Brazil, the 5th largest country in the world, occupies almost half of the South American continent. Not only is it rich in both culture and natural beauty, it is also home to a third of the world's largest rainforest. So if you like both city life and outdoor activities, Brazil is definitely a destination worth considering.
Brazil is also rich in history, and has world-class museums and stunning architecture throughout the country. Brazil is also famous for its music – it fills the streets, especially during Brazil’s major festivals. And festivals take place all year round.
American visitors travelling to Brazil are required to apply for a visa, which is valid for two consecutive years. After Brazil E-visa registration, you can get your visa within five working days.
Best time to visit Brazil
To make the most of your trip, read up on the things you should know before going to Brazil before you make your arrangements.
In particular, you should book your trip when the climate is particularly pleasant. This isn't quite as easy as it sounds. Did you know that it has 5 distinct weather systems?
Here is a general overview of Brazil weather:
- Autumn (March-May), and Spring (September-November) are probably the best time to visit Brazil, with comfortable temperatures and moderate rain.
- Summertime (December-February) brings heat and crowds. This is also the wettest time inland, which brings more insects. The Amazon River and Iguassu Falls will be at peak flow, perfect for photography. If you visit now, pack insect repellent and a raincoat.
- Brazilian winter (June-August) can be surprisingly chilly. Bring long sleeves!
High season and Brazilian vacation time coincide: December through March, and July. If you travel just outside of this time, you will find lower prices and fewer crowds.
Getting to Brazil
American Airlines, US Airways, and LATAM offer direct nonstop flights from Miami (MIA) to Manaus (MAO), and TAP offers direct flights from Europe via Lisbon (LIS).
The MIA-MAO flight takes just over 5 hours. This makes much more sense than flying via Rio or Sao Paolo. Save the long trip for your return; we know you want to get this holiday started. You'll be working your way southward from here.
Money saving tip: Book a round-trip flight from your home airport to Miami. Get a separate ticket for the multi-city trip to Brazil, but ensure you'll have enough time to change planes! Also, we strongly advise you to purchase travel insurance as added protection against unforeseen events. Things happen, like canceled flights, lost luggage, accidents, and injuries. (It's happened to us!)
Two weeks in Brazil itinerary
Vacation time is precious, so we decided to create a travel plan that would fit into a two-week holiday. We'll admit, it's impossible to experience all the amazing nature and culture that the country has to offer in that length of time, but we think we've fit in the best sights. Bonus: All destinations are protected UNESCO world heritage sites.
The northern town of Manaus might seem like an unusual place to begin an itinerary, but this maximizes every minute of your trip. You can waste a lot of time if you don't fly directly to Manaus.
So if you are one of the unfortunate people who have a limited vacation period, this itinerary will help you experience a major part of Brazil sites and culture. Trust us: This plan is full of “bucket list” experiences.
Planning tip: A two-week holiday includes three weekends. If you leave on a Friday, that means you can have a 17-day holiday and only miss 10 days of work. Our 14-day itinerary was designed to allow plenty of wiggle room for connecting flights.
Days 1-2: Fly Miami to Manaus, Brazil
Your overnight flight will land in the morning on Day 2. Welcome to the Amazon River Basin, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can't say you've seen Brazil without making a trip to the Amazon River Basin.
Manaus sits 1,000 miles inland, at the point where Rio Negro and the Amazon River meet. The city began as a strategic Portuguese fort, and only grew after they discovered practical uses for the rubber plant, which grows all over the rainforest. The city's fortunes have risen and fallen since then but today, Manaus is proud to be the home to the only bridge in the Amazon river system, and a new football stadium, used for the 2014 World Cup.
If you have time before boarding your cruise, these are Manaus' most popular sights:
The 700-seat Amazon Theatre (a.k.a. the Manaus Opera House) is Manaus' landmark. Renovated in 1990, it is a truly opulent piece of Renaissance architecture. It has hosted big name performances from the Italian opera and music world, and is home to the annual Amazonas Film Festival.
Alfandega among the oldest buildings in Manaus. The amazing construction gained recognition as a national historical heritage in the 1800s. It combines elements from renaissance and middle age styles. The architect used bricks imported from England in its construction.
