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Rio De Janeiro - Best Tours & Trips 2019

141 trips to Rio De Janeiro tours from 29 tour companies. 127 reviews. 4.7/5 avg rating.
There is much to see and do in Rio, Brazils second most populous area, and one of the largest in all of South America. From famous sites, such as the Christ Redeemer statue to the eye opening favelas scattered around the city, it's a trip to be remembered. Stride can help you find the perfect tour to explore Rio.
All Rio De Janeiro tours, river cruises, expedition cruises, and adventure trips. Find the best guided trips and expert planned vacation and holiday packages.
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Travel Style Travel Style Relaxed A lot of free time, with very few inclusions. Ideal for independent and/or low-key travelers and cruisers.
Full on For those looking to maximize their sight seeing time. You thrive on a packed day’s schedule from 8 am to 6pm, with some (but limited) free time. Most activities and meals included.
Mixed You will have solid amounts of both free time and structured time with some activities and meals included.

Trip Type Trip Type Group Tour Groups are between 25-60 people, typically ~30-40. Usually there will be many opportunities to split off and enjoy meals and excursions in smaller groups. This is the most economical way to travel, saving up to 40% versus booking the same itinerary yourself.
Small Group Tour Small groups are usually defined as between 10 and 24 travelers, often less. If you're the kind of person who enjoys more intimate experiences and personal service this is a good choice. All else being equal you will pay a premium for this style vs a larger group tour.
River Cruise These vessels are smaller than most ocean cruisers, limiting which amenties are available. Passenger counts can vary. One of the biggest advantages of a river cruise is the ability to dock at smaller ports and local villages.
Small Ship Cruise Small ship cruises usually have a max passenger count of 500. The primary purpose of these trips is to spend time off the vessel in local ports (e.g. Mediterranean) or experiencing nature (e.g Galapagos or Antarctica). Cabins can vary from budget to luxury.
Private Guided Private tours give you the undivided attention of a guide, and often involve special access to sites and unique experiences not available to larger groups. This is a great option for families, couples, and small friend groups. Expect to pay a bit more for the extra service.
Self Guided / Independent Tour A travel company plans your itinerary and arranges all the logistics including lodging, local activities, and transportantion. You have the flexibility of a solo trip while still getting the convience and time savings of expert planning. Get 90% of the benefits of a tour, without a guide.
Vacation / Holiday Package Similar to a self guided tour, this usually involves a home base, such as a hotel or resort, with packaged activities and day tours as a part of the stay.
Large Ship Cruise This is the "floating city" experience, with multiple ways to enjoy your vacation aboard the ship as much as on land. Ships are multiple floors, provide several activities, culinary, and shopping options. They often make fewer stops and have less time available for shore excursions.

Itinerary Focus

Lodging Level Lodging Level Camping Typically involves most nights sleeping in tents (sometimes permanent tented sites) or in rustic cabins and lodges.
Basic - 2 star You'll stay in no-frills, but clean and comfortable, hotels or guesthouses. A 'Basic' trip might also involve a few nights of camping.
Value - 3 star Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels.
Premium - 4 star 3 to 4 star western hotel equivalents. While not all lodging will be 'luxury' they will be quite comfortable by western standards.
Luxury - 5 star The highest level of comfort and service. All accomodations are in four or five star hotels, boutique lodges or high-end homestays.

Price From*

$ 510 $ 10,000+

Price Per Day

Trip Length

Countries

Physical Level Physical Level Very Easy Minimal walking - motor vehicles available for all major parts of trip.
Easy Normal generally flat walking in urban or suburban environments.
Moderate Walking or physical activity half to most of day - no carrying equipment.
Strenuous All or most of day hiking or biking, hills included.
Extreme Very challenging all day hiking and backpacking carrying significant equipment.

Travel Theme

Travelers Age

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Rivers & Seas

Cities & Attractions

Activities

Solo Friendly Solo Friendly Good for Singles Trips that specifically cater to travelers looking to meet other singles.
No Single Supplement Trips where single supplement is usually not required for solo travelers.

Company

Flights & Transport

Continents & Regions

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South American Odyssey

SmarTours
Premier
Has very high quality customer experiences and demonstrated commitment to responsible travel practices. read more
16 days
$ 262 / day
$ 4,199
From : $ 5,669
The strike-through price reflects either the high season trip price or the average price a traveler pays for a similar itinerary when the components are booked separately.
Travel Style : You will have solid amounts of both free time and structured time with some activities and meals included. Mixed
Physical Level : Some walking over short or flat distances. Some trips may include cycling options. Some are wheelchair friendly (check for individual trips). Some cruises. Easy
Lodging Level : Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels. Value - 3 star
Highlights
  • San Cristobal Hill (Santiago)
  • Picturesque Bariloche
  • Buenos Aires City Tour
  • Tango Show (Buenos Aires)
  • Iguassu Falls
  • Sugar Loaf Mountain (Rio)
  • Copacabana (Rio)
Visits:
Andes Mountains, Bariloche, Buenos Aires, Iguazu Falls, Puerto Varas, Rio de Janeiro, San Cristobal, Santiago, Valparaiso, Argentina, Brazil, Chile
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Argentina & Brazil 12 Days

