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Signature Southern Chile, Argentina and Brazil: Natural wonders of Patagonia and the Iguazú Falls

16 days from £4,857pp

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Signature Southern Chile, Argentina and Brazil: Natural wonders of Patagonia and the Iguazú Falls:
Trip Dossier

This is an exciting and variety-packed private tour taking you across the continent from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean, visiting some of the most impressive sights of three of the continent’s grandest countries.  Dip into the historical and cultural delights of three of the western hemisphere’s most dynamic cities, each a capital city with its own character and attractions.

Your visits here will contrast markedly with your stays close to two of South America’s most awesome natural attractions, the towering drop of the jungle-framed Iguazú Falls on the border of Brazil and Argentina and the glacial landscapes of Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia.

Short itinerary

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Santiago. Transfer to hotel in an upmarket quarter of the capital. Guided walking tour of Santiago.

Day 2

Full day excursion to two vineyards in the Maipo valley.

Day 3

Fly to Punta Arenas, by road to Torres del Paine National Park.

Days 4-5

Excursions and activities in Torres del Paine National Park.

Day 6

Transfer to El Calafate, Parque Nacional Los Glaciares, Argentina.

Day 7

Visit Perito Moreno glacier, boat trip on the lake below the glacier.

Day 8

Fly to Buenos Aires.

Day 9

Walking city tour of Buenos Aires, visit Teatro Colon. Tango show with dinner.

Day 10

At leisure.

Day 11

Fly to Puerto Iguazú, guided visit to Argentine side of Iguazú Falls.

Day 12

Guided visit to Brazilian side of Iguazú falls.

Day 13

Fly to Rio de Janeiro.

Day 14

Guided excursion to Corcovado mountain and the Christ the Redeemer statue.

Day 15

Day at leisure in Rio.

Day 16

Transfer to airport for international flight home.

Detailed itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Santiago. Transfer to hotel in an upmarket quarter of the capital. Guided walking tour of Santiago.
 

Transfer from the airport to you hotel in Santiago. It’s in the pleasant residential and commercial quarter of Providencia.  Santiago is set in a broad valley between ranges of the Andes, with majestic snow-capped peaks, and a smaller coastal range with a distinctly Mediterranean feel. Santiago is a huge metropolis, a mix of the old and the contemporary, with quarters of tree-lined avenues and affluent tranquillity and others full of commercial bustle.

In the afternoon you’ll have a walking tour of the historic core which, although small, has some notable buildings of cultural significance. The museum and former residence of Chilean poet laureate Pablo Neruda is close by. The city is easy to get around by tube, but the bus network can be mystifying.

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Santiago

Day 2

Full day excursion to two vineyards in the Maipo valley.
 

Visit the sunlit vineyards and cellars of two of the Maipo Valley's celebrated wineries. The valley is considered one of the best wine-producing areas in the country. The scenery is lovely, with a rugged Mediterranean feel, and the peacefulness a great contrast to the atmosphere in many parts of the congested capital. You’ll enjoy lunch out of town too.

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Winery, Chile

Day 3

Fly to Punta Arenas, by road to Torres del Paine National Park.
 

Return to the airport and fly to Punta Arenas in southern Patagonia (4hrs). On a clear day you have other-worldly views of the swirling meringue of the southern icecap, its fjords, volcanoes and glaciers. Approaching Punta Arenas you see the rust-brown stain of the Patagonian steppes, pitted with small lagoons stretching out towards the Straits of Magellan. On the other side of the water rises the hand of jagged peaks on the wilderness island of Tierra del Fuego.

From the airport, drive into Torres del Paine National Park (5 hrs), with opportunities to take photographs of wildlife (rheas (ñandu) graze prolifically throughout the park), silvery rivers, aquamarine lagoons and savagely wind-carved rocks, cliffs and mountains. The road takes you across inhospitable plains, battered by perpetual winds, which were colonised over a hundred years ago by British sheep farmers and Yugoslavs fleeing the war-torn Balkans. 

The scenery becomes more dramatic as you approach the towering massif of rock towers and icy pinnacles which is the centrepiece of the park.  Milky blue and gem-sharp emerald lakes, sinuous rivers, glaciers and wind-scoured steppes have created a remarkable and unique environment. Declared a biosphere reserve by UNESCO, the area is a natural habitat of over 150 species of birds (flamingos, condors, eagles and ostriches) and 25 species of mammal (including guanacos, armadillos, silver foxes and pumas).

Your hotel is close to the massive vertical towers of granite that dominate the mountain massif.

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Torres del Paine

Days 4-5

Excursions and activities in Torres del Paine National Park.
 

You have a choice of guided excursions to explore this wonderful wilderness environment from the hotel. Some are more energetic than others, but all are immensely rewarding. You might choose to walk uphill to the base of the dizzying perpendicular “torres” or towers, hike to the jade green Laguna Verde or to one of a number of scenic look-out points.  You might visit the beach at Lago Grey and survey the steep walls of the Grey Glacier, from which blue-tinged icebergs the size of motor launches break off and drift around in the icy waters.

