Pantanal comes alive with the sounds of frogs and insects: you might spot fluttering owls and the curled forms of sleeping anaconda.  Knowledgeable local guides take you to areas inhabited by giant storks, caimans, giant anteaters, armadillos, howler monkeys and capybara (giant guinea pigs). And there is an extraordinary variety of resplendent birdlife; macaws, parakeets and toucans all providing clusters of colour in the branches of the low trees. Whatever the season, the wildlife is abundant.

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Kayaking at sunrise in the Pantanal

Day 9

Fly to Manaus in Amazonia. Transfer to jungle lodge.
 

Transfer to the airport and fly to Manaus in the heart of Amazonia. The vast jungle basin is crossed by a network of huge rivers and spans 8 countries, with vast tracts of tall, closely packed, virtually impenetrable tropical forest sheltering an uncountable myriad of wildlife. Human society is dwarfed here:  simple communities cling to the river banks, eking a living from subsistence farming and fishing; indigenous villages dot the interior. There are, however, a few gigantic cities, of which Manaus is the most impressive.

From the airport, a 45min-2hr journey (the time taken depends on the water level, which varies throughout the year) by boat takes you past the famous ‘meeting of the waters’ where the tea-black Rio Negro meets the toffee-brown Rio Solimões – the waters of different density flow alongside one another for a while before eventually merging: an extraordinary sight.  Your lodge sits on the shores of a jungle lake. You stay in rustic thatched cottages which use much of the native hardwood in their structure and simple furnishings. There’s a good choice of freshly cooked food at lunch and dinner, served in a generous buffet. In the evening you can retire to the cosy bar, or swing to the jungle rhythm in your hammock on the veranda of your cabin.

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Manaus opera house

Days 10-11

Activities from the lodge.
 

There’s a programme of excursions available all led by excellent and experienced local experts. Join a jungle walk, where your guide will help you discover the medicinal properties of the extraordinary plant-life and spot swooping birds and chattering gangs of monkeys jumping from branch to branch in the canopy above. Paddle quietly along the waterways by canoe, exploring the tangled banks of the river and the flooded forest softened by a misty glow at dawn or dusk.  By night, take to the water again to spot the alligators which lurk below the surface of the inky water, occasionally raising their head to reveal a beady eye picked out as red as a traffic light in your torchlight.

There is also the opportunity to visit an indigenous village or farm, where you will hear about the local economy and agriculture as well as having the opportunity to buy some craft work fashioned by the Amazonian indians. You might be invited to join in a native dance… it’s a good photo opportunity even if it doesn’t get you on to Strictly Come Dancing…

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Macaws

Day 12

Fly to Rio de Janeiro. Transfer to hotel in Copacabana.
 
Fly to Rio de Janeiro and transfer to your hotel in Copacabana. Rio is surely the most beguiling, seductive, intriguing and beautiful city on the continent. But it is a multi-layered place: the gulf between the rich and the poor is the greatest of all Latin American countries. Sumptuous apartments overlook the sparkling bays against a backdrop of half-built slum dwellings, favelas, which cling precariously to the hillsides. Once lawless enclaves ruled by drug runners and gaming gangs, these are gradually being brought under police control in time for the World Cup and Olympic Games. Rio enjoys a truly awesome location among towering jungle-clad granite mountains, fringed by white-to-toffee coloured sandy beaches which swoop down into the Atlantic surf.
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Sugar Loaf Mountain

Day 13

Excursion to Corcovado mountain and Tijuca forest.
 

Guided drive to the district of Cosme Velho at the foot of Corcovado mountain. The cog-wheel train journey starts here, climbing through rainforest, with abundant tropical flowers and fruit trees, to the steps below the iconic statue of Christ the Redeemer. At 701m above sea level, it offers stunning views of the city of Rio, including the instantly recognisable Sugar Loaf mountain, the magnificent ironwork structure of Niteroi bridge, spanning Guanabara Bay, and the famous beaches.

Corcovado is the centrepiece of Tijuca forest, a rainforest oasis surrounded by crowded city quarters. This recreational area has been voted the best urban park in the world by Lonely Planet.  

