South America can also be one of the world’s more daunting continents when it comes to looking after the little things, like transfers, tipping, and reliable local advice. More than that, how do you crack open the door to those special, unique local experiences that make all the difference, particularly if you don’t speak Spanish or Portuguese? Goway’s Holidays of a Lifetime are designed to take care of all those little details, letting our Globetrotters focus on what’s really important, the luxury travel experience! More than that, an expert Goway Tour Director can open the door to reservations at the best local restaurants (not simply the trendiest, or the most popular on TripAdvisor), as well as some experiences most tourists never get to enjoy. All that’s before we get to Goway’s exclusive “Promise of Something Special.”
When it comes to South America’s most popular itineraries, two usually spring to mind. One opens up Peru, while the other connects Argentina and Brazil via the astonishing Iguassu Falls. To that end, Goway has crafted two Holidays of a Lifetime, each designed to enhance one of these classic itineraries over 9 days. The two can also be combined to create the ultimate South America experience over 17 days.
Bountiful Brazil and Marvelous Rio
With its awesome size, low percentage of English speakers, and an often unfair reputation for danger, Brazil remains untouched by many would-be visitors who’d otherwise love it. My own visit to the country ranks among the best trips of my life. Whether it was walking along Copacabana Beach, watching the sun set behind the striking Dois Irmaos (an iconic rock formation at the western end of the Ipanema / Leblon beaches), exploring the neighbourhoods and heady nightlife of Sao Paulo, immersing myself in a vast outdoor art museum, or catching that first glimpse of Iguassu Falls, this country left me with unforgettable memories and an unshakeable desire to return.
Granted, I had a few tricks up my sleeve, particularly the invaluable help of several local friends in the less “touristy” cities of Sao Paulo and Belo Horizonte. I also enjoyed the benefit of a top-notch private guide on my first day in Rio. Brazil is an adventure, but a little expert help can make all the difference in opening up this massive country beyond its big ticket attractions.
While I will happily defend Sao Paulo against any naysayers, there’s no shaking Rio de Janeiro’s place as the one Brazilian city first-timers absolutely must experience. Rio is the perfect fusion of Brazil’s history, its natural beauty, its resilience, and its tireless appetite for a good party. If you happen to be on Goway’s Samba, Tango, and Waterfalls Holiday of a Lifetime (or the Signature South America that combines it with the Peru trip), you’ll stay right on the esplanade of Copacabana Beach. Not a bad introduction to A Cidade Maravilhosa (The Marvelous City).
Getting around Rio on your own can be time consuming, so having a tour take you to the famous Corcovado Tram saves a lot of time and energy. The tram ride itself takes about 20 minutes, rising through the lush greenery that covers the mountain on the edge of the Tijuca Rainforest. At the peak, stretch out your arms for a photo with Christ the Redeemer (don’t worry, everyone’s doing it). You can even lay down on padded cushions for the best angle. Of course, Jesus has to share the attention with one of, if not the best view in Rio. There is simply no better panorama of the city to be seen on this luxury travel tour, stretching from Maracana Stadium in the north, to Leblon Beach in the south. But just for comparison’s sake, take in the view from Sugar Loaf as well, which rises from the Urca district just north of Copacabana, and is reached via what was only the world’s third cable car system. The city tour included with Goway’s Holiday of a Lifetime takes you to both.
To explore Rio properly however, you need to hit the streets, specifically the streets of downtown, where the city’s legends were made. These include Carmen Miranda, whose childhood door is commemorated with a simple plaque. Lunch is at another Rio icon, Confeitaria Colombo. I wasn’t lucky enough to try the buffet here, but I can vouch for the quality and addictiveness of the pastries! It’s a touch on the pricey side by Rio standards, but you’re here to indulge, and since a Holiday of a Lifetime includes most meals (including the buffet lunch), you have every excuse to leave your diet at the door and embrace this luxury travel experience – leaving room for sweets, of course! Your afternoon is a bit more relaxed, but if you have a chance before dinner, try to get to the rocks at Aproador – at the eastern end of Ipanema Beach – for a sunset you’ll never forget.
