I was welcomed to Chiloe Island with a spectacular sunrise whilst feasting on a hearty breakfast at my accommodation, the luxurious Tierra Chiloe Hotel. I knew this was going to be my kind of place....
South America is so much more than you might expect – an extraordinary diversity of Andean cultures, of ancient ruins, stately colonial cities and colourful Indian villages, of spectacular landscapes, amazing wildlife and wilderness, art, handicrafts and cuisine.
In the last decade South America has developed into a world leading travel destination. Luxury and boutique hotels have been built in major cities as well as in remote wilderness areas (Amazon rainforest, Chiloe Island, Patagonia and Atacama Desert to name four). Customer service is often better than it is here, and the cuisine world leading (Central in Lima has been voted the world’s 4th best). The infrastructure has been built to enable safe and comfortable exploration of this incredibly diverse continent.
Flights with Qantas, LATAM Airlines (our airline of preference) and Air New Zealand mean access has never been better.
Each country (e.g. Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador (Galapagos Islands), Guyana, Peru, Uruguay or Venezuela) has its own identity and special attractions and the breadth of travel experiences awaiting you is almost limitless. We know the joy of travelling to these fascinating destinations and, with so much to discover, a dedicated specialist with firsthand knowledge can design a holiday created around your personal preferences. See About Us for more information as to how we can help you realise your dreams.
The fabled ‘Lost City of the Incas’ is, unquestionably, the highlight of any visit to Peru. Built at the height of the Inca Empire’s power, then abandoned after Spanish conquest, the citadel lay hidden and untouched for almost five centuries, enshrouded by jungle and protected by its mountainous isolation high above the Urubamba River.
It may have been ‘lost’ to the world before being rediscovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911 but the descendants of the Incas had always known its secrets. You can reach this wonderful site either by making the traditional trek along the Inca Trail or by rail from Cuzco to the town of Aguas Calientes.
The wild and stunning landscapes of Patagonia will remain imprinted on your mind forever – incredible mountain peaks,spectacular lakes, glaciers and forests. This wilderness is so remote and unspoiled that a walk within its landscape is sure to change your view of the world. Separated by the continental ice fields, two regions comprise Chilean Patagonia – the northern regions of Aysén and the Carretera Austral, and the southern regions of the famous Torres del Paine National Park, Magallanes, and Tierra del Fuego (shared with Argentina).
Among the unforgettable images of Argentine Patagonia are the amazing lakes and glaciers of Los Glaciares National Park, the exceptional marine life of the Valdes Peninsula, and Tierra del Fuego, “the end of the world” and gateway to the Antarctic Peninsula.
The Pantanal, south of Cuiaba, is said to be the largest wetlands on earth covering 230,000 sq km. The area is richly forested with abundant wildlife and flora, including numerous species of mammals, reptiles, plants, and over 600 types of birds. You can hike, ride horses or make photographic safaris into the area by boat, canoe and jeep, and if you’re fortunate you might get photos of tapirs, anteaters, capybaras and, with a little more luck and a visit to the right region, jaguars, hyacinth macaws, and even maned wolves. The dry season (June to October) is the best time for wildlife viewing
As with many wildlife destinations, to have the best chance of some incredible encounters you often need to go a little further off the beaten path to reach places less affected by human presence. The Amazon is no exception to this rule. We offer many ways to discover the Amazon and its incredible wildlife. You can either stay at remote lodges with expert guides and engaging activities or cruise the Amazon River on a luxury river boat. To find out more about exploring the Amazon contact our friendly consultants.
Ecuador and Peru offer the best Rainforest experiences. They both offer the choice of comfortable lodges and luxury river boat cruising on the Amazon or one of its major tributaries as well as more remote lodge that offer the very best wildlife viewing opportunities (Manu Wildlife Centre in Peru and Napo Wildlife Centre in Ecuador.
The highest navigable lake in the world and the legendary birthplace of the Inca civilisation, this sparkling jewel of the altiplano is deep and intensively blue and surrounded by limitless horizons. Visit the floating reed islands, home to the Uros Indians as well as the larger island of Tequile, renowned for its fine hand-woven textiles and clothing.
