This two-week itinerary gives you enough time to savor Brazil's major highlights without having to rush. It begins in Rio with sightseeing, architecture tours, and a bit of the Carnival party scene, then continues south to Iguaçu Falls, the largest waterfall system in the world. Afterward, fly far north for adventures in and around the Amazon River before heading east to the sun-kissed Bahian coast. You'll immerse yourself in the music, food, and history of one of Brazil's richest cultures.

Highlights

  • Visit Christ the Redeemer and Carnival workshops in Rio
  • Hike, cycle, and ride boats around the massive cascades of Iguaçu Falls
  • Travel along the Amazon river and take nature tours in the rainforest
  • Experience the music, culture, and colonial history of Salvador
  • Laze on golden beaches and go whale watching off the Bahian Coast

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Rio de Janeiro, Hike to Sugarloaf Mountain Rio de Janeiro
Day 2 Rio City Tour & Carnival Culture Rio de Janeiro
Day 3 Art & Architecture Tour in Niterói Rio de Janeiro
Day 4 Christ the Redeemer Tour, Transfer to Foz do Iguaçu Foz do Iguaçu
Day 5 Iguaçu Falls Hike & Boat Tour Foz do Iguaçu
Day 6 Hiking & Cycling Iguaçu, Transfer to Manaus Manaus
Day 7 Amazon Boat Ride to Jungle Lodge & Rainforest Activities The Amazon
Day 8 Adventures in the Amazon The Amazon
Day 9 Transfer to Salvador via Manaus Salvador
Day 10 African Heritage City Tour, Bahian Percussion Workshop Salvador
Day 11 Salvador Market Tour, Art & Literature of Bahia, Night Out in Rio Vermelho Salvador
Day 12 Transfer to Praia do Forte, Whale Watching Tour  Praia do Forte
Day 13 Free Day in Praia do Forte Praia do Forte
Day 14 Transfer to Salvador & Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Rio de Janeiro, Hike to Sugarloaf Mountain

Sugarloaf Mountain
Sugarloaf Mountain

Welcome to Rio de Janeiro, the "Cidade Maravilhosa" (Marvelous City)! Upon arrival at the airport, a driver will be waiting to transfer you to your hotel. From there, you'll get to enjoy the world-famous beauty of Rio, from the rich cultural scene to its stunning mountains, tropical forests, and star beaches. It's the perfect place for travelers looking for both adventure and relaxation.

And no visit to Rio is complete without a trip up to the peak of the iconic granite rock formation Sugarloaf Mountain, where you can enjoy panoramic views of the city. Today's guided tour begins at Praia Vermelha beach, where you'll find Sugarloaf, the smaller Morro da Urca, and the cable car terminal. You and your local guide, however, will hike 721 feet (220 m) to the top of Morro da Urca on a steady route that winds its way up the mountain and takes about 45 minutes to complete. On the way up, keep an eye out for marmosets and birds. 

At the trail's end, you'll take the cable car to the top of Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf Mountain). Rising 1,299 feet (396 m) above the harbor, Pão de Açúcar unsurprisingly gets its name from the fact it resembles a giant mound of sugar. After enjoying the marvelous views and snapping plenty of photos, you'll head back down by cable car and return to your hotel.

Day 2: Rio City Tour & Carnival Culture

Carnival celebrations at the Sambódromo in Rio
Carnival celebrations at the Sambódromo in Rio

After breakfast, venture out into the city and experience real Carioca (residents of Rio) culture in the company of a local guide. It starts with a 15-minute subway ride to the historic city center. Once there, embark on a walking tour to highlights like the conical-shaped São Sebastião Cathedral and the Saara Shopping District, a lively hub for bargain hunters. End the morning with a buffet lunch and pastry desserts at Confeitaria Colombo. This Art Nouveau landmark is one of the oldest restaurants in Brazil, having been built in 1894 during Rio's Belle Époque era.