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Torres del Paine

Day 6

Transfer to El Calafate, Parque Nacional Los Glaciares, Argentina.
 

It’s an all-day drive towards and over the frontier to Argentina across the bleak and scantily-populated Patagonian steppe, but the beauty of the mountainous scenery is staggering. In the afternoon you reach the shores of the milky turquoise Lago Argentino, and the little town of El Calafate, where you are based for two days.

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Guanacos, Patagonia

Day 7

Visit Perito Moreno glacier, boat trip on the lake below the glacier.
 

The town is the launch-pad for your visit to the Perito Moreno glacier, one of the most dynamic bodies of ice in the world. Driving out towards the glacier for the excursion, you follow a lakeside road before turning up a wooded valley, dense with beech and birch, and then continue alongside shimmering lagoons fringed with bright crimson and heather lichens. The park authorities have been sensitive about keeping the site as natural as possible, and there are no shops or cafés within close proximity of the wooden viewing platforms, which are unobtrusively landscaped into the cliff.

Just gazing at the front wall of the glacier, which towers 60 frozen metres above the water level of the lake below, and is an extraordinary five kilometres wide, is awe-inspiring in itself. But even more so when you hear the unforgettable sound of the glacier calving a vast wedge of ice the size of a tower block, which crashes down into the lake and divides, and floats away as an Iceberg of battleship proportions. There’s a boat trip right up to the face of the glacier’s wall.

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Perito Moreno glacier ice shards

Day 8

Fly to Buenos Aires.
 

It’s a the three-hour flight to Buenos Aires, 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 where the tango was born, and where 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 the French influence, where Evita Perón was laid to rest. During the winter months, wealthy female residents parade the streets in their fur coats and improbable, towering hairstyles, and take afternoon tea in the city’s ornate salons.

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Tango, Buenos Aires

Day 9

Walking city tour of Buenos Aires, visit Teatro Colon. Tango show with dinner.
 

Guided city tour of the capital. Pass along Avenida 9 de Julio, the ultra-wide boulevard studded by the Obelisk, an emblematic symbol of the city. Visit the 19th century Teatro Colón which, for its architecture and acoustics is considered one of the best in the world.  On to the Plaza de Mayo, enclosed by the Metropolitan cathedral, Town Hall and the Casa Rosada, the presidential palace from where Juan and Eva Perón addressed impassioned throngs of the Argentinean working class.

The tour continues to the bohemian barrio of La Boca, settled by Italian immigrants with streets lined with brightly painted corrugated iron-clad houses. Drive north to Palermo, an elegant residential neighbourhood as is Recoleta, stopping at the cemetery where Evita was buried.

Evening 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 the 1940s orchestra recreates, with professional dancers and singers, the atmosphere of those early days and the history and evolution of the dance.

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Colourful houses in La Boca, Buenos Aires

Day 10

At leisure.
 

Make the most of your free time to shop, have a drink and a pastry in an enticing coffee bar or peruse the items on display in one of the many markets. Take a 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.

If you’d like to venture beyond the city consider an optional trip across the River Plate to Colonia.  A boat trip along a forest-fringed estuary, dotted with upmarket residences, brings you to this peaceful little Uruguayan port, where you can wander among cobbled streets and admire the colonial houses, or have a meal or drink in the yacht club.

Alternatively you might venture into the watery delta to the small town of Tigre, set on the banks of the Luján river. Pick up some fresh, exotic fruits in the market and dine in one of the restaurants on the shores of the Río Paraná, as you watch the fishermen at work and a variety of river-craft glide by.

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Teatro Colon, Buenos Aires

Day 11

Fly to Puerto Iguazú, guided visit to Argentine side of Iguazú Falls.
 

Fly to Puerto Iguazú in the subtropical northeast corner of Argentina (2 hrs). The Iguazú Falls compose one of the most extraordinary natural phenomena in the world. 275 falls thunder over a rust-coloured cliff surrounded by dense tropical forest. You can usually spot toucans and many other exotic birds perched in the foliage above the tumultuous waters.

There’s a guided tour of the Argentine side.  From the National Park Visitor Centre take a train to 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 River Iguazú cascading over the precipice’s lip. The train continues to Devil’s Throat station and from here a 1km walkway leads to the thunderous Devil’s Throat. From this spectacular vantage point the water is mesmeric as it plummets into the vortex below.

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Toco toucan, Iguazu National Park

Day 12

Guided visit to Brazilian side of Iguazú falls.
 

Today, on a guided tour, you cross to the Brazilian side. Here there is a broad panoramic view of these colossal falls, and there are some excellent opportunities to photograph the full sweep of the cataracts.

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Iguazu Falls

Day 13

Fly to Rio de Janeiro.
 

Fly to Rio de Janeiro (2 hrs). This is 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 that swoop down into the Atlantic surf.