Dinner at the end of this perfect Rio day is at Chief Orini’s Hotel Cipraini Restaurant, inside the famed Copacabana Palace Hotel. Its reputation among Rio locals and visitors alike is legendary, and rightly so. A Holiday of a Lifetime itinerary makes it an extra special evening, reserving you the Chef’s Table, and giving you the chance to follow Chef Orini as he prepares the day’s specialties.
Take a day away from the trendy beaches and familiar icons of Rio. Your day’s destination? Petropolis, located an hour north of Rio de Janeiro. Also known as “The Imperial City,” the palace of Dom Pedro II remains here, along with the gothic cathedral that looms over the beautiful old mansions and public squares.
Taming the World’s Widest Waterfalls
As spectacular as Rio is, if you’re combining it with Buenos Aires, there really is only one way to go between the two. Two nights at Iguassu Falls is simply a must-do if you’re visiting these two countries for the first time. Each side offers a unique perspective of the falls, with the Brazilian side offering a jaw-dropping panorama, while the Argentinean side takes you in for a closer look at this incredible waterfall system. The widest falls system in the world, Iguassu actually comprises up to 275 falls spread over a mile and a half, with flow rates depending on the season.
Seeing the essentials on the Brazilian side of the falls doesn’t actually take much more than an hour or two. The walk is gentle, the views are spectacular the entire way, and there’s an opportunity to get wet on the boardwalk that stretches out for views of Devil’s Throat, the apex of the falls on the Argentina side (I’ve never held on so tightly to a camera in my life!), where the water is at its wildest. There is, however, only one place to stay overnight inside the Iguassu Falls National Park, and that’s at the Belmond Hotel Das Cataratas. Sure enough, this is your accommodation on your Holiday of a Lifetime. A South American cultural show at a Churrascaria completes the perfect day on the Brazilian side.
Cross the border into Argentina, and the views of Iguassu are quite different. Arguably the best place to start is by visiting the platform overlooking Devil’s Throat. Standing high above the ball of mist thrown up by the churning waters in wet season gives a new appreciation of their power. Diving in and out of the deluge are flocks of birds, who live safely behind the water’s natural curtain. A day on the Argentinean side is all about getting close to nature, as you wander the forest tracks, exploring new views of the falls.
Feeling the Rhythm of Buenos Aires
Most visitors seeing both sides of Iguassu Falls opt to stay on the Brazilian side, where accommodation and dining options are more plentiful. So your first real taste of Argentinean culture comes at the centre of it all, Buenos Aires. An intoxicating mix of South American, Italian, Spanish, and numerous other influences, Argentina’s capital rewards aimless exploration and the patience to delight in the little things, rather than rushing to see “big name” attractions. A few days in Buenos Aires is all about great food, art, nightlife, and diving into the country’s cultural offerings, on your luxury travel to South America. A professional tango show on your first night here is a great start.
Another cultural cornerstone of Argentina is the hacienda, a traditional farm and home to the iconic gaucho – Argentina’s cowboy. For visitors, it’s an opportunity to enjoy traditions that date back over a century and are little changed today, including music, equestrian activities (polo, not soccer, is Argentina’s national sport), working gaucho skills, and of course Argentinean cuisine served with matching wines. There’s nothing quite like sharing an asado or parilla serving up the freshest meats – including the ever-popular bife de chorizo – in Argentina’s open air.
Let’s talk for a moment about Argentina’s cuisine. Argentinean steak is wonderful and you should absolutely enjoy it at every opportunity. But it’s far from the whole story, and if you order it at every meal, you’ll wind up missing out on a lot. When the Italians arrived, they brought their culinary traditions with them, and in the years since, they have evolved on their own terms, giving Argentine cuisine such unique specialties as sweet alfojores, the ubiquitous milanesa (the napolitana variation is a personal favourite), and the best pizza you’ll try outside of Italy. Some would even say… well, it’s blasphemy, but you get the idea.
Just as important to Argentina’s cuisine is its wine. Now, I’m sure if you’re serious about visiting Argentina, you’ve tried its famous Malbec at home. But be sure to also sample crisp Torrentes, Pinot Noir from Patagonia, and the ever-bold Cabinet Sauvignon. On your Holiday of a Lifetime, dinner on your first full Argentina day brings all of these staples together. You’ll embark on an exclusive wine tour, dine at a cozy restaurant in the trendy Palermo district, and have the chance to try milanesa.