After eating, it's time to cut loose, and there's no party in Brazil like Carnival. Over the course of a week (beginning the Friday before Ash Wednesday), Brazil's cities explode with music, dancing, and parades. So, from the restaurant, head over to the port neighborhood of Pedra do Sal, the birthplace of samba music. Here, you'll take a behind-the-scenes tour of one of the many samba schools in the city. Even if you aren't here during the actual Carnival, you'll see people working diligently during this year-long process of building floats, sewing costumes, and preparing dance routines.

At the end of the tour, enjoy a delicious caipirinha—Brazil's national cocktail made with cachaça (sugar cane liquor) and lime. Then return to your hotel via the subway.

Day 3: Art & Architecture Tour in Niterói

Niterói Contemporary Art Museum (MAC)
Niterói Contemporary Art Museum (MAC)

Today, you'll take a little trip just over Guanabara Bay to the city of Niterói. Like Rio, it's home to stunning beaches but is more famous for its eye-catching architectural landmarks designed by Brazilan Oscar Niemeyer, who was one of the fathers of modern architecture in Latin America.

To this end, you'll take a guided cultural tour of Niterói following the Niemeyer Path, which stops at his famous buildings. First, enjoy a visit to Icaraí Beach, known as the Copacabana of Niterói. From there, head to the dazzling Contemporary Art Museum (MAC). The building itself is unmistakable, as its flying-saucer design has become an icon of Rio as much as Niterói. It also enjoys a prime position on the Mirante de Boa Viagem viewpoint, which looks across Guanabara Bay back to Rio's skyline. On a visit inside, you can admire the museum's over 1,200 works of modern art.

After the art museum, you'll stop at the Mercado São Pedro, which dates to the mid-19th century and is the largest fish market in the state of Rio de Janeiro. Here, you'll enjoy a fresh and delicious seafood lunch. Afterward, you'll return to Rio and your hotel.

Day 4: Christ the Redeemer Tour, Transfer to Foz do Iguaçu

Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer)
Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer)

No trip to Rio is complete without a visit to its most iconic landmark and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World: "Cristo Redentor" or Christ the Redeemer. Perched atop the 2,300-foot-high (700 m) Corcovado Mountain, this giant representation of Christ looks down benevolently over the city below with open arms. A local Catholic group commissioned the statue in 1920, and construction started in 1922, taking nine years to complete.

Your tour begins with a morning transfer from your hotel into Tijuca National Park, which at 8,300 acres (3,359 ha), is the largest urban park in the world. Once you reach the base of Corcovado, a train will take you up through the lush forest to the peak. There you'll find Cristo Redentor, the largest Art Deco statue ever built at 98 feet (30 m) high. From its base, you can see all of Guanabara Bay, Rio de Janeiro, the south beaches, and far north to the adjacent city of Duque de Caxias. After the visit, you'll return to your hotel.

Later, a driver will pick you up from your hotel in Rio de Janeiro and drive you to the airport for the two-hour flight to Foz do Iguaçu, located in the far south of Brazil at the border with Argentina. Upon arrival at the airport, a driver and tour guide will be waiting to take you to your accommodations in the city.

Day 5: Iguaçu Falls Hike & Boat Tour

Foz do Iguaçu
A rainbow over Iguaçu Falls

After breakfast, you'll transfer to Brazil's border with Argentina and Iguaçu Falls. This massive waterfall stretches 2 miles (3 km) and straddles both countries. It's the largest system of waterfalls in the entire world and was even voted one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature in a global poll.

On today's easy hike, you'll follow a scenic route along various trails and boardwalks that lead to lookout points offering stunning views of Iguaçu. The lower circuit keeps you close to nature, while the upper boardwalks take you along the sheer face of the falls, its river islands, and the famous Garganta del Diablo (Devil's Throat). This section comprises a confluence of three massive waterfalls plunging 262 feet (80 m) into a gorge.

After breaking for lunch, continue the adventure on a two-hour safari and boat excursion. This group tour begins with an offroad trip in a 4WD vehicle along dirt tracks through the jungle to a river base. Board a boat and head 4 miles (6 km) down the lower Iguaçu river canyon to Salto Tres Mosqueteros, where you'll enjoy stunning views from both the Argentinian and Brazilian borders. The tour ends at San Martin Island, and from there, you'll return to the park entrance and head back to your hotel.

