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BRAZIL (THE REPUBLIC FEDERATIVE do BRAZIL):

 

 

 

Brazil is South America’s largest and the world’s fifth largest country.  It’s 3.5 million square miles of landmass is so huge that it borders every South American country except two.  Brazil is a nation of amazing contrast: from the packed beaches of Rio’s Copacabana and Ipanema to the mountains of Parque Nacional do Caparo to the rainforest jungles of the Amazon.  When the mention of the celebration of Carnival is addressed, one immediately thinks of Brazil. 

 

Visiting Brazil requires adequate time: two weeks is ideal.  Don’t try to tackle too much territory or you’ll discover that it’s a daunting task, not a vacation.  It’s akin to foreigners trying to see the United States of America in a single visit.  Distances are vast: 3 – 6-hour flights between Brazilian cities is not uncommon.  Air is the only practical means of transportation: train travel is practically non-existent, good road systems are not available in all regions.  Traveling in a group with a guide is highly recommended.

 

REQUIRED DOCUMENTATION:

A valid unexpired passport and visa is required.  Brazilian Visas are expensive and may take 6 - 8 weeks to get.  Your passport must also have a minimum of six months remaining before expiration.  You must secure visa from Brazilian consulate or embassy before entering Brazil - no exceptions.

 

Proof of yellow fever inoculation is required. 

 

Embratur, the Brazilian government tourist bureau, hopes to eliminate the visa requirement prior to the 2014 World Cup. 

 

LANGUAGE: Portuguese.  Most Brazilians speak only Portuguese. 

 

CURRENCY: real (1994 - present) R$

 

BEST TIME TO VACATION IN BRAZIL: 

 

  

 

Brazil is a very large nation geographically.  The weather fluctuates by locale and has several climate zones.  Keep in mind that Brazil’s summer is winter in the United States.

 

May through August is generally the best weather. 

 

Most of Brazil has two seasons:

Dry: March 22 - September 21

Wet (rainy): September 22 - March 21 - the rainiest month is December.  December to March is very hot and humid.  Rains usually last only 1 - 2 hours, except the Amazon and the Pantanal.

 

Southern Brazil, however, has four seasons:

Spring: September 22 - December 21

Summer: December 22 - March 21: Expect maximum lodging rates.  South Americans travel heavily during this period.  Beach resorts are sold out.  Carnival Time: reach for your wallet!

Autumn: March 22 - June 21

Winter: June 22 - September 21

 

MAJOR HOLIDAYS IN BRAZIL:

January 1: Confratermizacao (New Years Day)

Tuesday before Ash Wednesday: Carnival

Quarta-feira-de-Cinzas: Ash Wednesday

Sexta-Feira da Paixlo: Good Friday

Days following Good Friday: Corpus Christi

April 21: Tirdentes

May 1: Dia du Trabaho (Labour Day)

 

 

 

September 7: Independence Day

October 12: Our Lady of Aparecida Nossa Senora de Aparecida

November 2: Dia de Finados: All Souls Day

November 15: Proclamation de Republica: Proclamation of the Republic Day

December 25: Natai (Christmas Day)

 

MAJOR FESTIVALS AND EVENTS IN BRAZIL:

February 28 - March 8, 2014: Carnival - nationwide, but especially in Rio. 

June - July, 2014: 2014 World Cup - Events throughout nation

2016: The Summer Olympics - host city Rio de Janeiro

 

PINCHING PENNIES: TO TIP OR NOT TO TIP:

Most hotels add an automatic 10% - 15% to your total bill to reflect gratuities.

Luggage Porters: R$2 - R$5 (Flat - regardless of number of suitcases)

Luxury Hotel Maids: R$1 – R$2 per day

Hotel Valet: R$2

Hotel Room Service: If not automatically added to bill, R$2.

Restaurants: 10% is customarily added onto total billing. If not, tip 10%.

Taxis: Tip is not expected

 

 

 

THE AMAZON:

 

  

 

The Amazon is the granddaddy of all rainforests - the world’s largest.  Sixty percent of the Amazon’s landmass is in Brazil.  It spans eight South American countries and the territory of French Guinea.  The Amazon’s river basin is the source of practically one-fifth of the world’s river water.

 

The Amazon River Basin’s nearest city is MANAUS (see separate alphabetical listing), where it all begins.

 

Belem and Manaus are the nearest transportation hubs to the Amazon.  Flights are available from Sao Paulo.  There are no roads in or out of the Amazon. 

 

While independent travel to the Amazon is not impossible, most visitors employ a tour operator.

 

AMAZON RIVER CRUISES:

A river cruise is your best option: 

Your choices?  Select a reputable operator and check reference carefully. 

 

Geodyssey’s Amazon Odyssey: (luxury) offers 12-night cruises. 

 

MV Tucano (budget) is a three-story river yacht with cabins.  Typically a four-night Amazon cruise departing upstream the Rio Negro and cruising the Amazon River Basin, Anavilhanas Archipelago to view rare pink dolphins and exotic birds.  The rain forest is home to the howler monkeys. 

 

 

 

The 150-passenger Iberostar Grand Amazon is a floating hotel.  A choice of three itineraries is offered: 3, 4 or 7 nights.  Multi-lingual including English speaking guides and staff are available.  Several tours are included: jungle walk, visit to an indigenous village, nighttime excursion searching for caimans, swimming with and feeding pink dolphins, fishing for piranhas.  Entertainment is limited: local folklore show one evening, dancing others.  You are likely to see many birds, including macaws, toucans and parrots in the wild, along with monkeys. 

 

The Amazon River Basin covers nearly forty percent of South America’s landmass and spans eight nations and one French territory. 

 

The Amazon River, second in size only to Egypt’s Nile; it has 1,100 tributaries, seven of which themselves are over 1,000 miles long.  The Amazon River holds twenty percent of the earth’s freshwater.  During the high or rainy season, the Amazon’s mouth grows to 300 miles wide!

 

Talk about diverse: The Amazon River Basin accounts for twenty percent of the world’s higher plant life and bird species, 2,000 varieties of fish, and ten percent of earth’s mammals, not to mention countless reptiles.

 

BEST TIME TO VACATION IN THE AMAZON:

The best animal viewing is March to June.  Other great months to visit are July, August, September, December and January.  These months are dryer with fewer mosquitoes, fishing and swimming conditions are better.  Disadvantages include higher temperatures, especially before December, waterways can be clogged by vegetation.

 

BEST TIME TO VIEW WILDLIFE IN THE AMAZON:

 

  

 

The best time to view wildlife in the Amazon is March through June.  These months provide cooler weather and are the best times for organized Amazon tours.

 

The Amazon’s transitional period is during May and June.

 

TIMES TO AVOID:

Be sure to avoid mid-October to March for the southern Amazon region, as this is the rainy season.  Avoid a visit to the central part – Manaus, from December to mid-May as it is rainy.  Avoid October to June for the northern region.

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN THE AMAZON:

PREPARATIONS BEFORE VISITING THE AMAZON:

·         Be prepared for minimalistic accommodations - you will not be residing at the Ritz or Four Seasons.  Say goodbye to creature comforts and white sand beaches.  It’s called a jungle for a reason - you are here to see the animals, not to lounge around sunning in a bikini and sipping mojitos. 

·         Standards may be less than at home - be flexible. 

·         Expect to encounter critter bites.  Mosquitoes are pesky and bite around the clock: bring lots of insect repellant such as DEET.  Despite the heat, bring long-sleeve shirts.  Wear drab, faded color clothing. 