Say Hueque
Premier
Has very high quality customer experiences and demonstrated commitment to responsible travel practices. read more
12 days
$ 261 / day
$ 3,135
From : $ 4,232
The strike-through price reflects either the high season trip price or the average price a traveler pays for a similar itinerary when the components are booked separately.
Travel Style : A lot of free time, with very few inclusions. Ideal for independent and/or low-key travelers and cruisers. Relaxed
Physical Level : Some walking over short or flat distances. Some trips may include cycling options. Some are wheelchair friendly (check for individual trips). Some cruises. Easy
Lodging Level : Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels. Value - 3 star
Highlights
  • Discover Argentina & Brazil Tours
  • Tango in Buenos Aires
  • Explore Estancia in Argentina
  • Visit Ibera Wetlands
  • See the massive Iguazu Falls
  • Enjoy Rio de Janeiro Trips
Visits:
Buenos Aires, Corcovado National Park, Iguazu Falls, Rio de Janeiro, Sugar Loaf, Argentina, Brazil
View Trip

Buenos Aires, Iguazu Falls & Rio – 9 Days

Say Hueque
Premier
Has very high quality customer experiences and demonstrated commitment to responsible travel practices. read more
9 days
$ 212 / day
$ 1,905
From : $ 2,572
The strike-through price reflects either the high season trip price or the average price a traveler pays for a similar itinerary when the components are booked separately.
Travel Style : For those looking to maximize their sight seeing time. You thrive on a packed day’s schedule from 8 am to 6pm, with some (but limited) free time. Most activities and meals included. Full on
Physical Level : Some walking over short or flat distances. Some trips may include cycling options. Some are wheelchair friendly (check for individual trips). Some cruises. Easy
Lodging Level : Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels. Value - 3 star
Highlights
  • Enjoy Luxury Dinner Tango Show
  • Experience Buenos Aires City Tour
  • Explore Iguazu Falls
  • Visit Rio de Janeiro
  • Discover Christ the Redeemer Statue
  • Visit to Sugarloaf Mountain
Visits:
Buenos Aires, Iguazu Falls, Iguazu National Park, Rio de Janeiro, Argentina, Brazil
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Beaches of Brazil Tour

Lost World Adventures
Premier
Has very high quality customer experiences and demonstrated commitment to responsible travel practices. read more
13 days
$ 301 / day
$ 3,913
From : $ 4,461
The strike-through price reflects either the high season trip price or the average price a traveler pays for a similar itinerary when the components are booked separately.
Travel Style : A lot of free time, with very few inclusions. Ideal for independent and/or low-key travelers and cruisers. Relaxed
Physical Level : Some walking over short or flat distances. Some trips may include cycling options. Some are wheelchair friendly (check for individual trips). Some cruises. Easy
Lodging Level : The highest level of comfort and service. All accomodations are in four or five star hotels, boutique lodges or high-end homestays. Luxury - 5 star
Highlights
  • Explore Rio de Janeiro
  • Enjoy the ride to Corcovado Mountain and its famous statue of Christ, the Redeemer
  • See the Fabulous Iguazú Falls
  • Drive through Praia Do Forte
Visits:
Buenos Aires, Corcovado National Park, Iguazu Falls, Iguazu National Park, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, Argentina, Brazil
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Rio To Iguazu – 7 Days

Say Hueque
Premier
Has very high quality customer experiences and demonstrated commitment to responsible travel practices. read more
7 days
$ 168 / day
$ 1,175
From : $ 1,586
The strike-through price reflects either the high season trip price or the average price a traveler pays for a similar itinerary when the components are booked separately.
Travel Style : A lot of free time, with very few inclusions. Ideal for independent and/or low-key travelers and cruisers. Relaxed
Physical Level : Some walking over short or flat distances. Some trips may include cycling options. Some are wheelchair friendly (check for individual trips). Some cruises. Easy
Lodging Level : Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels. Value - 3 star
Highlights
  • Enjoy Travelling to Rio de janeiro
  • Explore Iguazu Falls
  • See Sugar Loaf
  • Experience Argentina & Brazil Tours
  • Enjoy travelling from Rio de Janeiro to Iguazu Falls
Visits:
Iguazu Falls, Iguazu National Park, Rio de Janeiro, Argentina, Brazil
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Big Cities - Rio to Buenos Aires Tour

Lost World Adventures
Premier
Has very high quality customer experiences and demonstrated commitment to responsible travel practices. read more
9 days
$ 263 / day
$ 2,363
From : $ 2,906
The strike-through price reflects either the high season trip price or the average price a traveler pays for a similar itinerary when the components are booked separately.
Travel Style : A lot of free time, with very few inclusions. Ideal for independent and/or low-key travelers and cruisers. Relaxed
Physical Level : Some walking over short or flat distances. Some trips may include cycling options. Some are wheelchair friendly (check for individual trips). Some cruises. Easy
Lodging Level : 3 to 4 star western hotel equivalents. While not all lodging will be 'luxury' they will be quite comfortable by western standards. Premium - 4 star
Highlights
  • Explore Rio de Janeiro
  • Take an opportunity to Ride to the top Corcovado Mountain 
  • See the famous statue of Christ the Redeemer
  • View the impressive Iguazu Falls
  • Discover places as Parque Lezama, Defensa Street, and the Flea Market premises.
  • Visit the city known as 'The Paris of South America' through our exclusive 'Four Balconies of Buenos Aires' tour. 
Visits:
Buenos Aires, Corcovado National Park, Iguazu Falls, Iguazu National Park, Rio de Janeiro, Argentina, Brazil
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Rio de Janeiro – 3 Days

