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49 Day Discover Patagonia - Santiago to Rio

Starting from Chile’s modern metropolis we head south into the beautiful lake districts of Chile and Argentina before passing into remote and windy Patagonia to the world’s largest glacier and most southerly town. Visit Valdez Peninsula for its supreme range of marine life before magical Buenos Aires, Iguazu Falls, the Pantanal and of course Rio! What more can anyone want: gorgeous scenery, plenty of trekking and dynamic nightlife!

SantiagoDay 1: Santiago (Chile)
Your tour leader will usually hold a group meeting at approx. 6.00pm on Day 1 (check the notice board in the hotel reception for the exact time and location). Your tour leader will give a briefing about the tour, outline the plan for the next few days, answer any questions and collect your ‘Local Fund’ payment in full in US$ cash. Then there will usually be the option for everyone to go out for dinner and drinks to start to get to know one another. Pedro de Valdivia established Santiago in 1541 but, except Santa Lucia Hill where the original fortress was constructed, not much remains of its original glory. The hill offers good views of the city below, but for even better photo opportunities, take a funicular railway to the top of San Cristobal where the Statue of the Virgin overlooks the capital and the distant Andes. At the viewing area there are wine-tasting facilities and a couple of brilliantly located swimming pools. In the Plaza Constitucion at the Palacio de la Moneda you can see the changing of the guard or you can take an optional excursion to the port of Valparaiso and the resort of Viña del Mar. If you want to have time to explore Santiago properly you may want to arrive a day or two early.

Days 2-4: Pucon
Heading south through vast vineyards, farmlands and pine-forests we come to Salto del Laja, where we stop for a photo of the waterfalls that drop 47 metres onto the rocks below. We continue to the Lake District of Chile and the picturesque town of Pucon, a small resort on Lake Villarrica below the perfect cone-shaped Villarrica Volcano. The whole area is surrounded by lakes, mountains, forests, rivers and waterfalls and we have two free days to take advantage of the activities on offer such as volcano treks, white water rafting, horse riding, mountain biking and water sports.

Days 5-6: Bariloche (Argentina)
Crossing the Andes and heading down into Argentina we make our way through stunning scenery and pass Lago Espejo (Mirror Lake). Further south we reach the resort town of San Carlos de Bariloche on the shores of Lake Nahuel Haupi. This town is a famous winter ski resort, but it also has heaps to offer during other seasons. Built by Swiss and German immigrants in the alpine style, here you will find Swiss-style chalets, numerous chocolate shops and St.Bernard dogs with brandy barrels around their necks!

Days 7-9: Free camping – Fitzroy National Park
Leaving San Carlos de Bariloche we enter Patagonia, a dry windswept expanse stretching to the southern tip of the continent; there are some long drives on this sector but some spectacular scenery at the end of most days. After free camping for a night near to the town of Perito Moreno we continue to El Chaltén. The picturesque Fitzroy National Park is nearby where you can enjoy some of Argentina’s most scenic hiking. The park is at the foot of the Fitzroy Massif which has spectacular jagged snowcapped peaks. Depending on your budget, you can walk to the Capri Lagoon or take a days trek to and on the wonderful Viedma Glacier – reputedly the best icetrekking in the country!

Days 10-11: El Calafate
A short drive from El Chaltén takes us to the pleasant town of El Calafate, on the north-eastern edge of Lake Argentino. This is our base for visiting the Moreno Glacier, 80 kilometres away. The glacier is one of the few in the world that is still advancing. It is continuously moving at a rate of 1.5 metres per day and when you are close to the very front you can hear cracking and creaking and see large lumps of ice crash into the lake below. With a height of around 60 metres, a width of 5 km at the front and various hues of blue, white and grey, it is an awesome sight.

Days 12-16: Torres del Paine National Park (Chile)
Re-entering Chile we pass through Puerto Natales to stock up on supplies, as we are not allowed to take food over the border. We then visit the incredible Torres del Paine National Park so named after its massive granite towers. The scenery is simply stunning with snow-capped peaks, glaciers, beautiful lakes and valleys. The park is also home to an interesting array of native flora and fauna such as Andean condors, guanacos (a relative of the llama) and rhea (a type of emu). You have plenty of time to trek the main trails in the park to see the famous Torres (towers) and both the Francés and Grey Glaciers. You will also have the chance to travel by ferry across Lake Pehoé to wonder at this unbelievable panorama.

Days 17-21: Punta Arenas – Ushuaia (Argentina)
Travelling further south we reach Punta Arenas, a duty free port and early frontier town. There is time to visit Zona Franca, the duty free district and the nearby Magellan penguin colony which has literally thousands of these fascinating birds. Leaving Punta Arenas we travel back into Argentina and cross the Straits of Magellan by ferry to the archipelago of Tierra del Fuego (Land of Fire). Stopping overnight in Rio Grande, we carry on to Ushuaia, the world’s most southerly town, with a population of about 42,000. Here you can take an excursion on the Beagle Channel to visit the Isla de los Lobos (Island of Wolves) where you will see colonies of sea lions and aquatic birds and, with a bit of luck, maybe a whale. You also have the option to visit the Tierra del Fuego National Park where there are various trails along the lakeside
and the surrounding snow covered peaks. The park is also home to a large population of beaver (introduced by the Canadians), the world’s most southerly train (overpriced) and it is also where the Panamerican Highway ends at Lake Lapataia, 17,848 km from its start in Alaska.

