With airlines announcing new direct flights from the UK, Brazil has never been more accessible. Take a journey along its mighty coastline to discover the beauty of this captivating country.
Fly to Sao Paulo
Sao Paulo might be no great beauty at first glance, but beneath its smoggy skies and towering skyscrapers lies a city of culture. Sampa – the city’s nickname – is full of funky art-house cinemas and theatres, and is heaven for shopaholics (who shouldn’t miss Rua Oscar Freire shopping street). It’s also the foodie capital of Brazil, and there are numerous top-notch restaurants, around 6000 pizza places, and a wealth of excellent street food vendors that locals adore. To see the city at its liveliest, come for the Brazilian Grand Prix (Nov) or the world’s largest Gay Pride festival (June).
Get there: Virgin Atlantic has announced a new direct flight from Heathrow for 2020, which will run daily. Latam and BA also run direct flights from Heathrow.
Sleep: A splurge on Fasano Hotel is totally deserved after a long journey. It’s elegant and stylish, is home to one of South America’s best restaurants and a renowned jazz bar, and has a rooftop with an indoor pool and expansive views. Pure class.
Sao Paulo to Paraty
Backed by lush, forested mountains and fronted by glorious beaches, pretty, unspoilt Paraty is the perfect antidote to Sao Paulo. Here, the atmosphere is serene, the vibe is arty, and the buildings brim with history. Wandering along its cobbled streets you’ll pass colourful colonial houses, craft shops, independent cafes and art galleries. Come in July for its literary festival, or in February for its mad (and messy) mud carnival, and don’t leave without taking a boat trip around the stunning bay of Ilha Grande.
Get there: Travel by road from Sao Paulo. Air-conditioned coaches depart every few hours from the central bus station, or private transfers can be arranged.
Sleep: If you want to stay centrally, Casa Turquesa is a cosy and colourful guesthouse with just 7 rooms, an outdoor plunge pool and a fabulous location, right next to the harbour and restaurants. For added privacy, try Pousada Picinguaba: a 3-bed villa set on the edge of unspoilt rainforest, with incredible beaches all around, killer views and no other hotels in the vicinity.
Paraty to Rio
Ah Rio, the world’s party city, home to beautiful people, samba and a legendary carnival. Head to the city’s golden beaches (Copacabana, Ipanema, you know the ones) to really see Rio in action. Here, Cariocas (locals) make beach-going an art form – some play volleyball, some surf, some chat, no one sits quietly. Don’t miss a samba school rehearsal in the run up to Carnival, and make sure to browse the Feira da Glória, Rio’s biggest street market, on a Sunday. When it comes to food, seek out a por kilo restaurant for cheap lunches (you only pay for what it weighs), or one of the streetside bars known as pé sujo for fresh fish snacks.
Get there: Travel by bus or private transfer from Paraty, or fly direct from the UK – Norwegian has started a new flight from Gatwick, running 4 times a week; Latam and BA also offer direct flights from Heathrow.
Stay: Pretty Mama Ruisa B&B in Santa Teresa boasts views of Sugarloaf Mountain, a tranquil garden with a swimming pool, and a central location close to the nightlife of Lapa. We also adore Elegant Vila Santa Teresa, located on a hilltop in a grand estate and blessed with breathtaking views of Rio.
Fly to Salvador
The Unesco World Heritage City of Salvador is the beating heart of Afro-Brazilian culture. It was once a major port for the slave trade, and has managed to preserve strong African influence ever since. Afro-Latin music rings through the streets, and wild festivals happen frequently – particularly on Tuesday nights in the Pelourinho district. See a Capoeira performance, an African-style dance and martial art, or experience a Candomble ceremony, a local religion that blends Catholicism with beliefs brought from Benin and Nigeria. To relax, take a horse and cart to one of the city’s lively beaches and feast on acaraje (a deep fried bean snack), sold at most beach shacks.
Get there: Take a domestic flight from either Rio or Sao Paulo.
Stay: For some rare peace and quiet in this lively city, try Hotel Casa do Amarelindo: a gorgeous townhouse with a rooftop pool, panoramic sea views, tasty tapas and lethal cocktails.
Salvador to Morro de Sao Paulo
It might be a tad touristy, but we just love the lively, car-free town of Morro de Sao Paulo, located on the tip of Ilha de Tinhare. It’s 60km from Salvador, and makes the perfect beach retreat. City folk like to come here for their weekend getaways. Why? Because it’s got dazzling white-sand beaches, calm azure waters, a pretty town centre illuminated by candlelight at night, and lush tropical jungle lining its shores. Hike to waterfalls, go whale- and dolphin-watching, drink fresh-fruit caipirinhas, then dance the night away.
Get there: Morro is a 2-hour boat ride from Salvador, though it can be pretty choppy so if you suffer from seasickness you might prefer to take a 20-minute air taxi.
Stay: Occupying a tranquil beach spot just outside of Morro, Anima Hotelis a rustic, laidback retreat with just 11 bungalows set against palm-fringed shores. Food is a highlight, as is snorkelling the reefs in front of the hotel, and there’s a regular shuttle into Morro for those who fancy a night on the town.
Morro de Sao Paulo to Ilha de Boipeba
There are few finer places to conclude a holiday than on the dreamy island of Boipeba. Tiny, car-free and home to 20km of deserted white sands, paradise doesn’t get much closer than this. Spend your days exploring the mangroves or snorkelling the reefs that fringe the shores, spot humpback whales in migration season (Aug-Nov), and dine on fresh fish and clams from the shack restaurants. Don’t expect wild nightlife though, Boipeba is still largely undeveloped and all the more delightful for it.
Get there: Hire a 4×4 from Morro and bump along the dirt tracks of Ilha de Tinhare, then take a 5-minute boat hop to Boipeba.
Stay: It’s got to be Araca Azul, located just above one of Brazil’s best beaches. This colourful eco-home has just 4 bedrooms, gorgeous sea views, surfboards to borrow and a treehouse that kids will love.