Deciding on your Brazil itinerary can be a challenge. The country is so huge, with so much to offer, that it is impossible to see everything you want to see in one trip. Below are four example itineraries, ranging from one week to four weeks.
Brazil itinerary: One week
Beach and waterfall
Begin in Rio de Janeiro over a weekend and take in the city sights and the nightlife in Lapa. On Monday leave for the beach resort town of Búzios or the pretty colonial port of Paraty, which is surrounded by beautiful beaches, especially near Trindade. Consider taking a trip on the side to the island of Ilha Grande or the rainforests and hiking trails of Itatiatia national park. On Wednesday either take a bus south to Curitiba (via Santos or São Paulo) and take the Serra Verde train to Paranaguá and the Ilha do Mel or return to Rio and fly to the Iguaçu Falls. A Brazilian itinerary should definitely include the nightlife of São Paulo. On Friday fly to São Paulo for a taste of that city's restaurants and nightlife and take a flight home from there.
Fly into Recife on a Friday for Brazil's best, least expensive and most traditional large carnival
and mix with the crowds at the Galo da Madruganda opening ceremony hosted by the great Brazilian percussionist Naná Vasconcelos. Spend Sunday and Monday in Recife/Olinda watching the
before flying south to Salvador on Tuesday and spending a few days with the crowds partying in the streets. Fly to Rio for Saturday's champions parade in the Sambódromo; relax on the beach and fly home on Sunday.
Brazil itinerary: Two weeks
Amazon to Recife by beach
Head to the vibrant colonial city of Belém at the mouth of the Amazon, being sure to arrive on a weekend to make the most of the fabulous nightlife. Either spend a few days recovering on the beaches of Marajó island or take a bus or flight south to São Luís, one of Brazil's least known colonial highlights with its fascinating architecture and African culture. After a few days' sightseeing in the city and nearby Alcântara, head for the Lençóis Maranhenses - a spectacular sand-dune desert on the wild, windy Atlantic. Continue from the Lençóis to Jericoacoara in Ceará for more beautiful beaches
and some of the world's best wind- and kite-surfing. Make a brief stop at Fortaleza for some
dancing and do a hop through the smaller beach resorts of Canoa Quebrada and Pipa, in Rio Grande do Norte, before arriving in Olinda and Recife at the weekend. Fly out from Recife.
Salvador to Rio by beach
This Brazil itinerary begins in Salvador, Brazil's first capital, with its impressive historical centre and vibrant African-Brazilian culture. After a few days head to Itacaré, a laid-back surf town to the south, and spend a few days holed up on the beach. Take a long bus journey south to Porto Seguro, where the Portuguese first landed in Brazil and spend a few days here or in the adjacent beach town of Arraial d'Ajuda or, if you feel like a splurge, Trancoso - South America's beach chic capital. Transfer south to Caravelas for a trip to the Abrolhos islands before taking the long journey south to Rio de Janeiro.
Brazil itinerary: Three weeks
Table-top mountains, rainforests, wetlands and beach
Fly into São Paulo and after a day or so in the city take a one-hour flight or a 10- to 14-hour bus ride to Cuiabá and the Pantanal - the best place for wildlife in the Americas. Take a side trip to Cristalino Jungle Lodge in the southern Amazon - one of the finest rainforest lodges in the world - then head to Brasília to see Oscar Niemeyer's modernist fantasy city. From here take a bus north to the wilds of the Chapada dos Veadeiros World Heritage Site to trek, rappel, mountain bike or climb in a landscape of dry forest interspersed with clear-water rivers, canyons and some of the continent's most beautiful waterfalls. Head north to Palmas in Tocantins and visit the forests and waterfalls around that city or take a side-trip into the wild Jalapão table-top mountains. This itinerary ends with a flight to Rio or Salvador followed by the beach.
Colonial cities, waterfalls, wetlands and beach
Fly into São Paulo and take a long bus journey to Campo Grande and the southern Pantanal. Stay either in a
near Miranda or take a tour with an agency. Iguaçu Falls is a must-see, so we strongly advise you include it in your itinerary. Fly or bus it to Iguaçu, which at 3 km wide are the world's most impressive waterfalls. Fly from here to Belo Horizonte and a Friday or Saturday of live music, before visiting some of Latin America's prettiest colonial towns - Ouro Preto, Tiradentes or Diamantina - all with stunning baroque buildings set against a backdrop of rugged mountains. From Minas head to the coast, either at Rio or Salvador.
Brazil itinerary: Four weeks
The Amazon heartland to Rio via the beach or via the wild interior
The Amazon is not a river - it is a hundred thousand rivers, brooks and streams, ranging in colour from coffee with milk to cobalt blue to lemon to black. Begin this Brazil itinerary in the Amazon city of Manaus, in a nearby jungle lodge or the Mamirauá reserve. Take a passenger boat downstream to lively Belém at the mouth of the river (preferably at the weekend to experience the nightlife). From here follow 'Amazon to Recife by beach' route , then either continue by bus to Salvador and take a flight to Rio, or fly direct to Rio from Recife. It is also possible to take a far wilder and less travelled road to Rio by heading inland from Belém or São Luís and calling in at Palmas (for the vast
wilderness near Jalapão); the waterfall-covered mountains of the Chapada dos Veadeiros; the modernist capital of Brasília; Campo Grande (for the Pantanal); and São Paulo.
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