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Small Group Tours

Antarctica, Patagonia & beyond 2019

Argentina, Antarctica, Chile, Brazil

27 days

Summary

Contours Travel has designed a unique fully escorted tour to Antarctica and Patagonia’s highlights. Visit Torres del Paine & El Calafate, Santiago de Chile, Buenos Aires, the mighty Iguazu Falls, and embark in an unforgettable expedition cruise to Antarctica; where you will visit classic landing locations along the Antarctica Peninsula and Gerlache Strait coastline. Spend your days off the ship exploring by Zodiac boat and making shore landings in the company of expert guides. Visit historic huts and working research bases. Discover Antarctica’s remarkable landscapes, wildlife, and history through photography, hiking, and, for the more adventurous, camping and sea kayaking. To cap it all off, spend a day in the South Shetland Islands, and round the legendary maritime landmark of Cape Horn before continuing your adventure in South America.

2019 DEPARTURE (26 nights)
Depart Sydney/ Melbourne 22 February 2019
Return Sydney/ Melbourne 21 March 2019

Highlights

  • Culinary tour in Santiago de Chile
  • Valparaiso & winery tour including premium wine tasting
  • All inclusive 5 day program at Hotel Las Torres located inside Las Torres National Park
  • Full day tour of Perito Moreno glacier and Glacier navigation
  • Explore the Antarctica Peninsula on board of the Akademik Ioffe expedition cruise
  • Antarctic vessel’s highlights: it has the highest staff-to-guest ratio in the polar industry, it is a small ship cruising (less than 100 passengers) which means maximum time ashore and there are two shore excursions per day (weather permitting)
  • Antarctic cruise experiences: camping, trekking, zodiac cruising, whale watching, photographer on board and lectures
  • Optional experiences at an additional cost: expedition sea kayaking and overnight sea kayaking
  • Discover Buenos Aires’ best hidden gem during the city tour
  • Dinner & Tango Show at Esquina Carlos Gardel, one of the best Tango house in the city
  • Culinary & wine experience with locals in Buenos Aires, learn how to make an empanada and secrets of the ‘Asado’
  • Full day tour of the Argentine side of the mesmerizing Iguazu Falls
  • Tour the Brazilian side of the falls & visit the bird’s park
  • Farewell dinner at one of the best Steak house in Argentina

Inclusions

  • International & domestic economy flights, all taxes included
  • 26 nights accommodation in First Class hotels & expedition Antarctic Cruise
  • 58 Meals included (26 Breakfast, 15 Lunch, 17 Dinner)
  • Expert English-speaking local guides
  • Ground transportation in private air-conditioned vehicles
  • Tips for local guides and drivers
  • All entrance fees to local sights & national parks
  • Unique hand-crafted travel wallets & luggage tags made in Bolivia exclusively for Contours Travel
  • 24 hour assistance by our local offices in South America
  • You will have the use of an expedition gear package free of charge containing around $US900 worth of essential equipment. This kit includes a quality waterproof/windproof jacket and bib-pants plus insulated rubber boots designed for extended walking. We also include a set of binoculars and a trekking pole for use when on shore. A waterproof backpack completes your package. This kit saves you buying expensive clothing and equipment you may only ever use once.

ITINERARY

Day 1 Santiago de Chile

Welcome to South America! On arrival at Santiago International Airport you will be met by a Contours Travel Representative and transferred to your hotel where you will meet your fellow travellers and Tour Director.

Overnight at Cumbres Lastarria (First Superior Class)
Meals: None

Day 2 Santiago de Chile

Depart this morning on a half day walking tour of Santiago including Bellavista, downtown, Cerro Santa Lucia and a visit to the food market and sampling of some of Chile’s favorite home cooked dishes in La Vega Chica.

Overnight at Cumbres Lastarria (First Superior Class)
Meals: BL

Day 3 Santiago de Chile

Depart Santiago this morning, travelling through the Curacavi and Casablanca Valleys to arrive at the UNESCO World Heritage Listed port city of Valparaiso famous for it’s colourful houses perched on the hillside. Walking tour of the highlights of the city: Victoria Plaza, Sotomayor Plaza and the Glorias Navales Monument. Your guide will take you through the winding streets and up the hillsides for lovely views of the port below.
After lunch you will be taken to Santa Emiliana winery, a leading organic vineyard in Chile and one of the largest in the world, for tour of the grounds and a tasting of their fine wines.

