Peaceful life at Ilha do Algodoal, Pará

Arrival to Ilha do Algodoal

Arrival to Ilha do Algodoal

Ilha do Algodoal is a small island located in Pará, one of the northern states of Brazil. In general Pará is well-known as eco-tourism destination, but the fact that it also offers cultural attractions and irresistable beaches, makes it an interesting destination for international tourism. Ilha do Algodoal is a mixture of eco-tourism and beaches. It’s a destination of an open-minded traveller, who is looking for once in a life time experiences. As soon as you arrive to Ilha do Algodoal and get transfered to your pousada by horse wagons, you will notice that tiny island is completely lost in time. A good proof of this is the electricity that came to the island just few years ago, and as motorized traffic doesn’t make part of the island life, you can only imagine how far away the rythms of life in Algodoal is from the rush and run of any big or any medium sized city.

Village of Algodoal

Village of Algodoal

Reaching this paradise requieres a little bit work, but is definitely worth it. The best access to the island is from Maruda, a small town located about 160 km from the state capital Belem. You can reach Maruda by a regular bus, which takes about 4-5 hours or by minibus/van when the journey takes about 2½-3 hours. Naturally a minibus/van is more recommendable even if it turns out to be slightly more expensive than the regular bus. The third option is to hire a private transfer, which of course is the most comfortable way of travelling and the arrival time will be planned according the departure time of the boats to Ilha do Algodoal. Once you reach Maruda you still have to take a boat across the river. The ride takes about 30-40 minutes and the departure times vary depending on the weekday, being generally few departures during the morning and the early afternoon. Once the boat arrives to the island of Algodoal several horse wagons are waiting for to transport the passangers to their final destinations. A horse ride a fantastic way to get used to the relaxed and easygoing atmospheare of this lovely island.

Praia da Princesa

Praia da Princesa

Even if the state of Pará is not wellknown as a beach destination, the beach of Princesa was recently chosen among the ten most beautiful beaches of Brazil. During the low tide you can reach Princesa either by walk or by hiring a ride with one of the many horse wagons operating around the island. When the tide is rising a small river has to be crossed by a rowboat. Here the sea water gets mixed with the rivers and therefore you will hardly notice any salty taste at all.  The color of the water may not be as bright as in many other brazilian beaches, but what makes Praia da Princesa special is a combination of several facts. This wide and long beach is surrounded by dunes, lies in a complete peace and harmony with the nature and has one of the most neverending kind of horizons for a traveller to admire. The beach bars serving clients are all rustic and outside of the high season (January & July) or the public holidays the beach can be basically yours. Once the sun goes down Praia da Princesa shows the another side of its’ beauty, here the sunsets are something spectacular. Due to the location close to the Equatorial the horizon seems to have no end at all, and the blue moment before the night falls is something to be remembered.

Lagoa da Princesa

Lagoa da Princesa

What are the other attractions of Ilha do Algodoal appart of the Praia da Princesa beach? The lagoon of Princesa is located in the middle of  the dunes and surroundedn by tropical vegetation, just about 30 minutes walk (or a short wagon ride) away from the beach. It’s a lovely place to visit and you can also enjoy a refreshing bath in the lagoon before starting your hike back to the beach. An another attraction requiring a longer hike is the village of Fortalezinha, located at the other end of the island. To reach Fortalezinha, you have three options: hire a local guide and hike approximately during two hours, take a wagon ride (approximately 1 hour) or a boat ride (approximately 30-40 minutes). Hiking is the best option if you wish to enjoy the pureness of the nature with all your instincts, but in this case it’s recommendable to start the journey as early as possible before the heat of the sun is insupportable. When reaching Fortalezinha, you will most probably see many species of birds, including beautiful red Guarás, be able to bath in the natural swimming pools during the low tide and enjoy the beach before returning back to the main village of Algodoal.

Beach at sunset

Beach at sunset

If you choose Ilha do Algodoal as your destination be prepared with a mosquito spray as there are a large number of all kind of insects in the island. Also do not expect to find a large variety of night life. On the weekends live Carimbo (a local dance) is played at the restaurant La Dune, while Raiz do Mangue concentrates on Reggae music, but that’s basically it. Algodoal is a place where you will mostly listen the sounds of the nature and easily forget everything related with your daily routines. Welcome to Ilha do Algodoal, one of our favourite destinations!

Colorful flowers

Colorful flowers

Brazil Diversity recommends:

  • Pousada Marhesias – A small pousada with 4 chalets surrended by tropical vegetation. The best option on the island with quality installations, stylish details and personalized treatment.
  • Chalets do Atlantico – Pousada offereing standard chalet accommodation, suitable especially for families or small groups.
  • Restaurante La Dune – A simple restaurant at the center of the village offering tasty home made food.
  • Bar & Restaurante Argentino – A recommendable bar at the beach of Princesa.
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Travelling in Brazil FAQ. Part I: A-L

Tropical flowers

Tropical flowers

One of our followers suggested us to create a Frequently Asked Questions post, which actually turned out to be an excellent idea. When you are planning a trip many questions will arise and it may not always be easy to find information concerning local habits and other useful details. Knowing them in before hand will make travelling easier and most probably you will avoid some unexpected situations.

