Arrive in Rio de Janeiro at any time. Your local guide will hold a general briefing in the evening, normally between 7pm and 8pm (a note will be posted in the arrival hotel with details). Enjoy any free time to explore the wonders that this city has to offer from our centrally-located hotel in Copacabana or take an optional city tour. "God made the world in six days, the seventh he devoted to Rio," so say the Cariocas, residents of this beautiful city. This is a densely packed city of over 9 million inhabitants, whose economic foundations lie in the cultivation of sugar cane and gold mining. Referred to as the “cidade maravilhosa” (Marvellous City), few cities enjoy such a dramatic setting as Rio. Brilliant, white beaches at Copacabana and Ipanema, deep blue waters of the Atlantic, the luminescent green of Guanabara Bay, the bare blue slopes of the Sugar Loaf combine to make Rio unique. Standing over it all, atop Corcovado (Hunchback), is the huge statue of Christ the Redeemer, the best place from which to appreciate the city. Superb panoramic views of the city and area can also be found from the top of the Pao do Açucar (Sugar Loaf), reached by cable car. Head to some of the famous beaches, and prepare yourself for an experience unlike anything else on Earth. Although the Portuguese first sailed and entered the bay, it was the French who first established a settlement in the area, logging Brazil wood along the coast. Their first permanent settlement lasted a brief five years, when they were attacked and driven from the area by the encroaching Portuguese. A series of skirmishes ensued, with the Tomaio people allied with the French against the Portuguese. In 1567 the Portuguese began construction of a fortified town to repel any invaders, naming it Sao Sebastiao do Rio de Janeiro. Amassing wealth with the gold rush of Minas Gerais, in the early 18th century Rio became Brazil’s most important city and a great temptation to the French who, in 1710, waged war against the Portuguese and held the city for a sizeable gold ransom. Again in the 19th century, under threat of Napoleon’s invasion, what remained of the Portuguese monarchy fled to Brazil where they set up court in grand style; many of today’s older structures date from this period. The gold rush was followed by a coffee boom in the mid-1800s and the wealth generated led to the city’s initial modernization. Replacing Salvador de Bahía as the colonial capital in 1763, the city remained the capital until 1960, when it was replaced by Brasilia. Today, the city is a magnet for tourists who come to walk the beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana, and generally partake in the Carioca zest for life. Many ascend the Sugarloaf Mountain (Pao do Açucar), whose image is nearly synonymous with Rio and Carnival. Modern Rio is perhaps best known for the contrasting images offered by the favelhas (also spelled favelas; shanty towns), and the glitz and glamour preferred by the Samba schools and their Carnival celebrations. Rio is definitely a tale of two cities: the upper and middle classes reside in the Zona Sul, the lower class in the Zona Norte. Favelas (shantytowns) cover steep hillsides on both sides of town - Rocinha, Brazil's largest favela, is in Gávea, one of Rio's richest neighbourhoods. Most industry is in the Zona Norte, as is most of the pollution. The ocean beaches are in the Zona Sul. Rio is divided into a Zona Norte (North Zone) and a Zona Sul (South Zone) by the Serra da Carioca, steep mountains that are part of the Parque Nacional da Tijuca. These mountains descend to the edge of the city centre, where the two zones meet. Today is an arrival day. There are no planned activities so check into our hotel and enjoy all the city has to offer.
An early bird start in Rio as we catch the bus to head down Brazil’s Green Coast to the colonial town of Paraty. The trailhead is just outside the colonial town of Paraty. From here we head off into the unspoilt beauty of the Atlantic Rainforest on trails that will take us to some of the best beaches in Brazil. This is the car-free, tropical paradise of the Juatinga Peninsular Eco-Reserve and we spend 3 days crossing it on foot, staying overnight at remote fishing villages. On the first day we walk for about 3 hours stopping off for a typical local lunch of fresh fish, rice and beans on Sono beach before continuing on to the fishing village of Ponta Negra where we will spend the night. The next day we spend hiking the wild-side of the peninsular through dense rainforest to the fishing village of Pouso da Cajaiba where we will spend the night right on the beautiful sandy beach. This is a challenging day with 6 or 7 hours walking, much of it up and down steep hills. Fortunately we have a support boat that will meet us at the village with our backpacks. On Day 4, the last day of the hike across the peninsular, we set out early from Pouso da Cajaiba on our way to the Saco do Mamangua, Brazil’s only tropical fjord. We walk for about 6 hours on sandy beaches and trails through the forest with time for swimming at the beaches and a waterfall.
Exploring Brazil’s only tropical fjord is best done by kayak from our bayside cottage accommodation. We spend a day paddling the beaches and mangroves of this marine life sanctuary after an early morning hike up the Mamanguá Sugarloaf peak (about 500m) for spectacular views of the whole region. This is an easy paddling day and a great chance to get some paddling practice in before the big kayaking day. On Day 6 we kayak out of the fjord and on to the colonial town of Paraty, about 18km and 5 or 6 hours paddling away. We stop regularly for breaks at beautiful sandy beaches and bays where you can swim and snorkel. There are good chances of seeing turtles, tropical fish and maybe even dolphins on this day. Our destination, Paraty, is a UNESCO nominated World Heritage site and open air museum of 18th Century colonial architecture. We will have time to look around the charming old town centre with its shops and bars and restaurants and find out more of its rich history rooted in the gold, sugar and coffee booms...
From Paraty we it’s back to nature as we travel to Ilha Grande, a tropical island paradise located just off the Green Coast, The island is best explored by bike and on foot and after a night in the town we camp for 2 nights on the more remote side of the island. We bike over the top of the island visiting the old prison on Dois Rios beach which was dynamited in 1994. Known as the Brazilian Alcatraz or the Devil’s Cauldron the visitor centre offers a fascinating and moving insight into crime and punishment in Brazil over the centuries. From there we continue on foot stopping at.unforgettable beaches and hiking unbeaten paths through tropical rainforest to remote places on the wild-side of the island. Get away from the metropolis and let nature take over for a few days.
Heading north along the Atlantic coast by ferry and bus, we return at Brazil's ocean-side jewel, Rio de Janeiro.
Depart at any time.