There will be a welcome meeting at 6pm. Your leader will leave a note at reception telling you where and when this important meeting will take place. Please ask a member of reception for this information. Our adventure begins in the Cidade Maravilhosa (Marvellous City). The locals like to say that 'God made the world in six days, the seventh he devoted to Rio'. In this heaving metropolis, set against the luminescent green of Guanabara Bay and surround by the slopes of Sugar Loaf Mountain and Corcovado, it's hard not to be caught up in the Carioca's (residents) passion. The French were the first to settle here as they logged wood along the Brazilian coast, but they were soon driven out by the Portuguese, who built a fortified town and named it Sao Sebastiao do Rio de Janeiro and quickly amassed wealth in the gold rush of Minas Gerais. In the 19th century, the Portuguese monarchy fled from the threat of Napoleon in Europe to Rio where they built grand buildings, still in existence today. These days Rio is known best for its contrasting images of favelas (shanty towns) and the glitz and glamor of Carnaval. The northern zone in the steep hillsides is where most of the favelas reside, while the southern zone is for the middle classes and the rich. To get oriented, or to just look on in awe, head to the top of Sugar Loaf by cable car for some incredible views. Another view not to be missed is from the feet of Christ the Redeemer, standing atop Corcovado with arms open wide. Or for some seriously eye-popping people watching, head down to the white sand beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema. Please note we leave Rio tomorrow morning, so we strongly recommend you arrive in Rio one or two days before the trip starts to see all the sights. Please contact us if you want us to assist you with any pre departure accommodation.
This morning we pack up and head out to visit the Corcovado before travelling bus or minivan to Paraty (approx. 5-7 hours). Sitting between Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, Paraty is a great place to 'get away from it all'. This is one of the world's best preserved Portuguese colonial towns and is now a World Heritage Site. The town was originally settled in 1531 on the opposite side of the river, but in the 17th century the Indians who lived there were driven away and the town moved. Paraty later became a booming port town, famous for its sugar cane liquor but, after the abolition of slavery, it slowly became forgotten. With the opening of new roads, the town was 'rediscovered' and declared a national monument. Take the time to explore the cobbled, pedestrian-only streets. At high tide, some are partly covered in sea water, adding to the rustic, colonial charm. The water of the bay is always just the right temperature for swimming and the surrounding national parks are filled with trails, wildlife and waterfalls. Get out and explore them by foot, bike or jeep. The patron saint of the town is Our Lady of the Medicines. Three hundred years ago a wealthy benefactor donated land for a church in her on, in return she asked only for an annual mass. Now, every year a wooden effigy of the virgin, adorned with silver is carried in a procession through the town during the Festa de Nossa Senhora dos Remedios.
On our full day here we'll take a boat trip (simple lunch included) around some of the most beautiful islands that the Bay of Paraty has to offer. Our hotel in Paraty is a locally owned and run star Pousada, conveniently located near the old town, close to cafes, restaurants and the port.
Today is a long travel day. We start early in the morning and travel by minivan to Sao Paulo (approx. 5-6 hours) before flying to Iguazu Falls (approx. 1.5 hours) From the airport you travel by minivan to the Brasilian side of the falls (2-3 hours visit). Finally you travel by minivan again to Puerto Iguazu - Argentina (0.5 to 1 hour).
The next day you visit the Argentinean side of the falls. Legend has it that a serpent god intended to marry a beautiful girl called Naipi. She escaped in a canoe with her mortal lover Caroba and in a jealous rage the god chased them, collapsing the river before them so that Naipi plunged over the falls to become a rock, while Caroba became a tree, forever unable to touch his love. A more scientific explanation is that the Rio Iguazu flows over a riverbed of basalt that ends where the lava cooled, leaving the water to fall. The falls were 'discovered' in the modern day by the Spaniard Juan Alvar Nunez, who named them Saltos de Santa Maria. The name we know them by today means 'great waters' in the Tupi-Guarani tongue. The Argentinean side is equipped with boardwalks that get up close to the thundering waters - you are almost able to touch them. For a more adrenaline pumping falls experience, it's possible to see them from below on a optional zodiac boat ride or take an optional helicopter ride right over the top. Tonight your leader will take you out (or cook) for an included traditional Argentinean asado. Our accommodation in Iguazu is a locally owned and run hotel right in town. On hot days you may want to spend the last hours of the day by the pool.
Today we fly to Buenos Aires, the ultimate cosmopolitan city. With Latin passion, European elegance and a distinctive style all of its own, this is a city that will steal your heart. The Portenos (the local residents) are justifiably proud of their city which is comprised of distinct neighbourhoods, each with their own style.
The following day your leader will take you on an orientation walk, perhaps visiting San Telmo and its antiques market and artists' displays, La Boca home to the world-class football team Boca Juniors, Recoleta or the Casa Rosada (Pink House) among other attractions. You have the afternoon free to explore on your own. Tonight your leader will take you out for an included dinner. In Buenos Aires we stay in a centrally located 3 star standard hotel.
There are no activities planned for today and you are able to depart the hotel at any time. Check out time from the hotel is 10:00am. If you are departing later, you can arrange luggage storage at the hotel reception. There may be a small service fee.