We have divided our Frequently Asked Questions in two parts, simply because there are many issues we want to share with our followers. The topics are in alphapetical order and the post post will include letters from A till L. In the future this post will be constantly modificated depending on the issues that may come up. If you have a question about travelling in Brazil, if you would like to read more about some particular issues or if you have any suggestions mail us at brazildiversity(a)gmail.com.

So let’s get started…

  • ACCOMMODATION – When you start searching for accommodation in Brazil, you will run into the concept of pousadas. In addition to pousadas the other accommodation options are hotels, hostels and rental apartments. English translation for a pousada would be guesthouse, however there are pousadas of different kind and therefore the term guesthouse doesn’t always fit for them. Pousadas are usually smaller, have more personalized touch than hotels and are often located in tiny cities or villages. There are pousadas for all budgets, very simple ones, comfortable tourist class pousadas and high quality pousada with ultimate luxury facilities. Usually pousadas requiere 50% of the total value at the moment of booking. Tighter conditions often apply during public holidays. We highly recommend you to book yourself a pousada accommodation, this is when you will feel the Brazilian hospitality and get the best out of your stay. Unlike many Caribbean countries, Brazil is NOT an “All Inclusive” destination. Some hotels/luxury pousadas do offer half board as part of the price and give an option for full board, but “all inclusive” resorts are not something you should be searching from Brazil. Personally I think it’s a good fact, because Brazilian food is inexpensive  and so diverse that it would pity to dine always within a resort area.
  • AIR TRANSPORTATIONCheck out our blog posts about  Travelling and Transportation and average distances & flight times between the major cities.
  • ATM MACHINES You can withdraw cash from ATM machines available at the airports, stations and all around the cities. Depending on the machine they work with all the major credit and debit cards, however we do recommend you to carry always a little bit cash with you, as it’s not uncommon to find an ATM machines out of order or simply without international connection. When travelling to smaller villages or islands, be prepared that not all of them have an ATM machine, so check it out first and plan your carry on cash depending on that. Even if there were an ATM machine in distant places it’s not good to count only on them.  Be also aware that due to the security reasons during the night time only a limited number of cash (100 R$) can be withdrawn from your account.
  • BANK – The banking hours are from Monday till Friday usually from 10 am till 4 pm. A large number of international banks can also be found from major Brazilian cities.
  • CLIMATE – Check out our blog post of the best seasons to travel….this will be out shortly!
  • Colorful Havaianas

    Colorful Havaianas

    CLOTHINGIn general Brazilians do not dress very formally on their spare time, especially in the cities located at the sea side. Why am I telling this to you then? There are few reasons why I would recommend you to dress like the brazilians do. First of this is a way for your not to call attention of the pickpockets and other unwished persons. Secondly due to the climate this will certainly be the best and the most comfortable way to get dressed. So don’t be asshamed to use shorts, mini-skirts, tops and tiny bikinies, this is exactly the way the brazilians are dressed when they head to the beach. Buy yourself a pair of world famous Brazilian Havaianas, colorful and comfortable flip flops used by each and everyone in this country.

  • CREDIT CARDS – The use of credit cards is very common in Brazil. Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted, but Amex and Diners may not turn out to be so useful to carry with you. Not all the restaurant and stores accept payment with credit cards, so check it out always before ordering. In general the credit card machines work with the chip code, so make sure you remember yours. Cloning cards do happen in Brazil, so be aware of that and always keep an eye on your card.
  • CURRENCY – The currency used in Brazil is called Real (R$). One Real is divided into 100 cents. In recent years the value of Real has been raither stable compared to the history of Brazil with several week and unstable currencies. In most of the countries it’s possible to exchange Reias (plural) in before hand, but you will certainly get a better a rate when exchanging for example dollars or euros in Brazil. However we do recommend you to change a little bit money before you arrive to Brazil. It’s always good to have at least some local cash with you when arriving to a new and unknown airport. Check out the daily value of Real using a currency converter.
  • DENGUEDengue fever is a tropical disease transmitted by mosquitos. It’s very common in Brazil throughout the year and unlike malaria dengue is as prevalent in urban districts as rural areas. The common signs of the disease are severe headache, fever, rash, muscle and joint pains. The best way to prevent dengue is to avoid touch with mosquitos. This basically means using anti-mosquito sprays and wearing long sleaves especially during the evening/night time. If you suspect you might be suffering dengue, contact a doctor immediately. Any aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs should be avoided as these drugs may worsen the bleeding tendency associated with some of these infections.
Coconuts

