How to plan your trip to Brazil?

I find planning a trip entertaining. Maybe that’s why I ended up working in travel industry, which is full of changes, unexpected situations and challenges. On the other hand it’s also a very rewarding industry with huge cultural diversity and many very open minded people working on the field. Planning a trip may sound easy, but when it comes to creating an itinery in a foreign country it may not be that simple after all. This is why I wanted to share some of my tips with all of you who are planning to travel to Brazil, simply because I want you to see the diverse faces of this lovely country and get the best out of your stay in Brazil.

Ten things to take into consideration when planning a trip to Brazil.

1. – Destinations – First step is to choose your destination. What are you looking for? Do you prefer spending your holiday laying down on a beach and snorkeling in the crystal clear waters? Or maybe you enjoy an active holiday diving, hiking and surfing around. On the other hand you might enjoy observing the nature or spending your spare time in the pulsing nights of a tropical city. Choosing destination is basically the first thing to do. To ease your task, we have divided the top brazilian destinations into three categories: Beaches, Eco-Tourism and Culture.  Pick up the category that mostly fits into your needs and go through our suggestations or opt for a quick  search that takes you directly to a specific beach, eco-adventure or city break type. If you prefer a combination of these styles check out our itinerary suggestions or contact Brazil Diversity.

2. Seasons – Once you have decided what sort of holiday you are looking for it’s time to take a look at the seasons. To guarantee an unforgettable holiday it’s essential to pay attention on the weather, in case of Brazil especially on the rainy season. Brazil is a tropical country and you will always find a place to enjoy the sun, however you need to check when the rains tend to occur and when the temperatures are at lowest. Heavy rains  may not only destroy your holiday, but also close roads and cause complications when trying to reach your destination. Low season may also offer more attractive rates, but remember spending as little as possible is not always the best option. If you want to economise check out the weather conditions and try to take advantage of the middle season, that usually offers good rates and less crowded attractions. Finding out best seasons it easy. Brazil Diversity has included season recommendations in the description of each wonder, check them out!

3. Public Holidays – You may not know the dates of all public holidays in Brazil. Actually they even vary depending on the state. Now you may ask what they have to do with your vacation plans. Well, public holidays, not only New Years Eve and Carnaval, have all to do with your holiday, especially at the moment of making plans. In Brazil the hotels and pousadas usually not only increase prices but also sell packages with minimu stay during the public holidays. So if you planed to stay in a certain region only during few nights you will most probably find it extremely complicating to find an accommodation option during a long weekend or another public holiday period. If you were lucky enough to find something you would end up paying an extra price for that. This is why it’s good to take public holidays into account when travelling to Brazil and of course, if your budget is very tight it might be best to avoid these peak seasons. For further information and exact dates contact Brazil Diversity.

4. Distances – Brazil is a huge country, something that should be taken into consideration when planning an itinerary or a combination of several destinations. In a map the distances may not look that long, but believe me or not, they are! And it’s not only about the distance, it’s also about the transportation options and the condition of the roads. Public transportation may always not be as good, quick and direct as you are used to in your home country. The lack of infrastructure may also double the travelling times. Study these issues, check out the distances and opt for the best ways to get transfered from one place to another when planning your trip.

5. Transportation –Like I mentioned transportation is worth paying attention to. Basically there are no passanger trains in Brazil, so all long distance transportation is done either by road or by air. The busses are in general spacious and in good condition, though this means of transportation is very time taking, due  to several stops, heavy traffic and lack of  highways. Air transportation reaches all the mayor cities of Brazil and is a quick and easy way to move from one place to another. If you go through the offers and book early enough you will also be able to find quite nice deals and taking a plane can end up being a really good and time saving choice, and in some cases not even that much more expensive. Another option is to take a look at the airpasses offered by both GOL and TAM. They are a good option for a traveller who is planning to take several long distance flights in Brazil. Planning is essential in this case as well, because all the airpasses have to be purchased in before hand outside of Brazil. We have discussed about transportation options in our earlier blog posts, check them out for tips and recommendations or contact Brazil Diversity.

