We traveled to 4 places in 13 days (including travel time), as shown in the map below and outlined in the details below the map. We flew in and out of Brazil through Manaus, and we got to the 4 cities within Brazil using the Brazil Airpass on the domestic airlines 'TAM'.
Days 1-4: Rio de Janeiro (A)
- Surf and sand time along the beautiful adjacent beaches: Leblon, Ipanema and Copacabana
- Hired a taxi to take us to Corcovado hill where the symbol of Brazil, the "Christo Redentor" statue is casting its shadow over the entire city. I wanted to take the train up the hill, but it worked out better to go in a taxi given our schedule.
- Walked around the energetic Santa Teresa neighborhood
- Went to Pão de Açúcar, also known as Sugar Loaf Mountain, to check out the gorgeous sunset and the beautiful city of Rio de Janeiro
- Enjoyed and participated in the many street parades that where people were pre-partying before Carnaval officially started
- Partied all night (only one of the two nights of Carnaval) with the locals in sambódromo while watching many samba schools compete
- Lots of great places to have coffee in Rio: Armazem do Cafe and Alessandro & Frederico, both in Ipanema, and cafes inside bookstores like Livraria da Travessa, in Ipanema, Livraria Argumento, in Leblon, Livraria Letras e Espressões in Ipanema and Leblon
- If you want an interesting view of the famous Copacabana beach, you could go to the Forte de Copacabana, a former military fort, now a museum open to the public which has a restaurant and a great view of the beach. These military forts usually have great views of the city and are very safe places to hang around. There is also one with a steep way on the other side of the Copacabana beach called Forte do Leme but it is not as interesting
- There are also good hiking areas but you should always use the assistance of guides. The most famous one is the Pedra da Gavea hiking. There are specialized companies which provide this kind of service
- Hang-gliding is a very popular activity where tourists glide from near the twin peaks of Leblon all the way down to the beach. Rio Turismo Radical and Just Fly Rio are two of many companies that offer this activity. There were lots of people selling these activities in front of the entrance to Sugar Loaf Mountain. If you are keen on doing this, buy tickets the day you get to Rio as they tend to sell out. The activity is also very weather-dependent.
- Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas - A large lagoon in the middle of South Zone, with great views to Corcovado and Ipanema and Leblon beaches; there are skating and jogging fields all around it
- Jardim Botanico - The Botanical Garden, planted up in the 1800s. It is both a park and a scientific laboratory. If you take the bus note that Jardim Botanico is also the name of a neighborhood so make sure you take the right one to the entrance. The admission is $4. The gardens are well kept and very lush. Not far from the cafe, first you hear swooshing sounds. Look up and you can see small monkeys swinging from tree to tree
- MAM - Museu de Arte Moderna (Museum of Modern Art) - The second most important contemporary art museum in Brazil, after MASP (downtown, next to Santos Dumont airport). Modernist architecture spreading over almost the sea
- Niteroi – island off of Rio coast, good contemporary art museum with a modern building, Itcoataria beach is good.
- Kayaking - The Bay of Guanabara is perfect for kayaking. Avid paddler and guide Simone Miranda Duarte (tel. 021/2541-6437 or 021/9954-9632) runs guided tours out of Praia Vermelha. Her rate is R$250 (US$105) per 4-hour trip, including equipment and English-speaking guide. This works out to R$125 (US$52) per person for two, R$63 (US$26) per person with four people, and R$50 (US$21) per person for a group of five. The guides at Rio Hiking (tel. 021/9721-0594; www.riohiking.com.br) also organize kayaking tours out of Praia Vermelha in Urca out and around some of the small islands. The fiberglass kayaks aren't quite up to North American quality, but it's nice to be on the water. Cost is R$155 (US$65) for a half-day tour, including transfers, refreshments, and English-speaking guide.