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Sugar Loaf Mountain, Rio

Day 14

Guided excursion to Corcovado mountain and the Christ the Redeemer statue.
 

There is probably no better place to appreciate Rio's magnificent cityscape, bays and beaches than from atop the 710m high jungle clad Corcovado mountain, part of the urban Tijuca national park. The ascent is in itself memorable: the rack railway which goes almost to the summit has been here since the late 1800s, although since refurbished. Nowadays, an electric-powered cog-wheel train climbs steeply through the lush Tijuca rainforest, with its abundant flowers and fruit trees, to the steps (or elevators) below the iconic statue of Christ the Redeemer.

At 30m high, the statue was erected in the early 1930s, has since become part of Brazil's cultural identity and been declared one of the new Wonders of the World. On clear and sunny days, Corcovado offers stunning views of the city of Rio, including the instantly recognisable Sugar Loaf mountain, Niteroi bridge, and the famous beaches. There's plenty of time to take pictures but no amount of time is enough to totally take it all in. After exploring the viewpoints you'll take the railway back down to the base before returning to your hotel.

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Corcovado Mountain

Day 15

Day at leisure in Rio.
 

At leisure during the day. You might take a guided tour of Sugar Loaf mountain, or make your own way to this most famous of Rio’s sights. The cable car ride reveals the southern zone of the city below including Copacabana beach and Botafogo Bay, sheltering the yacht club. Further afield you can see Corcovado mountain and the north zone, home to the Maracanã stadium. Or if it’s a sunny day, stretch out on the beach in Copacabana or Ipanema: but take care, the currents are very strong beneath the Atlantic surf.

In the evening you may consider an outing to a glitzy samba show, where the extravagance of the costumes is matched by the enthusiasm of the dancers.

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Ipanema Beach

Day 16

Transfer to airport for international flight home.

Essential information

Transport

Four flights (longest 4hrs); 2 scenic road journeys (longest 6hrs).

Accommodation

Here you stay in relatively large, contemporary-style hotels at the top of the mid-range category; but on the whole they are anything but bland, with interesting features. The rooms are well equipped and have private bathrooms and heating/air-conditioning. All have excellent locations, and were chosen because they are well positioned for visiting the local sights.

Meals

Breakfast daily, lunch days 2, 3; dinner day 9; full board days 4, 5.

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

  • Walking tour of Santiago’s historic heart.
  • Full day excursion to two vineyards in the Maipo valley.
  • Excursions and activities in Torres del Paine National Park. 
  • Visit Perito Moreno glacier, boat cruise in the lake below the ice wall.
  • Walking city tour of Buenos Aires, visit Teatro Colon.
  • Tango show with dinner, Buenos Aires.
  • Visit to Argentine side of Iguazú falls.  
  • Full day visit to Brazilian side of Iguazú falls.
  • Guided tour of Corcovado mountain (Christ the Redeemer).

Summary of nights

16 days, 15 nights: Santiago 2; Torres del Paine 3; El Calafate 2; Buenos Aires 3; Iguazú 2; 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
  • Airport taxes, when not included in the ticket.
  • Tips and gratuities.
  • Meals other than specified.
  • 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:
  • Buenos Aires:  boat trip to Uruguay to visit colonial town of Colonia, from Buenos Aires.
  • By road or train to Tigre in the delta from Buenos Aires.
  • Cable car up the Sugar Loaf mountain in Rio.

Currency

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

Daily spend

It is very difficult to give a guideline for essential expenses but a budget of around US$40-50 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.

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

In Torres del Paine all walks are optional. Hikes vary in length (between 2 and 8hrs) and difficulty (some are easy and flat, others steeper and more challenging). Be prepared for some early mornings, and for extreme weather conditions in Patagonia.

Climate

Winter in the Southern Hemisphere is between May and September. In Santiago, Rio and Buenos Aires temperatures can be cool (5°C to 15°C). Sunshine is possible, but so is rain if cold fronts come tumbling in. 

Spring temperatures, October to November and March to April are between 15°C and 25°C and there is a good deal of sunshine, although in Buenos Aires rain is not uncommon. January and February are hot, around 30°C. 

The weather in Patagonia is notoriously unpredictable throughout the year, with up to four seasons in one day. In summer you benefit from long daylight hours; in winter snow may block some routes and it is dark by late afternoon: at this time however there can be long calm spells with sunshine as well as storms. The shoulder season in April-May and September-October can be very windy.

Clothing and special equipment

You will be exposed to just about all the climates the continent can offer, so will need a range of layered clothing. A day pack is essential for carrying rainwear (umbrella in the hot summer months), snacks, books and a water bottle. To ensure your comfort while walking in Patagonia, you should bring a good pair of walking boots or shoes as well as a good waterproof top, trousers and a warm hat and a scarf. 

The sun can be strong so take a hat with a visor, sunglasses and sunblock. 

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: typhoid; polio; tetanus; hepatitis A. You should consult your GP for specific requirements.

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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