This was a four-week holiday comprising city breaks to Rio de Janeiro, Iguacu Falls and Buenos Aires together with a South America cruise including Cape Horn and the Antarctic Peninsula.
Day One – 27th December
We flew from London Gatwick to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, South America with Norwegian Airlines. The flight was 12 hours and we arrived at 8 pm. We had pre-booked transport to our hotel with holidaytaxis.com and our driver was waiting for us in the arrivals hall. After checking in to the Mar Palace Copacabana hotel we went out to find some food. We found a supermarket just around the corner so bought some rolls and butter to see us through until breakfast.
Day Two – 28th December
After eating breakfast in the hotel, we left the hotel bound for Sugar Loaf Mountain. The walk took around an hour and a half but it was nice to get a feel for the city and take in the sights and sounds as we walked. After queuing to get a ticket we took the cable car to the first landing.
At this first stage there are shops, restaurants and a nature trail to walk around. The views are stunning from every direction and we took photos from all angles.
Afterwards we enjoyed a coffee overlooking Botafogo Bay before taking the cable car to the highest point of Sugar Loaf Mountain.
Once again the views from the top were stunning and we took plenty of pictures.
After spending around 4 hours on the Mountain we descended to ground level and walked back to Copacabana Beach. After a paddle in the sea we returned to our hotel via the local supermarket and enjoyed a supper of corned beef rolls.
Day Three – 29th December
After breakfast we took the number 583 bus to the Tijuca National Park where we visited the Cristo Redentor Statue.
After getting off the bus at 11.30 am, we went to the ticket hall only to find that we could not take a tram to the top until just after 2pm. We were then approached by a number if people offering us a mini bus ride to the top instead. As there is very little to do in the area at the bottom of the hill we accepted. They wanted 35 reals for the journey and the price was non-negotiable. The mini bus dropped us near the ticket office and we headed over to buy a ticket. There we discovered that it was a two hour wait to be able to go to see the statue.
A young man offered us the chance to skip the wait for 100 reals each to skip the wait but we were happy to wait and did not want to pay double price. While we waited we had a coffee and a snack in the cafe.
At 2.30 pm we were taken to an area where we had to queue for a minibus which took us to the top of the hill. After that there were several flights of stairs to reach the statue itself.
The iconic statue is very impressive and lived up to expectations.
We stayed at the top for an hour or so taking photos and looking at the towering statue and the impressive views around.
We then decided to have a meal in the restaurant before taking the number 584 bus back to our hotel.
Day Four – 30th December
Today we took the number 584 bus to the Jardim Botanico, a respected botanical gardens which is home to a wide range of trees, plants, water features, animals and birds. After buying a ticket (RS 12 each) we entered the park and took a path towards the waterfall area. This is a narrow cascading water feature built to resemble a waterfall.
Leaving this area behind we continued walking away from the entrance admiring the interesting trees and massive bamboo canes.
Soon we came across the orchid house, home to numerous colourful orchids.
After walking a little further to a quiet area off the main paths, we sat and enjoyed our picnic. We saw some marmoset monkeys playing a game of chase but they vanished before we could take a picture. We also saw some beautifully coloured birds and heard some lovely birdsong from the trees around us.
After lunch we ambled back towards the entrance passing by more trees and shrubs. We passed a fountain and a Japanese garden along the way.
Having spent around 3.5 hours in the gardens it was mid afternoon when we left.
We took a bus to Ipanema Beach and walked along the waterfront.
We enjoyed the party atmosphere so much that we stayed and watched the sunset before taking a bus back to our hotel.
Day Five – 31st December
New Year’s Eve dawned hot and sunny so we decided to spend a leisurely day on Copacabana beach. We had been advised not to take any jewellery, bank cards or electronic devices with us so left these in the hotel safe. On the beach we hired an umbrella for RS 15 and beach chairs for RS 10 each. We stayed on the beach until 5.30 pm then walked the two blocks back to our hotel to shower and get ready for New Year’s Eve.
After leaving the hotel armed with a bottle of champagne, we ate a meal in a restaurant near the seafront then went back to the beach to decide where to position ourselves for the night. A large stage had been set up in the middle of Copacabana beach so we walked to see what was going on. However, the crowds surrounding the stage were so dense that we quickly retraced our steps to a quieter area of the beach.
Once we had found a spot we liked we sat on the beach people watching until midnight. As the bells struck the hour the fireworks began. Eight barges had been positioned in the sea a short distance from the shore containing the fireworks.
The spectacle lasted for about 15 minutes and was a fantastic riot of colourful explosions. We toasted 2020 with champagne and joined in the dancing and celebrations that were going on around us.
Day Six – 1st January
Today we said goodbye to Rio de Janeiro and took a flight to Foz Iguazu. We arrived at 6.30pm and were met by the complimentary hotel transport. We checked in to Hotel Bogari then ate a meal in the restaurant before getting an early night.