Say Hueque
Premier
Has very high quality customer experiences and demonstrated commitment to responsible travel practices. read more
3 days
$ 195 / day
$ 585
From : $ 790
The strike-through price reflects either the high season trip price or the average price a traveler pays for a similar itinerary when the components are booked separately.
Travel Style : A lot of free time, with very few inclusions. Ideal for independent and/or low-key travelers and cruisers. Relaxed
Physical Level : Some walking over short or flat distances. Some trips may include cycling options. Some are wheelchair friendly (check for individual trips). Some cruises. Easy
Lodging Level : Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels. Value - 3 star
Highlights
  • Explore Rio de Janeiro city
  • Discover Rio de Janeiro Beaches
  • Sugar Loaf & Corcovado Tour with lunch
  • Enjoy Corcovado Tour
Visits:
Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro, Sugar Loaf, Brazil
View Trip

Buenos Aires & Rio 7 Days

Say Hueque
Premier
Has very high quality customer experiences and demonstrated commitment to responsible travel practices. read more
7 days
$ 213 / day
$ 1,490
From : $ 2,012
The strike-through price reflects either the high season trip price or the average price a traveler pays for a similar itinerary when the components are booked separately.
Travel Style : A lot of free time, with very few inclusions. Ideal for independent and/or low-key travelers and cruisers. Relaxed
Physical Level : Some walking over short or flat distances. Some trips may include cycling options. Some are wheelchair friendly (check for individual trips). Some cruises. Easy
Lodging Level : Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels. Value - 3 star
Highlights
  • Enjoy Argentina & Brazil Tours
  • Enjoy Sensual Tango in Buenos Aires
  • Visit the Highlights of Rio de Janeiro
  • See the beaches of Copacabana, Ipanema & Leblon, the Rodrigo Freitas Lagoon and the Botanical Garden. 
Visits:
Buenos Aires, Copacabana, Palermo, Rio de Janeiro, Sugar Loaf, Argentina, Brazil
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All Brazil tour
Private Guided
Stride climate
This trip visits a destination that is affected by climate change

All Brazil

Lost World Adventures
Premier
Has very high quality customer experiences and demonstrated commitment to responsible travel practices. read more
13 days
$ 133 / day
$ 1,728
From : $ 2,125
The strike-through price reflects either the high season trip price or the average price a traveler pays for a similar itinerary when the components are booked separately.
Travel Style : A lot of free time, with very few inclusions. Ideal for independent and/or low-key travelers and cruisers. Relaxed
Physical Level : Some walking over short or flat distances. Some trips may include cycling options. Some are wheelchair friendly (check for individual trips). Some cruises. Easy
Lodging Level : 3 to 4 star western hotel equivalents. While not all lodging will be 'luxury' they will be quite comfortable by western standards. Premium - 4 star
Highlights
  • Discover Rio de Janeiro
  • Great opportunity to regular tour to the Christ the Redeemer statue atop Corcovado Mountain, one of the seven wonders of the world
  • Explore Manaus
  • See the magnificent Pousada which was declared an UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Enjoy the expedition along the Amazon River will begin at the Port of Manaus
  • Amazon Expedition, you will take a jungle trek to learn about jungle hunting techniques and medicinal plants
Visits:
Lençóis Maranhenses National Park, Pokhara, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
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Brazil Grand Nature Tour tour
Private Guided
Stride climate
This trip visits a destination that is affected by climate change

Brazil Grand Nature Tour

Lost World Adventures
Premier
Has very high quality customer experiences and demonstrated commitment to responsible travel practices. read more
12 days
$ 357 / day
$ 4,285
From : $ 4,885
The strike-through price reflects either the high season trip price or the average price a traveler pays for a similar itinerary when the components are booked separately.
Travel Style : A lot of free time, with very few inclusions. Ideal for independent and/or low-key travelers and cruisers. Relaxed
Physical Level : Some walking over short or flat distances. Some trips may include cycling options. Some are wheelchair friendly (check for individual trips). Some cruises. Easy
Lodging Level : The highest level of comfort and service. All accomodations are in four or five star hotels, boutique lodges or high-end homestays. Luxury - 5 star
Highlights
  • Explore Rio de Janeiro
  • Drive through Foz Do Iguaçu with magnificent views over the river and waterfall system
  • See the fascinating Iguassu Falls, area is surrounded by deep jungle
  • Experience tour through Pantanal  which is a diverse landscape of savannah lowlands, seasonally flooded wetlands and rich forested areas.
  • Tours takes you to awesome Amazon rainforest , jungle and observe the giant water lily, the majestic trees around.
  • Explore Manaus, colorful history, botanical gardens and famous Opera House
Visits:
Amazon Rainforest, Corcovado National Park, Iguazu Falls, Iguazu National Park, Manaus, Pantanal, Rio de Janeiro, Argentina, Brazil
View Trip