6. Time – How many days should you stay in Brazil? Well, this depends totally on how many cities/destinations you are planning to visit? I would say that on a city-break a minimun time would be three full days per city, especially if you are arriving from a long haul destination and still suffer jet-lag. Time that you spend in a beach destination depends totally on you. Personally I enjoy seeing as many different places as possible, meaning that 4 nights in a same village tends to be pretty much the maximum for me. However I do know people who enjoy relaxing on the beach for two weeks without changing destination, so this is pretty much based on your personal choices. When it comes to Brazil’s top destinations, I would say that 5 full days in Rio de Janeiro is an ideal time for you to visit the principal sights without rush and run. If you are planning to stay for more than that, consider an option of visiting nearby destinations, such as Búzios or Ilha Grande for couple of nights. The Falls of Iguacu can be seen in two days. If you want to extend your trip to Paraguay, add one more day into your itinerary. Time to spend in each eco-tourism destinations varies as well. As many of them are located in raither distant areas , so therefore a minimum stay of 3 to 4 nights is highly recommended.

7. Booking – Book in advance! Not only because booking your accommodation and transportation in advance makes your life a lot easier, but it’s also an excellent way to guarantee the availability and the price. As we all know in today’s world there are no last minutes prices in tourism, unless we talk about charter flights and package tours. You will never know when there happens to be a congress or any other mayor event in the city, so that all the hotels are fully booked leaving you without any reasonably priced option. Planning and booking in advance means that you can enjoy stress free vacation and in the meanwhile get the best out of your holiday. If you need any tips or if you are willing to book an unforgettable holiday in Brazil, contact Brazil Diversity.

8. Accommodation – I know accommodation is something that fully depends on our personal tastes. Some may enjoy luxurous pool villas, whiles other prefer raither small ecological hideaways. When planning a trip to Brazil you will run into the word “pousada”. If you are still unfamiliar with this term, check out our earlier blog post “Pousada: what is it and why should I stay in one”. I really want to encourage all of you to stay in a pousada. Pousada is not a just a simple guesthouse with minimum infrastructure, it’s definitely not a roadside motel or a hostel with shared bedrooms and bunk beds. Today pousada is a cozy and often raither small accommodation option that differs from a conventional hotel with personalized attentions and unique characteristics often related to local environment or culture. So when booking your accommodation in Brazil, consider seriously a possibility of staying in a pousada, you won’t regret your choice. Hand picked hotel and pousada recommendations can be found from the site of Brazil Diversity. Another thing to take into consideration is that most of the brazilian hotels and pousadas ask a prepayment of 50% from the total price in order to guarantee the booking.

9. Tours and Excursions – There was a time when I loved to explore touristic sights on my own. I used to think that taking a tour is waste of money and turns travelling less adventurous. To be honest I still apply this theory of mine in many destinations like Europe or US, where it’s easy to be an independent traveller and still not miss a single point. However today I do admit that this sort of travelling doesn’t work in each and every destination, or at least not with all the attractions. By taking a tour you will get a deeper knowledge of the sight you are visiting and in case of Brazil most importantly, a tour may be the only way to reach a certain spot or destination. It may also be the safetiest, the less stressfull and especially the quickest way to visit the sight. I’m quite sure that you are not willing to lose any precious time on holidays or happy about any extra stress that might appear, so why not booking a tour. If you have a very tight schedule consider an option of booking your tours in before hand, otherwise fix the dates once you have arrived to your destination and checked the climatical conditions for the coming days.

10. Attitude – Last but not least. Now that you have planned everything and are ready to take off, remember you will be on vacation and things may not always work on the way you are used to. Relax, leave the stress back home and enjoy your stay!

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My top places in Brazil

Sunset llha do Algodoal

Sunset llha do Algodoal

Top Beach Destination: Brazil is full of beaches and it’s hard to define if one more beautiful than another and it’s even harder to name a favourite beach destination. Out of all the beaches that I have visited each of them have their particular beauty. However when it comes to a beach destination, it’s not only to the beach itself that matters. There are few other facts that I personally enjoy when choosing a beach destination. I know some might like popular beaches where the rich and the beautiful locals hang around during their spare time, however I like raither distant destinations with less touristic infrastucture and a touch of the good old days when all the natural resources wasn’t yet explored. I like the destination that disconnects me more than totally from the rush and the run of every day life and makes me feel myself at the edge of the world. Therefore my top beach destination with these characteristic is the Ilha do Algodoal, a tropical island in the northern corner of Brazil. This extremely beautiful place incentivates you to listen to the voices of the nature, to pay attention to the endless horizon and to breath like if there were no worries in the entire world. For me Ilha do Algodoal is a real paradise on the earth.

