South America is a vast, rugged continent: steep, craggy mountains, cascading waterfalls, steamy rainforests, and jagged fjords. Much of the land is still untouched by development making it possible to marvel and enjoy the unscathed beauty. Hiking, snorkeling, white water rafting and even surfing will quench your desire for adventure! The Chilean Fjords, Amazon Jungle, and the majestic Iguazu Falls can all be part of a South America adventure. And the beaches! South America has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world with miles and miles of golden sand.
In contrast to the natural wonders of the continent are the exciting, cosmopolitan cities of South America. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil is exhilarating, and famous for its beaches (Copacabana and Ipanema), and for the giant Jesus statue known as Christ the Redeemer on the Corcovado Mountain. Brasilia, a capital city created literally out of nothing in the center of Brazil, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Oscar Niemeyer, today one of the world’s most famous architects, combined straight and rounded shapes to create innovative architectural masterpiece of a city. Buenos Aires, Argentina is a beautiful European-like city with cutting-edge designer boutiques, gourmet cuisine, old world cafes and grand parks.
Everyone thinks of Brazil when they consider a trip to South America. Adventure seekers love Ilhabela, Brazil, which is 85% parkland. There are miles of beaches, a coastal Atlantic rain forest, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, to explore, mountain peaks to climb and over 400 cool waterfalls cascading into the ocean. For less adventure and more relaxation the quaint towns of Buzios and Porto Belo, once fishing villages, are now renowned for their fabulous beaches. Maybe spend some time shopping for that sexy Brazilian bikini! The town of Salvador da Bahia has a rich African culture reflected in the food, music, art and religion. Be sure to find the Municipal Square, where you can see the Lacerda’s Elevator that links the upper and lower city. Walk around town to discover the many historical churches, cafes, restaurants, shops and pastel-hued colonial style buildings.
The first thing that strikes visitors to Chile is the beautiful Andes mountain range is rarely far from sight, defining the country’s easterly border. In Punta Arenas sip a glass of vino on a wine tour, indulge in plate of King Crab or admire the granite monoliths at Torres del Paine National Park. An interesting day trip from the area would be the penguin colony “Seno Otway” north of Punta Arenas. It’s a place where each spring hundreds of Magellanic Penguins come home to their birthplace to breed. Puerto Montt is the capital of Chile’s southern Lake District, and couldn’t be more different! German immigrants settled in the area and their legacy can be seen today in the manicured rose gardens and the gabled homes with elaborate balconies. Leave time to shop at the outdoor market for lapis lazuli, found only in Chile and Afghanistan, plus woolen wear, basketry, wood, leather, shell, and metal works.
Tucked snuggly between Brazil and Argentina is the tiny country of Uruguay. It is here that the legend of the gaucho, the range-roving Latin cowboy, pervades the culture. Montevideo, the capital, is a lovely city full of 18th and 19th century colonial architecture. Spend the morning seeing the sites by foot and don’t worry, it’s hard to get lost. Be sure to try a chivito, the Uruguayan steak sandwich that even in its plainest form comes loaded with lettuce, tomato, egg and cheese. Try to fit in a visit to the Museo del Gaucho y de la Moneda, with its display of gaucho memorabilia. Another town worth visiting is the trendy coastal resort Punta del Este, which lures jetsetters from around the globe to its sandy beaches, and fine restaurants.
When people think about cruising, South America is a destination that is not often considered. Actually, it is one of the best ways to see these countries. In traveling to a large continent in which the cities are spread out and the area is still young in terms of transportation networks, a cruise allows you to see the area in an efficient, but more importantly, relaxed way. Of course, cruising allows you to return each evening to comfortable accommodations with the upscale amenities that cruise ships are known for.
Areas you may want to explore that are a distance from the coastal ports a ship usually visits are an option available through cruise tours. Can you imagine adding on an escorted side-trip to Easter Island, the Falkland Islands, Iguazu Falls, Machu Picchu, or the Amazon? Cruise itineraries to South America are usually up to 14-nights long and ports of embarkation vary. Some actually go around Cape Horn, which is the southern most point of the southern most continent! Whichever itinerary you choose, a South America cruise take you to a wide variety of fascinating destinations and cultures.