One of the world’s most captivating places, Brazil is a country of white-sand beaches, lush rainforests, and vibrant cities. The beaches, the music, the wildlife, and the people all set the scene for a great Brazilian adventure. Whether you have a few weeks or just a few days, Brazil has much to explore. For the outdoors/nature lover – there is horseback riding and wildlife watching in the Pantanal, kayaking flooded forests in the Amazon, ascending rocky cliffs to panoramic views, whale watching off the coast, surfing stellar breaks off the palm-fringed beaches and snorkeling crystal–clear rivers or coastal reefs. For the more urban explorer – there are the samba clubs, world class cuisine, botanical gardens, museums, and regional artisan markets.
Rio de Janeiro
The city of Rio de Janiero has much more to see than just beautiful beaches. From the bohemian lanes of old Santa Teresa to the village-like charm of Urca – Rio’s colonial streets, magnificent churches and leafy plazas provide urban wanderers with plenty to discover.
Rio in 5 Days
Day 1 – Start at Ipanema Beach. Have lunch on LeBlon’s restaurant-packed Rua Dias Ferreira. Later, watch the sunset from Praia do Arpado. Have dinner at one of Lagoa’s lakeside kiosks.
Day 2 – visit Pao de Acucar, followed by a stroll around Urca. In the afternoon, explore bohemian Santa Teresa, followed by a night of samba in Lapa.
Day 3 – go hiking in Parque Nacional da Tijuca. In the evening, dine a one of Ipanema’s top restaurants. Day4 – explore historic Centro, and join happy-hour crowds on Travessa do Comercio.
Day 5 – stroll Copacabana beach, and visit Cristo Redeemer for outstanding views.
Ipanema and Leblon
In addition to hosting RefComm 2014 Rio, the barrios of Ipanema and Leblon are blessed with a magnificent beach and open-air cafes, bars, and restaurants scattered along tree lined streets. On Sundays, Ipanema’s Hippie Fair is not to miss. Stalls feature artwork, jewelry, handicrafts, souvenirs and tasty treats.
Framed by mountains and deep blue sea, Rio’s most beautiful beach curves along for 4.5kms. Copacabana is a fascinating but chaotic place. Its art deco buildings, beachfront hotels and tree lined streets form the backdrop to a mix of tourists, middle-class cariocas and favela dwellers. On Saturdays and Sundays, Copacabana’s Praca do Lido Market features handicrafts, jewelry, soccer jerseys, and souvenirs. Look for the man selling slices of amazing chocolate cake!
Many of Rio’s museums are free on Sundays. If the weather is nice, head to the beach. The beach-front road from Leblon to Leme will be closed to traffic until 6pm.
Don’t Miss in Rio
Harbor of Rio de Janeiro
The Harbor is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World and was created by erosion from the Atlantic Ocean. It is surrounded by monolithic mountains including Sugar Loaf, Corcovado Peak, and the hills of Tijuca. Viewable from any of these mountain vistas, the best way to see the harbor is to get above it. Helicopter tours as well as hang gliding opportunities are available.
Christ the Redeemer gazes over Rio from atop Corcovado. At night, the statue is brightly lit and visible from almost the whole city. Reach the statue by the red narrow gauge train or by passenger van.
Set on a hill overlooking the city, the barrio of Santa Teresa retains the charm of days gone by. This atmospheric neighborhood is home to a new generation of artists and bohemia. Santa Teresa has colorful restaurants, bars and a lively weekend scene.
Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas
This picturesque lake is surrounded by a 7.2km walking/cycling trail dotted with kiosks offering bike and paddle boat rentals or alfresco caipirinhas and dining.
This exotic garden has over 8000 plant species. Don’t miss the orquidario, home to 600 species of orchids.
Maracana Football Stadium
Go to a football match at Brazil’s newly upgraded temple of football. Games take place on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays.
Rio’s Best Places to Eat
Zaza Bistro Tropical: artsy and whimsical, Zaza serves beautifully prepared dishes with Asian accents.
Zuka: considered one of Rio’s best restaurants, Zuka prepares mouthwatering cuisine grilled in an open kitchen. Sit at the counter to watch the action.
Oro: the acclaimed restaurant celebrates Brazilin produce and cooking traditions while serving up the most imaginative l=plates n the city.
Meza Bar: see and be seen at this hot spot for tapas and creative cocktails.
