Day 1: Rio de Janeiro
Take a flight that will arrive early at Rio de Janeiro – Galeão International Airport. Travel to your chosen accommodation in Copacabana, Ipanema or Leblon where you will be staying for two nights. Get settled and spend the morning in your hotel to recover from jet lag. Rio de Janeiro has some of the best backpacker hostels, villas and luxury hotels ideally nestled in the heart of the city. If you are stressed out, or simply needing a place where you can recharge and enjoy some downtime, then stay by the harbor, at the beach, with fantastic city views.
In the afternoon, explore the many attractions in Rio de Janeiro such as Corcovado – Cristo Redentor IGiant (98-ft.-tall mountaintop statue of Jesus Christ, accessed by train and offering incredible city views), Theatro Municipal do Rio de Janeiro (Praça Floriano, S/N – Centro, Rio de Janeiro – RJ, 20031-050, Brazil), Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil and Ipanema Beach. If you have extra bucks to splurge, get a bird’s eye helicopter view of Rio de Janeiro (cost is about 200 USD for the 13 minute flight but it is totally worth the money). After a full day exploring, enjoy dinner at one of the restaurants with a view of the harbor.
Day 2: Rio de Janeiro
On your second day, leave before dawn and wait for the sun of the new day to appear on the horizon from the top of Morro Dois Irmãos. Waiting for the sunrise is probably one of the most fascinating experiences you could get in Rio de Janeiro. Sunrise tours normally start at 4:00 am and takes around an hour of hiking up by the forest (save your money and do it on your own – just ask the staff at your hotel or hostel where is the nearest spot to enjoy the sun showing from behind the ocean). Then, it’s time to hit the sun and bask in the laid-back beach culture of some of the world’s best beaches, Leblon. In the afternoon, check out Rodrigo de Freitas Lake and Botanical Garden (tickets cost 9 Brazilian Reals or about 2.50 USD; R. Jardim Botânico, 1008 – Jardim Botânico, Rio de Janeiro – RJ, 22460-030, Brazil). Had enough of beaches in Rio de Janeiro? Then make your way to Pedra do Sal (87 – R. Argemiro Bulcão, 1 – Saúde, Rio de Janeiro – RJ, 20081-040, Brazil), a historical and religious site in Rio de Janeiro believed to be the birthplace of Samba.
The Botanical Garden showcases the diversity of Brazilian and foreign flora
Day 3: Rio de Janeiro – Salvador
Start early on day 4 and catch a flight for Salvador (direct one-way tickets start at 65 USD for the two-hour flight). Founded in the 1500s by Portuguese colonials, this beautiful city is famous for its Afro-Brazilian culture, charming neighborhood, baroque churches and tropical coastline. Staying at one of the Portuguese-style colonial houses in Salvador is one of those quintessential Brazilian experience which can’t be skipped. Get settled and explore the nearby attractions such as Sao Francisco Church and Covent, Ponta de Humaita, Museu de Arte Moderna and Farol da Barra Beach.
Detail of the Sao Francisco Church and Convent in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil, one of the finest examples of Baroque architecture and gilt woodwork in the world
Day 4: Salvador
Today is spent learning all about Salvador. Start early and have breakfast at one of the restaurants in the historic center of Pelourinho. Wander through this densely populated neighborhood of Salvador and make sure to try some Bahian delicacy like Moqueca (moo-kek-a), Quindim and Acarajé (a-ka-ra-zjeh). Spend the rest of the afternoon at Porto do Barra, Salvador’s most iconic praia (beach).
Moqueca is a Brazilian stew based on salt water fish in coconut milk, tomatoes, onions, garlic, coriander and some palm oil
Day 5: Salvador – Iguazu Falls
On your fifth day, leave the Portuguese colonial city of Salvador for the amazing Iguazu Falls, located on the border between Brazil and Argentina, out of the way of any other destination in either country. Iguazu Falls is a 5-hour flight away that could be very expensive if you don’t book in advance, otherwise a way-way ticket starts at about 95 USD (Azus Airlines with a layover in Campinas VCP). Another alternative is by taking a bus from Salvador but the trip takes 48 hours to get to Iguazu (not worth the time).
Day 6 Iguazu Falls
After having a filling breakfast, set out this morning for the impressive Brazilian side of Iguazu Falls. The opportunity for incredible photographs is endless, so frequent stops are expected for visitors to enjoy the landscape.
Day 7 : Iguazu Falls
Begin early with a quick trip to the Argentine side of Iguazu Falls. You will wind your way through different stations depending on the types of activities you want to be involved in. You’ll walk along well maintained footpaths and get an up-close glimpse of the fall from a number of perfectly perched view decks. Unless you want to splash out on a helicopter ride, go back to Brazil.
Travel Tip: The National Park is huge so prioritize which side you would like to stay in longer. The Brazilian side is pretty manageable since there is only one walkway while the Argentine side is much bigger and there are maze of walkways. Seeing both sides in one day is not recommended for visitors who are not physically prepared.
Iguazu Falls are waterfalls of the Iguazu River on the border of Argentina and Brazil. They are considered to be one of the New Seven Wonders of the World
Day 8: Iguazu Falls – Sao Paulo
Catch a flight from Iguazu Falls to Sao Paulo (If you book in advance, one-way tickets start at 70 USD and up). An overnight bus is a cheaper alternative. This option will give you an extra day exploring Iguazu Falls as well as a great way to save money on accommodation. Travel time is approximately 12 hours and one way fare costs USD 50 to USD 100. Choose a bed class seat so that you can sleep through most of the journey.
Day 9: Sao Paulo
And now that you are in Sao Paulo, check into a hotel in the old downtown neighborhood of Centro or wherever you prefer. Visit some attractions in the afternoon or just stay in your hotel. It all depends on your interests and if the pace is a bit breathless, consider skipping a stop to have some chill-out time.
Sao Paulo, Brazil
Day 10: Sao Paulo
Today marks the end of your Brazil adventure. If your international flight is in the evening or late afternoon, explore the city for other attractions you might have missed. Biking around Sao Paulo is a great option which allows you to enjoy the city at your own pace. Fit in one last amazing lunch or dinner in the city. You could even squeeze in some souvenir shopping at Rua 25 de Marco before you travel to the airport.
Rua 25 de Março or Rua Vinte e Cinco de Março is a popular shopping street in the central zone of São Paulo, Brazil. The district surrounding Rua 25 de Março has long been synonymous in Brazil with large crowds and discount shopping