Day 1: Thursday, Australia – Buenos Aires (Argentina)
South America beckons and getting there is easy. Join LAN Airlines and fly from Sydney to Buenos Aires, via Santiago, this morning. We cross the International Date Line and arrive into Buenos Aires the same day we left home. It won’t be long before you sink into the luxury of the Four Seasons Hotel – a fantastic place for our three night stay.
Day 2: Friday, Buenos Aires
To be in Buenos Aires is like bumping into someone you recognise from a film – vaguely familiar yet you can’t quite place why. The city knows how to seduce visitors and it is a wonderful way to slide into Latin America. We explore the highlights of Buenos Aires this morning – the famous tombs in Recoletta Cemetery will be a stand out, as will a walk around the colourful Boca District. After lunch the afternoon is yours for the taking – relax at our wonderful hotel or hit the shops and galleries. A visit to the city of passion would be incomplete without witnessing the tango. Tonight we enjoy a spectacular Tango Show and a traditional Argentine steak dinner – there are few better ways to spend an evening.
Day 3: Saturday, Buenos Aires or Uruguay?
Choose your own adventure today:
Board a high speed catamaran and cross the River Plate to Uruguay and the former Portuguese colony of Colonia with its museums, cobblestoned lanes and classic cars. Or spend the day at leisure exploring Buenos Aires – with so many museums, galleries and shops there is plenty to do. If art takes your fancy join our local art historian to visit the galleries.
Day 4: Sunday, Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)
Take your time over breakfast. Later we fly to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s most vivacious city awaits. Strolling along the scalloped promenade over the next few days you’ll have to repeat the words over and over again in your head: Copacabana Beach. Can this be real? Surrounded by tanned bodies, towering mountains and one of the most iconic stretches of coast in the world, this could only be Rio. Settle into your room at the grand Copacabana Palace, across from the beach and with a long history of famous guests – who knows, perhaps you will sleep in the room once favoured by Brigitte Bardot!
Day 5: Monday, Rio de Janeiro
Waking up in Rio, the city will welcome you with open arms, quite literally. From almost every part of this ‘marvellous city’ you’ll see him – Cristo Redentor, the world’s largest art deco statue, keeping his watchful eye from the top of Corcovado Mountain. Open air jeeps will take us through the Tijuca Rainforest up to Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) for an incredible view across the city and its bay. Then it’s to the cobblestone streets of the historic Santa Teresa District before lunch at Rio’s best churrascaria restaurant – it’s a feast of Roman proportions so have a light breakfast.
After lunch simply explore at your leisure; relax at our hotel; or visit the jewellery museum and shops of Ipanema.
A night of Samba and colour tops off an incredible day in Rio.
Day 6: Tuesday, Rio de Janeiro
Today you get to choose your own Rio adventure. Shop for Brazilian bargains; learn more about the city’s culture on a revealing tour of its favelas; or simply hit the beach before sunset.
We’ll ride the cable car up Sugarloaf Mountain and with the twinkling lights of the city lie at your feet – this is a moment you’ll never forget.
Day 7: Wednesday, Iguazu Falls
Legend has it that Iguazu Falls, one of the new Seven Wonders, was the result of a forbidden love triangle between God, the woman he was to marry and her mortal lover. Finding out about the betrayal, God sliced the river in rage, condemning the two to an eternal fall. Follow the walkway across the water to the base of the thundering torrent today and witness the fury of a love forbidden.
Get a bird’s eye view from a helicopter; or take an exhilarating boat trip to the base of the falls (additional cost).
The luxurious Hotel das Cataratas is the only hotel in Brazil’s Iguazu National Park and just a short stroll from the falls.
Day 8: Thursday, Iguazu Falls (Argentina)
Iguazu Falls straddles Argentina and Brazil. This morning we cross to the Argentine side of the falls. The roar of the torrent and the view of the falls spread over several kilometres is an awe inspiring sight. We take the Park Train to Garganta del Diablo (Devils Throat) before returning to the Brazilian side and flying non stop to Lima for a night at the luxurious Westin Lima.
Day 9: Friday, Lima (Peru)
After the thrill of Iguazu Falls and the non stop cities of Buenos Aires and Rio a restful morning is in order. Lima may not be the most attractive city in South America but dig a bit deeper, sometimes beauty lies within.
A seafood lunch fortifies us for an afternoon of exploration, including Plaza de Armas where we view the Presidential Palace, the Cathedral, and the San Francisco Catacombs, and the Larco Museum with its extraordinary collection of gold and silver. This evening’s dinner will be a highlight, to say anymore would ruin the surprise!