Brazilian Exuberance

8 days
$ 264 / day
$ 2,115
Travel Style : You will have solid amounts of both free time and structured time with some activities and meals included. Mixed
Physical Level : Some walking over short or flat distances. Some trips may include cycling options. Some are wheelchair friendly (check for individual trips). Some cruises. Easy
Lodging Level : 3 to 4 star western hotel equivalents. While not all lodging will be 'luxury' they will be quite comfortable by western standards. Premium - 4 star
Highlights
  • Rio de Janeiro
  • Sugarloaf Mountain
  • Corcovado - Christ the Redeemer statue
  • Flora & Fauna - The Pantanal
  • Daily wildlife excursions
Visits:
Pantanal, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
View Trip
Southamerica Deluxe
Private Guided
Stride climate
This trip visits a destination that is affected by climate change

Southamerica Deluxe

26 days
$ 245 / day
$ 6,360
Travel Style : You will have solid amounts of both free time and structured time with some activities and meals included. Mixed
Physical Level : Some walking over short or flat distances. Some trips may include cycling options. Some are wheelchair friendly (check for individual trips). Some cruises. Easy
Lodging Level : 3 to 4 star western hotel equivalents. While not all lodging will be 'luxury' they will be quite comfortable by western standards. Premium - 4 star
Highlights
  • Explore Lima
  • Visit Pisaq Market & The Sacred Valley
  • Visit Machu Picchu
  • Enjoy Buenos Aires City Tour & Tango Show
  • Explore Iguassu Falls
  • Train journey through the Atlantic Rainforest
Visits:
Amazon Rainforest, Buenos Aires, Cusco, Iguazu Falls, Lima, Machu Picchu, Manaus, Rio de Janeiro, Sacred Valley, Sao Paulo, Argentina, Brazil, Peru
View Trip

World of Wonders of South America

11 days
$ 241 / day
$ 2,655
Travel Style : You will have solid amounts of both free time and structured time with some activities and meals included. Mixed
Physical Level : Some walking over short or flat distances. Some trips may include cycling options. Some are wheelchair friendly (check for individual trips). Some cruises. Easy
Lodging Level : 3 to 4 star western hotel equivalents. While not all lodging will be 'luxury' they will be quite comfortable by western standards. Premium - 4 star
Highlights
  • Visit Lima, the City of the Kings
  • Cuzco, the former Inca Capital
  • Machu Picchu, one of the Seven Wonders of the World
  • Iguassu Falls, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World
  • Rio de Janeiro, the Marvelous City
Visits:
Cusco, Iguazu Falls, Iguazu National Park, Lima, Machu Picchu, Rio de Janeiro, Sacred Valley, Urubamba, Argentina, Brazil, Peru
View Trip

Tango, Samba & Waterfalls

10 days
$ 342 / day
$ 3,418
Travel Style : You will have solid amounts of both free time and structured time with some activities and meals included. Mixed
Physical Level : Some walking over short or flat distances. Some trips may include cycling options. Some are wheelchair friendly (check for individual trips). Some cruises. Easy
Lodging Level : 3 to 4 star western hotel equivalents. While not all lodging will be 'luxury' they will be quite comfortable by western standards. Premium - 4 star
Highlights
  • Visit Buenos Aires
  • Enjoy Tango Show & 3-course Dinner in Buenos Aires
  • Visit Iguassu Falls Tour - from Brazilian & Argentine sides!
  • Visit historic Port of Antonina
  • Scenic Train Ride through the Atlantic Rainforest
  • Visit Sao Paulo City Tour
Visits:
Buenos Aires, Iguazu Falls, Iguazu National Park, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Argentina, Brazil
View Trip

The Route of Gold

8 days
$ 615 / day
$ 4,920
Travel Style : You will have solid amounts of both free time and structured time with some activities and meals included. Mixed
Physical Level : Some walking over short or flat distances. Some trips may include cycling options. Some are wheelchair friendly (check for individual trips). Some cruises. Easy
Lodging Level : 3 to 4 star western hotel equivalents. While not all lodging will be 'luxury' they will be quite comfortable by western standards. Premium - 4 star
Highlights
  • Rio de Janeiro Tour to Sugarloaf & Corcovado
  • Paraty Schooner Cruise
  • Brazilian National Treasure sites: Paraty, Tiradentes, and Petrópolis
  • Mariana Gold Mine
  • UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ouro Preto
  • Congolhas & the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Congonhas
Visits:
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
View Trip
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Top Rio De Janeiro Experiences and Attractions

Top Rio De Janeiro Experiences

  • Dancing at blocos (street parties) till the sun comes up
  • Taking a cable car to the top of the Sugarloaf
  • Drinking caipirinhas on Copacabana and Ipanema beaches
  • Taking in the view of the city from Christ the Redeemer
  • Exploring a favela
  • Wandering through the interesting streets of Santa Teresa
  • Learning some samba at Pedro do Sal
  • Attending the epic party that is Carnival
view more

Rio De Janeiro Trip Reviews

127 Rio De Janeiro Tour Reviews - Summary 99% Recommend

4.7 out of 5
Excellent 90
Great 36
Average 1
Disappointing 0
Terrible 0
Value
4.7
Guide
4.7
Activities
4.7
Lodging
4.7
Transportation
4.7
Meals
4.7

Tour Reviews Write a Review

" We had an excellent time "

5.0
  • Value 5.0
  • Guide 5.0
  • Activities 5.0
  • Lodging 5.0
  • Transportation 5.0
  • Meals 5.0

