RIO & its surroundings – Salvador de Bahia & Northeast – Amazonia – Iguazu falls & Pantanal

  • La Lapa and the business center – Always lively, these neighborhoods consist of contemporary and old buildings. Lapa is the old bohemian area from 1930s which is again in vogue thanks to the old buildings’ restoration as well as typical bars and restaurants patronized by the local residents so-called “cariocas”. Cabarets such as “Carioca da gema” and “Rio Scenarium” play great Brazilian music to listen and to dance. From Thursday to Saturday night, you better book your ticket as it is a hot spot for “cariocas” of all ages…

Around Lapa, important religious monuments must be visited: Santo Antonio Convent, Sao Francisco of Penitência Church and the gigantesque Rio Cathedral, opened in 1976 and that can hold more than 3000 people.

SUGARLOAF MOUNTAIN – before ascending to the top of this huge rock by cog-railway, a walk around is worth going. Known as “pista Claudio Coutinho”, a 2 kilometers pathway opens up into a thick greenery and follows the ocean. Many birds and monkeys live there. This path is open to the public and was the former training location of the Brazilian football team…

From the Sugarloaf top, scenery view of the Guanabara Bay, the historical center and Copacabana beach. Best time to visit this site should be mid afternoon and stay until the twilight. Two additional advices to discover Guanabara Bay which has been classified World Heritage site by UNESCO: cruise on the bay and visit Niteroi, the city in front of Rio, for which Niemeyer has created a splendid contemporary art museum.

The view of Rio from the Museum is magnificent!

Between the mountains, the Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon and the Atlantic Ocean, a piece of land holds the posh neighborhoods of Rio: Copacabana, the cosmopolitan, and the elegant Ipanema and Leblon, where hotels, restaurants and bars stand alongside residential homes.

Please note that the avenues facing the beaches are pedestrian zones on Sundays. It is another meeting point for the locals for a walk or a ride.

Main streets for shopping are rue Nossa Senhora in Copacabana, for less costly souvenirs and for jewels and Brazilian designers, rua Visconde de Piraia, Ipanema. Every Sunday, in this neighborhood, a handicraft market called the “mercado hippie” is held at General Osorio square. The best “churrascarias” in town can be found in Copacabana. These restaurants are loved by the cariocas and not only by them….. As a great diversity of meat is served as much as you want.

Leblon is where the best beach of the city is located and also Dias Ferreira Street where small restaurants and bars attract the young golden crowd of Rio especially from Thursday to Sunday….



Towards the South of Rio and by a very scenic mountain road, follows Andra dos Reis Bay, interspersed by islands. The best season is undoubtedly the dry season, from May to September.

First stop at Andra dos Reis where main street, rua do Comérçio, displays churches and buildings dating from the colonial and imperial periods. But, Angra is mostly a posh beach resort and numerous high quality hotels and resorts have settled in the coastline.

Leaving from Angra, catamarans reach Ilha Grande in 45 minutes, it is the greatest island of the bay and famous for the still preserved beautiful wild beaches with the splendors of Nature. A privileged site for walks, hiking and for easy or more demanding treks. Nice rides on boat are also options to be considered, leaving from Abraao, Ilha Grande small village.


One hour away from Angra, Parati delights by its privileged location between mountains covered by “mata-atlântica” and a quiet sea, easy to cruising back and forth (daily departures) or by small fishing boats.

The village is outstanding and has kept the urban structure of the imperial and colonial periods. Parati was an important harbor until mid-19th century when the village lost attractiveness sinking into oblivion.

The economic decline saved it and today Parati remains a nice example of former architecture: small houses with wrought iron balconies; four baroque rococo style churches. Santa Rita church, opened in 1722, shelters a small museum of sacred art that tells the village mystic enthusiasm. Many religious holidays are part of the events calendar of Parati including “Divino” – Pentecost/Whit Sunday.


For history and art lovers, for everyone passionate about old towns, the cities of Minas Gerais, all belonging to the “Estrada real” for gold, the itinerary of the mines operated during colonial Brazil, is a dream destination. To the cultural delight can be added the gastronomic pleasure as Minas is recognized for its rich and delicious cuisine.

The departure point to access the cities of Minas is the Belo Horizonte’s airport, about 2 hours away by plane from Rio or Salvador de Bahia. An itinerary through the historical cities can be done by car. The distance between the cities is about 3 hours.

