DAYS 28 – 71: ARGENTINA & CHILE
Your descent through the Andean passes is spectacular as you cross into Argentina towards the colonial city of Salta where you have a couple of free days.
After Salta, you head south winding around lakes and weaving through baked cliffs until you reach Cafayate, the first wine region of Argentina. Famous for its white wines, you can explore some of the wineries on foot or by bicycle. Continuing south you join Route 40, the longest route in Argentina, to Mendoza, the biggest wine region in Argentina. Here you can indulge in more wine and good steak!
From here you head for Chile as you cross the Andes past the Inca Bridge and San Martin’s pass and into the modern capital, Santiago. You have a free day to explore Santiago, with famous Chilean Steak houses, Casillero del Diablo winery, skiing available in the winter, you will find it easy to pass the days away.
Leaving Santiago, you pass small villages and deep blue lakes with mountains towering above us as you wind through Chile’s Lake District. Pucon, an outdoors centre in its own right, will be your base for the next few days from where it is possible to organise whitewater rafting, water sports, horse riding and one day hikes up nearby Villarrica Volcano.
Ascending the Andes via some spectacular mountain passes you arrive in Bariloche, Argentina. This very popular holiday destination for Argentineans is the top ski resort on the continent and also has several hiking trails and a great nightlife.
Heading further down through Argentina into the deep south on a good dirt road you enter the vast wilderness of Patagonia. The perpetual wind makes it difficult for trees and plants to grow, so for a while you will be faced with endless grassland. However your long drives will soon be rewarded with the stupendous views that Los Glaciares NP provides – here you have the option to take a boat ride up close to Perito Moreno Glacier, almost 200 ft high.
Torres del Paine NP is another area of outstanding beauty where huge granite cliffs dominate the landscape. A good way to explore the area is either hiking or by horseback.
Your overland tour continues south towards the wild and hauntingly beautiful land at worlds end, the island of Tierra del Fuego. Crossing by ferry you will visit the most southerly town in the world Ushuaia, from where you can view the green waters of the Beagle Channel and the snow clad peaks beyond.
Crossing to the Atlantic coast of Patagonia you will visit one of the marine sanctuaries. Penguins, Sea Lions, Elephant Seals, Sea Birds and sometimes Whales can be seen. Following the excellent paved roads north along the coast you will pass through some quite affluent towns. One, Puerto Madryn, was the landing place over a century ago for the first group of Welsh settlers that subsequently colonised and now farm the surrounding area. You then traverse the vast Pampas grasslands, South America’s cowboy country, where gun-toting gauchos on horseback look after vast herds of cattle.
Your overland travel through Argentina would not be complete without a visit to the country’s capital, and so you will follow the coast to Buenos Aires. A few days in this smart cosmopolitan city and you could be forgiven for thinking you were back in Europe. There is plenty to do, museums, horse racing, football matches, shopping, tango dancing for the confident, restaurants that serve the best steak in the world, and many plazas with cafes to sit and observe Argentinean life go by. From here you will also have the opportunity to travel across the Rio Plata by ferry to Montevideo & Colonia de Sacramento to visit Uruguay.
Continuing through Argentina you visit the region between Argentina and Paraguay that is home to many Jesuit Missions built in the 16th century to convert the Guarany Indians. You visit the ruins of San Ignacio before crossing the border into Brazil, where you also cross from Spanish to Portuguese, and it is time to get our tongues around a new linguistic challenge!
The Iguazu Falls form the natural border between Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil, higher than Niagara and wider than Victoria Falls they are an awe-inspiring place to spend the next three days before you continue your travels through Brazil. The lush tropical forest surrounding the falls has many walking trails leading to smaller hidden falls, ideal to refresh from the steaming heat and abounding with parrots, toucans, woodpeckers and colourful plants. Here you can also undertake a number of optional activities such as rafting, helicopter flights and mountain bike riding.