"We got back from our holiday yesterday & I wanted to write to you to say that we had an excellent time & the whole trip was extremely well organised.
Our tour guides, of Vanessa in Buenos Aires, Gaston in Iguazu (Argentina), Margarita in Iguazu (Brazil) & Paolo (Rio) were all fantastic in their own ways
Vanessa`s insight & Gaston`s background of working in the park, were exceptional
The sights we saw of Iguazu Falls & the Rio Carnival were amazing (the hotels were all great & the flights were fine)
Thank you very much for helping to organise our trip !
Kind Regards, Luke

Read more
Operator Say Hueque

south american odyssey

5.0
  • Value 5.0
  • Guide 5.0
  • Activities 5.0
  • Lodging 5.0
  • Transportation 5.0
  • Meals 5.0

Another excellent tour with Betty Levin and the professional staff at smarTours. I was amazed at all the sites we visited, the very nice hotels, the wonderful meals. And we had a great group of travelers who joined us, people literally from all around the U.S. and the world. Their varied travel experiencesadded a dimension to our tour which made it even more interesting. I'll be back for another tour soon.

Read more
Operator SmarTours

Great experience and fantastic CEOs

5.0
  • Value 5.0
  • Guide 5.0
  • Activities 5.0
  • Lodging 5.0
  • Transportation 5.0
  • Meals 5.0

A fantastic experience with a good variety of activities.

Read more
Operator G Adventures

Loved South America

4.0
  • Value 4.0
  • Guide 4.0
  • Activities 4.0
  • Lodging 4.0
  • Transportation 4.0
  • Meals 4.0

wonderful trip. of us took the South American Odyssey the middle if January. Our Guide, Alex was wonderful. He was knowledgable, personable, and lots of fun. He made each day fun and full of energy. The itinerary was very good including cities, Iguazu Falls, the Lake District and a day on the Pampas. Absolutely loved Buenos Aires and to my surprise, Rio was my least favorite. I highly recommend this trip and hooefullly you will have Alex to make it even better.

Read more
Operator SmarTours

Fantastic experience

4.0
  • Value 4.0
  • Guide 4.0
  • Activities 4.0
  • Lodging 4.0
  • Transportation 4.0
  • Meals 4.0

Fantastic experience

Read more
Operator G Adventures

This is a combination review of SmarTours South American Odyssey 16 Day Escorted Tour and the South American destinations themselves

3.0
  • Value 3.0
  • Guide 1.0
  • Activities 3.0
  • Lodging 4.0
  • Transportation 3.0
  • Meals 3.0

The actual tour was 14 days because of overnight flights. We visited Chile, Argentina and Brazil. We were a cohesive group of 17 travelers in our 50’s-70’s from Canada, U.S., Cayman Islands and Nicaragua. SmarTours uses above par hotels with breakfast included. All except one, the Mabu Beach Resort in Iguassu, were excellent. Mabu was just average. I like that SmarTours tells you exactly what is and is not included. There are never any surprises. I think they provide good value for the cost of the tour. We covered a lot of ground in three countries. Much time was spent getting to and from airports and in flying, but that’s expected when you are visiting so many sites within a two week period. I think SmarTours should market this as a slow paced group tour for less active adults. Some of the walking tours were at a crawl.

A few history basics of why I chose SmarTours: I traveled with SmarTours to China a couple of years ago. We had a fabulous tour director/guide, Harry, who was with us all the time. In some cities we had local step-on guides also. This was the first escorted tour I ever took. I am usually an independent traveler.

My second trip with SmarTours was to Cuba in June 2016. We had a tour director who spoke no Spanish and badgered the group about being on time and rationed the one water bottle each of us was allowed per day. Cuba tourism is tightly controlled for Americans. I assumed she was required to be with us even though her personality was unsuited to the profession. She should’ve been working in the back office rather than face to face with people. Thankfully we had a fantastic local Cuban guide also who assumed many responsibilities that weren’t hers because the SmarTours tour director was so negligent.

I figured I’d give SmarTours another chance and took them to South America. Again we had a tour director. I then discovered that SmarTours’ policy is to always have a tour director wherever you go. She was worthless. I will not name her. She spoke neither Spanish nor Portuguese and conveyed no knowledge of the countries we visited even though she had been to them 20 some odd times. Her only concern was to be on time and tell us where we could get the best chocolate. She made herself seem important by insisting we were incapable of getting our own boarding passes or following a local tour guide around on our own. I think most travelers are capable of checking into a hotel on their own and receiving their own room keys from the front desk. Since we always had local tour guides too, I’m sure they could’ve told us what time to meet for the tour. Our tour director knew most of the local guides from previous visits. Several of them were second rate and obviously were in their jobs too long and became stale, but more of that later because a couple of local tour guides were outstanding. I have refrained from naming the second rate local tours guides and only named the good ones. I have also refrained from naming the tour director.

On to the destinations:

1. Santiago: Hotel Atton Vitacura – fine, modern, on outskirts of city in an upscale business/office/residential district with several moderately priced to expensive restaurants nearby. Metro is a walkable mile away. We were in Santiago two days.

Day 1 was a combo bus/walking tour for a couple of hours in A.M. upon arrival from our overnight flight from New York City or other Canadian/U.S. airports. Most of us were pretty exhausted but a city tour upon arrival was in the itinerary. Our local guide was OK, neither great nor awful but unmemorable with no time for questions. Remainder of day free and we slept until included dinner in hotel.

