An Adventure… in South America
Buenos AiresWe travelled to Buenos Aires directly from London and were met and taken to the hotel Legado Mitico in the beautiful and energetic Palermo district. The hotel features rooms named after Argentinian artists and writers, with examples of their work in each one. An excellent guide took us round the Recoleta cemetery and dropped us at La Biela cafe, populated by statues of celebrated Argentinian writers taking tea.
La Biela cafe © David and Helen Cockcroft
MendozaFrom Buenos Aires we went to Mendoza where we stayed at a lovely boutique vineyard hotel called Club Tapiz. The first day was spent wine tasting and on the second we toured the vineyard. We learned a lot more about Argentinian wines and, thanks to the internet, ordered several cases from London suppliers for delivery.
BarilocheBariloche is in the Argentinian Lake District. We stayed at the Aldebaran, a small, friendly hotel on a peninsula, 30 minutes’ drive from Bariloche town. It had a pleasant restaurant and a terrace where we watched a glorious sunset while sipping on gin and tonics. We also took the chairlift up to Campanario hill for superb views and visited the stunning Llao Llao Hotel.
The view from Campanario hill, Bariloche © David and Helen Cockcroft
Puerto VarasAfter two days in Bariloche, we embarked on a fascinating journey to Puerto Varas in Chile. Three lakes and three buses later we arrived at our hotel in Puerto Varas for the night. It’s a charming lakeside town with German historical connections and architecture, including the Iglesia del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús (Sacred Heart of Jesus Church), which looks as if it is straight from the Black Forest.
Puerto Varas (on a clear day)The only disappointment with the lake crossing was the cloud, which hid most of the spectacular volcano that dominates Puerto Varas.
Puerto NatalesWe then took a short flight to Punta Arenas and were met by a very knowledgeable tour guide/driver who took us on a long drive to Puerto Natales, the main gateway to Torres del Paine National Park, where we stayed overnight.
Puerto Natales townUnfortunately I had lost a crucial piece of Chilean paperwork from my passport and was recommended to visit the tourist police station late at night. A stroll into town found a policeman who was delighted to have something to do on his night shift and quickly issued a replacement.
Torres del PaineThe next day we were taken on a full-day tour of the Torres del Paine National Park, a part of Latin America about which we knew nothing before our holiday.
Torres del Paine © David and Helen CockcroftWe saw remarkable mountain scenery and wildlife – a lake full of flamingoes and herds of guanacos with condors soaring overhead. We finished in the Hotel Rio Serrano. It was the most touristy hotel we stayed in during the trip, but it had the most spectacular views of the entire Torres del Paine massif and the Chilean ice sheet.
Hotel Rio SerranoThe next day we did a hike in the park to see guanacos at close quarters, nandus (a type of rhea) and silver foxes out hunting.
A family of guanacos © David and Helen CockcroftWe then walked up to see the 6,000-year-old cave paintings. In any European museum they would have been carefully preserved under glass but here they just had a “Do not touch” sign.
Cave paintings © David and Helen CockcroftThe next day we took a boat trip up the river, saw several glaciers and entered the O’Higgins National Park. Among the incredible views were the most beautiful lenticular clouds, unlike anything we had ever seen before.
El CalafateThe next day we crossed by car overland into Argentina (smooth handover from Chilean guide to Argentinian guide and maybe 20 minutes’ wait at the border). From there we were driven to el Calafate, which was our base for the visit to the Perito Moreno glacier. This glacier, renowned on YouTube for its collapsing ice arch, which occurs about every four years, was truly spellbinding.
Perito Moreno glacierWe took the scheduled boat trip but the real views were from the kilometres of carefully constructed walkways where we were just a short distance from the glacier itself. Our outstanding guide here arrived complete with satellite photographs of the ice sheet and glaciers and was able to talk about everything including the geology, wildlife and history of the early settlers.
UshuaiaFrom El Calafate we flew south to Ushuaia, the capital of Tierra del Fuego. We stayed in a new hotel, the Arakur, which had impressive views and could be seen for miles in each direction.
Arakur hotel, UshuaiaWe took a boat trip in the Beagle Channel and spotted lots of sea lions as well as a huge array of seabirds including cormorants. An afternoon hike round the national park included a quick look at the ‘southernmost railway in the world’.
Sea lion colony © David and Helen CockcroftThe next day we went to the Isla Martillo, or Penguin Island, part of the Estancia Haberton. It was an unforgettable penguin experience: there were thousands of Magellan and gentoo penguins nesting, and a couple of stray king penguins that had somehow wandered in from their home in South Georgia. We were given strict instructions to stay 2 metres away from the penguins. However, the same rule didn't apply to the penguins themselves; the only minor injury I incurred on the trip was being pecked on the back of the leg by a cross penguin who clearly thought we were getting too close to its nest.
David and Helen on Isla Martillo © David and Helen Cockcroft
Iguazu FallsFrom Ushuaia we flew north via Buenos Aires to Iguazu. We landed on the Argentinian side but our guide promptly took us over the border to Belmond das Cataratas, located inside the Brazilian national park. This was, without doubt, the best of all the excellent hotels that we stayed in. We treated ourselves to the falls-view room, which was worth the extra for the sunset alone.
Sunset over Iguazu Falls © David and Helen CockcroftThe falls themselves were breathtaking (I’m running out of adjectives!) and the half-day tour we took on the Argentinian side was the perfect way to see them. We walked about 7km along high, medium and low walkways, and saw every possible view of the 3.5 kilometres of waterfalls (they reckon there are about 45 separate waterfalls but aren't sure), plus enormous lizards, raccoons, catfish and millions of butterflies, which settled on everything they could find, including us.
Iguazu Falls © David and Helen CockcroftThe second day we took the ‘wet’ boat trip from the Brazilian side, which was great fun. The huge advantage of the hotel is that it is inside the national park, which closes at 6pm, so we could walk along the walkways viewing the falls and, where there had been coachloads of tourists an hour before, there was now just us and a couple of other hotel guests. The hotel also had the loveliest swimming pool, of which we took full advantage.
David and Helen at Iguazu Falls © David and Helen CockcroftFrom there we flew to Rio de Janeiro and to the superb Belmond Copacabana Palace hotel. We explored Corcovado and Sugar Loaf Mountain, and hugely enjoyed dining on the beach. Overall it was an excellent private tour to places we knew initially nothing about until they were suggested. There were no disappointments, and the tour guides were all of exceptional quality. We would have no hesitation in recommending Cox & Kings to anyone who wants to discover more about Argentina, Chile and Brazil. Read more about South America > Share: