Getting Chile with it
Toast with a terremoto in Santiago then fist pump your way around the dventure capital of Pucon. Tango through BA and try not to kill a radio star in Montevideo. South America, it’s going to be rad.
Unlucky in love? Out for revenge? Need a cure for hayfever? Get your cocoa leaves read, buy a spell or pick up a dried llama fetus (ideal for sacrificing) at the witches market in La Paz.
Day 1-2 - Santiago - overnight bus
Bienvenidos! Welcome to Santiago.
Your adventure begins with a Welcome Meeting in the evening of Day 1. You can arrive at any time during the day as there are no activities planned until this important meeting; please check with the hotel reception where and when it will take place, or check the reception notice boards. If you can't arrange a flight that will have you arrive at the hotel by early evening, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.
Although Santiago covers a large area, the city centre is quite compact and easy to get around. The city's centre is roughly triangular in shape with the Plaza de Armas, the main plaza and home to the Cathedral, sitting in the centre. Panning out from here are wall-to-wall shops, restaurants and parks. For a more serene look at Chilean life, head out to Barrio Bella Vista, Santiago's 'Paris Quarter'.
Your leader will take you on a walking tour of Santiago visiting the Plaza de Armas in the city's historic centre, the Central Market with its colourful seafood restaurants and the Palacio de la Moneda, the seat of government and presidential residence. Perhaps take a cable car up to Cerro San Cristobal. If the weather permits you'll have impressive views over the city and the peaks of the Andes.
Catch a comfortable overnight bus to Pucon (approx 10 hrs) on the evening of Day 2.
Day 3-5 - Pucon
In the heart of the Lake District and set on the foot of the active Volcan Villarrica, Pucon is every outdoors fanatic's dreamland. Mountain biking, whitewater rafting, hiking, climbing, horse riding - you name it, you can do it in Pucon. There's even a casino inside the luxurious Hotel del Lago and busy nightlife.
Pucon is a thrillseeker's dream. Hike up a volcano, go mountain biking, whitewater rafting, hiking, climbing, horse riding, or whatever else you can think of to get your adrenaline pumping. If adrenaline isn't your thing, blow off some steam in one of the many bars of restaurants. You have two full days (after your arrival day) in Pucon to enjoy the optional activities.
Day 6-7 - San Martin de Los Andes
Travel by local bus across the Andes to San Martin de los Andes in the Lake District of Argentina. Hopefully you will arrive in San Martin de los Andes before 4pm, but that depends on the border crossing.
Nested on the shores of Lake Lacar and surrounded by the majestic Lanin National Park, San Martin de los Andes is one of Argentina most picturesque towns.
What to do in town varies depending on the season. The best way to discover the natural wonders of San Martin is hiking. Lanin National Park has many treks to keep you busy for a few days. In winter, Chapelco ski resort offers some of the best sport in the area.
San Martin de Los Andes plays host to heaps of optional lakeside pursuits....or skiing.....or trekking....or sleeping!
Day 8-10 - Bariloche - overnight bus
Travel to Bariloche (approx 3hrs).
A year-round playground for outdoor enthusiasts of all types, Bariloche sits on the shores of Lake Nahuel Huapi. Outdoor activities range from skiing on the peaks of Cerro Catedral (in season), to hiking or biking around its base.
One of Bariloche's renowned pastimes is dining: find a comfortable café and try the fresh salmon or lake trout, or even a hearty beef parrillada. The town is famous for its handmade chocolates and there are some really spectacular displays in the local chocolate shops.
Be warned, Bariloche is well known for its fine chocolates. A tour to one of the main chocolate factories is a great way to try the many flavours available before settling for a kilo of your favourite.
Cerro Otto is one of locals' favourite lookout points. You can hike or bike to the top or travel via a cable car. At the summit there's a revolving café which offers 360° views of the breathtaking surrounds.
On the last day in Bariloche we take an overnight bus to Buenos Aires (approx 25 hrs including stops along the way). The bus is semi-cama, meaning that seats recline to a far more comfortable position that you would expect on a plane . There's a toilet on board.
Day 11-13 - Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires must be the ultimate cosmopolitan city. With Latin passion, European elegance and a distinctive style all of its own, this is a city that will steal your heart. The Portenos (the local residents) are justifiably proud of BA, which is comprised of distinct neighbourhoods, each with their own style.
If you're in Buenos Aires for a weekend, visit San Telmo for its antiques market and artists displays. La Boca, settled by waves of immigrants who built brightly painted buildings, is home to the world-class Boca Juniors football team. Recoleta is the place to browse museums with Buenos Aires' well-to-do. There are many sights in the heart of the city with churches, cathedrals and historic buildings aplenty.
Take a guided orientation walk around the Microcentro district, passing some of the historic buildings along Avenida de Mayo, including the Casa Rosada (Argentina's government house) and the impressive Palacia Barolo.
Vegetarians, look away. Everyone else, your first order of business is to find the nearest parrilla (steak house) and order a big, plump, juicy piece of the world's best steak.
