Out of Office: Lija’s Grand Tour of Brazil

May 28, 2014 by

South & Central America, Travel Advice & Inspiration

Viator’s team of travel insiders is obsessed with finding the best things to do everywhere we travel. From traditional tours to once-in-a-lifetime experiences, everywhere from Australia to Zimbabwe, we spend our time scouring the globe for the best tours and activities around the world.

Whether traveling for work or pleasure (or both!) our staff members are always on the go and we want to share their experiences with you! In this new series, Out of Office, we’ll bring you their stories, highlighting the best things to do and see in destinations around the world, as experienced by a real Viator Insider.

lijaThe Traveler: Lija Zalte, Product Merchandising Manager

What’s your role at Viator? Manage and execute promotional strategy for our websites.

The trip: Brazilian coast, 7 days, March 2014

Why did you choose this destination? What appealed to you about the place?

I wanted a unique place to spend time relaxing on the beach and knew Brazil would be amazing!

What did you do on the trip?

I started my trip with a brief stay in Buenos Aires, then flew to Iguassu Falls for a few days, and then did another flight to Sao Paolo.  From there I had about 7 days along the beautiful Brazilian coast.

I drove along the scenic coastal road, with 2 days in Paraty, 2 days in Ilha Grande, and 3 days in Rio de Janeiro.  The coastal town of Paraty has great beaches and a beautiful colonial town center with cobblestone streets and cute shops and restaurants.  A good place to buy your Brazilian-made Havaianas!  I spent a day out on a boat that cruised along the smaller nearby islands and stopped along the way so we could swim or hang out on the beaches.

The cobblestone streets of Paraty

The cobblestone streets of Paraty

After I left Paraty, I took a one hour ferry ride to Ilha Grande.  Ilha Grande is known for their beaches so I definitely took advantage of that!  The island is small, and no cars are allowed, but most restaurants are located along the main street in town.  Water taxi’s and shuttles are happy to take you around to the other parts of the island.

Ilha Grande

Ilha Grande

And finally I arrived in Rio.  The first day was spent hitting the main attractions, including Sugar Loaf Mountain and Christ Redeemer.  The second day I made sure to spend on the beach in Ipanema to soak up the sun and atmosphere.  And the final day, I walked around the Ipanema area and relaxed in the restaurants and cafés.

What was the best experience?

My best experience was spending the day out on the boat in Paraty.  The boat served an amazing lunch and provided all you can drink caipirinhas. The trip was about 5 hours and stopped in 3 different locations around the islands.  There were two levels to the boat, the top deck had chairs for lounging in the sun, and the bottom deck had more benches for seating and had a live musician playing music throughout the day.

The boat ride in Paraty

The boat ride in Paraty

When the boat stopped, they allowed us to jump off the boat and float around the warm water.  They even provided floatation “noodles” so you didn’t have to tread water the whole time.  It was truly the most relaxing and fun day!

Did you take any Viator tours?

In Rio, I wanted to make sure to see the samba that is so well known in this area so I decided to go to the Plataforma Samba Show that Viator offers.   I was picked up at my hotel in a large bus and taken to a local restaurant in the Ipanema area.  The restaurant had an excellent variety of food and it was fun to get to know some of the other people on the tour.

Plataforma Samba Show

Plataforma Samba Show

After dinner, the bus dropped us off at the samba show and we were allowed to choose our seats, so I ended up with a front row spot.  The performance was a great spectacle of dance, music, and costumes and offered a small glimpse into the Brazilian culture.  The sounds and sights were unforgettable.

Which attraction did you enjoy the most, and why?

The view of Copacabana from Sugar Loaf

The view of Copacabana from Sugar Loaf

I really enjoyed visiting Sugar Loaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro.  Rio’s landscape and size is amazing and I knew I wanted to see it from a high vantage point.  Getting up to Sugar Loaf involved riding two cable cars, which was a fun bonus.  The views from the top were beautiful, you could even see the Christ Redeemer Statue in the distance.  We went up at night, which offered a different view of the city and all of the amazing little lights along the water and in the hills.

What sight, activity, or experience would you tell people they should not skip?

Spend a day on the beach in Rio!  It is an amazing people watching experience, and there are plenty of vendors walking around to sell you everything from swim suits, sun block and coconuts.  Don’t forget to rent a chair and umbrella for the full experience.

What was the best thing you ate or drank?

Caipirinhas!  I have tried these in the US, but nothing compared to having them in Brazil.  They are made with cachaca, (a sugar cane liquor) as well as lime. I think I had one almost every night!  It is an acquired taste, and some of the people I was traveling with thought they were a bit too strong, but definitely worth a try.

What are your top three recommendations to any visitor?

  • Pick up a few key Portuguese phrases (i.e. Thank you, How much, Where is). I was thinking English would be more widely spoken, but in some places it was pretty hard to get by.   Knowing a bit of the language will get you a lot further.
  • Check out the many different neighborhoods of Rio.  The lure is definitely the beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana, but a lot of culture can be found in areas such as Lapa and Santa Teresa.
  • Be prepared to truly relax and lay on the beach in the smaller towns along the Brazilian coast.  There are some organized activities that can be booked, but I found that it was best just to take a few days to do nothing but take it all in.

What’s the best Insider Tip you can offer future visitors to this destination?

The food in Brazil revolves around the many different types of meat, so meat lovers will be excited.  But being a vegetarian, many times I ended up eating simple grilled cheese sandwiches or side dishes from the salad bar.  Outside of Rio, non-meat eaters should be prepared to look a little harder for different options.

Where are you off to next?

I don’t have a trip booked yet, but I may end up at another tropical location such as Nicaragua or head back to South America to check out Bolivia.

– Lija Zalte 

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