Overnight at Cumbres Lastarria (First Superior Class)
Meals: BL

Day 4 Torres del Paine

Transfer to the airport for your flight to Punta Arenas. On arrival you will be transferred to the hotel with a stop at an Estancia were a traditional Patagonian bbq lunch will be served.
Your all inclusive program includes:
• National Park entry fee
• Transfers in and out from Punta Arenas or Calafate
• Visit to Cerro Negro Ranch en route from Punta Arenas
• All meals
• Open Bar (not including premium spirits)
• All excursions inside the National Park
• Bilingual guides Spanish/English
• Wifi in common areas
• A 20% discount in our spa

Overnight at Las Torres (First Superior Class)
Meals: BLD

Day 5 Torres del Paine

Free day to explore the park; Hotel Las Torres offers many different options of excursions to please the needs of every guest. You can choose to horseback ride with experienced gauchos, trek different difficulty level trails, do walks to observe and enjoy flora and fauna with specialized guides, or choose the comfort of a vehicle excursion throughout the most attractive places in the park.

Suggested excursion options include:
– Full Paine: visit the park’s famous highlights while enjoying some beautiful walks where you will be surrounded by the flora and fauna facing the marvellous mountains that form part of the Paine Massif. After enjoying a lunch outdoors we will take you to Lago Grey where you will have the option to take a walk around the lake shore or take the navigation and get close to the Grey Glaciar.
– Salto Grande: drive to the Salto Grande area and enjoy a relaxed walk to a viewpoint over the Paine Massif, before continuing to the Salto Grande waterfall.

Overnight at Las Torres (First Superior Class)
Meals: BLD

Day 6 Torres del Paine

Another full day to continue exploring the park.

Suggested excursion options include:
– Sarmiento Lake: a four hour hike through beech forest and along the banks of Sarmiento Lake. Explore landscapes of pre Andean shrubs, and see the contrasts of the Patagonian colours with a majestic mountain backdrop.

Overnight at Las Torres (First Superior Class)
Meals: BLD

Day 7 Torres del Paine

Another full day to continue exploring the park.

Suggested excursion options include:
Blue Lagoon: a great option for people who would like to see Torres del Paine without all the walking. Enjoy great views of the Towers of Paine and the enormous landscapes that brought great part of the explorers into the area. You will visit Laguna Amarga and discover the different organisms that live there.
Patagón: Hike from Lago Sarmiento to a collection of Aónikenk drawings still visible on a rock wall. We are likely to run into many animals – such as guanacos, rheas and condors – that populated the land during the Aónikenk epoch and are still alive today.

Overnight at Las Torres (First Superior Class)
Meals: BLD

Day 8 Torres del Paine/El Calafate

Depart Hotel Las Torres this morning to your hotel in El Calafate.

Overnight at Mirador del Lago (First Class)
Meals: B

Day 9 El Calafate

Depart this morning on a full day tour to Perito Moreno Glacier with entry to the Los Glaciares National Park included. Situated on the southern arm of Lago Argentino and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Perito Moreno Glacier is an imposing ice river 5 kilometres wide and up to 60 metres high at its front wall; at the centre of the glacier the ice reaches a depth of some 250 to 350 metres. Included in your tour today is the Nautical Safari, which takes you on a cruise across Lake Rico, passing beside icebergs which have calved off the front of the Perito Moreno glacier.

Overnight at Mirador del Lago (First Class)
Meals: B

Day 10 El Calafate/Ushuaia

Today you will be transferred to the airport for your flight to Ushuaia. Balance of the day at leisure.

Overnight at Albatros (First Class)
Meals: B

Day 11 Ushuaia/Cruise

Depart this morning on a half day tour of Tierra del Fuego National Park. This is one of the most important protected areas in the country and the only one by the sea shore.
Later this afternoon board your Antarctic cruise. In the early evening, you will set sail along the Beagle Channel and push out into the Drake Passage, direction Antarctica.

Overnight aboard the Akademik Ioffe (Tourist Superior)
Meals: BD

Day 12 Cruise

Drake Passage
Today will be your first full day at sea as we cross the Drake Passage towards Antarctica. We chart a southerly course for Antarctica. This stretch of the South Atlantic is rich in its bio-diversity and showcases an abundance of wildlife. We will be joined by hundreds of seabirds including the wandering albatross. Giant petrels and smaller Cape petrels are also constant companions as make our way south. Photographing these magnificent birds takes patience and skill and our photography expert will be on hand to show you the best techniques.