Days 22-26: Free camping – Puerto Madryn – free camping
Free camping en route back up the Atlantic Coast of Patagonia; we eventually come to the Welsh community of Puerto Madryn from where we visit the nearby Valdés Peninsula. The Valdés is renowned for its wildlife and you will hopefully see penguins, sea lions, elephant seals, armadillos, guanacos, rheas, southern right whales, killer whales, Patagonian hares and a great variety of seabirds. After crossing the Colorado River, we leave Patagonia and we drive across the windswept Pampa where cattle graze and enormous fields of sunflowers sway in the wind (the oil from which is a large export for Argentina).

Days 27-30: Buenos Aires
Our next stop is the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires. This beautiful city is known as the "Paris of South America" due to its lovely green parks, plazas and wide boulevards. The balcony of the Presidential Palace (Casa Rosada) is where Eva Peron made many of her speeches and is also the place where Madonna sang, “Don’t cry for me Argentina” in the film Evita. Across the Plaza de Mayo you will also find the Cabildo (Old Town Hall), the Municipalidad (City Hall) and the Cathedral. Every Thursday afternoon in this plaza the "Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo" march in remembrance of their family members who disappeared in the 1970’s when the country was under military rule. There are many excellent restaurants in the port of La Boca with its colourful buildings and in nearby San Telmo, the Bohemian area, there is a fascinating antique market every Sunday. The Recoleta Cemetery, almost like a separate city, is where Eva Peron and many other rich and famous Argentines are buried. The reputation of Buenos Aires' nightlife is not exaggerated, as there are many nightclubs, bars, restaurants and cinemas open until all hours. For a great evening, you could see a tango show in the city where the dance originated and you shouldn't leave Buenos Aires before trying one of the best beefsteaks in the world!

Days 31-36: Free camping – San Ignacio Mini – Foz do Iguaçu (Brazil)
From Buenos Aires we make our way to San Ignacio Mini where there are some of the best kept Jesuit ruins in the region. Crossing into Brazil we reach Foz do Iguaçu (Iguazu Falls), where some 275 waterfalls cascade over a two and a half kilometre wide cliff face. We spend the next 4 nights here and there is plenty to do. You can visit both sides of the falls; on the Brazilian side there are panoramic views of the numerous waterfalls and on the Argentine side you can walk through rainforest and along catwalks directly above the falls. On the Argentine side you’ll also find the famous "Devil's Throat" where fourteen falls drop with such force that there is always a massive cloud of spray overhead. For a bird’s eye view over the entire falls you can take an optional scenic helicopter ride. There is also an excellent bird park nearby and you can visit the world’s largest hydroelectric dam at Itaipu where videos show the environmental planning behind the dam project (this tour is free!). If you want to do a bit of country counting, then you can pop into neighbouring Paraguay by public bus (you don’t even have to get your passport stamped) for a bit of shopping in Ciudad del Esté.

Days 37-39: Free camping – Bonito
Leaving Foz do Iguaçu we free camp on the way to Bonito where we have plenty of time to enjoy its waterfalls, caves and rivers. A variety of activities are available which include cave and river snorkelling, rafting, rainforest walks and wildlife spotting.

Days 40-42: Pantanal
Our next stop is the Pantanal Wildlife Reserve, a massive wetland of 230,000 square kilometres. One of the unusual things about the Pantanal is that there are also many farms in the area and the animals from these farms live quite comfortably with the other wildlife in the region. Wild animals include approximately 650 species of birds, capybara, howler monkeys, pumas, jaguars, ocelots, coatis, yellow anacondas, marsh deer, caiman, tapir and many more. The Pantanal is excellent for wildlife spotting as the region is more open and flat than a jungle setting.

Days 43-47: Campo Grande – free camping – Parati
Leaving the Pantanal, we make our way past the modern city of Campo Grande and across the rolling hills of Southern Brazil to Parati, free camping en route. Parati, our final destination before Rio, is an awesome little colonial coastal town. Vehicles are banned from entering the town centre leaving the cobbled streets traffic free and peaceful. Parati was a major port for the exportation of gold and coffee during the 17th and 19th centuries respectively and recommended excursions include a sailing schooner cruise around the bays, rainforest treks and walking the gold trail.

Days 48-49: Rio de Janeiro
We say goodbye to our final campsite possibly with a lunch of locally caught seafood and drive on to Rio de Janeiro, one of the most beautiful cities in the world and where our trip ends. There are many things to see and do in Rio so you may wish to stay on for a few more days after the end of the trip. You can take a trip up to Sugar Loaf Mountain and Corcovado with its famous Statue of Christ – both of which offer great city views, visit to the Botanical Gardens or the famous beaches of Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon. And of course, if you are in Rio around February/March time, get ready for the world's biggest party, THE RIO CARNIVAL! Please note that the 4 nights during Rio Carnival are not included in the tour price and it is essential to pre-book accommodation if you wish to stay on for the Carnival.

Whats Included?

80% camping, 20% hotels/hostels * All transport on a fully equipped expedition truck * Fuel, road taxes, tolls and ferries * Services of your driver and tour leader * All camping & cooking equipment (BYO sleeping bag and roll mat) * Specialist vehicle liability insurance * Three daily meals while camping and lunches on travel days on the truck * Campsite fees & cooking gas * Hotels & hostels when staying in towns & cities * National park fees when visited in the truck.

Departures?
October, November and December. Please enquire for available dates.

Prices?
£950 GBP per person (Local Fund - $500 USD) - BOOK NOW

Please note this tour is also available in reverse - £950 GBP per person plus local fund of $500 USD

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