Day 2 was a free day. Everyone in the group except me took the optional tour to Valparaiso, Vina de Mar and a winery ($85). Instead I took the Metro (felt totally safe and was easy to navigate) to downtown Santiago and took a free walking tour with Franco on Wednesday, April 5, at 10 A.M. “Free Walking Tour of Santiago.” From the previous day’s tour I felt I lacked a sense of the city and really hadn’t spent any time there. Franco was professional, knowledgeable with perfectly clear English and the model of what a tour guide should be unlike the local tour guide provided by SmarTours the previous day. Franco was interesting, funny and attuned to the group of about 20 of us. When I left him after 4 ½ hours I felt I had a good understanding of Chilean people, Santiago and Chile and the history of the country in general.

2. Puerto Montt and Puerto Varas, Chile: Day 3. We flew from Santiago to Puerto Montt early in the day. SmarTours local guide, Christian Ruz, met us at the airport. He was one of the best guides we had with a wealth of knowledge and readily answered all of our questions. Puerto Montt is an industrial seaport based on the fishing industry and is the entry point in Patagonia for southern Chile and the Lake District. It was settled by German immigrants in the mid-1800’s and there is still a strong German influence. I enjoyed the short stop in town to listen to a girls’ school’s marching band performance. Lots of stray dogs who bark/sing along with the music. We were rushed onto the bus without having any time to walk around the town after the band’s performance. We then drove to the neighboring town of Puerto Varas, totally tourist driven with an upscale resort feel to it. Our hotel, the Radisson, all wood and stone and beautiful in an understated way, was right in town, opposite lake, but it was rainy, cold and cloudy so we couldn’t take advantage of the views of volcanic Mt. Osorno. A few of us walked in the town but it seemed to only have shopping and the supermarkets were the highlight. Dinner at the hotel was included. Presentation pretty. Food just so so.

3. Crossing the Andes to Angostura and Bariloche, Argentina: Day 4. We crossed the Andes by bus via the Lake District from Chile to Argentina. Long ride. Lots of checkpoints (immigration and customs) along with way. The most exciting part was getting stuck in a freak early April snowstorm when approaching the top of the Andes. Our two drivers and tour guide Christian saved us by jacking up the rear of the bus and putting chains on the tires and we eventually got out of the snow drifts. These poor guys were wearing light jackets and didn’t even have gloves. It doesn’t normally snow here until later in June. Our first stop in Argentina was in Angostura, where we walked on a boardwalk through the Arrayanes Forest filled with myrtle trees famed for their cinnamon colored hollow trunks. We also took a boat ride on the lake. Pretty. Later on we arrived in Bariloche for two nights at the Edelweiss Hotel – good in town location with plenty of restaurants to walk to. Unfortunately we chose Girula Pizza & Pasta that we were recommended to. Awful. Tasteless food, terrible and slow service that got the orders wrong, not worth the money. A real tourist trap. Bariloche is a summer lake and winter ski resort town with numerous lodging options. Hardly anyone outside the hotels speaks English.

4. Bariloche, Argentina. Day 5. After breakfast our local tour guide, Alexandra, provided a valuable talk with map references on the history of Argentina. She then led us on a very short walking tour of the town plaza. The rest of the day was free. SmarTours offered an optional excursion (The Small Circuit Tour $79) but my companion and I decided to do much of what was offered on our own instead. Any time we could escape the slow pace of the tour group we did. Getting the sube (bus pass) for local Bariloche buses was an ordeal of visiting at least eight sites that supposedly sold it but didn’t until we found one that did. My companion spoke Spanish and had she not we would’ve had a hard time communicating. We took city bus #20 to Cerro Campanario and mistakenly got off a few stops too early and wound up at the chair lift site so we didn’t get to hike up the mountain as planned. There is no trail at the chair lift site – just a steep cutaway up the mountain -- so make sure you get off at the later stop if you want to hike up the mountain. Nevertheless the round trip chair lift was a great ride and views from the top of the mountain were gorgeous. Nice little café too. We began walking back to Bariloche (18 km.) intending to catch the #20 bus on its return but a lovely young couple we met at the top of the mountain saw us walking on the country road and gave us a lift back to Bariloche. A great experience of meeting local people. We went to dinner at a small restaurant around the corner from the hotel. Huacho – good food, price, service. Try the provolenta.

5. Buenos Aires, Argentina. Day 6. After breakfast we flew to Buenos Aires where we met our local tour guide, Natalia, who provided clear and concise commentary on our way to the MGallery Brick Hotel in the Recoleta section of the city, the best hotel we stayed in on our South American Odyssey. We spent four wonderful nights there. The hotel was across from an American style mall (Bulridge) with numerous food options from McDonald’s to Argentinean gourmet food and wine bars.

Day 7 began with terrific breakfast and service at the hotel followed by a combo bus/walking tour by Natalia that included the Metropolitan Cathedral, Plaza de Mayo, Casa Rosado, Recoleta Cemetery, Calle Florida. It was too much on the bus off the bus and we probably could’ve easily walked to many of the sites, especially considering the horrendous traffic. She took us to La Boca also and we definitely needed the bus to get there. The afternoon was free and a few of us continued walking in the Microcentro on our own in the rain ending up taking an informative tour of the opera house, Teatro Colon. Dinner with tango show was included by SmarTours. Very enjoyable.

