South America is full of contrasts. From the piercing blue ice of Antarctica to the lush jungles of the Amazon, it’s a continent that truly has something for everyone.
On a South America cruise, nature lovers can visit penguin colonies and see giant turtles. History buffs can walk in the footsteps of countless explorers, adventurers can hike to Machu Picchu and those who like to relax can lounge on the golden sands of Ipanema and Copacabana.
What are the “must do” places to visit and things to see? The most recent issue of Mariner Magazine for our Mariner Society members showcases the top 10 experiences that anyone visiting South America should check of their list.
For those of you who don’t receive Mariner Magazine, you can check out the edition online by clicking HERE.
South America Top 10 Experiences – A Continent of Exotic Discoveries Awaits
by Gabriel O’Rorke
Elevation of Work
“The Incas had three laws of life: love, work, and learning,” says Machu Picchu tour guide Percy Salas. In this ancient mountaintop city in Peru’s Andean cloud forest—accessible from Callao (Lima) via overland tour — the work ethic is abundantly evident.
One of the most photographed sights in South America, Machu Picchu really does deserve all the fuss. Walls made from stones the size of trucks form perfectly straight lines, terraces hang over sheer drops down to the valley below. A further hour hike to the Sun Gate lets you experience making your way up the Inca Trail, stopping every few feet to catch air—at 7,970 feet elevation it sure is thin.
PUNTA DEL ESTE
Beaches, yachts, beautiful people — Punta del Este is the St. Tropez of South America, a mecca for glitz and glam.
Beach clubs and seafood restaurants sum up the vibe: Get your toes in the sand and your hands on a plate of calamari straight from the ocean into the pan and then onto the plate.
Punta del Este’s white sand is impossible to resist, but the Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria port is worth exploring. You can admire a slick lineup of superyachts, watch fishing boats deliver the morning’s catch, and share the decked walkway with sea lions hoping for a snack from a benevolent fisherman. Casapueblo (pictured), the former home of Uruguayan artist Carlos Páez Vilaró, is open to visitors.
Cobblestones, Street Art, Colorful Neighborhoods
Valparaíso is Chile’s cultural capital,” says local tour guide Stefanie Carmody. “Graffiti makes the city like an open-air museum.”
She’s not talking about random inky scrawls. Valpo’s ubiquitous murals are true works of art.
The most spectacular neighborhoods for murals are Cerro Concepción and Cerro Alegre. Both can be reached from sea level via another Valpo icon: the city’s hillside “elevators.” There are seven operational funiculars in total. The oldest, Ascensor Concepción, dates from 1883.
RIO DE JANEIRO
There are a handful of cities you know on sight— Paris, Tokyo, New York. Rio de Janeiro is the one city you know by feel. The whole massive metropolitan spread pulses with the rhythm of samba, the year-round spirit of Carnaval, the nonstop energy of its iconic beaches: Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon.
Few experiences are as memorable as taking in the glorious vista from the top of Sugarloaf Mountain or as inspirational as standing in the presence of the statue of Christ the Redeemer atop Corcovado Mountain. (Separate Holland America Line shore excursions will get you to both.) From these spots you get more than postcard views. You get all of Brazil in your soul.
More Than Big Turtles. But, Also, Lots of Big Turtles
Yes, you’ll see that world marvel the Galápagos giant tortoise (the largest weigh more than 880 pounds) on these 19 volcanic islands 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador (accessible by overland tour from Manta Ecuador, or Callao, Peru). After all, the reptiles gave the islands their name — galápago is Spanish for “saddle” or “tortoise shell.”
But away from land you’ll find penguins, hammerheads, stingrays, and sea lions. Nowhere else can you snorkel with such amazing species all together. There’s no need to be a certified diver — a mask, a snorkel, fins, and a short paddle off the beach puts you alongside them all.
Glamour, Fashion, Relaxing Cafes
The Argentine capital feels designed for celluloid. Just walking the city’s classic streets makes you feel like a film star.
Old World charm hangs in the air in Recoleta, which has gilded palacios, sprawling parks, and the cemetery where Evita Perón is buried. An afternoon can disappear when you’re exploring the antique shops in San Telmo. The fashionable set heads to Palermo, a neighborhood packed with boutiques stocking clothes by Argentine designers.
Tango remains the artistic essence of Buenos Aires and milongas (tango salons) are popular around the city. You can see a private tango demonstration as part of several Holland America Line shore excursions.
Polar Expedition of a Lifetime
Expeditions to the bottom of the planet sail from Ushuaia, a wild and photogenic city near the southern tip of Argentina where you can often see penguins, humpback whales, and sea lions along the rocky shores.
Antarctica has always called out to the intrepid and adventurous and now is the perfect time to plan a visit — this year marks the 100th anniversary of the start of Ernest Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, which was meant to cross the continent via the South Pole.
Though there are no ports of call, meaning guests are unable to disembark, Holland America Line ships cruise the scenic waters of Antarctica offering views of the dramatic shoreline.
World’s Largest Adobe City
Almost 200 years after Peru declared independence from Spain (1821), little in Trujillo seems to have changed—the plazas, colorful houses, and ornate churches practically shout “Colonial beauty!” These days a bohemian breeze blows through the city, which is now just as famous for the creative leanings of personalities such as Peruvian poet César Vallejo.
The world’s largest adobe city is nearby. Built by the Chimú, an indigenous people dating from A.D. 900, Chan Chan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, (about four miles from Trujillo) was their capital city. The archaeological citadel includes such highlights as the dramatic Moon and Sun Temples.
Amazon Jungle, Pink Dolphins
Ever see a pink dolphin? You might near the Brazilian port of Manaus. They’re called Amazon river dolphins and they really do sport a pinkish hue.
“By far the best wild dolphin encounters are in Recanto do Boto, about 70 minutes by speedboat up the Rio Negro from Manaus,” says Brazil-based conservation biologist Charles Munn. “There is also the 10,000-hectare Adolfo Ducke Forest Reserve on the north edge of the city with its extremely tall forest—it’s the largest primary [old-growth] forest in any large city in the entire world.”
The Amazon rain forest is spread across nine countries, but 60 percent of the Amazon belongs to Brazil. The next largest jungle share is Peru’s 13 percent holding.
Colonial City, Culinary Adventure
South America’s best-preserved historic city is a mind-blowing fusion of Spanish, Italian, Moorish, Flemish, Baroque, and indigenous influences. Opulent and outlandish, the Basílica del Voto Nacional is the largest neo-Gothic basilica in the Americas.
But Quito is also a fixture on the world culinary map.
“There’s a boom of restaurants and gastronomy,” says city spokesman Dominic Hamilton. In the old town, La Ronda is a street lined with rustic eateries selling enormous empanadas, handmade chocolates, and lots of tasty street food.
Featured Cruise: Guests looking to explore South America with Holland America Line can embark ms Zaandam on a 14-Day South America Passage Available: 10/27; 11/10, 11/24; 12/8/14; 2/18; 3/4, 3/18/15.
Have you been to South America? Tell us your “must do” below!