Day 6: Hiking & Cycling Iguaçu, Transfer to Manaus

Aerial view of Iguaçu Falls
Aerial view of Iguaçu Falls

Enjoy a half-day tour around Iguaçu by foot and bike. In the morning, you'll leave the hotel and transfer to the visitor center in the park, where your bicycle will be waiting. After strapping on a helmet and grabbing a bottle of water, you'll hit the trail with your local expert guide. All told, you'll pedal about 6 miles (10 km) along forest trails on the Brazilian side of the falls. Along the way, you'll be treated to epic views of the 275 cascades that make up the Iguaçu.

Eventually, you'll leave your bike at a viewpoint, and your guide will lead you on a forest hike along ascending and descending trails. Every step of the way, you'll be treated to great views of the jungle landscapes and waterfalls. At the end of the trail, you can return to the visitor center by bike or, if you're too tired, hop on a park bus for the return.

In the afternoon, your driver will transfer you to the airport in Foz do Iguaçu, where you'll catch a connecting flight north to Manaus. This is the largest city and capital of the Brazilian state of Amazonas and a hub for trips down the Amazon River. Upon arrival at the airport, your driver and guide will pick you up and take you to your hotel in the city.

Day 7: Amazon Boat Ride to Jungle Lodge & Rainforest Activities

The Amazon River
Sunrise over the Amazon River
Your jungle adventure begins today when you hop in a boat for a ride along the Amazon River to a lodge located in the heart of the rainforest. As soon as you step off the boat, you'll be welcomed with fresh fruit juice before check-in. Get settled in your room, then embark on an afternoon of exciting jungle activities. Some tours you might participate in at this lodge include riding down the river in a motorized canoe to visit a ribeirinhos (river people) village, learning about the native fruit that grows in the area, and visiting a traditional casa de farinha (manioc flour house). 

Day 8: Adventures in the Amazon

Take a canoe ride down the Amazon
Take a canoe ride down the Amazon
Wake up early and marvel at the sunrise over the glassy waters of the Amazon. Then, after breakfast at the lodge, you'll venture into the rainforest and enjoy more small-group tours. These are great, immersive ways to experience the Amazon's diverse ecosystem, incredible landscapes, and the exotic flora and fauna that exist here. You might visit riverine villages to see how they make farinha or try piranha fishing using traditional techniques from the native populations. Other activities include canoeing around forested wetlands as your guide explains Indigenous traditions and customs.
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Day 9: Transfer to Salvador via Manaus

Salvador's historic Pelourinho neighborhood
In the morning, you'll take a boat back up the Amazon River to Manaus. After transferring to the airport, you'll catch a connecting flight to Salvador, the capital of the northeastern coastal state of Bahia. Upon arrival at the airport, a driver will meet you and transfer you to your hotel in the city. Salvador is renowned as a center of Afro-Brazilian culture and is famous for its distinctive cuisine, music, and architecture. Founded in 1549 as the first capital of colonial Brazil, it remains one of the oldest cities in the Americas and one of the first planned cities in the world. 

Day 10: African Heritage City Tour, Bahian Percussion Workshop

African Heritage City Tour with Lunch
São Francisco Church in Salvador's historic center

Today's guided walking tour allows you to trace Salvador's African roots by visiting the city's most historic areas. Start at the mouth of the bay and continue to the historic center—the Pelourinho area. Here, you'll visit the Afro-Brazilian Museum (Museu Afro-Brasileiro), which traces the city's West African origins and displays wooden sculptures of Orixá deities by Bahia's most celebrated artist, Carybé. 

Then take a stroll along cobbled streets to Pelourinho Square and the 18th-century Church of Our Lady of the Rosary of the Black People, a colonial church dedicated to enslaved people and freedmen. You'll also visit the Gastronomy Museum to learn about the African influence on Bahian cuisine. When it's time for lunch, pull up a seat at one of the best seafood restaurants in the city, and enjoy the ambiance of the plaza in front of the Baroque facade of the 18th-century São Francisco Church.