Encontro das Aguas
If your cruise itinerary doesn't include Encontro das Aguas, try to see this phenomenon. Encontro das Aguas, “Meeting of the Waters.” is a popular incredible tourist attraction. where the muddy waters from the Amazon River connect with the dark waters of Rio Negro, which is the largest tributary of the Amazon and the world’s largest black-water river.
Decaying vegetation creates Rio Negro's black water as it rushes down from the cold Andes Mountains, and it also creates high acidity and little sediment. The muddy Amazon River is the opposite: warm, slow, and full of sand. Thanks to the different temperatures, speeds and densities, their waters stay completely separated for six whole kilometers.
Days 2-5: 4D/3N Amazon River cruise
By volume of water, the Amazon is the largest river in the world. It stretches across several South American countries and offers an incredible array of flora and fauna. River cruises allow you to experience it all, with breathtaking scenery and a chance to see it up close in the company of top quality naturalist guides.
Cruises from Manaus begin at the Amazon River and continue along the Rio Negro. You can find cruises that last anywhere from a few hours to a couple of weeks. Find Amazon cruises here.
What to look for in an Amazon cruise
Don't miss the land excursions that will take you deeper into the jungle. Some tours also allow you to meet the locals, which adds an extra dimension to the experience.
Planning tip: Fly to Pantanal as soon as your cruise ends, and stay there the night before your tour. Safari departures can be as early as 7:30 am.
Days 6-9: Jaguar safari in the Pantanal
The Pantanal is the world's largest inland wetland. Jaguars still roam here and many endangered species call it home, including the South American tapirs, giant anteaters, giant river otters, and the brilliant indigo Hyacinth Macaws. To ensure their safety, a portion of the wetland is protected by UNESCO.
This section of wetland, called the Pantanal Protected Area, is the best place for you to encounter rare wildlife. This is not something you should try to do on your own. You will need to hire professionals for this unique experience, and it's worth it.
Tips for choosing a Pantanal tour
Jaguar safaris run from both Cuiabá (CGB) and Campo Grande (CGR).
- Campo Grande safaris are for people who consider budget more important than comfort. Search Campo Grande tours here.
- Cuiabá safaris are slightly pricier because they have smaller groups and go into the protected area. You will have a better chance of seeing the star animals. This itinerary allows for a 3D/2N eco-tour Search Cuaiba tours here.
Planning tip: Safaris end late in the day. Stay in a Pantanal hotel after your tour and fly to Iguassu Falls (IGU) the following morning. Search hotels here.
Days 10-11: Iguassu Falls
Many travel fanatics consider Iguassu Falls to be the most beautiful waterfall in the world. These waterfalls are located at the exact spot where Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina meet. You will need to cross the border into Argentina if you want to take a boat or walk around the falls. Photographers will get a more comprehensive sense of its splendor from the Brazilian side.
What to do at Iguassu Falls
After you've seen Iguassu's failing waters, you can explore the town you flew into, Foz de Iguazu. If you prefer hiking, the surrounding jungle is also worth exploring. Iguassu National Park is only a few miles from the falls. Keep your eyes open for the many species of animals and birds in thick vegetation. Find Iguassu tour ideas here.
Days 11-14: Rio de Janeiro
We've saved the best for last: The final stop on your 2-week holiday in Brazil is … Rio, the second-largest city in Brazil. One look at the iconic statue of Jesus with his arms stretched wide in a worldwide embrace, and you immediately know where you are.
Rio de Janeiro is famous for its white sandy beaches and its amazing landscape draws visitors to the city like moths to a flame. If you want true craziness, Rio de Janeiro is especially lively during the carnival season, when music, parades and colorfully dressed dancers fill the city. This incredible street party attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists from all over the world.
What to see in Rio de Janeiro
You don't need us to tell you that Rio has a lot to offer its visitors, but since you'll only be in town for a few days, focus on a few of the highlights.
Relax on the beaches, go to a football (soccer) game, take a cable car to Sugarloaf Mountain, learn to make caipirhina cocktails … the list is endless. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Day 14: Return flight
After two weeks of amazing and unforgettable experience, it is now time for you to fly home. We hope you had fun!