How do you beat the winter blahs? Go south! Winter in North America means summer sunshine in South America. With South American destinations in high demand, there is an abundance of ways to explore this immense continent. Best of all, travelers can see two more of the New 7 Wonders of the World. And, if planned carefully, you can experience both of them in one trip!
Christ the Redeemer Statue – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Oh, oh, Rio! Rio de Janeiro, Brazil is a place that evokes visions of robust nightlife, the unhinged revelry that is Carnivál, of beautiful people on amazing beaches, and all the while, samba music playing in the background. Yet Brazil is a devout nation whose perception of itself is that of a welcoming haven for all. This is visibly evident by one of the New 7 Wonders of the World, the statue of Christ the Redeemer.
The statue was built to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Brazilian Independence in 1922. Standing atop Corcovado Mountain and overlooking the gorgeous Rio harbor, it is 125 feet high and nearly 100 feet across. It was completed in 1931 and has, according to some reports, up to two million visitors a year. Its purposeful design of Jesus with his arms outstretched is a symbol of peace and love of all.
The summit of Corcovado is reached by a scenic electric train ride up steep tracks and through the mountain forest. Until very recently, the only way to get to the statue itself from the train depot at the summit was to walk 220 steps (the equivalent of 7 stories). Fortunately for visitors, in 2003, escalators, elevators and walkways were added. In 2006 a small chapel was built at the base of the statue. With room for 150 people, the chapel is a unique venue for weddings and baptisms. But nothing compares with the impressive wonder of one of the most recognized statues in the world.
Machu Picchu – Cusco Region, Peru
In the 15th century, the Incan Emperor Pachacútec built a city in the clouds. Some 7,900 feet above sea level, this settlement was unknown to the modern world until 1911. Various theories abound as to the purpose of the place, although the truth is lost to history. It is commonly agreed by historians that this “lost city” was in fact a retreat for Incan rulers and their traveling communities.
Machu Picchu is a brilliant representation of functional architecture and early engineering: agricultural terraces and aqueducts are built into the steep slope, farming areas were located closer to sea level, and unsurprisingly, the important religious and royal buildings are at the peak of Machu Picchu, overlooking the lush valley below.
Visitors begin their tour of Machu Picchu from the lower town of Aguas Calientes. Some make it a day trip, but many visitors overnight in Aguas Calientes, to take advantage of entry to Machu Picchu during off-hours. From Aguas Calientes, a bus or van deposits guests at the entrance. Guided tours are worthwhile for the learning opportunities, but guests are free to roam about the ruins at their leisure.
One Vacation – Two Wonders
Demand for cruises and escorted tours to South America has never been higher. With the South America travel season on the horizon, Key Traveler can help you arrange the perfect vacation. Regent Seven Seas and Silversea Cruises have several itineraries originating or ending in either Rio or Lima, with opportunities to see other wonders of South America, such as Iguazu Falls, Buenos Aires, even the Galapagos Islands. Tauck Tours’ Empire of the Incas includes an overnight stay in Aguas Calientes and a sunrise guided tour of Machu Picchu. During Tauck’s Essence of South America, guests ascend Corcovado by train and gondola. For a more all-encompassing experience, Oceania Cruises’ South American Explorer offers an exciting 30-day itinerary from Callao, Peru (the port for Lima) to Rio, including a two-day cruise through the glacial Chilean Fjords. Add a pre-cruise extension to Machu Picchu and visit Christ the Redeemer on an Oceania shore excursions in Rio.
Whether you climb Corcovado or Machu Picchu — or both! — you are sure to experience a spectacular vacation. And you’ll be able to strike another destination (or two!) off your Seven Wonders of the World bucket list.
Call Key Traveler. We’d love to help you get there.