The ‘heartland’ of South America – and the easiest to access from New Zealand, with direct flights from Auckland to Santiago with LAN, and then good connections to Buenos Aires or Rio De Janeiro, and then from either to Iguassu Falls. There’s also a good (if rather complicated!) LAN Airpass for reasonably priced flights within South America.
How best to experience this region?
- Tailor-made travel – a good option for couples or groups of friends, and ideal if sticking to the popular tourist locations like BA, Iguassu & Rio.
- Small Group travel – social, a great option for solo travellers, and very cost effective when heading a little more off the beaten track. Ideal also for Patagonia treks.
Our recommended ‘must sees’ include:
- Buenos Aires – most of our team’s favourite city in South America – a cross between Paris & Barcelona with Italian, German and even British influences thrown in for good measure. The city that never goes to sleep, well not until the early hours anyway, and that includes the kids as well! Ask Peter for his shopping tips in San Telmo, and perhaps try to get a ticket to a soccer match. The restaurants are superb – but don’t arrive for dinner at NZ meal times as they may be clearing away lunch dishes! The steaks and fine red wines, are legendary. An overnight ferry hop to UNESCO-listed Colonia de Sacramento in Uruguay is good fun.
- Santiago – a nice gentle introduction to South America – very European, and handily placed to make day trips to the Pacific Coast towns of Valparaiso and Vina Del Mar or the Andes – perhaps try some skiing if you are visiting in winter! The vineyards nearby are well worth a look too!
- Iguassu Falls – take a couple of days and experience from both sides – the ‘Devil’s Throat’ jet-boat ride on the Argentine side will have you excited and soaked in equal measure, while the boardwalks on the Brazilian side offer the best views and the Bird Park is great!
- Mendoza – for its wineries – and the views of the Andes. If you are feeling brave, take the bus from Santiago over the mountains – quite simply breathtaking!
- The Pantanal – the best wildlife experience in Brazil and one of the best anywhere in Latin America. Stay in a lodge for 3 nights and enjoy this amazing wetlands.
- Rio de Janeiro and her beaches – of course you should do the iconic tourist sights – Christ the Redeemer, the Sugar Loaf, the Maracana Stadium, Copacabana and Ipanema Beaches, but try to take a few extra days and explore the coast South of Rio – to colonial and very pretty Paraty, the beaches of Ilha Grande, or North to the ritzy resort town of Buzios.
- San Pedro de Atacama – in Northern Chile, this is the oasis town perched in the middle of one of the driest places on Earth – there are weather stations here that have never recorded rainfall. If you have time, enjoy one of the world’s most spectacular 4WD safaris – up and over the Andes into Bolivia, entering via the surreal Salar D’Uyuni salt desert.
- Torres del Paine in Chilean Patagonia – possibly the finest walking destination in the Americas, I’d highly recommend the Full Circuit or the abbrieviated ‘W’ Trek – whilst it’s a reasonably challenging walk, the scenery is rewarding – the terrain and views change every day and trekking alongside occasionally calving glaciers is amazing. It can get busy in the summer holidays, so whether you are staying Lodges, Refugios or camping, please book early!