Overnight aboard the Akademik Ioffe (Tourist Superior)
Meals: BLD

Day 13 Cruise

Drake Passage
Today – you will navigate through the famous Drake Passage, this body of water between South America’s Cape Horn and the South Shetland Islands of Antarctica, connects the southwestern part of the Atlantic Ocean with the south-eastern part of the Pacific Ocean. Join the ship’s Captain on the bridge and learn about the operations of our modern research vessel. Throughout the day our onboard experts educate us with a series of presentations about the environment, the wildlife and history and the locations we hope to visit in the coming days. As we approach the coastline of Antarctica, we anticipate an increase in whale sightings.

Overnight aboard the Akademik Ioffe (Tourist Superior)
Meals: BLD

Day 14 Cruise

Antarctic Peninsula
We awaken today and the magnificent snowy peaks of continental Antarctica are laid out before us. Even our experienced expedition staff, some with more than 100 journeys south, will take a moment to pause and reflect on this incredible sight. Take a deep breath – you have arrived. This is Antarctica.

The waterways of the Antarctic Peninsula are home to deep bays, pristine coves and inlets and numerous small islands. The Gerlache coastline features heavily glaciated mountains permanently covered in ice and snow. Rocky outcrops, known as ‘nunataks’ are home to gentoo, Adelie and chinstrap penguin rookeries and the waters are rich in marine life.

We frequently encounter seals, including the powerful leopard seal, Usually found hauled out on an ice floe. Curious humpback whales and the smaller minke whales are present much of the time as they feed on the vast schools of krill. Sightings of orca are not uncommon.

Overnight aboard the Akademik Ioffe (Tourist Superior)
Meals: BLD

Day 15 Cruise

Antarctic Peninsula.
Today you can see The Gerlache coastline as it features heavily glaciated mountains permanently covered in ice and snow. Rocky outcrops are home to gentoo, adelie and chinstrap penguin rookeries and the waters are rich in marine life.

Our activity program is in full swing and we encourage all guests to choose how their adventure unfolds. Every day we plan an exciting range of activities, including guided hikes on shore (both short and long), visits to wildlife colonies with our expert naturalist guides. The historic huts and science stations located along the peninsula provide a fascinating glimpse into the past and the present. Zodiac cruising among the ice searching for seals and whales is a memorable activity. Meanwhile, our sea kayakers may range several miles from the ship experiencing Antarctica from an entirely different perspective.

Our resident photography guide will be on hand to help you with your camera handling and image composition. Maybe what you really want to do is sit on a rock, simply watching the penguins come and go from the water? Make yourself comfortable and enjoy the show.

Overnight aboard the Akademik Ioffe (Tourist Superior)
Meals: BLD

Day 16 Cruise

Antarctic Peninsula
Planned excursions along the Antarctic Peninsula could include Cierva Cove or Mikklesen Harbour, Danco Island, the Melchior Islands and Fournier Bay – or a cruise through the Errera Channel to visit the gentoo penguin rookeries at Cuverville Island. Wilhelmina Bay is another favourite location and one where we frequently encounter playful humpback whales. Nearby Paradise Harbour is a particular highlight and offers an excellent hiking route to a viewpoint providing expansive views. Andvord Bay and Neko Harbour provide yet another continental landing opportunity.

Overnight aboard the Akademik Ioffe (Tourist Superior)
Meals: BLD

Day 17 Cruise

Antarctic Peninsula
After several busy days of exploration along the Peninsula, we head north across the Bransfield Strait, bound for the South Shetland Islands. This is an important whale migration corridor and can expect sightings of humpbacks, or the resident pod of Orca that inhabit this stretch of water.

Overnight aboard the Akademik Ioffe (Tourist Superior)
Meals: BLD

Day 18 Cruise

South Shetland Islands
By morning we arrive in the South Shetland Islands. The adventure is not over and if the weather conditions allow, we sail the ship into the flooded volcanic caldera at Deception Island. This is a very dramatic place and history is all around us as we explore the old whaling station, with the rusted old boilers and dilapidated wooden huts. At the far end of the beach is an old aircraft hangar. This is where Australian, Sir Hubert Wilkins made the very first flight in Antarctica in 1928. There is also an
outstanding hike, high up onto the rim of the crater. After leaving Deception Island, we cruise along the coast of Livingston Island which in a sunny day is a memorable experience.

