- Discover the pulse of Buenos Aires with a dinner and tango show
- Take cooking classes and visit country ranches for cowboy fun
- Marvel at the massive cascades in Iguazú Falls National Park
- Enjoy tastings in celebrated wine regions like Mendoza and Colchagua
- Go stargazing under some of the clearest skies on Earth in the Atacama Desert
|Day 1||Arrive in Buenos Aires (Argentina), Dinner & Tango Performance||Buenos Aires|
|Day 2||City Tour & Culinary Experience||Buenos Aires|
|Day 3||Day Trip to San Antonio & Estancia El Ombú||Buenos Aires|
|Day 4||Free Day in Buenos Aires, Palermo Food Walk||Buenos Aires|
|Day 5||Fly to Puerto Iguazú||Puerto Iguazú|
|Day 6||Day Trip to Parque das Aves & Iguazú Falls (Brazilian Side)||Puerto Iguazú|
|Day 7||Explore Iguazú Falls (Argentine Side) & Boat Trip||Puerto Iguazú|
|Day 8||Fly to Mendoza, Sunset Horseback Ride||Mendoza|
|Day 9||Uco Valley Wine Tour||Mendoza|
|Day 10||Full-Day Aconcagua Park Tour||Mendoza|
|Day 11||Spa Day at Termas de Cacheuta||Mendoza|
|Day 12||Fly to Santiago (Chile)||Santiago|
|Day 13||Santiago City Tour||Santiago|
|Day 14||Day Trip to Valparaíso & Viña del Mar||Santiago|
|Day 15||Colchagua Wine Valley Tour||Santiago|
|Day 16||Fly to San Pedro de Atacama, Evening Astronomy Tour||San Pedro de Atacama|
|Day 17||Full-Day Moon & Rainbow Valley Tour||San Pedro de Atacama|
|Day 18||Full-Day Lagoons & Salt Flats Tour||San Pedro de Atacama|
|Day 19||Day Trip to Tatio Geysers||San Pedro de Atacama|
|Day 20||Fly to Santiago, Optional Activities||Santiago|
|Day 21||Depart Santiago|
Day 1: Arrive in Buenos Aires (Argentina), Dinner & Tango Performance
Bienvenidos! Welcome to Argentina! This grand three-week tour of the lower half of South America kicks off in Buenos Aires. One of the world's great cities, Argentina's massive capital sits on the Río de la Plata estuary and is home to a whopping 15 million people, colloquially known as Porteños (people of the port). The city also possesses a unique identity in that, while its culture is fully Latin American, it's highly influenced by European cities like Paris and Madrid. You can see this in its many historic (and romantic) neoclassical and Art Nouveau buildings.
When you arrive at Ezeiza International Airport, a driver will transfer you to your hotel in or near the city center. In the evening, you'll head out to discover Argentina's most famous export: tango. Born in the 19th century near the port of the historic San Telmo district, this musical/dance style merged the country dances of rural Spain with other influences from newly arriving immigrants. By the early 20th century, it had become famous around the world. You'll see the magic of this genre live when you sit down for dinner and a live performance at a local milonga (tango venue).
After dinner, you can learn the tango steps during a dance lesson and/or sample various Argentine wines with an optional tasting. Later, you'll return to your hotel.
Day 2: City Tour & Culinary Experience
Wake up early and meet your guide for a city tour around Buenos Aires by vehicle. This three-hour, small-group tour will take you to famous landmarks like 9 de Julio (the widest avenue in the world), the soaring Obelisco monument, and the Teatro Colón, which has consistently been ranked one of the great opera houses in the world since its opening in 1908.
