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Secrets of Southern Brazil

16 days from £3738pp

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Secrets of Southern Brazil:
Trip Dossier

Brazil is a huge country, with a variety of landscapes and cultures to match. It’s a melting pot for immigrants from many nations, but each region has its own characteristics and traditions. The far south, where many families trace their roots to German and Italian roots, is less visited than more exotic areas but has its own unique attractions: mountains divine for hikers, superb beaches, and the country’s major highlight, Iguazú Falls.


Short itinerary

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Rio de Janeiro. Transfer to hotel, rest of the day at leisure.

Day 2

Guided jeep excursion to Christ the Redeemer statue.

Day 3

Guided walking tour of historic Rio.

Day 4

Fly to Foz do Iguaçu. Guided visit to the Brazilian side of Iguazú Falls.

Day 5

Full day guided exploration of the Argentine side of Iguazú Falls.

Day 6

Fly to Curitiba, transfer to hotel.

Day 7

Take the Serra Verde train route through rainforest to the coast.

Day 8

Transfer to Florianopolis.

Day 9

Explore Santa Catarina island.

Day 10

Transfer to lodge in the Serra Geral Mountains.

Days 11-12

Optional activities from the lodge.

Day 13

Transfer by road to Praia da Rosa on the Atlantic coast.

Days 14-15

At leisure on the beach.

Day 16

Transfer to Florianopolis airport for flight to connect with international flight home.

Detailed itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Rio de Janeiro. Transfer to hotel, rest of the day at leisure.
 

Rio has an awesome bay-side location among near-vertical granite mountains. Here, tropical foliage swoops down to white-to-toffee coloured sandy beaches in turn battered by the huge waves of Atlantic surf.Arrive in Rio de Janeiro, the most romantic, intriguing and beautiful city on the continent. Sumptuous apartments overlook the sparkling bays against the backdrop of half-built slum dwellings, favelas, which cling precariously to the hillsides.

 


Day 2

Guided jeep excursion to Christ the Redeemer statue.
 
Take a cog-railway trip through tropical fruit-laden vegetation up the sheer-sided Corcovado mountain to drink in the views from beside the famous Christ the Redeemer statue on the peak, 701m above sea level. The views from here on a clear day are stupendous, stretching across the city, its smart residential areas, the huge urban lagoon, race-course, skyscraper-filled business district all the way to the coast of Guanabara Bay.
Overview of Rio

Day 3

Guided walking tour of historic Rio.
 
A guided excursion with a difference: you’ll be walking round the streets of the historic heart of Rio, which in recent years has been imaginatively upgraded with a serious face-lift. Once neglected, the centre is now bursting with newly-painted colonial buildings and authentic bars, bistros and literary cafés spilling out on to the street. The national theatre is especially graceful with its gold leaf eagle, its belle époque grandeur, and the ornate baroque interior of the São Francisco church contrasting with the brutalism of the cathedral. 

Day 4

Fly to Foz do Iguaçu. Guided visit to the Brazilian side of Iguazú Falls.
 

Transfer to the airport for the 2-hour flight to Foz do Iguaçú  on the border with Argentina and Paraguay. You'll have a guided excursion to the Brazilian side of the Iguazú Falls which straddle the frontier protected in a subtropical national park. There is a broad panoramic view of these colossal falls, and there are some excellent opportunities to photograph the full sweep of the water.

The Iguazú Falls constitute one of the most extraordinary natural phenomena in the world. A total of 275 falls thunder over a 60m high rust-coloured cliff surrounded by dense tropical forest. The U-shaped Devil’s Throat is the most dramatic sight, here the frothing water of the Iguazú river crashes over a 1.5km-wide precipice and columns of vapour are thrown skyward. Elsewhere the river flows decorously through the rainforest breaking up into dozens of smaller cascades. You can usually spot toucans and many other exotic birds perched in the foliage above the tumultuous waters. 



Iguazu Falls

Day 5

Full day guided exploration of the Argentine side of Iguazú Falls.
 

Private guided tour of the Argentine side of the falls. A little train takes you to Cataratas Station where the Upper Walk begins. This sequence of causeways and passarelles links dozens of tiny basalt islands at the top of the sheer rock face, and the walkways cross the myriad of streams as they cascade over the lip of the precipice. The train then continues to where a kilometre-long walkway leads across the river to the thunderous Garganta del Diablo, the Devil’s Throat. From this spectacular vantage point you can feel the incredible power of the water as it plummets into the vortex below.

There is an optional boat trip out to the base of the falls; it’s an exhilarating ride that takes you within touching distance of these thunderous cascades and your clothes and hair are soaked with the spray; it is a truly invigorating experience.

Day 6

Fly to Curitiba, transfer to hotel.
 