·         Have your physician administer prudent shots: hepatitis A & B, rabies, typhoid and yellow fever.  The seasons are hot, hotter, and steam bath! 

·         Stock up on anti-malaria pills.

·         Sun glasses are a must.

·         If you value your fingers, toes and wits, avoid swimming in the Amazon and freshwater lakes and streams.  Swimming with the dolphins it is not: it is more like swimming with the piranhas, water snakes, caimans, dogfish, stingrays and electric eels! 

 

Most Brazilian Amazon excursions begin in Manuas (see separate alphabetical listing). 

 

 

 

Do not miss seeing the Meeting of the Rivers - juncture of the Rio Negro River and the Amazon.  The Rio Negro flows through forest land and carries dark sediment.  The Upper Amazon drops swiftly from Andean snows in Peru and is yellow.  A startling sight: the two come together and flow side by side for several miles before they blend to form the mighty river we know as the Amazon - the world’s largest rainforest.

 

Presidente Figueiredo, 66 miles north of Manaus, offers massive waterfalls, Ara Falls along the Rio Urubul being one of the most dramatic.  The jungle is so thick here, that visibility is limited.  The area is also home to monkeys, exotic birds, and butterflies.  

 

You’ll find manatees and other wildlife at the water Mammals Preservation Center in Balbina. 

 

The Suntuario waterfalls are a must see.  Ditto the Holed Stone waterfall at Pedra Furada. 

 

If on a tour boat, sooner or later, you’re bound to interact with the Amazon’s river dwellers, the Caboclos. 

 

SAVVY TRAVEL TIP: 

Be sure to stay overnight in an eco-lodge.  The floating Uakari Lodge, located 370 miles west of Manaus, is one choice.  The all wooden complex of several interconnected buildings, while stationery, and literally floats on the water.  Thank goodness there are no termites! 

 

 

 

BELO HORIZONTE:

 

  

 

Belo Horizonte is a modern metropolis with a population of 2.5 million.  This is more orderly and less hectic than Rio de Janeiro. 

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN BELO HORIZONTE:

 

  

 

A must: Outside Belo Horizonte in the town of Brumadinho is the Instituto Cultural Inhotim, a 3,000-acre botanical garden and contemporary art museum.  Fascinating exhibits are scattered throughout the park: examples are a room with a 600-meter hole in the ground that projects the sounds of the earth, and an igloo with a fountain that in the special lights resembles an ice sculpture. 

 

 

 

BRASILIA:

 

  

 

Brasilia is Brazil’s modernistic capital with a metro population of 3.25 million offers some of the most dramatic architecture on earth.  Surprisingly, few tourists include it on their Brazilian bucket list.

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN BRASILIA:

Brasilia simply did not exist until construction began from scratch in 1956 - 1959.  Brasilia is a carefully planned city with separate sectors devoted to hotels, government, banking and foreign embassies (there are 124), and residential.  A subway system has 24 stations.

 

The city’s Monumental Axis includes the Congresso Nacional - hosing the Senate and Chamber of Deputies, as well as the Palacio de Itamararty - the reception palace for the Ministry of Foreign affairs, the Metropolitan Cathedral, the Museu Nacional, and the Biblioteca Nacional.

 

The buildings are some of the most modern anywhere.  UNESCO has designated Brasilia as a World Heritage Site for its innovative and imaginative architectural and design. 

 

  

 

The National Park of Brasilia is a 115-square-mile urban oasis with mineral springs, hiking trails, rare bird viewing (toco toucans) and endangered animals. 

 

TASTY DINING IN BRASILIA: 

Dine where the bureaucrats dine: Patu Anu specializes in game dishes such as wild boar, crocodile, and capybara served with local ingredients.  The terrace offers nice views of the lake and city.

 

 

 

BUZIOS:

 

  

 

Buzios is a former fishing village transformed into a highly scenic Brazilian beach town and popular cruise port is located 121 miles northeast of Rio de Janeiro. 

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN BUZIOS:

There is a choice of 24 excellent beaches and scuba diving abounds.

 

 

 

CACERES:

 

  

 

TIME ON YOUR FEET IN CACERES:

Swim at your own risk at Daveron Beach on the Paraguay River and have your feet “caressed” by the local flesh-eating piranhas.  There are less painful means of trimming your calluses.  Swim with the piranhas and you won’t need to worry about your painful feet. 

 

 

 

COSTA VERDE:

 

  

 

Costa Verde is a coastal colonial town located 100 miles south of Rio. 

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN COSTA VERDE:

The area is known for its miles of pristine beaches, rugged jungles and its canyons.  It tends to attract adventure travelers seeking mountain hiking, rafting excursions through area rainforests, kayakers, and paddle boarders. 

 

 

 

CURITIBA: (pronounced: “Coo-ree-chee-ba”):

 

  

 

Curitiba, the capital of Parana, is a city of two million residents located in southern Brazil.  The lure for world travelers here is the study of modern city planning.  It has been voted one of the world’s most livable cities. 

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN CURITIBA: 

Curitiba, aggressively seeking to become a major golf destination, is considered the tinplate of well-planned urban planning, a model large city.  It is the most organized, cleanest, and safest city in Brazil.  The transportation system is considered a model for other major cities.  Interestingly, the transportation system is strictly buses - the world’s first panned exclusive bus rapid transit system.  Instead of pursuing an expensive and unaffordable train or subway system, Curitiba elected to build an efficient bus system that would be attractive to its passengers: clean, modern buses, dedicated bus lanes, bus stops with air-conditioned/heated tubular stations that enable quick and safe entry and exit, and frequent service.  The highly successful Curitiba system has become the blueprint for other bus systems to copy.  Routes respond to supply and demand - a system constantly adapting to its users.  Duh?  A novel approach versus the grandiose underutilized American transit systems. 

 

The city has several excellent museums and is conducive to walking tours.  Be forewarned that many tourist sites are closed on Mondays. 

 

The Jardim Botanico del Curitiba (botanical gardens) tops most visitor to-see lists.  The impressive modern glass structure creates a false anticipation of a superior flower-plant collection. 

 

 

 

The Museu Oscar Niemeyer is an architectural gem.  Unless you speak Portuguese, however, you may not capture the true essence of some of the art and sculpture collection.  The building itself should be seen.

 

The Paco Municipal Palace in downtown Curitiba has been transformed into a cultural center.  The city's Theater Festival is the most ambitions in Brazil.  

 

TASTY DINING IN CURITIBA:

Bistro do David is the consensus choice if you have time for only one night out while in Curitiba.  The restaurant provides French Brazilian cuisine with nice eye-appeal presentations.  It is located at Av. Nossa Senhora da Luz 1525, and can be reached by calling 41-3363-23-11. 

 

Barolo Trattoria is tops for Italian fare. 

 

WINDOW SHOPPING IN CURITIBA:

The Old City Market functions on Saturdays - vendors hawk arts and crafts. 

 

SAVVY TRAVEL TIP: When visiting be aware that winter temperatures average 54 degrees F and summer: 64 degrees F.  Dress warmly. 

