The Real Deal: Round-trip airfare, 10 nights' accommodations, regional flights and bus transportation, sightseeing tours, and some meals, from $2,899 per person — plus taxes and fees of $260.
When: Depart Oct. 17, 2008, March 6, 2009; add $100 for Nov. 7, 21, Dec. 5, 2008, and Jan. 16, Feb. 13, 2009.
Gateways: Miami; additional cities are not available.
The fine print: The $400 discount is reflected in the $2,899 rate. A total of 14 meals (nine breakfasts, three lunches, and two dinners), airline fuel surcharges, airport-hotel transfers, local flights, ground transportation, sightseeing tours, and the services of an English-speaking tour director are included. Taxes are an additional $195, and park fees are an extra $65 per person. Based on double occupancy; single supplement is $699. Travel insurance is optional and starts at $129 per person. While U.S. passport holders do not need a visa when staying in Chile or Argentina for less than three months, an administrative fee of $131 must be paid upon entrance to Chile. Read these guidelines before you book any Real Deal.
Book by: July 15, 2008; afterwards, the rate increases by $400 per person.
Contact: SmarTours, 800/337-7773, smartours.com.
Why it's a deal: You save $400 per person off the regular rate for this package. Plus, according to a recent SideStep search, the lowest round-trip multicity fares, from Miami to Santiago to Punta Arenas to Buenos Aires and back to Miami, departing on October 17 and returning October 28, start from $1,207 (Avianca Aerovias/LAN Airlines). For an additional $1,887 (including taxes), or about $189 per night, SmarTours provides 10 nights' accommodations, some meals, all local ground and air transportation, taxes, sightseeing tours, and the services of a bilingual tour director.
Trip details: The Incredible Patagonia and Buenos Aires package includes round-trip airfare — arriving in Santiago and departing from Buenos Aires — via LAN Airlines as well as 10 nights' accommodations split between various hotels.
When you arrive in Santiago, Chile, you'll catch a connecting flight to Punta Arenas on the Strait of Magellan, the entryway to Patagonia. You'll take an orientation tour of Magellan's Monument and the central square and then head to a welcome reception. The 92-room Cabo de Hornos Hotel a European-style venue facing the main town square, will be your base for the night.
As you journey deeper into Patagonia, you'll make a stop at the Seno Otway Penguin Colony, where you can catch a glimpse of the Magellanic penguins who come to their native land to mate. Continue on to Puerto Natales, a town along Ultima Esperanza Sound, and stay three nights at the 74-room Costaustralis Hotel. This part of the trip includes a full-day scenic boat excursion along the sound sailing past colonies of sea lions and cormorants, with a quick stop at Bernardo O'Higgins National Park to see the Serrano Glacier and walk through an Andean rain forest. You'll also enjoy a barbecue lunch at a cattle ranch and a daylong excursion to Torres del Paine National Park, where you'll find gorgeous lakes, creeks, and waterfalls, and an abundance of wildlife.
Then cross from Chile to El Calafate, a resort town in Argentina. On the way, you'll check out a cattle ranch, tuck into a home-cooked lunch, and get a crash course in how to shear sheep. You'll stay three nights in El Calafate on Lake Argentino at the 80-room Kosten Aike. There, you'll get a chance to visit the Perito Moreno Glacier, towering 200 feet above the lake, as well as go on a daylong boat trip on Lake Argentino to Glaciers National Park to view the Upsala and Spegazzini glaciers.
Next on the itinerary is a northbound flight to Buenos Aires, sometimes called the Paris of the South. Stay two nights at the 110-room Americas Towers or a similar downtown hotel. A sightseeing tour will cover major attractions like Plaza de Mayor, the Opera House, the historic La Boca district, the tony residential district Recoleta and its stately cemetery, where Eva Perón is buried. You'll also have a free day to explore at your own pace before catching your flight back to Miami.