When you've finished exploring, settle down at one of the many streetside cafes and prepare yourself for a night of tango at one of the many milongas.Breakfast
Day 14 - Colonia
Travel by ferry across the Rio de la Plata to Colonia in Uruguay (up to 3 hrs). What more could you possibly ask for? It's got narrow streets, riverside restaurants and loads of sandstone architecture.
The charming colonial city of Colonia del Sacramento is the oldest town in Uruguay. What more could you possibly ask for? The World Heritage-listed Barrio Historico is situated on a peninsula and is a great place to get your bearings. Stroll down the cute cobblestone streets and rub shoulders with locals as they go about their day continually sipping from their cup of mate (tea). The Plaza Mayor is especially lovely, with loads of parrakeets in its palm trees. The town has many small museums to poke around in.Breakfast
Day 15 - Montevideo
Continue on by local bus to Montevideo (approx 3 hrs).
Montevideo killed the radio star. It's true. Head to the beach and do your best impression of a beach bum, or eat loads of barbequed meat while listening to a live Jazz band at Mercado del Puerto. Yes, it's as good as it sounds. Montevideo is Uruguay's capital and by far its largest city. This is the commercial and cultural hub of the country, but despite all the trimmings of a modern metropolis it retains a laidback atmosphere and has lots of students. Most of the interesting buildings and many good museums are in the Ciudad Vieja, home to the Plaza Independencia with its eerie underground Mausolea Atigas Mausoleum. There are good beaches to chill out on or visit the Mercade del Puerto where artists and musicians hang out on Sundays.
There's plenty to see on a stroll around town as well. There's the clash of attractive architectural styles, cafes playing tango music, buzzing markets, pretty plazas and interesting museums to explore.
Day 16-19 - Estancia Stay - overnight bus
Travel to Tacuarembo by bus (approx 5 hrs). The bus has reclining seats and you'll be provided with a typical Uruguayan snack, although it's recommended you also bring your own food as the bus doesn't stop. From Tacuarembo, it's a further hour by truck and 4WD to the ranch.
Our stay on a local estancia is the real deal as we spend a few days experiencing a working farm. If you are up for it, you can fully involve yourself in the day-to-day jobs (which change according to any given day and the season) and may include herding the sheep and cows, branding cattle, and marking and injecting the lambs against worms.
Don't expect luxury: things are simple down on the ranch - the accommodation is dorm style, there's only hot water and electricity for a couple of hours a day and the working day starts at 7.30 am (although you are free to laze around and just relax). What you'll get is a warm Uruguayan welcome from our hosts, some of the best home-cooked food you have ever tasted and the chance to experience real farm life.
Travel to Concordia, Argentina in the afternoon of Day 19, then take a 12 hour overnight bus to Puerto Iguazu. The bus has reclining seats, toilets, shows movies and a simple dinner is provided on board.Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner
Day 20-21 - Iguazu Falls - overnight bus
As soon as we arrive at Puerto Iguazu bus station on the morning of Day 20, we take a minivan across the border into Brazil and continue to our hotel in Foz do Iguacu. This takes about an hour depending on traffic at the Argentina-Brazil border.
Close to the borders with Argentina and Paraguay, Foz do Iguacu is Brazil's gateway to the Iguazu Falls.
During our time in Iguazu we will visit the Argentinian and Brazilian side of the falls. We travel back into Argentina to visit the falls on Day 21 before returning to spend the night at our hotel in Foz do Iguacu.
At over 2 km long, Iguazu Falls are actually a series of cataracts. There are over 275 individual falls in all, and with some reaching up to 80m in height, they are wider than Victoria Falls and higher than Niagara. Legend has it that a serpent god intended to marry a beautiful girl called Naipi. She escaped in a canoe with her mortal lover Caroba and in a jealous rage the god chased them, collapsing the river before them so that Naipi plunged over the falls to become a rock, while Caroba became a tree, forever unable to touch his love. A more scientific explanation is that the Rio Iguazu flows over a riverbed of basalt that ends where the lava cooled, leaving the water to fall. The falls were 'discovered' in the modern day by the Spaniard Juan Alvar Nunez who named them Saltos de Santa Maria. The name we know them by today means 'Great Waters' in the Tupi-Guarani tongue.
Bordering Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, these spectacular falls are a great sight to see. From the Brazilian side you can see the falls in their full glory with grand panoramas. From the Argentinean side it’s possible to follow a series of boardwalks to get up close to the thundering waters - so close you can almost touch them.
Take a helicopter ride over the falls - a spectacular way to get a feel for the immense size of the waterfalls and a great view of the greenness of the surrounding park.
On our last day in Iguazu, we start a 24 hr journey to Paraty. The first leg of this journey is from Foz do Iguacu to Sao Paulo (approx. 16 hrs). This overnight bus is quite comfortable. You can expect the seat to recline to a more comfortable position than you would expect on a plane. These buses normally have a toilet.
Day 22-24 - Paraty
On arrival in Sao Paulo we may need to wait a couple of hours at the bus station until our next bus to Paraty departs (approx. 6 hrs).