Fly from Foz do Iguaçu to Curitiba, capital of the state Paraná. It’s a clean, ordered city with a pleasant and prosperous atmosphere; its ambience is one of the most European in the country. It sits in an area of cattle-raising but is much more than an agricultural centre, with a booming economy based on industry and services. The city was populated by Italians, Germans, Poles and Ukrainians as well as Portuguese.  

Day 7

Take the Serra Verde train route through rainforest to the coast.
 
In the early morning, board the train for a spectacular ride across Atlantic rainforest to Marumbi Peak Station. The Serra Verde Express is one of Brazil's best preserved rail routes – there are very few remaining. Rainforests, rivers and superb mountain scenery makes an exciting and spectacular journey along this magnificent track, built 1880-85. The line stretches for 110 km with 13 tunnels and 71 bridges and viaducts. It is a single-track railway, used for cargo as well as passengers. Arrive at the riverside town of Morretes and your modest pousada nestling in the wooded foothills of the Marumbi mountains. 
Serra Verde train

Day 8

Transfer to Florianopolis.
 
By road to Florianópolis on Santa Catarina island and capital of Santa Catarina state. Little remains of its colonial past except for part of the port area, but its coastal setting is very scenic and it’s a good base from which to enjoy the numerous beautiful beaches which are a short drive away. 

Day 9

Explore Santa Catarina island.
 
Santa Catarina's Azorean heritage stems from the 17th century when immigrants from the Azores archipelago settled along the coast. Beyond Florianópolis' high-rise skyline, several Azorean-heritage villages survive, known as Freguesias. Some retain features of the architectural style brought to the island by the settlers. The island's Azorean past is also detected in its spoken dialect and cuisine and the old Azorean villages are an inviting place to try the local seafood. Finish your guided tour at Sambaqui, a bucolic neighbourhood with lovely views of the bay: the perfect place to stop for an early evening drink before returning to your hotel.
Oysters are popular here

Day 10

Transfer to lodge in the Serra Geral Mountains.
 

Drive to a mountain lodge in the Serra Geral (3hrs). Vila da Montanha offers rustic but cosy accommodation in wooden cabins within the cool, crisp climate of the highlands. It overlooks the scenic valley of the Canoas river.

Days 11-12

Optional activities from the lodge.
 
Surrounding the lodge are the crinkly, bottle green mountains of the wooded sierras, characterised by steep slopes cut through with deep canyons. The plateau which dominates the park is sheared by vertical, rocky cliff faces and is the birthplace of numerous crystalline streams. The countryside virtually begs you to explore on foot, you will be virtually alone, but the scenery is as impressive as any in rural Brazil.

The friendly staff can help with activities such as guided walks and horse rides but we recommend you talk to us about your interests before you go as English is not spoken at the lodge. Few non-Brazilian visitors make it to this region.

Serra Geral

Day 13

Transfer by road to Praia da Rosa on the Atlantic coast.
 
Drive back to the coast at Praia da Rosa. This is not only a beautifully situated little resort on a large creamy beach defined by emerald hills but also a sophisticated, rather swish kind of place with a well-to-do clientèle visiting its boutique pousadas and exclusive summer residences.

In the hottest months Dec-Feb the beach is busy with trendy youngsters and Argentine tourists, all enjoying the vibe. In winter mother and baby whales can be spotted off the shore – they breed in the bay and boat excursions can be arranged to observe them.

Praia da Rosa

Days 14-15

At leisure on the beach.
 
You have a couple of days just to enjoy the beach and excellent bars and restaurants in this relaxed little town.

Day 16

Transfer to Florianopolis airport for flight to connect with international flight home.
 

Essential information

Transport

2 flights; 3 road journeys, 1 train journey.

Accommodation

On this tour we use a wide variety of accommodation: from modern hotels with well-equipped rooms and air-conditioning in cities, to modest but attractive lodges and pousadas in the countryside. The hotel in Iguaçú is motel-style, set in beautiful grounds with a nature trail. In the Serra Geral mountains the lodge is simple, with beautifully crafted wooden cabins. The beach property in Praia da Rosa is boutique-style and very comfortable.

Meals

Breakfast daily, lunch days 7, 9; dinner days 10-12.

Guides

We carefully select our local partners, some of whom we have worked with for over 25 years. Their English-speaking guides understand the expectations of our clients very well, and are consistently singled out for praise.

Included excursions

• Guided excursion to Corcovado mountain and Christ the Redeemer statue, Rio de Janeiro.
• Walking tour of historic Rio.
• The Brazilian and Argentine sides of the Iguazú Falls.
• Serra Verde jungle train.
• Guided tour of the old Azorean villages of Santa Catarina island.

Summary of nights

16 days, 15 nights: Rio 3; Iguazú 2, Curitiba 1; Morretes 1; Florianopolis 2; Serra Geral 3; Praia da Rosa 3.