Coconuts

  • DRINKS – Brazil is full of interesting and delicious drinks for all the tastes. First of all, remember to buy mineral water, tap water is not drinkable. In Brazil there are many juice bars offering tasty tropical juices. Try as many as you can, because you will rarely find that many exotic tastes in any other place. Tropical fruit is also the main ingredient of a common soft drink Guaraná. Brazilians drink a lot beer as well, being Brama, Skol, Antartica, Bohemia, Original, and Itaipava some of the most common brands. Chopp is a draft beer served in bars and resturants. The most well known Brazilian alcoholic drink caipirinha is prepared of limon, sugar and cachaca (a sugar cane spirit). Nowadays you will find caipirinhas based on other fruits and caipivodkas where cachaca has been substituided with vodka.
  • DRIVING – The traffic in the big cities can be pretty chaotic and heavy traffic jams are part of the daily life, especially during early morning and late afternoon, when people are heading to work and back. Similar or even worst traffic jams can be expected during public holidays. If you are planning to drive in Brazil, we do recommend you to take few things into consideration. First of all driving can be a good method to move yourself from place A to place B in the coastal regions when visiting several smaller villages during your stay. Try to avoid driving in major cities, especially if you are not familiar with heavy traffic. Taking a taxi or a pre-booked transfer will save you from stress and headache. Secondly avoid driving after the sunset, when both the possibility of becoming robbed and the risk of getting involved in an accident are higher. In general brazilians drive fast and are not always respecting the speed limits and other regulations. Remember Brazil applies zero tolerance when it comes to alcohol and driving. For a  rental car company it might be enough to have you national driver’s license plus an official translation into portugues from your national authority, but we do recommend you to have an international drivers license as well. It may turn out to be useful especially if you get involved with the Brazilian authorities.
  • DUTY FREE – The duty free stores at the Brazilian airports are not particularly cheap. Buy souvenier before you head back to the airport, and also pay attention on the fact that at the airport’s international area the prices are in US dollars.
  • ELECTRICITY – In most of the places the electricity is 110v. However some northern states and some hotels may use 220v in stead. The outlets in Brazil usually accept two types of plugs, a flat blade plug or two round pins. In case your appliances plug has a different shape, you may need a plug adapter.
Favelas of Rio de Janeiro

Favela in Rio de Janeiro

  • FAVELA – Brazilian slums are called Favelas, they are present in all the major cities and for example in Rio de Janeiro the mountain sides are dominated by favelas. These areas are usually controlled by drug dealers and face conflicts on regular basis. It’s definitely NOT recommendable to visit favelas on your own as without knowledge and precaution you may end up in danger. Nowadays regular tours to favelas are organized at least in Rio de Janeiro and Salvador. A part of the tour price usuaylly goes to some social project of the area such as health care and education.
  • FOOD – Brazilian food is tasty, fresh and in most of ther cases healthy as well. The basic component is rice which is often served with beans and other side dishes. Along the coast you will find a large choice of  seafood and fish. Throughout the country delicious barbecue dishes are served, but meat is speciality of southern part of Brazil, where the biggest ranches are located. Brazilian food is not spicy unless you personally prefer so. In restaurants the meals tend to be large and are often served for two persons. Before ordering it’s always good to check whether the meal is individual or not.
  • HEALTH CARE – The health care in Brazil is divided into public and private sectors. As a tourist you will have a travel insurance (at least we hope so!) and therefore a chance to use most of the private health care services when needed. Naturally the quality of the services vary depending on the hospital, but in general the standard of private health care in Brazil is really good. In smaller places, where private hospitals are not available you have a right to use the public services as well, though in those cases you better be prepared to face longer queues.
  • LANGUAGEPortuguese is the official language of Brazil, although many local dialect and indigenous languages are spoken widely around the country. English is spoken in touristic areas, but often only among the person with higher education or those who work in the tourism sector, so don’t expect your taxi driver to be fluent in English. It would be good for anyone to learn little bit portuguese, at least basic vocabulary and most used phrases before travelling to Brazil. If you know Spannish that will be an advantage, especially when it comes to written language. In case you don’t speak portuguese at all, raising your thumb is common sign to show that everything is alright.

Last but not least I would like to point out something that is always present, no matter where we travel to. Once you have made a decision to travel and left your home behind your expectations are naturally high. Knowing many facts and details of your destination will surely help you to have a wonderful and unforgettable travelling experience. However during your trip you are most likely to face some unexpected situations as well. This is when the attitude comes into question. Having an easygoing attitude is often the best way handle the up coming issues. After all each and every country has its’ own particular culture and when travelling we are expected to respect all these magnificant little details that make our destination different from our home.

Talking about attitude, I would like to quote someone I know. After having missed a visit to Iguassu Falls due to major problems in Brazilian domestic air traffic, this elderly gentleman kept enjoying the sun in Rio de Janeiro saying: “Now I have a good reason to come back, and after all there is only water there…”

Brazil Diversity wishes you Happy Travelling!

Tropical Islands of Tinharé and Boipeba, Bahia

The port of Morro de São Paulo

The port of Morro de São Paulo

The island of Tinhare is located in Bahia, almost in front of the state capital Salvador. This geographical fact makes it an excellent place to be combined for example with city break in Salvador or with an active hiking holiday in the National Park of Chapada Diamantina. The principal village of the island is Morro de São Paulo, which connects to the continent either by sea or by air. The small airport of the island receives single engine aircrafts proceeding from Salvador, and the port is a destination of catamarans and speed boats carrying both passangers and the goods to the island. A flight to the island takes only about 25 minutes and an average time of a sea transfer is about 2½ – 3 hours, depending on the weather conditions. Both, the catamarans and the speed boats leave from the port right behind the Mercado Modelo market in Salvador. We do recommend you to choose catamaran if possible, as the speed boat is a way more sensible and you will easily suffer the sea sickess.

