The ABC route covering Argentina, Brazil and Chile is perfect to get a flavour of the continent
Arrive in Brazil’s largest and richest city, the country’s business hub and world’s seventh-largest metropolitan area. Visit the Gothic Metropolitan Se Cathedral, the Museu Paulista do Ipiranga, the Bandeirantes monument, the São Paulo Museum of Art, and the magnificent Ibirapuera Park, which contains a museum, a planetarium, an auditorium, and more than 2 million square metres of green space, including a full-fledged Zen garden.
Take a direct flight from Sao Paulo to Manaus, a colonial city on the banks of the Rio Negro in the heart of the Amazon forest. The city’s charming history is represented by its architecture, most of it constructed in the 19th century. Today, it is best known as the gateway to the Amazon River Basin. An hour’s boat ride takes you deep into the heart of the jungle where you can experience the essence of this magnificent rainforest. Baby alligator sightings are common.
Minas Gerais is known primarily for its colonial art and architecture found in the cities of Ouro Preto, Tiradentes, Serro and Diamantina. As the names suggest, gold and diamonds were once a big export from this region. Minas Gerais, owing to its wealth and isolation from the rest of the world, has its own unique style of art called Barocco Mineiro, evident in its paintings, sculptures and churches.
Rio de Janeiro
This is the city you have been waiting to see all your life. Ipanema and Copacabana beaches have been made famous in song. Arpoador is for the family. Abrico Beach is where you might want to go nude, because you can—it’s legal. Barra de Tijuca is where you go for solitude. Leblon is where you shop and party. Take a cable car to the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain for one of the most exciting views in the world. Also, pay a visit to the iconic Christ the Redeemer.
Back to nature, and also the cross-over point between Brazil and Argentina. The mighty waterfalls of Iguazu are a breathtaking display of nature. Tumbling into a 70-metre canyon, this foaming extravaganza extends over 250 falls for 22 km, through the sub-tropical jungle bridging Brazil and Argentina. On the Argentinean side, check out the Devil’s Throat, where the water plunges down a U-shaped cleft and splashes back up in tall, misty plumes.
A lush, verdant landscape, imposing mountains and its lovely towns are what make Córdoba a stunning destination. Over here, Argentina’s grandest campos (farms) offer an experience of the country’s wild-west traditions. Whatever activity you choose, Cordoba will stun you. Watch a polo game, or enjoy a day at a spa, followed by a flute of wine watching a sunset in the sierras. On offer are full-moon horse rides, taking a dip in natural pools and paragliding over the landscape.
Allow yourself the luxury of sipping a fine Argentinean Malbec, made from Mendoza’s signature grape, while kicking back in its vineyards. This is your food and wine leg of the trip. Sign up for a private lesson in the art of the Argentine barbecue, called an asado. Summer activities in Mendoza include trekking, rafting, horse riding; in winter snowboarding is the rage here.
There couldn’t be a better city to break your journey at. Loudly unapologetic, gorgeous and utterly mesmerising, it exudes its own unique sensuality, whether through the passion of the tango or the flamboyance of its residents. Culture aficionados will love BA’s world-class opera houses and innovative art galleries. In addition, you have top-notch restaurants for the foodie, and some of the best shopping money can buy.
This could very well be termed a natural zoo. Whales can be spotted regularly as they return every year to give birth in the bays around the area. The clear waters breed a mind-boggling variety of creatures. Bottle-nosed dolphins, Killer Whales, countless elephant seals and adorable Magellanic penguins can all be spied upon from close quarters. Stay at one of the plush estancias, or forest lodges.
Ushuaia is the southernmost city in the world and has stunning scenery: rugged mountains, picturesque lakes and verdant forests. It is considered to be among the top 10 places in the world for fly-fishing and adventure trekking. Visit the Tierra del Fuego National Park under the expert guidance of forest rangers; this can be done by car, on foot, or by boat. Stay at one of the resort hotels in the provincial capital of Ushuaia.
Torres del Paine National Park, Chile
The fabulously scenic Torres del Paine can be accessed from Puerto Natales, the main hub for expeditions all around it. Choose from the one-day or multi-day hike options; you may either camp out or stay in one of the wilderness lodges. The beauty of the park is around the lakes and waterfalls, with an opportunity to spot local wildlife such as condors and guanacos. The jagged and rugged Blue Towers create an outstanding monolithic backdrop to your trek.
Chile has its own beautiful lake district, with national parks and rugged volcanos, all of which can be accessed from the town of Puerto Montt. View the magnificent snow-capped Osorno volcano reflected in the mill-pond waters of Lake Llanquihue on your visit to Puerto Varas. The Petrohue Falls and the Todos Los Santos Lake are a must-see. Also consider hopping over to the nearby island of Chiloe.
Valparaiso and Vina del Mar
Avoid the city of Santiago if you wish, and head west to the sister-cities of Valparaíso and Viña del Mar, both of which are utterly quaint and charming. Viña is Chile’s prime beach resort during summer, perfect for spending days by the water. Also, check out its elegant casino by night. The grape harvest in autumn makes the charming wineries in the valley come to life. For a perfect ski-experience, visit Santiago in the winter, as the best ski slopes are only an hour away.
The Salt Mountains
Atacama Desert, Chile
The Salt Mountains are rugged, surreally-shaped, and a not-to-be-missed sight in the Atacama Desert. The best time for viewing is at sunset, when the colours change from red to purple and then black. The mountains are mainly red-tinged with white spots of calcium sulphate, giving them their name, The Salt Mountains. In the midst of these, the Licancabur Volcano can be spotted a hundred kilometres away.
Atacama Desert, Chile
This is one of the most visited places in San Pedro and is located 17 km from downtown San Pedro. Named for its incomparable beauty, and its resemblance to the moon’s surface, this wonderful natural phenomenon is a result of the Atacama Desert clashing with the Andes. The valley is best viewed at twilight, with the setting sun lighting up the landscape in a variety of colours. Full moon nights are particularly spectacular.