The intoxicating locales of South America strike the senses with both something familiar and foreign. From the beachside metropolis of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to icy Patagonian Argentina and on to beautiful Chile, a fascinating blend of cultures and landscapes are both recognizable and exotic at the same time. Majestic snow-capped Andean peaks might make you think you’ve landed in the Colorado Rockies, while the sophistication and bustle of its cities might remind you of a large US capital. One thing is for sure, the samba-stepping street performers and European-style architecture with colonial accents will quickly remind you that you’re not in the United States anymore.
This is South America through and through. It is the place where the richness of fine wines meet untamed Patagonia, where the controlled passion of the tango collides with the unbridled wilds of Iguazu Falls and where Rio’s Christ the Redeemer statue peers down upon Ipanema beach-goers. It all must be seen to be believed and with Gate 1 Travel you will experience it all firsthand.
We start with Brazil that covers more than half the landmass of South America. Brazil was originally named for brazilwood, a tree that once grew up and down its shores. The timber from this tree produced a red dye, so it became a valued commodity in the European cloth trade. Once the indigenous Tupi people caught on to the overseas demand, they put the trees up for sale in exchange for European goods.
Brazil went on to become the largest Portuguese-speaking nation in the world, and the only one in the Americas. Surrounded by Corcovado and Sugar Loaf Mountains and brimming with big-city energy, Rio de Janeiro, the unofficial cultural capital, wears its friendly attitude on its sleeve.
Rio’s beauty unfolds in magnificent splendor: crescent beaches (such as the famous Ipanema and Copacabana), glittering skyscrapers, and forested mountains form an intoxicating hive of activity. Corcovado is topped by the famed Christ the Redeemer, a 124-foot statue of Christ, with his arms outstretched as if embracing the city below. A cog railway train gets you to the summit. On the other side of the city, all-glass cable cars bring you to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain for an incredible view.
Rio certainly demonstrates that Brazil embraces its natural beauty, even in its largest cities. Along the Argentinean border, another spectacular site awaits. Iguazu Falls, a thundering cascade of 275 waterfalls that stretch two and half miles into a horseshoe shape, straddles the two countries of Brazil and Argentina. These incredible falls are wider than Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and higher than Niagara. They are a stunning sight to behold, and that’s just from the much smaller Brazilian side.
About 80% of Iguazu’s falls lie on Argentina’s side and few are more impressive than Garganta del Diablo, or Devil’s Throat. This U-shaped torrent plummets 270 feet over a half mile stretch. A rail car offers spectacular views from the top of the falls.
Argentina’s capital of Buenos Aires offers another type of thrill. This is the city of Eva Peron, or “Evita”. The outspoken First Lady was wildly popular here, speaking out for those without a voice. She is buried in the Recoleta Cemetery, a fantastic miniature city of above-ground tombs and memorials. Buenos Aires is called the “Paris of South America” for good reason: its wide, tree-lined boulevards pass elegant architecture, soaring cathedrals and beautifully manicured green parks. More intimate views of the city can be had in any of the working-class barrios, such as La Boca or San Telmo, each with its own distinct and colorful personality.
Far from the city, in the eastern shadow of the Andes, lies Mendoza. Founded in the 16th century by Spanish settlers, this is today one of the world’s great wine regions. Vines here are planted at some of the highest altitudes in the world and yield Malbecs, Cabernet Sauvignons and Chardonnays. Mendoza is known for more than its wine. It also draws adventurers gearing up to climb Mt. Aconcagua, the tallest peak in the world outside the Himalayas, at 23,000 feet.
In this region of South America, stunning natural beauty, soaring mountains, pristine lakes, and babbling streams seems to beckon from every direction. Visiting the town of Bariloche, you just might wonder how much more beauty could possibly be in store. Nestled at the foot of the Andes, surrounded by forest, and hugging the shores of Nahuel Huapi Lake, Bariloche’s setting feels more Swiss than Argentinean, right down to the chocolate shops on every corner and the sweet scent of cocoa mixing with the clean mountain air.
Yet there is more beauty in store, in Argentine Patagonia. The old wool-trading town of El Calafate is the gateway to Los Glacieres National Park, protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here, the Perito Moreno Glacier stands high above the waters of Lake Argentino, a massive ice wall three miles wide and 240 feet tall. It is the largest ice cap outside of Antarctica and Greenland and controls the world’s third largest reserve of fresh water.
Patagonia leaves any traveler feeling in awe at nature’s majesty. The charming lakeside village of Puerto Varas will have the same effect. Its setting is spectacular, resting on the shore of the scenic Llanquihue Lake, one of the largest in South America, and overseen by the symmetrical, snow-capped cone of the Osorno Volcano. The town itself is also a sight to behold, rich in the German-style wood-shingled architecture of its past European colonists.
Travel from Punta Arenas to Torres del Paine National Park by way of Puerto Natales where an astonishing canvas unfolds. Chile’s Patagonia thrives with wildlife: Andean condors and eagles soar overhead, keeping watch over farmland grazed by sheep and a vast network of waterways. A full-day expedition cruise brings you face to face with sea lions, abundant birdlife, and spectacular glaciers. In Torres del Paine, you’ll have the chance to hike into the untouched Patagonian forest, where massive granite peaks pierce the sky above, a dramatic backdrop to thundering waterfalls, massive glaciers and wild guanacos.
Back in civilization, more specifically, in the capital of Santiago, a city’s design will amaze you. Over the past few decades, this booming city has grown tremendously, even hosting the tallest building in Latin America, the Gran Torre, or Grand Tower. For a glimpse into its more historic side, head to the Plaza de Armas, the main square of the city. The impressive cathedral is here, with its two bell towers as well as the Central Post Office Building and the 1808 Royal Court Palace.
One of the planet’s most remote islands, Chile’s Easter Island, is located 1,200 miles from its nearest populated neighbor. This remarkable corner of the world lures archaeology buffs and nature lovers alike. Remnants of an ancient Polynesian culture dot the hilly landscape in the form of 800 massive stone figures, known as moai. Their mystery is twofold: Archeologists can only guess at their purpose, and no one knows exactly how the stone was quarried from the island’s volcanic stone and how the carved figures, weighing some ten tons each, were placed strategically around the island. Gate 1 takes you here so you can enjoy the mysterious island for yourself.
Take Advantage of the Best Value
Incredible places like these tell only part of the Gate 1 story. Our unmatched value in the industry tells the rest. Throughout your South American itinerary, you can sit back and relax knowing that you’ve attained the very best travel experience for your dollar. Excellent accommodations, delicious meals, unique cultural experiences and top-rated local guides add up to the most rewarding journey your travel dollars can buy. We cannot wait to show you South America the Gate 1 way!