Overlanding isn’t just for grown-ups! Dragoman's Family Overland trips are more popular now than ever, and this year we're running our first family trip in South America – scroll down for our Marketing Manager Alex’s updates from the road.
Our family trips are a great way to introduce your kids to adventure travel. Overlanding isn’t just about seeing the highlights of a country (although there’ll be plenty of time for that) – it’s also about the joy of the journey, and immersing yourself in the landscapes and cultures you travel through. Our family overlanding itineraries have been carefully designed using our nearly 40 years of experience in the industry for families with children aged 7-17. You’ll be accompanied by 2 expertly-trained crew, plus a cook in Africa, and you’ll enjoy a balance of organised group activities and plenty of free time for you to explore as a family.
Got questions? Take a look at our Family Overlanding Q&A.
Alex's Family Overland in South America
I'm Alex, Marketing Manger for Dragoman. For many a long year I've dreamed about climbing on board an orange Dragoman truck on an epic overland trip and finally, I've had the chance! Along with my husband Richard, daughter Sophie, aged 10, and two other families we set off on the Argentina, Iguazu and Chile Family Overland. Travelling on "Yana" from Buenos Aires, in Argentina right the way across South America through the Andes to Santiago, in Chile.
Dragoman have run family tours in Africa from Windhoek to Victoria Falls as well as Nairobi to Zanzibar but this family trip first ran in South America in 2019. We love taking in the sights and sounds of the cosmopolitan cities of Buenos Aires, and Santiago, seeing the spectacular Iguazu Falls and, of course, spending time with the Gauchos on the Estancia. Other highlights included the wall art in Valparaiso, as well as sampling the wines from the Mendoza region, steaks and seafood.
Sitting at the edge of Plaza de Mayo, the Casa Rosada is one of the most iconic buildings in Buenos Aires. With its pink façade and palace-like design, it has served as the backdrop to countless numbers of protests, famous speeches and significant moments in Argentina’s history, including Eva Peron’s famous Speech to the Descamisados on October 17, 1951.
Recoleta Cemetery is one of the world’s most extraordinary graveyards, with over 6,400 grandiose mausoleums resembling Gothic chapels, Greek temples, fairytale grottoes and elegant little houses. The exclusive cemetery is the last stop for presidents, intellectuals, generals and, of course, Eva Perón.
Three years after former First Lady Perón died of cancer in 1952, her body was removed by the Argentine military in the wake of a coup that deposed her husband, President Juan Perón. Twenty years later she was laid to rest in a crypt five meters underground, heavily fortified to ensure that no one can disturb the remains of Argentina’s most beloved and controversial First Lady. By Recoleta standards, it is quite nondescript, simply marked Family Duarte.
After a day of sightseeing, we catch a tango show at Cafe Tortoni, the oldest cafe in Buenos Aires.
There’s much excitement as we get our first sight of Yana! After a short trip to the airport in her, Will is driving her to Córdoba to meet us there whilst the families fly to Iguazu for the next two days with Lewis.
As we head to Iguazu the families have already reconfigured with the children forming a back row in any transport we’re in, leaving the adults to chat and put the world to rights. On this family trip there are two English families and one American. Firm friendships have already been made and it’s great to hear the kids chattering away and understanding each other’s cultures.
We are met by our driver Eduardo and after snacking on the local fast food of Empanadas we set off straight for the falls to get our first sighting of the falls from the Argentinean side. As we land at Iguazu we can see the spray from the falls or “cataratas” rising from the rainforest like smoke.
A little electric train takes us on the short journey to where a series of walkways wind their way to the edge at “Devil’s Throat”. On our way we see lots of coatis. They are comical little creatures, apart from their sharp teeth and claws.
Our first sight of Iguazu is breathtaking but there’s nothing to prepare you for what’s to come.
The next day we set off early to cross from Argentina into Brazil over the Iguazu River to see the falls from the other side. The colours of the Argentinean and Brazilian flags mark out the border as you cross over the road bridge. With another stamp in our passports we arrive at the other side.
You simply run out of superlatives when you try to describe the falls but in the words of my daughter Sophie (10) - mesmerising, powerful, fandabidozie and breathtaking were just a start!