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Christ the Redeemer, Corcovado Mountain

Day 14

At leisure in Rio; optional excursions.
 

At leisure in Rio. There are many optional excursions to keep you entertained in this fascinating city. Don’t miss a trip to Pão de Açucar (Sugar Loaf mountain). Take the cable-car up the twin-domed granite mountain which protrudes from the ocean. This is especially magical at sunset when the twinkling lights of the city are switched on and you can enjoy magnificent views back over Copacabana beach, yacht-dotted Botafogo Bay and into the lush mountains beyond. There’s a lovely nature walk around the foot of the mountain too, where you are accompanied by butterflies, lizards and even the odd shy monkey.

Also within a short taxi ride from your hotel are the shady, very pleasant botanical gardens, recently redesigned and refurbished with a huge variety of clearly identified plants. Further afield you might take a day trip on a schooner down the coast to the tropical islands off the Emerald coast, each with its pretty sandy bay. There’s an al fresco lunch and you can swim in the warm, calm waters.If you still have the energy, you may choose to enjoy a lively samba show, or a dance in one of Rio’s many nightspots.

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Sugar Loaf Mountain, Rio

Day 15

Transfer to airport.

Essential information

Transport

4 domestic flights; 5 land and boat transfers (1-3hrs).

Accommodation

This holiday offers economical mid-range accommodation. We have chosen a combination of modern and well-equipped hotels in convenient locations and mid-range wildlife lodges with a rustic ambience and good if not luxurious facilities.

Meals

Breakfast daily, dinner days 2, 9; full board days 7, 8, 10, 11.

Guides

We carefully select our local partners, some of whom we have worked with for over 25 years. Their English-speaking guides understand the expectations of our clients very well, and are consistently singled out for praise by the latter on their return.

Included excursions

• Guided tour of Buenos Aires.
• Guided visit to the Brazilian side of Iguazú Falls.
• Guided activities at Pantanal lodge.
• Guided activities at Amazon jungle lodge.
• Guided excursion to Corcovado mountain and Santa Teresa.

Summary of nights

15 days, 14 nights: Buenos Aires 3; Iguazú Falls 2; Pantanal 3; Amazon lodge 3; Rio de Janeiro 3.

Included in the journey price

• Services of our team of experts in our London office.
• Services of Journey Latin America local representatives and guides.
• All land and air transport within Latin America.
• Accommodation as specified.
• Meals as specified.
• Excursions as specified, including entrance fees.

Not included in the journey price

• International flights to Latin America.
• Tips and gratuities
• Meals other than specified.
• Airport taxes, when not included in the ticket
• Optional excursions. 

Optional excursions

There are a number of half, full-day or longer excursions or activities you may wish to consider in order to customise your holiday to cater for your interests. Please contact us to discuss these further or to add them to your itinerary before you depart. A selection of these include:
• Bike tour of Buenos Aires.
• Excursion to River Plate delta.
• Excursion to Colonia in Uruguay.
• Visit the quirky bird park, Iguazú.
• Cable car up Sugar Loaf mountain, Rio.
• Bike tour of Rio’s beaches.
• Samba show, Rio.

Currency

The unit of currency in Argentina is the Argentinian peso; Brazil has the Brazilian ‘real’ (plural reais).

Daily spend

It is very difficult to give a guideline for essential expenses but a budget of US$50-70 per day should cover the cost of meals not included in the holiday itinerary, drinks and the odd souvenir. Eat at the best restaurants and you will pay considerably more.

How to take it

Cash machines are available in all major cities and towns, and so taking a debit or credit card with a PIN number is the most convenient way of withdrawing money while on your trip, and in most shops and restaurants you can also pay by card. However, since cards can get lost, damaged, withheld or blocked, you should not rely exclusively on a card to access funds. We recommend that additionally you take a reasonable quantity of US dollars cash (no more than is covered by your insurance), which you can exchange into local currency, and possibly some travellers’ cheques, though these are gradually falling out of use (American Express are the most widely accepted). Dollar bills should be in good condition, soiled or torn bills may be refused. You can take sterling, but the exchange rate is not always competitive or even available, restricting the number of places where you can change money.

