Places to visit in Brazil
Brazil offers city culture, colonial heritage, adrenaline activities, beach relaxation, wildlife experiences and plenty of outdoor time in some stunning natural surroundings. The city of Rio is the perfect introduction to the local fun-loving culture, whereas the colonial centres of Paraty and Salvador offer a more laid-back atmosphere. The Amazon is of course famed for its incredible flora and fauna but the Pantanal offers equally good wildlife experiences alongside an exciting variety of activities. Cool off in the heat on hidden beaches, crystal-clear rivers, underground caves or beneath the famous Iguazu Falls.
Here are a few of the top spots we feel should form part of any family holiday to Brazil. However there are many more fabulous places so do please contact us to discuss further possibilities.
Surrounded by stunning mountains, white sandy beaches and tropical rain forest, Rio is a city of sunshine, excitement and fiesta! A place where parents and teenagers alike can enjoy the vibrant nightlife, the panoramic views from Sugar Loaf Mountain and the glorious beaches. Join the ‘cariocas’ or locals on Copacabana Beach, visit the handicraft market in Ipanema, learn to samba or bossa nova, surf or paddle-board the Pacific waves or how about hang-gliding beneath the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue standing imposingly atop Corcovado Mountain. Wander the cobbled streets of Santa Teresa and hop down the crazy, colourful Lapa Steps.
Rio also its surprises – it has the privilege of being surrounded by nature and jungle. The National Park of Tijuca is the largest urban forest in the world and is home to the most wonderful biodiversity. Hike to the summit of Pedro Bonito peak for the best views of the whole of Rio, spot howler monkeys in the rainforest and cruise through the mangrove swamps in search of capybara and caiman in their natural ‘city’ habitat. Chomp on a churros, enjoy a barbeque at a traditional churrascaria and don’t forget to sip that Caipirinha cocktail watching the sun set over one of the world’s most dramatic bays. A magical start to your holiday in Brazil.
Paraty and the Emerald Coast
Take a trip about three hours south of Rio along the aptly named Emerald Coast to the picturesque colonial town of Paraty. Paraty is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with pastel-coloured houses and preserved churches dating back to the 18th century. traditionally decorated local pousadas. The historic centre has preserved houses and churches dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries. The cobbled streets were paved by slaves with ancient stones and cars are prohibited so you may actually find yourself in a horse and cart traffic jam…
In Paraty you can enjoy a local cookery class from which you will learn the combinations of Indian, African and Portuguese cuisine. Also traditional in the region is the production of “cahcaça” – when in Brazil it is almost obligatory to try out a delicious cahcaca-based Caipirinha cocktail in the quaint surroundings of your traditionally decorated pousada inn.
Paraty is also known for its proximity to pristine nature, beaches and waterfalls. Take a dip in Pedra Branca, Toboga and the fantastically named Tarzan Falls after a gentle trek through the rainforest. The nearby Juatinga Peninsular Eco-reserve is home to the country’s only tropical fjord – hike up Mamangua Sugarloaf Peak (440m) then take a dip in the Saco de Mamangua to truly enjoy this unique marine paradise. Hike through Atlantic rainforest to the stunning and little visited Ponta Negra beach where you can enjoy crystal clear waters in a safe bay where children can swim and run around freely and meet the local fishermen who have caught lunch for you to enjoy at the beachside restaurants.
It is also possible to hop on a ferry to nearby Ilha Grande where all the family can enjoy fantastic snorkelling and tropical trails. It is then a logical hop to Sao Paolo for either city sightseeing or an onward flight to further locations.
This world famous waterfall lies to the far southwest and forms the border with Argentina and Paraguay. It will also form one of the highlights of your family holiday to Brazil. Children will love the Macuco Safari boat trip which runs through the canyons and takes you right underneath. Or splash the cash on a helicopter flight over the falls. On the Brazilian side, a trail takes you to visit the bottom of the falls with a view to the horseshoe-shaped Devil’s Throat, and on the Argentinian side, the most rudimentary track, “Wild,” will take you to the top with a spectacular view.
But Iguazu is so much more than just an impressive deluge of water. There is lots of wildlife in the nearby Iguassu Falls National Park and children will just love the ‘backstage experience’ at the bird park surrounded by hummingbirds, butterflies, caymans and boas.
Jungle, wildlife and waterfalls – the perfect way to get wild and wet over two days!