You'll also visit upscale Puerto Madero and historic Plaza de Mayo, home to the iconic Casa Rosada (Presidential Palace), plus stroll the cobbled streets of San Telmo, the oldest neighborhood in the city. Continue south to La Boca, an old port area known for its zinc houses and colorful Caminito Street. It's home to La Bombonera, the country's most famous fútbol (soccer) stadium. The tour ends in the old-money Recoleta neighborhood with a visit to its stately cemetery (the final resting place of Eva Perón), after which you'll return to the hotel.In the evening, transfer to the trendy Palermo neighborhood for an evening you won't soon forget. The Argentina Experience is a "dinner party" in which guests share a table and prepare a gourmet meal. Professional hosts and sommeliers guide you through the evening, teaching you how to prepare malbec cocktails and handmade empanadas. Then sit down to a dinner of Argentina's famous gaucho-raised beef paired with local wines, and finish the meal by preparing your own maté (an herbal tea) and delicious alfajores (Argentine cookies).
Day 3: Day Trip to San Antonio & Estancia El Ombú
Get ready for a full-day excursion to discover Argentina's famous frontier culture, which remains prominent in the Pampas grasslands outside of Buenos Aires. In the morning, you'll meet your driver for the 72-mile (117 km) transfer northwest to San Antonio de Areco. This bucolic town is the heart of Argentina's gaúcho (cowboy) country and even today retains its equestrian and silversmith traditions. It's also rich with folk history, inspiring Argentine author José Hernández's epic poem, "Martín Fierro." The ballad recounts the exploits of its fictional hero as he endures life on the frontier.
Your destination is right outside San Antonio, at Estancia El Ombú. This colonial-style mansion was built in 1880 and sits on expansive green grounds, offering visitors an authentic Argentine countryside experience. Once here, there's a variety of options for activities: you can go horseback riding, hiking, or sightseeing in an old-fashioned horse-drawn carriage. The estancia is also a working farm, and you can observe typical ranch-style activities such as herding animals, branding cattle, and milking cows.
A highlight of the day is sitting down to a traditional asado (Argentine barbecue). Enjoy grilled meat and empanadas paired with Argentine wine while being entertained by horse shows and traditional folk dancing. Afterward, you'll transfer back to Buenos Aires and your hotel.
Day 4: Free Day in Buenos Aires, Palermo Food Walk
You'll have the morning free to enjoy Buenos Aires on your own. Start the day with a traditional Porteño breakfast of coffee and medialunas (half-moon-shaped pastries) before exploring more of Buenos Aires' famous barrios (neighborhoods). One option is a return to Palermo, this time to relax in its expansive parks. For culture, head back to Recoleta and visit the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (National Fine Arts Museum). It features paintings by Argentines such as Benito Quinquela Martín, Xul Solar, and Antonio Berni, plus works by masters like Degas, Rembrandt, Picasso, and Van Gogh.
If you like, stay in Palermo until the evening and then embark on a guided food walk around its cool restaurants and bars. This four-hour neighborhood jaunt is a great excuse to try Argentina's culinary staples (like its succulent beef) and sample its fine wines (like the famous malbec). Even better, throughout the walk, your guide will point out colorful street art and other cultural highlights the neighborhood is known for.
Day 5: Fly to Puerto Iguazú
In the morning, you'll transfer back to the airport and catch a two-hour flight north to Puerto Iguazú at the tri-borders with Brazil and Paraguay. This city is the gateway to Iguazú Falls, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the second-largest waterfall system in the world after Victoria Falls. Needless to say, it's one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of South America.
At the airport, a driver will pick you up for the transfer to your hotel. Then you'll have the rest of the day free. Be sure to take it easy and acclimate to the warmer weather—temps here top 90°F (32°C) in the summer months.
Day 6: Day Trip to Parque das Aves & Iguazú Falls (Brazilian Side)
Kick off your time in the Iguazú region with a fun wildlife outing. It begins in the morning with a hop across the border and a visit to Parque das Aves. You'll then have two hours to enjoy this 40-acre (16 ha) bird sanctuary on the Brazilian side of the falls. Its immersive aviaries allow you to admire the more than 1,000 birds comprised of 143 species, including toucans and the vibrant scarlet macaw. There are also habitats for caimans, anacondas, and butterflies.
Now that you're primed for nature and wildlife, it's time to visit the falls. First, transfer to the park's visitors center. There, embark down a footbridge to the falls that runs along a rainforest path. As you walk, you'll likely spot the park's resident wildlife, like monkeys and coatis.