The beaches of Morro de São Paulo

The beaches of Morro de São Paulo

Upon the arrival, it will be easy to notice that you have arrived to a tropical paradise. The island with altitude differences is filled with palms trees and tropical vegetation. As there is no asphalt, no cars on the island, a number of men with wheelbarrows are waiting for you in port and paying few coins they will take the luggage to your pousada. The main village is filled with small and charming pousadas of all the levels. The streets are sandy and the names of the principal beaches are as original as:  beach 1, beach 2, beach 3 and beach 4. Beach 2 is the most popular beach, when it comes to the beach life, bars and restaurants. Beach 4 on the other hand is the most distant one that offering peace and tranquility. In case you are into something in between choose the beach 3. It allows you an easy access to the services of the village and offers quality accomodation in harmony with the nature.

Beach side

Beach side

What to do on the island then? Walk along the beaches, swim and enjoy snorkeling in the clear waters. You can also visit the ruins of a historic fortress located close to the port, practise horseback riding or stroll along the paths all the way to a waterfall located in the middle of the island. One of the most interesting day trips is a boat ride to the near by island of Boipeba. The first stop of the tour is the natural swimming pool, a great place to observe the tropical fish in bright colors. After that the rubber boat continues to Boipeba, a beautiful and unspoiled neighbouring island. Here you will walk along the coastline, have a chance to take a bath and enjoy the beach life while having your lunch. If you prefer absolute peace and unobstructed touch with nature, you may even consider staying over night at Boipeba in stead of Morro de São Paulo. This island is less touristic and has less services available, but the small and cosy pousadas will make sure that your stay is going to be comfortable enough. Boipeba is the destination of  your urban escape, when the only things you want to hear are the proper sounds of the nature.

Boipepa

Boipepa

Back to Morro de São Paulo….Once the night falls, the bars on the second beach will receive both the locals and the tourists. At late night the show goes on in an old amphitheatre nowadays called just Teatro. This kind of open air “night club” located a short walk from the village in midst of a tropical biodiversity offers an easygoing atmospheare for those willing to discover the island’s night life. No matter whether you decide to stay calm and lay down in the hammock of your pousada or walk back from Teatro to your accommodation in the village, the thousand stars of this paradise island will light your way!

Other Bahia related blog posts and destinations combining perfectly with Tinharé and Boipeba:

Our suggested itineraries including the islands of Tinharé and Boipeba.

View over the sea

View over the sea

Brazil Diversity recommends:

  • Pousada Solar do Morró – A good tourist class pousada located in the heart of the village close to the beaches and to the services.
  • Pousada Minha Louca Paixão – Lovely pousada with prime location at the 3rd beach of Morro de São Paulo.
  • Pousada Portalo – A high quality pousada with up hill location and great views. Portalo offers apartments, suites and bungalows with pleasant pool area.
  • Pousada Vila dos Orixas – Vilas dos Orixias is a quality pousada located in a distant beach of Encanto. It offers bungalow accommodation and is an excellent choice for those looking for tranquility.
  • Pizzaria da Mercedes, Forno e Lenha – Delicious pizzas. If you offer any other meal, they are delicious as well, but be prepared to wait, it may take a while…
  • Restaurante Tia Dadai – Traditional restaurant, close to the main square of the village, serving tasty Bahian food.
  • Pousada Almaviva, Boipeba – A small colonial house which was fully renovated respecting the old style and today serves the travellers who want to enjoy cosy good old days style accommodation. A charming choise, just about 5 minutes walk from the beach.
  • Pousada Horizonte Azul, Boipeba – Pousada Horizonte Azul is located in the middle of the tropical gardens and is a perfect place for full relaxation.
  • Pousada Mangabeiras, Boipeba – Distant top hill location of this pousada guarantees a relaxing stay with all the comforts.

Dunes, beaches and much more: Natal and Pipa, Rio Grande do Norte

Genipabú

Genipabú

The pleasant sunny weather and beautiful landscapes of Rio Grande do Norte makes it an ideal destination for a traveller looking for beach life and natural beauty. It’s hard to say which is the main attraction of this the state, is it the National Park of Genipabu, natural swimming pools of Maracajaú, the former fisherman village of Pipa or the distant beaches of Sagi? However there is no need to worry, because unlike many other Brazilian states the distances in the litoral of Rio Grande do Norte are not very long and during your stay you can easily discover all of the main sights participating on tours or moving around with a rental car.