Day 10: Saturday, Sacred Valley
It’s only a short flight from Lima to Cuzco but when you step off the plane it feels like you have entered an ancient world; where things move at a slower pace – and that’s not all to do with the altitude! We head straight out to the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Take time this afternoon to stroll the banks of the Urubamba River or indulge in a beauty treatment (additional cost) at our hotel, the serene Libertador Tambo Del Inka.
Day 11: Sunday, Aguas Calientes (base of Machu Picchu)
Soak up the peaceful atmosphere before a supremely scenic afternoon train journey to Aguas Calientes, the village at the base of Machu Picchu. On arrival we transfer to the comfortable (but not luxurious) Sumaq Hotel.
Day 12: Monday, Machu Picchu
Could there be a more magical way to begin your day than watching sunrise over Machu Picchu? Alternatively enjoy a more relaxed pace with breakfast at our hotel before taking the zig zag road up the Lost City of the Incas – don’t worry, you will still be there before the day trippers from Cuzco.
Rediscovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911, our excellent guides will bring the story and myths of Machu Picchu alive as we explore this extraordinary site – remaining almost completely intact. This evening we take the train back to Cuzco, a wonderful mix of Spanish colonial buildings and Incan architecture. We stay at the newly opened JW Marriott Cuzco, where the cobblestoned streets of the city’s historical heart are at your doorstep.
Day 13: Tuesday, Cuzco
We might have travelled to Cuzco because it’s the gateway to Machu Picchu but Cuzco and the surrounding area may end up being your favourite destination. Today we travel outside of the city and visit the impressive Inca ruins – Tambomachay Baths, its fountain fed by a spring; Kenko, a rock sanctuary with its monolithic altar and the massive ruins of Sacsayhuman Fortress, a pre Incan masterpiece overlooking Cuzco. There will be time to visit Awanakancha, a museum dedicated to the Peruvian Alpaca and Llama, before reaching the market town of Pisac – get your bargaining skills ready!
Day 14: Wednesday, Lake Titicaca
Some days it’s best to take the long way around and today is one of them. Rather than fly we join the Andean Explorer for a spectacular rail journey across the Andean Plateau to Puno. The rear glass walled observation car is the best place to relax and admire the amazing scenery. We arrive into Puno, on the shores of Lake Titicaca, early this evening where we stay at the superb Libertador Lake Titicaca hotel, located on a private island.
Day 15: Thursday, Lake Titicaca – Lima
Sunrise from our private island is worth waking early for. Later this morning we cruise Lake Titicaca, don’t forget to take your camera – the lake shimmers a deep blue and its fertile shores make for wonderful photos. We also visit the astonishing floating reed island communities of the Uros Indians prior to returning to Puno. We depart on an afternoon flight to Lima. We overnight this evening at our comfortable airport hotel.
Day 16: Friday, Quito (Ecuador)
This morning we fly to Quito, the quaint capital of Ecuador, located only 23km from the Equator and almost 3,000m high in a huge valley in the Andes. Quito’s rich colonial architecture radiates the charm of old Europe and the excitement of the modern world. UNESCO has declared the whole city a World Heritage Site. We see the city’s colonial heart before checking into the JW Marriott.
Day 17: Saturday, Join M/V Anakonda
Welcome to the jungle – it’s time to head to the Amazon Rainforest. An early morning flight takes us to the town of Coca and M/V Anakonda, our luxurious river cruiser for three nights of exploration along the rainforest of the Amazon region. Excellent cuisine is served in the modern yet casual dining room this evening and your tastefully furnished cabin features floor to ceiling vistas of the passing scenes.
Days 18 & 19: Sunday & Monday, Amazon Rainforest Cruise
We are in the remote part of the Amazon Rainforest – where the waterways are not choked by ships carrying oil or cruisers filled with tourists. We visit real Indian communities that don’t see thousands of tourists a day, where the sounds of monkeys can still be heard. Over the next three days we take advantage of opportunities as they arise – a range of land and river expeditions will introduce us to this remote, unspoilt region. We spend our days searching for dolphins and monkeys, visit Kury Muyu and the clay licks at the Yasuni National Park, join nocturnal walks and visit native communities.
Day 20: Tuesday, Quito
Today it’s back to civilisation. We return to Quito for our final night together at the JW Marriott – tomorrow travellers going on to the Galapagos head into the highlands of Quito while travellers returning home move on to Santiago. This evening’s dinner is bound to be festive as email addresses are exchanged and friendships cemented.
Day 21: Wednesday, Depart Quito
Depart early this morning and fly to Santiago, arriving late afternoon. We transfer to the Ritz-Carlton hotel.
Continue your exploration of Latin America with additional time in Ecuador including the incredible Galapagos Islands (see page 83 for details).
Day 22: Thursday, Depart Santiago
Santiago is a pleasant blend of colonial and modern architecture dominated by the immense wall of the Andes, rising 5,485m. The huge mountains are only a short distance from the city and form a dramatic backdrop to the 18th century buildings.