- Tijuca Park/Forest – The rainforest surrounding Corcovado hill. Lots of waterfalls, animals and greenery
- The towns around Rio with great beaches and nature are: Buzios, Parati/Paraty (it's halfway between Rio and São Paulo) and Ilha Grande (see the next bullet)
- Ilha Grande – a beautiful and lush island off the mainland in the region of Angra dos Reis, near Rio. Other islands in the region of Itacuruca are popular as well
- For diving, people usually go to Arraial do Cabo
- Lapa is THE place. There are great samba and Brazilian music places there with lots of young people and great entertainment. Two of the most famous are: Carioca da Gema and Rio Scenarium.
- But there are other places in the same area where you can dance and see concerts of different styles such as Circo Voador, Fundacao Progresso and Teatro Odisseia.
- Usually during the summer, there are concerts and parties at night in the Sugar Loaf area. They are great, usually with famous Brazilian musicians and DJs and the place is fantastic, offering a great view of the city at night. The event is called Oi Noites Cariocas.
- Some of my friends usually go to a nightclub called 00 (zero, zero) in Gavea but I am not sure if it's really trendy this summer.
- There is also a place called Baixo Gavea where many young people hang around at night near the bars.
- Other places like this are Cobal do Leblon and again Lapa.
- Melt - 47 Rua Rita Ludolf Leblon - Restaurant and lounge bar popular with the Carioca high society. Inspired by New York lounge bars, it's dark and relaxed with soft sofas and cushions to Melt‚ into - so to speak. The cosmopolitan menu in the open-plan dining area combines Tex-Mex with Thai delights and apart from regular cocktails in the lunge bar the Caiparoskas are top notch - there are tasty Belgian beers to get the juices flowing too. The atmosphere heats up later on with sounds from samba to techno and trip-hop and you'll want to get close to some of the lovelies who spin their tails on the dance floor.
- Academia de Cachaca - 26 Rua Conde de Bernadotte Leblon, A laid-back yet up-market Leblon classic specialising in North East Brazilian food and great cocktails all built from the traditional Brazilian spirit of cachaca. There are at least 500 varieties of the potion to choose from - served up either straight, as traditional Caiparinhas, or as colourful fruity concoctions by barmen who are quite clearly pass masters. Try the passion-fruit Caiparinha with real fruit floating inside - best sipped while snacking on something like a manioc croquette with cream cheese. Our kind of academy!
- Bar d’Hotel - 696 Avenida Delfim Moreira Marina Hotel, Sexy, star-filled hangout for the beautiful people with a beautiful view of the ocean - not that much use is made of it. And why stare at the ocean when glamorous customers in various stages of designer undress are also on view? Food is fancy, finessed Italian fare, the menu appearing on a chalk board ferried over by a dashing waiter, but the cocktails are the real draw. Potent, inventive creations such as the Sake Caipirinha and a champagne cocktail with a lemon sorbet mixer proving particularly popular
Day 5: Foz do Iguaçu (B)
- Crazy night of Carnaval in its rawest state!
- Igreja de Sao Francisco - The famous San Francisco church
- Forte de Sao Marcelo - A fort along the picturesque beach
- The Historic Lighthouse
- Capoeira performance by the locals. Capoeira originated in Salvador!
Days 8-12: Manaus (D)
- Meeting of the Waters - where water from two rivers (Rio Negro and Rio Solimões) don't mix as their constituencies are very different
- Navigated the pitch darkness in kayaks to spot caimans
- Explored the flooded forest ecosystem in kayaks while following howler monkeys and looking for sloths
- Pink dolphin spotting
- Spear fishing and Piranha fishing
- Witnessed a gorgeous Amazonian sunset and moonrise at Lake Mira, which is just a section of stagnant water amidst a tributary
- Hiked within the rainforest and camping in the jungle on hammocks
- Visited a local family and 'harvested' branches of açaí, and helped make delicious açaí juice freshly crushed and sieved in front of us
- All of the above was part of an all-inclusive package deal we found through Amazon Riders
- Teatro Amazonas - the ornate opera house located in Manaus
- My lunch at an all vegetarian restaurant, Casa da Pomonha, right next to Teatro Amazonas
- The tangy and spicy tacacá soup at the central plaza that made your tongue go numb for a few minutes
Zaza Bistro Tropical
Rua Joana Angelica 40, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Saturday and Sunday for lunch only. (Expensive, but worth it. Snazzy)
R. Dias Ferreira 199, Leblon, tel 2274-7843
Comment: Ambitious with over 40 different salads and a strong organic profile, only open for lunch. (lots of good reviews!)
