Luxury Travel to Brazil: An Insider's Guide
Published on: February 27th, 2019
Last modified: July 28th, 2023
As the largest country in South America, you can spend a lifetime discovering all that Brazil has to offer. From the incredible wildlife to the world-renowned cities, Brazil is a truly diverse destination.
Here’s our ultimate guide to travelling to Brazil and finding out what this incredible country has to offer.
Why travel to Brazil
Incredible towns and cities
Rio de Janeiro is a city revered across the world, and it is easy to see why. Set amongst emerald green rainforests, mountains, lagoons and stretches of white sand beaches, this city has it all. The Cariocas, the locals native to Rio, are iconic too – their relaxed, easygoing spirit and style add a slow sense of pace to this otherwise bustling metropolis. Of course, no Brazilian city is complete without its culture, which abounds in the streets of Rio.
The city is famously the birthplace of both samba and bossa nova music, so you’re never far away from music filling the air. While exploring Rio, travellers can relax on the beach, enjoy the city’s rich culture and history, dine at some of Brazil’s best restaurants or climb up to the iconic Christ the Redeemer and Sugar Loaf mountain. To experience Rio at its best, visit in the summer to enjoy its beaches or around Carnival to experience the city explode in colour.
Full of city slickers and business elites, São Paulo is modern Brazil at its finest. A city of more than 18 million people, this nation-size metropolis is slowly making its way up Brazil’s ‘must-visit’ destinations list. As the heart of modern Brazilian culture, cutting edge music, fashion, restaurants and nightlife can all be found here. A sprawling new age city, there’s plenty to do here – travellers can enjoy Brazil’s best restaurants, discover some of the country’s best nightlife or shop their way around the city streets.
A beautifully preserved colonial town, Paraty enjoys an idyllic setting on Brazil’s Costa Verde. The whitewashed buildings and cobbled streets here are so beautiful that they’ve even been awarded UNESCO World Heritage status. This town is a relaxed spot, with the emphasis on great restaurants and bars playing host to a live music scene, as opposed to rowdy nightlife. While you’re whiling away time relaxing in this corner of Brazil, wander through pretty cobbled streets, explore the surrounding islands by boat or seek out utopian beaches.
As the former capital of Brazil, Salvador is the home of Brazilian culture. The colonial old town of Pelourinho is filled with pastel coloured building and cobbled streets, making it a charming place to spend a few days. You can spend your time in this captivating city watching impromptu displays of ancient dance form capoeira or attending Candomble rituals to get an insight into the local African religion. With everything from dance workshops to cooking classes on offer, Salvador is an exciting place to be.
Brazil is any wildlife lover’s dream – from tracking jaguars in the Pantanal to seeking out elusive anteaters, Brazil offers a range of exciting wildlife experiences. The chief of Latin America’s predators and the world’s third biggest cat, the jaguar is one of the most impressive animals to call Brazil home. Brazil’s recent rise in eco tourism has made it a great destination for animal lovers, with a conservation plan in development and hopes for the establishment of a National Center for Research, Management and Conservation of Predators. National parks such as Ibitipoca and incredible eco lodges such as Caiman Ecological Refuge are taking full advantage of this trend, helping all visitors to Brazil to holiday more sustainably.
Beyond the jaguar, there are hundreds of animal species unique to the area, including 698 bird species, 80 mammals, 260 fish species and 50 reptiles. Some of the other incredible wildlife living in Brazil are anteaters, maned wolves, tapirs and giant otters amongst others. With so much to see, the best time to visit Brazil for wildlife spotting is the dry season, which runs from July to September.
Brazil is spoilt for choice when it comes to UNESCO World Heritage Sites, as it’s home to over 20. One of the most beautiful is Iguaçu National Park, home to the infamous Iguassu Falls – one of the largest waterfalls in the world. The park itself is home to a variety of rare species such as giant otters and anteaters, so it’s great for both wildlife and nature lovers. Iguassu Falls itself, widely regarded as one of the seven wonders of the natural world, is one of the most spectacular sights in the world.