In a tropical region of magnificent rainforest and deep flowing rivers in the far north-east, you’ll see ‘the Great Waters’ – the mighty Iguazu Falls. The thundering waterfalls are an incredible sight-and-sound sensation, 3km wide and plunging 70m into the gorge that divides Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. You can see the wide-angle view of the falls from the Brazilian side and more close-up detail from the Argentine side.
South America is quickly becoming one of the world’s leading culinary destinations with 5 restaurants in the top 50. # 4 Central – Lima Peru, # 11 D.O.M – Sao Paulo Brazil, #13 Maido – Lima Peru, #30 Astrid y Gaston – Lima Peru, #36 Borago – Santiago Chile.
The knock on effect is that cuisine in many restaurants is of a very high quality – whether you select one of the World’s top 50 or a less renowned establishment you’re in for treat. If you do want to experience one of the World’s top 50 a reservation is necessary – we’ll happily make one for you.
Over the last 5-7 years South America has been transformed into a world-leading travel destination. The continent has always had many fine attractions like Machu Picchu, The Amazon, Iguassu Falls and Patagonia (to name just 4), now there are many fine luxury, boutique and first class properties that wouldn’t be out of place in Italy, or France. Some are stunning contemporary new builds, whilst others are sumptuously converted colonial properties – all with excellent customer service and often with gourmet cuisine.
Here are just a few to whet your appetite;
Machu Picchu Pueblo
The Singular Patagonia
Tierra Chiloe (Chiloe Island – Chile)
Belmond Das Cataratas (Iguassu Falls – Brazil)
Reserva Amazonica (Amazon Peru)
MV Aria (Luxury river cruise Amazon – Peru)
Mashpi Lodge (Cloud Forest Ecuador)
Estancia La Bamba de Areco (near Buenos Aires – Argentina)
Bolivia’s most well-known attraction is the Salar de Uyuni (Salt Flats of Uyuni), a 10,000 km2 dazzling white landscape. The salt flats are formed by the evaporative process of meltwaters from the surrounding volcanic peaks that trickle into what is effectively a large ‘inland sea’. Over many thousands of years a crust of salt has formed that is thick enough to drive on (2-10 metres). Up to 200m of water lie beneath the salt crust as well as the world’s largest deposits of lithium.
There is little local rainfall to weaken the crust, although when it does rain (Nov to Feb) the mirages created by water-covered salt flats are like a surreal scene from a Salvador Dali painting.
Hidden in the remote cloud forests of Peru’s northern highlands are some of the most amazing pre-Columbian archaeological ruins. Discover the immense fortress of Kuelap, one of Peru’s best-kept secrets. Built by the mysterious ‘Cloud People of Chachapoyas’, this spectacular walled city is perched atop a towering mountain (3,100m).
Kuelap was conquered by the Incas in the 15th century and, although discovered 60 years before Machu Picchu, it is still not as well known to the outside world. On a 4-day program you can also explore the colourful funeral buildings of Revash, trekking up on foot or on horseback to the site on a long ledge cut high into a cliff. Visit the Leimebamba Museum with its amazing collection of pre-Inca mummies discovered around the ‘Lake of the Condors’. And be one of few travellers to see the Gocta Waterfall, one of the highest waterfalls in the world, discovered only in 2006 (by outsiders, that is – the local people have always known of it).
A short distance from Buenos Aires is the beautiful Estancia La Bamba de Areco. Not only does this working estancia provide superb accommodation and a great introduction to rural life in Argentina but it is one of the few places where you can witness firsthand gauchos who practice the art of ‘horse whispering’, a strange and almost mystical way to tame and train horses. For those lucky enough to witness a Horse Whisperer demonstration, the experience is truly amazing.
The term “horse whispering” refers to the method of taming a horse according to its nature, avoiding fear and pain, and by earning its trust and loyalty. Gentle, repetitive, persuasive techniques help build up trust between the rider and horse. In Argentina this technique is known as ‘Doma India’.
“As the gaucho enters the arena they apply gentle pressure to the horse and it lies down effortlessly on the ground. They lie alongside and gently breathe into the horse’s nostrils. The animal is totally at ease, calm and trance-like. The horse is rolled onto its back with its legs in the air and the rider climbs gently onto the animal’s stomach. The demonstration continues for ten minutes until finally the horse returns to all fours still totally at ease.”