Ponta Negra

Ponta Negra

Once you arrive to Natal as a tourist you will most probably to stay at the Ponta Negra area, which is dominated by the most popular beach of the city. Taking this into account, you better remember that Ponta Negra is located at the urban area of Natal and turns out to be very crowded beach, especially during the weekends. So don’t expect to find a virgin beach with white sand and palm trees. In Ponta Negra there are plenty of kiosks, people selling you everything from a slight snack to souveniers, making it to sound like a market place sometimes. But, don’t get me wrong, for Natal Ponta Negra is like Copacabana for Rio de Janeiro, a kind of living room where Brazilians spend their spare time when they are not travelling out of the town. During your stay in Natal and Ponta Negra, take a walk along the beach boulevard, enjoy the way of life and don’t forget to take a tour to Genipabú. Genipabú is the most important sight of Natal, when it comes to tourism. It’s a huge area of dunes situated in the urban city area. The access is allowed only for authorized buggy drivers who will take you up on the top the dunes, where you can enjoy beautiful views or even take a ride with the camels, like if you were in Sahara. After having visited Genipabú the tour takes you to the lagoons, where you can plunge into refreshing water and enjoy yourself.

Litoral south of Rio Grande do Norte

Litoral south of Rio Grande do Norte

If you travel to north of Natal, the most interesting sights are the natural swimming pools of Maracajaú. The protection of coral reefs keeps this part of the see calm making it a perfect place for snorkeling and under water life observation. On the other hand, if you travel south of Natal you will some reach some interesting places such as the lake of Lagoa de Arituba, a great place for a bath in non salted water, long white sand beach of Camuripim and last but not least Pipa, a former fisherman village, which has turned out to be one of the most popular destinations of the northeastern coast. Pipa, which is located approximately 85 km from Natal is suitable for all ages. It’s as popular among young surfers as among upper class couples willing to spend quality time along the beach. Surfers will find the waves of Praia do Amor irresistible and the beauty makes it worth visiting even though the beach is not good for bath due to the strong waves and tides. Despite of the popularity Pipa has conserved it’s charm and easygoing atmospheare. During the day time the village may seem even a little bit sleepy, because people have spread out in the numerous beaches of the area, but when the sun goes down the shops, bars and restaurants filling the tiny streets of Pipa come alive.

Beach of Sagi

Beach of Sagi

Don’t limit yourself in staying just at the beach in front of the village, in the vicinity there are too many breathtaking views definitely not worth skipping. One of the most beautiful beaches of the area, Praia do Madeiro is located very close to the village of Pipa.  To reach it you have to park your car on the road side and descend the steps located next to hotel Ponta do Madeiro. If you are lucky, here you may even see dolphins, which frequently visit this beach. For a beautiful sunset and a bath in a river, dont’ miss out the the beach of Tibau do Sul, just a short drive from Pipa to north. If you head south of Pipa, the beach of Cunhau is worth visiting. One the way there you will pass by the “falesias”, kind canyons of baked sand in beautiful formations. Once you reach Cunhau the landscapes are flatter and the beauty of the nature is dominated by the rivers meeting the sea. There may not be that many services available, just some bars serving drinks and meals, but that’s what makes it an ideal place to relax and forget the stress of everyday life. At the very southest end of Rio Grande do Norte, you will find Sagi, an another small fisherman village, which still today conserves the simple life. Sagi is a perfect place to enjoy the purity of the nature. Both Sagi and Cunhau can be reached driving down the main road, but taking a day trip along the beach by a beach buggy is definitely a more interesting experience allowing you to enjoy the views and the fresh air along the way.

Our suggested itineraries including Natal and Pipa

Sunset Tibau do Sul

Sunset Tibau do Sul

Brazil Diversity recommends:

  • Pousada Divi Divi, Ponta Negra – A nice and small tourist pousada close to the beach front.
  • Restaurante Camarões, Ponta Negra -Excellent sea food restaurant with plenty of shrimp meals in the menu.
  • Pousada Tartaruga, Pipa – Comfortable tourist class pousada in the heart of Pipa.
  • Villas da Pipa, Pipa – This is  your choice in case you are looking for full privacy. Accommodation in private villas with two suites, particular garden, barbecue and pool for each one. Your home abroad!
  • Pousada Toca da Coruja, Pipa – One of the best accommodation options in Pipa. Pousada Toca da Coruja offers quality, charm and comfort. Excellent choice for example for honeymooners!
  • Pousada Mirante de Pipa, Pipa – Ecological bungalows surrounded by the nature, just a short drive from Pipa to south.

The African Roots of Salvador, Bahia

Streets of Pelourinho

Streets of Pelourinho

Salvador, the state capital of Bahia, was also the first capital of Brazilian Republic and even today is the city with most african influence. Salvador is also the third biggest city of the country, right after São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro and naturally its’ airport is among the busiest of northeastern part of Brazil. In Salvador you can easily feel the african roots of Brazilian culture, hear the rhythms, taste the flavours and feel the power of myths and such african religions as candomble.

