Let me take you to a country that charms me and touches my heart, the country that in my opinion is probably the most beautiful and certainly one of the most interesting: Brazil.
Brazil’s reputation is sometimes a little scary. I can still hear my father (a great traveller) telling me how much he was looking forward to my return, even before I left!
Don’t be discouraged, if you follow certain safety guidelines, Brazil is a great place to travel.
In a previous article, Caroline wrote about Sao Paulo. In this guide, I will introduce you to the mountains, waterfalls, beaches, jungle and Rio de Janeiro.
There is something for everyone!
Rio de Janeiro and its surroundings
Brazil is huge and the distances between cities are considerable, so if you have little time in Brazil, or don’t want to spend your holidays in domestic flights, I suggest you take advantage of the state of Rio de Janeiro.
Rio de Janeiro
The must-see metropolis, ideally located on the seafront and surrounded by mountains, will dazzle you as much as it can stun you. Perfect city for:
- Lounging on the beach,
- Tasting the local gastronomy,
- Hiking in nature,
- Visiting one of the 7 wonders of the world,
- Feasting in bars.
First of all, the famous beaches are a must: Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon.
My favorite is Ipanema for the view it offers of the Dois irmaos mountains. Sandy beaches, warm sea without seaweed, shopping streets around and street vendors on the beach, this is what to expect in Rio de Janeiro.
You can even shop right there in the sand. The couple next to me had time to buy a rosary, an overcoat, a blanket, bracelets, a snack and a small cocktail for an afternoon at the beach.
The city has many restaurants of all cuisines. I must admit that having travelled a lot in Latin America, I often find that their gastronomy is similar and sometimes redundant, but Brazil really has its own colour and you will find everything you wish for. For bars, the Santa Teresa district is the most popular.
Rio’s major attractions are:
- Christ the Redeemer, ranked among the 7 wonders of the world. You can visit it on an organized tour or take public transportation to the train that will take you to the top. I found it easy to do it myself. I advise you not to climb the mountain by yourself, because tourists have been robbed by armed robbers.
- Mont Sugarloaf (Pao de Açúcar) is also worth a visit. This seaside pinnacle offers a superb view. Again, you can take public transportation to get there, or go during an organized tour.
- Visiting the favelas is also popular. The favelas visited are those controlled by the police. However, you will be warned not to bring valuables, not to take any pictures and not to take out your cell phone. I understand that this is controversial, but visiting a slum is still a unique experience that I enjoyed.
- For nature, there is the nearby Tijuca National Park, where you can walk through the forest of tropical trees and lianas.
Near the city, you can go on hikes, including Pedra da Gavea which is classified difficult and that I did not try. I chose Pedra bonita. My favourite for the view (the best in Rio in my opinion) and for its proximity is the short Dois Irmaos trail. For all the hikes, you can take an Uber or a taxi, but for Dois Irmaos, you can also take a bus to Vidigal, and then a mototaxi will take you through the favela to the start of the trail. The drivers are used to tourists and know that you want to go to the trail. To go back down, just wait at the foot of the path for a taxi to take you. Forty-five minutes walk for the best view in town!
- Finally, don’t miss watching the sunset at least once on the Arpeador Rock between Ipanema and Copacabana beaches, the most entertaining I’ve seen in my life! Because in Rio de Janeiro, a sunset is experienced with applause and shouts, as if your favourite sports team had scored.
Gas & Transit
- The metro works great and serves the beaches, the city centre and different areas.
- Rio’s buses are also efficient and affordable.
- Uber is very common in Brazil. It is easy to use and there is even a section at the international airport for Uber users. To get to the more remote locations, I suggest it.
Ilha Grande is surely the best place to rest from the hustle and bustle of the city. Beautiful island surrounded by deserted beaches with clear waters, and a forest to walk under the sun, it is a small paradise to recharge your batteries. There are no cars on the island; you can visit on foot, by bike or by boat.
To get there, the easiest way is to take a tourist transportation that picks you up at your hotel in Rio de Janeiro and drives you to your hotel on the island, including the boat ride. You can also take a combo to continue your journey to Paraty. I had taken easytransferbrazil and had no problem with it.
Of course, we have to be tolerant about punctuality in Brazil, which is affected by the traffic in Rio.
A small colonial city on the seaside, Paraty is well worth a short stay. It is a pleasure to stroll through the streets to admire the architecture of the houses with their colourful doors and windows. There is also a cachaça distillery to visit to learn all about the national drink of Brazil.