Home to astounding natural and man-made wonders, from the snow-capped peaks of the Andes to thousands of miles of stunning white-sand coastline, its captivating colonial cities and small indigenous villages make it a must-see destination, and there really is no better way to take it all in than by cruise.
With such a huge expanse of terrain to cover, and poor roads and transport infrastructure, the only way to explore the rugged terrain properly is by ship - a feature which only makes South American cruises more appealing.
Sail around this vast continent with luxury line Princess Cruises, which boasts a selection of twelve different itineraries and different extended land excursions as Stay and Cruise options. Or, if you are travelling with kids, MSC is a great choice, offering lots of activities to keep them entertained during days spent at sea.
When embarking on your South American cruise adventure, you will soon realise that your ship goes where few hotels exist, and even the hardiest of travellers will experience some relief when they come aboard after a day spent trekking through the jungle. The cruise season typically runs from November through to April, during the South American summer. With so many cruise companies sailing at this time of year, you are bound to find a date to suit you.
Holland America has several ships voyaging through South American waters, including the MS Zaandam, which is the ideal choice for those who enjoy a tipple, featuring a ocean bar and piano bar – the perfect sunset refreshment after working up a thirst during the day’s excursions.
Cruise holidays to South America are ideal for travellers in search of outstanding natural beauty, from the Chilean fjords which stretch on forever, to the exotic secrets of the Amazon rainforest - home to thousands of species of wildlife found nowhere else on earth.
The two most common itineraries are the Amazon cruise, and the voyage ‘Round the Horn’. The Amazon cruise will typically sail between the city of Manaus, a vast metropolis that dominates the Amazonas region, and either Brazil’s carnival city, Rio de Janeiro, or Argentina’s iconic capital, Buenos Aires.
If you want to extend your stay, some cruise lines combine an Amazon cruise with the Caribbean - for cruise holidays of 28 days or more. An Amazon cruise, however, will typically focus on Brazil, with a few ports of call in lesser-known Uruguay. The main attraction of this itinerary is that you get up close and personal with the natural wonders of the rainforest. Operators also run canoe tour excursions to enable you to access harder to reach areas for an unforgettable adventure, before retreating back to the comfort of your cabin and all of the facilities the ship has to offer by nightfall.
A ‘Round the Horn’ itinerary will commence in Buenos Aires and typically last 14 days or more. The ‘horn’ is, of course, the infamous Cape Horn, the southernmost point of the southernmost continent and the closest to Antarctica as many of us are likely to get, lying just 1000km further south.
The highlight of this itinerary is a visit to the Chilean fjords which – as those who have been there will tell you – put Alaska’s to shame. Other activities include penguin spotting at Puerto Madryn, and exploring the startlingly arid salt flats of the Patagonian desert.
South America is a must-see destination for adventure-seekers and lovers of cruise holidays. Explore the depths of the jungle, experience terrains and cultures unlike anything you’ve ever seen before, from a unique vantage point that you’ll never forget.