Praça Mahatma Ghandi 2 nr 104, Centro, tel 2220-7585
Comment: Macrobiotic, vegan-friendly
R. Senador Dantas 84 Store G, Centro, tel 2240-5388
Comment: Lacto, juice bar, salad bar
R. Santa Luzia 405 nr 207, Centro, tel 2262-6306
Comment: Macrobiotic, closed Sunday
R. Luiz de Camões 98, Centro, tel 2221-7416
R. Primeiro de Março 24, Centro, tel 2232-8007
Comment: Vegan, buffet, salad-bar
Restaurante Vegetariano Beterraba
R. da Alfândega 25, Centro, tel 2253-7460
Type of Food: Vegan
R. Conde de Bernadote 26, Leblon, tel 2274-8983
Comment: Raw, vegan, organic, juice bar, organic natural foods market and raw food restaurant. (reviews look really good!)
R. Voluntários da Pátria 402, Botafogo tel 2286-7088
Comment: Yes, vegan. (reviews look good!)
R. Visconde de Pirajá, Ipanema, tel 2522-1494
R. Marquês de São Vicente 75, Gávea, tel 2512-2283
R. do Carmo 38, Centro, tel 2252-5356
Comment: One of the first vegetarian restaurants in Rio.
Le Cafè Vert
R. Barão de Jaguaripe 182, Ipanema, tel 2522-0669
R. da Quitanda 21, Centro, tel 2252-6041
R. Buenos Aires 22, Centro, tel 2233-9602
Restaurante Vegetariano Beterraba (Vegetarian-Friendly Restaurant)
Rua da Alfândega, 25 A - Centro, Rio De Janeiro
Type: Vegan-friendly, Brazilian, Not 100% Vegetarian (looks good!)
Bistrô do Paço
Praça Quinze 48, Centro, Rio de Janeiro 021/2262-3613
A good option for a light lunch, the daily buffet of salads (R$14 per person) includes carrot salad with oranges, potatoes, and apples. You also can try an onion, cheese, or spinach quiche.
Vegetariano Social Clube
Rua Conde de Bernadotte 26, Loja L, Leblon, Rio de Janeiro 021/2294-5200
Vegan restaurants are rare in Rio, and this is by far the most sophisticated. The small eatery has carefully prepared dishes free of any animal products that go much beyond brown rice or burdock. Sunday and Wed for traditional Brazilian food. Sunday is lunch only.
Ipanema, Rua Anibal de Mendonça, 55C
Ipanema, Rua Barão da Torre, 173 (Good acai juice!)
We did not visit São Paulo, but here are some recommendations from Catia and Anjali for what to check out and where to eat in this bustling city:
- There is a very interesting Japanese neighborhood, called Bairro da Liberdade with a huge Japanese colony (the largest concentration of Japanese people outside Japan)
- An interesting park (Ibirapuera)
- Sophisticated places to visit include the Jardins, Iguatemi, Oscar Freire Street, Iguatemi Shopping Mall, Cidade Jardim Shopping Mall, Daslu (uber chic mega store)
- There are also good art museums and a great nightlife with lots of different and excelent restaurants, clubs and bars
- As for day trips, people usually go to Guaruja and Ibatuba for the beach but I don't think these places are as great as the ones near Rio.
Vegetarian Friendly Restaurant Recommendations in São Paulo:
Alameda Santos, 2214, São Paulo (at Cerqueira Cesar, Jardins, Metro: Consolação, between Haddock Lobo St and Bela Cintra Vegetarian and organic restaurant. Menu features pilaf, veggiemeats, tofu, yaki soba noodles, banana curry, mushroom risotto, and more. Segunda a sexta das 12 às 15 horas, sábado das 12 às 22 horas, domingo das 12 às 16 horas.