Lencois Maranhenses

Lencois Maranhenses

Top Eco-Tourism Destination: Just like beaches, Brazil is also full of interesting eco-tourism destinations. There is everything from hiking to wildlife observation, from fishing to discovering the wonders of submarine life. There are also few unique phenomenon that can only observed here in Brazil. Pantanal happens to be world’s biggest wetland, the delta of Parnaíba on the other hand is the biggest delta of the Americas and naturally the Amazon rainforest is one in kind. However when it comes to top eco-tourism destination in Brazil, my choise  is Lencois Maranhenses, a simply unique and absolutely interesting region located in the state of Maranhão. This immense area with very fragile eco-system is formed by numerous sparkling lagoons hidden in between the white sand dunes. It’s a unique phenomenon that can only be observed in this dry region thanks to rainy season and the approximity to the Amazon basis. Lencois Maranhenses is an off-road eco-tourism experience that will surely impress you!

Ouro Preto

Ouro Preto

Top Historical Destination: I use to say that you haven’t seen all the faces of Brazil unless you have visited Ouro Preto. You might think that travelling all the way to Minas Gerais just to spend few days in Ouro Preto is not worth it, but I do guarantee that you will be surprised. Ouro Preto is the face of colonial Brazil. It’s a destination where you will be surrounded by history and art, no matter which part of the city you are. Ouro Preto takes you to an imaginary trip back to the past and captures all your attention with neverending details of this charming city. Simply a must see destination!

Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro

Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro

Top City Break: It might sounds like a cliché, but top city break must be the marvellous city of Rio de Janeiro, simply because of the variety of options it offers for a traveller. Beyond the traditional touristic sights Rio de Janeiro works as a city break for lovers of gourmet kitchen, for tireless party animal, for those who enjoy music and art and for the ones who enjoy chilling on the beach or practising sports. For me Rio de Janeiro is the top city break destination exactly because of its’ diversity and of course, also because of its’ unique beauty, which can be admired at any corner of the city.

Top Beach: Choosing one breach out of all the irresistible Brazilian beaches is a real challenge.  Year after year the beaches of Fernando Noronha are included into the top beaches of the country and there is no doubt that the beaches like Praia do Sancho, Praia do Leão and Baía dos Porcos aren’t some of the most  stunning beaches of Brazil, simply because of the clear turquoise and blue tones of the sea and the beautiful and well conserved landscapes of Fernando de Noronha. Beside of the archipelago, there area lovely white sand beaches with clear waters in many parts of the continent as well. In the state of Alagoas a large number of palm threes give a pictoresque appareance for the coastline, while in Ceará and Maranhão the dunes give raither a stark, but beautiful contrast for the sparkling sea.

Praia do Pesqueiro

Praia do Pesqueiro

So finally, out of all these beautiful beaches, which would I choose to be my top beach? My choise ia maybe a less known, but simply unique with a genuine feeling of an untouched beach. My top beach is Praia do Pesqueiro in the island of Marajó, located at the state of Pará, in northern most corner of Brazil. Praia do Pequeiro is a beach where the waters of a river get mixed to the sea. The water in fact is sweet, but the feeling is like if you were enjoying a bath at any seaside beach. Even smooth waves and a warm wind will refresh you in the heat of Pará. There are few rustic beach bars that serve ice cold drinks and light meals so that you can easily spend an entire day at this little paradise. The landscape is a beautiful mixture of tropical vegetation, natural swimming pools during  the low tide and endless views over this almost deserted beach. During the low season only few other tourists together with a couple of distant water buffalos and numerous sea birds will give you company. Simply a lovely place and a fantastic beach for you to enjoy youself in the middle of the virgin nature far away from the signs of modern life and from the rush and run of the cities.