If you are looking for culture together with city life, Salvador is probably one of the most interesting brazilian cities to stop by. The main attraction of Salvador is the old town called Pelourinho, located in the upper part of the city, which belongs in the Unesco list of World Heritage sites. It’s dominated by colorful colonial style buildings, beautiful churches and lively streets. Here you will find plenty of charming restaurants, shops of local handcrafts, artists of all kind and “baianas“, the local ladies wearing traditional white dressing and often selling some delicacies. It’s not rare to find people practising capoeira or playing Afro-Brazilian rhythms on the street. It’s here, where samba-reggae was born and became famous thanks to well known Afro-Brazilian band Olodum. Up from the edge of Perlourinho you will also have beautiful view over the Baía de Todos os Santos bay and if you take an elevator down you will find yourself being in front of the Mercado Modelo market, an another excellent place to buy local handcrafts and souvenirs of Bahia.

Mercado Modelo

Mercado Modelo

Salvador has another important historical spots as well, one of the most popular being the church of Bonfim. This church is a pilgrimage destination for the Brazilians, but is worth visiting for anybody who enjoys old architecture and history. To reach Bonfim, you can either take a regular bus leaving in front of Mercado Modelo or alternatively try the touristic Salvador Bahia Bus, which works on “hop on, hop off” basis and in addition to Bonfim takes you to many other interesting parts of the city with fixed daily price. If you choose regular bus, you better be prepared to longer travelling time, due to the number of stops and depending on the type of the bus, air conditioning may not be available either. Just like in Rio de Janeiro, in Salvador organized tours to favela (=slum) can also be found. Part of the tour fee usually goes in the education or in the improvement of the living conditions of the favela inhabitants, so therefore the tours are not only a safe way to visit favela, but also a great way to make this world a better place for everybody.

Church of Bonfim

Church of Bonfim

When choosing your neighborhood in Salvador we would recommend you to stay either in Pelourinho, Barra or Rio Vermelho. In Pelourinho you will find some charming old building that were refurbished to serve as hotels and has turned out to be an excellent place to spend overnight.  Another good options to stay are the neighborhoods of Barra and Rio Vermelho, both just a short drive away from Pelourinho with large variety of accommodation options for all budget and several restaurants and bars for dining as well. The carnival of Rio de Janeiro may be world widely more famous than the carnival of Bahia, but in fact the carnival of Salvador is the world’s biggest street party and attract a countless number of participants to celebrate in the streets of Salvador. Definetely something you should consider about, if you are into carnivals!

Baianas

Baianas

Many tourists travel to Bahia planning to stay at one of the stunning beaches of the state, but once you are in Salvador make sure you stop there at least for two or three nights. Salvador is worth stopping and after having explored Pelourinho, we are sure that you are not regretting at all. We recommed you to combine Salvador with some of the many beach or eco-tourism destination located close by.

In our other blog posts we have already covered destinations that combine perfectly with Salvador, check out our related blog posts:

Our suggested itineraries including Salvador:

Brazil Diversity recommends:

  • Casa do Amarelinho – A small hotel located in refurbished building in the heart of Pelourinho. Excellent level of service with special charm and all the amenities you might be expecting.
  • Catharina Paraguacu – A good tourist class hotel located at Rio Vermelho. Catharina Paraguacu offers you an intimate stay in an old style building surrounded by gardens.
  • Restaurante O Nilo – An excellent restaurant serving arab food in a peaceful corner of Pelourinho. O Nilo has tables both inside and outside, but does not accept credit cards.
Pelourinho

Pelourinho

Neverending dunes of Lencois Maranhenses and a strip of white sand in Caburé, Maranhão

Now that we a done with the two initial posts dealing with Rio de Janeiro, it’s time to jump far away in the northeastern part of Brazil. We absolutely don’t want to underestimate the charm of Rio de Janeiro as a tourism destination and later on will most probably come back with new blog posts talking about the charm of this marvellous city. However now it’s time for us to lead our followers in the magical world of other less known Brazilian diversities. Sone of our favourites are Lencois Maranhenses and Caburé, both located in Maranhão, last of northestern states.

Lencois Maranhenses

Lencois Maranhenses

Lencois Maranhenses is a large area, in fact a National Park as well, located south of the state capital São Luis. This flat area with almost 100km2 is predominated by flooded land overlaid with sand dunes. What makes Lencois Maranhenses so especial then? It’s the rare natural phenomenon occuring once in year when the heavy rainfall reaches the Amazon basin and impacts the surrounding areas, such as Lencois Maranhenses. This is when the desert kind of landscape changes and creates freshwater lagoons in between the sandy dunes. The rainfall occurs during the first months of the year meaning that the lagoons are their fullest between July and September.

Barreirinhas, a tiny village approximately four hours drive from São Luis, is a the most common and well known gateway to the National Park of Lencois Maranhenses. When Lencois Maranhenses became internationally known and started to receive more and more tourist, Barreirinhas quickly gained more accommodation options, restaurants and other services needed to serve tourists. An ideal time to stay at the village would be around two nights, as apart of the main attraction Lencois Maranhenses, Barreirinhas doesn’t have that much to offer. But, do not under estimate the charm of this natural phenomena, it’s definetely worth travelling all the way from the state capital São Luis to Barreirihas just to see the sparkling blue and green lagoons located  in between white sand dunes.

