South America has a lust for life that few others can compete with. The music is loud, the food is good and the dancing doesn’t stop until well into the wee hours. It’s a land of big adventures, the Amazonian rainforest, Patagonian glaciers, Incan ruins and vast Andean peaks setting the stage for once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
There are different facets to a South America cruise. There are the cities, where you’ll eat some of the best meals in your lifetime and come alive as you get to meet the locals. There are UNESCO World Heritage Sites that have up until now been only stories and there are great reaches of the Amazon Rainforest, a place that hums with wildlife and tribes found nowhere else on the planet, many of them having never had contact with the outside world. A cruise to South America is akin to a grown-up gap year, only this time your days are broken up with nights spent in the luxury of a cruise ship, rather than the chaos of a hostel.
Lonely Planet deemed Chile its top country to visit in 2018 and it isn’t hard to see why. For such a tiny slither of land, Chile sure packs a punch and there are simply too many highlights to choose one or two. There are bohemian cities like Valparaiso and sprawling Santiago in the shadow of the Andes. There are the granite spires of Patagonia, the arid Atacama Desert and mysterious Easter Island. The port of Puerto Montt introduces you to Chile’s Lake District, a hub of outdoor adventure and natural beauty, while Chilean Patagonia is breathtakingly beautiful, its fjords and rivers scene stealers.
This 550-year old Incan citadel was left behind by one of the world’s greatest civilisations and plenty of cruise lines can show it to you on a pre or post-cruise land tour. Machu Picchu is a highpoint for visitors to Peru, if not all South America, and it remains one of the most mysterious archaeological sites in the world.
Welcome to the ‘End of the World’, as Ushuaia has come to be known. With the Andes mountains and the Beagle Channel on its edges, the southernmost city in the world was always destined to be a showstopper. Tierra del Fuego National Park is a highlight, its 150,000 acres crammed with sky-reaching peaks, pristine lakes, streams and rivers. Scout for Magellanic penguins at Punta Tombo or Martillo Island Penguin Rookery, follow in Charles Darwin’s wake along the Beagle Channel or take the train to the ‘End of the World’. After all, how many people can say they have been there? Bragging rights guaranteed.
A real bucket list favourite, Rio de Janeiro or the ‘Marvellous City’ is like nowhere else on earth. You realise on an impressive approach into port that this is going to be something very special and the hedonistic city certainly doesn’t disappoint. Arrive to the sounds of samba during Carnival, spending a night or two in a blur of sequins and revelry, or see the city lit with fireworks on New Year’s Eve. Stand at the feet of Christ the Redeemer atop Corcovado, Sugar Loaf Mountain and Rio de Janeiro’s iconic coastline laid out before you, or hit the iconic Copacabana beach.
Manaus looks as if it has been pulled straight from a postcard, with the white sands of the Ponta Negra Beach, the crystal clear waters of the heartwarmingly-named Love Cascade, and the beautiful Paricatuba Waterfall. But the real appeal of this popular South America cruise port is a natural phenomenon known as the ‘Meeting of Waters’. Manaus is where the Rio Negro and Rio Solimoes meet to form the Amazon and despite the two rivers blending into one, each maintains its distinct colour. It’s a spectacle to see and to hear the many local myths that surround it.
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