All right, the food alone may have secured Argentina my undying love, but there’s plenty to see in Buenos Aires itself, starting with La Boca, the colourful, if slightly rough-and-ready neighbourhood around the city’s old port. Visit Plaza de Mayo, Argentina’s centrepiece of politics, history, and religion. I mean that quite literally. The three primary attractions here are the Casa Rosada, from which Eva Peron addressed her adoring constituents, the Cabildo, a former seat of colonial government that now houses a museum, and the Metropolitan Cathedral, now best known as the former seat of Pope Francis. The afternoon is spent exploring the well-to-do neighbourhood of Recoleta and its famous namesake cemetery, and Palermo, which young, professional, and creative Portenos have turned into one of the city’s most happening areas.
So ends Goway’s Samba, Tango, & Waterfalls Holiday of a Lifetime. Of course, if you’re booked on the Signature South America Holiday of a Lifetime, your journey doesn’t end there, and if you booked the Cradle of the Incas Holiday of a Lifetime, it’s only just beginning…
The Ancient Perfection of Peru
While Globetrotters tend to focus their Peru vacations around Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley (and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that), many make the mistake of bypassing Lima, Peru’s national capital and one of the world’s fastest rising urban escape destinations. In Lima, you can visit a pre-Inca pyramid right in the centre of town, see the influences both native Andean and conquering forces have had in shaping the modern Peru, and if you’re on a Goway Holiday of a Lifetime, tour a family’s private art collection in the exclusive San Isidro district. Perhaps most importantly, dine in one of the world’s great foodie destinations. It’s what Peru puts on your plate that has all eyes on Lima right now. Small wonder, given Peru has been named the World’s Leading Culinary Destination at the World Travel Awards for six years running. On a Holiday of a Lifetime, you’ll even dine among the pre-Inca ruins of Huaca Pucllana.
It’s fitting then, that on arriving in Cusco, the ancient Inca capital that today embodies the country’s rich cultural heritage, Holiday of a Lifetime Globetrotters get to try their hand in the Peruvian kitchen. After hand-crafting (and eating) some traditional Andean dishes, the day ends with a sundowner overlooking the city. This sets the perfect mood for contemplating what’s to come – the journeys to the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu.
Machu Picchu isn’t as close to Cusco as many people think, and there are so many smaller sites worth seeing on the way that the trip is best broken up into several stages. Spend a night in the Sacred Valley, admiring the Inca architecture and planning, and visiting the famous Pisac Market. The following day is devoted to Machu Picchu itself. You don’t have to do the physically demanding Inca Trail to experience the sheer “wow” factor of seeing the ancient city for the first time.
There’s something almost mythic about seeing Machu Picchu’s ruins in between the two peaks at the top of the Andes. What was its original purpose? Why was it abandoned? So many questions shroud the site, like the mists that clear to reveal it each day. A guided tour here is tremendously beneficial, as it unlocks stories of Machu Picchu you probably wouldn’t discover just touring on your own. Of course, it’s a physical day of exploration as well, so a complimentary massage back at Sumaq Hotel – conveniently located in Aguas Calientes, in the valley below Machu Picchu – is a godsend on this luxury travel experience.
To get the most out of your time at Machu Picchu, get an early start the following day and enjoy some time exploring on your own. Some even choose to scale Huayna Picchu (must be booked in advance) for a view from the other side of the ruins, or hoof it to the Sun Gate for more great perspectives. Then return to Lima, stopping one more night in Cusco, followed by a night in Lima with a visit to the Larco Museum, where 3000 years of Peruvian history put your adventure into perspective – all before a delicious farewell dinner at the museum’s exquisite restaurant, of course!
Whether you choose to see Brazil and Argentina, Peru, or the epic combination of all three, South America has sights, tastes, and experiences to keep you coming back again and again. With the keys to those rare and special experiences at your fingertips, why not take that extra step and make your South American adventure a luxury travel experience with Goway’s Holidays of a Lifetime?
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