Brazil teems with cultural and natural wonders but it is so vast that in 10 days, you will only be able to explore a small part of it. However, with careful planning and prioritizing, you will be able to maximize your time and see some of the major attractions. This 10-day suggested itinerary is for those who are short on time, but still want to get a good taste of what Brazil has to offer in 2 weeks or less.
Things to know before traveling to Brazil:
1.Language – The official language of Brazil is Portuguese which is spoken by the majority of population. However, it is important to note that the people also use Brazilian Portuguese, a manipulation of the Portuguese language which has its own distinct pronunciation, grammar, and slang. Ergo, tourists who speak European Portuguese might have a hard time understanding when the locals speak Brazilian Portuguese. Many Brazilians cannot speak English that is why it is recommended to learn a few important phrases before going on your trip.
2.Money and costs – The official currency of Brazil is the Real (pronounced as hay-ow or hay-ice). Exchanging money in Brazil is easy and follows the same standard to elsewhere in South America. Most major establishments like hotels and restaurants in major tourist and business destinations accept credit cards. The best way to get local currency is to use the ATMs, which are widely available in Rio de Janeiro and other major cities, and withdraw in Real to get the best rate.
3.Health – Make sure you are up-to-date on routine vaccinations before your trip. Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and Typhoid vaccines are the most common. Rabies vaccine is also recommended because there is a large number of stray dogs in Brazil. Protect yourself from mosquito bites at all times especially in areas where Zika virus is circulating.
4.Safety and security – There is currently no nationwide security advisory in effect for Brazil. Check your country’s travel advisory website to get the most up-to-date information for your personal safety abroad. Keep your guard up at all times and avoid any streets that are not crowded. Do not carry debit or credit cards with you, or hide it in your bra or shoes. There were incidences of robbery when offenders will escort you to an ATM and make you take out as much as you can. Leave your passport in the hotel’s safety deposit box and just carry a photocopy.
5.Getting there – There are plenty of low-cost options, you just need to be willing to spend some time searching online (or call your travel agent). New York-Rio de Janeiro and San Paulo-New York could be found for about 517 USD; from Amsterdam tickets start at about 620 USD; from Lima – 414 USD; Santiago – 280 USD; from Tokyo or Singapore – prices are similar and they start at about 1300 USD.
Detailed Itinerary Brazil in 10 Days
Day 1: Rio de Janeiro
Take a flight that will arrive early at Rio de Janeiro – Galeão International Airport. Travel to your chosen accommodation in Copacabana, Ipanema or Leblon where you will be staying for two nights. Get settled and spend the morning in your hotel to recover from jet lag. Rio de Janeiro has some of the best backpacker hostels, villas and luxury hotels ideally nestled in the heart of the city. If you are stressed out, or simply needing a place where you can recharge and enjoy some downtime, then stay by the harbor, at the beach, with fantastic city views.
Where to stay in Rio de Janeiro:
In the afternoon, explore the many attractions in Rio de Janeiro such as Corcovado – Cristo Redentor (98-ft.-tall mountaintop statue of Jesus Christ, accessed by train and offering incredible city views), Theatro Municipal do Rio de Janeiro, Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil and Ipanema Beach. If you have extra bucks to splurge, get a bird’s eye helicopter view of Rio de Janeiro (cost is about 200 USD for the 13 minute flight but it is totally worth the money). After a full day exploring, enjoy dinner at one of the restaurants with a view of the harbor.
Day 2: Rio de Janeiro
On your second day, leave before dawn and wait for the sun of the new day to appear on the horizon from the top of Morro Dois Irmãos. Waiting for the sunrise is probably one of the most fascinating experiences you could get in Rio de Janeiro. Sunrise tours normally start at 4:00 am and takes around an hour of hiking up by the forest (save your money and do it on your own – just ask the staff at your hotel or hostel where is the nearest spot to enjoy the sun showing from behind the ocean). Then, it’s time to hit the sun and bask in the laid-back beach culture of some of the world’s best beaches in Leblon. In the afternoon, check out Rodrigo de Freitas Lake and Botanical Garden (tickets cost 9 Brazilian Reals or about 2.50 USD;. Had enough of beaches in Rio de Janeiro? Then make your way to Pedra do Sal, a historical and religious site in Rio de Janeiro believed to be the birthplace of Samba.
Day 3: Rio de Janeiro – Salvador
Start early on day 4 and catch a flight for Salvador (direct one-way tickets start at 65 USD for the two-hour flight). Founded in the 1500s by Portuguese colonials, this beautiful city is famous for its Afro-Brazilian culture, charming neighborhood, baroque churches and tropical coastline. Staying at one of the Portuguese-style colonial houses in Salvador is one of those quintessential Brazilian experience which can’t be skipped. Get settled and explore the nearby attractions such as Sao Francisco Church and Covent, Ponta de Humaita, Museu de Arte Moderna and Farol da Barra Beach.