After seeing Salvador's historic sights on a walking tour, you'll get to discover the percussive heart of Bahia. The rhythmic soul of this region is African, and the distinctive syncopations created by Bahians have inspired many international musicians. Along with a local percussionist who will also act as a guide, you'll participate in an interactive musical workshop to learn about Bahia's rhythms and capoeira hand percussion instruments.

Day 11: Salvador Market Tour, Art & Literature of Bahia, Night Out in Rio Vermelho

Brazilian moqueca
Traditional Brazilian moqueca

One of the best ways to get to the heart of any city is to visit its municipal markets. And in Salvador, there are few better than the São Joaquim Fair. It's the largest such market in the city, and inside, you'll find a labyrinth of merchant stalls, produce vendors, and food purveyors. They sell everything from fresh fruits and vegetables to artisanal pottery and candomblé religious artifacts here. On today's tour, you'll browse these bustling aisles as you rub shoulders with locals doing their daily shopping.

At lunchtime, visit a local restaurant for a cooking demonstration where the chef prepares traditional moqueca. This rich seafood stew is Bahia's signature dish made with cilantro, lime, garlic, coconut milk, and dendê (red palm) oil. After eating, you'll tour the museums of three of Bahia's most famous artists: the novelist Jorge Amado, photographer Pierre Verger, and the Argentine-Brazilian painter Carybé. Each of their works documented daily life in and around Salvador, showcasing the street scenes and religious traditions that make Bahia a singularly beautiful culture.

Around 6:30 pm, a local guide will take you out for an evening of partying in Rio Vermelho, a beachfront neighborhood known as bairro boemio (the bohemian quarter). The first stop is a small boteco (watering hole) to have a drink and try acarajé. These delicious (and iconic) street-food fritters are a mix of black-eyed peas, onions, and dried shrimp, formed into a ball and fried in dendê oil. You'll then visit another boteco to try more local snacks and drinks. Afterward, head to the waterfront, mingle with locals, and enjoy some live music and dance.

Day 12: Transfer to Praia do Forte, Whale Watching Tour 

See humpback whales on a tour

Meet your private driver this morning for a beautiful journey up the Bahian coast. This 1.5-hour drive follows the scenic Coconut Highway, which leads north 50 miles (80 km) from Salvador to Praia do Forte, a fishing village home to some of the best beaches in Bahia. Upon arrival, you'll check in to your hotel and take some time to settle in.

Later, you'll embark on a whale watching tour. The Bahian coast is a migratory route for humpback whales, who travel up from Antarctica and pass this region from July to October. During this time, the waters are filled with thousands of the aquatic mammals, which measure up to 46 feet (14 m) and weigh up to 40 tons. Today's group tour begins when you hop aboard a schooner led by a bilingual guide and expert biologist. While it's true that humpbacks are spotted most frequently on the southern Bahian coast, your guides will lead you to breeding grounds where you're all but assured to spot a few.

Day 13: Free Day in Praia do Forte

Enjoy the beaches at Praia do Forte
Enjoy the beaches at Praia do Forte
Today is yours to enjoy Praia do Forte however you wish. If you like, feel free to spend the day lazing on the golden sands of its palm-fringed main beach or heading to nearby stretches of golden sand like Praia do Tivoli and Praia do Lord. Maybe visit Castelo Garcia D'Ávila (Tower House) to see the remains of a 16th-century castle, then visit Projeto Tamar, a conservation project for sea turtles (great for the kids!). There's also a restaurant on the beach here where you can enjoy a traditional moqueca and wash it down with a fresh juice or cocktail. 

Day 14: Transfer to Salvador & Depart

Goodbye, Brazil
Your great adventure across the length of Brazil has, alas, come to an end. At the appropriate time, your driver will meet you at your hotel for the ride south to the airport in Salvador, where you'll catch your flight home.

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Map

Map of Highlights of Brazil: Rio, Iguaçu, the Amazon & Bahia - 14 Days
Map of Highlights of Brazil: Rio, Iguaçu, the Amazon & Bahia - 14 Days