There are several other landing sites in the South Shetland’s including Half Moon Island, or the broad pebbly beach at Yankee Harbour, where we sometimes encounter Weddell seals sunning themselves. This is another great spot for a hike or a zodiac cruise. Hannah Point, with it’s elephant seal colony and nesting Antarctic petrels – is another possibility. In the evening, we navigate north through the McFarlane Strait and into the Drake Passage.

Overnight aboard the Akademik Ioffe (Tourist Superior)
Meals: BLD

Day 19 Cruise

As we make our way back to South America, the educational presentations continue and we enjoy an entertaining and memorable voyage recap by our Expedition Leader. Join our photography experts in the multimedia room and download and back up your precious images.

Overnight aboard the Akademik Ioffe (Tourist Superior)
Meals: BLD

Day 20 Cruise

If weather conditions allow, we hope to make a rounding of Cape Horn. This fabled stretch of water is home to legendary tales of exploration and early navigation. It’s a fitting place to reflect on a wonderful expedition. Approaching the entrance to the Beagle Channel in early evening light, we enjoy a special dinner attended by the Captain of the ship.

Overnight aboard the Akademik Ioffe (Tourist Superior)
Meals: BLD

Day 21 Cruise/Buenos Aires

Arrive in Ushuaia – In the early morning, arrive into Ushuaia. You will be transferred to the Ushuaia airport for your flight to Buenos Aires. On arrival to Buenos Aires, you will be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel.

Overnight at Recoleta Grand (First)
Meals: B

Day 22 Buenos Aires

Today’s tour will take you to the Southern parts of the city such as La Boca and famous Caminito street, followed by San Telmo, the oldest district of the city with a visit to it’s underground tunnels . We will also visit the main square and Casa Rosada, the Cathedral and El Cabildo. We will then head towards the northern districts of Palermo, a bohemian neighbourhood with local artist and plenty of restaurants and cafes. We will finish the tour in the sophisticated neighbourhood of Recoleta, where the famous Cemetery and chic international boutiques are found.
This evening you will be taken for a Dinner & Tango Show at the renowned Esquina Carlos Gardel; named after Argentina’s most celebrated tango icon. Enjoy the superb Argentinian cuisine in an exquisitely decorated art nouveau dining room as you watch tango artists perform this sensual dance.

Overnight at Recoleta Grand (First)
Meals: BD

Day 23 Buenos Aires

Free day to explore on your own. Tonight you will be give an introduction to the best of Argentine cuisine and culture; it is a fun and unique experience where you will meet and dine with people from all over the world.

Overnight at Recoleta Grand (First)
Meals: BD

Day 24 Buenos Aires/Puerto Iguazu

Today you will fly to Puerto Iguazu. After breakfast we depart on a full day tour of the Argentina side of the Iguazú Falls. From the Visitor’s Centre we take a train on a 15-minute journey up to the ‘Cataratas Station’. We walk along the Upper and Lower trails of the Iguazú National Park to get a closer look of the 275 falls and of the amazing variety of ferns, orchids, begonias, birds and butterflies. Continue by train to ‘Garganta Station’ and from there you will descend 1200 meters to the Devil’s Throat balcony, to share one of the greatest shows on earth. Return by train to the Visitor’s Centre & transfer back to your hotel.

Overnight at Melia (Ex-Sheraton Iguazu Resort & Spa (Deluxe)
Meals: B

Day 25 Puerto Iguazu

After breakfast we will cross the Tancredo Neves Bridge to explore the Brazilian falls. Walk along the paths inside the park and see the imposing Bozzeti Falls across the border. The path continues to the spectacular lookout over the Garganta del Diablo, or Devils Throat Falls, just 150m away. At the end of the path, you have the option of boarding a panoramic elevator for an even greater view of the surrounding scenery.

Overnight at Sheraton Iguazu Resort & Spa (Deluxe)
Meals: B

Day 26 Puerto Iguazu/Buenos Aires

Today you will fly back to Buenos Aires and enjoy a free day to continue exploring this beautiful city.
Tonight you will have a farewell dinner with your fellow travellers.

Overnight at Recoleta Grand (First)
Meals: BD

Day 27 Buenos Aires

Today you will be transferred to the airport for your flight back home.

Meals: B

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