Unique and idiosyncratic, the extravagant Ariau Amazon Towers, accessible by boat from Manaus, lies between the tea (without milk) -coloured Rio Negro and the dense Amazon Rainforest. Brightly coloured Macaws, troupes of monkeys and spider monkeys hang about checking out the eco-tourists. You stay in treetop rooms or tree houses, linked by about five miles of wooden catwalks looking down on the rainforest floor. Expert guides, mostly from the local area, take you deep into the forest on survival trips, discovering the extraordinary diversity of the Amazon rainforest and it’s importance to the world.
Located in Brazil’s north-east, Jericoacoara, or Jeri as it’s otherwise known, sits almost exactly on the equator, on the most northern tip of the state of Ceará.
Once a modest fishing village, this now cosmopolitan oasis is one of Brazil’s best kept secrets. The streets are paved with sand, street lights are banned, it is unreachable by car, and life is comfortable and sophisticated, with vibrant bars, restaurants and boutique hotels.
Best pousada is Pousada Papaya - www.jeripapaya.com. Not too expensive, close to everything, gorgeous gardens and pool, amazing breakfasts each morning with a view of the sunset dune.
Best restaurants: Sabor da Terra serves simple, traditional Brazilian fare – think rice, beans and grilled meats. Most meals are big enough for two and will only set you back about R$15 (£5).
Araxá - www.araxapousada.com - and Pizza Banana serve the best woodfired pizza in town (from £7 per person).
The modern, varied menu at Pimenta Verde keeps this little corner-restaurant humming (from £9 per person).
Tamarindo, like many bars and restaurants in Jeri, blurs the line between inside and outside, with an outdoor kitchen, sandy floors and tables under the stars – all nestled beneath a giant tamarind tree (from £7 per person).
Fretcar buses operate daily from Praiano Palace Hotel in Fortaleza for R$55 per person each way (£17). Bus tickets can also be purchased at Fortaleza airport. More information: www.ilikewords.org/2012/09/jericoacoara-brasil.html
It has no roads, no cars. Its virgin rainforests are strictly protected and home to countless mammals from caiman to sloth and colourful birds like the striking blood-red Tanager. Its crystal waters are liberally sprinkled with turtles and offer some of the best diving in the world. You arrive by ferry and drag your suitcase along sandy tracks past quaint boutiques and restaurants or follow meekly as it is trundled on a barrow to your pousada by a burly local carrier. In the evening you will sit at a beach table, capirinha or chilled beer in hand, a bowl of freshly-caught seafood stew on order and your bare toes sifting the still-warm sand while a silent thunderstorm backlights the mountains of the distant Serra do Mar like some vast Hollywood set.
Ilha Grande lies just an hour off Brazil’s Costa Verde, that lush strip of Atlantic coastline stretching from north of Rio all the way down to Santos. It its time, this huge unspoiled tropical paradise, with more than 100 miles of jungle trails, has been a pirates’ lair – and as recently as the early 1990s housed a penal colony on one of its countless remote and isolated coves. Nowadays it still takes prisoners but only those who track down its isolation, sample empty beaches, coral reefs and laid-back Brazilian hospitality. It’s difficult to escape.
Teatro Amazonas is an opera house in Manaus, located in the heart of the Amazon rainforest. It is a stunning building inside and out and particularly beautiful at night. It was so suprising finding a theatre like this in such a remote location and the tour we had was brilliant. Definitely recommend going if you ever find yourself in Manaus on the way in to the Amazon - be sure to take the guided tour which is available in English.
Rua Tapajós, 5 Centro, Manaus AM, 69025-140, Brazil
+55 92 3622-1880
Google map: bit.ly/qZSRei
There are loads of all you can eat meat restaurants in Brazil and we tried three while I was there for a two month stay working my way through Brazil. This place was the best. For meat eaters it was heavenly. Best tip, don't bother having lunch and stroll up about 7pm. You'll feast. If you take a trip to Brazil now it will be coming into their spring - it'll be hot but a great time to visit.
Av Atlantica 290B, Rio de Janeiro, State of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
+ 55 21 2104 9000
Google map: bit.ly/pcXxut
They are two beautiful, deserted beaches in the east of the island. Although the beaches are close to the island's main town, they are only accessible by foot on a signposted path, which starts at the eastern end of Abraao beach. The path, which is steep at times, takes you through pristine jungle and past one of the island's highest points from where the views are excellent. A good alternative to Lopes Mendes, the island's most well-known beach (which is accessible on foot from Pouso). It is possible to catch a boat back from Pouso beach to Abraao village.