This waterfall truly has to be seen to be believed, with an incredible 275 falls cascading over almost three kilometres of the Panna River. You can explore the waterfalls in all their glory from the walkways surrounding them, or the more adventurous visitors can indulge in a helicopter over the incredible sight. The falls are spectacular throughout the whole year, but if you want to catch them at their peak force, visit in January or March.
Rio’s most famous attraction, Christ the Redeemer is rightly recognised as one of the “New” Seven Wonders of the World. With his arms stretched out, this statue of Christ is thought to be blessing the entire city below. Standing at a jaw dropping 710 metres above the centre of Rio on the Corcovado hill, the statue is surrounded by wide, open terraces which offer perfect views from which to see the city below. . The climb up Corcovado is well worth it – you’re rewarded with incredible views over the southern neighbourhoods of Copacabana and Ipanema, the Lagoon, the Sugar Loaf and the town of Niterói. Looking down on the sprawling metropolis of Rio from below the shadow of the incredible Christ the Redeemer statue is an unbeatable experience.
Where to get off the beaten track in Brazil
As the world’s largest wetlands area, Brazil’s Pantanal is one of South America’s best wildlife spotting destinations. Made up of a variety of distinct terrains – wetlands, savannah and rainforest – this is one of the most unspoilt habitats in the world. Hundreds of endangered species live here, with the area home to over 200 bird species and 80 mammals. Some of the exotic and endangered species that can be found residing here include hyacinth macaws, tapirs, giant otters and capybaras. While the best time of year to visit generally depends on what you want to spot, the Pantanal is at its best during the dry season (July – September) or during transition seasons (March – June and September – November).
One of the most relaxing places in Brazil, Trancoso is the perfect blend of beautiful beaches and rustic village life. Trancoso is a favoured destination for Brazil’s most elite, so there’s loads of chic hangout spots to choose from. You can spend your time here dining in excellent restaurants, perusing boutique shops or relaxing on unspoilt beaches.
For adventure seekers and intrepid explorers, few places compare to the Amazon. Home to an entire fifth of the world’s fresh water, the sheer scale of the Amazon is absolutely breathtaking. The Amazon is still relatively undiscovered, with new fish, bird and animal species being constantly discovered. With an expert guide to lead you through the dense jungle, a Jacada visit to the Amazon will leave you in awe of the expansive pristine rainforest. The best and driest months to take in this incredible landscape are those from July to October.
Widely known as Brazil’s answer to Saint Tropez, Buzios is a popular escape for the residents of Rio. There are more than 20 different beaches to choose from in the Buzios peninsula, meaning you’re never far away from a spot of sun, sea and sand. Famous for being ‘discovered’ in the 1960s by French actress Brigitte Bardot, Buzios blends rustic charm with newfound glamour. While you’re there, you can soak up the atmosphere at one of the many restaurants and bars, explore the different beaches on offer or take in the incredible sunset views.
Where to stay in Brazil
From historic boutique hotels to luxurious 5-star properties, Brazil has it all. In the rustic chic beachside town of Trancoso, luxury resorts line the charming Bahian coastline. One of our favourites is Uxua, a stylish hotel with a great character and exceptional attention to detail. The stunning pool lined with 40,000 turquoise aventurine quartz stones is a real highlight here, and the bohemian atmosphere throughout makes it feel as though you’re right at the heart of Brazilian paradise.
The luxury continues in Rio, where the Philippe Starck designed Fasano Rio delights with its exclusive rooftop pool and stylish decor. An internationally renowned hotel, the Fasano has an air of understated cool and luxury that is sometimes hard to find in some other beachfront Rio hotels. In the Santa Teresa district of the city, the Relais & Chateaux Hotel Santa Teresa offers an oasis of calm and tranquility in which to escape the hustle and bustle of the beachfront. With stunning views across the city and all the modcons expected of a luxury hotel, this peaceful spot is one not to be missed.
