Cross the entire continent from the Atlantic to the Pacific and you'll find that South America is a veritable feast of majestic landscapes, distinctive flora and fauna, and wonders both cultural and natural. We’ll explore the best the continent has to offer both by land and sea on this adventure, which takes us from the thundering cascades of Iguassu Falls to the staggering windswept beauty of Patagonia’s Torres del Paine National Park, and all the way down to the glacier-lined fjords at Chile’s southern tip. We'll step into the homes of local families to enjoy Home-Hosted meals, and even take a dancing lesson from residents of La Boca, the neighborhood in Buenos Aires where tango was born. With a local Trip Leader to help highlight each country's unique culture, explore South America on a grand scale, beginning in the tropics, crossing through the Andes, and ending up walking among glaciers. Along the way, we’ll get a taste of three of South America’s most vibrant cities—Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, and Santiago—and get to know the warm and inviting people that call the region home. Plus, round out your adventure to become an even more in-depth exploration of South America when you add optional trip extensions to Brazil: Manaus & Amazon Rain Forest; Machu Picchu, Cuzco & Lima; or Santiago & Easter Island, Chile.
Make It Your Adventure
Personalize your trip to meet your individual needs, from preferred flights and air routing, to “breaking away” to spend more time in a destination.
5 nights from only $2295
Experience the beauty and natural diversity of the Brazilian Amazon up close. With an experienced naturalist guide revealing the secrets of the rain forest, discover tropical birds winging through the forest canopy, visit disabled monkeys at a wildlife rehabilitation center, and meet with members of the Caboclos community to learn how their ancient way of jungle life continues to thrive today.View Extension Itinerary
Depart on your overnight flight to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Welcome to Rio, where we'll spend the next three nights. As the home of the bossa nova, world-famous beaches, and a renowned annual carnaval, Rio is a city known for its exuberant zest for life. With lush mountain peaks jutting upward dramatically from a sand-wrapped coastline, and its iconic Christ the Redeemer statue perched atop Corcovado Mountain and overlooking the Sugar Loaf, it's a city blessed as much with natural beauty as with cultural and cosmopolitan delights. In recent years, Rio has also ascended to the world stage as a major cultural capital, having hosted the 2016 Summer Olympics.
When you arrive, an O.A.T. representative meets you at the airport and arranges for your transfer to your hotel. After lunch on your own, join your Trip Leader and fellow travelers, including those joining us from the Brazil: Manaus & Amazon Rain Forest pre-trip extension, for a Welcome Briefing on our upcoming trip. Later, on our way to dinner, we'll embark on a brief orientation walk along the shoreline for a look at the famous beaches that became source material for the internationally-acclaimed songs "Copacabana" and "The Girl from Ipanema." Who knows—the unforgettable scenery and funky art galleries and bookstores that surround these stunning white-sand beaches may even have you tapping your feet and humming a new Rio-inspired melody of your own.
Our Welcome Dinner tonight is held at a churrascaria, a traditional Brazilian restaurant where meat reigns supreme. Churrasco is the Portuguese word for barbecue and it applies to all kinds of grilled meat, from beef to pork to duck and sausage. The most common preparation is beef tip sirloin, known as picanha. At a churrascaria, the grilled meats are brought to your table on long metal skewers by passadores (waiters) who carve it for you and will keep returning as long as you like.
This morning, we'll visit Corcovado, the site of the Christ the Redeemer statue. Completed in 1931, the 625-ton statue rises 124 feet on its pedestal atop 2,300-foot-high Corcovado Mountain, with its outstretched arms spanning 92 feet. After decades of exposure to the elements and erosion of the soapstone exterior, the statue was restored to its full luster in 2010, and continues to serve as a world-famous symbol of Christianity.
Then we'll explore downtown Rio and see the Selarón Stairs, an outdoor staircase of 250 colorfully decorated steps created by artist Jorge Selarón, before enjoying lunch at a local restaurant. The rest of your afternoon and evening is free for making your own discoveries. Perhaps you will visit the Sambadrome, home to the annual Samba Parade. Over 700 yards long, this impressive structure serves as a school during the rest of the year, and also houses a museum dedicated to the history of samba as well as carnaval in general. Dinner is on your own tonight.
This morning, we'll continue our explorations of Rio with a visit to a favela, one of the shanty towns built into the city's hillside outskirts. Favelas are typically portrayed in the media as having rudimentary living conditions, lacking effective sewage systems and access to clean water, and being inhabited primarily by criminals. However, in recent years the Brazilian government has made attempts to improve conditions within the favelas, and to integrate their residents into mainstream society. We'll discover what life is really like in the favelas during our walking tour, where we'll have the chance to interact with local residents, learn more about the history of these towns, and see what effects, if any, increased tourism and awareness have had in recent years.