The walkway then passes over the Río Iguazú to the Salto Floriano (Floriano Falls), which affords great views of the lower Iguazú. This is an excellent introduction to the falls, as the Brazilian side offers easily accessible viewpoints without the longer hiking trails and boardwalks found on the Argentine side.
Day 7: Explore Iguazú Falls (Argentine Side) & Boat Trip
After breakfast, a driver will pick you up for the ride into Iguazú National Park, on the Argentine side of the falls. Here, you'll begin your full-day tour in the subtropical forest. The hike will take you along both the lower and upper walkways that weave around the cascades (prepare to get wet!). One highlight is traversing the boardwalk at the top of Iguazú to the famous Garganto del Diablo (Devil's Throat), one of the largest of Igauzu's falls. From a viewing area, you can peer over the edge and see the thundering falls plunge 262 feet (89 m) to the river below (an experience not for the faint of heart).
Then it's time for another adventure as you head down to the lower Río Iguazú. A truck ride along a forest trail will take you to the dock at Puerto Macuco, where you'll board an inflatable speedboat for a ride to the base of the falls. From this vantage point, you'll experience the full scope and majesty of Iguazú, which is comprised of 275 different cascades. Like with the waterfall hike, you'll definitely want to wear waterproof clothing. At the end of the trip, you'll return to the dock and transfer back to your hotel.
Day 8: Fly to Mendoza, Sunset Horseback Ride
It's time to return to the south. In the morning, you'll transfer to the airport and catch a connecting flight to Mendoza. Located in western Argentina near the border with Chile, this is the country's most famous wine region. Here, the bulk of Argentina's most famous grape—malbec—is harvested, which is evidenced by all the bodegas (wineries) in the region. Mendoza is also a lovely city in its own right, full of tree-lined boulevards, expansive plazas, and a youthful college-town vibe.
At the airport, a driver will pick you up for the transfer to your hotel. You'll then have some time to relax until late in the afternoon. Then, you'll meet a driver and transfer about 30 minutes outside town to a horse ranch. Grab a saddle and mount up because you'll arrive just in time for a sunset ride. The four-hour circuit route will take you up through the foothills into the Andes mountains above. Once back at the ranch, you'll cap the ride with an evening barbecue and a glass or two of full-bodied malbec.
Day 9: Uco Valley Wine Tour
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
You've heard all about the Mendoza region, now it's time to taste the fruits of its terroir. And there's no better place for such an introduction than the Uco Valley. This renowned wine region is nestled in the Andes foothills just south of Mendoza and is known for producing some of the world's finest malbecs.
Leave for a full-day wine tour in the morning and visit celebrated wineries, such as Salentein, Domaine Bousquet, and Andeluna Cellars. During a tour of each one, you'll stroll the vineyards while enjoying panoramic mountain views, visit the production facilities and barrel rooms, and enjoy tastings of different varietals. In between the tours, there will be a break for lunch—another great opportunity to pair Argentine dishes with fine local labels.
Day 10: Full-Day Aconcagua Park Tour
Today, you'll venture into the mighty Andes to visit a number of landmarks. As you do, you'll admire views of Cerro Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the Western Hemisphere at 22,841 feet (6,961 m). The adventure begins at 8 am with a pickup by your guide at the hotel. Then, you'll transfer southwest from Mendoza along National Route 7 to Poterillos, a small town in the foothills. There, you'll be treated to views of Cordón del Plata (an Andes sub-range) and Potrerillos Dam. Then, pass through tunnels and over bridges to Uspallata, a town in the Andes famous for its Inca petroglyphs.
From there, you'll arrive at Aconcagua Provincial Park, a massive protected area that covers 712 square miles (1,843 sq km) in the Andes. Here, you'll visit famous landmarks like Puente del Inca (Inca Bridge). This natural arch was formed over the Río Cuevas by glaciers and hot springs in the Cordillera mountain range. It was named after the Inca, who frequented the area for its therapeutic hot springs. Those same springs were also the centerpiece of a famous spa resort in the early 20th century.
