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    by mkataoka Fodor's Editor | Posted on Nov 28, 16 at 01:31 PM
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Need help urgently with planning eight week trip

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I was expecting to spend Oct-Nov having cataract surgery, but no. (Good news, no surgery: bad news - continued difficulty with night driving.) So I suddenly had a chunk of time to use. I had been planning, off and on, for my first trip to South America, but I had been thinking about the north-west - Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru. The guidebooks suggested Oct-Nov wasn't the best time for that, so I shifted focus south and east.

I now have tickets to fly into Rio, arriving early Oct 17th, and out of Santiago, leaving late Dec 10th, giving me 55 days, and very little time to plan. (I usually do quite extensive planning). So I could use some help! For those who haven't "met" me on the Europe and Asia boards, I'm mid sixties, female, accustomed to independent budget-to-moderate travel, mostly on the ground (I'm a big train fan). I love mountains, lakes and waterfalls, but am bored by beaches, even tropical ones. Half day, or even day hikes are fine, but no camping. I'm interested in architecture, especially Art Nouveau although not baroque, and prefer decorative arts and crafts to fine arts. I also enjoy (watching) dance, and food and wine.

I'm looking at an outline itinerary something like this:

Rio (4 nts), fly to Iguacu (1 nt)
Iguazu (2 nts) - fly to Buenos Aires (3 nts)

Ferry to Colonia (2 nts) - bus to Montevideo (3 nts)
Ferry to B.A. (2 nts) - fly to El Calafate

--- 11 nights in Patagonia - El Calafate, El Chaten, P. Natales-Torres del Paine
Boat from P. Natales to P. Montt (leaves Nov 13)

--- 12 nights for the Lake District, including one night on the boat-bus trip from P. Montt to Bariloche
Bus to Neuquen (1 nt) to Mendoza (3 nts)???
Bus to Santiago (1 nt) - Valparaiso (4 nts) - Santiago (3 nts)

The gating factor here is the Navimag boat from P. Natales to P. Montt, as it only runs once a week. If I take the boat on the 20th instead of the 13th, I'd have time to visit, say, Salvador in Brazil, but I'd only have five nights for the Lake District, unless I skipped Mendoza or cut back on Chile.Of course, that assumes I can GET to Mendoza. I can get from San Martin to Neuquen, but I haven't found a bus direct to Mendoza, or from Neuquen to Mendoza, although the guide books say there should be one. I suppose I could do wineries in Chile instead.

I have dual UK/US citizenship, so I shouldn't need any visas. The CDC recommends yellow fever vaccination for Iguazu, although they also recommend NOT getting it if you're over 60... I'm going to see if the travel clinic will give it to me anyway, as I'll need it next year. I don't see any need for anti-malarials on this trip, which will be a nice change. I'll fly in on American, so I should be able to get the flights on a LAN/TAM South America pass, right?

So, any glaring errors here? Salvador vs Mendoza? Salvador vs Uruguay? More time at Iguacu? Too much or little time in Patagonia or the Lake District? Chiloe worthwhile by public transport? Any help welcome, as this is much less lead time than I usually have.

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