Congonhas do Campoat one hour by the road from Ouro Preto and one hour and half from Belo Horizonte, this is stop not to be missed to capture the Brazilian baroque religious style.

On the very top of a hill, the basilica of Bom Jésus de Matosinhos embellished by the esplanade of the prophets, masterpiece by Aleijadinho, is designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.

In front of the basilica, chapels containing the main scenes of the passion of Christ through sculptures in natural size are part of the artistic heritage left by Aleijadinho.

Tiradentestwo hours from Ouro Preto, persists to be a delightful small town from the 18thcentury whose urban plan and architectural heritage have been perfectly preserved. Many fountains from the colonial period intersperse places and street corners adding a distinctive charm to the city. The touristic development of Tiradentes has created numerous boutiques of antics and regional craft of high quality. Go bargain-hunt especially for wood statues of the “lions de Tiradentes”.Must-see places:

A ne pas manquer :

  • San Antonio Church ,18thcentury, overlooks the city and is the last masterpiece of Aleijadinho. Magnificent interior with very rich decorations in gold, in a unique baroque rococo style.
  • Padre Toledo Museum,recently restored, is located in the old house of Father Toledo, one of the participants of the revolt against the Portuguese in 1792. There are 18 rooms telling the art of living in Minas during the colonial period.
  • Walk in the Serra de Sao José through trails opened in the Atlantic tropical vegetation. 
  • Travel aboard the steam train between Tiradentes and Sao Joao Del Rey. About 30 minutes.


SALVADOR – the “Cidade Alta” – The high city – with its historical downtown called the “Pelourinho”, a maze of winding streets surrounded by dwellings, churches and convents built during the colonial and imperial periods. This is the ultimate “tropical baroque” and the population of Salvador, very mixed, keeps the popular afro-Brazilian traditions, the most authentic in Brazil.

This is a festive city and its calendar of events is rich all year long. Nevertheless, the big popular festivities mixing catholic rites and African deriving from the animist religion, the candomblé, take place from December 4th until the last day the Carnival (February/March).

A ne pas manquer dans le Pelourinho

The square “Terreiro de Jesus” where a lively crowd is present all day and late in the evening. Sao Francisco Church and its cloister are testament of the wealth of Salvador during the colonial period. The ornamentation inside the building presents one of the most splendid examples of the Brazilian baroque style, certainly busy but still magnificent.

Time should be devoted to discover the churches of Salvador because they are many and most of them are worth visiting.  In the neighborhood of Pelourinho, we can quote the Sé (the cathedral), the church of Our Lady of the Rosary for Blacks (on Tuesday night, an Afro-Catholic service gathers the Black community of the city) and the frontage of the church Ordem Terceira de Sao Francisco.

While wandering in the Pelourinho, it is possible to visit the emblematic associations of capoeira (Afro-Brazilian martial art) and Carnival associations (Olodum, Filhos de Gandhi).

Outside of the Pelourinho, the neighborhoods of Vitoria and Barra, facing the bay of All the Saints with places of interest not to be missed: the museum Costa Pinto housing a beautiful collection of jewels that belonged to the slaves of wealthy homes; the lighthouse and the delightful tropical ambience of the avenue by the sea.

SALVADOR, the “Cidade Baixa” – the cornerstone city linked to the high city by the elevator Lacerda built in the 30s and that can transport up to 100 people each ride.

This is the port town area of Salvador, in front of the bay of All the Saints where boats are departing for cruises to the island of Itaparica. Opposite the harbor, it is possible to visit the largest craft market of the city, “Mercado Modelo”. Huge amount of boutiques, restaurants and bars.

Must-see places in the “Cidade Baixa”:

  • The popular Sao Joaquim Market: fruits, vegetables and spices. Preferably visit early in the morning when the boats loaded of merchandise arrive to the little harbor.
  • Nosso Senhor do Bonfim Church, high place of pilgrimage for Bahia and all Brazil. Glance at the room of the ex-voto.