Although Carnival (Carnaval in Portuguese) is celebrated in towns and villages throughout Brazil and many other Catholic countries, Rio de Janeiro has long been regarded as the ‘Carnival capital of the world’. The Rio Carnival is not only the biggest – and one of the most interesting artistic events on the globe – but is also the benchmark against which every other carnival is compared. Almost everyone has heard of it! Foreign visitors alone number around 500,000 every year, with the total annual number of visitors in excess of 2 million.
Brazil’s world-famous annual festival and a party from dusk ’til dawn!
2017 Friday 24th February to Tuesday 28th February
2018 Friday 9th February to Tuesday February 13th February
2019 Friday 1st March to Tuesday 5th March
One of the most important religious festivals of the Incan period took place during the winter solstice (and Inca New Year) when the sun is farthest from the earth; homage was paid to Inti, the Sun God, praising him as the source of all life and pleading for his return. The celebration first occurred in 1412 in Haukaypata, the main plaza of the Inca capital, and lasted for nine days that were filled with dances and colourful processions, as well as animal sacrifices to the Earth Mother, Pachamama. The annual festival continued until 1535 when it was banned by the Spanish conquerors and their Catholic priests.
Based on historical chronicles, a reconstruction of the event was performed in 1944 and since then it has become Cuzco’s most important festival, the ceremony being re-enacted on 24 June each year. It begins in the morning at Koricancha, the ‘Temple of the Sun’, and progresses to Haukaypata where certain rites are carried out, before the procession winds its way through the streets to the fortress of Sacsayhuaman where the main ceremony and rituals are performed, finishing with sounds of great rejoicing from the people.
Inti Raymi attracts thousands of tourists from all over Peru and the world as the city celebrates for a whole week with street dances, parades and performances from sun-up to sundown.
The word ‘desert’ usually conjures images of dust, sand and rocks, cactus and scuttling creatures and, while the Atacama Desert in northern Chile has all of the above, it also offers many unexpected surprises. Forget your preconceived ideas of a barren desert environment – Atacama is bursting with exceptional experiences just waiting for you to discover.
But to begin, its best kept secret might be the high quality of accommodation. Staying in the desert doesn’t have to mean roughing it and Alto Atacama Desert Lodge and Spa in the oasis town of San Pedro is pure luxury. The hotel’s distinctive architecture is designed to reflect a traditional adobe settlement, blending harmoniously with the surrounding desert landscape. After spending the day exploring, it’s heaven to come back and enjoy all its comforts: the sumptuous beds, soothing music and lighting, and private patios. Six intimate bathing pools, a pampering Spa and sauna, and a relaxing hot tub. Indoor and outdoor dining and lounge areas, cosy open fires, a well-stocked bar and three-course gourmet meals accompanied by an extensive wine list sure to satisfy the most discerning diner.
Perhaps one of the biggest surprises is the palette of colours the desert landscape resents, at different times of the day reflecting the entire spectrum of the rainbow. Earthy yellows, oranges, browns and reds are to be anticipated but the blues, aquas, mauves, deep purples and pinks are an unexpected pleasure.
The Atacama Desert is a photographer’s dream – amazing rock formations to inspire the imagination, spectacular snow-capped Andean mountains and active volcanoes;
colourful salt flats and red, blue, turquoise and green lagoons tinted by their high mineral contents; bubbling mud, geysers spouting steam skywards, and thermal pools to entice the brave from the air’s chilly temperatures; and a surreal lunar landscape so moon-like that NASA tested its robot explorers there prior to their space missions.
There’s also amazing wildlife to challenge a photographer’s reflexes: furry viscachas with their rabbit ears and curly possum-like tails, russet and grey foxes, grazing vicuñas (regal relatives of the llama), rheas pecking among the gravel, pink flamingoes sieving tiny brine shrimp from shallow lakes, geckos scampering between the rock crevices, and great condors circling high on the updrafts of the mountains.
Add to this mix of sensory delights a few unexpected experiences which ensure visiting the Atacama will be something to add to your bucket list. Things like picnicking on a buffet-style gourmet lunch set out beside a shimmering lagoon, watching a herd of vicuñas paddling in icy waters, or enjoying canapés and a glass of wine while watching the sun set across the Andes.
