São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, Salvador da Bahia, Fortaleza, Curitiba… I would not mind betting Brazil has the most beautiful city names in the world.
The first time I traveled to Brazil, I did a little backpack trip from São Paulo to Rio de Janeiro in three weeks (two weeks would be enough). A route that’s really popular among travelers and perfect as a first introduction to the Brazilian culture. It shows the two most famous cities in Brazil, a Portuguese-historical village, and a tropical island. Let me point out the route to you.
My first nights ever in Brazil were in a favela in São Paulo. An amazing experience that I won’t ever forget. Improvised houses built by the locals themselves and painted in all colors of the rainbow. It can be really dangerous to enter a favela, as most are still in arms of gangs, but I got the unique opportunity to stay there because of a local friend.
I know Rio de Janeiro has several hostels in favelas that tourists can stay at. I’m not sure about São Paulo, but my recommendation is to stay at an AirBNB at the Jardins. A beautiful and modern neighborhood where I felt pretty safe.
Have a coffee at the roof-terrace of design Hotel Unique (unbelievable view over the city) and take a walk in the park Parque Ibirapuera which is designed by Oscar Niemeyer. My two highlights of the city.
Paraty is a small town in between the two big cities – my first stop after taking a night bus from São Paulo. Paraty is a historical village on the coast that might make you feel like you’re in Portugal. Until you take a look behind you and see a huge tropical paradise which will remind you-you’re in the jungle. It’s a cute little town that I loved to explore. Also, take a boat to see the beautiful coast from greater distance.
Tip: Take the latest night bus from São Paulo as possible. I arrived around 3AM in the night and I couldn’t enter the hostel that I booked for the next night. Everything was closed in the village. I basically stayed up on the streets surrounded by dogs, which was a bit unpleasant.
A true backpackers paradise. Paraty is touristic, Ilhe Grande is even more touristic. However, wherever you feel tourism in Brazil, you would still feel the authentic Brazilian culture. Ilhe Grande is a beautiful tropical island on the coast close to Rio (let’s say it’s Bali’s Nusa Lembongan). Stay in a treehouse, have relaxing days on the beach and find the reggae bars at night.
Rio de Janeiro
They say “money is earned in São Paulo, money is spent in Rio”. And let’s be honest, São Paulo does feel like a concrete city while Rio feels like a party city. Beautiful and fun: two characters that rarely go together within a city, but Rio proves it’s possible. Save the best for last when you’re doing a backpacking trip to Brazil.
Read my little city guide and favorite non-touristic things to do in Rio.
If you got any questions about safety in Brazil, communication, public transfer, or whatever, ask me here!