Brazil. Home to Rio de Janeiro and its flamboyant Carnival, the Amazon (the rainforest not the online giant) and the infamous Christ the Redeemer statue. Just those three sights alone would make it a memorable trip – but there’s definitely more to Brazil than just these highlights!
I recently had the pleasure of welcoming Fernanda Freitas from Personal Brasil Incoming Destination Management Company on one of my Wanderlust Wednesday video chats. We chatted about all the wonderfulness that is Brazil including its culture, gastronomy and natural resources.
Grab your dancing shoes or your hiking boots, put your seat in the upright position, fasten your seat belt and away we go!
Getting There: Getting to Brazil is not difficult by any means and there are actually three major airports you can fly into – Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro or Iguassu Falls (Foz do Iguacu). And coming from the US there are plenty of direct flights to the fist two (Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro). Bonus – Americans do not need visas – just your passport will suffice!
Statistics: Brazil is a country found in South America and is actually the largest country in both South America and Latin America measuring at 3.2 million square miles. Its population is around 209.5 million people and its’s capital is Brasilia.
Accommodations: Brazil offers the opportunity to experience both all-inclusive hotels as well as those that only offer breakfast. For instance – in Rio De Janeiro – the hotels normally just include breakfast as there is so much to explore there and they realize you will most likely be gone the majority of the day and will eat out – exploring all the local flavors. However, should you find yourself at the hotel at lunch or dinner time most of them do have a restaurant on site that you can frequent. The cities outside of Rio de Janeiro that are located in the beach areas is where you are going to find those handy all-inclusives. Fernanda also told us about a luxury accommodation in the middle of the Amazon jungle – Anavilhanas Lodge – which offers fabulous views of the jungle and the river. In fact, she noted that there are several nice properties in the middle of the Amazon – offering pools, spas, yoga and more!
- Rio de Janeiro: Rio de Janeiro has a reputation as a party city and indeed it is. But there is nature here too! Here you will see Corcovado (which means “hunchback” in Portuguese) a mountain in the central part of the city which on its summit looms the magnificent Christ the Redeemer statue. Another popular spot in Rio de Janeiro is Sugarloaf Mountain which sits at the mouth of the Guanabara Bay on a peninsula that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean. It is named due to its resemblance to the traditional shape of concentrated refined loaf sugar. The cable cars which take you over to Sugarloaf Mountain are a fun way to get there and offer fabulous views. And for some sports history – Rio is also home to one of the world’s great stadiums – Maracana Stadium – which celebrated its 70th birthday in June of 2020. Fun Fact: Carioca is the term used to refer to Rio de Janeiro locals. Cariocas are a warm, fun and friendly people.
- Iguazu Falls aka Iguassu Falls: Located within the Iguazu National Park – which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site are these stunning semicircular waterfalls which together make up the largest waterfall in the world. This area is also known as the Three Frontiers Border as it is where Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay meet.
- Amazon Rainforest: The easiest way to access the Amazon is to take a flight into the city of Manaus which is situated in the heart of the Amazon Rainforest. There are direct flights from Rio de Janeiro (a four-hour flight) and Sao Paulo (a five-hour flight) and Brasilia (a three-hour flight). This area has two seasons. The Flood Season which is from March through August and the Dry Season which is from September through February. The only difference between the two seasons is the amount of water. Which means that during flood season all tours are done by boat and in dry season all tours are walking tours through the jungle. Given these two unique ways to experience it one might consider making the trip twice! Fernanda definitely suggests staying three nights to explore the wonder of it all.
- Buzios: This small fishing village is just a two-hour car ride from Rio de Janeiro and Fernanda suggested it as a great last stop after you travel to the Amazon and are returning to fly back out of Rio de Janeiro. Here you will find small hotels – boutique and Paradores (family owned inns). It is a charming town featuring lots of shops, restaurants, bars and nightclubs. And since it is a beach area what a great way to relax – on the beach – before you finish your trip and head back home!
Sightseeing and Activities: You have culture – you have sun and beaches – 4,650 miles worth of coastline! There’s gastronomy – each region has its own special dish. And there’s wellness thanks to nature and spas.
- Rio De Janeiro:
- Cooking Classes: This is a fabulous opportunity for an off the beaten path gastronomy experience. You will let the tour guide / chef know what you enjoy eating prior to the tour and they will choose a dish for you to prepare. They will pick up you up at your hotel and take you to the local market where you can get fruits and vegetables in addition to the ingredients for the meal you are going to prepare. Your Brazilian chef will teach you how to prepare it and when it is completed you will sit down and eat the meal. This can be done as a private tour or with a group and some examples of dishes you may prepare include feijoada, farofa, moqueca or brigaceiro.
- Biking Tours: The biking tours are guided tours that typically last for about an hour. You will bike around the city as well as by the beach where you will have a chance to stop and taste some coconut water.
- Samba Classes: These dancing lessons can also be done in a group setting or private – but Fernanda thinks it’s best done in a group of people as it is more fun that way. The first part of this experience is when you actually will learn the moves to dance the Samba. The second part of the experience can be one of three thigs. You can go out on the town later in the evening where you can practice the steps in a nightclub with the locals, or you can visit a Samba School (Saturday ONLY) where they practice for Carnival all year round – and practice what you learned right along with them, or you can visit the City of Samba, don a costume and parade around with locals! They’ll also teach you how to prepare a caipirinha which is Brazil’s national drink. Now that is what I call a full cultural immersion – food and dance!
- Iguazu Falls aka Iguassu Falls:
- The Bird Park: In this outdoor park the birds fly free allowing you to watch, touch and feed them. Get up close and personal with parrots, toucans and more. This is a great opportunity for travel as a living classroom – especially for those kiddos who are being home schooled – you can really impress them here!
- Macuco Safari Boat: If you go to Iguassu Falls you have to go on the Macuco Safari Boat! This boat ride through the rapids will take you so close to the falls that you are guaranteed to end up soaking wet. Great for our thrill seekers!
- Amazon Jungle:
- Swim with Pink Dolphins: These beautiful gentle animals love when humans join them and trust me, they are not afraid of you – they will eat a fish right out of your hands!
- Taste the Local Gastronomy: The Amazon produces foods that no other place in the world has. In fact all of these come from the Amazon: Guarana – which is a fruit whose seeds are used to brew a drink; Acai – a reddish purple berry; tapioca – a starch extracted from the storage roots of the cassava plant and cupuacu – a chocolaty, nutrient-dense fruit that is very similar to the cacao fruit.
- The Meeting of Waters: This is the meeting between the dark Rio Negro with the sandy colored upper Amazon River. The two rivers – one brown and one black meet each other but the colors do not mix. Such an awe-inspiring site to see!
- Caimans: In the evenings in the Amazon you can spot go out with a guide and spot Caimans which are a South American alligator. Yikes!
Updated COVID-19 Information: As of this writing travel the CDC recommends travelers avoid all nonessential international travel to Brazil.
And that concludes our Brazilian journey! I sure hope you found plenty of reasons to add it to your list of must-see destinations. If so – let’s start planning your 2021 adventure to Brazil now!
For more details on things to see and do in Brazil, where to stay, it’s price points and more – contact your Travel Guru! Oh, and if you need a payment plan to fund your travel adventure – we got those too!