Chapada Diamantina

Chapada Diamantina

Top Combination: Top combination is a region or state that allows you to experince the different faces of Brazil with no need for domestic flights or endless travelling. My top destination of this category is the regions of Salvador combined with eco-tourism experiences in Chapada Diamantina and beachside extention in the tropical islands of Tinharé and Boipeba. This simple combinations allows you to enjoy the afro-brazilian culture and colonial architecture in Salvador, the capital of Bahia, experience the inlands and practise hiking in South America’s top one hiking destination, Chapada Diamantina and last but not least enjoy the stunning beaches of Morro de São Paulo and maybe even extend your stay to the less crowded island of Boipepa, both of them filled with palm trees and most importantly with no motorized traffic to disturb you. A facinating combination that allows you to experience the best of Bahia with no need to spend and time on the airports!

Top Pousada: Naming a top pousada is a pretty tough question, maybe because I’m pretty critic when it comes to perfection or maybe many of them have been at expected level, but still it’s hard to say which one would be simply outstanding. So after having tought about the options, I decided to let you know my overall top pousada, my top charm pousada and my top service pousada.

Casarão da Amazônia

Casarão da Amazônia

The first one goes to Casarão da Amazônia, a simply lovely pousada in the island of Marajó, in Pará. Casarão da Amazônia has a perfect location in the village of Souré, close to the top beaches and interesting eco-tourism sights. It’s an old colonial mansion reformed with excellent taste and surrounded by a garden with pool area. And after all it’s not just the appearance and comfort, it’s also about the friendliness of the stuff and the great value for money that Casarão da Amazônia offers for its’ guests.

When it comes to charm I would name Vila Serrano, in the village of Lencois (Chapada Diamantina), in Bahia. This tiny pousada is a enchanting combination of colonial style, feng shui and comfort. The individually decorated rooms have and romantic ambient and even the public areas of this lovely pousada are in full harmony with the nature. Simply charming!

Top service wasn’t actually difficult at all. It goes clearly to Barra Velha, a pousada located in Maragogi, the state of Alagoas. I know the northeastern Brazil is known for hospitality, tasty food and generous breakfast, but still a stay at Barra Velha went over all my expectations when it comes to the hospitality. Being welcomed by the owners and attented with an attitude that went beyond our needs and expectations was something that made the service of Barra Velha extraordinary. Really a place to feel yourself at  home!

Top Restaurant: When I travel I usually enjoy trying different restaurants, tasting several options and discovering new experiences. Basically this means that unless the food is simply irresistible I rarely eat more than once or maximum twice in the same place, and in that case I surely taste two different dishes. However there do have been few exceptions being one of them over the others. I usually ask for restaurant recommendations from the staff of my pousada or hotel. This is exactly what I did in Canoa Quebrada as well. I was recommended to eat in a restaurant called Cabana, located right on Broadway, the main street of Canoa Quebrada. After having experienced Cabana I found myself repeating the experice even more than tiwce. I tried several dishes and time after time ended more and more satisfield. Cabana offer absolutely tasty food with first class incredients and great value for money. Cannot recommend more!

Vila Serrano

Vila Serrano

It wasn’t easy and my top places might change at any moment of time,

but today these are top choices in Brazil.

Travelling in Brazil is always a pleasure, it’s full of nice surprises and after all…

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Pousada, what is it and why should I stay in one?

When you are planning a trip to Brazil, you will surely run into the word Pousada. What is a Pousada? What would be the best way to translate this word? Some may suggest “Inn” or “Bed & Breakfast”, however I do think that there is not an exact way to translate Pousada into English. A brazilian Pousada is lot more than just an “Inn”  and nowadays it covers more categories than a simple “Bed & Breakfast”.

Pousada Masai Mara, CE

Pousada Masai Mara, CE

Traditionally a Pousada was raither a small family run business offering rooms for a traveller to stay overnight. Nowadays a Pousada can be anything in between a small but cozy and luxurious hideaway. The only thing that remains in the fact that Pousada still today tends to be a raither small place with personalized touch. When it comes to services Pousadas do not compete with hotels, even though nowadays many of them already offer such comfort as wi-fi access to the guests. Pousadas are widely available in beach side locations and other smaller towns. However you will find charming options also from bigger cities like Salvador and Rio de Janeiro.