Sitting between Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, Paraty is one of the world's best preserved Portuguese colonial towns. This World Heritage-listed town was originally settled in 1531 on the opposite side of the river but in the 17th century the Indians who lived on the current site were driven away and the town moved. Paraty later became a booming port town, famous for its sugar cane liquor but after the abolition of slavery it was slowly forgotten. With the opening of new roads, the town was 'rediscovered' and declared a national monument.
The patron saint of Paraty is Our Lady of the Medicines. Three hundred years ago a wealthy benefactor donated land for a church in her honour. In return, she asked only for an annual mass. Each year a wooden effigy of the virgin, adorned with silver is carried in a procession through the town during the Festa de Nossa Senhora dos Remedios.
At high tide, some of Paraty's cobblestone streets are partly covered in sea water, adding to the rustic, colonial charm. The water of the bay is always right for swimming and the surrounding national parks are filled with trails, wildlife and waterfalls.
You can basically spend the next couple of days relaxing in this Brazilian paradise or exploring some jungle trails and looking for waterfalls and wildlife.
Day 25-27 - Ilha Grande
Head by local bus and ferry to our island getaway on Ilha Grande (approx 5 hrs).
Ihla Grande is an island untouched by development, a paradise of tropical beaches and virgin rainforest. The island has a fascinating history, as it was variously a pirate's lair, a leper colony and a prison for violent criminals. The oppressive ruins of the prison can still be visited.
Trails through the forest lead to beautiful and remote beaches, like the Praia de Lopes Mendes, reputedly Brazil's most attractive beach. Spend time contemplating the sandy beaches with a caipirinha in hand or snorkelling and swimming in the beautiful warm waters.
Spend a day beach-hopping on a boat tour of Ilha Grande Bay all the way to the Blue Lagoon. There are plenty of opportunities to stop for fresh seafood and to swim and snorkel through the crystal clear waters.
Drink Caipirinha's, hike through forests or snorkel through the underwater world. You should Google a picture of Ilha Grande right now. It'll make you cry.
Day 28-29 - Rio De Janeiro
Take a boat to the small port of Mangaratiba (approx 1 hr), then board a minivan to Rio (approx 2.5 hrs). Enjoy a free day to discover Rio.
The locals like to say that 'God made the world in six days, the seventh he devoted to Rio'. In this heaving metropolis, set against the luminescent green of Guanabara Bay and surrounded by the slopes of Sugarloaf Mountain and Corcovado, it's hard not to be caught up in the Cariocas' (residents) passion. Nothing conquers the end-of-trip blues quite like finishing up in Rio. If there's one place in the world you can embrace your inner party animal, it's here. Walk it all off with a hike up Sugarloaf Mountain and let the views of the bay soothe your weary soul. You won't ever want to leave.
The French were the first to settle here as they logged wood along the Brazilian coast, but they were soon driven out by the Portuguese, who built a fortified town, naming it Sao Sebastiao do Rio de Janeiro and quickly amassed wealth in the gold rush of Minas Gerais. In the 19th century, the Portuguese monarchy fled from the threat of Napoleon in Europe to Rio where they built grand buildings, still in existence today. These days Rio is known best for its contrasting images of favelas (shanty towns) and the glitz and glamour of Carnaval.
Rio is deservedly famous for its live music scene, which encompasses myriad styles such as samba, jazz, bossa nova, hip hop, reggae, rock and many other fusions of regional styles. The neighbourhood of Lapa offers great dance halls where you can join locals in doing some serious dancing - or just soak up the vibe.
For some seriously eye-popping people watching, head down to the white sand beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema - skimpy bathing suits optional.
The northern slopes are where most of the favelas reside, while the southern zone is for the middle classes and the rich. To get oriented, or to just look on in awe, head to the top of Sugar Loaf by cable car for some incredible views.
Another view not to be missed is from the feet of Christ the Redeemer, standing atop Corcovado with arms open wide.
The trip ends on Day 29 and there are no activities planned for this day.
What to Know
- An experienced local tour guide throughout the tour and the services of local guides at some sites.
- All transportation, sightseeing, accommodation and meals as indicated.
- Orientation tours of Santiago and Buenos Aires.
- 3 night stay at a Traditional Estancia.
- Iguazu Falls tour of both the Argentinean and Brazilian sides.
- International flights, arrival and departure transfers, departure and airport taxes, visas, all other meals, all optional tours or activities during free time, transfers outside of the tour program, travel insurance, tips and items of a personal nature.
This tour passes through volcanic areas. In the instance a volcano becomes potentially dangerous and authorities declare nearby towns unsafe for travel, the itinerary will be re-routed. Where possible, Geckos will provide advance notice of such changes. At short notice, when this is not possible, your tour leader will provide up to date information on behalf of Geckos.
Trip Dates and Prices
Start Date – End Date Trip Status Price
Past Travellers' Ratings & Comments
At the end of each trip, we ask our travellers to provide feedback. We publish the positive, negative and neutral feedback on this page to give you an overall idea of what to expect on this trip.
Getting Chile with it
Louisa - Toowoomba, QLD, 24 Jun, 2011
Veronica was wonderful - compassionate & friendly. Claudio was good - gave everyone individual attention, and was a great source of local information.