The Pantanal is Brazil’s best-kept secret. A huge expanse of flooded wetlands, like the Florida Everglades, may not be everyone’s cup of tea but it is home to the most incredibly varied wildlife including macaws, caimen, cabybaras, giant otters, monkeys and even the elusive jaguar. All much more accessible than in the Amazon. Best to visit in the summer when it is not so hot and water levels are lower making it easier for the kids to spot the animals. The Pantanal is very much an interactive experience and you can explore on horseback, foot, boat etc… There are also some great ranches, which make good bases to swing from your hammocks, watching the local birdlife and indulging in the traditional barbecue fish dishes. Enjoy a dawn riding safari, a lunchtime fishing trip, an afternoon wildlife trek and an evening cruise by torchlight. Just keep you hands well inside the boat…
The largest rainforest in the world requires a certain amount of commitment after your lengthy flight to Brazil. It is good 4 hours flight from the coast to Manaus and is also a malaria zone. However the sheer mind-numbing immensity of the wildlife figures here make any visit worthwhile. And Brazil (wild) hogs the majority of it. Just make it at least 3-4 days.
From the bustling river port of Manaus with its bizarrely located grand opera house you can visit the famous ‘Joining of the two rivers’ where the black water of the Rio Negro and the red waters of the Amazon River meet. From here you head into the Amazon jungle itself – you can either take possibly the most adventurous cruise ever, motoring down the Amazon on a sleep-aboard boat, waking to the sounds of the lapping river (or is that a crocodile slapping its tails against the hull?), cruising beneath the hanging vines and visiting remote villages whilst wildlife-spotting en route.
Or you can base yourself in one of the atmospheric jungle lodges built on the riverside, taking day walks and night hikes and relaxing in hammocks in between (they’re off the ground so they’re safe!).
Children will absorb more diverse animal and plant species than a zoo can throw at them. They will learn incredible survival skills at overnight jungle camps and watch how the local flora can be put to good medicinal or culinary use by indigenous communities. They can even trying their hand at fishing on Amazonian Rivers (excuse the pun).
We say it’s worth the time and effort getting there.
Bonito, meaning “beautiful”, is famous for its crystal clear waters, its animal diversity and its ecotourism activities. In addition to experiencing floating and snorkelling on top of the rivers, it is also an ideal place for diving in some spectacular underwater caves. At Boca da Onca you can hike through preserved forest and jump beneath crystal clear waterfalls. Be awed by the stalactites and stalagmites (now, who can ever remember which is which?) in Gruta do Lago Azul (the Cave of the Blue Lake). Spot hundreds of red macaws at the Buracao das Araras, the largest sinkhole in Latin America. And for the ultimate natural spectacle you can enjoy two hours floating down the turquoise waters of the Rio da Prata beneath mahogany trees whilst capuchin monkeys swing overhead. Accompanied by endless shoals of tropical fish. Underwater cameras and Go Pros at the ready…
Salvador and Bahia beaches
Think the Caribbean – fantastic culture and history, fabulous food and dancing plus picture perfect tropical beaches. Sold?!
Salvador is the capital of Bahia state. It is a city full of culture, especially of the african-Brazilian civilization. The historical centre (Pelourinho) is known for its Portuguese colonial architecture and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city is divided between High City and Low City and to travel between the two you need to take the Lacerda Elevator – a truly bizarre experience.
From sci-fi lifts to ‘back in time’ beaches. The coast of Bahia state is sprinkled regularly with phenomenally idyllic beaches. Some are busy with locals and others, such as Imbassai are less hectic yet still offer plenty of activities. Spot turtles from October to March or whales from July to October. There are clear waters, soft sand, exotic birds swooping between the coconut palms and the option to swim in the calm waters of the river or surf in the sea. Beachside restaurants offer mouth-watering local cuisine such as Acaraje and the famous bobo de camarao (shrimp in creamy yuka sauce).
Curitiba, located in southern Brazil, is full of culture, cuisine, and is considered the ecological capital of the country. Street markets are a speciality of the city where you will find local artisan products, music and cuisine. There are also famous night food markets that will expose younger ones to the delights of local cuisine without the stress of ‘trying new food under pressure’. Don’t forget to sample the famous Bala de Banana, ginger ice cream, and barreado – a dish traditionally prepared in a clay pot, made with beef or pork and cassava flour, often accompanied with banana and orange slices. Your five a day in one!
Curitiba is also the gateway to the Coast. The most famous tourist train of Brazil, the Serra Verde Express, which departs daily, passing through tunnels, bridges, and the breathtaking untouched Serra do Mar, one of the largest remaining transatlantic rain forests. From here you will be transported back in time to the colonial town of Morretes. From here there are several hiking options, ranging from ‘toddler easy’ to ‘teen difficult’, leading to waterfalls and mountains in the stunning Marumbi State Park.
Call us and we will be happy to provide you with a free-of-charge no obligation itinerary and quotation designed for you.
Brazil in pictures
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