Pousada Barra Velha, AL

Pousada Barra Velha, AL

So should you stay in a pousada or opt for a hotel? Personally I’m in love with Pousadas. Especially in tourist class categories many hotels are lacking of identity and personality seeming to be exactly the same no matter in which corner of the earth you are. Of course you may think that you are not travelling to stay in a hotel, but on the other hand you might pay approximately the same amouth of money or in many cases even less. So why wouldn’t you opt for a Pousada, which can offer you a more personalized accommodation with local touch and character, and a lot more welcoming hospitality than most of the traditional tourist class hotels offer.

Pousada Porto Buriti, MA

Pousada Porto Buriti, MA

Like I said a  Pousada can be anything from a basic and economic accommodation option to a luxurious hideaway villa offering you ultimate comfort with privacy. Pousadas are often decorated with pieces of art  and handcrafts, and offer at least a tasty homemade buffet breakfast for its’ guests. So now that you know, don’t hesitate in staying in a pousada. It is your home in Brazil, whenever you want to feel yourself welcome and experience the genuine touch of brazilian culture.

Ask for Brazil Diversity recommendations!

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.

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.

Paradise on the Earth: Fernando de Noronha, Pernambuco


Fernando de Noronha

Fernando de Noronha

The archipelago of Fernando de Noronha lies in the Atlantic ocean, about 360 km from the city of Natal, being the eastest inhabited point of Brazil. The volcanic archipelago is both a beach and eco-tourism destination. Year after year the beaches of Fernando de Noronha are among the most beautiful ones of Brazil and thanks to the rich marine life of the archipelago it’s with no doubt Brazil’s best diving and snorkeling spot.

The only way to reach Fernando de Noronha is by air and the connections from the continent leave either from Natal or from Recife. The flying time is about an hour. Fernando de Noronha applies a tourist tax which can be paid before arrival via internet or at the airport. The amouth of the tax is about 33 R$ per day and to avoid queues, we do recommend you to pay the tax in before hand. Basically all the pousadas (=brazilian guesthouse) include airport transfers in the basic price of the stay, so therefore you do not need to worry about the transportation once you arrive to Noronha. At the airport you will meet a large number of agencies offering tours and activities. It’s a good idea for you to pick some brochures in order  to get an idea of all the activities available in the island.

Baía do Sancho

Baía do Sancho

When talking about Fernando de Noronha, it’s good to remember that we talk about a National Park and the fragile nature of this paradise island is highly protected. For an ordinary tourist this means that you will probably not find any other cleaner beach from Brazil than the beaches of Fernando de Noronha. On the other hand, it’s also good to remember that you will also be responsable of keeping them clean, otherwise high penalties will apply. Don’t expect to find a hotel located right on the beach, nor beach servicies with chairs and bars. At Fernando de Noronha the beaches are protected and no building are allowed on the beach. Basically the only so called “beach bar” can be found from the beach of Praia do Meio and the centrally located Praia do Cachorro may have locals selling drinks and light snacks as well.

Praia do Leão

Praia do Leão

Dois Irmãos

Dois Irmãos

The three most beautiful Brazilian beaches (rated by the Brazilian authorities) can be found from Fernando de Noronha. The number one, Baía do Sancho, can be reached either by sea or by descending ladders hanging in between two rocks. This color of water is a mixture of turquoise, green and light blue, and you may observe a large number of tropical fish while swimming or snorkeling around. The second most beautiful beach is Baía dos Porcos, located next to Baía do Sancho. Both of them offer some most espectacular views over the coast and the sea. Baía dos Porcos, which is located in front of the famous rocks called “Dois Irmãos“, has a number of natural swimming pools and it also excellent for snorkeling. The last but not the least at the top three is a beach called Praia do Leão.  This beach, located in the southeastern part of the Fernando de Noronha is the longest one of the island and the color of water is deep blue. This is where the sea turtles come to lay their eggs on the beach.  To reach all these and many other beaches for the first time it’s recommendable to have a local guide with you. One of the most popular excursions in Fernando de Noronha is a tour around the island, which takes you to all the famous beaches and ends up to being an excellent way to get to know the island.

