A Capoeira Class
Original Travel can arrange private or group capoeira and samba lessons in Rio or in Salvador; after all, where better to learn?
The Afro-Brazilian art form in which pairs of dancers break out from a circle and 'spar' with hands and feet was created by slaves who, it is believed, disguised weapons held between their toes in what appeared to be nothing more than an elaborate dance game. It is a breathtakingly fast demonstration of human agility and utterly mesmerizing to watch, whether in a formal show or impromptu display.
If you've ever wanted to try the acrobatic twists and kicks of capoeira dancing, Salvador may just be the best place to do it. In a city known for African soul, you'll visit a dedicated school to try your hand at this mesmerising traditional martial art. Feeling brave? Take your newfound moves onto the cobbled streets where the pros perform at dusk.
A Divine Experience
Visit a Candomblé house of worship where you can watch an authentic religious ceremony unfold. A local guide will take you to one of the city's neighbourhood terreiros (Candomblé temples) where you'll see Bahia's unique religion first hand, with its rich melange of Afro-Brazilian culture and spiritual influences. Watch soulful rituals of singing, dancing and drumming which enable orixas, or deities, to possess the bodies of its white-dressed participants.
Things to do in Salvador
Stroll around the cobbled streets of the postcard-worthy Pelhourinho, with its colourful old-world mansions and richly-adorned baroque churches. Combine this with a walk along the breezy boulevards and a visit to the historic sea-facing Mercado Modelo. In the late afternoon you'll hear the rhythmic drumming of impromptu capoeira as the smell of frying shrimp fritters fills the streets.
The most exciting moment in the Salvador calendar is undoubtedly the spectacular February carnival, when up to two million revellers from all over Brazil and the world fill the streets for four days, dancing, singing and drinking in inimitable Brazilian style.
The music, stands and processions cover a range of pre-announced Circuits, with everything from samba to reggae, candomblé drumming and outlandish costumes on display and entertaining the crowds.
Garganta del Diablo
Take a private tour and enjoy panoramic views of the Garganta del Diablo (Devils Throat), the most dramatic part of the Iguacu Falls where water flows from three sides. Beware.you're close enough to feel the fall's spray. Explore the lower falls on the a safari - start with a ride on the Iguacu river and end with a guided hike through the rainforest to learn about the flora and fauna.
Iguacu Bird Park
Brazil is home to some of the world's most magnificent birds and a much-loved sanctuary can be found just moments from the entrance to Iguassu National Park. Wander between the trees on raised wooden-walkways and spot over 160 different species living in 12 acres of natural habitat. Don't miss out on feeding the flamingos before you leave!
The only way to experience the true majesty of the falls. A thrilling helicopter flight you to observe the many different cataracts and curtains of water from the sky and gain a unique perspective of the entire park and the immense power of nature.
For unrivalled views of one of the New Natural Seven Wonders of the World, take a helicopter ride over the Iguacu Falls. Silence the arguments over whether it’s the Argentinian or the Brazilian side of the Falls that affords the best view and see all 275 waterfalls, as well as its surrounding rainforests.
Original Travel can arrange an hour's private journey from either side of the Falls for the ultimate in photo opportunities and awe-inspiring experiences.
The Meeting of Two Rivers
Experience an Amazonian spectacle in the jungle-city of Manaus. Known as 'The Meeting of the Waters', you can witness this natural wonder on the confluence of the coffee-coloured Solimoes River and the inky black water of the Rio Negro. For nearly four miles, the rivers run side by side but never mixing, a phenomenon due to the different density, temperature and velocity of the two rivers.
Take a tour through the Amazon's great jungle capital. During the rubber boom the city saw grandiose architecture like the wildly opulent Teatro Amazonas opera house. Witness its striking mosaiced dome - the city's shining beacon - as well as its hand painted ceiling, Carrara marble stairs and Murano-glass chandeliers. You will also have the chance to visit the Parisian-style Municipal Market bustling with handicrafts and a lively fish market.
A Jungle Escape
Live out your jungle dreams from a stylish lodge immersed entirely in the Amazon. Wake up to the calls of exotic birds before a day hiking through the billowing rainforest. Accompanied by an expert biologist, you could go canoeing on the mirror-like Cristalino River, spotting capybara or tapir on the river banks. Alternatively, climb an 165ft viewing tower to see macaws, tanagers and white-whiskered spider monkeys.
Art in Inhotim
Make the pilgrimage to Inhotim, an artist's paradise created by mining tycoon, Bernardo de Mello Paz. Witness the extraordinary scale of this sculpture park as you peruse 5,000 acres of botanical gardens and lush green countryside dotted with works by the likes of Doug Aitkens and Anish Kapoor. Not only will you see innovative art but also a bewildering array of flora, including over 1,000 species of palm trees.