Afterwards, we'll have a traditional lunch featuring Brazil's national dish, feijoada. To prepare it, smoked meat is simmered for hours in black beans, before the meat and beans are served separately, accompanied by collard greens, farofa (toasted manioc) and hot sauce. Originally a slave dish, the end of slavery saw feijoada become more widely known, and soon it was being served in the best restaurants of Brazil. By the 20th century, it had become a comfort food and staple.
This afternoon, we'll head for one of Rio's iconic landmarks: the Sugar Loaf, a mountain rising abruptly 1,299 feet from the water's edge. A cable car transports visitors to the top from the nearby peak of Morro de Urca. The steep granite faces of the Sugar Loaf are popular with rock climbers, and there is a panoramic view from the summit.
We'll return to our hotel early this evening. Dinner tonight is on your own.
After breakfast, we fly to Iguassu and transfer to our hotel. Twice as high as Niagara Falls, the falls at Iguassu are located on the border of Argentina and Brazil, and are among the world's most impressive sights. During our walking tour, we'll enjoy some of the stellar panoramic views that earned it its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We'll get to travel along a stone path through the forest that leads to several platforms where we can observe the falls from different angles. As we walk, we'll also delight in the unique birds and mammals that thrive in the lush national park surrounding Iguassu.
Dinner tonight is at our hotel.
Enjoy a different perspective of the falls today as we embark on a walking tour of the Argentinean side of Iguassu—where the majority of the cascades are found—delighting in our up-close views of the rushing and roaring water. We'll also enjoy a dramatic walk along the Garganta del Diablo (Devil's Throat), where the water plunges 230 feet into a roiling cauldron. With the spray flying up to 50 feet above your head and rainbows dancing in the mist, the view here will take your breath away.
Or, for an even closer look at Iguassu, join our Great Adventure optional tour. We'll discover both the lush vegetation and the rushing waterfalls of Iguassu National Park from multiple perspectives on this excursion, beginning with a panoramic ride along the Sendero Yacaratía trail that winds through the verdant jungle to the riverside. Then we'll board a motorboat and travel through the rapids of the Iguassu River Canyon to San Martin Island, and continue on to the bases of the Tres Mosqueteros and San Martin falls for striking views of the Devil's Throat and some of the park's largest and most impressive waterfalls.
After experiencing the Argentinean side of Iguassu, we'll return to the hotel late this afternoon and you'll have some time to explore the grounds. We enjoy dinner at our hotel this evening.
Please note: Our passports will be checked as we cross the Argentinian border. This process can take up to an hour.
After breakfast, we cross the border into Argentina once more and fly for approximately two hours to the cosmopolitan capital of Buenos Aires.
This afternoon is free for you to relax or make your own discoveries. Then, as an introduction to the city's vibrant culture, we'll step into the home of a local Buenos Aires family for a Home-Hosted Dinner. Take a seat at the table of an Argentine family, share their meal, chat, learn about each other, and make new friends. Prepare yourself for an evening seasoned with good conversation and fellowship.
This morning, we discover the rich history of Buenos Aires—an epic tale of birth and rebirth, protests and passions, suffering and triumph set against the placid landscape of the Rio de la Plata—from a local perspective, as we explore barrio (neighborhood) by barrio. We'll hop aboard a local bus and begin with a stop at Plaza de Mayo—site of Argentina's presidential residence, the Casa Rosada, and the heart of Buenos Aires' political life. From there, we wander the wide boulevards of Avenida 9 de Julio, and explore the narrow market-streets of Florida Avenue. Then, we stroll the colorful La Boca artists' district, where the Argentinean tango was born, then visit the resting place of Eva Perón in Recoleta's extravagant cemetery.
We finish our exploration of Buenos Aires with a short tango lesson that introduces us to the dance whose passion and grace exemplify the spirit of Argentinean culture. Afterward, you'll have the afternoon free to explore the city on your own. Perhaps conversations with last night's host family left you with some ideas of local spots to check out or special foods to sample—now's a great time to explore those recommendations.
Further your tango appreciation tonight during an optional dinner and tango show at Esquina Carlos Gardel—one of the most prestigious tango houses in Buenos Aires—where the orchestra will strike up a romantic tune and professional dancers will show us how this dramatic dance should be done.
Primed and ready for a change of pace following our explorations over the last week or so, it's time to switch gears and begin our discoveries in the renowned and rugged land of Patagonia. After an early breakfast, we travel to fly to Calafate, a town near Argentina's border with Chile.