Conceisão

Conceisão

The main attraction of Noronha is the nature, especially the under water life. This makes the island to be the best diving and snorkeling destination of the country. Some of the best beaches to observe the marine wild life year around are Praia Atalaia and Praia Sueste. Praia Atalaia is practically a natural aquarium and located within the National Park area. That’s why a limited number of person (30) is allowed to visit this it on daily basis. Praia Sueste on the other hand is the calmest beach of the island allowing diving and snorkeling at any time of the year. Like all around Fernando de Noronha, here diving is also limited to certain areas in order to protect the coral reefs. The island of Fernando de Noronha is also very popular among surfers, being the beach of Conceicão one of the best options for surfing. The wawes are ideal from December to February and this is also one of the best points to enjoy spectacular sunsets of the island. For those that are not into water sports Fernando de Noronha offers options for hiking, horseback riding or deep sea fishing. Dolpins can be seen either early in the morning at the bay of Baía dos Golfinhos or day time during boat excursions organized by the travel agencies.

Check out our itinerary suggestions including the island of Fernando de Noronha.

Sunset

Sunset

Brazil Diversity recommends:

  • Pousada Algas Marinhas – a small pousada located in Floresta Nova, close the to village of Vila dos Remedios. Helpfull staff together with rooms decorated with good taste and quality materials makes this pousada an excellent value for money.
  • Pousada Solar dos Ventos – wooden bungalows located in the southern part of the island with views over the the bay of Baía do Sudeste. An excellent choice for those willing to have full privacy during their stay.
  • Dolphion Hotel – Dolphin offers hotel standard accommodation with rustic charm of pousadas respecting the surrounding nature. Location just a short step away from the landmark of Noronho, Morro do Pico.
  • Pousada Zé Maria – If you want to spoil yourself with the best that Fernando de Noronha has to offer choose Pousada Zé Maria with prime location on the island.

Hiking in Chapada Diamantina, Bahia

Colors of Sertão

Colors of Sertão

The national park of Chapada Diamantina is located in the state of Bahia, about 400 kilometers from the state capital Salvador and is charactirized of cliffs, table mountains, canyons, caves and waterfalls. In the past decades Chapada Diamantina was famous for diamonds found from the rivers of this National Park, which nowadays is one of the most popular eco-tourism destinations in Bahia.

Due to the breathtaking landscapes and easy access, Chapada Diamantina has became a popular destination among tourists seeking an active holiday and willing to get to know this different, often less known part of brazilian countryside. Chapada Diamantina can be reached either car or by regular bus from Salvador. The bus journey to the principal village, Lencois, takes about 6-7 hours, but luckily in general brazilian busses are quite comfortable with plenty of leg space and inclining seats. A private transfer will naturally be more expensive, but also quicker way to reach the destination. An another option is to arrive to Lencois by air. A weekly flight from Salvador operated by Trip Linhas Aéreas takes about 55 minutes and is currently operated on Saturdays only. Lencois is a small and picturesque village with number of charming pousadas, colonial style buildings and tiny roads.

Hiking Sossego

Hiking Sossego

When visiting Chapada Diamantina, the focus is naturally on activities available in the area. It’s good to take into consideration, that some of the hikes do need a certain physical condition. Closest to the village you will find the Primavera waterfall and the Serrano River with beautiful views over the village. Thanks to the easy access they can be visited, for example on the day of arrival. Brazil’s highest waterfall, Cachoeira da Fumaca is one of the principal attractions of the national park. The most popular way to reach the waterfall is from above, which requieres 6 km walking from the ecological basement of Vale do Capão. For real adventures, with good physics, can reach Cachoeira da Fumaca from below. This route requiering a three days hike. An another popular hike leading you to a waterfall, is the trail of Sossego. The lenght of this trail is about 8 km per way and there is no real path. You will go up and down the river side, jumping from a stone till another until you reach the waterfall of Sossego at the end of the canyon. We do not recommend the trail of Sossego for persons, who have problems with knees or do not have physical preparation. It’s also recommendable to have a local guide with you on all hikes as there are no signs nor clear paths.

One of the several waterfalls

One of the several waterfalls

In addition to hikes there are also other interesting activities and excursions to be enjoyed in the area of Chapada Diamantina, being one of the most popular called “Roteiro 1” (route 1). This excurcion takes you to several attractions, including the caves of Gruta da Lapa Doce, Gruta Azul and Gruta da Pratinha. A walk through the Gruta da Lapa Doce takes about one hours and allows you to admire the sand formations inside of the cave. Both Gruta Azul and Gruta Pratinha are filled with crystal clear water and in Pratinha it’s possible to swim inside of the cave, observe the bats with a flashlight and see a number of fish when snorkeling towards the sunlight. The tour of “Roteiro 1” ends with a hike on the top of the table mountain Paí Inacio. After having reached the top you will enjoy endless landscapes and the breathtaking beauty of the sunset.