Lencois Maranhenses

Lencois Maranhenses

Lencois Maranhenses

Lencois Maranhenses

In Barreirinhas you fill find a number of travel agencies offering to take you to the National Park of Lencois Maranhenses. You will need their services, because entrance can be reached by car only and you are not allowed to wander there on your own. The heart of the national park can be discovered on foot only, therefore the tours take you to the entrance from where you continue walking with a local guide. Please note that basically there are no services in the area of the National Park, so you better take at least a bottle of water with you. We say basically, because in the edges of the National Park there are small fisherman villages offering even home stays for real adventures. The most common way to visit the national park is to make one or two day trips to different lagoons, but there are also longer hikes up to three days through the National Park area. Thanks to the heavy, but warm (during the day time) wind you will not feel the heat of the sand and when sun starts burning too much the best option is enjoy a refreshing bath in one of the many lagoons. An another interesting way to see the Lencois Maranhenses is a sightseeing flight over this immense area. This is basically the only way to understand why this large area of dunes and lagoons is called Lencois (=bed sheets).

Preguicas River

Preguicas River

Once you are done with Lencois Maranhenses, we recommend you to continue in direction of Caburé, a tiny piece of sand located in between of Rio Preguicas and the Atlantic Ocean. There are two options, either you take a day trip to Caburé or turn your day trip into transfer in case you decide to overnight in this heavenly paradise. Leaving from Barreirinhas, Caburé can be reached only by boat, via the river of Preguicas. The tour stops in Vassouras, so called small Lencois with yellow dunes and in the village of Mandacaru, where you have a chance to climb in a beacon and enjoy beautiful views over the area. Once you reach Caburé you wish you would have decided to stay over night. Here you will tear away from the everyday life, forget the hustle and bustle of the cities and feel the magical peace of the surrounding nature. There is no electricy in Caburé and during the day time the few resturants work with generator. Yes, if you decided to stay over night the lack of electricity means that there is not hot shower nor air conditioning. But don’t worry, if you have came this far you probably can stand one day with cold shower and thanks to the heavy winds during the night time you will not even feel the lack of air conditioning. In Caburé you can take a bath either in the Preguicas River or in the waves of Atlantic Ocean. Enjoy being far away from your daily routines and once the generator turns off (normally at 22 pm) don’t forget to look up on the sky of thounsands of stars.

Mandacaru and Caburé

Mandacaru and Caburé

After having experienced Caburé you have few choices, either retun back to São Luis via Barreirinhas, head towards Atins, an another small village with entrance to the National Park area or keep on travelling to south in direction of Parnaiba (in state of Piauí) and Jericoacoara (in state of Ceará). The main attractions of these areas will shortly be covered in another blog posts. Last but definetely least,  when visiting Lencois Maranhenses, there are entrancies where motorized tours are offered for tourists. Even if driving over the dunes may sound like an attractive idea, we kindly ask you not to be tempted, because in the long run such activities will destroy this fragile nature.

Our suggested itineraries with Lencois Maranhenses.

Bungalows Caburé

Bungalows in Caburé

Brazil Diversity recommends:

  • Pousada Porto do Buriti Barreirinhas. Just a short walk from the center of Barreirinhas Pousada Porto do Buriti offers an excellent value for money close to the dining options of the village.
  • Pousada Porto Buriti – Caburé. The bungalows are simple and as there is no electricity the amenities are limited as well. However staying over night in Caburé is an extraordinary experience for those who want to escape from city life and feel the simplicity of the surrounding nature.
  • Trekking – For real adventures with certain physical preparation we recommend unforgettable hikes through the National Park. The journey takes several days depending on the itinery and passes through small fisherman villages, where you will stay overnight in hammocks.

Rio de Janeiro, Part I: Where to stay and not to stay.

The Marvellous City of Rio de Janeiro

The Marvellous City of Rio de Janeiro

During the short existence of Brazil Diversitys blog we have noticed that many of our readers are looking for detailed information about travelling in Rio de Janeiro. Therefore we decided to come up with this topic as soon as possible, even if there are plenty of other attractive places to visit in Brazil and it’s hard to choose in between them. With no doubt Rio de Janeiro is a marvellous city and has some of the most beautiful views in the world. It’s also a city of  huge contrats and probably due to this travelling to Rio always brings up some questions such as the security. When I first stepped the ground of Rio de Janeiro, I do had to admit that there is something unique and very special in marvellous city. The beauty of the city and the life style of the Cariocas (=native Rio born) left me speechless and fullfilled all my expectations. And it’s was just a start for a long term relations with Rio de Janeiro. So let’s get started!

There are two airports in Rio de Janeiro,  the centrally located airport of Santos Dumont serves only domestic flights and about 25 kilometers from the city you will find the airport of Galeão, serving both international and domestic flights. The simplest way to get to your accommodation is to book an arranged transfer in before hand or take a taxi. The yellow taxis of Rio de Janeiro are everywhere and they are reasonably priced. As anywhere in the world the first time tourist arriving to the international airport has a danger to become cheated by the taxi drivers. All the taxis do have a taxi meter, but the driver may not speak your language, so if you are unable to communicate in portuguese we do recommend you to contract a taxi with fixed price. This is easy! Even before you step out from the airport’s international area you will find a number of ladies calling for you and offering taxi service. Take an advantage of this and book a taxi with fixed price to your destination. The price depends on the neighborhood you are going to.

