Hola Latin America!
As my last unexplored continent (aside from Antarctica), it should go without saying that I was giddy with excitement when the opportunity to travel to South America for my first time arrived. It would be a trip of firsts, as I would also be experiencing my first ever Contiki.
For those who don’t know (though I’m sure you’re few and far between), Contiki is a travel company arranging group tours for people aged between 18-35. Contiki is therefore a great opportunity to meet and travel with like minded people around the same age, and a great way to break up solo travel by joining a group, as I did for 10 days travelling from Buenos Aires to Rio de Janeiro with Contiki.
The tour kicked off in the capitol of Argentina; Buenos Aires. This city is renowned for being South America’s most cosmopolitan city, with heavy Spanish influence seen throughout the architecture, culture and of course as the native language in Argentina. But there was much more diversity than I would have expected with noticeably a large Italian influence throughout the city – as well as German, Slavic and Syrian influence. Put simply – this city is a multicultural hub and this creates a city with a unique and distinct flair.
After an orientation meeting in the morning, the tour began immediately, as we all boarded the bus to depart on a city tour at noon. The half-day tour covered all of the hot spots; the historic center, San Telmo, La Boca, Puerto Madero, and others.
Highlights of the day included meandering the streets of colourful La Boca, drinking mette and eating churros like a local, and visiting the famous La Recoleta Cemetery.
But the day didn’t end there. In the evening we made our way to a local Tango restaurant and dance school to enjoy local Argentine cuisine, watch a Tango show and even learn the dance ourselves! This was a great way to ease into being part of a tour group, as it allowed everyone to enjoy an informal evening and get to know one another over food, all you can drink wine, and Argentine culture. Following that, some of the tour called it a night and some when to one of the cities’ most popular night clubs with entry pre-arranged by our tour guide, Gabby. This is one of the highlights of being on a pre-arranged group tour, with everything arranged for you but still having the choice on whether to attend or not. It was great to have the options available but should something not take your fancy, you always have the option to go and do your own thing.
It was great to have the options available but should something not take your fancy, you always have the option to go and do your own thing.
Speaking of options, the entire second day in Buenos Aires was left up to the individual. We could choose between an optional day tour or to spend the day discovering Buenos Aires by ourselves. As it turns out the entire group opted to join the Argentina Polo Day – one of the many highlights of the trip.
After Buenos Aires we took a short regional flight to Iguassu Falls – a bucket list item for many. Once there, we crossed the border to Brazil and spent a couple of days exploring both sides of the falls (which lie in both Argentina and Brazil). This was not without a slight hiccup for myself and one other Australian on the tour – to prevent it happening to you please read here!
After Iguassu falls we again took a flight to our following destination – Buzios, a popular beach/resort town in Brazil. For a couple of days we enjoyed the low key beach lifestyle, also trying surfing for the first time and beach hopping by water taxi.
Although it was incredibly good to escape the city and relax for a couple of days, I was more than ready for the final destination of the trip — RIO!
I’m not sure what it is about Rio that entices me quite so much, but in my mind Contiki definitely saved the best for last. We arrived in Rio after a 3 hour bus journey from Buzios and immediately began a city tour with our local guide, Alexandre. In the same day we made our way to the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue, Sugar loaf mountain, and finally checked-in to our hotel located right on Rio’s second most popular beach, Ipanema. Although Rio is renowned for its’ Copacabana beach, I was pleasantly surprised to be staying at Ipanema beach as it is safer and in a much more residential area – perfect for an authentic stay in Rio!
Why I would Recommend a Contiki in South America
As mentioned earlier, this is my first ever Contiki.
Visiting South America for the first time can be somewhat daunting, particularly as a solo female traveller. The region is still quite difficult to travel throughout on your own (especially if you don’t speak Spanish or Portuguese), so most travellers opt for the safe and secure option of a group tour.
But why Contiki above all other options?
The Latin America Contiki tours are in my opinion the best product on the market. After doing a great deal of research on South American tour groups, this was the best value for money tour group to join. Contiki are slightly more expensive than their competitors, but offer a lot more comfort and value for money by doing things other tour operators don’t. These tours run in a private luxury coach in each city and instead of long overnight buses, you are flown between each destination. The longest bus journey for the entire trip was 3 hours.
The accommodation is also at a much higher standard in comparison with the other tour operators. Each hotel was 3 stars or higher, with very clean modern rooms that were also spacious and centrally located.
There’s also a lot more included with Contiki in comparison to others – elaborate dinners, activities, and not one single tourist attraction is missed.
Would I do it again?
Absolutely. I had a fantastic time on my first Contiki and it was undeniably the best way to get a grasp on the Latin American region. While I would definitely recommend the tours in South America, I would highly suggest you combine this 10 day tour with the Peru tour or even look at the complete Latin America tour. This is because the 10 day tour was primarily in between cities and to truly get the feel for Latin America, one should definitely visit countries like Peru and Ecuador (next on my list to visit!!!!).
Buenos Aires to Rio De Janeiro Tour Specifics:
- 10 days
- From US $2992 per person, twin share
- 2 world heritage sites visited
- “Backstage Pass” – tour inclusions such as Christ the Redeemer, Buenos Aires city tour & more
- 9 nights in 3 star hotel accommodation
- 2 flights (BA to Iguassu, Iguassu to Rio)
- Transport from start to finish in private air-conditioned coach or mini coach
- Sightseeing tours in each location
- A FANTASTIC Tour Manager – by the name of Gabby
- 13 meals included – all breakfasts, 4 dinners
- “ME TIME” – optional extras – Argentinan culinary experience, polo day, helicopter, surf lesson, hang gliding, sugar loaf, etc.
- = $300 US per day without food, extra activities, tips
World of Wanderlust was welcomed by Contiki to experience the Buenos Aires to Rio de Janeiro tour, however my opinion is as always, my own.