 

 

 

FERNANDO de NORONHA:

 

  

 

Fernando de Noronha is an archipelago of 21 Outer Hebrides islands, 250 miles offshore in the Atlantic Ocean.  The islands sit just four degrees below the Equator.  The largest island of 10 square miles and 17 beaches and stark rock formations, is the only inhabited island (under 4,000 in population).  Only 420 visitors are allowed on this island paradise at any one time.  This one-time military base and penal colony was transformed in 1988 to a highly protected environmental sanctuary for the Atlantic’s largest colony of seabirds (frigates and terns).  It has become a favorite holiday vacation retreat of affluent Brazilians.

 

Getting here requires some effort: fly to Recife and then connect to a small aircraft flight to Fernado de Noronha.

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN FERNANDO de NORONHA:

This 21-island archipelago is UNESCO recognized as a World Heritage Site for its diversity of sea animals.

 

Over 230 species of fish have been identified in the area’s waters.  Diving and snorkeling off Praia do Sancho Bay is superb as visibility can be as much as 160 feet.

 

Surfers covet the reef and break points. 

 

SAVVY TRAVEL TIP: Surfing conditions are ideal from December to March. 

 

Two endangered sea turtles swim here along with spinner dolphins.

 

The islands are a favorite vacation destination for Brazilians and international visitors. 

 

  

 

Tiny Vila dos Remedios is the island’s only town.  Not much here aside from a church and several bars. 

 

Diving is exceptional.  The waters are so warm that divers can descend as deep as 120 feet without a wet suit. 

 

Mountain hiking in Noronha Marine National Park and bird viewing of albatrosses, Noronha Elsenia and Noronha are other favorite island activities. 

 

 

 

FORTALEZA:

 

  

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN FORTALEZA:

Forget Rio’s overcrowded beaches.  If you truly crave camping out on a beach, retreat to Fortaleza’s 400 miles of beaches and palm fringed bays. 

 

The new beachfront Ceara Aquarium is architecturally striking. 

 

 

 

FLORIANOPOLIS (SOUTHERN BRAZIL):

 

  

 

BEST TIME TO VACATION IN FLORIANOPOLIS:

December 22 - March 21: very hot and humid

 

AVOID: June 22 - September 21: cold temperatures (in the 40’s F): unsuitable for swimming and the beach. 

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN FLORIANOPOLIS:

 

 

 

Florianopolis is capital of Brazil’s Santa Catarina state.  It is blessed with several luxury hotel properties. 

 

 

 

IGUASSU FALLS:

 

  

 

Iguassu Falls is the world’s biggest waterfalls, two-tiered and three times larger than New York’s Niagara Falls!  Iguassu Falls consists of a series of 200 separate waterfalls cascading from 23-story-tall cliffs, the widest stretch of interlinking waterfalls in the world.  The falls are also two tiered in spots.  Iguassu Falls is an equal opportunity provider as it is located near the convergence of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay borders.  The flower-filled forest bordering the falls and graced by brilliantly colored butterflies and toucans, adds to the overall beauty. 

 

To get to the Iguassu Falls: Visiting the falls is an easy side trip from either Rio or Sao Paulo.

 

It’s a ninety-minute flight from either city. 

 

SAVVY TRAVEL TIP: You should stay no less than two days in order to view the falls both from the Argentinean and the Brazilian sides during morning hours.  It’s a half hour drive between the two sides.  Iguassau Falls is usually a side-trip after having first visited Rio or Sao Paulo.  It’s a 90-minute flight from either city. 

 

BEST TIME TO VISIT IGUACU (IGUASSU FALLS):

The falls are at their best January, February and March.

 

Shoulder Season is March and April, October and November.

 

 

 

September and October are less crowded, with lower lodging rates, and less rainy.

 

March to November is popular.  May and June, however, are the rainy months – the falls are at their maximum.

 

AVOID: New Years and Carnival time, as there are maximum rates.

 

January and February is very warm and buggy, as well as crowded as most Brazilians and Argentineans are on vacation.  This is also during the time of maximum lodging rates.

 

Also avoid Easter time.  It is extremely crowded and there are maximum lodging rates.

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS AT IGUASSU FALLS:

An expert local guide is highly recommended for maximizing your visit to the falls. 

 

Weather permitting, take a thrilling ride along the river to the base and behind the roaring waterfall.  An alternative is to charter a helicopter for a panoramic view of the falls. 

 

  

 

Others prefer to hike the Parque das Aves, to view the parrots, toucans, crested cranes, boa constrictors, turtles, and iguanas.  A naturalist guided tour of the Macuco Jungle is another possibility. 

 

IN SEARCH OF A GOOD NIGHT’S REST AT IGUASSAU FALLS:

The Hotel das Cataratas is the only lodging adjacent to the falls.

 

 

 

ISTRIA:

 

   

 

Istria offers hundreds of miles of beaches along with water sports and recreational opportunities galore: sailing, snorkeling, diving, scuba diving, trekking, horseback riding, paragliding, hiking, tennis, golf, and bicycling. 

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN ISTRIA:

Istria has also been successful in achieving a reputation for offering excellent spas and gourmet dining. 

 

 

 

MANAUS: (see separate alphabetical listing for The Amazon): 

 

  

 

This isolated northern Brazilian large city of 2 million residents, once a shinny cultural oasis, has regressed into a seedy declining place.  It is surrounded by thousands of miles of forest and jungle.  There is little to see or do here.  It is, however, an important jumping off point for exploring the Amazon. 

 

THE BEST TIME TO VISIT MANAUS:

It is preferable to visit during the dry season: July through November.  It’s always hot and humid.  

 

AVOID: That said, the rainy season is December through June.  The river runs high and many waterway routes become impassable.  September temperatures are the HOTTEST!  Temperatures average 80 degrees F year round with high humidity. 

 

Arrive prepared for the elements with a raincoat and waterproof hiking boots.

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN MANAUS: 

Most Amazon ventures begin in Manaus, a cosmopolitan city of 1.8 million in population.

 

A one-night stay should suffice before setting out on your Amazon adventure. 

 

Manaus is not exactly teaming with must see sights: 

 

 

 

The harbor is bustling with activity.  A popular excursion is the boat tour to “The Meeting of the Waters”, where the black Rio Negro meets the brown water Solimoes.  Where they meet, both rivers travel side by side for about four miles without mixing due to a difference in currents and water temperature (the Solimos is cooler and its current faster) a very dramatic sight. 

 

The Museu de Indio covers the culture of the region’s people. 

 

Eduardo Riberto Avenue, adjacent to the port, is the place for purchasing Havaianas flip-flops and crafts, and sports several restaurants and bars. 

 

Based on the present dearth of culture, it is difficult to comprehend that the Teatro Amazonas, a beautiful opera house, was once thriving and dates back to 1896.  It still operates today.  English speaking guided tours are offered. 

 

“Get outta Dodge” and take a half-hour micro flight charter over the nearby rainforest. 

 

TASTY DINING IN MANAUS:

Sweet revenge: In Manaus the local seafood is piranha/piranhas - yep-the same rascals that enjoy biting you.  Tasty?  You be the judge.  Some say it’s an “acquired taste” and is similar to bluegills.  Even the Japanese question whether this will ever becoming a staple in seafood restaurants “all-you-care to eat piranha night?”

 

A NIGHT ON THE TOWN IN MANAUS:

 

  

 

The city’s nightlife is at the beachfront neighborhood of Ponta Negra Beach.

 

It may be on the edge of the Amazon, but Manaus is not void of culture, as witnessed by the impressive neo-classical, pastel pink Manaus Teatro Amazonas, the local opera house that dates back to 1896 and the era of local rubber wealth. 

