4 of the best things to do on a first-time trip to Brazil

It is one of the most exotic destinations on the planet. Even the name can send the rhythm of the samba coursing through the veins. Discover the beautiful beaches and quaint cobblestoned streets of Buzios. Journey to the heart of the Amazon rainforest and boat down its life-giving river. Live the Carioca (a Rio native dream) at the legendary Copacabana Palace Hotel. But how should the first timer tackle this vast biomass of a destination? We suggest a four-point plan of attack.

1. Take a hilltop recce over Rio

Start with a flight over the all-singing, all-dancing Rio de Janeiro. On day one take the rack-railway train to the summit of Corcavado, with the city unfurling like an enormous map. At the summit, under the 100 foot span of the outstretched arms of Christ the Redeemer, enjoy the stunning view of beaches and rainforest, city and sea, lagoons and mountains.

Copacabana Beach

There’s lots to see although much of the city’s architectural heritage was razed in a frenzy of Sixties development. One notable exception is the Sao Bento Monastery, an oasis of calm in the midst of the general frenzy and, of course, the iconic Copacabana Palace Hotel overlooking the beach.

2. Get a taste of Brazil’s St Tropez

Brazilians do beaches, not to mention bikinis, like no other place in the world. Consider spending two or three nights in the resort town of Buzios.

Buzios

This upmarket stretch of coast is billed as the St Tropez of Latin America. Home to charming cobbled streets and some fantastic bars and restaurants, it’s just two and a half hours’ drive from the city.

3. See the greatest flow on earth

And one final must see is arguably the southern hemisphere’s single most impressive natural wonder, the Iguacu Falls. The vast majority of the 275 individual cascades are in next-door Argentina but Brazil has the classic view of the grand two mile horseshoe and the opportunity to ride by inflatable through the frothy waters and right beneath the falls.

Iguacu Falls

4. Go wild in rainforests and wetlands

From there you could go to Manaus, which sits in the middle of the tufted green carpet of the Amazonian jungle. You can do a trip on the river from here, perhaps with a night or two at a jungle lodge, and even go to the opera. Manaus has an incredible 19th-century jewel-box of an opera house, modelled on the one in Paris with chandeliers from Venice and tiles from Alsace.

Tapir, Pantanal

Wildlife enthusiasts should definitely add a trip to the Pantanal to their itinerary. Half the size of France, this vast expanse of savannah and wetland is home to some 600 different species of birds, the elusive jaguar, caiman, monkey, anteater, capybara, anaconda, otter and river dolphin.

When to go: As a rule of thumb you will find good weather in Brazil from August to March, whilst June to October is the best time for the Pantanal.

Nick Van Gruisen is Managing Director of The Ultimate Travel Company.

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Comments (5)

  1. Bec says:

    Walking along Copacabana and Ipanema Beaches is such fun places to people watch.
    In Buzios, the most touristy thing, take a photo with the Brigitte Bardot Statue.
    In Manaus, visit the CIGS zoo, its a rescue and rehab zoo for animals confiscated or illegally caught. Its run by the army. Great way to see local wildlife up close, the entrance fee money goes back to the animal care.
    One thing to do I would include – see the “Meeting of the waters’ fascinating to see the two different colour rivers.

  2. Gaston says:

    Buzios is the St Tropez of Latina America? Did you ever stay there? Do you really know Brazil’s best beaches? Did you ever flight to Brazil’s north part? The best view of Iguazú Falls is in the Brazilean territory?
    Please ensure you get the right information before publishing.
    Such amount of errors is shameful.

  3. Paul Johnson says:

    Hi Gaston… a more positive way to respond, if you don’t agree with the article, would be by saying where you think the best beaches are, where you think the best view of the Falls is, etc.

    Of course, it’s all subjective, but it would be good to have your views rather than you just dismissing the opinions of others without giving any reasons why.

    Thanks

    Paul

  4. Nick Van Gruisen says:

    Hi Gaston, I have been to all the places mentioned and stand by every point made in the piece. Buzios has been called the ‘St Tropez’ of Latin America ever since Brigit Bardot came in 1964. It’s gorgeous and super cool. I didn’t say the best view of the Iguazu Falls was in the Brazilian side but that it’s home to the ‘Boa Vista’ which refers to the iconic horseshoe falls. And yes I travelled to Bahia and Salvador is indeed the ‘gateway to the fabulous beaches’.

  5. Ameer Al Saleh says:

    Igacu at both Argentinan & Braziluan sides will be great to visit to feel the full dimension of greatest water fall. At Rio De Janero , plan to spare full walk at copacabana and ipnema beaches after noon . Near Flamingo beaches toward the town is grat at early night . Watch out al any time from suspected people.

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