Rio is the second largest city in Brazil (after Sao Paulo) and has an unequalled natural setting, surrounded by towering, jungle covered peaks, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Guanabara Bay. The people have a contagious energy that makes it an exceptionally fun place to visit. Rio is worth at least a few nights to settle into the unique pace of life that the city follows, and to get to know some of the different neighborhoods beyond Ipanema and Copacabana. We always include a tour up to the Corcovado Mountain with a private guide, giving you an overview of some of the city’s neighborhoods, including the historic areas of downtown, Lapa, and Santa Teresa. We can make dinner reservations for you at any of the city’s restaurants, and can help you make the most of your time, whether it’s for active excursions, nightlife, or museum/art gallery visits. Excursions we can arrange including seeing a local soccer match in the famous Maracana Stadium, hiking in the Tijuca National Forest that surrounds the city, day trips out to Petropolis to see the former residence of the royal family and beautiful surrounding countryside, kayaking trips around Rio de Janeiro, schooner trips to nearby islands, museum visits including the Museum of Contemporary Art in Niteroi, and much more. If you have any particular interest, please let us know and we are happy to accommodate it.
Salvador de Bahia: The legacy of Salvador’s complex history is all around you as you walk the streets of this fascinating city… the strong African heritage, the beauty of the European colonial center, the active seafront with vessels coming and going, the trade winds steadily blowing in off the ocean. The graceful and acrobatic martial art form of Capoeira, the voodoo-like rituals of Candomble, the percussive rhythms of the Samba are rooted in this long and complicated history and continue to be vibrant aspects of contemporary life in Salvador. We have you stay in the colonial heart of the city (the Pelourinho, a UNESCO World Heritage site), generally in small hotels that are located in restored 19th century or early 20th century buildings. Options for excursions in Salvador can cater to interests in Capoeira, candomble, samba, drumming troupes, art (folk and contemporary), architecture and history. We can also arrange excursions to areas outside Salvador, to visit other colonial towns in the region (Cachoeira is a popular day trip), or to take trips out to nearby islands for days on beautiful beaches.
The Brazilian Amazon contains the largest continuous stretches of rainforest in the world. From various places in the Amazon you could travel in any direction for over a thousand miles of uninterrupted pristine rainforest. The Amazon is by far the largest river in the world in terms of water volume. The biodiversity of the region is astonishing and a trip to this region is something nature lovers dream about. For many people, a visit to the Amazon is the highlight of a trip to Brazil…. The grandeur and scope of the place, the almost mystical sensation at sunset and sunrise, the sounds, the abundance of life… it can be a sublime experience for many people. At the same time, it is important to understand that the Amazon is not like an African safari. The reality is that the jungle is a hard place to see animals. They are definitely there, and you can see them, but it takes exploring and patience. When you do see animals or tropical birds, it makes it all the more special for its having been the sighting of something elusive. Our top recommendations for making a visit to the Amazon in Brazil are the Uakari Jungle Lodge (near Tefe), the Cristalino Jungle Lodge (near Alta Floresta), and the Tucano River Boat cruises (starting and finishing in Manaus). These options give the best chances for experiencing the rainforest in a less commercialized manner, in areas of forest that show tremendous diversity and where wildlife spotting is generally far better than average for Amazon trips.
The Pantanal is the world’s largest alluvial floodplain, and the premier place in South America for viewing a wide variety of wildlife. The reason the Pantanal is an easier place to see wildlife than the Amazon is that it has much less vegetation. There is forest, but it is broken up and interspersed. You have the opportunity see a wide variety of wildlife, including several species of primates, scarlet and hyacinth macaws, hundreds of other species of birds, giant anteaters, tapir, and many other creatures. As with the Amazon, it is important to understand that the Pantanal is not an African safari…. It is still very difficult to see a jaguar and you do not get herds of big animals. Accommodations are comfortable but not luxurious, generally in lodges or “pousadas” on gigantic ranches. Seasonal cattle grazing is a fact of life in the Pantanal, and virtually all of the lodges that you can visit are connected either directly or indirectly to large cattle “fazendas” (ranches). For anyone interested in wildlife and nature, the Pantanal offers great opportunities for viewing a tremendous variety of bird and animal life in one place in a relatively short period of time.
Iguazu Falls is a natural wonder of the world, the most powerful waterfall on the globe in sheer volume of water. You can easily spend 2 days exploring both the Brazil and Argentine sides. Each side offers a unique and spectacular view of the site. The majority of the trails are on the Argentine side, and most boat tours that take you up underneath the falls also depart from the Argentine side. You can also access a large island that sits in front of one section of the falls from the Argentine side. We include a full day privately guided excursion to the Argentine side so that you can take full advantage of your time in this area.
Paraty is a beautifully preserved Portuguese colonial town in an idyllic setting on a stretch of emerald Atlantic rainforest about 4 hours drive south of Rio de Janeiro. It makes for a great combination of wonderful architecture, pristine beaches, and a very relaxing atmosphere. Many of the beaches on the surrounding coast can only be accessed by boat, and you can take a schooner trip out to spend the afternoon on one of these beaches and eat lunch. The town is small and there are some fun bars that often have very good live music and a lively atmosphere. It’s easy to fall in love with this place… quite a few foreigners have come and decided to stay, which makes for a casual cosmopolitan atmosphere as well.