Check out our suggestions for itineraries including Chapada Diamantina.

View from the top of Paí Inacio

View from the top of Paí Inacio

Brazil Diversity recommends:

  • Pousada Vila Serrano – a lovely small pousada with personalized touch. All the rooms have a veranda or balcony and are individually decorated respecting the colonial style. Ideally located in a peaceful corner, close to the bus station and the heart of the city.
  • Restaurant Cozinha Aberta – Delicious food in a tiny restaurant and romantic dining in the terrace. Be prepared to wait, the slogan of the restaurant is “slow food” and it will take time for a meal to be served. However worth waiting for!

Broaken Canoe of the Northeastern Coast: Canoa Quebrada, Ceará

The village of Canoa Quebrada, broken canoe in English,  is located in the state of Ceará in northeastern part of Brazil. The closest airport is located in Fortaleza, about 160 km from Canoa Quebrada and can be easily reached by car. A drive from Fortaleza to Canoa Quebrada takes about 2½ hours, depending on the traffic and in general the road is in good condition. Canoa Quebrada is a former fisherman village, which turned out to be one of the most popular tourism destinations of the coast of Ceará.

Canoa Quebrada

Canoa Quebrada

Unlike some other brazilian beach destinations, Canoa Quebrada can be accessed by car and you will find some motorized traffic in this charming village. However please note that the roads are tiny and so is the traffic as well. The few cars coming and leaving the village will not disturb your holiday feeling at all. The surrounding nature is very dry and you will not find palm trees nor tropical vegetation in Canoa Quebrada. The charm of Canoa Quebrada consists of a sand beach surrounded by the colorful canyons of baked sand and dunes. It’s an ideal destination for a city escape, as the atmospheare in this village remains very rustic and relaxed reminding us of the era when this paradise was found by the first leisure seekers, the hippies .

Canoa Quebrada Beach

Canoa Quebrada Beach

The main attraction of Canoa Quebrada is the long beach with several beach side kiosks serving small snacks and ice cold drinks. Due to the geographic location the climate you is warm and windy during the year around, but don’t worry in Canoa Quebrada the wind is warm and quickly you will find out that if there were no wind you wouldn’t be able to resist the strong sun of this latitude. Thanks to the wind, Canoa Quebrada is also a popular destination when it comes to kitesurf and the best winds can be experienced from June till January. The yearly rainfall is very small and usually appears from February till May. In addition to water sports, there are also possibilities to make several excurcions in area. You can take a buggy ride over the dunes and have a swim in one of the lagoons located in the middle of the white sand. Another interesting excursion is a buggy ride along the beach. You will be able to enjoy the baked sand canyons on you right hand side and have see the sparkling see when you look on your left. One of the highlights of this excursion is the “Garganta do Diablo” (=Devil’s throat), a weird natural sand sculpture.

Garganta do Diablo

Garganta do Diablo

Canoa Quebrada is a very popular destination especially within younger public, but serves all travellers with young spirit. If you are looking for a resort kind of holiday with fancy services you better turn your attention elsewhere. Along the main street called “Broadway” you will find a number of restaurants, shop and bars, everything from reggae to traditional brazilian forró, all of them with relaxing atmospheare.

Brazil Diversity recommends:

  • Restaurant Cabana (at Broadway) – tasty and well cooked brazilian food with excellent value for money!
  • Pousada Aruna – Pousada located in a peaceful corner of the village, large pool area and superior rooms with special roof top terrace. Recommendable especially for travellers with car.
  • Dolce Vita – Pousada consists of individual chalets with double bed and bunk bed – an excellent choice for families. Comfortable pool area and peaceful location, just a short walk away from the main street.
  • Refugio do Manati – Centrally located rustic pousada with green areas and pool. Chalets with two floors and veranda has natural ventilation and no air conditioning.
Canoa Quebrada beach

Canoa Quebrada beach

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