Day 8 we traveled outside the city to the Santa Susana Ranch, an estancia on the Pampas, and visited the on-site house museum, rode horses and were entertained by a gauchos riding and a folklore show. Lunch was tasteless barbecue, a disappointment to all.

Day 9 was free. We did not take the optional Tigre Delta tour offered by SmarTours ($79). Instead my companion and I spent 3 ½ hours with a Buenos Aires Greeter (Cicerones), Paola, who is part of the Global Greeter Network. She was knowledgeable and easy to talk to. We walked from our hotel along Avenue del Libertador through Recoleta and Palermo. Greeters are not tour guides. They show you a neighborhood like a person who lives there. We spontaneously participated in a healthy exercise dance group in the park and had lunch in a local café and got a feel for what it is like to live in Buenos Aires. She left us at the Museo Evita, a worthwhile place to visit. Then we took a local bus to Puerto Madero where we got lost in a mass of traffic and construction so never got to see that area but it was fun exploring where we wandered. Buenos Aires is a cosmopolitan, sophisticated, spacious, European feeling city. I wish we had more time there.

6. Iguassu Falls, Argentina. Day 10. We took an early morning flight to Iguassu Falls and our fabulous local guide, Nuxa, met us at the airport. This gal is a pro and emits an immediate love of what she does. Her intelligence and knowledge and clarity of description and “got it all togetherness” was evident immediately. She knew the ins and outs of getting us into the national park quickly especially since the place was crowded with Easter holiday family vacationers. The falls – ah, breathtaking! This was a highlight of our trip. Don’t believe what anyone says in superlatives. They are only touching the surface of the spectacularness. We were fortunate to have perfect weather. Later in the day we crossed the border to Brazil and arrived at our hotel, the Mabu Resort. Mabu is a large mass market family resort and after having been at the MGallery Brick Hotel in Buenos Aires it was a disappointment. If you don’t partake of the pool and water sports there is little else to do. You can walk in the resort grounds or cross the road (be patient as there are no traffic lights and cars speed by continuously) and visit the mall with standard mall stores and a large food court. Dinner was included at Mabu and you got the feel the resort skimped on everything they could and just wanted to fill you up without providing quality food.

7. Iguassu Falls, Brazil. Day 11. Nuxa led us on an early morning entry to the park again using her expertise to negotiate around the crowds. The Brazilian side is more impressive. Each time we rounded a corner the view was more spectacular than the previous one. Both Argentinean and Brazilian sides of the falls are in national parks and what’s nice is the naturalness of forest surrounding you with only a trail or boardwalk interrupting nature, none of the commercialism of Niagara Falls. The afternoon was free and three of us decided to stay in the park and do the Macuco Safari, a jeep ride into the forest which leaves you at the funicular down to the Iguassu River where you board a high speed zodiac and take a thrilling ride into the Three Musketeers Falls. Three times -- or was it four -- our driver sped us under. We got drenched, laughing the whole way, and it was great. If you plan to do something else afterwards, take a change of clothes. Lockers are provided. We took a taxi back to the hotel. Came to about $5USD each. In the evening several of us attended the Rafain Folklore Song and Dance Dinner Theatre highlighting the culture of numerous South American countries. We expected it to be hokey but instead the buffet dinner and show was top notch. They even transport you to and from your hotel as part of the deal. Very worthwhile to do.

8. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Day 12. Morning flight to Rio and our local guide, met us at the airport. We drove straight to Sugar Loaf Mountain and waited with the hordes of visitors to ascend the double mountain cable cars to the top. By the time we got to the top it was dark. Amazing views. Our hotel, Hilton Windsor Atlantico, a top hotel, fronted Copacabana Beach. We had great views from our high floor room. We wanted to get a light dinner in the neighborhood but the immediate area of the hotel is seedy, dirty, rundown, and the smell of garbage on the street waiting to be picked up was overpowering. All very unappealing so we returned to the hotel.

Day 13 I took an optional SmarTours tour by our local guide to the restored dock area and part of downtown. I am quoting verbatim from SmarTours description, “Rio Historical & Olympic Tour plus Hippie Fair ($76 per person) Historical tour of downtown Rio, including a visit of N. S. de Montserrat Abbey (St. Benedict Monastery). A panoramic tour explaining the main and historical buildings, and a walking tour of the renovated waterfront área of Praça Maua (square), called “Orla Conde” , with new museums, famous “Cobra graphite”, and Olympic fire . After the tour, back to south zone of Rio to visit the Hippie Fair (One of the largest fairs of handicrafts, paintings and varieties of Rio de Janeiro).”This was the only optional tour I chose to partake of because I was so psyched from all I was told of the danger of being in Rio alone without being part of a tour group. There was no Olympic Tour, nor new museums, not Cobra graphite or Olympic Fire.” In fact, the tour we took hardly fit the description of what we saw. SmarTours offered this ridiculously expensive rip off bus/walking tour, totally disjointed, with lots of details but the big picture was missing. The local tour guide was doing a job that he obviously was bored with. He didn’t even have communication skills; e.g., started talking before all of us caught up with him, frequently didn’t face the group as he spoke, and spoke too low to be heard. It seemed a lot was made of a big nothing and a waste of time. Because this was Easter Sunday of Easter week everything was shuddered as we drove through downtown and not a soul was walking there. Reminded me of the movie, “On the Beach” from the 1960’s. Very eerie. We visited the two churches, one of which was the new cathedral. He rushed us there. We couldn’t figure out what the point was of taking us into a bank building without explaining why any of the exhibits were there (the phone booths, the VW van.) The tour was supposed to be from 8 A.M. to 2 P.M. but it ended at 11:45 A.M. at the Hippie Market in Ipanema. We had an hour for the market and that was plenty of time and then took the bus back to our hotel.