For 65 million years, the land here has been raised by chaotic volcanic eruptions and carved by massive glaciers, creating a series of jagged islands, interconnected fjords and channels, and mountainside glacial lakes. The area is named for the indigenous calafate bush—locals say eating its berries will ensure your return to this mystical region.
Our flight to Calafate is approximately five hours, and we should arrive in the early afternoon. After transferring to our hotel, join your Trip Leader for an orientation walk around this small city. You'll have the rest of the afternoon to explore at leisure. We have dinner at a local restaurant this evening.
Today we enjoy a window into Patagonian ranch life when we visit a working estancia. The area’s sweeping grasslands are ideal for sheep farming, which has been one of the primary sources of income here since the end of the 19th century. At the estancia, we’ll enjoy a lunch of Patagonian lamb—the iconic dish that the President of Chile served to President Obama in his first visit to the region.
Back in El Calafate, dinner is on your own. Feel free to ask your Trip Leader for recommendations.
Today we spend a full day in Los Glaciares National Park, A UNESCO World Heritage Site that is home to nearly 50 large glaciers. Stretching across more than 1,700 miles, it is the second largest park in Argentina and is partially covered by a giant icecap—the largest continental ice extension after Antarctica.
Unlike most other glaciers, the icy marvels at Los Glaciares formed at lower altitudes, around 1,500 meters (or nearly 5,000 feet) above sea level. The lower points of origin are a boon to visitors, as they offer exclusive access—both visually and physically—to the glaciers.
We'll take advantage of this access when we visit Perito Moreno Glacier, a pristine marvel towering nearly 200 feet above Lake Argentino. The constant, cyclical movement of Perito Moreno’s ice mass often forces the glacier to "calve." This means that smaller chunks of ice fracture and break off from the glacier—a "birthing" of icebergs that’s usually accompanied by thunderous noises that reverberate through the surrounding area. It’s quite a spectacle, and can occur at any time, so we’ll keep our fingers crossed that we’ll be lucky enough to witness this unforgettable display of nature's sheer force.
We return to our hotel in Calafate late this afternoon. Dinner tonight is on your own.
Today, we travel for the full day overland to Torres del Paine, a Chilean national park widely considered to be South America's finest—and one of the most remote and beautiful places in the world. We'll spend two nights here, giving us time to hike winding trails over rippling currents; witness the ostrich-like rhea (known locally as nandu), condor, fox, and other wildlife protected by this UNESCO Biosphere Reserve site; and take in the stunning landscapes of snow-capped mountains rising dramatically over mirror-smooth lakes and flowering fields.
The park comprises about 935 square miles and is part of the Paine Massif, granite mountains that emerge suddenly from the plains of the Patagonian steppes. This granite intrusion—one of the most recognizable mountain profiles in the world—was formed about twelve million years ago, when sedimentary rock and magma collided violently and were thrust high into the air. After the Ice Age, when the ice fields covering the base of the massif began to melt, water and wind carved the rock into huge towers of varying shapes, at heights up to 9,000 feet.
The glaciers of the park are in quick retreat—up to 56 feet a year for the last 90 years. Many parts of the park were too remote for cattle and sheep ranchers, and so they exist today in a pristine state.
From the park, we proceed to check in to our hotel, where we enjoy dinner this evening.
Today we'll explore the rugged majesty of Torres del Paine in our small group during a pair of scenic hikes, each lasting about two hours with time in between for a boxed lunch. Look around you and take in the colors cast upon lakes by crushed rock and sediment. It creates an atmospheric glow ranging from milky gray, yellow, and green to a dramatic blue caused by algae. It's truly stunning.
More than 40 species of mammals make their home in the park, including guanaco and puma. Some of the world's rarest bird species—the Andean condor, the crested cara cara, and the black vulture among them—are found here as well. Keep your eyes peeled for the elusive Patagonian gray fox lurking stealthily in the surrounding bush. With the help of your Trip Leader, you may be able to spot and identify some of Patagonia's most majestic wildlife.
Dinner tonight is back at the hotel.
This morning, we'll explore Torres del Paine during a final hike, staying on the lookout for guanacos (related to the llama and the camel) and condors winging overhead. After a boxed lunch, we drive to Puerto Natales to board the MV Skorpios III, our home for the next three nights as we cruise the Chilean fjords. This family-owned vessel is uniquely designed with a reinforced hull for navigating ice and a small size for threading through the narrow fjords and bays.
We depart Puerto Natales and sail through the Kirke Narrows toward Bernardo O’Higgins National Park, home to the furthest flows of the massive Southern Patagonian Ice Field. Our ship is the only one that sails this particular route. As we follow the path of Darwin and FitzRoy, we’ll be able to witness the ever-shifting palette of light and shadow on the mountains, sea, and ice without distraction.
