Cruises have ceased to be off-limits to the average person. Budget-wise, you can choose from the popularly-priced sailing trips to the luxurious ones where you are pampered like a king. For first-timers and frequent cruisers alike, some cruises belong to the best in category, even if taken the second or third time around.
South America as a cruise destination will always be an exciting and learning experience. Its fascinating culture and ancient civilization, the historic and scenic locales, distinctive cuisine, amazing sand and sea, and vibrant ports of call will make for a spectacular vacation that will have a special place in your treasure trove of memories.
Here are the must-see places when you go on a South American cruise:
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Rio’s popular beach destinations, Copacabana and Ipanema, are not only for swimming and sunbathing. It’s also a great place for people-watching. These places are always crowded though, so hygiene and sanitation may not always be at its best.
Christ the Redeemer is a 125-ft tall statue of Jesus Christ that stands atop Corcovado Mountain. Almost all tourists will not miss a visit to this iconic landmark. Trains and vans are the popular means of transportation going there and fares vary by season. Jardim Botanico, a 340-acre garden is an important botany research center. Sugar Loaf Mountain, accessible by two cable car rides, gives a magnificent view of the city. At night, go to Lapa for a night of samba dancing, drinking and relaxing.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Dubbed the “Paris of South America,” the capital city of Argentina is a bustling city with its throbbing nightlife, art-nouveau to Renaissance architecture, shopping galore and fantastic cuisine. Visit its historical places like the Plaza de Mayo, the city’s main square, the Buenos Aires Cathedral where current head of the Catholic Church Pope Francis used to say mass, and the San Telmo Feria for antiques and souvenirs. If you’re a fan of Evita Peron, pay your homage to her at the Casa Rosada, where she stood on the terrace to address the masses and the Recoleta Cemetery where she is buried.
Buenos Aires has museums worth a visit. The National Museum of Fine Arts has the works of Rembrandt, Goya, Manet and Picasso, plus those of Latin American and Argentine artists. The museum itself is a stunning infrastructure.
Experience the vibrant nightlife with 24-hour dancing, drinking and socializing on a grand scale. Watch the locals dance the tango at an authentic milonga (venue.)
The ancient ruins of the Inca site, Machu Picchu in Peru sits atop a mountain ridge and is surrounded on three sides by the Urubamba River some 600 meters below. Built as an estate for the Inca emperor, the complex of temples, homes and palaces was hidden from sight by tropical forests before it became a tourist destination. As one traveler puts it, looking at the ruins is astonishing and no picture can capture the essence of the citadel.
UNESCO has declared Machu Picchu as a World Heritage Site and it is considered as one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
A visit to Machu Picchu warrants a tour of the Sacred Valley for its markets and Inca citadels and Cusco for its archaeological wonder and Spanish colonial architecture.
These volcanic islands straddle the equator and are 847 miles away from the nearest mainland, which is Ecuador. Here you can go up close and personal to animals found only in these islands, such as the giant tortoise, marine iguana, and the fur sea lions. Of the 18 islands, 4 are inhabited.
The Galapagos Islands
A tour to the Galapagos must include a visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station in Santa Cruz Island to watch the unusual wildlife. The Turtle Bay is great for frolicking in the clear blue waters and white sands and getting acquainted with the giant turtles and iguanas. Watch the cormorants, frigate birds, albatrosses and tanagers fly.
For the more adventurous spirit, go scuba-diving and meet the colorful marine life down below. Volcano lovers should explore the lava tubes, visit the Los Gemelos, Santa Cruz’ twin sink holes formed by the collapse of two empty magma chambers, Alcedo Volcano which is inhabited by tortoises and the Devil’s Crown, an almost completely submerged volcano.
Amazon River and Rainforest
The mighty Amazon River originates from the streams that flow from the Andes Mountains and runs through nine countries in South America, making it, at 4,000 miles, the longest river in the world. A cruise from Peru or Brazil will show the river’s biodiversity.
Wildlife reserves are inhabited by the biggest variety of birds and mammals in the world and its rivers are homes to a myriad of fishes and other sea creatures. A cruise down the Amazon River in smaller boats will allow you to venture deeper into the forest via the river’s side streams. These streams are filled with aquatic life and the trees alongside house varied species of primates and birds. Tours will include jungle walks, fishing for the notorious piranha and visiting macaw clay licks.
End the day with a night at the opera. The Manaus Opera House in Brazil is located in the heart of the rainforest.