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You’ve traveled to Europe and perhaps a few countries in Asia, and now you’ve decided to explore South America, which is a wonderful idea, but don’t approach travel down south in the same manner as you would when planning on a tour of Europe. South America is quite different from other continents. Travel between countries is not like going from England to France or from Switzerland to Italy.
Our suggestion is to first check the map of the continent. You'll note that it is about twice the size of Europe, with a long mountain range, stretching from north to south, with rivers and jungles. There are fifteen sovereign countries, each with its own laws and currencies. There are no super highways such as the Autobahn or Autostrade del Sole, as a matter of fact, there are hardly any superhighways at all. Also don’t expect trains connecting countries, as there very few trains that even connect cities within a particular country. The main modes of transportation are to fly between cities and countries, take a cruise ship that goes around the coast, or ships which travel through parts of the Amazon River.
So what is the best way to satisfy your taste for Latin American people, food, music and scenery? The answer is simple: contact your travel agent and discuss with her/him where you wish to tour. You’ll probably have to decide on one or two countries, and your agent will guide you to the right tour.
The most frequently requested itineraries are for Peru, Ecuador & the Galapagos Islands on the west coast of the continent. In addition, some people want to visit Bolivia and Chile. To find a tour which covers all of these west coastal countries is next to impossible, but you can combine Ecuador and Peru, and such a tour will combine Machu Picchu, some of the Galapagos. Tours such as this will include cruising to the Islands, train up the mountain to Machu Picchu, flights between the countries and some road travel (but not much). It might be wiser to concentrate on Peru; there is much to see in this rather small country: Cuzco (Indian markets for wonderful Peruvian arts and crafts, sweaters of Alpaca wool); Machu Picchu, the “Lost City of the Incas”, which for many is a destination in itself. An overland trip will take you to Puno on Lake Titicaca. Then, perhaps, a flight-seeing tour of the world-famous Nazca Lines. End this fantastic journey in Lima, capital with the history of the Spanish conquerors ever present.
Another popular tourist combination is a journey to hot and sassy Rio de Janeiro, then a flight to Iguassu Falls (not to be missed!) and then fly to Buenos Aires, the “Paris of South America” and savor a wonderful city…museums, restaurants, opera house and concert halls, history, history, history. Some tours will continue to Bariloche in the heart of Patagonia’s Lake District; beautiful scenery near the very south of South America. And then, on to Santiago, Chile. This may be the answer to your desire to see as much of South America as possible in one tour, because from Santiago you can fly to Lima, Peru and immerse yourself in Peruvian life, as described above. You will, however, need about 21 days to fulfill this itinerary.
Let us help you plan the perfect South America vacation.