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2008 Winter Trip -- South America and Antarctic Peninsula -- Santiago and Coastal Chile

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This article was posted on March 1, 2009.

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Page 1 -- Santiago and Coastal Chile
Page 2 -- Ushuaia, Argentina and Cape Horn
Page 3 -- Antarctic Peninsula
Page 4 -- Falkland Islands
Page 5 -- Buenos Aires, Argentina
Page 6 -- Montevideo, Uruguay
Page 7 -- Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Page 8 -- Petropolis, Brazil

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Fodor's South America Travel Guide

Antarctica Country Guide, by Jeff Rubin

One silver lining to the global economic crisis and financial meltdown is that it's now cheap to travel. Both airlines and cruise lines are discounting their fares. And the strong US Dollar makes hotel, dining, and local transportation expenses a bargain as well in many foreign countries. (Though if you insist on living like an American, it's about the same cost as here.) I decided to take advantage of the downturn by booking a grand tour of South America and the Antarctic Peninsula for December 2008. Here are a few highlights and pictures from the trip.

Avoiding the "reciprocity tax" and expensive visa requirements

In planning the trip, I found that several nations on my itinerary have special entry taxes or visa requirements that they levy on American citizens in reciprocity for the treatment their nationals receive when they visit the US. (No doubt a byproduct of the embarrassing state of our international relations after eight years of George W. Bush.) Americans can avoid these extra taxes if they travel under the passport of another country. Some 40 million Americans are eligible for dual citizenship in the countries of their parents' or grandparents' birth. I obtained an Irish passport on this basis and saved several hundred dollars in fees and taxes on the trip. You'll still need to show your US passport when you return to the US.

Santiago, Chile

I spent five days in the Santiago area before catching up with the cruise ship in the Port of Valparaiso. I found Santiago to be a modern, well-organized city with a fabulous mass transit system. One interesting aspect of the city was the large number of stray dogs. They seemed docile enough, but were everywhere. Authorities estimate that there are over 200,000 strays in the Santiago metropoltan area.

Picture 1:
View of downtown Santiago from Santa Lucia Park.

Picture 2:
Presidential Palace (La Moneda) in downtown Santiago.

Picture 3:
Santiago's omnipresent stray dogs.

Santiago, Chile to Mendoza, Argentina via the Trans-Andean Highway

While smog often hides the view of the spectaular Andes Mountains from Santiago, I was lucky enough to take a trip across the Andes to Mendoza, Argentina on a clear, sunny day.

Picture 4:
The Chilean side of the Andes Mountains is marked by a steep road with 27 hairpin turns approaching the
Christo Redentor Tunnel. The white waters of the Aconcagua River flow on the right side of the photo.

Picture 5:
The Christo Redentor Tunnel is at about 10,000 ft elevation.
The Chile/Argentina border lies just East of the tunnel.

Picture 6:
Topping out at 22,841 ft. elevation, Mt. Aconcagua is the tallest mountain outside of the Himalayas.
The summit is about 10 miles from the highway at this point.

Picture 7:
The Argentina side of the Andes is much drier than the Chilean side and not quite as steep.

Port of Valparaiso, Chile

Picture 8:
New Congress Building in Valparaiso.

Cruising the Pacific Coast of Chile

The Amsterdam spent several days crusing the Chilean coastline, making port calls in Puerto Montt and Punta Arenas. We also cruised the Darwin Channel and saw the Amalia Glacier.

Puerto Montt, Chile

Picture 9:
Puerto Montt shorefront.

Picture 10:
Main square (Plaza de Armas) in Puerto Montt.

Picture 11:
Osorno Volcano.

Picture 12:
Darwin Channel.

Picture 13:
Amalia Glacier.

Punta Arenas, Chile

Picture 14:
Downtown Punta Arenas.

Picture 15:
Coffee shop.

Picture 16:
Distance to back home.

Picture 15:
Cruise ship docked at far end of Punta Arenas (3 mi. from downtown.)


We passed 5 or 6 glaciers on the cruise through the Chilean Fjords and the Beagle Channel. The Italia Galcier was the most impressive.

Picture 17:
Italia Glacier.

Picture 18:
Rainbow in the Beagle Channel.

Picture 19:
View from the stern.

Pictures from Ushuaia, Argentina and Cape Horn - click here.


Copyright 2000-2009 John P. Greaney, All rights reserved.

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