 

WINDOW SHOPPING IN MANAUS:

The old market, Mercado Adolpho Lisboa (1880 - 1830), housed in an ornate Art Nouveau metal structure patterned after Paris’s famed but defunct Les Halles is a fresh fish/produce/souvenir market.  It’s worth a look-see.  The market is located at R dos Bares 46 Centro. 

 

 

 

NOBRES:

 

  

 

Nobres is located in the remote forests of central Mato Grosso. 

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN NOBRES:

Nobres is a prime wildlife area brimming with colorful macaws. 

 

Nobres offers snorkel with the stingrays.

 

Visit the remote forests of the central Mato Grosso and view hundreds of colorful macaws. 

 

 

 

THE BRAZILIAN PANTANAL:

 

   

Hee-haw-getti-up buckaroos, you’re now in remote cowboy country!  The Pantanal is located in central-western Brazil, just south of the Amazon Basin. 

 

The Pantanal is a mosaic of seasonally flooded savannahs and tropical forests.  The wildlife viewing is the finest in Latin America. 

 

Pantanal is an immense 81,000-square-mile wilderness rainforest that extends beyond Brazil into Bolivia and Paraguay.  The wilderness has lush flora, abundant, but difficult to view mammal wildlife.  Nature watchers and photographers, however, are richly rewarded with 650 bird species, amphibians, and reptiles. 

 

The nearest city is Culaba. 

 

THE BEST TIME TO VISIT THE PANTANAL

From July through October the Pantanal is dry.  This is an excellent time to view wading birds, caimans and Capybaras.  Jaguars are often seen walking or resting on the white sand beaches and forested riverbanks.  While ninety percent of the days between May through October are nice, hot and sunny, there can be occasional cold (highs of 48 - 54 degrees F) and windy spells from May through September, so come prepared with rain gear, coat, and a hat.

 

Jaguars are also prevalent in June, November, and December. 

 

During March through June everything is green, the water levels are high, the scenery is lush and beautiful - fish and animals are quite visible. 

 

AVOID: Avoid visiting during December to March, as it is hot and humid.  The rainy season is October to March, especially January and February.  Flooding up to ten feet is common.

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN THE PANTANAL:

Local cowboys are not gauchos as in Argentina - here they are called pantanciros.  They live on family-owned fazendas, or ranches for your gringo translation. 

 

  

 

The area Jaguar Research Center provides prime wildlife viewing: hyacinthine macaws, 82 species of large birds, anacondas (yikes!), tapir, giant river otters, and of course, jaguars - the highest concentration of jaguars in the world.  The jaguars are viewed from close range from small boats operated by specially trained trekker boatmen. 

 

The Panatal is your best chance anywhere to encounter and view the elusive jaguar is nature.  Do not arrive in the Amazon expecting to encounter the likes of the elusive Jaguar in the wild, or you’ll be sorely disappointed - you obviously have seen too many old Tarzan movies.  Your best chances for jaguar viewing are at the Jaguar Research Center at Meeting of the Waters State Park in Culaba, northern Pantanal. 

 

The Biosphere Reserve Wildlife and its wetlands is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It is one of the world’s finest birding regions.  View Kingfishers, terns, and skimmers along with howler and capuchin monkeys and jacare caimans and capybaras. 

 

Birdwatchers will revel at Guaplacu Ecological Reserve as they view the hundreds of Kingfishers that frequent the rainforests. 

 

The rare and colorful hyacinth macaw and other mammals are viewable at the Ara Eco Lodge.

 

IN SEARCH OF A GOOD NIGHT'S REST IN THE PANTANAL

 

 

 

Wildlife viewing in the Pantanal requires some sacrifice.  Do not expect Four Seasons caliber amenities.  That said, JRC (Jaguar Research Center) provides the only tented camp in the wildlife forests.  No need for an alarm clock: you’ll awaken to the sounds of frogs, crickets and birds.  The accommodations, while Spartan, are clean and functional.  The walk-in permanent tents feature wooden floors, two double beds, private hot-shower bathrooms, electricity, two movable pedestal fans, and chargers for camera batteries and laptop computers.  To book reservations, visit the hotel’s website or call 55-65-3682-3175 during weekdays only. 

 

 

 

PARATY:

 

 

 

Paraty is a pretty, well-preserved colonial town turned artist enclave, a four-hour drive from Rio de Janeiro.  It also has a large Carnival celebration. 

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN PARATY: 

Paraty’s Old Town residences typically are white with colorful door frames.  The streets are paved with large cobblestones. 

 

Paraty itself, despite the presence of water seemingly everywhere, does not have beaches.  To access pristine beaches, one merely motors along the coastline or boats around the bay to an offshore uninhabited island.  The area is popular for sunning, swimming, snorkeling, and hiking. 

 

WINDOW SHOPPING IN PARATY: 

 

  

 

Hire a guide to take you shopping as few residents or merchants speak English.  Search for local arts, crafts, resin house wares and jewelry.  The best shops are in Old Town.

 

 

 

RECIFE:

 

  
 

Recife is a northeastern Brazilian city. 

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN RECIFE:

Local Carnival: Recife has an annual huge morning parade named the Galo da Madrugada - some say the world’s largest street party. 

 

 

 

RIO de JANEIRO:

 

  

 

Rio de Janeiro is known as the Cidade Maravilhosa or “The Marvelous City”.  With inflation, Rio has become an expensive city to visit. 

 

The local Cariocas are fun-loving party people. 

 

With the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics following in 2016, Rio as ascending onto the international stage. 

 

MAJOR SIGHTS:  

Christ the Redeemer - the largest art deco sculpture in the world.  It is reached by a cog railway. 

Sugar Loaf Mountain is reached by a series of cable cars.  Try to avoid foggy days.  

 

GEMS - Brazil is a major miner of colored gemstones.  The abbreviated bikinis of Copacabana Beach-O-la-la! - Carnival ambiance. 

 

Locals are called “Cariocas.”

 

Over five million foreign tourists visit Rio annually.

 

 

 

BEST TIME TO VACATION IN RIO de JANIERO:

The best time to visit Rio de Janiero is during March and April.

 

PRIME SEASON:

Prime visiting season is December, January, February, and March.  It is most crowded period with the highest lodging rates.  Rain is unpredictable year-round.

 

OFF-SEASON:

May to October is a good time to visit due to the lower rates, as well as cooler temperatures in the 70’s F and on occasion dipping to the 60’s F.  There is less beach life during these times.

 

MAJOR EVENTS AND FESTIVALS IN RIO de JANIERO:

New Years is a very busy time - reserve well in advance.  Enjoy the fireworks, samba, and partying on Copacabana Beach.  Expect maximum room rates. 

 

CARNIVAL RIO dates: (please note that the dates vary from year to year:  The four – five-day celebration always takes place seven Sundays prior to Easter Sunday, varying from March 22 through April 22).  The first night, usually a Friday, is always a “biggie” and a do not miss event. 

 

  

 

February 28 - March 4, 2014

February 13 - 17, 2015

February 5 - 9, 2016

February 24 - 28, 2017

February 9 - 13, 2018

March 1 - 5, 2019

February 21 - 25, 2020

February 12 - 16, 2021

February 25 - March 1, 2022

February 17 - 21, 2023

February 9 - 13, 2024

February 28 - March 4, 2025

June 12 - July 13, 2014: World Cup Games

August 5 - 21, 2016: Summer Olympics

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN RIO de JANEIRO: 

Rio is a city of sharp and jarring contrasts: rows of oceanfront gleaming new modernistic skyscrapers co-existing side by side with decaying ornate eighteenth century structures; shanty towns within sight of luxury residential enclaves.  A South American paradox:  Rio’s affluent class resides on flatland and the poor in hillside shanty towns.