Copacabana adn Sugar Loaf Mountain

Copacabana and Sugar Loaf Mountain

Now that you are in the city you will start circulating the in neighborhoods of Rio de Janeiro. The most well know ones are without any doubt Copacabana and Ipanema. They both give a name not just for the beach, but for the surrounding neighborhood as well. This is also where most of the hotels are concentrated. If you are looking for a beach front hotel with seaview, but are not ready to pay astronomic prices your choice will most probably be located at Copacabana. At this world famous beach you will find a large number of hotels in all categories. Many of them are located right on the beach boulevard Avenida Atlantica, but less pricy hotels can be found few blocks from the seaside. Ipanema on the other hand is one of the fanciest neighborhoods of the city and the beach front has mostly residential buildings. Some highly priced hotels enjoy direct sea view, but also here you will find some larger number of options few blocks away from the beach boulevard.

Centro

Centro

Other interesting neighborhoods, when it comes to tourism are Leblon, an another fancy and most residential neightborhood located right next to Ipanema. Flamengo is a residential neighborhood for local middle class with large number of good quality budget hotels and easy access (10min) by metro to Copacabana Santa Teresa, the bohemian up hill neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro with smaller boutique hotels and an excellent alternative choice thanks to its’ relaxed small town kind of atmospheare. The center of Rio de Janeiro is called “Centro” and it’s basically home for many offices and financial operations of the town. The hotel’s located in the center will not bring any special interest for an ordinary tourist, unless you are travelling on business. It’s recommendable to vist Centro and it’s attractions from Monday till Friday during the day time, when the numerous restaurants and shops are open and you will find many Cariocas in the streets of Centro. At night time and during the weekends Centro remains empty and can turn out to be unsafe for a traveller.

Rio’s location at the Tropic of Capricorn on souther hemispheare means that the winter months June, July and August, temperatures are lower (20-25 degrees) and on the summer time an average temperature is over 30 degrees, occassionaly reaching 40 celcius. Rainfall is highest during the summer time, but usually it means thunderstorms at the end of the day. What would be a good time to stay at Rio then? Some people stop only for two days, other stay two weeks. We would recommend something in between. You will certainly always find something to do in Rio de Janeiro, but nearby in the state there are other interesting places worth of visit like Angra dos Reis, Ilha Grande, Búzios and Arraial do Cabo. All these are beach destinations, ideal for swimming, snorkeling and diving with clearer waters than the capital itself. In the inland, you will find the mountainous areas with options for hiking, mountain biking, river rafting and horseback riding. We do recommend you to take a short escape out of the urban life of Rio and visit at least one of these beautiful areas located nearby. To get an idea take a look at our blog post about Ilha Grande.

One of the many favelas

One of the many favelas

Then the never ending question of safety. Is it really safe to walk in the streets of Rio de Janeiro? On my opinion it’s as safe as walking in any other large city. It’s good to remember that Rio de Janeiro has more than 6 million inhabitants and you should not be wandering around at any part of the city on your own. The favelas (=slums), mostly located up on the hills are not to be visited by yourself. If you want to see this part of Rio de Janeiro, take a tour. It’s an interesting way to find out how big part of the population lives and in addition to sightseeing the tour guide provides you lot of information concerning the social system of Brazil. Highly recommended! Also leave all you jewellery, extra money and other valuable articles at hotel any time going out. There is absolutely no need to carry them with you. At the night time take a taxi, like we mentioned earlier they are everywhere and they are cheap. If at any moment you end up in a dangerous situation, stay calm, hand over all your belongings and contact the Rio’s tourist police afterwards. As a general mnemonic a street with few people should be avoided.

Last but not least, now it’s time to enjoy Rio de Janeiro! Shortly we are going to publish an another blog post discussing about the attractions that Rio de Janeiro has to offer. In the meanwhile, have a walk on the beach and enjoy a glass of chilly caipiriha!

Check out our other blog posts related to Rio de Janeiro:

Our suggested itineraries including Rio de Janeiro

Sunset at Ipanema

Sunset at Ipanema

Brazil Diversity recommends:

Accommodation:

  • Rio Guesthouse A small and stylish penthouse pousada right in the heart of Copacana.
  • Mama Ruisa – A mansion style pousada located up hill in the bohemian neighborhood of Santa Teresa.
  • La SuiteYour hideaway design guesthouse in Rio. Choose this option if you want to enjoy the spectacular views without leaving your pousada and don’t mind taking a taxi when willing to discover the attractions of the town.
  • Astoria Palace – A reasonably priced new hotel right in front of the sea at Copacabana.
  • Sofitel Copacabana – Beach front hotel, located just a short step from Ipanema allowing you to enjoy easily the attractions of both world famous beaches.
  • Travelling with tight budget and looking for a hostel? Try out Bamboo Rio Hostel or Vila Carioca Hostel, both offering private rooms and dormotories.
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