And at the end of the day back at your hotel, reclining on a lounger in the quiet dark and gazing into a starred night sky, snuggling by an open-pit fire and savouring a hearty red, or relaxing in a hot tub as you sip a cocktail and reminisce about the day’s excursions.
Peru, and in particular Lima, has in recent years earned its title as the ‘gastronomy capital’ of Latin America and when you visit the country and experience some of its sensational restaurants, you will soon understand why it so well deserves this accolade. Peruvian chefs have for many years been making their mark on the international restaurant scene. Peruvian gastronomy is among the most diverse in the world, largely as a result of its three different geographical regions – the coast, the mountains and the jungle. The distinctiveness of the different indigenous and immigrant populations has also helped put Peruvian cuisine well and truly on the world stage.
It is no surprise that this innovative restaurant in the city’s Miraflores district is very highly-ranked in the prestigious Pellegrino survey of ‘The World’s 50 Best Restaurants’ – and came in at No. 1 on 2014’s list of ‘Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants’! If you are a lover of fine food this culinary experience will live long in your memory. It is among our very favourite restaurants, and is said by some to be Lima’s finest dining. The restaurant specialises in presenting the amazing diversity of Peruvian gastronomy and the chef delights in discovering new ways to integrate natural ingredients into the dishes; the cuisine is always exciting, occasionally even a little challenging.
Our recommendation is to try one of the two tasting menus on offer – the ‘Mater Elevations’ menu, in particular, is a fascinating food journey. Starting at ‘sea level’ and working your way up, sampling through 17 different dishes, you will quickly discover the incredible variety of produce from Peru’s three main geographical zones.
“It’s tough to get a reservation, but worth the effort. Inventive, local exotic ingredients and beautifully presented. Very, very sophisticated!”. A happy customer – Nov. 2014
Lunch – Mon – Fri from 12:45pm to 3:15pm
Dinner – Mon – Wed from 7:45pm to 11:15pm Thu – Sat from 7:45pm to 11:45pm
The Singular Santiago
Top class design and the finest facilities. Usually located in a spectacular setting it may be an exclusive hotel in a meticulously restored historic building, or recognised as the leading property of an international chain.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
A perfect alternative to the big brand hotels:
exclusive and independently-owned properties with a smaller number of rooms and highly personalised services.
Belmond Hotel das Cataratas
Iguassu Falls, Brazil
High quality with an excellent room standard, a full range of facilities and first-rate service; may be a new property or regularly refurbished with attention to ongoing maintenance.
Near Otavalo, Ecuador
Haciendas ‘estates’ are found across much of South America and may have been plantations, cattle or sheep ranches. Most date from the 18th & 19th centuries and offer guests an opportunity to glimpse the world of the land barons and their famed horsemen. These beautiful colonial residences, set in extensive gardens or on wide farmland, retain their original style and ambiance, with high beamed ceilings, open fireplaces, and spacious rooms filled with antique furnishings.
In the rainforests and jungles of Peru choose from a wide range of eco-lodges – from a comparatively luxurious retreat among the forest, to a complex of thatched cabañas in a lakeside location on a private reserve, to remote and rustic cottages offering a truly authentic experience. All lodges are eco-conscious and dedicated to conservation management and preservation of their environment.
Amazon River, Peru
Often the best way to observe dramatic scenery or experience the wonders in a world of amazing flora and fauna is by boat. And if you are looking for a voyage that will also offer the comfort of excellent facilities, there are several exclusive and sophisticated vessels that will fulfil your wish.
South America Travel Centre can look after all aspects of your holiday, including flights and travel insurance.
We start by asking you what your interests are and where you are interested in, when, for how long, what standard and style of accommodation. Once we have a good understanding of just what you’re looking for, we can begin to create a holiday to meet your time and budget requirements. We then provide you with a quote and a detailed itinerary, once you are happy we collect a 10% deposit. The final balance can be due between 120 (Antarctica) and 60 (standard trips) days depending on the itinerary.