Espirito Santa: set in a beautifully restored mansion. Sit on the back terrace and enjoy the views with feasting on expertly prepared meat and seafood dishes from the Amazon and northeast region.
Rio’s Music, Dancing and Nightlife
Rio Scenarium: this samba nightspot has 3 floors with balconies overlooking the dance floor.
Casa Rosa: Saturday is the best night to visit this former brothel turned nightclub. It has a large outdoor patio and features an eclectic musical line-up.
00 (Zero Zero): listen to top-notch DJs spin in this stylish lounge located in Gavea’s planetarium.
Bar Bukowski: features live bands, pool tables, darts, and water pipes
Democraticus: this 1867 mansion features an enormous dance floor and a long stage covered with musicians.
Brazil’s Top 10
1. Pao de Acucar (Sugarloaf Mountain)
Ride the all-glass aerial tram or rock-climb your way to the summit. Enjoy the panoramic views of the golden beaches, magnificent city of Rio, and the Harbor.
2. Iguacu Falls
Even the most jaded traveler will be stunned by thunderous roar of this gorgeous waterfall located along the border of Brazil and Argentina. Made up of 275 individual falls, Iguacu Falls is wider than Victoria and higher than Niagara. Photo ops are plentiful along the Trilha das Cataratas, or Waterfall Trail. At the bottom of the trail, there is a manmade walkway that allows you to go out to the middle of the river. Be prepared to get wet!
Salvador, the capital of Afro-Brazil, is famous for capoeira, Portuguese architecture, African street food and one of the oldest lighthouses in the Americas. Considered a living museum of 17th and 18th century architecture, Salvador is the nexus of an incredible arts movement. Daily festivals with drum and capoeira circles happen daily. Cultural preservation through food, dance and martial arts is perfectly back-dropped against a gorgeous coastline.
4. Ilha Grande
First serving as an isolated pirate’s lair, then a leper colony, and finally a prision, Ilha Grande has some of the best preserved jungle and beaches in all of Brazil. There are no motor vehicles on this island making it one clean, green, nature lover’s paradise. An easy day’s journey from Rio, spend your time hiking in lush rainforest, snorkeling in aquamarine seas, and basking in crisp waterfalls.
5. Ouro Preto
The crown jewel of colonial towns, Ouro Preto is one of Brazil’s most visited tourist destinations. The sculptured masterpieces of Aleijadinho and spectacular views from the 23 churches spread along the hilly panorama are worth the steep topography and narrow cobblestone streets.
This remote wetland in the heart of Mato Grosso is the best place to see wildlife, including the elusive jaguar. This is the largest wetland in the world, spanning 210,000 sq. km of Brazil, Bolivia, and Uruguay. The Pantanal has few people and no towns. Transportation is poor, limited to small airplanes, and motorboats, and seasonal 4WD. A quality tour or guide is recommended.
7. Fernando de Noronha
This archipelago of 21 islands has everything for a tropical getaway – jaw dropping scenery and seascapes, fine beaches, the best diving and snorkeling in the country, good surfing, beautiful hikes and plentiful visible wildlife. Many conservation projects are based here and the marine/coastal environment is closely regulated. There are only 270 plane seats available per day, so make your reservations early.
8. Jungle Trips in the Amazon
The world’s biggest and best-known rainforest has excursions of all types: ply the waterways in a canoe, hike the lush leafy trails, and scale the canopy with the monkeys. Be wowed by the river, the flora, and the wildlife. Tours of all types are available.
9. Sao Paulo
The city of Sao Paulo rivals the frenetic pace of New York, the modernism of Tokyo, and the prices of Moscow. An estimated 20 million people live in greater Sao Paulo, making it the 3rd largest city on earth. There are 150 museums, 12,500 world class restaurants, 420 theaters and cinemas, and 15,000 nightclubs and bars. Take a break on the idyllic Ilhabela, an island getaway for the rich and famous accessible by ferry.
Paraty offers an enchanting blend of colonial architecture and natural beauty. Closed to motor vehicles, the cobblestone streets of Paraty offer pleasant sightseeing strolls. Beautiful beaches and natural waterslides are back-dropped by stunning mountains. Tired of eating out? Enjoy a caipirinha and learn to cook regional cuisine with Chef Yara Roberts.
Summing up Brazil in a few paragraphs proves to be quite impossible. We hope we have given you the travel bug along with a few ideas to get you started. Grab your guide book and start planning your Brazilian adventure. See Brazil after attending RefComm 2014 Rio!