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Getting To South America

By Plane -- Buenos Aires, Santiago, Lima, and São Paulo receive the greatest number of international flights to South America. If you're planning to explore the entire continent, you might consider starting off at one of these gateways and hooking up there for connecting flights to less-serviced destinations.

Tour Operators Specializing In South America

Organizing a trip to South America can be a royal pain, especially if you don't speak Spanish or Portuguese. These tour companies have connections throughout the entire continent, and their staffs can make all of your travel arrangements for you. Here is a list of some of the best tour operators.

  • Abercrombie & Kent, Inc. (tel. 800/554-7016; www.abercrombiekent.com) is one of the most upscale tour companies arranging trips to South America. The company's tours will take you to the best parts of Patagonia, the Galápagos, Peru, Ecuador, Chile, and Argentina.
  • Backroads (tel. 03/462-2848; www.backroads.com) is a U.S.-based adventure tour operator specializing in hiking and biking tours, combining active endeavors with varied cultural pursuits and stays at plush inns and bed-and-breakfasts. Their South American itineraries include trips to Ecuador, Argentina, and Peru.
  • Blue Parallel (tel. 800/256-5307; www.blueparallel.com) leads private, tailor-made luxury adventure tours across the South American continent, making use of many of the top lodges and resorts in offbeat destinations such as Patagonia and Fernando de Noronha, and offering a "Crossing the Andes" trip from Chile to Argentina.
  • Kon-Tiki Tours & Travel (tel. 877/566-8454; www.kontiki.org) is run by an American and Peruvian couple. The company specializes in trips throughout South America, including general highlights, and cultural and spiritual tours. You can choose from more than 30 different itineraries in Peru, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, and Chile. Prices include guides and airfare.
  • Ladatco Tours (tel. 800/327-6162; www.ladatco.com) specializes in package tours to South and Central America. The company offers Carnaval specials, as well as air-only deals.
  • Overseas Adventure Travel (tel. 800/493-6824 in the U.S. and Canada; www.oattravel.com) has good-value natural-history and soft adventure itineraries with small groups and naturalist guides. They offer land and cruise packages to a variety of destinations, including Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Argentina, and Chile.
  • South American Expeditions (tel. 800/884-7474; www.adventuresports.com/asap/travel/exped) offers adventure, cultural, off-the-beaten path, and women-only tours to Ecuador and Peru.
  • Tara Tours Inc. (tel. 800/327-0080; www.taratours.com) is one of the most experienced agencies offering package tours to South America. Some of the specialties here include archaeology and spiritual journeys. In general, the company's package tours are great deals.
  • Condor Journeys and Adventures (tel. 01700/841-318; www.condorjourneys-adventures.com) is a British company that offers tour packages and active vacations throughout South America.
  • Journey Latin America (tel. 020/8747-8315; www.journeylatinamerica.co.uk) is one of the premier British travel agencies offering trips to South America. The company can arrange airfare and tour packages throughout the entire continent.
  • Adventure Associates Pty Ltd. (tel. 02/9389-7466; www.adventureassociates.com) is the best source in Australia for high-end package tours to South America and Antarctica.

Special-Interest Vacations

Here's a list of companies offering educational and volunteer opportunities in South America:

  • AmeriSpan (tel. 800/879-6640 or 215/751-1100; www.amerispan.com) helps students arrange programs that combine language study, travel, and volunteer opportunities throughout South America.
  • Amigos de las Américas (tel. 800/231-7796 or 713/782-5290; www.amigoslink.org) is always looking for volunteers to promote public health, education, and community development in rural areas of Latin America.
  • Earthwatch Institute (tel. 800/776-0188 or 978/461-0081; www.earthwatch.org) supports sustainable conservation efforts of the earth's natural resources. The organization can always use volunteers for its research teams in South America.
  • Habitat for Humanity International (tel. 229/924-6935, or check the website for local affiliates; www.habitat.org) needs volunteers to help build affordable housing in more than 79 countries in the world, including most countries in South America.
  • Spanish Abroad, Inc. (tel. 888/722-7623 or 602/778-6791; www.spanishabroad.com) organizes intensive language-study programs throughout Latin America.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.