A group of us went up to the rooftop café for lunch. Very nice. Views. Weather. All fine. After lunch three of us walked the length of Copacabana Beach. Saw futvolleyball, soccer in a volleyball court, and other activities. Got a bit of the local flavor. Very enjoyable. Felt completely safe during the day but we were told it is not safe at night or very early morning. Excellent dinner at the hotel was included tonight. Would’ve been nice had our tour director summed up and spoke about the trip or made some toasts since this was our last full day but she did nothing.

Day 14 was a morning trip to Corcovado, 20 minutes in the train up the hill to Christ the Redeemer statue. We had about half an hour there and when one of the tour members asked why such little time our tour director said something like there’s nothing to see but the statue. There are maps and reading material up there plus you need time just to study the statue. Very impressive especially the lady sitting outside the chapel who lent visitors rosaries if they wanted to pray. Rare to see something like that. No monetary motive. From Corcovado we were dropped either at our hotel or in Ipanema in the downtown shopping district. We chose Ipanema. Several of us went to the H. Stern Jewelry Factory and took the tour of jewelry making. Interesting. No high pressure sales at the end as there is at some other factory tours. Then a bunch of us went to the Girl From Ipanema Café for lunch. Fun especially since our tour guide told us a bit about her and how the song got written. And lastly walked on Ipanema Beach before taking the H. Stern free shuttle back to our hotel. Ipanema is more upscale than Copacabana. I had just enough time to pack before we headed to the airport for our flight home.

BOTTOM LINE: I am not cut out for escorted tours and being treated like I am in kindergarten. I enjoyed being in South America. Visiting three different countries gave me an understanding of how different they are. The tour could’ve been outstanding if we had excellent guides throughout but we did not. We had local guides everywhere, even taking us to the airport and checking us in. In my opinion, the tour director was useless.

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Operator SmarTours

Rio De Janeiro Tours and Travel Guide

Rio De Janeiro Attractions & Landmarks Guide

There is much to see and do in Rio, Brazils second most populous area, and one of the largest in all of South America. From famous sites, such as the Christ Redeemer statue to the eye opening favelas scattered around the city, it's a trip to be remembered. Stride can help you find the perfect tour to explore Rio.

Top Things to Do in Rio

Rio is famous for its street parties, and with good reason- these are some of the best parties in the world! People dance in the streets to live music, drinking caipirinhas, and partying till the sun comes up. You can find out when and where the street parties are taking place online or by asking a local or someone who works at your hotel.

Learn Some Samba

Samba is a huge part of life in Rio. Even if you have two left feet, learning some basic steps can be really fun. You can take in some lessons at one of the many samba schools throughout the city, or just visit one of the samba street parties and pick it up as you go! Pedra do Sal is a famous samba party that takes place every Monday in the Centro neighborhood.

Visit a Favela

The favelas are built on the hills throughout Rio. Traditionally they housed former slaves, and now they house the poorer of Rio’s residents. Drug-related violence is high in these areas, and they are definitely not safe to wander into alone. But the favelas are nonetheless a fun and lively part of Rio, where parties take place in the streets, people are warm and friendly towards visitors, and the air is filled with the sounds of samba. A visit here is definitely worth including in a trip to Rio, though be sure to be safe and take a guide.

Take in the Views

The view of Rio from above is breathtaking- the sprawling city, stunning beaches, and oddly shaped mountains make for a city unlike any other. 

Though many people take the trip to Christ the Redeemer (Cristo Redentor) to see the statue, the real reward is the view of the city below. Another popular viewpoint is from the top of the Sugarloaf (Pão de Açúcar), which is accessed via a cable car. If you’d prefer to trek to your viewpoint, the Two Brothers (Dos Hermanos) trek in the Botanic Gardens (Jardim Botanico) is a good choice. 

Don’t forget to also take in a view of the city at night. Though the viewpoints listed above close when the sun goes down, there are several others, such as the Chinese Pagoda, where you can see Rio at night. Take a taxi and have them wait for you as you admire the city view and take your snaps.

Visit the Beaches

Rio is renowned for its beaches. Copacabana and Ipanema stretch for miles along the coastline. These beaches are far more than just a place to catch some sun- people come here to party, play volleyball, jog along the seafront, grab some street food, drink beer and caipirinhas, work out at one of the many outdoor gyms, practice capoeira on the sand, or just to compare who looks best in swimwear (though unfortunately, the high waves make the beaches less than ideal for swimming). Be prepared to spend a lot of your time here during your trip to Rio- the beaches are among the best places to be (and good luck getting “The Girl From Ipanema” out of your head).





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