 

Construction cranes are everywhere in anticipation of the Summer Olympics in 2016.  Rio is undergoing a major transformation, one hopes for the better. 

 

One item all Brazilians are in agreement is their love for soccer.  Brazil will appropriately host the World Cup in 2014. 

 

SUGAR LOAF:

 

  

 

Sugar Loaf, with a 1,299-foot summit, is a great way to begin your visit.  While not as high as Corcovado, its panoramic views of the city and famous beaches are far superior. 

 

The cable car takes you 722 feet from the street level ticket booth up to Morro da Urca, the squatter mountain beside Sugar Loaf.  Tiny marmoset monkeys are often present at the transfer point. 

 

A second cable car takes you the remainder of the distance of 1,300 feet to the top of the main rock.  The cable cars run every 20 minutes from 8:00 a.m. - 9:00 p.m.  Roundtrip fare is $35.00 per person. 

 

SAVVY TRAVEL TIP: For best views, stand on the left side of the cable car for the first segment, and on the right for the second cable car.

 

A cable car up Sugar Loaf costs $28.00.  A 20-minute train ride (a train departs every half hour) to the monument will cost you $24.00.  Elevators then will take you from the train’s terminus to the statue’s base.

 

The easiest way to access Corcovado is via taxi from Copacabana.

 

The alternative, if you are physically fit and super ambitious, is to hoof it up the mountain.

 

There’s a small gift shop atop Sugar Loaf, along with walking trails.

 

The viewing platforms are open from 9:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m. 

 

Explore the adjacent St. Tersesa and Lapa districts (see Window Shopping).  Lapa is more nightlife than shops. 

 

Common sense would be to avoid visiting the huge area of slums (favelas that collectively are known as the Complexo do Alemao) of Rio de Janeiro that hugs the city’s hillsides.  Twenty percent of the city’s population resides in less than stellar conditions.  If you insist, do so only as part of a three-hour group favela tour.  Be sure to call Favela Tours at 055-21-3322-2727.  Do you enjoy touring slums at home?  Not recommended, but you can even stay overnight in a favela “B&B.” 

 

  

 

Museu de Favela is the name given for an area of alley - interconnected 5,300 buildings graced with tasteful art graffiti.  This is the sanitized description of a disgraceful shanty-town area that the local politicians hope is in the transformational stages of displaying outdoor art at about 20 different building sites.  Granted, some of the slums are not as bad as the cardboard/corrugated tin shanties of Haiti; here, the two-story homes and apartments are at least built of concrete.  Crude wiring appears haphazard.  Wherever electricity is present, many residents choose television and the internet over more basic improved everyday living comforts.  One favela has its own television channel!  Do not take photos within the Favelas.  The museum is located at 7 Igrejinha de Fatima, 7 Igrejinha-2 Andar. 

 

The fact is that roughly 20% of Rio’s 8 million residents reside in these deplorable shantytown conditions (there are over 750 favelas in Rio), a sight that will be difficult to camouflage on television come Olympic time. 

 

Rather than improve the living standards (no streets, running water or sewers, drug traffickers and high incidence of crime), the city has chosen to make access easier for its residents by constructing a six station, 152 gondola ride system through its midst.  It serves 30,000 poor daily. 

 

The city made some headway trying to spruce up prior to the 2012 FIFA World Cup.  Substantial efforts have been made to arrest and drive the drug gangs out of 28 favelas.  The drug gangs “security police” the favelas as they do not want to draw legitimate police unnecessarily into their favelas.  They also protect the affluent, thus contributing to public complacency.  Crime thus is theoretically minimized in the favelas.  Alcohol not drugs, however, is the favelas’ biggest problem.  Grocery stores are even being built within the favelas.  The government is convinced that the poor are suddenly looking more like “middle class.”  Providing the customary everyday conveniences of electricity and running water would be an improvement.  Sadly, much work remains. 

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS: VISITING CHRIST THE REDEEMER:

 

 
 

The 125-foot statue built in 1931, is located atop hump shaped, 2,300-foot high, Corcovado Mountain.

 

It depicts Christ standing with his arms spread out in a welcoming greeting.  While everyone wants to see the statue up close, the best viewing is actually from a distant vantage point such as the Dona Marta lookout. 

 

There are several choices in accessing this famous site: on a clear day, charter a $63 per person helicopter ride for a six-minute aerial view - literally a whirlwind glimpse!  Less expensive, take a taxi from your hotel up Corcovado Mountain to the monument’s base (around $10.00).

 

On the cheap?  If you are really ambitious and have the stamina, try hoofing it up the

mountain and through the lush forest of Tijuca National Park to reach the monument’s base.  Be forewarned that the climb is strenuous and involves rock climbing.  

 

SAVVY TRAVEL TIP

Allow at least two hours for the ascent.  If you decide to tackle the climb, July and August, when the humidity is at its lowest would be the best time. 

 

Most visitors, however, ascend the mountain to the 2,329-foot peak via the Corcovado Cog Railway.

 

SAVVY TRAVEL TIP:

Christ Redeemer is best viewed early in the day or at sunset to avoid large tour groups that arrive mid-day. 

 

CARNIVAL IN RIO:

 

  

 

Carnival in Rio occurs on the eve of Lent.  It’s party time!  Four days of festivities.  A tradition that goes back to the 1700’s!  If you have never been to Carnival, it might surprise you to learn that the festivities don’t parade in the streets of Rio but rather at the Sambodromo.  That’s not to say there aren’t impromptu dancers and musicians in the streets and informal street parties (blocos) around the clock - it seems everyone is in costume and a festive mood, but the real action is at the Sambodromo. 

 

You, too, can be a parade participant simply by signing up with a local samba school who, for a fee, will even provide you with a costume and deliver it to your hotel-yikes!  Don’t fret: your costume will predictably be more modest than a g-string and plume. 

 

During the daylight hours, dance the samba at the beach.  Parade through Rio’s Santa Teresa in outrageous bright-colored costumes.  The merriment continues come evening with over 100,000 people dancing the samba at balls, at the local Carnival stadium, and of course, the overall biggie: the Sambodromo (90,000 spectators), as the city’s top twelve samba schools begin parading at 9:00 p.m. interspersed with giant four-story floats accompanied by scantily attired dancers with plumes and little else, in many instances only body paint.  Troupes of drummers set the cadence.  Reserved grandstand tickets range from $150 - $4,000! 

 

Samba parties continue following the Sambodromo parade all night long till dawn. 

 

The most risqué Carnival celebration is the gay gala ball with drag queens and queens doing their thing with revealing, sometimes shocking costumes, at the Scala.

 

 

 

The Carnival merriment at the Copacabana Palace is considerably more subdued with an invitation-only black tie and revealing dress, socialite celebrity Carnival Ball on Carnival Saturday. 

 

A word about hotel rates during Carnival: be forewarned that many hotels charge up to 400% of their normal daily rooming rate during Carnival time. 

 

The beaches of Rio are legendary: stately, bronze beauties romping in the sand and surf “attired” in minimalist bikinis. Summer is December, January, February, and March: warm, crowded beaches.

May, June, July, August, and September months are nice, but cooler. Less crowded beaches. Still ideal beach weather.