We took the chance of a lifetime to go on a speed boat which bounces you across the rapids and directly under the pounding, freezing water. You will get absolutely soaked but it is so worth it and was something none of us will ever forget.
This is Lewis , Marc and Richard who were at the front of the boat getting absolutely drenched by the avalanche of water! And Marc really did genuinely swallow his chewing gum!
One of the families took a trip to the nearby Parque das Aves bird park, a wonderful conservation project which is home to more than 1000 iconic birds from the region such as toucans, macaws and eagles.
Leaving Iguazu behind us we’re heading over to Córdoba.
After a couple of hours journey completely off the beaten track, with branches and bushes scraping along the side of the truck, we arrive at the Dragoman Estancia. We are warmly welcomed by Kevin and Lou with refreshing lemonade. Over tea and biscuits we hear how the Estancia has been in his family for 100 years, with his father born in the room pictured.
We put up our tents in the grounds with high excitement at our first chance to camp. Our amazing hosts then treated us to a wine tasting whilst our knowledge of Argentinean culture was tested in a fun quiz.
The next morning we set off for our horse ride. You can imagine the kids’ excitement at being allowed to go in the back of the pickup truck to the other farm!
We had already had our horses chosen for us when we arrived. I was a little concerned to find my horse Piquillia translated as Wandering Minstrel after some unsuccessful attempts at riding in the past, but Lou soon put us at ease and we had a wonderful ride out across the Estancia.
After a picnic lunch at the cattle ranch we rode back and that evening were entertained by a local band. They soon had us singing and joining in with the various drums as the wine flowed!
The following day we went out on a longer ride which took us out to what they call “the top of the world”.
We also had a great time learning how to lasso. The Gauchos made it look very easy, but after many tries Sophie outshone everyone by managing to lasso the barrel not once but twice!
The Malbec was soon flowing again as Kevin and Lou hosted a traditional Asado, an Argentinian barbecue of meats cooked on the open fire. As the evening drew on we heard about the work that they do for a local school of just 13 children and the teacher who educated all 7 different year groups herself. We were pleased to donate money to help with the work and also left some clothes and a sleeping bag that would be taken over on the next visit.
Valle de las Sierras Puntanas. It ended up as quite a lot more than the estimated 6 hour drive but so worth it for the exhilarating views as we climbed steadily into the hills.
We stayed in a warm and comfortable guesthouse that night. We were completely off the beaten track. The scenery was just stunning. After a short trek we came to river where we hunted for the sparkling stones, practiced skimming stones and built rock sculptures!
It turned out the guesthouse had had some famous visitors with photos of no less than Robert De Niro on the wall!
On our first day in Mendoza we drove up to this beautiful lake in the foothills of the Andes to try some adrenaline-filled activities.
We started by donning our wetsuits and white-water rafting down the rapids of the Mendoza river. As it is winter and there has been very little rain, the river was relatively low and great for families, with no more than a Grade 2 rapid to contend with.
On our second day in Mendoza we decided to visit one of the wineries. The rest of the group went trekking and rappelling. The kids were really interested in the tour, where we saw the wine production process as well as going down into the cool, dark cellars.
Deep in the cellars there were around 180,000 bottles maturing into the beautiful wines that we were able to taste.
Later we went zip-lining in the hills over the lake. While some of us were really facing our fears everyone truly had a fantastic time and did really well.
We headed off through the Andes for an incredible journey along the mountain passes. We caught a glimpse of Mount Aconcagua, the highest mountain outside of the Himalayas.
Eventually we made it through the border crossing, said our goodbyes to Argentina and made it into Chile!
After an overnight stop in the town of Los Andes we carried on with our journey across to the coast at Valparaíso.
We were thrilled to see the ocean at last with some great waves crashing onto the beach.
We stayed in apartments right opposite a huge rock that had been colonised by Patagonian sea lions and l had a great time watching them sunbathing and sliding into the water.
It was a perfect location for watching the sun set with a cerveza from the hot tubs on the roof of the hotel!
We took a fascinating walking tour of Valparaíso and loved the stunning wall art along the way.
And so to the end of our amazing trip. We reached Santiago for a final meal and some very sad goodbyes to the group.
Santiago was a surprise. We’re not huge fans of big cities but it had a rawness and beauty to it, nestled between the Andes and the Cordilerra.