Brazil is a massive country; it is the largest country in South America and 5th largest in the world. The country is so diverse with its beautiful white sand beaches, tropical Amazon rainforest, urban metropolitan, and landmark Iguazu Falls. Brazil is also famous its football (soccer) teams, annual Carnaval celebrations, and festive samba music. There is so much to see and do; I could have easily spent my whole month in South America exploring just Brazil.
However, the llamas in Peru took priority on this particular trip, and thus I only had 1.5 weeks. I decided to just do the super touristy highlights of Brazil this time around (Iguazu and Rio), and leave a more in-depth exploration for my next trip. The pricey tourist visa I have is valid for multiple entries over the next 5 years, so I certainly will be maximizing its use!
Note: US citizens must get their Brazil visa prior to entering the country as you cannot get one on arrival at the airport. However, if you are entering Brazil overland from Argentina, you can apply for a Brazil visa in Puerto Iguazu but it takes 1-2 days.
I arrived in Brazil during a tumultuous time (late June 2013), as there were demonstrations occurring all over the country. It began as a small protest against increased bus fares in São Paulo, but the demonstrations have gained momentum over the last month. The causes now include corruption, police violence, poor public health and education systems, gay rights, and the extravagant spending on the upcoming World Cup and Olympics.
It was an interesting time to be Brazil, and witness this relatively young democracy going through such social change. I know the next time I visit (which would most likely be after the Olympics), the country’s social, political and physical landscape will be very different.
My itinerary in Brazil was very relaxed relative to my Peru trip. I was a bit exhausted near the end of my South America trip so I was happy for the more leisurely pace. Plus, it was quite a rainy winter in Brazil so I was also less motivated to be active.
Click on each link to read more about each destination.
Days 1-3: Iguazu Falls
I spent a full day each exploring the Brazil and Argentina sides of the waterfalls. I also checked out the Bird Park and experienced some very informal land border crossings.
Brazil Accommodations: Iguassu Guest House (clean, hot showers + dryers for wet clothes, friendly staff, 10 minute walk to the bus terminal)
Argentina Accomodations: Marco Polo Inn (great location across from the is terminal, but hot showers would have been nice…)
Days 4-10: Rio de Janeiro
I spent most of my time in the Zona Sul (South Zone) exploring its famous beaches and landmarks. I also checked out the museums and artsy neighborhoods in Centro, and took a Brazilian Cooking Class.
Ipanema Accommodations: Casa 6 (on a backpacker street, but not worth the price), Mango Tree Hostel (very surfer chill vibe, cramped rooms but nice spacious courtyard)
Leblon Accomodations: Lemon Spirit Hostel (cleanest hostel ever with a great bar serving a free welcome caipirinha drink). Natalya highly recommends Zbra Hostel but it was fullly booked when I was there.
Days 11-12: São Paulo
Strolled the city avenues, shopped for Havaianas, and visited the massive Parque Ibirapuera.
Accommodation: WE Design Hostel (new like a trendy boutique hotel, great faculties, but a long walk to the metro)