Paraty is a couple hours drive south of Rio de Janeiro. A hidden gem in every sense of the meaning. The beach is quite difficult to find and includes a drive (I did it in a bus) up a mountain, then back down the other side. On the way, you do wonder if it's worth all this palava but once you finally witness the beach, the sea, the backdrop of the mountains and the surrounding coast, you know you've found something very special. Perhaps the most beautiful set of beaches I've ever seen. Just don't forget your suncream - the sun is perilously strong in this corner of the world.
To anyone lucky enough to be able to go to Brazil during the World Cup in 2014, watching the footy on Copacabana beach is a must. I was there during the final of the last World Cup in 2010, and it was probably one of the best days of my whole six month travelling experience! They set up huge screens on the beach from midday, with live samba music, dancers and an abundance of beer and of course, Speedos. Even watching the final between Holland and Spain, the atmosphere was as excited as if it was a South American final. I can't even begin to imagine how it would have been if that was the case - it was truly like a mini Carnival. And my top tip, if you're feeling a little worse for wear the morning after the festivities, grab yourself an Acai berry smoothie from one of the kiosks near the beach, one sip and you'll feel completely revitalised!
Google map: bit.ly/rcHlgh
Boipeba is what you would expect Morro de Sao Paulo to have been like before it became the party central of the south Bahia! If you are looking to get away from it all for some rest and relaxation, pristine and serene coconut lined beaches and endless balmy days then the tiny island of Boipeba needs to be marked as a ‘must do’ on your map (if you sneeze, you will miss it!) With no noise apart from the sound of the occasional purr of a speedboat engine and the chirping of birds in the surrounding dense rainforests it is certainly a place to kick back and do absolutely nothing. Depending on how you get there, bus and boat or even plane from Salvador, you will not regret it. There are no ATM’s on the island and only a couple of very small stores for basic requirements, however, there is a small scattering of restaurants and obviously countless coconuts!
The picture-perfect beach of Dois Rios lies in a peaceful cove on an island just an hour off the mainland of Rio de Janiero state, where there are no ATMs and motorised vehicles are banned. After two hours of hiking across the island we reached it, with sprawling golden sand, turquoise waters to the front, lush rainforest behind and pretty much nothing else. It really is the perfect deserted beach. Unlike the more popular (and no more gorgeous) Lopes Mendes beach, no tourist boats go here so the only way to reach it is on foot - gruelling in the humidity (and flip flops) but a real blessing in disguise. I hope it remains utterly unspoiled for a very long time, or at least until I can afford to return.
Stay in: Vila do Abraao, Ilha Grande
Google map: bit.ly/oS93At
I highly recommend the Rio Original Bike tour. The bicycle is definitely the best way to get a feel of the city and its parks. The tour is 100% on cycle paths so you don't have to fight the insane Rio traffic. It runs through the Aterro do Flamengo park with views of the Sugarloaf and the Christ as well as the heavenly Guanabara Bay. Thais and Mark are excellent guides and really know the city and its culture inside out. It was the best thing I did on my trip to Rio by far. At R$70 it was a steal given that is roughly the same price as renting a bike on your own.
Another post here describes why visiting the Pantanal wetlands is so special. At Barra Mansa that experience is pretty much guaranteed. Sitting right by the Rio Negro, you get to explore with guides by foot, boat, canoe and on horseback. The accommodation is of a good standard, but not so luxurious that it feels inappropriate in a landscape where nature is always dominant. The daily charge for room, full board and guided activities is affordable, but getting there is expensive or at least time-consuming (something like £1400 by private plane from Campo Grande, for up to for people; £400 for the five-hour journey each way in a 4x4). But the sense of travelling to the middle of nowhere even adds to the sense of glorious isolation - and the privilege to immerse oneself in one of the world's greatest wildlife zones.
Approximately four and a half hours south of Rio, Trindade is a small village on the coast with some of the most stunning beaches in Brazil. White sand contrasted with turquoise sea and framed by green forests - it is like paradise. Sometimes you might be the only person on the beach,there are no crowds here.There are also waterfalls and natural pools to explore - don't miss the 'rock that swallows'. Stay at the chilled out Sea and Forest Hostel with log cabins amid the trees to complete your experience.
