Brazil's pure vivacity and iconic natural landmarks are a heady combination and there's no better time to visit than during Carnival. This 11-day itinerary whisks you away to Rio de Janeiro's wildest and most flamboyant party, before taking in the mighty Iguacu Falls and the beaches of Buzios.
Itinerary at a Glance:
- Grand stand seats at a samba parade during Carnival
- Get swept up in the energetic street carnival
- Explore Iguacu Falls, one of the seven wonders of the natural world
- Unwind on the stylish beaches of Buzios
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Day 1: Fly to Brazil
Your flight to Rio de Janeiro departs from the UK at lunchtime. Flying time is roughly 11 and a half hours so make sure you've consulted our handpicked reading lists and downloaded your exclusive Brazilian playlist; perfect for in-flight inspiration.
Touch down into Rio in the evening and you will be met for your private chauffeur transfer into the heart of the city. The journey takes around half an hour to your ocean-facing hotel. You'll arrive in the late evening, so relax and have dinner at your hotel. If you fancy a taste of local nightlife (purely to head off any jetlag, you understand) head to a bar for your first caipirinha of the holiday. Our Rio Dossier is updated regularly and contains excellent tips on the best places to eat, drink, party and shop alongside suggestions on the city's best sights.
Day 2: Whirlwind Rio
After breakfast, your private guide and chauffeur will show you around the vibrant city. Start at the bustling fruit and vegetable market and make sure you grab an acai (pronounced 'ah-sigh-ee') berry juice.
Then it's off to see the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue, on the 2,300ft Corcovado mountain for sprawling city views all the way to the sea. Nearby, the bohemian Santa Teresa district offers oodles of local charm as does the Lapa district with its flamboyant Selarón stairs covered in more than 2,000 brightly coloured tiles. End the day catching a cable car to the top of the Sugarloaf Mountain for sunset views. Then return to your hotel in plenty of time to relax and get ready for your first night celebrating Rio Carnival.
For tonight we've reserved grand stand seats at the Sambadrome where you can watch a gigantic parade of samba schools performing in all their fervent glory. It's a fierce competition and dazzling spectacle.
- Artist's studios
- Museum of Tomorrow
- Museum of Modern Art
- Visiting samba schools
Day 3: Dancing in the Street
Spend the morning recovering by your rooftop pool and enjoy a leisurely lunch overlooking the beach. In the afternoon, your guide will accompany you out into streets alive with unhampered carioca soul.
This is no time for British reserve, so let loose to the thrum of samba dancers, musicians and extravagant costumes with exuberant performances on every street corner. Your guide will be able to take you to see the best 'blocos' - marching bands whose legion of followers party through the streets from dusk 'til dawn.
Day 4: Rio's Favelas
Today you will see a different side of the city exploring a neighbourhood favela (shanty town), one of the many found in the surrounding hills.
Your guide today is a favela resident and can give you unparalleled insight into these complex communities. Walk through the maze of alleys for a taste of the local life, past painted walls and houses built from exposed brick, cement and steel. From these heights, you may also find that the views here are some of the most rewarding in the city.
We have left the afternoon free so you can enjoy a long lunch and explore at your own pace, perhaps doing a spot of shopping before your flight tomorrow.
Day 5: Fly to Iguacu
This morning, your guide will meet you for your transfer to the airport for your onward short flight to Iguacu, home of the eponymous waterfall.
On arrival, you will be met by a private chauffeur who will take you deep into the rainforest to your tropical hideaway. With Brazil's iconic natural landmark right at your doorstep, you don't have to wait another second to explore the Iguacu Falls.
Head straight out onto the walkways, taking in your first views of one of the largest waterfalls in the world. When it's bed time, rest your head to the soothing sounds of a jungle chorus.
Day 6: Chasing Waterfalls
Wake up bright and early for a day exploring the Iguacu Falls. Your private guide will accompany you over to the Argentinian side (occupying nearly two thirds of the falls).
Take a gas-propelled train to explore the highest falls on a maze of catwalks. The most impressive waterfall, the Devil's Throat, is as mighty as its name would suggest and you can marvel at its thundering curtains of water from the viewing platforms that rise 3,600ft above the Iguacu River. Adrenaline seekers (who don't mind getting wet) can hop on a boat at the base of the falls to ride the whirlpools and waves. Those seeking calmer waters can take a zodiac ride downstream through enchanting cliff-side scenery flanked by frothing waterfalls and tropical forest.
- Helicopter rides
- Visit the bird park
- Jeep rides in the jungle
Day 7: Beach Bound
Enjoy a morning at leisure to explore the Brazilian side of Iguacu Falls. You'll have access to the falls before the park opens to the general public, so we suggest you rise early to make the most of the privacy.
Then it's off to Iguacu airport for your domestic flight to Buzios. Upon arrival a private driver will be waiting to whisk you away into the historical heart of Buzios and your bolthole by the beach. You'll arrive in the late afternoon, so you may want to drop your bags and head straight to the bar for a caipirinha at sunset.
Days 8-10: Buzios
It's time to relax in quintessential Brazilian beach style. Famously known as Brigitte Bardot's romantic hideaway, the bohemian beachfront town of Buzios oozes the languorous glamour of the 60s. Spend your days reclining by emerald water dotted with local fishing boats and yachts.
Should you wish to move from the sun bed, you can go stand-up paddle boarding in the calm sea or sail away on a private boat charter along the coast. In the evenings, you may want to try some of our favourite local restaurants that specialise in fresh fish. Our regularly updated Buzios Dossier recommends the best spots. Or we can arrange a private picnic in our secret ocean-facing spot or even a romantic candlelit dinner.
Day 11: Home
It's time to say goodbye to the beach and your private chauffeur will meet you for the approximately three hour transfer to Rio airport in good time for your international flight home.
The direct flights are usually overnight and take roughly 11 hours. Remember to make sure your iPad is fully charged for the journey ahead.
Day 12: Arrive in the UK
Your flight into London will arrive at around lunchtime.
Will is our expert for this itinerary and, as a seasoned traveller, has the inside track on the most memorable adventures.