The group flight is an overnight flight arriving into Buenos Aires the following day.
Those travelling on the group flights will be met at Ezeiza International Airport this morning and transferred to the start hotel in Buenos Aires. The rest of the group will make their own way to the hotel and join us throughout the day.
There will be a briefing in the hotel lobby today (your leader will advise at what time this will be) to meet the group, get an overview of the trip and also to talk about local customs and useful tips.
There are no excursions planned today, so the rest of the day is free to recuperate after the flight or to start to explore the vibrant city of Buenos Aires.
Today we'll have a guided walking tour of the city. We'll start by exploring the neighbourhoods of Palermo, Recoleta, Avenida de Mayo and its famous square, Plaza de Mayo. The bustling neighbourhoods of San Telmo and La Boca with its colourful buildings give a perfect introduction to this diverse and vibrant city.
We take the 'collectivo' (public street bus), local taxis as well as the subway for a real local's view. Today is a fantastic opportunity to try an 'asado' (Argentinian BBQ)! Argentina is famous for its cuisine, but the most famous of them all are the sumptuous steaks - so tender you could cut them with a spoon! In the late afternoon you will be transferred to the station to catch an overnight coach (reclining seats / 8-10hrs) to Mercedes, Corrientes. Dinner will be served on board the coach.
Accommodation: Sleeper Coach
Breakfast this morning will be taken on board the coach.
Upon arrival at the lodge in Mercedes, we will be greeted with a warm welcome from our expert local tour guide, and introduced to the 'gaucho' culture and beliefs by hearing about Gauchito Gil - Argentina's Cowboy Saint. We'll also enjoy a traditional lunch at the lodge; a unique hotel built on sustainable construction with the traditional Corrientes local style using local ecological thermic materials.
This afternoon we set out on a boat trip with a skilled naturalist and birdwatcher to get a fascinating insight into the local wildlife, and you may spot marsh deer, otters, capybaras, black caimans and yellow anacondas. For a very different side to the marshlands you can join a guided night walk and experience the amazing night sounds of the marshes and mysteries of the Iberá wetlands. Nocturnal creatures that inhabit this area include foxes, black armadillos, skunks, raccoons, wild cats, and night birds to name but a few.
After breakfast we leave on this exclusive adventure to Cambá Trapo Marshlands (15km away from the Iberá Lagoon) to experience the life of an authentic Corrientes Gaucho. There will be opportunity to watch and (if you wish) be part of duties in the fields; preparing food, milking cows, and making cheese and home-made sweets. Ride on horseback and walk through the marshlands and palm forests, share a family meal and finally spend the night camping on a typical Corrientes ranch.
A wildlife interpreter and ornithologist will take us through a genuine enchanted forest, visiting three different natural provinces: the Chaco Forest with its beautiful flooded palm groves, the Misiones Jungle and the Entre Rios Forest. Wildlife such as foxes, raccoons, skunks and brocket deer leave their footprints at every step, and there are excellent bird watching opportunities including endangered species such as the Yellow Crested Cardinal. As well as your three staple meals, afternoon tea is also included today and you will get the chance to try Yerba Mate (a traditional herb drink) and typical pastries.
Accommodation: Gaucho camping
We have an early start today as our 4WD journey awaits, and fascinating landscapes dominate the day. Enter the province of Misiones which is world known for being the centre of Yerba Mate production. There will be a stop to visit the Jesuit Ruins of San Ignacio, one of the most important in South America, before continuing to Misiones, arriving in time for a home-made lunch.
After breakfast, we continue heading northwards to reach the incredible and quite breath-taking Iguazu Falls. After leaving the luggage in the hotel, we'll depart on a full day tour to the Argentine side of the falls where we'll have intimate views of this unforgettable section of the Iguazu River. Lower and upper walkways permit up close and personal experiences with this magnificent spectacle of nature. Eagles soar above, rainbows cast themselves at every turn, and thousands of butterflies will make you feel as if you're in a dreamland! Make sure you bring a poncho as you will get wet!
After breakfast we transfer to the airport and fly from the lush surroundings of Iguazu to Salta; a beautiful colonial city with a rich heritage. The impressive architecture in the central squares will guarantee you some great photos.
There will be a short orientation tour of Salta (on foot), and the rest of the afternoon is free for you to explore at your own pace.
Early departure for your tour along the Humahuaca Gorge, declared a UNESCO Heritage Site. You visit Maimará, a small town in the core of the Humahuaca Ravine, famed for the most colourful and picturesque mountains which are said to have been painted by the divine hand, and Paleta del Pintor which is also a UNESCO World heritage site. Today is full of natural beauty along the Tropic of Capricorn, so make sure you pause to take it all in. Spend the night in the cactus-studded town of Tilcara.
