South America Cruises
A wealth of wonders awaits you on a South America cruise. From the steamy rainforests of the Amazon to the icebergs and glaciers of Cape Horn, it's a continent bursting with adventure, exploration, changing landscapes and unique exotic places. No coastline in the world offers such extreme contrasts or such sublime inspiration.
South America is really too big to take in on a single cruise, although there are some cruises of 50 nights or more that sail right round the coast from the USA. Otherwise there are two main cruise routes: Round the Horn cruises, typically between Buenos Aires in Argentina and Valparaiso near the southern tip, and Amazon cruises, usually between Manaus in Brazil and either Buenos Aires or Rio de Janeiro. There are also cruises that sail along the western coast, from Ushuaia in southern Argentina to Panama.
The South America cruising season generally runs from November to April. The continent is so vast that climatic conditions vary wildly from north to south, and from east to west, but the pleasantest times to visit are often the shoulder seasons of spring and autumn. The Amazon, being in the rainforest, has rain all year round -- the less wet season is May to November, when jungle paths are more accessible, whereas in the really wet or flood season, December-April, the ship can take you closer to the forest canopy, and you can explore the smaller tributaries by boat.
The major attraction of the Amazon is of course nature and the rainforest -- the dense greenery of the jungle, reaching right to the water's edge, with glimpses of flame-haired monkeys and gaudy parrots flashing through the trees, the vivid colours matching the brightly-painted canoes of the local indigenous people. Manaus, the Jungle City, is a base for river-boat excursions to Terra Nova Island, and the Meeting of the Waters, where different coloured waters come together without mixing. The beginning or end of the cruise will probably be in fabulous Rio de Janeiro, with spectacular sights like Sugar Loaf Mountain.
Round the Horn
Highlights of a Round-the-Horn cruise, which will last 14 nights or more, include the Chilean fjords, the grandeur of which is almost unsurpassed, and Patagonia, a vast land of deserts and mountain lakes. Rather than rounding Cape Horn itself, where seas are extremely rough, ships usually cut through the Beagle Channel, between Chile and Argentina, studded with glacier-marked fjords and stunning snow-capped mountains. Ports include elegant and lively Buenos Aires, spectacular Ushuaia in the south of Argentina, and Valparaiso in Chile, with its steep hills and charming brightly-painted buildings.
Sometimes overlooked as a cruise destination, South America proves a stunning revelation, beyond your wildest dreams. With its vast tropical rainforests, dizzying mountain ranges, cosmopolitan cities and exotic cultures, nowhere in the world can promise such riveting adventures and dazzling surprises as this incredible continent.
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