From Ipanema Beach to the Amazon River to South American Swells—and Beyond

A Three-Week Sample Itinerary
brazil travel
Great Water: Iguazu Falls (PhotoDisc)

Face facts: At 3,287,338 sq miles, Brazil is the continent's largest country. A two-week vacation ain't gonna cut it. Below we've outlined one possible way to kill 21 days in a heartbeat—and that doesn’t even take you to the festive city of Salvador, the swath of dense jungle known as the Pantanal, or the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Olina, a beautifully preserved ocean-side colonial city. Follow our path, or carve out one of your own. Either way, Brazil will leave you yearning for more...

Days 1-5: Arrive in Rio de Janiero and ease into the land of Ipanema with a visit to Guanabara Bay where you can visit Sugarloaf Mountain and gaze onto Copacabana Beach from its 900-foot summit—or just head straight for a stretch of sand and ease away the jetlag with one of several rum-infused drinks. The Corcovado—that ubiquitous statue of Christ—stands nearby, welcoming visitors with open arms. Consider it an invitation to explore the city and its surroundings over the next five days. Rock climbers can monkey around on a bevy of established routes at Tijuca National Park, one of the largest urban parks in the world. And don't forget to visit the city's beautiful botanical gardens and historic cathedral—or the other house of worship, Maracana stadium, where Brazilian futbol legend Pelé scored his 1,000th goal. Those bitten by a degree of wanderlust can also high-tail it toward the Argentine border and the stunning spectacle of Iguazu Falls.

Days 5-7: Get out of the big city and visit Serra da Bocaina National Park, about 160 miles west into the hinterlands. Some of Brazil's best hiking can be found in the Cachoira dos Veados wine country, a 247,000-acre park interspersed with waterfalls that offer cool respite to the harsh South American sun.

Days 8-13: Begin your Amazon adventure by traveling to the Amazon EcoPark Lodge (;, located deep in the Amazon Basin. The 4,500 acres of preserved forest surrounding the lodge, and the Monkey Jungle habitat for rescued simians, will be your vine-dense playground for the next five days, so pack the DEET. During your time there you can become an expert in jungle survival by following the instruction of Brazilian army officers, or paddle through the region's vast waterways. Keep an eye of for pink dolphins, alligators, and the flesh-eating piranhas.

Days 14-15: If traversing the Amazon's mighty waters left you hungry for more paddling adventures, swap the chocolate-colored river for the whitewater rapids of Casimiro de Abreu, about 100 miles west of Rio. This is the put in for ducking the Macaé River, a 50-mile stretch of water with 15 rapids ranging from Class I to IV.

Days 16-19: Hit the beach at Praia do Campeche, southwest of Rio on the off-coast island of Florianópolis, home to the biggest breaks in Brazil. The swells draw international surf competitions, so beginners should continue down the coast to Itacaré near Ilhéus for some more manageable breaks. True novices can also enroll in EasyDrop Surf Camp (01155.73.3251.3065; ) to get the lowdown of riding the waves.

Days 20-21: Arrive back in Rio for one last night of samba, caipirinhas, and Brazilian barbeque before leaving the land of Ipanema.

Published: 26 Aug 2005 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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