Coast to Coast …in South America
To celebrate his 6oth birthday, Cox and Kings client Steve Williams embarked on a private tour of South America.
After a long but direct flight on the new British Airways Dreamliner, our first three nights were spent in Santiago, Chile’s capital city. We took a city tour, which included the pre-Columbian History Museum, the vast and colourful fruit market and a visit to San Cristóbal hill and the Virgen de la Inmaculada Concepción statue. From here there were impressive views over the city.
The next day we went on a full-day excursion to the Pacific coastal city of Valparaiso. The 90-minute journey passed through the Maipo Valley wine region, where the many vineyards produce some excellent wines. The seaport of Valparaíso has many steep hills lined with colourful houses. We had an interesting visit to La Sebastiana, the quirky home of poet Pablo Neruda, and finished our afternoon with a dip in the sea at the pretty beach resort of Viña del Mar.
Painted houses on the hills of Valparaíso © Steve Williams
We then flew south to Patagonia. We stayed just outside the Torres del Paine National Park where we saw snow-capped mountains, turquoise lakes and thundering waterfalls. This was an amazing area of natural beauty. The views and the serenity were awe inspiring.
Snow-capped Mountains of Torres del Paine © Steve Williams
Next we had our most arduous day: a 7-hour road journey across the border into Argentina, staying in El Calafate. We toured Los Glaciares National Park. The highlight here is the hugely impressive Perito Moreno glacier. The rigours of the transfer were soon forgotten as we saw the scale and beauty of this still-advancing field of ice.
Los Glaciares National Park © Steve Williams
Another flight took us to Buenos Aires, the vibrant and cosmopolitan capital of Argentina. This big, bustling city was awash with a variety of architectural styles, influenced by European settlers that have come here over the centuries. Our tour highlights were the colourful and bohemian neighbourhood of La Boca and the interesting La Recoleta cemetery where Eva Perón is buried. In Buenos Aires we enjoyed our best meals: delicious (and huge) steaks washed down by a local Malbec wine. We also escaped the city for a lovely day in the countryside at one of the estancias (rural estates) to the north of the city and rode horses for the first time in our lives!
Buenos Aires © Steve Williams
Our final transfer saw us fly to Brazil and, of course, Rio de Janeiro. Our hotel room faced directly onto Copacabana beach and we enjoyed two days relaxing on the golden sands and in the Atlantic Ocean. That was after I had celebrated my birthday with an unforgettable day trip up the granite peak of Corcovado to see the Christ the Redeemer statue and then to Sugar Loaf mountain to see the city from above. Our guide that day was Luana and she, like the previous guides, was charming, helpful and spoke perfect English. We returned to the hotel to be surprised by a birthday cake and a bottle of wine, a lovely touch from Cox & Kings.
Copacabana Sunrise © Steve Williams
This really was the trip of a lifetime. There were so many amazing sights and contrasts, from huge cities to remote wilderness, and the cooler temperature of Patagonia to the 39-degree heat of Rio. The local guides, residents and hotel and restaurant staff were all extremely welcoming. A truly unforgettable visit to South America.