DAYS 18 – 56: ARGENTINA & CHILE

eaving Brazil you cross into Argentina and swap from speaking Portuguese to speaking Spanish.  This area, close to the border with Paraguay, was home to many Jesuit Missions built in the 16th century to convert the Guarany Indians.

Continuing south you will arrive in Buenos Aires.  A few days in this smart cosmopolitan city & 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 some of the best steak in the world, & many plazas with cafes to sit & observe Argentinean life go by.  You also have the opportunity to travel across the Rio Plata by ferry to Montevideo & Colonia de Sacramento to visit Uruguay.

From Buenos Aires you traverse the vast Pampas grasslands, South America’s cowboy country, where gun-toting gauchos on horseback look after vast herds of cattle. Following the Atlantic coast of Patagonia, you will stop in Puerto Madryn which 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 have the option to visit Valdez Peninsula one of the marine sanctuaries in this region where we might see Penguins, Sea Lions, Sea Elephants, Sea Birds and maybe even Whales.

Continuing your overland tour south you will head towards the wild and hauntingly beautiful land at world’s end, the island of Tierra del Fuego.  You will cross by ferry and visit the most southerly town in the world Ushuaia, from where you can view the green waters of the Beagle Channel and the surrounding snow clad peaks.

From the southernmost point, the only way is up!  So you head north and return to the mainland and enter Chile. Torres del Paine National Park is an area of outstanding beauty where huge granite cliffs dominate the landscape. A good way to explore the area is either hiking or by horseback.  Back over the border in Argentina you will travel to the stupendous El Chalten in Los Glaciares National Park has the most spectacular views of Mt. Fitzroy. You can explore this area on foot or on horseback.

Near El Calafate is the Perito Mereno Glacier and here you have the option to take a boat ride close up to Moreno Glacier almost 200ft high alternatively you can choose to get closer by trekking on one of the glaciers.

For trips that depart Rio in January you are usually able to travel along the Camino Austral in Chile. Large parts of this road are only open in January and February. It is a breath taking spectacle as we pass tree lined fjords and penetrate deep in to a land of spiralling volcanoes and glaciers and camp next to rushing rivers and rainforest. For tours departing over the rest of the year you will travel through the vast wilderness of Patagonia on Route 40, famous as the longest road in Argentina.

Your long drive is soon rewarded as you arrive in Bariloche. This very popular holiday destination for Argentines is the top ski resort on the continent and also has several hiking trails and a great nightlife and Swiss influenced cuisine.

Ascending the Andes via some spectacular mountain passes you cross from Argentina into Chile once again and arrive in Pucon, an outdoors centre in Chile’s beautiful Lake District. This will be your base for the next few days from where you can organise whitewater rafting, skiing, water sports, horse riding and one day hikes up nearby Villarrica Volcano.

From Pucon your drive will pass small villages and leave behind the deep blue lakes and towering mountains and arrive in Chile’s modern capital, Santiago where you have a free day to explore Santiago, with famous Chilean Steak houses, Casillero del Diablo winery, and plenty more to keep you busy.

Leaving Chile’s capital, Santiago, you will return to Argentina for the last time past the Inca Bridge and San Martin’s pass. Continuing north, you will rejoin Route 40, the longest route in Argentina, to Mendoza. This is the biggest wine region in Argentina, and an overland stop of note, where you can indulge in wine and good steak!  You then continue north winding around lakes and weaving through baked cliffs until you reach Cafayate, another renowned wine region of Argentina. You can explore some of the wineries on foot or by bicycle. Your overland travels through Argentina then take you to the attractive colonial city of Salta where you have a couple of days to go horse riding, mountain biking, mountain trekking or river rafting.

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