Brazil is an immense country with a lot to discover. World cities, nature, jungle, carnival you name it. In this article I take you to 9 highlights during a trip through South Brazil!
Table of contents
1. Sugarloaf Mountain – Rio de Janeiro
The official name of Sugarloaf Mountain is Pão de Açúcar. The top of Sugarloaf Mountain is 396m above sea level. You reach it by means of 2 cable cars that take you up. The cable car first takes you from the Morro da Babilônia starting point to the next mountain; Morra de Urca. Then a second cable car takes you from the Morra de Urca to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain. Once at the top you can enjoy the beautiful view over the city. You can visit a number of shops & restaurants and you can walk into nature where you can spot some monkeys with luck!
Tickets can be bought at the starting point of the cable car. The cost for a ticket is +/- €18. You can also choose to walk up the first part and only use the 2e cable car, a ticket will cost you about €7. Keep in mind that this is a tough hike to the top, and you really need to be in good shape for this. If you still want to take on this challenge, don't forget to buy a ticket for the second cable car at the starting point! This is not possible at the cable car itself. The easiest way to visit Sugarloaf Mountain is by bus or Uber. The Uber costs only a few euros and is of course the easiest. Do you want to be even cheaper? Then take the bus, lines 511 & 512 will pass the mountain anyway. Make sure you have some change because you cannot pay with a credit card or debit card on the bus.
TIP: Visit the Ssugar bread bvery late afternoon. zo you can see the view of the city in the daylight but you can also stayand hang out for the sunset. Seeing Rio in the dark is also really a must!
2. Cristo Redentor – Rio de Janeiro
One of the New Seven Wonders of the World can be found in Rio de Janeiro. The image of Christ the Redeemer. The statue was built in 1931, is no less than 38m high and stands on the 710m high mountain Corcovado. Rio de Janeiro and the image of Christ the Redeemer are inextricably linked. He watches over the city like a real 'god'. Corcovado Mountain is located in the middle of Tijuca National Park. A beautiful green environment in this metropolis.
There are several ways to visit the statue. You can take the train, the bus or you can even hike up. I do not want to recommend the latter directly because unfortunately this is not always safe because of pickpockets / robberies. Then the historic train and bus remain. You can only buy tickets for the train online. You can easily buy the tickets via the website of GetYourGuide† You can buy tickets for the bus at the ticket office. The costs for a ticket are +/- €12. You can reach the top in about 20 minutes by tram/bus. After this you have to climb quite a few stairs until you arrive at the statue.
From the statue you have an amazing view over the city. You can also see the Sugarloaf Mountain mentioned above from here. Taking a photo with the image is still quite difficult. It is very busy and of course everyone wants to take a picture with the statue.
TIP: Go on time! The opening times are daily between 08:00 – 19:00. Make sure you are ready at the ticket center at 07:30 so that you can take the first bus up straight away or make sure you reserve immediately at 08:00 for the little train. This way you avoid the worst crowds & heat.
3. Animal Spotting – Pantanal
The Pantanal is the largest wetland area in the world! It may be a little less known than the Amazon but just as special. It is also known as the best place to spot animals. This is because the animals in the Amazon 'disappear' more among all the greenery. The Pantanal, on the other hand, is a wetland area with many rivers and lakes. This makes the animals much more visible.
You can split the Pantanal into 2 parts, the North and the South. The north can be reached via Ciuabá and the south via Campo Grande. A visit to the Pantanal is unfortunately not cheap. The easiest is to book a tour. You will then explore the Pantanal in a few days through various activities. If you want to visit the Pantanal yourself, it is best to take a renting a car† The town of Miranda (in the south) is a good base for a visit to the Pantanal.
During a boat trip, jeep safari or jungle walk you will encounter the most special animals such as monkeys, proboscis monkeys, anteaters, capybaras, many special birds and much more. If you are lucky you may even encounter the jaguar in this area! In this extensive article you can find more information about the Pantanal.
4. Iguazu Waterfalls – Foz do Iguazu
The Iguazu Falls can be found on the border between Argentina and Brazil† The majority of the falls can be found in Argentina, but a visit to the Brazilian side of the falls is also a highlight during your trip! The best base for a visit to the falls is the town of Foz do Iguazu. You reach this town through the airport Foz do Iguazu, or you can take the bus from, for example, São Paulo. Keep in mind that you have a long journey ahead of you by bus!
The cost for a visit to the falls is +/- €15. You can then walk around the park all day long. If you want to do extra activities, you can, for example, sail under the waterfalls with a boat. This will cost you about €40 extra. If you choose to also visit the Argentinian side of the falls, this will cost you another €15. From the Argentinian side it is also possible to fly over this natural phenomenon with a helicopter. This will cost you about €100. Tickets can be bought on site at the ticket office.
5. Street Art – Sao Paulo
The city of São Paulo is a bit of a gray concrete jungle. But if you're willing to look beyond the first drab appearance of the city, you'll discover that there's something special behind the great gray city. Namely; Street Art! In Sao Paulo it is legal to spray graffiti (in certain places) and it is really seen as an art form. Vila Madalena is a very hip neighborhood where you can find many restaurants & bars. It is certainly the nicest neighborhood in the city! In this district you will find the special place Batman's Alley or in Portuguese; Beco do Batman. In Batman's Alley you will find the most amazing Street Art.
The nice thing is that the art is often renewed, so there is a good chance that when you visit Batman's Alley now you will see different art than, for example, a year ago. Truly a very special part of the city and very impressive to see!
