Last summer, I went to Brazil for two weeks. I wanted to see as much as possible of this great country, while focusing on the most emblematic places. So I started to read a lot about the sites to visit and I selected 5 destination points that I could visit in 14 days: Recife, Salvador da Bahia, Rio de Janeiro, Ilha Grande and Iguazú.
It is very easy to get around by plane between the big cities of Brazil. I was a little apprehensive about internal flights and their punctuality (because I was going to have to take 4 domestic flights anyway!) But everything went very well and I luckily had no delays. I booked internal flights with Brazilian airlines Azul, Gol and LATAM, comparing prices on Skyscanner. In each Brazilian city, it is very easy and economical to get around thanks to the Uber mobile application. It is the safest and most efficient form of transportation. In terms of security, which was my main concern, I can say that you can visit Brazil without encountering any particular problems if you stay in tourist areas and if you behave in a reasoned and logical manner (without taking out your big tickets, your Rayban sunglasses, your latest iphone or your last camera – which can be a little frustrating for photos and selfies lovers).
I arrived from Madrid to Recife on an Air Europa flight of around 8 hours. I decided to include Recife in my travel itinerary because I wanted to see Olinda, a magnificent colonial city from the 16th century classified by Unesco, but also to visit the city center of Recife (notably the place of Marco Zero and its festivities) and enjoy a bit of the beach. It should be noted that I traveled to Brazil from late August to early September and since Brazil is in the southern hemisphere, I was in late winter. Recife is located near the equator, so it is possible to swim there all year round, while paying attention to sharks in certain beaches.
Olinda is one of the oldest cities in Brazil (1535). Its historic center has many multicolored colonial buildings.
Located an hour’s drive south of Recife, this small seaside town of Pernambuco boasts magnificent beaches and natural pools where you can see multicolored fish.
I decided to stay three nights in the Boa Viagem district of Recife, along an urban beach of 7km, where I could enjoy a very good gastronomy, large shopping centers, dance clubs and public parks. I slept at the Anahi Hotel, very close to Recife Airport and the beach and offering the perfect balance between comfort and style. If you forgot to take a few things with you in your suitcase, the Rec Store clothing store will fix that.
From Recife, it is very easy to get to Salvador da Bahia on a 1.5 hour flight only. The city center of Salvador is splendid and authentic and contains a spectacular colonial architecture. It is possible to walk there day and night completely safely. In the evening, the historic district of Salvador hosts a lively and very traditional nightlife with Afro-Brazilian music in particular. Tuesday is the busiest day.
I stayed for two nights at the Wish da Bahia hotel, a magnificent 5-star hotel that reveals all its sophistication, whose original design, from the 1950s, was considered a benchmark in Brazilian modernist architecture. The hotel offers, in addition to a gourmet restaurant, a spa, as well as a fitness and recreation room.
A short 2 hour flight separates Salvador from Bahia to Rio de Janeiro. I literally felt in love with this incredible city. I only stayed 3 nights in Rio but I recommend staying there for at least 4 nights as there is a lot to see and experience. Here are the main places I recommend visiting: Christ the Redeemer, Sugarloaf Mountain, Copacabana and Ipanema beaches (especially at sunset), Lage park, visiting a favela (like Rocinha’s) and the district Santa Teresa. Outside the city center, there are several spectacular points of view, such as Pedra do telégrafo or Mirador do Morro Dois Irmãos (access by the favela Vidigal by motorbike taxi to Vila Olímpica do Vidigal if you want to access to the path, getting there is not easy but the view is really worth it).
Another spectacular way to see Rio is to admire it from the sky with a helicopter tour. For my part, I experienced a half-hour flight operated by Rio2Fly from Recreio dos Bandeirantes to Christ the Redeemer, via Leblon, Ipanema and Copacabana and it was probably the best tourist experience that I’ve had in my life.
I had a wonderful stay at the Novotel RJ Botafogo hotel which enjoys a lively nightlife, as well as splendid views of the Sugarloaf Mountain. The hotel is a short walk from the metro, 10 km from Christ the Redeemer and 15 minutes from Santos Dumont Airport, Copacabana and Ipanema. There is a sauna, a jacuzzi, a fitness center, a restaurant, as well as an excellent WIFI.
From Rio, I left for Ilha Grande thanks to the transport company Calytour, for a journey of around 3 hours. Ilha Grande is the perfect place to rest, enjoy the beach, take a boat trip or hike. It is home to paradisiacal beaches with crystal clear waters and the ideal temperature for swimming throughout the year.
I stayed three nights at the Asalem Hotel, located directly on the spectacular bay of Abraäo. The proximity to the ocean provides an intimate connection with marine species such as starfish, crustaceans and turtles. The surrounding forest is home to monkeys, squirrels, fireflies, blue butterflies and a wide variety of exotic tropical birds. The food is exquisite, fresh and locally produced. The atmosphere is authentic, calm and wonderful at the same time.
From Ilha Grande, I had to return to Rio airport to catch my plane to Iguazú. This is the last step of my trip but not the least because it is the visit of the Iguazú Falls. The visit of the falls can be done in two ways: either on the Brazilian side (allow about 2 hours of visit), it is a frontal view of the falls, or on the Argentinian side, where we are literally “in” the falls of water and it takes no less than 6 hours to see everything.
Ideally, I would have liked to visit both sides but having only one day available, I decided to focus on the Argentinian side which offers more to see than the Brazilian side.
My visit to the Iguazú Falls was unforgettable. It is a veritable set of waterfalls of incredible strength and dizzying dimensions. In addition, the visit is punctuated by an encounter with wild fauna (monkeys, coatis, exotic birds, or even a small crocodile (a yacaré) that I encountered on the roadside!) Which makes it a complete and unique experience.
After visiting the falls, I had a typical Argentinian lunch: the parrilla argentina and a dulce de leche for dessert, a real treat!
If you too decide to sleep on the Argentinian side, you will therefore stay in Puerto Iguazú. For my part, I decided to stay at the Mercure hotel in Iguazú, which blends in perfectly with its surroundings and has spacious and comfortable rooms in the very heart of the Iryapú jungle, just 20 minutes from Puerto Iguazú International Airport. The hotel has a large outdoor swimming pool, a fitness center, a restaurant and a wellness center.
After my visit to Iguazú ended, I returned to Recife to resume my return flight to Madrid. I can honestly say that I was amazed by each of the places I chose for my tour of the most beautiful places in Brazil. Brazil is a huge country, made up of immeasurable natural, cultural and human wealth. The diversity of its landscapes makes it a unique country to see at least once in your life. The only downsides that I could bring are: on the one hand, I couldn’t feel completely peaceful and secure, and on the other hand, the food is often repetitive. Apart from these few details, I strongly invite you to discover Brazil for yourself!