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Private Journeys

Explore and Relax in Argentina and Brazil: Cityscapes and beach time

15 days from £3,410pp

Argentina / Iguazu Falls / Brazil

Itinerary

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Day 1

Arrive in Buenos Aires and your hotel between the centre and Recoleta district.

Transfer to your hotel close to Recoleta district, evocative of the capital’s French or Italian influence, where Evita Perón was laid to rest. During the winter months, wealthy female residents parade the streets in their fur coats and improbable, towering hairstyles, and take afternoon tea in the city’s ornate salons which mingle with newer fast food outlets in this city of economic and social contrasts.

Buenos Aires is an elegant, cultured and cosmopolitan city famed for its interesting museums and the fascinating port district of La Boca, with its cobbled streets and brightly painted houses. It was here that the tango was born, and Diego Maradona honed his footballing skills. The centre of town, focused on the Plaza de Mayo. is home to the colonial heartland, government buildings and churches, as well as chic shopping districts, which have a nostalgic Parisian feel. San Telmo, cradle of the tango and a folksy quarter with many art galleries, lively bars and restaurants and many antiques shops, perfect for a wander around.

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Day 2

Walking tour of Retiro and Recoleta districts.

Guided walking tour of Retiro and Recoleta districts. Buenos Aires has always aspired to be one of the world’s leading cities, never more so than in the early 20th century when the city’s aristocracy enjoyed an unprecedented prosperity. Looking to the Old World for inspiration, leading families sought to replicate the graceful architecture of belle époque France, covering the upmarket residential areas of Retiro and Recoleta with palatial façades lining shady cobbled boulevards.

This walking tour takes you to former palaces and mansions which now have much more practical functions; the Military Society, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the national parks HQ. The Academicist-style Retiro station, built according to British design and with British materials, nevertheless is inspired by the lost illustrious French gares.  After this, follow the meandering Arroyo street with its art galleries, and finally stroll down Alvear Avenue, a small-scale Champs Elysées.

 

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Day 3

Daytime at leisure. Evening visit to a tango show with tango lesson and dinner.

At leisure in Buenos Aires. Stroll around Puerto Madero, the refurbished port district where former dock installations and features have been preserved alongside a string of excellent restaurants and loft conversions. Beyond the city limits, consider a trip across the River Plate to Colonia in Uruguay. Travel along a forest-fringed estuary, dotted with upmarket residences, to this peaceful little port, where you can wander among cobbled streets lined by colonial houses, or have a meal or drink in the yacht club.

Alternatively, venture into the watery delta to the small town of Tigre, set on the banks of the Luján river. Have lunch at one of the restaurants on the shores of the Río Paraná, while watching fisherman at work and river-craft gliding by. A third choice would be a trip out to one of Argentina’s famous estancias (ranches) on the grassy plains of the pampas.

In the evening, we’ll take you to one of the city’s tango halls for a live performance and dinner. Before things get going, you’ll have the chance to take a few steps yourselves during a group tango class for beginners. You can of course opt out if your prefer.

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Day 4

Fly to Puerto Iguazú, transfer to hotel in the national park.

Fly to Puerto Iguazú in the subtropical northeast corner of Argentina (2 hrs).  Your hotel is a short stroll from the Iguazú Falls; it’s the only property inside the national park on the Argentine side. This means you have the advantage of being able to get down to the water’s edge before the day visitors.

The Iguazú Falls are one of the most extraordinary natural phenomena in the world.  A total of 275 falls thunder over a rust-coloured cliff surrounded by dense tropical forest. The U-shaped Devil’s Throat is the most dramatic sight, here the frothing water of the Iguazú river crashes over a 1.5km wide precipice and columns of vapour are thrown skyward. Elsewhere the river flows decorously through the rainforest breaking up into dozens of smaller cascades. You can usually spot colourful toucans and many other exotic birds perched in the foliage above the tumultuous waters.

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Day 5

At leisure at Iguazú Falls.

At leisure to explore the falls.  You might start with a visit to the National Park Visitor Centre, where there is a display illustrating the biodiversity of the region’s tropical rainforest, and from here a little train chugs to Cataratas Station where the Upper Walk begins. This sequence of causeways and passarelles links dozens of tiny basalt islands at the top of the sheer rock face and the walkways cross the myriad of streams of the Iguazú River as they cascade over the lip of the precipice:  the water thunders on to the rocks below.

The train continues to Devil’s Throat Station and from here a kilometre-long walkway leads across the river to the thunderous Garganta del Diablo(Devil’s Throat). From this spectacular vantage point you can feel the incredible power of the water, and the flow is mesmeric as it plummets into the vortex below(Our tip: walk down the path beside the railway track before  the service starts in the morning and you’ll be at the usually crowded Garganta all alone).

 

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Day 6

Visit the Brazilian side of Iguazú Falls. Fly to Rio de Janeiro.

