Brazil is the largest country in South America, encompassing around half of the continent’s land area and population. Spread out over a large landmass, the country packs in very diverse landscapes and experiences: from the impenetrable rainforests of the Amazon to the wetlands of Pantanal and sultry beaches of Rio.
Brazil is also home to the world’s biggest Carnival celebrations. Time your trip to coincide with the Rio Carnival like I did, and you’ll be experiencing Brazil at its best. I sure didn’t want to leave Brazil after Carnival ended!
Two weeks in Brazil are barely enough time to scrape the surface of what the massive country has to offer. For those with limited time, this Brazil itinerary will give you a diverse experience and pack in the best Brazil has to offer, from immersing in the backcountry to hanging out by the beach.
Table of Contents
- Two Weeks in Brazil Itinerary
- Two-Week Brazil Itinerary
- Brazil Itinerary Day 1-4: Rio de Janeiro
- Brazil Itinerary Days 4-6: Paraty & Ilha Grande
- Brazil Itinerary Days 6-9: São Paulo & Foz do Iguaçu
- Days 9-12: Bonito
- Days 12-14: Pantanal
- Day 14: Rio de Janeiro
Two Weeks in Brazil Itinerary
How to Get to Brazil
US citizens need to obtain an visa online before entering Brazil. The Brazil eVisa for US citizens allows travelers to stay for a period of up to 90 days per year and is valid for two consecutive years. It’s also a multiple-entry visa which does not limit the number of times that you can enter Brazil. You can obtain the eVisa within 5 working days upon registration. The eVisa costs $44.50 plus consular fees.
There are direct flights to Rio de Janeiro from New York JFK Airport on LATAM for under $1000 return. Most major airports in the US fly to Rio de Janeiro and flights are usually around US$800-1200 return. You can also find flights from most parts of Europe and UK to Rio de Janeiro for around 600 euros return.
How to Get Around Brazil
Brazil is a huge country and most of it is impenetrable forests — which makes flying an inevitable part of traveling here, particularly if two weeks in Brazil (or less!) are all you’ve got. Thankfully airfares for domestic flights in Brazil are affordable. For example, a flight from Rio de Janeiro to Foz do Iguaçu is US$100 each way.
Trains are practically non-existent in Brazil, as is in the rest of South America. Buses are pretty comfortable in Brazil but distances are long (at least 5 hours to get to any destination). Some of the most popular bus companies include Cometa, 1001 and Kaissara. Comets has first class seats that rival those of airlines (with seats that turn into beds.) More details on bus travel in Brazil here.
Travel Brazil Independently or on Guided Tour?
Safety in Brazil is a concern for many, rightfully so. Traveling independently can be challenging, especially since the country is very big and distances between cities are large. The country doesn’t have great tourism infrastructure in place, making it tough to explore the more remote and rural areas like Pantanal.
I traveled with G Adventures on the Wonders of Brazil trip. Our local guide was excellent and led us on an exciting adventure in Brazil. If you like the itinerary below and would prefer to travel with a group, check out the trip details. G Adventures is a Canadian adventure tour operator I’ve worked with many times and can highly recommend!
When to Travel Brazil
The best time to visit Rio is between December and March, when the weather is warm and sunny enough to hit the beaches. The city’s seductive samba beat and incredible panoramic views last year-round, but arrive in February to experience Carnival.
Brazil is an all year round destination made up of several climatic extremes, none of which are severe enough to avoid traveling to any part of the country. Across Brazil the warmest months are November to March: summer in the southern hemisphere. The Pantanal’s driest months are between April and October, but like in the Amazon, its wetter months offer distinct wildlife spotting opportunities and experiences.
I highly recommend traveling Brazil in February to celebrate Carnival in Rio and be part of the world’s biggest party. Easter (April) is another good time to travel Brazil, when the cobbled streets of Ouro Preto in Minas Gerais are covered in carpets of intricate patterns of flowers and other natural materials. Hotel prices are usually booked up during these peak travel periods, so be sure to book your hotel way in advance.
