Brazil is a country that had always been on my travel bucket list. I was enticed by exotic images of palm tree fringed beaches, flamboyant carnivals and colourful favelas. However, a sixteen hour flight from Glasgow, Brazil is arduous and expensive to get to. I knew a trip there would be a once (or seldom) in a lifetime experience.
In 2014, we finally got round to planning our trip. But as we excitedly flicked through the pages of our Lonely Planet guide, we realised drawing up an itinerary would be extremely difficult. Brazil is vast, with a multitude of enticing places to visit long distances apart. We would have to pick a few places and prioritis,e which was easier said than done as everywhere looked incredible. Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo (we were visiting a friend there) were musts but where else should we visit? Should we take a boat trip through the Amazon jungle? Explore the Afro-Caribbean culture of Salvador? Visit the thundering Iguazu Falls? Take in futuristic architecture of Brasilia, the country’s capital?
After much researching and narrowing down, we this is the itinerary we plumped for, how we got to each place and where we stayed.
Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro was always going to be included in our Brazil trip. I was desperate to visit the city’s iconic sights like Copacabana Beach, Sugar Loaf Mountain and the Christ the Redeemer statue. We could fly to Rio from Glasgow on Emirates via Amsterdam so we decided to use it as the launching pad for our three week trip. As we were arriving after a very long flight, we booked a chain hotel, the Ibis Copacabana Posto 2. We had previously been told the Copacabana area was dodgy and the streets did feel a bit shifty at night (like everywhere else in Rio, to be honest) but I had no complaints about the hotel: it was clean, modern and just minutes from the beach.
After Rio we flew north to Salvador in the Bahia region (most of our internal travel in Brazil was via flight due to the sheer scale of the country). The epicentre of Salvador, and the location of the vast majority of the city’s sights is the Pelourinho, the historical centre of the city. We opted to stay in a guesthouse close to the Pelourinho called Pousada Barroco na Bahia which, to be honest, I would not recommend; it looked gorgeous in the pictures but in reality was more like Dracula’s lair with dark rooms and dilapidated furnishings. The German owner was also extremely rude.
Our next stage on the Brazil trip was a flight down to the famous Iguazu waterfalls. We booked Hostel Nature which I would highly recommend; the rooms were basic but there was a lovely communal sitting room and garden with hammocks. They also made a mean caipirinha; when I ordered one, a staff member jumped on his bike and cycled off to the lime trees to pick fresh limes for my drink. Heaven. The hostel was also the location of one of the most memorable moments of my trip; Iguazu sits at a triangle at the border of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay and as Paul and I lay in the hammocks one night we saw a thunder and lightning storm in the distance. As we watched the forks of lightning pierce the dark sky we tried to guess what country it was taking place in.
Ilha do Mel
As so much of our Brazil trip involved moving from place to place, I was keen to set aside a few days to relax on a beach. Brazil has countless spectacular beaches but we needed one that was accessible to the route we had planned. After a lot of time spent researching options we ended up going for the little known Ilha do Mel near the town of Curitiba which we flew into from Iguazu Falls. Ilha do Mel was a revelation; it had stunning beaches and coastlines, lush green jungle and some lovely beachside bars. Our accommodation, Pousada Coração da Ilha, was basic (the rooms were tiny and walls paper thin – we could hear the guy in the room beside us vomiting his hangover each morning as clearly as if it was in our own room) but good enough for us. The staff were very friendly and it had a great location right on the beach.
Serra Verde Express and Curitiba
After getting a boat from Ilha do Mel to Curitiba we got the Serra Verde Express train from Curitiba to Morretes. The Serra Verde Express is a three and a half hour journey that offers spectacular views of canyons, jungle and the Atlantic Ocean. Train is my favourite method of transport and the journey was awesome – even the bit when the music player got stuck and played Dire Straits Walk Of Life non stop for half an hour.
Sao Paulo was the last destination on our trip and one we were always going to include due to our friend Tom moving there. We spent a few nights sleeping in Tom’s place before moving on to this airbnb then flying back to Glasgow on KLM.
Transport And Accommodation Costs For Brazil Trip (For Both Me And Paul)
Our three weeks in Brazil is by far the most we have ever spent on a one off trip. A once in a lifetime experience indeed. However, it was worth every penny – Brazil was absolutely incredible and surpassed every expectation.
Flights from Glasgow to to Rio de Janeiro and return from Sao Paul to Glasgow on KLM: £1543
Ibis Copacabana Hotel for five nights: £419
Two nights in Sao Paulo accommodation: £144
Salvador accommodation for three nights: £131
Iguazu Falls accommodation for two nights: £66
Ilha do Mel accommodation for three nights: £132
Internal Brazil flights were booked as a package on TAM airlines (now known as LATAM airlines): Rio to Salvador, Salvador to Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo to Foz Do Iguacu cost £385 in total.
Cost of Serra Verdge Express for both Paul and I: £50
Total Cost Of Brazil Trip For Both Paul and I Including Flights And Accommodation: £2870