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South America has become the new “in” place to visit. This absolutely huge continent extends from the equatorial tropics to the Antarctic. There are 14 countries and territories within the continent of South America, and they are as diverse as can be. The best thing about cruising South America is that the continent is so big that it doesn’t matter how many cruise ships are sailing it at any one time. You’ll never experience any “cruise ship congestion,” as you would, say in Alaska.  

South America cannot generally be covered in one cruise. It is just too big and covers too much of an area. So people often take several cruises to sample the various parts of it. Also, since the weather patterns vary greatly on that huge continent, different areas need to be explored at different times of the year. For example, you couldn’t necessarily sail the Amazon River and Cape Horn/Beagle Channel on the same cruise, nor could you sail Brazil and Antarctica on the same cruise.

Why visit South America?


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Something you will remember for the rest of your days

The best time to visit South America would typically be from November to early May, and this is when the cruise ships generally run their trips there. This is because South America is in the southern hemisphere, so their seasons are exactly the opposite of ours. Regardless of when you visit, however, be prepared for a variation in climates that can change from hour to hour and day to day.  

South America voyages tend to comprise two distinct itineraries. First, there are the “Around the Horn” voyages which usually sail between Buenos Aires and Valparaiso, and feature lots of fjords, along with the untamed beauty of Patagonia and Cape Horn, which is the southernmost point on the continent of South America. These voyages almost always last for at least 14 nights because they have to cover quite a lot of ground to get from Buenos Aires and Valparaiso. The “horn,” of course, is the infamous Cape Horn, which is the closest most people will ever get to Antarctica, which lies about 1,000 miles further south.  

The major highlight of this itinerary is the Chilean fjords, whose grandeur surpasses even those of Alaska; as well as Patagonia which is a land of deserts and mountains that stretch between Argentina and Chile. A few ships on this itinerary will also include Antarctica, but will not always make it there if the captain determines that the ice conditions are too dangerous to be tackled by ship.  

There are few ports visited on these itineraries simply because the region is so huge. But from Buenos Aires, many ships will call at Puerto Madryn, whose big attraction is the penguin colonies. They will also visit Punta Arenas, Ushuaia, Puerto Montt and Valparaiso. Some ships will also include stops at Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands. The highlights to see on this itinerary would have to include Patagonia with its diverse scenery which varies from flat, almost eerily-deserted pampas to a sweeping lakes district ringed by mountain ranges. This region is absolutely breathtaking in its diversity and it’s a site that shouldn’t be missed. Other draws of this area would have to include the nature sightings, which would include penguin colonies, killer whales and glacier parks.  

The second type of itinerary is an Amazon River cruise. This type of voyage spends a week or longer just sailing to points on that river, going from Manaus toward the Atlantic Ocean, and watching the colour of the waters change, from what looks like the colour of a milky café latte to what looks like an inky-black cup of espresso. The particularly neat thing about sailing the Amazon is when these two colours come together – as in the merging of the waters – but don’t actually mix! Rather, the two colours run side-by-side for miles as you progress along the river.  

Amazon River cruises normally concentrate on Brazil and will usually make a couple of stops in the Uruguay region before winding up in Argentina. They cover ground in undeveloped areas where passengers can take jungle sightseeing excursions, to areas comprised of small towns and cities. Depending on the length of the cruise, ships doing this itinerary may make port calls in Santarem, Boca da Valeria, Recife, Belem, Rio de Janeiro, Montevideo, Punta del Este and, finally terminate in Buenos Aires.  

The focus of these cruises, of course, is the Amazon River, so the main things to see are the jungle, nature and the wildlife. Shore trips can include canoe rides and various wildlife encounter experiences. When the ships leave the Amazon and go into the Atlantic Ocean, they head south along the coast of Brazil. There it’s city sights that become the focus, such as the colourful Rio de Janeiro which is a fabulous cosmopolitan city with its own unique exotic flare.  

South America is a continent one cannot rush a visit too. Instead it should be leisurely savoured. Try to add a land trip to the beginning or end of your cruise. Some possibilities include a visit to Machu Picchu which is easily accessible from Santiago. Or, perhaps a visit to Iguazu Falls, which borders Argentina and Brazil, would be more to your liking.  

Whatever itinerary or length of trip you choose, you can be sure that a visit to South America will be something you will remember for the rest of your days.

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