Included in the journey price

• Services of our team of experts in our London office.
• Services of Journey Latin America local representatives and guides.
• All land and air transport within Latin America.
• Accommodation as specified.
• Meals as specified.
• Excursions as specified, including entrance fees.

Not included in the journey price

• Insurance.
• Tips and gratuities.
• Meals other than specified.
• International flights to Latin America.
• Optional excursions.

Optional excursions

There are a number of half, full-day or longer excursions or activities you may wish to consider in order to customise your holiday to cater for your interests. Please contact us to discuss these further or to add them to your itinerary before you depart. A selection of these include:
• Samba show, Rio de Janeiro.
• Helicopter ride over the Iguazú Falls.
• Bird Park, Iguazú.
• Guided walks in the Serra Geral mountains

Currency

The unit of currency in Brazil is the ‘real’ (plural reais).

Daily spend

A budget of around US$40-70 per day should cover the cost of meals, drinks, local transport, tips and the odd souvenir. Prices of meals and drinks in standard restaurants are more or less the same as in Britain, perhaps a bit cheaper.

How to take it

Cash machines are available in all major cities and towns, and so taking a debit or credit card with a PIN number is the most convenient way of withdrawing money while on your trip, and in most shops and restaurants you can also pay by card. However, since cards can get lost, damaged, withheld or blocked, you should not rely exclusively on a card to access funds. 

We recommend that additionally you take a reasonable quantity of US dollars cash (no more than is covered by your insurance), which you can exchange into local currency, and possibly some travellers’ cheques, though these are gradually falling out of use (American Express are the most widely accepted). Dollar bills should be in good condition, soiled or torn bills may be refused. You can take sterling, but the exchange rate is not always competitive or even available, restricting the number of places where you can change money.

Tipping

Tips are expected and local guides often rely on their tip as a significant proportion of their income. 

Most service industry workers will expect a tip of some kind and so it is useful to have spare change for hotel porters, taxi drivers and the like. It is common to leave 10 - 12% in restaurants.

Tipping guidelines can be found in our Briefing Dossier.

Insurance

Travel insurance is essential. 

Details of our recommended policy can be found on our Travel Insurance page.

Airport taxes

If you have purchased your flights through Journey Latin America, the international departure tax is usually included in the ticket.

Journey grade

There are no really long days spent travelling (apart from the scenic train journey) but the heat in summer can be tiring. The holiday is suitable for all reasonably fit people, including families. If you have a disability requiring special attention please enquire.

Climate

In tropical Rio and  Iguazú, December to March are the hottest and most humid months, with temperatures sometimes reaching 40°C, and rain which falls in brief, heavy showers. From June to September, temperatures are more moderate (18-23°C) and there is plenty of sunshine, but cold fronts can usher in periods of up to several days of cloud and drizzle. 

The seasons are more sharply defined the further south you go and frost and snow is not unknown in the mountains in winter. It can be very hot (40°C) in summer Dec-Mar.

The southern coast has a sub-tropical climate, with summers (Dec-Mar) that are hot and winters (Jun-Sep) mild but a bit too cool for the beach. There is sunshine all year round however, with most rain falling in late Dec-Mar – the local holiday season when beaches are packed. The whale watching season is Jun-Oct.  

Clothing and special equipment

For day-to-day wear you should take loose-fitting, breathable clothes. Comfortable shoes are important and sandals are useful. A sun hat, sunblock and sunglasses are necessary, and you should take a light fleece for cool nights and a Gore-Tex layer, as well as swimwear. You might benefit from walking boots and poles for the mountain hikes. 

At the Iguazú Falls you can get very wet from the spray. Some visitors choose to take dry clothes in a bag.

If you plan to go to good restaurants or out on evening entertainment trips, you might want to bring something a bit smarter as well (although formal attire will not be required).

Vaccinations

Preventative vaccinations are recommended against the following: typhoid; polio; tetanus; hepatitis A. You should consult your GP for specific requirements, including advice on yellow fever and malaria tablets.

You can also find helpful information on the Masta Travel Health website.

Visas

Holders of a full British passport do not require a visa, although passports must be valid for at least 6 months after the trip begins. Anyone with a different nationality should enquire with us or check with the relevant consulate.

APIS and ESTA - important flight information:

ESTA - If flying to the US, or via the US you will need to fill in your application to ESTA online

This costs $14 per person. This must be done by you personally.

Passports must also be machine-readable (MRP). Avoid locking suitcases if transiting the USA, as their customs authorities retain the right to break into them.

APIS - Many countries now oblige airlines to provide additional information about passengers prior to the flight departure. This Advance Passenger Information (APIS) must be supplied to us promptly in order to issue tickets and avoid fare increases. We will provide the airlines with the relevant details if we are booking your international flights. If the information is not provided you may be denied boarding.

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