Dinner will be onboard tonight. The Chilean owners of the Skorpios III ensure that everything about our shipboard experience, from wine and food to friendly staff, reflect their culture. During our cruise, all meals are included while we're onboard ship.
Every slip of land we’ve traveled in Chile was once covered by the Patagonian Ice Sheet, which stretched all the way to the Andes. The remaining Southern Patagonian Ice Field still sprawls nearly 5,000 square miles. Expedition teams have only crossed the full length of the ice field once, and many parts remain still unvisited. Most of what is known to explorers is accessible only by helicopter—or by boat, a rare experience we'll get to enjoy.
Today we have the privilege of exploring three smaller fjords, each with its own character. We’ll disembark on a nearby beach for a walk over sand and rocks to get a better look at the Amalia glacier.
Then, we cruise onward towards the El Brujo glacier—so vividly blue it seems almost lit from within. Weather permitting, we’ll go ashore for panoramic views from a rock. Finally, we navigate Calvo Fjord, a glacier-filled alley of bobbing ice. We’ll board an icebreaker boat, the Capitán Constantino, to sail through the choppy ice and get closer.
Today we discover the Las Montañas Fjord, which threads between the Cordillera Sarmiento and the Cordillera Riesco mountain ranges. Cordillera Sarmiento includes The White Lady, a 7,000-foot peak, while the Cordillera Riesco is best known for Grupo la Paz, a cluster of jagged rock towers.
We cruise by Zodiac through the bay of the Alsina glacier. Then we visit Bernal Glacier, where our Zodiac boats drop us off for a walk through a small rain forest to a glacial lagoon, and then onward to the front of the glacier itself, which we can touch.
Continuing on past Herman and Zamudio glaciers, we’ll arrive at Angostura White Glacier. Here, we embark exploration craft and keep our eyes peeled for the diverse wildlife that populate these waters: Peale's dolphins, seals, upland geese, petrels, cormorants, and albatrosses.
This evening, we enjoy a special farewell party and Captain’s Dinner onboard.
We disembark this morning and drive to Punta Arenas, arriving in time for lunch on your own.
This afternoon, we fly to Santiago and settle into our hotel. Dinner is on your own tonight.
This morning we gather for a walk around Chile’s exciting capital. Against a stunning backdrop of Andean peaks, Santiago has witnessed a remarkable history, from settlement by conquistadors in 1541 to the Marxist, military, and democratic governments of the 20th century. We’ll explore the city’s hub on foot and via local subway, watching as the rich history comes to life at such places as La Moneda Palace, the seat of Chile’s government, which served as the setting for a violent military coup in the 1970s. We'll then visit a local cemetery, where we'll witness a memorial to the victims of the coup and its resulting dictatorship (1973-1990).
The remainder of the afternoon is yours to discover more of Santiago at your leisure. Perhaps you'll stroll through the famous Bella Vista neighborhood, known for it's funky graffiti-buildings, artsy boutique shops and galleries, and quaint cafes. We'll gather tonight for a Farewell Dinner at a local restaurant, where we'll toast the discoveries and new friends that we've made.
Today we set out on a full-day tour of Valparaiso, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Chile’s largest seaport.
“Pancho,” as locals call the city, is a chaotic maze of narrow alleys, steep staircases, and colorful funiculars that ramble up 17 surrounding cerros (hills). We’ll ride one of these ascensores to catch a spectacular view.
Once a booming port, Valparaiso’s economy was hit hard when the 20th-century opening of the Panama Canal led to a severe decrease in the city's ship traffic. But today, the city has bounced back as the nation’s cultural capital. Gritty yet romantic, Pancho has long been a haven for artists and writers. We’ll see its unusual charms at play as we wander past old mansions and modern street art. And to really catch the rhythm of life in Valparaiso, we’ll hop into colectivos (public ride-share taxis) and head out to visit a produce market and enjoy lunch with a local family in their home.
This afternoon, we depart for the airport for our return flights home, or to begin our post-trip extension to Machu Picchu, Cuzco & Lima or Santiago & Easter Island, Chile.
7 nights from only $1995
It’s easy to add the legendary "Lost City of the Incas" to your explorations of South America’s wonders. On this extension, we’ll hike the mystical ruins of Machu Picchu, see what life's like in the Sacred Valley, and witness Cuzco's Andean charm. We’ll also spend a day discovering Lima.
5 nights from only $2395
In the midst of the majestic Andes Mountains, discover Santiago, Chile, a city as vibrant and historic as it is elegant. Then venture more than 2,000 miles west to find Easter Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most isolated—and intriguing—places on Earth.View Extension Itinerary