Visit Ouro Preto, one of the prettiest colonial towns in Minas Gerais, with a wealth of architecture virtually untouched since the mining era. UNESCO-credited for its baroque splendour, stroll down its cobbled streets lined with attractive whitewashed mansions, gem shops and lavish churches. You'll visit a couple of colonial masterpieces such as the highly ornate St. Francis of Assisi Church, the opera house and the Virgin Mary of Carmel Church.
While Tiradentes may be on your list for history, its cobbled colonial streets are also an esteemed foodie mecca. Visit this under-the-radar culinary capital during its August food festival where every year, world-class chefs flock to showcase their sensational culinary skills. As well as phenomenal food, you can spend time mooching around the antique shops and charming boutiques.
Beach Dreams in Jericoacoara
Visit the beach town of Jericoacoara (or Jeri as the locals know it) with its wide open sands and emerald hues, where you can stroll down the sandy alleys dotted with surf shops and seafood shacks. Gusty sea breezes makes it a kite-surfing mecca and superlative surf spot. Come evening, sip caipirinhas with toes dug in the sand and watch the sun set from the top of the dunes.
Kite Surfing in Jericoacoara
Famous for its large dunes and crystal-clear lake waters, the National Park of Jericoacoara sits among a conservation area, protected from ferocious onshore wind making it the perfect destination for kite surfing beginners.
More experienced kite surfers can visit the beach of Prea, sitting just 12km outside of Jeri and home to strong winds, huge waves and a number of IKO schools.
If you find yourself in the beach town of Jericoacoara, take a dune buggy and career along the coast to Pedra Furada, a picturesque arched rock carved by years of crashing westerly waves. You'll pass the picturesque Malhada Beach, a surfing hotspot, or take the coastal path for sweeping views of the rugged shoreline. Pause to cool off in turquoise lagoons and stay late for dreamy sunsets.
An Exclusive Island Getaway
Journey to Fernando do Noronha, a castaway wilderness archipelago which only allows 400 visitors at one time, meaning you can lap up golden coastline and jungle-clad hills in rare peace. Steal away to secluded beaches or head onto azure waters spotting dolphins and sea turtles.
Visit the pretty town of Paraty and wander its cobbled streets, colourful colonial houses and 17th century churches. Delve into tiny restaurants and charming craft shops or head into the surrounding rainforest for a hike. You could even board a yacht on a seafaring jaunt and explore its secluded virgin islands. Stop to snorkel in the crystalline water and tuck into delicious seafood lunches.
Kayaking from Paraty
Running from Sao Paulo to Rio de Janeiro, the Costa Verde boasts endless stretches of beautiful coastline where dense rainforests spill directly onto the beach.
From Paraty it is less than an hour's paddle to the opening of Saco do Mamángua, a unique tropical fjord flanked by white sandy bays, jutting boulders and sheer mountains coated in tropical rainforest. Paddle up the fjord and take time to stop off at different bays for sunbathing, swimming and snorkelling or a spot of lunch. Further exploration can be done on foot, trekking through the jungle to the summit of Pao do Açucar or ""Sugar Loaf"". This peak stands at approximately 1,800 feet high and offers incredible views over Saco do Mamángua, Ilha Grande and on a clear day, even the islands of Angra.
Christ the Redeemer
You may have seen South America's most iconic landmark featured on just about every postcard, but nothing can prepare you for the real thing. Take the train up the Corcovado Mountain where Christ the Redeemer stands surrounded by the Tijuca National Park. Its towering height and outstretched arms are just as beguiling as the panoramic views that stretch across the sprawling city all the way to the sea.
Local Kicks in Santa Teresa
Head up in the hills to the bohemian district of Santa Teresa, home to the brightly-coloured Selaron stairs, Rio's most celebrated creative landmark. Wind through its cobbled streets and sloping alleys dotted with artistic enclaves. Or hop on the school-bus-yellow tram, Latin America's oldest electric railway. Duck into charming local hangouts serving traditional dishes like the beloved feijoada (meat stew) and the punchiest caipirinhas going.
A City Island Gem
Florianopolis, a little-known island gem, is Santa Catarina's cool island capital. Unwind on its white sand beaches and swim in cool shimmering waters which, incidentally, produce some of the most flavoursome oysters you'll ever taste. Head into the rainforest and hike farm trails or take a surfing lesson on Joaquina Beach, famed for its perfect waves. Combine all this with some seriously chic city life and you're onto a winner.
A Whale Watching Safari
Head out to sea on a whale watching adventure in southern Brazil's protected offshore marine reserves. From the (relative) comfort of your dinghy, keep a lookout for southern rights, humpbacks and baleen whales as they escape the cold Patagonian waters in favour of the warm northern climate off Brazil's coast. This is the best possible way of getting close to their barnacled underbellies and spraying blow holes.
Whale Watching, Florianopolis
Escaping the harsh winter, the whales migrate northwards in search of warmer and calmer waters in which to reproduce and nurse their young calves. A designated area of protection stretches 87 miles down the coast from the South of the Island, in Florianópolis. The greatest concentration of whales is off the Southern coast, between the towns of Garopaba and Imbituba.