 

If you must, visit the packed beaches of Rio’s Praia de Copacabana (Copacabana Beach - a 2.5-mile stretch of white sand) and ogle the beautiful bronzed Brazilian women sporting their minimalistic bikinis and thongs.  Swim only where the locals are swimming - other areas can be dangerous.  Leave your Rolexes, cash and valuables back at the hotel.  It’s a beach!  Snatch and grab can be a problem at the beach. 

 

Rio’s beaches are a social gathering place for locals: they visit the beaches to sunbathe, to socialize and admire one another, to play games from chess and checkers to volley ball, and to order a cold beer and snack.

 

Children in tow?  Swim at the beach in front of the Meridien Hotel.

 

When the sun goes down, beach football takes over along with music and dancing.  Retreat to your hotel as crime worsens at night.  Frankly, if you’re a beach freak, I’m sure you have experienced superior beaches, and certainly less crowded.   

 

  

 

Copacabana may get the lion’s share of publicity, but Ipanema Beach is nicer, similar to Copacabana, and more relaxed and less crowded - the most upscale area of Rio.  The two famed beaches are separated only by the rocky Arpoador promontory.  Ipanema is also Rio’s most affluent areas with many nice shops.  Brazilian gemstones are a wise purchase if you enjoy jewelry.  Rio is world headquarters for ultra deluxe mega jeweler H. Stern. 

 

The surfer favorite is Barra da Tijuca beach.  The surfing conditions are at their zenith in May.  It’s also time to host the World Surfing Championships. 

 

The beaches, interestingly, tend to attract creatures of habit.  The lifeguard tower number is a clue of the beaches inhabitants: Play heed if you don’t want to feel out of place. 

Posto 1 to 6 is Copacabana Beach. 

Posto 7 to 12 is Ipanema Beach. 

Posto 3 and 4 attract the foreign tourists staying at Copacabana’s glitziest beachfront hotels. 

Posto 1, 7, 11, and 12 are family-oriented beaches.  Posto 11 and 12 have toddler areas. 

Posto 8 attracts a gay and lesbian crowd. 

Posto 9 “The beautiful people”- the hip set, attracting the trendy young. 

Posto 10 attracts the sport set: volley ball, beach football, ping pong. 

Posto11: muscle beach-oiled body builders. 

 

If unsure, ask.

 

On Sundays, Avenida Atlantica, stretching from Copacabana to Ipanema is closed to traffic.

 

Only tourists tend to swim in Rio’s beaches.  Don’t bring a beach towel.  Instead bring a kanga or a sarong if you want to lie on the sand.  Beach chairs are available for rental. 

 

Reading a book on the beach marks you as a foreigner. 

 

Going topless is taboo. 

 

Beach vendors selling everything patrol the beach hawking their wares. 

 

Constantly hold onto your valuables. 

 

A 90-minute cruise of Guanabara Bay is a pleasurable alternative to sunning on the beach. 

 

 

 

If time permits and you are able to snare tickets, by all means take in a futbol game at the Maracana, the world’s largest football stadium (seating capacity: 96,000).  Everything is up to snuff in preparation for the World Cup Finals in 2014 and the Olympics to follow in 2016.  The stadium is home to four futbol clubs, the Flamengo, Fluminense, Botafogo and Vasco.  Aside from game days, guided tours of Maracana and the Walk of Fame are offered 9:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m. 

 

Like many South American cities, shantytowns cling to the city’s hillsides.  A word of caution: remain vigilant as Ipanema is a mere two blocks from the crime ridden Cantagalo favela (impoverished district).  Take taxis after dark and leave your valuables at home even during daylight hours.  Do not walk around at night. 

 

In sharp contrast, Santa Teresa is where the elite reside: palatial mansions, corner cafes, cobbled streets, and boutiques. 

 

If you insist on walking around Rio, seriously consider booking an urban walking tour in the safety of a group.  Rio Walks offers several tours including “The Grand Bazaar Carioca” that explores several ethnic neighborhoods and markets.  “The Bay in Sight” includes Sugarloaf Mountain, Flamingo Park, and Christ the Redeemer monument.  Rio Walks can be reached by calling 53-21-7730-3626. 

 

If you arrive looking forward to touring historical structures, you will be sadly disappointed.  Most of old Rio was destroyed during the 1960’s - 1980’s in a modernistic movement. 

 

The eighteenth century governor’s palace survived the wrecking ball. 

 

Don’t miss viewing Jorge Selaron’s famous public art piece, the bright colored tile staircase. 

 

  

 

Museu Casa do Pontal is a worthwhile folk art museum, an escape from the hectic inner city. 

 

Follow 13 miles west along the Avenida das Americas and it brings you to Perdra de Guaratiba and the spectacular 90-acre Sitio Burle Mars estate known as Barra de Guaratiba.  It is a magnificent landscaped garden with some 3,500 rare plant species and a studio-farmhouse/cultural center adorned with high quality modern and folk art.  90-minute, two-hour guided tours are offered from 9:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. daily. 

 

Nearby is the Museu Casa do Pontal, another outstanding folk art museum worth visiting.  Over 8,000 items are displayed, including wood carvings, puppets, models, sculptures, masks, and mechanical circus models.  The Museu Case Do Pontal includes an on-premises gift shop.  The museum is closed Mondays. 

 

Stroll the Jardim Botanico with its thousands of trees, plants, and statuary.  The place dates back to 1808.  It is located at Rua Jardim Botanico 920.

 

 

 

The Museo Chacara do Ceu is one of the city’s best museums, housing a nice collection of art and offering great city views.

 

Fly like a bird - at least, you hope.  You may have seen this on television’s “The Amazing Race.”  Experience the heart-stopping views of the city as you are strapped firmly onto a hang glider and its pilot and all too slowly descend after jumping from the top of Pedra Bonita.  This is one experience where you might literally leave your heart in Rio!  This heart-thumping ride averages 10 - 30 minutes depending on the air currents.  Hopefully you’ll have a “soft” landing at Sao Conrado Beach.  Tandem flights are available.  For more information, please call 00-55-21-2422-6371. 

 

THE 2016 SUMMER OLYMPICS:

Most of the better hotels have already blocked their rooms for tour operator packages. 

 

Unless you have special connections, Olympic tickets are on a lottery system. 

 

Most of the Olympic events will take place in four neighborhoods: Barra, Copacabana, Maracana, and Deodoro. 

 

An above-ground monorail is being built to accommodate the anticipated Olympic crowds. 

 

IN SEARCH OF A GOOD NIGHT’S REST IN RIO de JANEIRO: 

Beachfront hotels are quite pricey.  Unless your wallet is brimming with loads of cash, consider staying at a less expensive non-beachfront property.

 

  

 

If money is no object, the 81-room Fasano Hotel (Ipanema Beach) is the preferred choice.  Celebrities fill the guest list.  The hotel has posh accommodations, as well as a rooftop pool.  For more information, please call 011-55-213-202-4000. 

 

The iconic 245-room luxurious Copacabana Palace also carries a hefty price tag.  You pay royally for its reputation and prime ocean-side location.  For more information, please call the hotel at 011-55-212-545-8787. 

 

The 298-room Hilton Barra is scheduled to open in June of 2014. 

 

TASTY DINING IN RIO de JANEIRO: 

Churrascaria or Brazilian barbecue is phenomenally popular.  Charcoaled meats are served on a skewer.  Avoid the chicken hearts!

