Tuesday, 20 June 2017

From Buenos-Aires to Riode Janeiro with Contiki.


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.
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! Our days in Rio were jam packed with exciting activities from a local Soccer match through to a Favela tour, boat trip, and many great Brazilian meals.

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