Continue up into the mountains to a viewpoint at 9,022 feet (2,750 m) that offers stunning views of Aconcagua. Following the same route, you'll arrive at the final destination, the European-inspired village of Las Cuevas. This is the base for trips up to nearby Cristo Redentor, a famous monument sitting at 13,779 feet (4,200 m) above sea level (be sure to take plenty of photos). After visiting the monument, you'll travel back down the mountains and return to Mendoza.
Day 11: Spa Day at Termas de Cacheuta
Leave in the morning on a scenic, one-hour transfer west of Mendoza to the thermal waters of Termas de Cacheuta. Cradled in a narrow valley surrounded by the Cordón del Plata, this luxurious natural spa features a network of stone lagoons filled with thermal waters. Here, you'll enjoy a full day of thermal hydrotherapy, including a sauna in a natural grotto, a soak in thermal relaxation pools, mineral mud therapy, and a dip in freshwater infinity pools overlooking the Río Mendoza.
Afterward, wash off in Finnish and Scottish-style showers and relax on a lounge chair in the solarium. The day's outing also includes a criollo (country) buffet lunch (including vegetarian options and a salad bar) featuring a full barbecue spread with beef, pork, chicken, and grilled vegetables. In the afternoon, you'll return to Mendoza and have the remainder of the day free.
Day 12: Fly to Santiago (Chile)
In the morning you'll bid Argentina farewell and transfer to the airport in Mendoza for the quick one-hour flight to Santiago. The Chilean capital sits at 1,700 feet (518 m) above sea level and is surrounded by snowcapped mountains. Lining its wide boulevards are a mix of modern skyscrapers and historical landmarks dating back to the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries.
Upon arrival at Santiago's airport, a driver will pick you up and transfer you to your hotel in the city. After checking in, you'll have the rest of the day free to relax at the hotel. Or, you can hit the street and explore the city on a self-guided tour.
Day 13: Santiago City Tour
Meet your local guide in the morning and embark on a city tour. It starts with a walk from the hotel to Palacio de la Moneda, Chile's opulent presidential palace. Then it's a short walk to Plaza de Armas, the city's main square. Among other historical landmarks, it's home to the Palacio de la Real Audiencia (Palace of the Royal Court), built in 1808, which houses the National History Museum of Chile.
Then you'll hike up Cerro Santa Lucía, a lovely park and remnant of an ancient volcano. Conquistadores used this hill as a lookout in the 16th century, and it was here that Pedro de Valdivia officially founded Santiago in 1541. After stopping by other famous landmarks, like the Museum of Fine Arts, you'll continue across the Río Mapocho to the trendy and bohemian Bellavista neighborhood. The tour ends in the new city center, whose highlights include the sprawling Parque Bicentenario. Afterward, you'll return to your hotel.
Day 14: Day Trip to Valparaíso & Viña del Mar
After breakfast, you'll meet a local guide and hit the road on a full-day tour. It's a 1.5-hour transfer west from Santiago to Valparaíso, one of South America's most charming and unusual cities. During this scenic journey, you'll pass the hills and vineyards of the fertile Casablanca Valley, home to many top wineries.
Eventually, you'll reach the historic port city of Valparaíso. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is famous for its colorful hillside neighborhoods, winding stairways, and copious street art. It's a well-preserved snapshot of a time when electric trolleys coasted through downtown in front of Art Nouveau buildings. On a tour, you'll visit famous landmarks, such as Plaza de la Victoria and the Naval Academy, and ride a funicular elevator up into the hills to enjoy panoramic vistas of the Pacific. A real highlight is visiting La Sebastiana, the former home of Chile's Nobel Prize-winning poet, Pablo Neruda.
Afterward, you'll drive a short way to the adjacent town of Viña del Mar, which couldn't be more different in style than its neighbor. Whereas Valparaíso is a retro artistic haven, Viña is a seaside hotspot with modern shopping centers and upscale restaurants. You'll pass some interesting heritage buildings on your way to the golden sands of Playa Reñaca, a popular beach destination for tourists and locals. Here, you can enjoy lunch at a seaside restaurant before returning to Santiago later in the afternoon.