We explore the city this morning before a free afternoon to rest and freshen up before our final dinner and later, an evening flight home with LAN Airlines.
Day 23: Friday, Travelling
Day 24: Saturday, Arrive Australia
We land in Sydney this morning with time to connect to other cities. Your South American discovery has come to an end, now the job of sorting your photos and memories begins!
Galapagos Cruise Post Tour Option
You’ve seen the best of South America but something is missing. The Galapagos Islands are not strictly South America but they are among Latin America’s most wonderful sights. More than a sight, they are an experience you will never forget. Join Captain’s Choice on a post tour option and cruise the remarkable Galapagos Islands of Ecuador aboard the luxurious Yacht La Pinta. Witness the unique animals that formed the basis of Darwin’s ‘Theory of Evolution’. Nowhere in the world will you meet such fearless and extraordinary animals.
Day 21: Wednesday, Otavalo
Farewell travellers returning home before delving further into Ecuador. We saw some of Quito yesterday but there is more to discover and many of the city’s most significant sights are best seen on foot. We see the early 17th century La Comapnia de Jesus, the Monastery of San Francisco and many other treasures. Perched on an Andean hillside and a two hour drive north of Quito is La Mirage Garden Hotel and Spa – a contemporary resort built on the grounds of a 200 year old hacienda. This is our home for the next two nights. Stroll through the fragrant hummingbird filled gardens where plants and flowers grow in pre historic proportions and enjoy dinner at our hotel this evening.
Day 22: Thursday, Otavalo
We journey through scenic countryside to the market town of Otavalo. Shoppers come from afar to buy and sell. The market offers great photographic opportunities and bargains while shopping for textiles, paintings and ceramic ware. We explore the nearby countryside before returning to our delightful hotel for lunch and a free afternoon.
Day 23: Friday, Join Yacht La Pinta
The Galapagos Islands awaits. We depart this morning for Quito and fly on to San Cristobal Island, where we join Yacht La Pinta for our three night Galapagos cruise. After enjoying a light lunch we visit the island’s southern shore and the breeding centre for the highly endangered giant tortoises and the endemic San Cristóbal lava lizard.
Day 24: Saturday, Punta Pitt & Cerro Brujo
This morning it’s to the eastern tip of San Cristobal Island. From the beach we take the uphill trail, spectacular views of the shoreline reward the ascent. Keep an eye out for the two frigate species and the local colony of bachelor sea lions. Feel like a dip? After the walk, if conditions are favourable, there is a chance to swim from the beach and snorkel by an islet.
The ship generally makes two stops a day – one in the morning and one in the afternoon. This afternoon a dinghy ride along the shores of tuff-stone layers takes us to Cerro Brujo’s expansive, white coraline beach – great for walking and birdwatching, with views of seabirds and shore birds. Keep your eyes peeled for Galápagos sea lions. These are the same shores that Charles Darwin walked upon, back in September 1835.
Day 25: Sunday, Punta Suarez & Gardner Bay
Our morning outing at Punta Suárez provides an exciting walk on lava/boulder terrain. We are here to see the unique sea bird colonies including the waved albatrosses, boobies, swallow-tail gulls as well as the famous “blowhole”. Watch your step, the birds often mistake the path for their nest! We return to the ship for lunch and a siesta. This afternoon we set down at a beautiful, white coral beach for a short walk to see the sea lions, mockingbirds and finches. There is great snorkelling here or you may prefer a cruise in the glass bottom boat.
Day 26: Monday, Galapagos Islands – Lima
Sadly it’s time to farewell Yacht La Pinta and its wonderful crew. We disembark this morning and visit the Charles Darwin Research Station and the ‘rearing in captivity’ program for the giant tortoises. Later we fly via Guayaquil to Lima for an overnight stay.
Day 27: Tuesday, Lima – Santiago
It’s just a quick stop in Lima this time as we depart this morning, flying to Santiago, arriving late afternoon. We transfer to the Ritz-Carlton hotel for our final evening together.
Day 28: Wednesday, Depart Santiago
Santiago is a pleasant blend of colonial and modern architecture dominated by the immense wall of the Andes, rising 5,485m. The huge mountains are only a short distance from the city and form a dramatic backdrop to the 18th century buildings. We explore the city this morning before a free afternoon to rest and freshen up before dinner and an evening flight home with LAN Airlines.
Day 29: Thursday, Travelling
Day 30: Friday, Arrive Australia
Arrive into Sydney this morning with time to connect to other cities.
Please note: the Galapagos cruise is expeditionary in nature. The exact itinerary and animals you see are subject to local conditions including weather. The cruise itinerary is subject to change with input from the Captain and Expedition Leaders.