Discover The Irresistible Allure Of South America’s East Coast With Intrepid

13 November 2017
Read Time: 5.8 mins

From the European charm of Buenos Aires, to mighty waterfalls and the mesmerising city of Rio de Janeiro, this once-in-a-lifetime South American adventure will introduce you to new sights, new sounds, new experiences... and – chances are – new friends.

South America is a continent of contrasts, with untamed wilderness and sophisticated world cities, parched deserts and lush jungle, as well as many different cultures, customs and peoples. With so much to take in – and English being the second language, if you’re lucky – choosing to travel South America as part of a small group tour can make a whole lot of sense.

Traditional tiled entryway of house in San Telmo, Buenos Aires Beautiful San Telmo: A traditional patio interior of old house circa 1800. Image: Getty

You can start a tour with Intrepid in several South American cities but “Best Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil” begins in the elegant capital of Argentina, Buenos Aires. Arrive a few days early and you’ll be able to explore the city in even more depth. Aside from the big-name attractions like the Casa Rosada and Caminito in La Boca, a must-see is San Telmo, the oldest “barrio” or neighbourhood in Buenos Aires. With cobblestone streets, faded grandeur, an incredible street market and loads of great places to eat and drink, you’ll be happy you made time for San Telmo.

Historic Colonia del Sacramento in Uruguay Historic Colonia del Sacramento in Uruguay was occupied by both the Spanish and Portuguese in the 1600s and 1700s. Image: Getty

The next day, you’re on the move, making the leisurely 3-hour ferry ride across the Rio de la Plata to Uruguay. Here, you’ll arrive at the picturesque colonial city of Colonia del Sacramento, said to be the oldest city in the country. With its cobblestone streets, authentic old-world charm and rich history, it’s no wonder the town is listed as a Unesco World Heritage site. Make your way up to the 19th-century lighthouse to stretch your legs and enjoy the stunning views.

Cowboys in south america Gauchos work on cattle ranches all throughout Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil. Image: Getty

Cattle Ranch time. This is known as an ‘Estancia’ is South America. Another term you’re going to hear along the way is ‘gaucho’ which is a word loaded with meaning. Today, its most simple definition is ‘a country person, experienced in traditional livestock farming’. The gaucho is a national symbol in Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. Folklore tells of great heroes and legends, the gauchos, who were known to be skilled horsemen, reputed to be brave and often unruly. In its most romantic sense, gaucho refers to the nomadic and often outlaw inhabitants of the great plains of Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil, although in current use, gaucho is sometimes used to refer to the rural working class in general.

The araucaria tree on farmland in South America The araucaria tree is a familiar sight across the ranch landscapes of Uruguay, Argentina and Southern Brazil. Image: Getty

As part of your journey through South America, you will have the chance to immerse yourself in the life of a working Uruguayan farm. You can take up activities if you choose, and help the ranchers look after the day-to-day jobs, or simply relax and explore your surroundings. This is where small group travelling comes into its own. You get to fly under the radar, step off the well-worn tourist trail and experience life the local way.

Foz do Iguazu is the Brazilian city on the border of Iguazu Falls. Foz do Iguazu is the Brazilian city on the border of Iguazu Falls. Image: Getty

From Uruguay, your Intrepid team will lead you on toward the next highlight of the tour: Iguazu Falls, near where the borders of Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil converge. Stretching for 2.7 kilometres, this is one of the world’s largest waterfalls, comprised of hundreds of cascades, including the 80-metre high Devil’s Throat. While the views are undoubtedly spectacular, one of the optional activities that Intrepid gives travellers the chance to take advantage of (at their own expense) is a helicopter flight over the falls. If you want to take your South American adventure to the next level, this is it.

Sugarloaf Mountain, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Ride the cable car to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain for incredible views of Rio. Image: Getty

The last leg of your South American adventure with Intrepid is to take a short flight into Brazil’s most iconic destination: Rio de Janeiro. If you’ve never been to Rio, flying into the city is a spine-tingling affair, as you can see the familiar shape of Pao de Acucar, or Sugarloaf Mountain, at the mouth of Guanabara Bay.

Rio is a wild melting pot of people, from tourists and beach-loving body builders to the rich elite and the estimated 1.5 million inhabitants of the favelas. Yes – there’s a lot going on in Rio, which is why your guided orientation walk is a great introduction to this vibrant, fun city.

men playing football on Ipanema beach, rio de janeiro, brazil Ipanema and Copacabana are possibly two of the most famous beaches in the world. Image: Getty

Need a playlist as you check out the city sights? Start with the soundtrack to the film Black Orpheus, a classic film set in Rio during Carnival, and you’ll be transported back to the time of Bossa Nova, circa 1959, with some scene-stealing tracks to get you in the mood.

Rio de Janeiro will intoxicate you. From the streets stalls selling acai and granola in the morning, to the friendly cariocas (inhabitants of Rio), the swag of iconic landmarks and experiences, and the year-round party vibe, you’ll probably feel as though a few days here is just not enough. As your Intrepid journey winds to a close, you may want to stay on in this incredible city. Chances are, you won’t be the only one.

Visit your local Flight Centre store or call 131 600 for more advice and the latest deals on travelling to South America.

Erin Bennion

Experience Erin's experience

Based in Brisbane, Erin is a writer and content creator with a penchant for using fancy old French words wherever possible and an insatiable hankering for trawling through vintage markets in small Scandinavian towns (no really). One of her dreams is to take her family to see General Sherman in Sequoia National Park and give that big, old guy a group-hug.