Brazil is a huge country, the biggest by far in South America, so it can be overwhelming when making travel plans. A vacation in Brazil is not as simple to plan out as one in tiny Uruguay or even Ecuador, where you can cross the mainland in a day.
A vacation or holiday in Brazil will likely hit multiple parts of the country, so you’ll need to get back on an airplane at some point. You’re speaking a different language here–Portuguese–which can make communication more difficult outside the main tourist areas. You may want to tap into the expertise of a company like Brazil Selection Travel and let the experts work out the details. That way you can just show up and enjoy the trip.
We asked them where a first-time visitor to Brazil should go if they travel here for two weeks. Here are some of the highlights to be sure to include.
Tour Rio de Janeiro
Ask someone to name a place in Brazil and if they can’t think of anything else, they’ll know Rio de Janeiro. The land of Bossa Nova, Ipanema Beach, and the annual Carnaval has been a hot vacation destination since long-haul commercial flights started. Lounge on the beach with the beautiful people and head up to the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain for a panoramic view of the city.
With its hilly landscapes and pockets of green all over, Rio is a unique city visually, plus there’s no place quite like it when it comes to the lively beach and nightlife scenes.
See Iguaçu Falls
The mightiest waterfall system in the world has captivated travelers for centuries, ever since the first Conquistador laid eyes on them in 1541. The whole park has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1984 and is rightfully one of the most popular destinations in South America. From Brazil you get to take in the grandest view since the largest section of the falls lies on the Argentina side.
If you want to also see it from the other side, you’ll need to cross the border to Argentina and start calling them Iguazu Falls instead. The two sides offer a totally different perspective and you may want to take opportunities to see them from as many angles as possible, including on footpaths and on a boat. To get a little history lesson and some spectacular film footage of the area, check out the movie The Mission.
Spend Time in Salvador de Bahia
The port city of Salvador de Bahia has a very different vibe than most other parts of Brazil. First of all, it’s one of the oldest colonial cities in South America, founded in 1549. It has kept expanding since then and is now home to nearly three million people.
Be sure to set aside plenty of time to soak up the atmosphere in the historic center of Pelourinho. There you’ll find cobbled streets, Capoeira martial arts schools, caipirinha cocktail bars, and vibrant, pastel-colored houses.
Salvador was the capital for several centuries and also played a dark role in history as the center of the slave trade for the continent. On the plus side, it is the cradle of most Afro-Brazilian cultures in Brazil and is known as a great place for music. See more on the complicated Brazilian culture and its people here.
Visit the Amazon Rainforest of Brazil
The Amazon river is the largest in the world by volume and depending on how you do the measuring, may be the longest as well. The Amazon rainforest covers almost half of Brazil, with some of it being so impenetrable there are probably still lost tribes nobody has contacted.
The best way to experience the Amazon is at a jungle lodge that’s far removed from any city or town so you can see nature as it has existed for thousands of years. You will spend some time on the water for a different viewpoint, then visit the historically important city of Manaus, heart of the worldwide rubber trade in the late 19th century.
This is not all there is to do in Brazil, of course. There are hundreds of miles of beaches, there’s the enchanting island of Fernando de Noronha, and birdwatchers will want to spend time in the Pantanal. But two weeks zips by faster than you’d expect. Save a few things for the next visit!
For details on a tour that hits all the main highlights, follow this link for a Must-see Tour of Brazil.