 Salvador de Bahia

Towards north, a series of pristine beaches with a ring of palm trees around them facing the Atlantic Ocean. Amaralina, Pituba and the famous Itapuan close to the lagoon of Abaeté. Further out, the ancient fishing village of Praia do Forte is today a very popular beach resort. This is a very lively ambiance, with plenty of bars and restaurants. At the center of the village, a small church and the TAMAR Park, project for the protection of marine animals, invite to discovery. Among the remote beaches, Mangue Seco remains to be a place that has still not be touched by tourism. An adorable village and beaches with endless dunes create the perfect setting.

Towards south, the region of Recôncavo Baiano, formerly important financial hub because of the tobacco plantations. Three hours away from downtown Salvador, the road becomes extremely beautiful after Santo Amaro de Purificaçao, lined with sugar cane plantations. But, Cachoeira and Sao Felix, on the banks of the Paraguaçu River, are the ones that still really preserve the memories of the period of tobacco (beginning 19th century). To be highlighted the popular market of Cachoeira every Saturday morning.

Bahia Coastline – The undeniable appeal of the pristine beaches in Brazil, is without a doubt due to the cities and quaint villages close by.

Thus Ilhéus and Itacaré in the cocoa region, Arraial da Ajuda and Troncoso hold the necessary ingredients to love for those who want to spend a few days relaxing on some tropical beaches while travelling.



RECIFE AND OLINDA – Leaving from Europe, Tap Portugal offers direct flights via Lisbon to Recife.

Built during the period of the Dutch invasion, Recife and Olinda, twenty minutes away from each other, are nevertheless very different historical cities.

Recife is a capital, built between two rivers by the Dutch in the 17thcentury, attempting to replicate a city like Amsterdam with canals and bridges. The history and richness of Recife are linked to sugar, the state of Pernambouc being still a great Brazilian sugar producer.

Must-see places:

  • The “Capela Dourada”– Inside Sao Francisco Church, a jewel of the Brazilian baroque art.
  • Kazal Zur Isreal synagogue, the first one created in Latin America, fully restored and open to visitors.


Olinda, located within the tropical vegetation, is a city that rather looks like a village with colorful houses and beautiful colonial churches. Its Carnival is one of the most extraordinary expressions of the rich folklore of Pernambouc with its parades “frevo”, acrobatic dance accompanied by popular orchestras. Leaving from Recife, at about 1 hour flight, the archipelago of Fernando de Noronha, national park a place to observe the coastal fauna and enjoy this privilege location for beaches still well preserved.

FORTALEZA , ITACOATIARA . Leaving from Europe, Tap Portugal proposes direct flights via Lisbon to Fortaleza.

About three hours away from Fortaleza, the village of Itacoatiara, fishing town and posh beach resort, remains a charming location to enjoy the pleasures of the beach between dunes and easy-going hustle and bustle.



Manaus can be accessed by domestic flights leaving from Rio and Sao Paulo (5 hours flight with stop) and from Europe with Tap Portugal via Lisbon.

Manaus offers the visitors many contrasts. Located in the core of the jungle, the city has preserved many monuments that are testament of its sumptuous past.

Emblematic relics of the ephemeral but glorious period of the rubber, the famous theatre Amazonas and the palace Rio Negro. The theatre or opera house has been re-opened to the public after several decades. It is a full house, two to three times a week, also during the occasion for a lyric art festival held every year and that attracts the biggest names in the world of opera.

Not too far, adjoin to the floating harbor, the municipal market has literally overflown from the limits of the Eiffel style shed built to welcome it at the beginning of the 20th century. This is a meeting point for the city-dwellers and the people living in the rainforest, and who go to Manaus to sell the products from nature (manioc, fish, handicrafts … ) and also to buy products.


  • The formation of the Amazon River by Manaus, known as “the meeting of the waters” from the rivers Negro and Solimoes that do not mix together due to the power of their flow.
  • The archipelago of Anavilhanas, north of Manaus, is the place where the rainforest is still very well preserved. The best way to discover this Nature’s sanctuary is, without a doubt, by 3 or 4 day cruises.


At the bottom of the waterfalls, a free speedboat helps you to get to the San Martin Island to admire the Salto de San Martin closer.

This is the second most powerful waterfall of the location after the Devil’s Gorge.

Visit of the Brazilian side: this promenade aims to the panoramic view of waterfalls, the canyon and the forest.

The viewpoint is spectacular! It is possible to fly over the waterfalls by helicopter and take walks in the forest with specialized guides.