South America Trip Review – Chile, Argentina & Brazil

With flamboyant cities, spectacular landscapes and passionate people, these incredible countries beguile and amaze with their diversity and energy. Travel writer, Samantha Wilson, describes her journey through these three contrasting countries – from tango dancers and gaucho cowboys, to magnificent mountains and serene vineyards.

Describing my journey to Chile, Argentina and Brazil is a challenge. Astounding? Certainly. Unforgettable? Without a doubt. But perhaps the word which best describes my experience is diverse. In this dramatic landscape, everything is a paradox. For every snow-capped Andean peak there is a cosmopolitan, free-spirited city. Tango dancers and gaucho cowboys, magnificent mountains and serene vineyards, at every turn I saw contrasts as clear as the blue skies over the Pampas grasslands. Like the seductive tango, I swirled through gargantuan landscapes, from tropical rainforests and the driest desert on the planet, to laid-back cities in the heart of the wine country and capitals which would be insulted to be described as such.

Sand In The Toes: From Pacific Beaches To Snow-dusted Peaks

Chile flies somewhat under the radar compared to its louder, more flamboyant neighbour Argentina. Landing in Santiago I was, for a moment, almost disappointed by its European vibe. I had come in search of Latin exuberance and never-ending vistas, and this all felt too familiar. But it wasn’t a feeling that lasted long. How can you not love a country whose capital is towered over by jagged peaks dusted in snow? From the Presidential Palace and colonial buildings of Santiago, to Viña del Mar beach resort with white sands lapped by the Pacific Ocean, it was a tantalizing taster of what lay ahead.

Wine And Tango: The Beating Heart Of Argentina

The Andes create a formidable natural border between Chile and Argentina, and the journey across them was a nose-pressed-against-the-window adventure of jaw-dropping views. In the unexpected way of South America, the harsh beauty of the Andes suddenly gave way to serenity and gentle charm. Rows of immaculate vines guided us on our way to Mendoza, the capital of Argentina’s wine country.

I had long associated this region with Argentina’s famous wines, and a tour of the vineyards brought to life the production and skills involved in creating world class wines in difficult terrain. Yet it was Mendoza itself which came as the biggest surprise. Laid-back and cosmopolitan, it had leafy plazas and a sophisticated nightlife where I spent evenings sipping local Malbec in chic wine bars along Avenida Arístides. From Mendoza, I crossed the mint-green fields of the Pampas grasslands, tended by the legendary gaucho cowboys. And once again, the landscape changed.

Buenos Aires needs little introduction, this big-hearted, free-spirited city showing the rest of the world what passion truly means. The buildings are iconic, and the Casa Rosada had me humming ‘Don’t Cry for Me Argentina’ under my breath. The Recoletta Cemetery, where Argentina’s political greats are watched over by hundreds of stray cats, stirred an eerie fascination. To the roar of crowds from La Boca football stadium, I sipped mate (a caffeinated drink which is the cornerstone of social life) in bohemian cafés. And it’s true what they say: in Buenos Aires, people really do burst spontaneously into tango in the streets.

As my travels continues, there was another surprise in store. And it came in the guise of Iguaçu Falls. The long Paraná River snakes through South America’s last tract of Atlantic rainforest, abruptly ending as it reaches the border with Argentina. Here, the water tumbles dramatically over the edge of the Paraná Shelf creating 275 separate waterfalls that run for almost 1.8 miles. It’s one of the world’s most astounding spectacles, a seemingly synchronised performance of cataracts and falls, the largest of which is the ominous Garganta del Diablo (Devil’s Throat). I spent the day wandering the suspended walkways, protecting my picnic from coatis, confident in their cuteness, and getting thoroughly soaked as I stared into the abyss of smoky mist.

Brazil: Where It’s Carnival Every Day

If there’s one city which gives Buenos Aires a run for its money, it’s Rio de Janeiro. While the Argentine capital is seductive and sultry, Rio is cheeky and wild. I wasn’t there in time for the legendary Rio de Janeiro Carnival, where the streets burst into a firework of colour, music and revelry, but Rio and its residents seem to do everything with that same enthusiasm all year round. I lounged on Copacabana Beach, where beautiful people strutted their stuff along the sand, and then looked down on the same beach from the lofty heights of Sugar Loaf Mountain, the famous scene from Bond film Moonraker. I headed into the clouds to stand beneath the Christ the Redeemer statue looking over a jumble of neighbourhoods below. Gritty, fascinating and exuberant, Rio was everything I had imagined.

Let us take you there

  1. Chile, Argentina & Brazil

    A chance to explore breathtaking sights in three fascinating South American countries.

    • Return flights
    • 11 nights in 4 and 5-star hotels, 2 nights in flight
    • 11 meals: 10 breakfasts, 1 dinner

    14 days from
    £4,199.00
  2. Chile, Argentina & Brazil Rio Carnival Winners' Parade

    This South American adventure is big on sights – vineyards cascading down Chile's dramatic mountain slopes, drenching mists at Argentina's Iguaçú Falls and twinkling coral sand beaches in Brazil. The finale of this unforgettable holiday comes in the form of the 'greatest party on earth' – the spectacular Rio Carnival Winner's Parade.

    • Return Flights
    • 12 nights in 4 and 5-star hotels plus 2 nights in flight
    • 13 Meals: 12 breakfasts, 1 dinner

    15 days from
    £4,999.00