With only a short time free in this huge and complex city, I planned a morning tour by email with Nathalia, one of the local hosts on this project, which also includes many cites worldwide. In the space of four hours I really got a taste of the city and how the locals live with this delightful and informed guide. Highly recommended way of seeing a place through the eyes of those who live there.
A jazz festival set in a Unesco Heritage site is a truly memorable experience: live music, amazing architecture and the atmosphere that only the Brazilian public can offer - engaging even for those who are not big fans of jazz.
This yearly festival happens every September, and fills the hilly and winding streets of this remarkable town with music from around the world.
Anyone who is holidaying in Florianopolis might try spending three or more days in Urubici to experience the fantastic canyon scenery in Parque Nacional de Sao Joaquim. The highlight here for me is Pedra Furada. The most popular time to visit Urubici for Brazilians is winter, as snow is not uncommon along with sub zero temperatures.
The weather in summer is very pleasant and much cooler than the coast due to the town's elevation and accomodation prices are much lower too at this time. The level of accommodation is good ranging from small family run pousadas to Eco Resorts. The town has a number of cafes, restaurants and bakeries which all serve good food at reasonable prices. Things worth a try are the araucaria pine nut, or pinhão, if in season. It is similar to chestnut in flavor and texture - try the local trout too it's delicious.
There are a number of guiding companies in town and I would recommend that you use a guide if you plan to do some trekking for two reason:
1 - The tracks are not marked and the maps we found were very basic.
2 - Safety: the area is very high and low cloud and dense fog are common and it is very easy to become disorientated, plus there are many very high shear drops (several hundred meters).
It is also possible to arrange for a guide to pick you up and return you to Florianopolis.
So here are a few of the must see places and some links.
1 Pedra Furada/Morra da Igreja (Brasils Durdle Door at 1822m)
2 Cachoeira do Avencal 100m fall
3 Cascata veu da noiva 85m fall
4 Serra do Corvo Branco (not quite Bolivia Death Road but certainly interesting engineering)
5 Morro do Campestre an easy walk to some interesting rock formations
6 Mascara do Guardiao (4000 year old rock carvings)
7 Igreja Matriz (Interesting concrete architecture church)
8 Gruta N.S. de Lordes cute village outdoor shrine/church
Google map: bit.ly/fkvcdB
Urubici is relatively close to Florianopolis (Around 160Km SW), the roads are good with fairly light traffic, so either hiring a car or taking a bus are both good options.
This is the local tourist office web site which gives a fair amount of info www.serracatarinense.com/urubici/index.html
And these are some shots of our last trip there
Much as I really liked Salvador, I really wanted to chill out for a bit after a few days there. We were going to head up to Recife and Porto da Galinhas but the company we went with recommended going a little way south to Itacare instead, and I'm really glad we did. It had a totally different vibe, really calm and with some amazing scenery to boot, as the Atlantic rainforest falls down into the ocean. Absolutely beautiful!
The staff were very helpful and excellent. Illeana could afford to smile a bit more, though. Roni was an excellent and hardworking guide. Lilliani was a very intelligent young girl with a lot of charm and enthusiasm. The meals prepared by her mother were good. The grilled fish prepared by Roni in the jungle was excellent. Saw some wildlife - macacas do cheiro, the big one maybe a spider monkey and a porco do espinha (as well as a Vagalumi and a few birds). The sounds of the jungle were amazing.
The water pump is way too noisy, by the way.
Av. Getulio Vargas, No. 694, Centro, close to Opera House
Manaus, Amazonas, CEP 69020-010
Partly a blog, mostly a comprehensive information site about Rio de Janeiro and the area around. Yes the inclusion of the word 'gringo' conjures up certain negative images (until you get to Brazil and realise all foreigners are referred to as 'gringo' in a purely friendly way), but it's jammed full of great tips you won't find in any guidebooks and gives an enticing and realistic picture of Rio. I met the author of the website in person at the hostel I stayed at and he was an absolute gem!
We had the misfortune to spend one night at this hostel in Belo Horizonte. If you have ever tried to find budget accommodation in this city you might understand how we ended up here as there is nothing available in the budget price range. I won't go in to the long list of reasons why you shouldn't stay here other than to say that in 8 months of travelling and staying in over 105 places to date, this is the only accommodation we regret! Our needs are fairly undemanding; that our accommodation be clean and safe (and hopefully cheap and central as well, but you can't have everything). O Sorriso Logarto's only saving grace was that it was near the most fabulous sushi bar I have come across EVER and that it had a balcony meaning we could avoid spending time indoors...
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