 

Porcao is considered the best of the Churrascarias Portuguese barbecue.  Porcao is located at Rua Barao del Torre 219, Ipanema. 

 

  

 

You no doubt have one in your home city: Fogo de Chao, the original of the Brazilian churrasco (steakhouse) chains began here.  Charcoaled meats are on skewers served to your table. 

 

To quench your thirst midday: One becomes thirsty while sunning on the beaches. Sample the local fruit juices known as “sucos”: they come in many flavors including orange, lime, lemon, pineapple, passion fruit, the Amazon berry known as acai, gurana (loaded with caffeine), and graviola.

 

For something stronger, beer lovers drink chope - a light, young pilsener.

 

Booze time: the Brazilian national drink is Caipirinha, a sugar-cane derived alcohol called cachaca. 

 

While at Ipanema Beach, be sure to visit Confectionery Colombo, Rio’s oldest café (1894).  The classic old-fashioned bakery bakes some of the best key lime pie that you will ever taste.  The elegant upstairs buffet restaurant offers everything from excellent filet mignon to sushi.  Despite the elegance, dress is casual. 

 

A NIGHT ON THE TOWN IN RIO de JANEIRO:

The next best thing to experiencing Carnival firsthand is to attend the festive Plataforma Samba Show: a spectacular display of music, dance, light show, and elaborate costumes (a three-hour show).  You can attend with or without dinner: $115.00 without dinner, $140.00 including dinner.  The dinner is okay but unmemorable - you’ve come for the show, ,which is family-friendly.  The show begins nightly at 10:00 p.m., at Adalberto Ferreira , 32 Lebion. 

 

 

 

Arcos da Lapa has become a hip nightlife district.  Rio Scenarium, a former mansion turned nightclub is filled with quirky antiques.  Samba and choro music is played.  This experience is popular with tourists.  The club is located at Rua do Lavradio. 

 

Jazz at the Maze Inn offers both top jazz musicians and fabulous views of Sugar Loaf.  The Maze Inn is actually a rambling old villa bed and breakfast smack dab in a “safe” favela. 

 

For a romantic candlelit evening of bossa nova Latin Jazz, check out Leblon for Bar do Tom, Rua Adalberto Ferreira.  For more information, please call 32, 00-55-21-2274-40220. 

 

Maracana Stadium is the site of the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics.  Engenhao is also a major soccer stadium. 

 

Bossa nova jazz?  Head straight to Vinicius, a nice club with close-together tables and a small stage.  Don’t miss Maia Creuza if she is appearing.  Vinicius is located at Rua Vinicius de Moraes 39, Ipanema.  

 

WINDOW SHOPPING IN RIO de JANEIRO:

Dad: “Son, What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Son: “Daddy, I want to be a custom bikini designer/tailor in Rio!” 

 

To see what it would be like to be a bikini designer/tailor, visit Lenny’s, Lenny Niemeyer’s, Brazil’s premier swimsuit designer, at his flagship store in Ipanema, located at 35 Rua Visconde de Piraja. 

 

The Ipanema beach district is home to many an upscale shop.  Some of Rio’s finest merchants have outposts here.  In addition to jewelry, search for high quality local crafts. 

 

  

 

The Village Mall is an air-conditioned men’s and women’s designer fashion center. 

 

The St Teresa district is known for its art studios, restaurants, and cultural venues. 

 

 

 

SALVADOR:

 

  

 

Salvador, the third most populous Brazilian city located in northeastern Brazil, is an economically poor port city of 3.5 million residents and is sometime referred to as Salvador DA BAHIA.  It was the first colonial capital of Brazil and one of the oldest cities in the Americas.  It is Brazil’s “Capital of Happiness.”  Its residents are of African descent and represent eighty-percent of the local population.

 

SALVADOR da BAHIA provides musical and lively beach life.  It houses many top resorts.  Strong African culture prevails in music and cuisine.

 

MAJOR EVENTS AND FESTIVALS IN SALVADOR

Late February through early March - the date varies slightly every year: this six-day/night Carnival celebration with its drumming and dancing is second in size only to Rio’s. Salvador’s Carnival is completely different.  Most importantly, the parade celebration and festivities take place in the streets not an expensive ticket indoor sambodromo as in Rio.  Salvador’s Carnival is for the average ordinary person, for all classes to enjoy and celebrate.  Upwards of two million strong participant-revelers, predominately African-Brazilians march, beat drums and dance the samba in elaborate parade dress, huge trucks blare amplified music-unrestrained hedonism in what amounts to being the world’s biggest street party.

 

Reserve room lodging far in advance of Carnival time.  Over one million tourists attend the Carnival. 

 

BEST TIME TO VACATION IN SALVADOR da BAHIA:

There is nice weather year-round with little fluctuation in temperature.

 

AVOID: April, May, June: are the rainiest months, although showers are short in duration.  This is less popular with tourists and less festive than the remainder of year.

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN SALVADOR:

 

  

 

Luis Eduardo Magalhaes International Airport is 17 miles northeast of downtown Salvador, providing a fixed rate of $47.00 for taxi fare, as of 2013.  Most flights originate in Sao Paulo. 

 

Try to avoid rush hour traffic - it is horrendous.  A subway, under construction, hopefully will lend some relief. 

 

The historic Cliffside Pelourinho 9, also known as “Pelo,” for short, or central business district, is paved with cobblestone streets.  It is Salvador’s oldest district.  It is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 

The pastel-painted, red-tiled roof buildings of Pelourinho Square remind one of Lisbon, Portugal.  There are several centuries-old Catholic churches clustered around the square. 

 

The Planco Inclinado do Pilar, a funicular railway operates between the Upper downtown district and Lower Salvador.  The extremely brief twenty-second ride costs one thin dime one-way. 

 

Surfers flock to Itacare.

 

Beach sunning?  Take a two-hour catamaran ride to Morro de Sao Paulo on Tinhare for several secluded perfect beaches.

 

Cambodian is a unique blend of Catholicism and African tribal beliefs - it permeates and plays a prominent role in shaping local culture. 

 

  

 

Every inch of the Church of Sao Francisco is dripping in layers of gold, probably enough to eradicate the city’s poverty several times over.  It is definitely worth a look-see. 

 

If performing, don’t miss the drummers of Olodum, the group that backed recordings by Paul Simon and Michael Jackson.  They often rehearse in the Pelo district. 

 

Youth engage in what appears to be street fighting, but most often is competitive capoeria - an indigenous martial arts.  The sounds of drumbeat usually accompany the matches. 

 

Bahia is rapidly establishing a reputation for world-class golfing.  Renowned designers have planned several 18-hole courses for championship play.

 

A bizarre, often unsettling, sight to many is the Room of Miracles in the Nosso Senhor do Bonfim (Catholic) Church in the Salvador district of Bonfim (north of downtown Salvador).  The first sight greeting you is thousands of tiny colored ribbons on the church’s perimeter fence.  Each ribbon signifies a person praying for a miracle.  Legend has it that when the ribbon disintegrates, the requested miracle will be granted.

 

More startling are the interior full-sized wax replicas of human body parts: arms, legs, heads, hearts and male private parts dangling from the ceiling.  Each represents a realized miracle.  Hmm!

 

Be respectful if you visit and dress properly. 

 

 

 

The Museu Afro-Brasileiro, housed in a former nineteenth century medical school, displays an interesting collection of African slave-carved artifacts and tribal weapons. 

