I’m planning to attend the Rio Carnival next year. My travel dates are 28th February-11th March. We’ve already planned out the first 5 days of our trip (open to your suggestions, if any). I’m struggling to plan the rest of our trip (5 – 11 March) since everything is so far. Some of the options that we are considering are:
Please know we’ve booked a round trip from Sao Paulo, so we’ll have to eventually fly back to Sao Paulo. My husband, Sameer and I, love adventure, hiking, wildlife and partying. Luckily, the Carnival will take care of partying so we thought we’ll explore a city with a unique and different vibe.
We are so excited to be doing this cause it is sort of like a bucket list thing for us!
- Rio (5 nights), fly to –>
- Salvador (2 nights), fly to –>
- Lençóis & Chapada Diamantina (3 nights), fly via Rio / or fly to Rio and drive via Paraty –>
- Sao Paolo (1 night)
I’m sure the Rio Carnival will be amazing! And all the other places you have in mind are also so wonderful, I can imagine why you have a difficult time deciding what to do.
One thing about Brazil, though, is how enormous it is. While I truly liked the sound of all the places you mentioned you were interested in, the sheer span of the country makes it difficult to do too many places in a short 7 days (effectively the amount of time you have between Tuesday, 5 March and Monday, 11 March).
So, given how crazily stunning these places are I think we have to leave some out of this trip (so that you can return again :)). And even getting between the places you can visit will be mainly by domestic flight, which isn’t cheap.
Also, there’s the fact that even if the actual flight time is only an hour you lose at least half a day, what with getting to the airport, airport formalities, getting your bags when you land and then getting to your hotel.
So if there’s some place on the list of places you mentioned that you REALLY have to see, I’d suggest you focus on that and then take a look at what air/land connections allow you to see around it.
Before we get into your options after Rio, I found this to be a really insightful article on the carnival and Rio in general.
Here are the other places you mentioned:
Lençóis Maranhenses: The best time to visit is between July and September. Torrential rainfall inundates the area from January to June. Not only that, it is located far, far to the north on the Atlantic coast so it really doesn’t make sense. You can read more here.
Juma Lodge: Manaus is a 4-hour approx. flight from Rio. These are the directions on the Juma Eco Lodge page on the rest of the journey from Manaus:
· Speedboat from Ceasa Port Manaus to Careiro da Varzea (30min)
· Taxi or van to Ramal km 17 on the road to Autazes (1hour)
· Motorized canoe to the lodge (30min)
Salvador and Chapada Diamatina: There are places you could do together as you would need to fly via Salvador to Lençóis (different from Lencois Maranhenses), which is the closest town to Chapada Diamantina National Park. The city of Lençóis, a former diamond mining town, also looks quite interesting in itself.
Salvador is a 2 hours + flight away from Rio and is a multi-layered city with a laidback feel. The city is also the birthplace of samba and axé. More about Salvador here.
Lençóis is a 1-hour approx. flight from Salvador and from there it’s a 30-minute drive to Chapada Diamantina National Park. Aside from being the gateway town to Chapada Diamantina National Park, Lençóis is a quaint town of cobblestoned streets and numerous accommodation options and restaurants. Nearby are multiple waterfalls and wonderful options for cave diving and spelunking. I especially like the sound of Poço Encantado, a 12-foot pool, whose clear waters show glimpses of sunken trees and cradle a delicate ecosystem that has resulted in increased protection.
Maceio: Even though it looks lovely, you can either get here by direct flight from Salvador (1 hour approx. by flight) or Rio (2.5 hours by flight), which means you’d have to skip Chapada Diamantina etc to get here.
Maceió’s charms lie mainly in its gorgeous, meandering beachfront.
OTHER PLACES CLOSER TO RIO YOU COULD CONSIDER
Petrópolis (1 hour drive from Rio), a city soaked in history and surrounded by the Serra dos Órgãos National Park which offers wonderful views and opportunities for rambling forest walks. More here.
Paraty (mid-way between Rio and Sao Paolo), appears on almost every list of places to see close to Rio. This popular destination consists of a historic town dotted with colonial architecture and islands that can be reached by boat. Trindade, a small beach town near Paraty, has possibly some of Brazil’s best beaches and is a quieter option to Paraty. There are calm spots to swim in, small guesthouses or pousadas and local restaurants serving the catch of the day.
More info about Trindade here.
More about Paraty and Sao Paolo here.
For more options for destinations close to Rio click here.
Unless one of the places you mentioned on that list is a place you are dying to see, this is what I’d do:
Rio –> Salvador (by flight) –> Lençóis (by flight, direct flights on certain days) –> Chapada Diamantina (drive) –> and then basically retrace your footsteps to: –> Lençóis (drive) –> Rio (flight via one-stop in Salvador), at the end of which you’d probably need to head directly to Sao Paolo. If you have any spare time you could spend it in Paraty.
Hope this helps! Do let me know what you decide.
All photos: www.123rf.com