After breakfast enjoy a guided trek in the Juella Valley near Tilcara. The walking is fairly easy going (4 to 6 hours walking with little elevation gain/loss), allowing plenty of time to take in the scenery. This is a true green oasis (home to a wide variety of flora), where adobe houses rest against an impressive backdrop of the Andes Mountains.
Begin crossing the Andes through the 'Paso de Jama' (one of the highest international passes in the world) to the desert paradise of San Pedro de Atacama. It is a long drive today (approx. 10 hours travelling by private minibus/coach) but the spectacular and vast Altiplano (high plain) scenery will help pass the time.
Arrive in the afternoon and savour three nights here to unwind, explore and absorb all this small, typically Chilean desert oasis has to offer. Make sure you stock up on alpaca wool jumpers, as it gets chilly at night!
Optional activities which may be available during your stay in San Pedro de Atacama: astronomical tour, sandboarding, hiking Toco Hill, archaeological tour
This morning is at your leisure. In the afternoon (at around 4pm) we'll embark upon a half day excursion to Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley) where for thousands of years the wind has carved strange, desolate shapes, creating a dramatic lunar landscape of eroded hills, surrounding a crust-like valley floor.
You can combine the tour with an optional mountain bike excursion (not included), but whatever you do, don't miss the sunset, it's out of this world!
We will rise early today (at about 4am) to set off on a half-day excursion to the amazing Geysers del Tatio, located at an altitude of 4,300m, making them the highest geyser field in the world. Breakfast is taken in a somewhat atmospheric setting, as we enjoy the spectacle of the fumaroles during sunrise. Take extra clothes because the temperature regularly dips below 0°.
Warm up with a relaxing bath in the natural hot spring water pools (bring swimwear if you plan to have a soak). We should get back at around midday and the rest of the day is free.
This is what you've been waiting for. The monumental 3 day/2 night adventure into the Salar de Uyuni. The dramatic and perpetually changeable scenery has you crossing pure and vast salt pans, valleys of cacti, rolling mountains and towering landscapes. Our first stop is the Uyuni Salt Flats in Bolivia across the Andes, the perfect place for having fun with photos, as your sense of perspective is altered in such a baron white moonscape. We visit the National Reserve 'Eduardo Acaroa', Laguna Blanca, Laguna Verde, thermal waters, Geysers del Sol and Laguna Colorada.
Accommodation: basic mountain hut in shared rooms, with shared bathrooms.
It is an early start today. Climb aboard your 4x4 for something quite unlike anything you have experienced before with some of the best landscapes in South America. A photographer's dream, you'll be spoilt for choice with volcanoes, geysers and abstract rock formations, as well as flamingos, lakes and llamas! This is an incredible opportunity for stargazing - it's not unusual to see the entire Milky Way in high-definition. We will venture to altitudes in excess of 5000m so whilst sleeping in your basic mountain hut it can get very cold (as low as -15°C), but it's worth it for this truly unique experience.
Accommodation: basic mountain hut in shared rooms, with shared bathrooms.
Departing after breakfast, we drive across the Salar de Uyuni to reach Isla del Pescado (Fish Island), an oasis full of tall cacti in the middle of the salt flats, but interestingly, not a fish in sight!
In the early afternoon we make a quick visit the city of Uyuni, with its famous street markets, where you can barter for clothes, salt sculptures and woollen blankets, before continuing northwards on to Potosí, arriving in the evening.
Once one of the continent's largest and wealthiest cities, Potosí still has the feeling of grandeur. There is plenty to see, including the Royal Mint with its fantastic history and splendour, the ornate churches, monuments and the other remnants of this grand colonial city. It sits at 4070m above sea level and is the highest city of its size in the world.
The afternoon is free, however if you wish to take an optional visit to a working mine your leader can help arrange this. The silver mines nearby have been depleted, but iron ore has taken its place and a visit to these working mines is a sobering experience, and although not included in the tour itself a visit is highly recommended.
Optional activity: Mine tour to Cerro Rico
We set off for La Paz early in the morning as we have a lot of ground to cover today (approx. 550km, 7-8hrs driving).
La Paz, a city built on steep hills with a towering, triple-peaked, snow-capped mountain as a backdrop is your reward for a long day's drive. The winding streets and frenetic atmosphere of the second largest city in Bolivia ensure a memorable stay, and you have the rest of the day to explore the city on your own.
Time to say our farewells this morning, as the tour ends today after breakfast. Those travelling on the group flights will be transferred to La Paz International Airport for your overnight flight back to London.
The group flight is an overnight flight arriving into London this morning.