Day Seven – 2nd January
After breakfast we checked out of our hotel and left our cases in the hotel safe room. Then we walked to the bus terminal and caught the number 120 bus to the Parque Nacional de Iguacu. Next to the ticket booth was an outlet offering experiences and we decided to investigate. After looking at what was on offer we decided to take a helicopter trip over the falls.
It was the first time that either of us had been in a helicopter and it did not disappoint. Flying over the falls gave us a superb view of the waterfall in Brazil and Argentina.
Once back on land we returned to the ticket office and queued for a bus to take us to the beginning of the scenic view trail. The trail was about 1.5 km and offered various viewing points where we took some amazing pictures of the waterfalls.
At the end of the trail we were quite close to the cascading water and the spray helped to cool us down.
We enjoyed an ice cream overlooking the spectacle before taking the lift back to the bus stop. After collecting our luggage from the hotel we took a taxi across the border to the Argentine side of Iguazu. We checked in to our hotel, Harsha Petit Hotel, then enjoyed a delicious meal in Jasy Bar near to the hotel.
Day Eight – 3rd January
We had originally planned to visit the Argentine side of the Falls today but having seen the waterfalls from a helicopter we no longer felt the need to make that visit. Instead we began our day with a leisurely breakfast then went to find a bank to change some money. It was surprising to learn that banks don’t handle cash in Argentina and we had to find a Cambio to change our money.
We then took a taxi to Guira Oga, a rescue and rehabilitation centre for injured and displaced birds and animals. After watching a short video about the work of the centre, we were taken to a trail where the resident animals were recovering.
Visitors are put into groups with a leader who explains the story around each inhabitant.
Sadly our Spanish was not good enough to understand what was being said.
All too soon the walk was over and it was time to return to the tractor and the attraction entrance.
Our next point of call was Aripuca, a kilometre away from Guira Oga. As it had cooled a little we decided to walk.
Aripuca is dedicated to raising awareness of the destruction of the rainforest and the natural habitat of the Guarani people.
A range of structures and artefacts have been constructed from wood, some of which was 1,000 years old, rescued from those that had decided to clear the forest.
We spent about an hour wandering around the centre, feeling sad that the trees had been cut down at all.
Day Nine – 4th January
Today was spent travelling across South America to Santiago where we would board our cruise ship.
We had booked flights to Buenos Aires then on to Santiago in Chile. We awoke to an email informing us that our first flight to Buenos Aires had been changed from 2pm to 7pm. The time change meant that we would miss our connection to Santiago. After much searching, we were able to find an alternative flight.
We eventually reached Santiago at midnight and looked forward to reaching our hotel. However, when we arrived at our hotel, the Ibis, we were told that our booking had been cancelled. Although we had emailed to say that we would not arrive until the early hours of the morning we believe that they decided to let our room to someone else. Luckily, the Best Western Hotel over the road had an available room and we eventually got to sleep at around 2.30 am.
Day Ten – 5th January
We had breakfast at our hotel before checking out and walking to Santiago Central Bus Station where we took the bus to San Antonio Port. There we boarded the Coral Princess which, over the next 16 days, would take us south to the Antarctic Peninsula then north to Buenos Aires.
We found our room, unpacked then bought cocktails and joined the sail away party. One hour later we were surprised that we were still in dock. It appeared that the barge carrying fuel for the ship had been delayed and we were to remain in port for the rest of the day.
Day Eleven – 6th January
We finally departed San Antonio Port at 2.30 pm and began sailing south towards Cape Horn, the southernmost tip of South America.
We were advised that for the next few days we would encounter stormy weather. As a result our port stop at Punta Arenas was cancelled and replaced with a stop at Puerto Montt.
Day Twelve – 7th January
Ship at sea. Today was sunny and we enjoyed sitting and snoozing in the semi-enclosed seating area.
Day Thirteen – 8th January
We hit the promised storm last night and today it was very difficult to walk in a straight line. The sea was very choppy and the boat was rocking from side to side.
The rocking of the ship was so bad that one of the swimming pools had to be emptied. Nevertheless, the sun was out and we were able to relax in the semi enclosed seating area with blankets for extra warmth.
Day Fourteen – 9th January
The ship docked in Puerto Montt today and despite the pouring rain we decided to go ashore. We had to take a tender to shore because the ship was unable to dock.
We decided against taking an organised excursion and instead walked through the local market. Wandering through stalls selling locally produced knitwear and craft items it was easy to spend the rest of our Chilean Pesos.
We continued walking through the fresh produce area of the market and were surprised to find a stunningly beautiful bay and a group of seals and sea lions.
Day Fifteen – 10th January
The stormy weather returned today. A combination of low cloud, rain and wind made for a choppy passage. It was a strange experience walking on deck only to find that the floor was suddenly 6 – 8 inches lower than expected. Due to the weather we remained inside the ship today.