The free walking tour through the Vila Madalena district is highly recommended. The tour lasts about 3 hours and during this tour you will pass Batman's Alley and more cool street art spots in the city. During the tour you will get a lot of information about the Street Art and you will learn that there is more to it than just a nice picture on the wall. There is often a political story behind the art and it is really used as a form to express yourself about certain situations in the country. You can de street art tours book here.
6. Lopes Mendes Beach – Ilha Grande
Ilha Grande is an island that you can find off the coast of the state of Rio de Janeiro. It is the largest island of the Angra dos Reis, an archipelago of no fewer than 365 islands. From Rio de Janeiro you can take the bus and then the ferry and about 4 hours later you are on this wonderful island. The island used to be a base for pirates, today it is a popular island for a few days of beach, surfing, snorkeling or hiking. The capital of the island is Vila do Abraão, a small town where you can find many hotels, restaurants, bars, shops and tour desks.
One of the highlights of the island is Lopes Mendes beach. This beach has been voted the most beautiful beach in Brazil several times, which is saying something, isn't it? To get there you have 2 options. You can hike from Vila do Abraão, this is a hike of about 3 hours through the jungle along waterfalls and beautiful views. Not in the mood for a tough hike? Then choose the 'luxury' option and take a boat from Vila do Abraão. You can book these anywhere on the street. The costs for this are about €15 pp return. The ride to the beach takes about 40 minutes (one way). However you go, you will be rewarded with a beautiful beach, 3km of clear blue water and a white sand beach. Also popular among surfers!
7. Football Match Maracaña Stadium – Rio de Janeiro
Really a must! Attend a soccer game in South America. Especially for the non-football fans among us. I am not a football fan at all, but I have to admit, this is a super cool experience! The experience of a match is really unique, a huge stadium, colorful outfits, make-up, music and singing. All in all a special experience.
The Maracaña Stadium is one of the largest stadiums in the world. It was built in the year 1950 and was intended for the World Cup. It had a capacity of no less than 115.000 visitors. This huge number was reduced to 95.000 for security reasons and in 2016 the stadium was renovated for the Olympics, leaving 80.000 seats. Still a huge number of course!
Of course you need tickets to visit a match, how do you get tickets? There are a number of options for that: You can book a tour, you can buy tickets at the stadium itself, you can buy tickets online, or you can buy tickets at the ticket office of the Flamengos (the club of Rio de Janeiro). Buying tickets online works very poorly and most likely will not work. I wouldn't recommend a tour because it's just way too expensive. Then it remains to buy tickets at the stadium or at the ticket office. There can be a huge queue at the stadium so that's a risk you take. You can also go to the Ticket Office at the Estádio de Flamengo. Here you see a black wall with a number of holes with bars in it, and yes, where can you buy tickets. The cost for a ticket is 50 real, +/- €8. (when you book a tour you end up with a small €30,-) Then you take the Uber to the stadium for a few euros. You can check the exact location of the ticket office here find.
8. Pedro do Telegrafo – Barra de Guaratiba
If you're a little familiar with Instagram, you've probably already seen this place, the 'hanging' stone where it looks like you're hanging over a large abyss. But looks can be deceiving! You will find this place about 40 km outside of Rio de Janeiro in the town of Barra de Guaratiba. You can book a tour from Rio or you can travel here on your own. When you book a tour, it costs about €40 per person. You will then be picked up at a local spot in Rio, then travel to Barra de Guaratiba and hike to the photo-taking spot. Then you hike back and you will be brought back to Rio by bus. Or you choose to travel here on your own with the Uber.
From Rio it is easy to order an Uber to Barra de Guaratiba. Get dropped off at the main square Pedra Branca State Park. The ride takes +/- 1.15 hours. Then ask one of the inhabitants, the Uber driver or in one of the shops for directions to Pedro do Telégrafo. They are really used to this and the people are super helpful, with us they even walked a bit upstairs. First you have to go up the village until you arrive at the forest area. This is a tough climb, because it is very steep! You then arrive at the edge of the forest where there is a sign with Pedro do Telégrafo, this is again a tough walk. If you keep walking you can reach the stone in an hour from the square. Do not be alarmed if it is foggy when you arrive at the top, this usually disappears quickly. On the way back it can be a bit more difficult to find an Uber because of course not as many Ubers drive around here as in the center, but with a little patience this is doable. The total costs with the Uber were +/- €30 (return). It's also nice to be on the
on the way back to stop at one of the beautiful beaches you pass. A lot less crowded than in Rio.
TIP: make sure you leave on time. HIt can get very busy in this popular place, so you can easily stand in line for hours. we were at the stone around 8:30/09:00 and didn't have to wait long, when we left there was already a decent line!
9. Colonial Paraty
Paraty is a colonial coastal town. You will find this place about 5 hours drive from Rio de Janeiro, or about 6 hours drive from São Paulo. Several buses depart daily from Rio & São Paulo to Paraty. The cost for a ticket is about €10 pp (one way).
If you like cozy streets, beautiful white buildings and cobblestones, then you've come to the right place. The old architecture has been preserved in this nice town and because many parts are car-free, you can stroll through the cozy streets here. It is the ideal place to relax, shop in one of the many boutiques or eat well.
You can also take several day tours from Paraty. For example, you can take a boat tour to a number of beautiful beaches in the area, you can visit several waterfalls or discover the beautiful Saco de Mamanguá, a beautiful fortress surrounded by beautiful nature. In short, it is really worth spending a few days for colonial Paraty!
Are you curious about more of my travel experiences? Then you can follow me on my website www.travelaway.nl or you can find me on Instagram at @travelaway.nl† I look forward to seeing you there!
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