Galeria Nova Augusta, Rua Augusta - 2077 - Loja 03
Cozinha vegetariana. Sao Paulo vegetarian restaurant, more like an eat-run-back-to-work kind of place. Friendly service. Maybe closes around 4pm.
Vegethus Restaurante Vegetariano
Rua Padre Machado, 51, São Paulo (at Rua Domingos de Moraes, próximo ao metro Santa Cruz, Via Mariana, Zona Sul)
Sao Paulo vegetarian restaurant. Mostly vegan with some organic options. Accept credit cards. Open daily for lunch. Segunda a sexta das 11:30 às 15 horas, domingo das 11:30 às 16 horas.
Rua Haddock Lobo, 899, São Paulo
Fulô offers organic food and drinks in a charming setting. Open 11:30am-11:30pm.
rua Oscar Freire, 2273, São Paulo (at metro Sumarê)
Galleria Orgânica is an organic vegetarian restaurant using certified organic ingredients and featuring 5 types of organic wine and 1 Brasillian organic beer. Lunch is served Mon-Sat 11am-3pm with choice of either cooked or raw and includes a soup, salad, and dessert for R$16. The pizzeria features all-you-can-eat for R$25, and is open Thur-Sun 7pm-11pm. Fri-Sat nights features after hours pizza-lounge with dj spinning music.
Rua Fradique Coutinho, 766, São Paulo (at Vila Madalena)
New ownership since April 2008. Lassi, chutney, pakoda, poori, feijoada vegetariana, organic salads. Cash only. Closed Monday.
Rua Peisoto Gomide, 1078, Jardim Paulista, São Paulo
A la carte menu dining. Open Mon-Fri 11:30-15:00, Sat-Sun 12:00-17:00.
Av. Pompéia, 2544, São Paulo (at Sumarezinho)
Try the Shiitake strogonoff on Sundays. Segunda à sexta das 11:30 às 15:30 horas, sábado e domingo das 11 às 16 horas.
Rua dos Buritis, 54, Loja 31 - Shopping Jabaquara
Brazilian, Juice bar
Rua Muniz de Souza, 1170 (01534-001) (at front of Aclimação Park)
Lacto, Vegan-friendly, Organic, Indian, International, Juice bar, Delivery
Bistrô e Restaurante Natural. The restaurant occupies two levels of the house while the bistro is at front by the sidewalk. Features four daily options of combinations and 2 options of juice and dessert.
Casa do Natural
Rua Fradique Coutinho, 910, São Paulo (at Vila Madalena)
Also store selling lots of natural products. Almoço diariamente das 12 às 16 horas domingos e feriados cardápios especiais.
Rua Diogo Moreira, 312, Pinheiros
Veggie buffet. Open Mon-Fri 11.30-15, Sat 11.30-15.30.
Rua Rodésia, 242, Vila Madalena
Ovo, Lacto, Vegan-friendly, Brazilian, International, Buffet
R. Dona Antônia de Queiróz, 40, Bela Vista
Vegan, Fast food, Salad bar, Juice bar, Brazilian
Espaço Impróprio is a vegan restaurant in Sao Paulo. Open Tue-Sun 10-23.
Rua Chafic Maluf, 193, Brooklin
Ovo, Lacto, Vegan-friendly, Brazilian, Buffet, Juice bar
Rua Frei Gaspar 71, Centro Santos, São Paulo
Simple place that's hidden. Look for the little sign inside the hall up the stairs. Approximately 10 reais for buffet that includes drink and dessert. Non smoking.
Rua Florida, 1442, São Paulo (at Brooklim, a uma quadra da Av. Eng. Luís Carlos Berrini na praça Lions Monções)
Large buffet spread featuring salads, breads, fruits, and hot foods. Almoço das 11:30h às 15:00h.