Day Sixteen – 11th January
Today we cruised through the Magellan Strait. Sheltered by the hills either side of us we had a much less rocky passage than yesterday.
The grey sky and low cloud gave the Strait a rather beautiful eerie feel.
Day Seventeen – 12th January
Our ship docked in Ushuaia at 8 a.m. and after a leisurely breakfast we disembarked the ship to spend time in the southernmost city of the World.
Ushuaia was originally used as a prison because it is surrounded by mountains and was only accessible by sea until very recently. Later it became a penal colony and then a thriving city.
After leaving the ship we took a bus ride around the city.
Information about the city was given in English and Spanish and the tour lasted just over an hour.
Leaving the bus we walked the short distance to the prison museum which is housed in the old prison buildings. Display boards, photographs and dioramas tell the story of the history of the island and the role of the prison in the development of the city.
Finally we walked along the main street and came across a group of musicians and dancers.
We stopped and watched for a while then returned to the ship.
Day Eighteen – 13th January
We got up bright and early this morning as the ship made a circumnavigation of Cape Horn.
Then we left South America behind and spent the rest of the day sailing south towards the Antarctic Peninsula.
Day Nineteen – 14th January
We had an early breakfast this morning then peered through the fog looking for our first glimpse of the Antarctic Peninsula. At around 10 am the fog suddenly lifted and we saw our first iceberg.
It was cold on deck so we wrapped up warmly then spent a couple of hours on deck enjoying the amazing view as we rounded the southern tip of Anvers Island.
Next we sailed up Neymauer Channel.
We enjoyed the view while trying to spot penguins, seals and whales from the comfort of the upstairs dining room.
Then it was on to Gerlache Strait where once again we wrapped up warmly and went out on deck. The ship was surrounded by land on both sides making for spectacular views.
Sailing further north we reached Charlotte’s Bay in the early evening. The bay is known for being a good place to spot whales and we were not disappointed.
As the sun sank in the sky it lit up patches of ice and snow.
Day Twenty – 15th January
The alarm was set for 5.20 this morning as we wanted to see Deception Island. Sadly, the island and our ship were in a dense fog bank. We could hear the calls of the penguins and seals that inhabit the area but were not able to see anything through the fog. After 40 minutes the fog had still not cleared so the Captain made the decision to move on.
We reached Admiralty Bay in the South Shetland Islands mid morning and were lucky that the weather had cleared and we were able to enter the bay and see the stunning glaciers.
Leaving Admiralty Bay behind we continued north and reached Elephant Island at 8pm.
We braved the -10C temperature to have our last look at Antarctica before beginning our journey towards the Falkland Islands.
Day Twenty-One – 16th January
Today was a day at sea.
Day Twenty-Two – 17th January
Today we visited the Falkland Islands. The islands had been unreachable for the last two days, due to storms, but luckily we were able to dock. . We were taken by tender to Port Stanley where we joined an excursion to Bluff Cove.
The journey started with a minibus ride through the area occupied by the Argentinians during the Falklands War of 1982.
We then transferred to 4 x 4 jeep vehicles for the journey overland to Bluff Cove, the nesting area for gentoo and king penguins.
We were able to get quite close to the penguins and were also lucky enough to see a newly hatched chick.
All too soon we had to say goodbye to the penguins and we walked the short distance to the Sea Cabbage Cafe where we had a hot chocolate and home baked cakes.
Back in Port Stanley we visited the maritime museum which is full of artefacts relating to the history of the Falklands. It also has a room dedicated to the Falklands War.
Days Twenty-Three and Twenty-Four – 18th, 19th January
Days at sea.
Day Twenty-Five – 20th January
The ship docked in Montevideo, capital city of Uruguay, South America. After breakfast we got off the ship happy to feel the warm sunshine. We walked out of the port and crossed the road where we boarded the Tourist Bus. The Tourist Bus takes a two-hour journey around the city and passes all the main sites of the capital.
At the end of the tour we walked around the local craft markets and artisan shops before returning to the ship.
Day Twenty-Six – 21st January
After saying farewell to the Coral Princess, we took a taxi to our hotel – Le B Club Terrasse in Buenos Aires, capital of Argentina, South America. As it was too early for check-in, we left our luggage at the hotel and walked to see the tomb of Eva Peron.
The tomb is housed in the Recoleta Cemetery which features a maze of tombs and is so big you need a map.
Afterwards we went to the neighbouring church.
We then explored the surrounding area and were amazed at the giant rubber trees.
We also enjoyed looking at the sculptures as well as feeding the birds.
Having spent 3 hours in the area we decided to visit Calle Florida, a busy upmarket shopping area. On the way we crossed the notorious 20-lane highway and passed the statue of San Martin.
We ended our amazing holiday in South America and Antarctica with a lovely meal in a restaurant.