Guide to travel to Brazil What to do and Where to Go

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Some Memories from my Trip

Ahhh Brazil… Land of samba, bossa nova, endless beaches, and Carnival. Nobody seems to have anything bad to say about Brazil and Brazilians, always sparking a smile to people they meet when the mention where they’re from… This country ranks first in the question I get the most from other travelers: “Which is my favorite country”! It is a hard question to answer because I love different places for different reasons, some are better for traveling, others for livability, quality/price, beaches, Friendliness, security, etc.… But overall, when I really think about it, I choose Brazil as my long time favorite. No wonder it’s the country I have spent the most time to explore, out of all the other countries around the world!

It’s important to note that Brazil is Massive… It’s An Empire! Even though it is a little smaller than my home country of Canada, it still deserves to be considered bigger, with its massive population of almost 220 million people. Its Immigration came from all over the world, mostly Portugal, Spain, Italy, Germany, many parts of Africa, but also Poland and Ukraine around Curitiba, Netherlands, France, and Japan. While the Spanish divided their colony into several countries in what is today over 18 countries all across the Americas, Brazil concentrated its power in one big empire, which today, if each of the 26 Brazilian States would be a country, they would all be very different from each other. From the German state of Rio Grande do Sul, to Rio de Janeiro’s Beach culture and Sao Paulo’s Business oriented mentality, Bahia’s African decent, the Cowboy states of Mato Grosso do Sul, the Amazonian states of Amazons, and without forgetting The North East of Brazil which boasts incredible diversity.

My Time in Brazil

All that to say, Brazil takes a lifetime to explore! I’ve been in over 75% of Brazilians states and I’m always blown away by how different they are from each other. I actually settled many years in Brazil, in Rio de Janeiro, making it my home base between 2006 and 2011. Tourist visas let you stay 6 months a year, which is plenty of time to get an apartment and enjoy Brazilian life, learn Portuguese and make local Friends! The other great thing is that’s it’s in the southern hemisphere and for anybody wanting to escape the cold winters back in North America and Europe, it makes a great choice of a destination. That was a goal for me, and between 2005 and today, I never spent a whole winter in the northern hemisphere, each time flying my way across seasons like migration birds do so well.

In Brazil, People are easy going, welcoming, curious and very friendly, which makes it a great place to meet new local friends. After the first time I arrived in March 2006, I knew I wanted to stay. This seems to happen a lot with foreigners! It is actually one of the only places I know of any developing country where people from rich countries try to stay illegally! The just don’t want to leave… I met people from the USA, Canada, Spain, France, Sweden, Russia, Japan, and Australia that just decided to overstay their Visas, risking it to avoid falling into the depression of having to leave this ideal lifestyle they acquired in Brazil.

So I settled there and started growing my online business, which is where I had my first success. While in the English-speaking world online advertising was already getting big, in Portuguese, there was nothing at all… So I learned the language and created several online information portals of information for Brazilians. I hired over 5 journalists and writers and together we created a network of over 200 information portals in Finance, Lifestyle, and Beauty. Applying SEO techniques at the time, which were only competitive in the US, I quickly gained momentum and gained success in the Portuguese-speaking world. From this point, I knew I could continue my travels with the income these websites provided in advertisement income.

I came back over and over every year since 2006. I actually left a box of things at a friend’s place, which I could get back to, containing a bit of cloth, a guitar, a snowboard (for those Andes escapades), a surfboard and Brazilian Pandeiro (brazil’s national instrument).

I mostly lived in Rio de Janeiro, which was my beloved city. I rented over 5 apartments, always around the area of Ipanema beach, which for me is my favorite area of Rio, a beach which I consider my favorite in the world! Even after having visited most of the best-recognized beaches around the world, like Bora Bora, the Maldives, Seychelles, Fiji, and all the Caribbean countries, I still consider Ipanema to be the best because of its spirit and its feeling. There is something magic about it, it breathes bossa nova, a music which was born on its sands. The masses of people gathering on its shores on a Sunday afternoons, meeting up with friends and play volleyball all day… ahhh so many memories!

I lived in several different cities over the years, about 80% of the time in Rio de Janeiro but also in Natal in Rio Grande do Norte, in Salvador de Bahia 2 times, in Goiania in Goais state and recently in Fortaleza in the state of Ceara in the North.

These days I have left Brazilian behind a little bit, having stayed there 3 months in 2016 for the first time in three years. The reason is a little change in interest. I concentrated the last two years on doing a bit more work and traveling in some countries that are a little harder to reach, around the Africa, Asia and the South Pacific. But definitely, Brazil is a home for me and it will always be highly ranked on my list of countries to go back to.

My travel recommendations in Brazil

Possibilities are endless, as immense as Brazil is. If you’re looking to get the most out of a first visit of a week or two, I usually recommend to stick to the basics and travel around the state of Rio de Janeiro. Rio de Janeiro has so much to offer and usually represents the image of what Brazil is like for foreigners. But Brazil is very different in other states, this is why most first time visitors usually reference Rio as their favorite destination, as exotic as it is!