Your boat trip will usually take place as early as possible in the morning since the wind and sea are both calmer which makes observation easier. You will most likely embark at Garopaba or at Imbituba, depending on where the whales have been sighted most recently. After the trip, there is an opportunity to visit the Whale Museum at Imbituba.
The Catedral Metropolitana
If you visit Florianopolis, duck into the Catedral Metropolitana, an architectural feat that took 20 years to construct. This 18th century church underwent serious renovations in 2005 which revealed original frescoes in the cathedral canopy, grand altars and elegant neo-classical porches. Inside, you'll also find rare religious art such as the 'Escape to Egypt,' an impressive life-size cedar-wood sculpture.
Things to do in the Pantanal
A Jaguar Safari in the Pantanal
Venture through the Pantanal, a sprawling wilderness of beguiling flora and fauna to spot capybaras, howler monkeys and tapirs, as well as the elusive jaguar, the region's most sought-after creature. Scour the riverbanks on a boat to spot them in the wild, with picnic in tow so you don't miss a thing. Expert guides will help you identify their majestic bodies and take you to prime viewing spots.
Sightings are of course never guaranteed in such a wild and vast place, and particularly where one of the world’s most elusive animals is concerned, but the Pantanal region is one of the top spots in South America for enthusiasts and is thought to be home to between 4,000 and 7,000 jaguars.
The best chance to catch a sighting of these big cats is during the dry season, from July to October. Spend a few days with expert local guides who will take you out at the best times and be sure to have your camera at the ready as this is a once in a lifetime opportunity not to be missed.
Horse Riding in the Pantanal
Take a quiet ride through the Pantanal's marshland accompanied by a gaucho (South American cowboy). Roam through the wide savannahs, lagoons and winding rivers that make up the largest freshwater wetland in the world. As you ride, you'll see exotic animals such as anteaters, capybaras or even the endangered blue hyacinth macaw. Later you could try herding Pantanal cattle with the cowboys.
Discover all Brazil has to offer with any number of activities, as well as immersing yourself in local Brazilian culture and traditions during your visit to this stunning part of South America. Read on to explore some of the best things to do while on holiday in Brazil.
Snorkelling the Sucuri River
For a spot of off-beat snorkelling, try swimming in the Sucuri River, considered a natural aquarium. After a brief hike through lush native forest, you'll arrive at the headwaters where you'll sport a mask and flippers to drift along 1,800m of intense blue crystal-clear water, floating over subaquatic gardens and shoals of piraputangas, pacus and golden dorado.
Trekking in Chapada Diamantina
Trekking is easily one the best ways to discover all there is to see in Chapada Diamantina - the Diamond Plateau - a land of underground rivers, cacti and dramatic landscapes which is deservedly considered one of the most fascinating natural areas of Brazil.
Starting off in the charming colonial town of Lençois at the edge of the National Park, you can explore this beautiful region with your English-speaking guide. During the trek you can choose to base yourself at a lodge in the town or in smaller, more basic accommodation along the way as you delve further into this breathtakingly beautiful area. Cool off in one of the many crystalline pools as you walk through a landscape of craggy cliffs, tabletop mountains, plunging valleys and endless plains. Explore the underground caves, visit the country's highest waterfall or follow the ancient miners' trails; there are endless things to do and see here so you'll have no problems filling a few days in the region.
As you can tell, there are plenty of things to do in a country as huge as Brazil, but if we were asked to cherry-pick one particular highlight, it would be planasub. Introducing a water sport somewhere between snorkelling and wakeboarding and about the most fun you can have in the waters of the Fernando de Noronha archipelago, a UNESCO Natural Heritage site consisting of 21 small volcanic islands off the coast of Northern Brazil. Only the largest island, also called Fernando, is inhabited, and visitor numbers are strictly controlled to help preserve the pristine environment. Offshore, things are even better, as the island's waters are a Maritime National Park famed for the incredible - sometimes 50 metre - visibility.
Explore the underwater world and rich marine ecosystem on unique see-through boogie boards that attach to a steadily moving speedboat. Glide through the clear blue waters while wearing a mask and snorkel so you can dive down below the surface. It's brilliant fun, completely original, and if you're lucky one of the islands' resident pods of dolphins might come along for the ride.
The Fernando do Noronha archipelago is also known as one of the best scuba diving spots in the world due to the richness of the marine fauna and the transparency of the water. There are three certified dive schools on the main island that enable you to explore the underwater world. A Marine National Park created in 1988 covers 70% of the total area of the archipelago, protecting the rich marine ecosystem that includes turtles, dolphins and an abundance of colourful tropical fish.
Witness the best of Brazil’s remarkable natural wonders during your stay, from whale watching among the wild beauty of Florianopolis to helicopter rides over the spectacular scenery of the Iguacu Falls: this country is certainly not short of impressive sights. Read on for our top recommendations of things to see in Brazil…