 

The city has several nice wide sand beaches - they become extremely crowded on weekends. 

 

Animal lovers visit Praja do Forte to view the giant turtles and to Abrolhos Marine National Park to see the whales.

 

IN SEARCH OF A GOOD NIGHTS REST IN SALVADOR

It’s the Fasanos Salvador in a heartbeat!  This chain beats the competition heads down.

 

The Sheraton da Bahia Hotel is a close second.

 

If you’re looking for Colonial charm, check out the Pestana Convento do Carmo in Salvador’s historic district of Pelourinho.  Be forewarned that noise, however, can be an issue on Tuesday Carnival nights.

 

  

 

Another nice small boutique lodging choice is the ten-room Hotel Casa Do Amarelindo. 

 

TASTY DINING IN SALVADOR:

Local Bahian cuisine consists of palm oil, cassava, coconut milk, cashews, lime juice, and dried shrimp, which are combined in preparation of various dishes. 

 

Somewhat difficult to find, but worth the effort, is the food and décor of Restaurant Paraiso Tropical.  The restaurant is located at Rua Edgar Loureiro 98-B. 

 

WINDOW SHOPPING IN SALVADOR:

Souvenir shops sell African drums of various sizes. 

 

 

 

SANTA CATARINA:

 

  

 

Santa Catarina is located in southern Brazil. 

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN SANTA CATARINA: 

Explore the picturesque coastline with pristine beaches.  This is a family-friendly resort area. 

 

 

 

The convent of Igreja de Sao Francisco is dazzling with every square inch dripping in gold both interior and exterior - it simply must be seen - be prepared to be dazzled.  It was built by forced slave labor.  Wonder what price it would bring melted at the local pawn shop/gold dealer? 

 

 

 

SAO LUIS:

 

   

 

This old eighteenth century colonial city is one of the oldest in Brazil.  Sao Luis has a predominately black population, a carryover from its days of slave labor working on area sugar cane and cotton plantations. 

 

THE BEST TIME TO VACATION IN SAO LUIS:

Prime season is New Years, Christmas and Carnival time.  Expect to pay higher rates.

February to May is the rainy season. 

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN SAO LUIS:

 

A NIGHT ON THE TOWN IN SAO LUIS: 

 

  

 

The Old Town area is where reggae comes alive in the bars and streets.

 

Caipirinhas is a popular local cocktail - lime, sugar, ice and sugarcane-based rum. 

 

 

 

SAO PAULO:

 

  

 

Sao Paulo is Brazil’s business and industrial center, depending on who’s counting on any given day, and is the fourth largest city in the world.  It is a city of gleaming glass skyscrapers, constantly re-inventing itself.

 

Interestingly, Sao Paulo is home to more Japanese population than any other place other than Japan. 

 

BEST TIME TO VACATION IN SAO PAULO:

The best time to visit Sao Paula is during April and May.

 

Temperatures rarely dip below 60 degrees year-round.  Winter is the most pleasant, hot, but bearable (June to September).

 

AVOID: Summers (December through March), are hot, hot, hot - rarely below 90 degrees and humid!

 

MAJOR EVENTS AND FESTIVALS IN SAO PAULO:

Morro de Sao Paulo: northern coast of Brazil, providing fine, less crowded beaches.  March and April are ideal months to visit.  Expect periodic rains in May.

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN SAO PAULO: 

 

  

 

Art fanciers will enjoy the superb art collection and gardens at the Maria Luisa and Oscar Americano Foundation, located at 4077 Avda, Morumbi, which can be reached by calling 55-11/3742-0077. 

 

Pinacoteca is the city’s most prominent art museum. 

 

Museo Paulista Universidade de Sao Paulo, also known as Museu do Ipiranga, was designed after the Palace of Versalles.  Its mission is to educate visitors on local and Brazilian history. 

 

During the Christmas holidays, local residents flee the city for the attractive northern shore beaches of Barra do Sahy, Guaruja, Juquehy, Sao Pedro, and Ubatumirim. 

 

IN SEARCH OF A GOOD NIGHTS REST IN SAO PAULO:

The Fasano wins head down. 

 

TASTY DINING IN SAO PAULO:

 

 

 

Restaurant Figueira Rubaiyat features Brazilian fish (tucunare, tamboqui, pirarucul) and steaks.  The dining room encircles a giant fig tree. 

 

D.O.M. recently received the fourth best in the world restaurant food award by Pelligrimo, numero seis on another, and multiple top ranking other award lists.  “Tasty,” it seems, is relative.  Perhaps Anthony Bourdain might enjoy?  

 

This place is not to everyone’s tastes: witness a shock-oriented menu of Amazonian ants on a pineapple slice, foamy core of an overripe coconut paired with algae - YUM!  And second thought: YUK!  For this you actually have to pay?  Unfortunately the showmanship service is inedible.  Gracious celebrity chef Alex Atala and his staff work up fussy French/Italian interpretations of local ingredients.  The place definitely has snob appeal.  Tiny portions are served with big prices: $280.00 for a four-course Tasting Menu.  With a $1,000.00 tab for two couples sans cocktails/wine/gratuity, you’ll certainly want to name drop that you were here.  Question is, would you return even if you could afford to do so? 

 

Pizza lovers have been flocking to Speranza for over 50 years.  For reservations, please call 011-55-11-3288-8502.  The substantial local Italian population supports several excellent pizza restaurants. 

 

The hottest new trendy spot is the Brazilian-Italian-inspired Attimo. 

 

Crisp Codfish turnovers sold by street vendors and at the Praca Benedito Calixto market are one of the most popular street foods in Sao Paulo. 

 

WINDOW SHOPPING IN SAO PAULO:

The city is known for its high-end shopping with the upscale neighborhood of Jardin being the preferred area.  Fall fashions are featured during the January and June (spring fashions) Sao Paulo Fashion Weeks.  Sao Paulo is known for avant-garde fashion, accessories and furniture.  The top hotels are also located in Jardin. 

 

  

 

The Vila Madalena district is where many fashion boutiques are clustered.  Two of the best are De Medeiros and Scorza-Rua Girassol, which can be reached by calling 310, 011-55/11-3032-0679.  Also be sure to visit 62 Graus, a gallery of famous Japanese-Brazilian artist, Rachel Hoshino. 

 

Projecto Terre is the place for woven items made by area artisans. 

 

The Village Mall is also a center of high fashion. 

 

A NIGHT ON THE TOWN IN SAO PAULO: 

Take in a concert at the Municipal Theater, Praca Ramos de Azevedo, which can be reached by calling 55-12-/3397-0300. 

 

 

 

TRANCOSCO:

 

  

 

Trancosco is a tiny former fishing/beachside village with an old-world ambience in northeast Brazil that has been discovered by Brasilia’s trendsetters and world-wide jetsetters.  The wealthy helicopter is in for weekend stays.

 

The nearest airport is Porto Seguro with flights from Salvador and Sao Paulo.

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN TRANCOSCO:

The area is on the cusp of blossoming into a luxury resort destination with several upscale hotel chains such as Four Seasons, Mandarin Oriental, Aman, and Fasano engaged in real estate speculation.

 

Stay tuned.

 

The village’s sixteenth century quadrado (town square) and colorful painted homes are UNESCO protected. 

 

IN SEARCH OF A GOOD NIGHTS REST IN TRANCOSCO: 

The Fasanos (opening in 2015) will be the decided choice winning hands down!