We recommend that you acquire local currency in Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro, and from ATMs in the airports.  

Tipping

Tips are expected and local guides often rely on their tip as a significant proportion of their income. 

Most service industry workers will expect a tip of some kind and so it is useful to have spare change for hotel porters, taxi drivers and the like. It is common to leave 10 - 12% in restaurants.

Tipping guidelines can be found in our Briefing Dossier.

Insurance

Travel insurance is essential. 

Details of our recommended policy can be found on our Travel Insurance page.

Airport taxes

If you have purchased your flights through Journey Latin America, the international departure tax is usually included in the ticket.

Journey grade

This holiday is suitable for all, including families. If you have a disability or other special requirements, please call us.

In the summer months of December to March the weather is extremely hot and humid, you might bear this in mind if travelling with small children or elderly persons.

Climate

In Buenos Aires, October to November and March to April see temperatures between 15 and 25°C and a good deal of sunshine. January to February is hot, with temperatures over 30°C. 

In tropical Rio and Iguazú, December to March are the hottest and most humid months, with temperatures sometimes reaching 40°C, and rain which falls in heavy showers. From June to September, temperatures are more moderate (18-23°C) and there is plenty of sunshine, but cold fronts can usher in periods of up to several days of cloud and drizzle.

In the Pantanal, January is the warmest month, with temperatures between 24-34°C and plenty of rain. June-July has the coldest temperatures (between 15-25°C). Note that wildlife is visible throughout the year and is not dependent on season, although it can hide away during a cold snap.

The Amazon is hot and wet all year round and is humid and subject to brief tropical downpours, particularly in the rainy season which can arrive in December but starts in earnest in March and lasts until May. The sun is very hot and can shine remorselessly in the dry season, especially August, pushing up the temperatures (otherwise around 30°C) towards 40°C.

Clothing and special equipment

In the southern hemisphere summer it will be hot in the cities - Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro - so take loose-fitting light clothing for maximum comfort. An umbrella is a good idea in case of a tropical shower. The months June - October are cooler and a light sweater or fleece is appropriate.

At the Iguazú Falls you can get very wet from the spray. You may like to take dry clothes in a dry bag.

If you plan to go to good restaurants or out on evening entertainment trips, you may bring something a bit smarter as well (although formal attire will not be required).

For the Pantanal and Amazon, you will need practical clothing. Bring shorts and/or skirt, T shirts, light trousers and long sleeved shirts for the evenings and a hat to protect your head from the sun. A rain poncho is ideal for excursions into the wetlands and jungle.

Strong, comfortable enclosed walking footwear is essential as well as flip-flops/sandals and/or trainers. 

You should bring insect repellent, sun block and sun glasses. You should take swimwear for the beach and pools. Binoculars will be useful for wildlife spotting.
 
Due to luggage restrictions at the Amazon rainforest lodge we recommend only hand luggage (approx. +/- 8kg per person) for your stay there. Upon pick up the rest of your luggage will be tagged and transported to the head office with facilities for appropriate storage.

Please get in touch with the office before departure if you have any doubts. Good equipment is very important and hard to come by in South America.

Vaccinations

Preventative vaccinations are recommended against the following: polio; tetanus; typhoid; yellow fever, hepatitis A. Protection against malaria is advised. For specific requirements you must consult your GP.

You can also find helpful information on the Masta Travel Health website.

Visas

Holders of a full British passport do not require a visa, although passports must be valid for at least 6 months after the trip begins.  Anyone with a different nationality should enquire with us or check with the relevant consulate.

APIS and ESTA - important flight information:

ESTA - if flying to the US, or via the US you will need to fill in your application to ESTA online.
This costs $14 per person. This must be done by you personally.
Passports must also be machine-readable (MRP). Avoid locking suitcases if transiting the USA, as their customs authorities retain the right to break into them.

APIS - Many countries now oblige airlines to provide additional information about passengers prior to the flight departure. This Advance Passenger Information (APIS) must be supplied to us promptly in order to issue tickets and avoid fare increases. We will provide the airlines with the relevant details if we are booking your international flights. If the information is not provided you may be denied boarding.

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