High-end overland travel is still a relatively new phenomenon in Latin America. The continent traditionally considered a hub for adventurous backpackers but a ‘hard nut to crack’ for anyone a little older, especially if they desire a few more creature comforts. When we opened our virtual doors ten years ago, we knew that we were taking a punt. Offering one of the very first ‘affordable superior standard’ overland tours in Latin America was a new adventure. But we surmised that there would be countless people dreaming of exploring this sensational continent for years, but hesitated due to the sheer nature of Latin America travel. Thats why we took a gamble trying to reach out to them!
Indeed, once upon a time, you may have had to put up with shoddy buses and dodgy hostels if you wanted to enjoy some of the most amazing highlights in South America. That meant potentially surviving on white rice, beans and fried eggs with very few options for enjoying road travel, in comfort. You see, there are parts of South America that seem to be tailor-made for road travel. For example, places like the fabled Route 40, which is the most adventurous road in Patagonia and one of the world’s most awe-inspiring road-trip destinations. Adventures on the road give you an experience you could never dream of having if you’re flying. Furthermore, nothing will bring you closer to the real South America. But road travel could be tough until Esperanza came along!
The VIVA Inspiration – The Beginning of a Dream
No great idea ever starts with a chicken salad and a quiet night in and we can confirm that this also holds true for the birth of Viva Expeditions.
Well into their 3rd cerveza one night, celebrating the end of yet another successful tour through Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador, our fearless leaders (that would be Rachel and Brendan) came up with the insane idea of starting their own travel adventure company, with a twist. Brendan and Rach had been leading overland tours throughout Latin America for years. They’d hiked the most sensational peaks of the Andes, swung on vines in the Amazon and driven over half a million kilometres across the entire continent, on some of the most magnificent (and potholed-ridden) backroads you could imagine. Along the way guiding thousands of intrepid explorers on the adventure of their lifetime.
But something was missing.
Latin America is more than just a destination for a fun adventure, they thought. This would have to be one of the most culturally and historically fascinating places on earth and it should be accessible to everyone.
“We should build our own truck!” said Brendan “The best truck of all. It will be beautiful and strong and indestructible. It will have seat belts and reclining chairs. And it will be called Esperanza.”
“It’s gotta have a proper toilet though, Brendan” Rachel responded “I’m sick and tired of crouching behind bushes."
So Esperanza was blessed with a toilet and became one of the first-ever en-suite all-terrain vehicles to take travellers across the great wilderness of South America. And no-one was forced to pee behind a bush, ever again. A fact that made Rachel very, very happy.
Affordable, Ultra Comfortable AND adventurous – A VIVA Match made in Heaven
Fast-forward 10 years and the continent has undoubtedly changed a lot. An array of luxurious hotels and resorts have sprung up all over and, if the Tourism Ministry of Peru has its way, we may even see an airport close to Machu Picchu very soon. Let’s hope not, but you get the idea: luxury and comfort are becoming the norm everywhere in South America.
South America’s remotest and most pristine destinations, however, are still way off the beaten path. How can there be a Gringo Trail where there’s barely a trail, to begin with? It is in these remote and hard-to-reach places, devoid of transport and comforts, that Esperanza shines her brightest. With her sparkling en-suite and her comfortable reclining chairs, our formidable valiant steed will take you to the literal back of beyond in luxurious comfort, in regions of South America that have yet to be overrun by masses of tour groups. You’ll meet the people living at the proverbial end of the world, cast your eyes on some of the most jaw-dropping landscapes in the world and, behind the glistening façade of the most recognisable landmarks of all, you’ll discover ancient exotic cultures fighting to preserve their authenticity.
Yes, you can take a group tour with one of the many travel companies in South America. Or you can come to discover a side of the continent not many people will ever get to see, with VIVA.
We’ve been to every single destination we offer, bringing decades of combined travel experience in South America to offer off-the-beaten-path adventures, whether by small group tour on our awesome Esperanza or on tailor-made, personalised tours. The way we see it: experience is EVERYTHING!
Teaming up with Chimu Adventures
In 2015, we teamed up with Chimu Adventures, one of the largest specialists on earth for Latin America and Polar adventures. They saw the invaluable benefit of our small group tours and decided we were just the right fit – together, we are offering the widest range of tours available, both in travel style and price range.
Our Tour Guides
Esperanza has been in the very capable hands of our star tour guide and driver team, Mel and Franco, for several years. These guys have been leading tours in Latin America for over a decade and a half and are arguably the most experienced and professional small group team in the continent. Yes, even if we do say so ourselves! Meet Our Crew and find out all there is to know about small group overland tours.
We also employ a bunch of fantastic local guides and drivers, each one thoroughly vetted and tested to ensure absolute professionality and competence. It also helps that they’re all immensely hospitable and super fun. Local guides will always offer that little something extra, an insight into the local culture you simply couldn’t enjoy, any other way.
All Blacks Packages
We thought it only fitting that two mighty powers come together on our 10th anniversary and that’s why, at the beginning of 2019, we also teamed up with the All Blacks to bring you our fantastic All Blacks Tours: four spectacular tours that coincide with 2020 All Blacks VS Argentina rugby match in Buenos Aires. Your choice of an itinerary is extensive: from a week-long stay in the vibrant Argentinian capital to a phenomenal 3-week jaunt that’ll see you dive deep into the heart of the Amazon Jungle, stand in awe at the grandeur of Iguazu Falls, visit Rio de Janeiro and swing by Machu Picchu as well.
Our VIVA Team
Back in our New Zealand office, we’ve built up a bonafide family of destination experts, each one with their own special Latin American story to tell, an abundance of personal experience and priceless skills. We may all be different, in so many ways, but we share a common bond: an insatiable love for Latin America and an unrelenting desire to facilitate travel for those who want to venture further.
Together, we’ve taken Viva Expeditions to exciting heights in just 10 years and this celebration is as much about our team’s commitment to the cause than anything else. Head on over to Our Story and get to know our fearless leaders – each one forging new ground ahead for Viva.
Where can we take you?
At Viva, we do more than ‘show off the major tourist sites’ although you will certainly see some of the most revered and famous highlights when you travel with us. But we’d also love to take you off the usual route, introducing you to a different world, brimming with fascinating cultures and simply wonderful people.
The very best of South America, Central America AND Antarctica – this is what we have on offer. From whirlwind adventures aboard our all-terrain truck to multi-country jaunts using different types of transport; group tours comprising an amazing bunch of like-minded adventurers or personalised tours, tailor-made for you and your loved ones, so you can feel like you have Latin America all to yourself. And last, but definitely not least, unforgettable expedition voyages to Antarctica: the ultimate adventure destination for the ultimate explorer.
And doesn’t that sound like reason enough to celebrate Viva’s 10th birthday?