Delve into Ecuador’s rich culture and landscapes before discovering its spectacular Galapagos Islands, a treasure trove for wildlife and one of the most coveted destinations on Earth. On land, browse for ponchos in colourful markets and explore the colonial quarter of Quito (the first UNESCO World Heritage site city), before journeying along the breathtaking Avenue of Volcanoes — snow-capped Cotopaxi is one of the highest in the world. At sea, you’ll cruise the Galapagos on board MV Santa Cruz II and meet endemic birds on Española Island, giant tortoises at Puerto Ayora and scores of sea lions on the white sands of Santa Fe Island. Be sure to take advantage of snorkelling and glass-bottom boat trips during your adventure.
In between some sightseeing around Santiago, Valparaíso and Buenos Aires, you’ll be lapping up wind-swept landscapes in Patagonia, home to some of the most superb scenery in Chile and Argentina. Rub shoulders with Magellanic penguins on Magdalena Island, discover former Yámanas settlements in the Tierra del Fuego National Park and explore Ushuaia, the world’s southernmost city. Your 14-day adventure also includes glorious glaciers in each country — you’ll see both Balmaceda and Serrano in Chile’s superb Torres del Paine National Park, as well as the emerald-tinged Perito Moreno in Argentina’s Santa Cruz province, which has jaw-dropping walkway views.
This fast-paced and epic 20-night journey through Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and Brazil is a
brilliant way to immerse yourself in new cultures and experience some of South America’s top sights. Visit out-of-this-world Salar de Uyuni, the largest salt flat on Earth. Discover the spectacular ruins of Machu Picchu, the legendary Lost City of the Incas and now a New 7 Wonders of the World and UNESCO World Heritage site. And soak up breathtaking panoramic views over the rainbow-tinted Iguazú Falls, from both the Argentine and Brazilian sides, before your tour’s pièce de résistance – a trip to Corcovado and the iconic Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro.
This suggested independent itinerary is a great way to explore both Argentina and Brazil. Start in bohemian Buenos Aires, home to glorious Parisian-style architecture, brightly coloured houses in La Boca and the eerily pretty Recoleta Cemetery (Eva Perón is buried here). Head to Iguazú Falls and marvel at a mix of 275 cascading and thundering streams, before spending a few nights in Rio de Janeiro, where you’ll be able to scale Sugar Loaf Mountain by cable car for amazing 360-degree city views. End your trip in Buzios, a former sleepy fishing village now known as the ‘St Tropez of South America’, with its chic bars, gorgeous cobbled streets and powdery golden sands.
These two tours are a fantastic introduction to Peru, spanning enchanting cities, mysterious ruins and glorious landscapes. On our Highlights of Peru tour, you’ll start in Lima and see everything from glitzy skyscrapers, picturesque clifftop parks and the historic centre — we recommend checking out the handful of palaces at the Plaza de Armas and exploring the colonial Santo Domingo convent with its spooky crypt. Cross the 26-mile-long Sacred Valley of the Incas – once the heart of the Empire and now full of ruins and picturesque Andean towns, browse ancient salt mines and take a scenic bus journey through the cloud forest at Machu Picchu. Your journey comes to a close in the former Incan capital of Cuzco, where you’ll visit commemorative temples, intricate stone fortresses and underground caves.
Peruvian Discovery is one of our suggested independent itineraries, covering many sights seen during our Highlights of Peru tour. Get a taste of the Peruvian Amazon by staying in a jungle lodge, hopping on boat rides and conquering one of South America’s largest canopy walkways. You can also spend time in the captivating city of Puno on the banks of sparkling Lake Titicaca. The Uru community live close to here across 120 floating islands made from totora reeds.
Costa Rica has some of the most spectacular biodiversity on Earth, and our small wildlife-focused tour is a fantastic way to discover it all. Head to Tortuguero National Park to meet locals including sloths and hummingbirds on the canals, and the chance to spot nesting turtles on unspoilt beaches. Explore majestic volcanic landscapes, from the blue sulphur lake at Irazu in San José to the thermal springs at Arenal. Cross postcard-worthy hanging bridges in the lofty heights of Monteverde Cloud Forest, and indulge in authentic coffee and chocolate tours. If you’re not quite ready to return home after 10 days of paradise, add on a beach stay either in enchantingly rugged Manuel Antonio National Park or on the beautiful Papagayo Peninsula.
Our eight-night Mayan Explorer tour across the stunning Yucatán Peninsula takes you to Mexico, Belize and Guatemala, where you’ll discover several Mayan civilisation hot spots. Feast your eyes on some of the most amazing ruins you’ll ever see, from watchtowers and gateways in Tulum, to the secluded riverside gem of Yaxchilan. Enjoy a chance to relax on mesmerising Caribbean beaches along the way, including a night on the Riviera Maya. And be sure to bring your camera to the highlight of the trip, Tikal National Park – a UNESCO-listed archeological site home to thousands of temples and palaces dating back to the 8th and 9th Centuries.
We love these tours for their top mix of capital city vibes and untamed landscapes. As well as the opportunity to explore breathtaking Patagonia, from magnificent Última Esperanza Sound to iconic Torres del Paine National Park, both tours also include trips to Chile’s capital, Santiago and the Atacama Desert. Santiago has charming parks and plazas, and its position in Chile’s Central Valley means you can easily head to nearby Casablanca Valley for a vineyard tour and wine tasting. The Atacama Desert is the driest place on Earth and has high-altitude lagoons, stunning geysers and the incredible Moon Valley – head here at sunset and if the skies are clear and there’s no full moon, you’ll be rewarded with a mesmerising starry sky.
If you want to stay longer, you could extend your holiday with a visit to Easter Island, home to volcanic craters, fascinating rock carvings and the moai, some of the most recognisable stone statues in the world. Go for our North & South suggested itinerary and you’ll also experience the magic of Argentina — think flamboyant tango shows, sprawling lakes and rusty-red canyons in the shadow of the Andes.
This feature was published on 28 November 2018. The information within this feature is correct to the best of our knowledge at the time of print. Feature by David Assender