Guided transfer across the border into Brazil, with a stop en route to see the falls from the Brazilian perspective. Fly to Rio de Janeiro (2 hrs) and transfer to your hotel in Copacabana. Rio is the most beguiling, seductive, intriguing and beautiful city on the continent. But it is a multi-layered place: the gulf between the rich and the poor is the greatest of all Latin American countries. Sumptuous apartments overlook the sparkling bays against a backdrop of half-built slum dwellings, favelas, which cling precariously to the hillsides. Rio enjoys a truly awesome location among towering jungle-clad granite mountains, fringed by white-to-toffee coloured sandy beaches that swoop down into the Atlantic surf.

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Day 7

Excursion by cable car to Sugar Loaf mountain.

Visit the world-renowned, hump-backed Sugarloaf Mountain, between the city centre and Copacabana beach in the picturesque bay-side arty quarter of Urca. Its peak is reached by a spectacular cable-car journey (made in two sections), and has views over Copacabana beach, the pinnacle of Corcovado mountain with the illuminated Christ figure on top, the waters of Guanabara Bay and the lush forested mountains beyond. These are especially magical against a tangerine sunset when the twinkling lights of the city are coming on.

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Day 8

Jeep tour of Corcovado mountain, the Tijuca forest and Santa Teresa.

Take an exhilarating guided tour by an open-topped jeep through tropical fruit-laden vegetation up the sheer-sided Corcovado mountain to drink in the views from beside the famous Christ the Redeemer statue on the peak.

Continue to Santa Teresa, the colonial heart of the city which sits on a hill close to the Cathedral in the busy centre. This is a popular residential area for artists and TV personalities who occupy the stately shaded houses lining its cobbled streets. There are plenty of old-fashioned bars, or bodegas. (The ancient rickety tram which climbed around impossibly steep lanes has been renovated). The streets are lined by high walls sheltering museums, parks, art centres, smart restaurants and one or two luxury hotels.

 

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Day 9

Transfer to Paraty.

Private transfer by car down the coast to Paratí, (4-4.5hrs). The winding road is bordered by steep mountains covered in lush Atlantic forest on one side, and the ocean on the other. This enchanting bay-side town is steeped in history; Paraty means ‘river of fish’ in the indigenous Tupi language.

The town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it’s not hard to see why, as you wander through its local boutique-lined cobbled streets, explore glorious baroque churches and check out the local art work in one of the many contemporary galleries. The divine blue, gold and white painted Portuguese architecture has been carefully preserved, and the centre of the town is vehicle-free. There are also some excellent places to eat freshly caught fish on the sea-front. The bay itself is dotted with tropical islands and, rising some 1000m behind the town are forested mountains intersected by rivers and waterfalls.

 

 

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Day 10

Schooner cruise in the bay.

Cruise in a romantic traditional schooner. There are 65 unspoilt, jungle-clad tropical islands in this bay off Brazil’s Emerald Coast and 200 white-gold to russet, pristine beaches around their secluded shores.  On deck, there is plenty of room to sunbathe and watch the exotic and beautiful scenery drift by. Fruit and drinks are served on board, and a buffet lunch is provided on the boat or one of the islands.

You will need to take sun-protection cream, towel and sunhat in addition to beach gear. Perhaps the most rewarding is the swimming: here you are far from the Atlantic rollers and currents of Rio; the jade green water is sparkly clear and bubbling with fish: bring goggles or a snorkel mask.

 

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Day 11

Transfer to Ilha Grande.

Transfer by road and boat to Ilha Grande, on the route back to Rio (3.5hrs). This, the largest of many rugged, forested little islets studding the bays. This exquisite island is much undeveloped, because of its somewhat gruesome history: in the 16th and 17th centuries it was home to a notorious prison, closed in 1994. Now much of the forested inland territory is preserved in an ecological reserve. There are a number of low-key but very agreeable barefoot beach-side pousadas.

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Days 12-13

At leisure on Ilha Grande.

There’s nothing much to do apart from enjoy some of the continent’s most beautiful beaches and coves, accessible by track or boat. There are few roads connecting the tiny settlements and no motorised vehicles are allowed. The Atlantic rainforest remains largely untouched, although several walking trails have been established, so you can appreciate prolific wildlife, including hummingbirds. The only town, Vila do Abraão, consists of a few houses and dirt roads. There are few facilities: no ATMs, and internet access is patchy, but this is a real “getaway” place.

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Day 14

Transfer to Rio.

Transfer back to Rio for one last night and perhaps you’ll go out for a final sumptuous waterside meal.

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Day 15

Transfer to airport for your international flight home.

Inspired by this trip

Our exciting range of articles on Latin America explore everything from iconic destinations and lesser-known cultural gems to delicious traditional recipes. You’ll also find exclusive travel tips, first-hand client reviews and the chance to get your personal questions answered by our travel experts.

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