Travel Insurance in Brazil
I always recommend travelers to buy travel insurance, whether you’re traveling for a year or a week. It is particularly important have travel insurance that covers COVID-19 if you’re traveling during the pandemic.
Safety Wing is the most popular travel insurance company for COVID19-coverage. I use their Nomad Insurance plan, which covers COVID-19 as any other illness as long as it was not contracted before your coverage start date. Refer to my travel insurance guide for more details.
Cost of Travel in Brazil
Brazil uses the Brazilian Real (BRL). The current exchange rate is around USD1 to 3.34 BRL.
As compared to the other countries in South America, Brazil is relatively expensive with prices comparative to Argentina. A meal in an average diner is around 20 BRL and a nicer meal for two in a restaurant is usually around 100 BRL. It’s generally quite cheap to drink in Brazil; you can usually find a caipirinha for just 3.50 BRL.
What to Eat in Brazil
Before my trip to Brazil, all I’d heard of Brazilian food was their succulent meat and the rodizio (all-you-can-eat Brazilian steakhouse).
Here are some of the most traditional Brazilian foods and drinks:
- Churrasco: Brazil has always fought with Argentina for the title of South America’s barbecue champion. In Brazil, you have to visit a rodizio at least once: waiters will be serving up thick pieces of barbecued meat from skewers. You just need to tell them when to stop!
- Feijoada: If Brazil had a national dish, this would be it. It’s a pot of black beans cooked with chunks of meat, although the truly traditional feijoadas are made with pig’s ears, trotters and other parts. It’s served with fried kale mixed with bacon bits, rice, farofa and a slice of orange to flavor.
- Açaí: This renown super-food originated in Brazil, found especially in coastal cities. Try it plain as sorbet, or ask for banana, strawberry or granola. Açaí can also be found as a smoothie, a juice, in powder or even added into a main meal using its raw, berry form.
- Coxinhas: This hearty snack is a heap of shredded chicken wrapped up in a gooey, warm dough before being battered and fried.
- Pão de Queijo: This is so much more than just cheese bread. Made with cassava flour so it is totally gluten-free, these little puffs are crispy on the outside, squidgy on the inside and filled with cheesy flavor.
- Cachaça: Dating back to the 1500s, this Brazilian liquor is made from fermented sugarcane juice, and is best known as the fiery kick in caipirinhas – Brazil’s national cocktail.
Two-Week Brazil Itinerary
Brazil Itinerary Day 1-4: Rio de Janeiro
Most travellers, including myself, fly into Rio de Janeiro. While it’s no longer the capital of Brazil (which moved to Brasilia in 1960), Rio de Janeiro is one of the most vibrant and culturally-rich cities in the world. It offers pretty much everything you could want in one place – awesome views, white-sand bays, and buzzing nightlife.
By day, head to Copacabana Beach and Ipanema Beach for the sun and surf or view Brazil’s historic relics and fine art at Museu Histórico Nacional. Look up from almost any street in Rio and you’ll see Christ the Redeemer, the open-armed statue of Jesus Christ that sits atop Corcovado Mountain. You can reach this peak and enjoy an unforgettable view of the entire city by taking a narrow-gauge train. By night, you’ll find the year-round party at the samba clubs in Lapa, an eclectic bohemian district and nightlife centre.
Don’t miss the Escadaria Selarón, 125 meters of steps covered in bright tile which have been transformed into a world-known piece of art. Next to the steps is the Santa Teresa neighborhood, a renowned gathering place for intellectuals, academics, artists and politician. If you’re interested in visiting favelas (slums), I recommend going to the Santa Marta favela in Botafogo, which appeared in Michael Jackson’s MTV.
- Recommended nights: At least 3 nights (but you can also leave Rio for the end of your trip)
- READ: My experience celebrating Carnival in Rio
Accommodation in Rio de Janeiro
There are lots of hotels with fantastic views and rooftop swimming pools overlooking the beach in Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon. Many of them are surprisingly affordable if you’re not traveling during Carnival, New Years or Easter. Rio Othon Palace is right on Copacabana beach, with spectacular views of the bay and Sugarloaf Mountain. It’s also got a beautiful rooftop pool and a popular restaurant and bar on its 30th floor. Check the prices here.