In a country that is filled with opportunity to get close to both nature and wildlife, it’s no surprise that there’s also plenty of opportunity to stay in stunning eco-friendly jungle lodges. In the Brazilian Amazon, one of the most recently opened offerings is Anavilhanas Lodge. Set on the banks of the Rio Negro right next to the UNESCO recognised Anavilhanas National Park, this lodge is perfect for nature lovers. From the lodge, explorers can go pink dolphin spotting, hike through the surrounding jungle with expert guides, or dare to go piranha fishing.
In the Pantanal, home to some of the best wildlife spotting in South America, Caiman Ecological Refuge is a luxurious lodge with an incredible habituation project. Set in the grounds of a working cattle ranch, this lodge provides guests with a whole range of activities to help them get closer to nature. The conservation efforts here take centre stage, with Caiman Ecological Refuge running a nature reserve that protects 10% of the area in which its located.
This 5,600 hectare protected area – selected with the aid of research scientists from the University of São Paulo – is fenced and isolated from cattle, but accessible to visitors. There’s plenty of wildlife to see here with capybaras, hyacinth macaws, caiman and jaribu storks amongst others all roaming the lodge’s grounds. Perhaps what the lodge is known for best though is the opportunity to spot jaguars; Caiman is partnered with the nearby Onçafari project to send guests on jaguar safaris.
The equivalent of a hacienda in Argentina, fazendas are working farms which have transformed over the years from close-knit communities to tourist lodges. In the heart of the Pantanal, places like Fazenda Barranco Alto offers travellers a basic but comfortable base from which to explore the surroundings. Tours here are run by the charming owners accompanied by a local guide, so guests get an authentic insight into local life. With activities from safari to astronomy on offer, there’s something for everyone in this charming fazenda.
Amazon cruise ships
For those looking for an exclusive way of seeing the incredible Brazilian Amazon, few things compare to a private cruise. With a private Amazon cruise on a ship like the Zenith, travellers are rewarded with complete luxury. Once you board this 120-foot mega-yacht, you’ll have your own private tour especially designed for you, to ensure that you can tailor the experience to your interests. After a day of exploration, you can enjoy the yacht’s endless amenities – a home theatre saloon, al fresco dining, a jacuzzi and a sauna are just some of the incredible things on offer.
Jacada’s Brazil experiences
Whilst Christ the Redeemer and Sugarloaf Mountain are must-sees in Rio, there’s also a hidden side to the city that a local Jacada guide can introduce you to. On a tour of Rio, travellers can start the day at the Botanic Garden before journeying on to Tijuca Forest and the city’s southern beaches. The Botanic Garden, founded in 1808, is a 140-hectare park lying at the foot of Corcovado mountain. Home to more than 6,000 different species of tropical and subtropical plants, including 900 varieties of palm trees, this garden is a lovely place to take a stroll through to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.
The next stop on the tour – the Tijuca Forest – is a lush dense green mass of trees and tropical plants, just minutes away from the bustling city centre. The Vista Chinesa and the Mesa do Imperador viewpoints both offer incredible views over Rio, and an impressive waterfall at the centre of the forest offers a spot of serenity. The city tour ends at the Barra and São Conrado beaches, both great places for indulging in a fresh fruit juice and the art of people watching.
Private tour of Iguassu Falls
No trip to Brazil is complete without a visit to the infamous Iguassu Falls. On a private boat tour of this natural wonder of the world, travellers can get up close to the incredible cascading waters. You can choose a tour that is suited to your interests, with everything from kayaking trips to canopy zipline adventures on offer. Whichever kind of tour you choose, a boat trip upriver to the base of Iguassu Falls is an awe-inspiring part of the experience. Whirlpools, waves and currents provoked by the Falls make this excursion truly unforgettable.