Itinerary one: Round tour around Rio de Janeiro State

Start and finish in Rio.  Rio deserves at least 3 to 4 days on its own, having so much to offer. I always recommend staying around the beach area, in Ipanema or Copacabana, I personally prefer straight in the middle, in Arpoador, where you get best of both worlds. Party in Lapa is a must, dinner in Santa Teresa neighborhood, enjoy live samba shows are always on my list every time I come, and if I can catch a bossa nova show, I try to make it (there is a great one at Praia Vermelha every Friday). Moving on, enjoy some beach time in Paraty about 3 hours away by local bus. From there, it’s an easy ride to the city of Ilha Grande where monkey hangs around trees and sipping coconuts on a hammock is a local favorite. I then recommend a few mountains around Petropolis, the only imperial city of the Americas. It has great waterfalls and jungle like sceneries. Then it’s time for Buzios, about 3 hours north of Rio, a city was that mostly built by Argentinians, hence the style and luxury feel of the city! It’s a party place, to try to make it through the night. A bit more time I would include Minas Gerais, but that state is so big I would reservist it for a trip on its own!

Itinerary two: The North

I love the north of Brazil, like most people who love beaches will too. I usually recommend to people to travel from Salvador all the way up to Fortaleza, hitting on the way cities of Aracaju, Recife, Maceio, Joao Pessoa, Natal, and Fortaleza, reaching on the way Jericoacoara for an incredible experience! For those pushing a little further with more time, I highly recommend reaching Sao Luis to see my favorite natural wonder of Brazil (and probably in the world), the Lencois Maranhenses. Do not miss the flyover in a little plane, the views are just priceless!

Itinerary three: The South

Some people on a South American tour will prefer to go south from Rio de Janeiro, and that makes sense, as it is a great way to connect with the other great destination for every backpackers in South America: Buenos Aires. Some will hit Sao Paulo on the way, but I personally don’t like it. I think it’s overpriced and there’s nothing to see. Paulistas are very friendly though so if you happen to stay there a couple days, try the bohemian neighborhood of Vila Magdalena, it’s a favorite.

On the way down, I recommend stopping in Curitiba, its people are actually descendants of Ukrainians and Polish, so people get blonder and whiter skin. The other must stop is Florianopolis in Santa Catarina, a great little surfing spot. From there, Porto Alegre, the German city, is a nice spot too on your way to Uruguay.

Itinerary Four: Other Destinations and off the beaten track

Other destinations of choice include Minas Gerais, as a whole. I traveled on a rented car from Rio, up to Minas Gerais with its beautiful colonial towns, all the way up to Belo Horizonte, Brazil’s 5th biggest city. Then on the way back to Rio I crossed through the state of Espiritu Santo and reached its capital, Vitoria. Vitoria is definitely one of my “must go back” cities, a kind of miniature Rio de Janeiro with less tourist. From there, going back to Rio through the coast, with a nice stop to Buzios.

For those more adventurous, Going up the Amazon from Belem to Manaus is a great experience. I definitely recommend doing it the “local” way… By hopping on a local slow boat and do the expedition 5 days upstream the Amazon (or 5 days downstream from Manaus to Belem). I actually planned it so I arrived exactly on time for Parintins Carnival, known as the second biggest carnival after Rio, on an island halfway between Manaus and Belem. That was in itself worth the trip and turned out to be my favorite experience ever lived in Brazil. From Manaus, I traveled through Roraima and crossed into Venezuela, but I wouldn’t recommend it nowadays, with the crisis that is going on there.

Other essentials include traveling around Bahia and Visiting the Iguacu Falls.

My Top 5s

To continue with my Brazil Serie, I have prepared another part where you will find quick favorites of mine in this incredible country. Over all the years I’ve spent in Brazil, I have visited most of the states of the country, have experienced most major events and seen most of the major cities all over the country. I can talk for hours about every place I visited in details because I really get passionate about it; my favorite cities, the best places for nature, my favorite places for beaches, etc… But people always end up asking me my top 5 favorite everything… So here it is, all cooked out for you to plan that next trip to the land of samba!

Top 5 Favorite Cities

1. Rio de Janeiro
2. Natal
3. Salvador
4. Vitoria
5. Belo Horizonte

Top 5 Favorite Nature

1. Lencois Maranheses
2. Amazon River
3. Jericoacoara
4. Rio’s Landscape
5. Porto de Galinhas

Top 5 Best Events and Festivals

1. Parintins Carnival in Amazonas State
2. Carnival of Recife
3. Carnival of Rio de Janeiro
4. New Years in Salvador
5. New Years in Rio de Janeiro

Top 5 Friendliest States

1. Ceara
2. Rio Grande do Norte
3. Minas Gerais
4. Goias
5. Bahia

Top 5 Best States for Beaches

1. Rio de Janeiro
2. Rio Grande do Norte
3. Bahía
4. Santa Catarina
5. Ceara

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Top things to do in Brazil - My Brazil “Top 5 lists” for Best Cities, Festivals, Friendliness, Nature and Beaches - #visitbrazil #braziltrips #travelbrazil #brazilflights #brazilhotels #brazilhostels #brazilairbnb #braziltips #brazilbeaches #brazilmaps #brazilblog #brazilguide #braziltours #brazilbooking #brazilinfo #braziltripadvisor #brazilvisa #brazilblog

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Visit Brazil help guide - My Brazil “Top 5 lists” for Best Cities, Festivals, Friendliness, Nature and Beaches - #visitbrazil #braziltrips #travelbrazil #brazilflights #brazilhotels #brazilhostels #brazilairbnb #braziltips #brazilbeaches #brazilmaps #brazilblog #brazilguide #braziltours #brazilbooking #brazilinfo #braziltripadvisor #brazilvisa #brazilblog

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