Day 15: Colchagua Wine Valley Tour
Get ready for a tasty adventure as you embark on a full-day tour of the mother of all Chilean wine regions, the Colchagua Valley. Chile's most prestigious viticulture region is famed for its delicious syrah and carménè varieties. The first stop on the itinerary is the distinguished Viña Viu Manent, a family-run winery founded in 1935.
At the end of the tour and tasting, you'll head over to the Colchagua Museum, which features an array of exhibits related to Chile's long winemaking history. After a break for lunch, you'll make one more stop at Viña Santa Cruz. This relatively new winery (it was founded in 2003) is known for producing high-quality cabernet sauvignons and carménères. Here you'll enjoy a guided tour of the vineyards and cellars, capped with another tasting. Then it's time to transfer back to your hotel in Santiago.
Day 16: Fly to San Pedro de Atacama, Evening Astronomy Tour
It's another change of scene this morning as you transfer to the airport for the two-hour flight to the city of Calama, in the far north of the country. From there, it's a 1.5-hour transfer east to the remote outpost of San Pedro de Atacama, the launching point for adventures into the Atacama Desert. During the journey, you'll get your first look at some of the world's most evocative and ancient landscapes. This high-altitude desert features endless salt flats, towering Andean peaks, and the volcanic Cordillera Domeyko, where red-hued mountains form the base of the Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon).
After checking into your hotel, you'll have time to relax. Then, in the evening, you'll embark on a star-studded (literally) adventure. This three-hour tour begins with a brief astronomy lesson before you head out to the Altiplano, a plateau surrounded by volcanoes that stretches into Bolivia. In places, the Altiplano reaches 12,000 feet (3,660 m) above sea level, making it an ideal place for stargazing.
Learn how to identify constellations with the help of your guide. Even with the naked eye, the stars here are more vivid than anything you're likely to have experienced before. You'll also get a chance to use high-powered telescopes and binoculars to spot an array of celestial objects, including planets, binary stars, and spherical clusters.
Day 17: Full-Day Moon & Rainbow Valley Tour
Leave in the morning from San Pedro on a tour that will take you along the mountains of the Cordillera de la Sal. This region was once a giant lake that eventually dried and rose above the Atacama Desert. Your first stop in this otherworldly region is the Valley of the Moon, part of Los Flamencos National Reserve. It's famous for its salt sculptures known as Las Tres Marias (The Three Marias), which, like the Cordillera de la Sal, was formed by wind erosion over millennia. This caused the terrain to become similar to the moon's surface, which is how the area got its name.
The next stop is at Yerbas Buenas. This area is home to the largest concentration of petroglyphs in the San Pedro region. Scholars believe that the ancient Andean caravaneers left these drawings as signage on their mercantile routes. You'll then continue to the Rainbow Valley, which owes its name to the landscape's innumerable colors like red, green, blue, gray, and yellow—the result of a variety of minerals.
The tour ends at the Mirador de Kari viewpoint. One of the highest points of the Cordillera de la Sal, it's a great place to enjoy a sunset, which is exactly how you'll end the tour. After you've witnessed the last rays of sun gild the desert landscapes in shades of red and gold, you'll transfer back to your hotel in San Pedro.
Day 18: Full-Day Lagoons & Salt Flats Tour
Another full-day desert adventure is in store as you visit more highlights of the Altiplano. The vehicle route you'll follow runs south of San Pedro to your first stop: Laguna Chaxa. Located in the Salar de Atacama salt flats and sitting at 7,500 feet (2,300 m) above sea level, this is one of the best places in the world to see flamingoes. The algae-rich water here is a magnet for three of the world's five flamingo species: James', Chilean, and Andean.
Next, head to the Miscanti and Miñiques lagoons for more bird watching and to enjoy views of the surrounding volcanoes. The trip finishes with stops at sweeping viewpoints looking out over the vast Salar de Talar salt flats. One highlight stop is at Piedras Rojas (literally "red rocks"), a landscape comprised of red desert rocks adjacent to an aquamarine saline lake. After enjoying the scenery, you'll return to your hotel in the midafternoon.