A cheaper hotel in the same location is Orla Copacabana Hotel, also overlooking the beach and steps from restaurants, bars and attractions. There’s a metro station just 900m away and prices are as low as $59 for a double room. Check the latest prices.
For a budget option, check out Rio Beach Hostel which is clean, funky and very affordable. It’s located in the Botafogo district and around an 18-minute walk from the beach. It’s perfect for solo travelers who are looking to connect with other travelers. Book here.
I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to book your hotel in Rio de Janeiro way ahead of time, as they get booked up (and prices get jacked up) at peak travel season. When I traveled there during Carnival, I couldn’t find any affordable accommodation and ended up staying in an Airbnb room which was expensive and dodgy.
Brazil Itinerary Days 4-6: Paraty & Ilha Grande
Travel by public bus four hours down the southern coast and you’ll find Paraty, a colonial town with fantastic architecture and coastal vibes. Laid-back Paraty gives you the chance to slow down and relax, after partying too hard in Rio de Janeiro. The town has plenty of bohemian markets, fresh seafood restaurants and plenty of charm.
If that doesn’t sound tranquil enough – its cobbled streets are closed to cars, and this popular holiday retreat has lured artists and writers from Brazil and worldwide. Wander around the historical centre, visit Santa Rita church and its surrounding houses, chill on the beach in Barra do Corumbê or kayak the Jabaquara Mangroves. You can also take a boat cruise around the bay or a day trip to Trindade.
If you have some extra time, I suggest a stopover at Ilha Grande on your way to Paraty. I didn’t have enough time to go there, but I’ve heard it’s worth a visit. The island remains largely undeveloped as it was closed by the Brazilian government for more than a century to free movement or settlement because it housed prison. The island is now a popular tourist destination, known for its scenic beauty, unspoilt tropical beaches, luxuriant vegetation and rugged landscape. Here’s
- Recommended nights: 2 nights (add 2 more nights if you want to go to Ilha Grande)
- Rio to Paraty: Approximately 4 hours by bus
- READ: How to get from Ilha Grande to Paraty or vice versa.
Accommodation in Paraty
A good high-end place to stay is Pousada do Principe, a colonial-style heritage hotel that’s really charming and historical at the same time. It’s located in the Paraty centro (old town) and just a few minutes’ walk from the beach. Check for prices here.
I stayed at Pousada Villa del Sol, the most popular accommodation option in Paraty. It’s well-priced and well located, just 800m from the Praia do Pontal beach but a little further from the old town. It has a relaxed, casual beach resort feel, with a swimming pool. Check the latest prices here.
Brazil Itinerary Days 6-9: São Paulo & Foz do Iguaçu
From Paraty, it’s a 4-hour drive to the São Paulo Airport. If you have more than two weeks for the trip, I suggest allocating a few extra days for São Paulo. Sadly I didn’t have enough time to explore the city. São Paulo has the worst reputation of all the cities in Brazil among foreigners, due to the level of crime, pollution, climate and overcrowding, but I know some friends who actually like it.
After a quick flight, you’ll arrive at the spectacular Iguassu Falls, lauded as one of the natural wonders of the world. Visit the Brazilian side of the falls and meander along its boardwalks to get the best panoramic view. You’ll probably see lots of coatis (an endemic South American animal that resembles the raccoon) on the way. Prepare to get wet as you can walk all the way up close to the gigantic falls.
There’s an excellent bird park in town, Parque das Aves, that I recommend visiting for a chance to see Brazil’s rich birdlife. I also took the chance to hop over to the Argentinian side of the falls for a day trip — remember to bring your passport for the border crossing! You’ll find that the views are very different and well worth seeing on both sides. You can even take a jet boat to go right under the falls in the water on the Argentinian side.
- Recommended nights: 3 nights (add 3 more nights if you want to go to São Paulo)
- Paraty to São Paulo: Approximately 4 hours by bus
- São Paulo to Foz do Iguaçu: A 2-hour flight costs around $77 one way. Check for flights here.