Please book early. Many of the hotels, lodges and cruise vessels we recommend are relatively small, this exclusivity combined with high demand means they can be booked out up to 6-8 months in advance.
If you’re thinking of travelling during any major holidays like Christmas, New Year and Easter, or during any festivals, our advice is simply to book as early as you can, even 12 months or more, and we can add flights as soon as they become available.
Australian citizens require a visa to enter Brazil and Reciprocity fees are paid to enter Chile (at port of entry) and Argentine (online prior to departure). Cuba requires a Tourist Card to be completed prior to arrival. We will help you with any visa requirements.
You will need to hold a valid passport.
We advise you to consult a Travel Doctor specialist prior to departure to assess any health risks in relation to your medical history and travel plans. Vaccinations are advised for common diseases like hepatitis A and B, typhoid as well as influenza and for some countries yellow fever. There are no compulsory vaccinations.
We have access to a wide range of airfares and have excellent relationships with our key airline partners. Our two main airline partners in Latin America are LATAM Airlines, QANTAS Airlines and Air New Zealand. We can also arrange internal flights for you within Latin America.
Irrespective of whether you book directly with us or with your preferred travel agent, we’ll request the details of all of your fights to ensure if there are any changes your transfers and other arrangements are adjusted accordingly.
In very simple terms you can visit year round all bar the southern end of Chile and Argentina which ‘closes down’ form a tourism perspective from June to September.
Please visit individual country pages with regards to the best time to visit each country.
I was welcomed to Chiloe Island with a spectacular sunrise whilst feasting on a hearty breakfast at my accommodation, the luxurious Tierra Chiloe Hotel. I knew this was going to be my kind of place....
I’ve been to impressive national parks – quite a few – and I am the first to admit that I had high expectations of Torres del Paine National Park. I’d seen countless photos, spoken to colleagues and clients who’d been there and raved about it, and had done my research....
The Mashpi Biodiversity Reserve in Ecuador is a part of one of the greatest biodiversity ‘hot spots’ on earth, an uninterrupted rainforest that ecologists call the Chocó-Darién region which once stretched north to south, from Panama all the way to Ecuador, compressed between the Pacific coast and the Andes mountains....
We found our itinerary absolutely perfect. By that I mean not only were our superb boutique hotels great, the guides in each city friendly, courteous, well-spoken and knowledgeable but the time in each city or location and the balance between site seeing “work" and leisure time “play” was also perfect. The most difficult question by friends on our return has been “what was the highlight”. An impossible question when considering the merits of, inter alia, Galapagos Islands, Machu Picchu, Iguazu Falls, Christ the Redeemer, Inti Raymi Festival, Lake Titicaca. The purpose of our trip to South America, in truth, was to see as much as we could of the continent with a view to probably not returning as we explored other opportunities. I have to now say that the chance of us revisiting South America is extremely high.
I write to thank you for organising our recent trip to South America. Everything went like clockwork, and the arrangements were very satisfactory. The guides always turned up at the right time, and the people meeting us at the airports were always there. We had a wonderful trip, and we will have to plan another one now, so that we can see Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia and Uruguay and maybe more. But first it’s back to work to earn some more money! For me the greatest highlight was Machu Picchu; it far exceeded my expectations. Once again, thanks so much, Alistair Macindoe.
We had a fabulous time!! The countries we visited have such a rich and fascinating cultural & geographical diversity. We loved learning about the Incans and visiting the ruins in Peru, we loved seeing all the creatures of the Galapagos Islands and the volcanoes of Ecuador. We loved the magnificent scenery of the Atacama. What a fantastic palette at sunset! The adobe hotel, Altiplanico, was wonderful & San Pedro de Atacama was a funky place. We appreciated the structure of our holiday too, there was a nice blend of guided time and free time. It was nice to be in one place on the boat in Galapagos after moving to a different place each day through Ecuador. Some of the haciendas we visited would be lovely to stay for a longer time. Everything went very smoothly in terms of timely airport transfers & pickups, informative and friendly guides/drivers at all times. The local people were very friendly & were helpful with our attempts at speaking Spanish. We enjoyed the cuisine very much & look forward to trying some home-made Locro de papa soup & Pisco sour. Thanks for helping us with a great holiday. Kind regards Della & John