Where to stay in Salvador:
Day 4: Salvador
Today is spent learning all about Salvador. Start early and have breakfast at one of the restaurants of the historic Pelourinho. Wander through this densely populated neighborhood of Salvador and make sure to try some Bahian delicacy like Moqueca (moo-kek-a), Quindim and Acarajé (a-ka-ra-zjeh). Spend the rest of the afternoon at Porto do Barra, Salvador’s most iconic praia (beach).
Day 5: Salvador – Iguazu Falls
On your fifth day, leave the Portuguese colonial city of Salvador for the amazing Iguazu Falls, located on the border between Brazil and Argentina, out of the way of any other destination in either country. Iguazu Falls is a 5-hour flight away that could be very expensive if you don’t book in advance, otherwise a way-way ticket starts at about 95 USD (Azus Airlines with a layover in Campinas VCP). Another alternative is by taking a bus from Salvador but the trip takes 48 hours to get to Iguazu (not worth the time).
Travel Tip: You may also avail an all-in package tour from a local travel agency in Rio de Janeiro or Sao Paulo. Also, find a hotel or hostel with good reviews and book well in advance. There are several accommodations in the heart of the protected natural preserve where you can practically see the falls from your bedroom window.
Where to stay in Foz do Iguacu:
Day 6 – 7: Iguazu Falls
On day 6, after having a filling breakfast, set out this morning for the impressive Brazilian side of Iguazu Falls. The opportunity for incredible photographs is endless, so frequent stops are expected for visitors to enjoy the landscape.
On day 7, begin early with a quick trip to the Argentine side of Iguazu Falls. You will wind your way through different stations depending on the types of activities you want to be involved in. You’ll walk along well maintained footpaths and get an up-close glimpse of the fall from a number of perfectly perched view decks. Unless you want to splash out on a helicopter ride, go back to Brazil.
Travel Tip: The National Park is huge so prioritize which side you would like to stay in longer. The Brazilian side is pretty manageable since there is only one walkway while the Argentine side is much bigger and there are maze of walkways. Seeing both sides in one day is not recommended for visitors who are not physically prepared.
Day 8: Iguazu Falls – Sao Paulo
Catch a flight from Iguazu Falls to Sao Paulo (If you book in advance, one-way tickets start at 70 USD and up). An overnight bus is a cheaper alternative. This option will give you an extra day exploring Iguazu Falls as well as a great way to save money on accommodation. Travel time is approximately 12 hours and one way fare costs USD 50 to USD 100. Choose a bed class seat so that you can sleep through most of the journey.
Day 9: Sao Paulo
And now that you are in Sao Paulo, check into a hotel in the old downtown neighborhood of Centro or wherever you prefer. Visit some attractions in the afternoon or just stay in your hotel. It all depends on your interests and if the pace is a bit breathless, consider skipping a stop to have some chill-out time.
Where to stay in Sao Paulo:
Before you go on your walking tour, enjoy some exotic fruit, spices and other fresh produce at Mercadao – Sao Paulo Municipal Market, open daily: 8:00 AM – 6:00 PM. Check out Paulista Avenue, Museu de Arte de Sao Paulo Assis Chateaubriand, Monumento às Bandeiras and Ibirapuera Park. In the late afternoon, make your way to Banespa building (Rua João Brícola, 24 – Centro, São Paulo – SP, 01014-900, Brazil). This is a perfect place for sunset viewing where you can get splendid panoramic views of Sao Paulo and beyond.
Day 10: Sao Paulo
Today marks the end of your Brazil adventure. If your international flight is in the evening or late afternoon, explore the city for other attractions you might have missed. Biking around Sao Paulo is a great option which allows you to enjoy the city at your own pace. Fit in one last amazing lunch or dinner in the city. You could even squeeze in some souvenir shopping at Rua 25 de Marco before you travel to the airport.
This is the end of our 10-day suggested itinerary. Remember, this is just a guide for planning and is in no way, shape or form the only way to travel the country. There are several alternative routes of travel within the country and it will depend on your intended length of stay. Enjoy Brazil!
Have you been to Brazil? Do you have any tips or suggestions to share? If so, you can leave your comments below.
Featured image: Aerial view of Rio De Janeiro. Corcovado mountain with statue of Christ the Redeemer overlooking Rio De Janeiro landscape. Photographed from helicopter (astropix / Bigstockphoto).