- READ: A 2-week Argentina itinerary
Accommodation at Foz do Iguaçu
Nadai Comfort Hotel is an affordable, four-star hotel with big spacious rooms, all-white zen design and an excellent spa (great to relax in after a whole day of exploring the falls). There’s also a beautiful pool and big outdoor lounge area. Check the latest prices here.
I stayed at Foz Plaza Hotel , a modern three-star hotel right in the city centre. It’s cheap, relatively comfortable and has a good location. If you’re looking for something fuss-free, then this is it. Book here.
Days 9-12: Bonito
Leave Foz do Iguaçu in the night as it’s a 16-hour bus journey (transfer in Dourados) or a 10-hour car journey to Bonito, an ecotourism hub in the Mato Grosso do Sul state. If the long bus journey is overwhelming, consider flying to Campo Grande Airport, then backtracking around 5 hours by bus to Bonito or skip Bonito altogether and continue onto Pantanal.
The area surrounding Bonito is known for crystal-clear rivers such as the Rio da Prata, a snorkeling destination abounding with fish. The Abismo Anhumas is a huge, stalactite-covered cavern that offers abseiling and diving in an underground lake. Flocks of macaws nest in the deep, ocher-colored depression Buraco das Araras.
In this area, the natural attractions have a fixed price and tours there are really expensive. Almost all of the tours need to be booked through an official tourist agency in the town and require an accredited guide. It is highly recommended to make your reservations in advance even if traveling in the low period.
Because of my limited budget, I ended up skipping the excursions and spending most of my time hanging out with other travellers in my hotel. Bonito itself isn’t quite interesting; I definitely regretted it and wished I had just forked out the money. Those who went all raved about it.
- Recommended nights: 3 nights (1 night will be spent on the bus)
- Foz do Iguaçu to Bonito: Approximately 16 hours by bus or fly to Campo Grande, which is then 5 hours by bus
- READ: Top Sights Around Bonito
Accommodation in Bonito
Zagaia Eco Resort is one of the best resorts in Bonito — it’s spread out over a big green space and is fantastic for families with kids. It features 3 swimming pools and 2 restaurants serving Brazilian specialities. Check for the latest prices here.
I stayed at Posada Arte de Natureza and absolutely loved it. It’s got a very natural wooden design, with a beach resort feel. There are two stunning outdoor pools with three artificial waterfalls, an outdoor spa and a bar. It’s also in Bonito city centre, with easy access to restaurants. Check the latest prices here.
A cheaper option is the Che Lagarto Hostel, that looks nice and clean. It’s got a swimming pool and within walking distance from Bonito centre. Rooms are very cheap, at around $25 per night. Check the prices here.
Wikimedia image by Laurian
Days 12-14: Pantanal
From Bonito, I headed straight into the Pantanal, the world’s largest seasonal wetland, and Brazil’s wildlife capital. Almost 700 species of birds can be found here, along with 80 mammals – but you’ll need to have a guide to point out capybaras, monkeys and hyacinth macaws.
Porto Jofre is also the best place in the world to see habituated jaguars. I sadly didn’t see any jaguar, and would recommend staying more nights and deeper in the Pantanal if you want to see one. I had high hopes of Pantanal and really I didn’t see much of the wildlife I’d hoped to find here.
- Recommended nights: 2 nights
- Bonito to Pantanal: Around 3 hours or fly to Campo Grande, the gateway town to the Pantanal
Accommodation in the Pantanal
Accommodation is usually in basic lodges on hammocks. You won’t be able to book any accommodation in Pantanal on your own as they are mostly basic lodges or farm ranches. I wouldn’t recommend the local company I went with as the multi-day Pantanal trip was disappointing. It felt like we were staying in a farm rather than in the wilderness, and we did see a few macaws during our walks but not any other exciting wildlife. This site has quite a few lodges and tours in Pantanal that might be worth checking out.
Day 14: Rio de Janeiro
From the Pantanal, it’s a few hours’ drive to Campo Grande Airport where you can fly back to Rio de Janeiro. I suggest leaving a day or two in Rio de Janeiro at the end of your trip to make sure you arrive back in time for your flight home.
I hope that you find this 2-week Brazil itinerary useful, let me know in the comments below!
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