Step 1: Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro, do I really need to introduce this city to you? It’s a must-see if you go to Brazil. Moreover, the majority of the international flights land at Rio de Janeiro (and not at Brasilia which is the capital).
It’s difficult to visit the city only by walking. You can choose between the subway (safe and cheap) and the taxis (also cheap but more expensive than the subway). If you like Uber, this service is available in this city and works pretty well.
Ipanema and Copabacana beaches
These beaches might be the most famous beaches in Rio. The white sand, nice view of the city, the Corcovado and the Pan de Azucar: we quickly understand why they are so famous and why everybody like them! You can go there for your jogging during the morning or lay on the sand during the afternoon (while you’re drinking a caïrpirinha or a coco!).
The botanic garden
The botanic garden of Rio is quite big. To visit it and enjoy it, you should plan 2h at least. There are several atmospheres: primary forest, Japanese garden, rose garden, etc.
This neighborhood is famous for its Selaron stairs. These stairs are entirely recovered by ceramics. It is an artwork from the artist Jorge Selaron This is the main attraction of this neighborhood. However, don’t hesitate to walk around and discover other places. There are some colorful houses, a bit run down but still nice.
The Corcovado and the Pan de Azucar
What would become Rio de Janeiro without these two attractions? Most of the time, we are confused between the Corcovado and the Pan de Azucar. The Corcovado is the mountain where you can see the Christ. The Pan de Azucar is the mountain at the end of Copacabana. From the two places, you can have a beautiful view of the city. I advise you to visit them when the sky is clear otherwise you won’t be able to see the city from above.
For my stay in Rio de Janeiro, I choose the Bamboo Rio Hostel. The price is a good deal (60reals/night) and the breakfast is included. It is located in the city center, few minutes walking from Copacabana.
Step 2: Parque national dos Lençois Maranhenses
This park is located in the extreme north of Brazil and is often ignored by the tourists. Too bad. This place is a mix between desert and lagoons. The lagoons are between the sand dunes. It’s magic to see it. To visit it, the guide is mandatory. It’s really easy to find a guide or an agency to visit the park. You just have to go to Barreirinhas’ city center and you will find many agencies.
The visit is either the morning or the afternoon. I recommend you to chose the afternoon. Indeed, the afternoon you will stay until the sunset in the park. To be honest, it was my favorite moment.
For the accommodation in Barreirinhas, I choose the Pousada Lins. It is a hotel with a swimming pool and is more expensive than the hostel I’m used to, but from times to times I like spend one or two night in a nicer place than usual.
Step 3: The Amazonia Forest and Manaus
The Amazonia forest, the green lung of the world, is distributed between several countries. The only Amazonas region of Brazil is three times bigger than France. In Brazil, the main entrance to visit it or stay a few days in the forest is Manaus. There are some attractions in this city: the meeting of the rivers ( the Amazone and the Rio Negro), the pink dolphins, the natives Indians, etc. One day is enough to all of it. The main attraction for tourists in Manaus is to go to the jungle for one day or more.
In my case, I choose the agency “Malocas”. Bruno, the French manager, picks me up directly at my hostel and from there, the adventure starts. After 1h30 of car and 1h of boat, I arrive at the lodge in the middle of the jungle. The program for the next 3 days is: meeting the natives, 2 hikes to go waterfalls and swim there, piranhas fishing, capture (and release) of a baby cayman, watch the sunrise, stories around the fire.
For all these activities, a native guide is with us. During the hikes in the jungle, he explains to us how to use some plants (medicinal, edible, what to build with, etc.) and show us some wild animals (monkeys, birds, insects, etc.)
The last criteria which decided me to chose this agency is, that I was able to join a group. As I’m traveling alone, the activities are really expensive for one person and I can’t afford it most of the time. However, when I can join a group, the prices become cheaper and I can think about accept or not to do it.
At Manaus, I stayed in the hostel Manaus. Breakfast included and good, facilities clean, few minutes walking from the city-center: everything you need to enjoy your stay.
Step 4: Salvador de Bahia
Salvador de Bahia is the historical capital from Brazil. The Portuguese settlers landed here first and brought with them the Africans slaves. This explains the cultural melting in the city nowadays. You can still the former wealth from Salvador through the buildings and the churches. The culture, the gastronomy, the vibe are the heritage from the cultural melting. The capoeira, for example, is a martial art which comes from the slaves. They wanted to learn how to fight but of course, their masters didn’t allow it. So to hide it, they create the capoeira. At first, it seems it’s just a dance, but the slaves added some fighting movements and that’s how they learned how to fight in secret.
Today, the city’s main attraction is the historic center. It’s full of churches and colorful buildings. While you’re wandering in this neighborhood, you can admire them.
The Pelourhino’s place is a must-see of the city center. It’s surrounded by colorful buildings and the most famous church, Nossa Senhora. Historically, there was a pillory on this place and the slaves were whipped, attached to it. Nowadays, the pillory has been destroyed but you can still see one at the Carmes convent.
If you want, you can assist to a mess in the Nossa Senhora church. It takes place at 6 pm. During the mess, people are singing and it will remind you African songs. I don’t like going to mess, I usually never go, but this one was interesting and diverting.
If you have more time, the Barra neighborhood deserves also times. Its lighthouse has a museum and there are beaches all along the ocean; perfect for relaxing.
At Salvador, I was in the hostel Pousada Terra Nossa. I won’t recommend you this hostel even if it’s well located in the city center. The rooms and the bathrooms are not clean. The breakfast is included but it’s not in the hostel but in another hotel 500m away. Moreover, the wifi is nearly not existing.
Step 5: Chapada Diamantina park
This park is clearly for hikes. I advise you to have at least hiking shoes with you and swimming suits. Chapada Diamantina is famous for its waterfalls and natural swimming pools. It will the aims for two hikes I will do during my stay. For the hikes, you will need a guide, except for 2 small hikes, because there is no signs and no clear paths. It’s difficult to see the path and sometimes there is no path at all.
In the center, you will easily find agencies. They all offer the same tours for more or less the same prices. For a one day tour, the price is around 150 reals and you have no insurance the guide speaks English.
As usual, I choose a hostel, the HI hostel Chapada. The deal is good and the hostel is located in the city center. The hostel offers tours because it has a partnership with an agency travel.
The safety in Brazil
I would like end one bias: no, it’s not dangerous to travel alone in Brazil, at least not more dangerous than in another country.
The safety rules are the same as they are in other countries: be careful with your belongings, don’t wander with your precious jewels, smartphone or camera apparent, don’t go in dangerous places (for example the favelas during the night). And if you have any doubt about a place, you just have to ask at the reception of t your hostel.
During my travel, I didn’t feel in danger. On the contrary, I found Brazilians really helpful and warm. When they knew I was traveling alone, they were worried for me, always helped me to find my way and were very nice to me.
My opinion about Brazil
Despite the bias I had about Brazil before my travel, I loved this country. It has many different landscapes, very impressive. Each of you can find something to do: relax at Copacabana beach, live adventure in the jungle, hike in the desert or in Chapada Diamantina park, learn about history at Salvador. With all these activities, it’s impossible to get bored.
The main inconvenient when you visit Brazil, it’s the distances. This country is huge (13 times bigger than France). I spent one month there, however, I discovered only a small part of it and I felt like I was always sitting on the bus.
If you decide to visit Brazil (and I advise you to) for 2-3 weeks, I recommend you to focus on a part of Brazil either the South with Rio de Janeiro or the North (= Nordeste).
And you did you visit Brazil? Did you like it? Which places did you go to?
After one month in Brazil, it’s time for me to continue my trip to Peru!