Yesterday I spent quite a few hours
writing singing praises to the wonderful AAdvantage miles. And I promised to build up on that because, well, when you are talking about the best frequent flyer currency in the world, one post is never enough. So I began working on this one, and then I realized: in order to make it work, there is no way we could avoid another currency—perhaps the second best in the world: British Airways Avios. So bear with me, and prepare to be in awe. Well, kinda, sorta. You’ll see!
First of all, my apologies for a blatant lie. This post covers not 3 but only 2 official Wonders of the World: Iguazu Falls and Machu Picchu. The third one, Moai of Easter Island, did make it into the list; it lost to Chichén Itzá—damn you, Mexicans! 🙂 Anyway, I’ve seen both, and, with all due respect to the organizers, um, no! I don’t know what they were smoking that day.
So how can you see these three astonishing places in one trip for this ridiculous amount of miles?
- By having a lot of “go-time” on your hands
- By traveling during the off-peak dates
- By praying you can get the seats exactly when you need them (although you can help yourself with that).
There are two regions we are interested in, as far as this topic is concerned, South America 1 and South America 2, so we need to make sure that our OffPeak dates overlap. Luckily, they do.
So, you can go in March, April, May, and from September 7 to November 14. That’s six months in a year, so I’m sure you’ll find your the spot.
Here is how you can make it work if you decide to embark on this journey.
1. Fly from the U.S. to Cuzco for 15,000 AA miles on American Airlines. If you decide to fly on LAN (better seats, better food, and individual entertainment system), you’ll pay 2,500 miles more which won’t kill you either. Finding LAN availability to Peru, though, might not always be easy. AA availability for the next Apri, at least, seems to be pretty decent.
Spend 9 -11 days exploring Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley and Cuzco. There is a fantastic Category 5 SPG resort in Urubamba with its own private train station, called Tambo del Inka. I wouldn’t stay anywhere else if I went there again!
2. Fly back to Lima on LAN for 4,500 BA Avios and spend 3-4 days there exploring the historic center, Miraflores, and most of all, delicious and inventive food. If you don’t want to do any research, you can’t go wrong sampling the restaurants run by Gaston Acurio. They are a little on an expensive side for Peru, but still a bargain for a U.S. visitor.
3. Fly to Iguazu Falls for 10,000 BA Avios.
4. Spend 3-4 days alternating between Brazilian and Argentine sides. U.S. citizens need visas to both countries, but my guide always whisked me through the border without any passport control, so I never had to pay for the Argentinian visa. Find a good guide!
5. Now, this is where it gets tricky. Your next best step would be to cross the border and fly from Puerto Iguassu (the town on the Argentinian side) to Santiago De Chile via Buenos Aires on LAN Argentina. However, I haven’t found any availability between these cities or anything at all on LAN Argentina. There is no reason for them not to have any availability, but your best course of action is to give American a call and see if they can help. If not, fly to Chile via Sao Paulo on TAM and LAN. That’s a longer flight, though. Either way, a flight between Iguassu and Santiago (or anywhere in South America 2, for that matter) should run you 10,000 AA miles.
Should it not work out for you, you can fly back to Lima and take a flight to Easter Island via Santiago. It’s not ideal, as you’ll have to pay 20,000 more Avios instead of 10,000 AA miles (IGU-LIM and LIM-SCL). I don’t value AA miles as much, but if everything else fails, that’s a possibility.
At some point, the Avios search engine got so annoyed with my incessant searches—it demanded the proof I wasn’t a robot.
And they just took my word that I wasn’t. Can you believe that?
6. Fly to Easter Island on LAN for 12,500 British Avios. A weird thing that I’ve never seen before is that all my searches yielded a lot of availability in business and nothing in economy. It’s like LAN has blocked the whole thing for the year ahead. I’m sure if you call British they might be able to fix it for you because 37,500 Avios is a bit much for a 6-hour flight.
You want to know how quirky BA.com is? Here is how.
As you can see, there is a lot of availability for LAN flights between Lima and Easter Island routed via Santiago (yes, in business, but still). Getting to Easter Island used to be much easier, as they had a direct flight from Lima, but they scratched it a couple of years ago. Although, they still, reportedly, fly to ICP from Lima a few times a year—perhaps, when they feel like it.
Anyway, no problem with LIM-IPC flights routed via Santiago, right?
And here is availability for the same date from Santiago. No availability at all!
Quite honestly, I don’t know who’s dropping the ball here, LAN or BA. Call them, anyway.
Why not use AA miles? Because AA doesn’t care that Easter Island belongs to Chile; it places Easter Island in Polynesia. If you thought 37,500 miles was a bit too much in business, AA charges the same for economy!
4. I recommend 4 full days on the island. I spent three and thought I rushed around too much.
5. Fly back to Santiago for the same 12,500 Avios and spend a few days (or as many as you want) in Chile, before flying home.
6. Fly home (again try to get LAN) for 20,000 AA miles.
And this is how you see Machu Picchu, Easter Island, and Iguazu Falls for under 85,000 miles.
Only you’ll see more than that. You’ll also see Lima, Cuzco, Sacred Valley and Santiago De Chile. And if you want, you can add Lake Titicaca for extra 4,500 Avios or a trip to the Amazon (Iquitos) for 9,000.
Or take both, and you will still have this amazing, once-in-a-lifetime vacation covered by less than 100,000 miles.
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