Fly to vibrant Buenos Aires, where you’ll spend a night in a hotel, and visit beaux arts palaces and the bohemian quarters of La Boca and San Telmo before settling into your cabin aboard the National Geographic Explorer.
Montevideo’s history is reflected in elegant architecture ranging from colonial to Art Deco. Tour this great city, starting in the Old City, seeing Plaza Matriz, with Montevideo's cathedral and historic town hall, and the Plaza Independencia. Continue with looks at the Legislative Palace and other government buildings, and the obelisk which commemorates Uruguay’s constitution. Continue to the residential neighborhood of El Prado, and then go out of town to a private estancia (ranch). After an asado (traditional barbecue) and folkloric show, learn about the culture of the gauchos as you see the operation of this working farm.
North of this southernmost Brazilian port is one of the longest sandy beaches in the world. You are now in the pampas region of South America, which extends southward through Uruguay and Argentina. The region has a diverse history influenced by immigrants from a variety of European countries. Wildlife of the region is a mixture of northern and southern species, and you’ll spend the morning exploring this region. There are several trails, where you’ll seeing a flooded system with birds, capybara, caimans and other animals and see fig trees, giant bromeliads and the birdlife.
From the port of Paranaguá, get an early start for Curitiba, where you’ll board the Serra Verde Express train for Brazil’s most remarkable rail journey—a three-hour ride down steep mountains, across 30 trestle bridges and through 14 tunnels. The story of the railroad’s construction is both epic and tragic. Get off the train in historic Morretes and walk through the town center, with a barreado (traditional beef stew) finale.
Alternatively, you may wish to explore the Atlantic rain forest at Guaraqueçaba, located on a pretty bay with the peaks of the Serra do Mar in the background. Navigate the mangrove habitat aboard a local boat, with opportunities for forest walks and waterfall views.
The tiny island of Anchieta offers us some relaxed hours of exploring. Visit the ruins of a prison, hear tales of the island’s history, and walk along the island’s renowned beaches, with a chance to enjoy the moment.
Follow the Costa Verde to Parati, once an important center for gold trade. Stroll the cobbled lanes past whitewashed cottages, colonial buildings and churches. Take a walking tour of the historic center, visiting fine houses, museums, and churches. There will also be a musician playing the distinctive Cirandeiros rhythm that Parati is known for.
Alternatively, you may wish to take an excursion out of town in four-wheel-drive vehicles to the Caminho do Ouro (Gold Trail), where you can walk to some lovely waterfalls, enjoy the forest and look for birdlife. In the afternoon, an isolated beach or secluded bay will beckon here, inviting you to relax, swim or kayak.
Famous for its fun-loving ways, Rio presents a dazzling array of options, many of them iconic. The area was recently declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, for its dazzling scenery and monuments as well as for its nature that has been preserved despite human population growth.
High above the city at the famous iconic statue of Christ the Redeemer at Corcovado yields spectacular views over the city, the ocean, and Guanabara Bay—all making for great photo opportunities. You may also wish to visit Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf Mountain) by cable car, for more great views.
Additional options are many. Explore Floresta da Tijuca, Rio’s largest national park, with a maze of great trails (including the chance to choose a more challenging hike) and chances to see birds, monkeys and sloths. Visit the golden lion tamarin reserve and learn about this endangered primate. Visit a favela (poor neighborhood) for an understanding of the struggles and development work that are continuing. Choose to go on a walking tour of Rio’s historic downtown, with a mix of colonial architecture and modern high-rises and many intriguing and entertaining stories. And of course you’ll have the chance to enjoy Rio’s legendary beaches, Copacabana and Ipanema.
Spend time navigating the volcanic isles of the stunning Abrolhos Archipelago, known for its rich marine biodiversity. Keep an eye out for masked boobies, red-billed tropicbirds, and the humpback whales that come here to breed and calve.
Ilhéus once flourished as the cacao capital of Brazil. Drive out of town to a fazenda (farm) where cacao has been grown since the 1800s. In this pretty setting, there’s the chance to learn about the technique and history of cacao cultivation. Visit a research facility where endangered maned three-toed sloths have been given protection, along with several other sloth species. End up in the town of Ilhéus for a stroll past charming colonial buildings to the impressive Cathedral of São Sebastião and a drink at Vesúvio, a bar that’s famous because it served as a setting for the poet and novelist Jorge Amado’s revered book Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon.
Alternatively, you may wish to drive to the Itacaré area to hike in a local reserve in search of birds and other wildlife, and go by canoe up the Rio de Contas. This evening, look to enjoy a musical performance by local artists.
Continue to the vibrant city of Salvador, the capital of the Bahia region and a hub of Afro-Brazilian culture, Set out to explore this well-preserved 16th- and 17th-century city. Wander past brightly painted baroque buildings in the historic district of Pelourinho, a World Heritage site, and see embroidered linens and woodcarvings at the local market. Spend a night in a hotel, then transfer to the airport for your flight home.