Kick things off in frenetic and festive Rio, an essential destination on any Brazil itinerary. Stroll the cobbled streets of gorgeous former diamond- and gold-mining towns such as Ouro Preto and Lencois, both awash with colourful architecture. Step inside a virtual time warp in Brazil’s capital, Brasilia, a city that displays a fascinating 1960s vision of the future. Uncover two of Brazil’s spectacular yet often overlooked natural beauties: Chapada Dos Veadeiros and Chapada Diamantina national parks
Copacabana beach, Christ the Redeemer, Corcovado… Rio de Janiero is a must-see city, there’s no doubt about it. But a destination as vast and eclectic as Brazil naturally has more than one trick up its sleeve. Join Intrepid in discovering the unsung heroes of this legendary South American destination. Uncover former diamond and gold mining towns that teem with photogenic architecture, quiet beaches where surfers and chillers wile away entire summers, and national parks that flaunt that famous Brazilian biodiversity which is unrivalled in all the Americas. Culminating in a feast for the senses – the pulsing town of Salvador da Bahia – this is an overland adventure not to be missed.
Rio De Janeiro
Welcome to Rio de Janeiro, one of the most beautifully situated cities in the world. If you are flying into Brazil, arrive at Rio Galeão International Airport. Your adventure begins with a group meeting at 6 pm at the hotel reception. The rest of the day is yours to enjoy Rio as you please. Arriving early is highly recommended, as there's plenty to see and do (if you need to book extra accommodation, contact your sales agent). Recommended optional activities include: a spectacular cable car ride up Sugarloaf Mountain, a Colonial Gems of Rio city tour, or a visit to the legendary Christ the Redeemer statue. Otherwise, kick back and relax on the famous urban beaches, enjoy a beer or caipirinha at one of the many street-side cafes, and then when evening comes you can party the night away in the buzzing Lapa or Ipanema areas.
Ouro Preto, Petropolis
Settle in for the drive to the beautiful old colonial mining town of Ouro Preto (approximately 8 hours). Along the way, make a stop at Petropolis, the cool hillside hideaway for local Cariocas escaping the heat of Rio. Ouro Preto is a fascinating place to explore, as the surviving colonial buildings are beautifully preserved and the city is free from modern development (any new buildings must be constructed in line with the town's historical aesthetic). There are several old mines that are open for visitors, providing a glimpse of how life was for the miners all those years ago. There will be two hours to explore the Museu Imperial, check out the former Imperial Palace, wander the town, or visit the Palacio de Cristal (the site where the last slaves of Petropolis were released).
Enjoy a half-day guided tour of Ouro Preto, the first Brazilian town to be considered a UNESCO World Heritage site. In the afternoon, enjoy some free time to explore. You might like to stroll around and check out the baroque churches, visit the underground mines, or explore the interesting Minerology Museum. Alternatively, head to the nearby village of Congonhas to see the remarkable statues of the Twelve Prophets by Aleijadinho, an accomplished sculptor who worked despite losing his hands to leprosy. There are also some fantastic local cafes and restaurants. Don't forget your camera today, as this is one of the most picturesque towns on the itinerary. At the day's end, bunk down in a local hostel.
Journey through the Brazilian countryside today. A full day's driving brings you to a nice camping spot near the Tres Marias, a great reservoir of Brazil.
Continue to the capital, Brasilia. In the morning, enjoy a guided tour of this intriguing World Heritage-listed city, which was designed and built to be the Brazilian Government's headquarters in 1960. The whole place is laid out to resemble a plane, and boasts some incredible, futuristic cathedrals and monuments. To really appreciate the plan of the city and its odd shape, try a trip up the television tower for a panoramic view of the city. The Metropolitan Cathedral, shaped like a crown of thorns with angel statues suspended from the ceiling, should not be missed, nor should the blue stained glass of Dom Bosco Cathedral. Other fascinating buildings include the National Congress and Senate, the Juscelino Kubitschek Memorial and the incredible JK Bridge. At the end of the day, settle into a campsite on the edge of town.
After a morning tour of the city, drive to the chilled-out town of Alto Paraiso (approximately 3 hours). This will be your base for exploring the Chapada dos Veadeiros. Alto Paraiso is crossed by Parallel 14 (in the same way as Machu Picchu) and is at the centre of some fantastic stories of space ships and aliens. Tonight you'll camp at a well equipped camp site.
Chapada Dos Veadeiros National Park, Alto Paraiso
Enjoy two full days to explore the national park. The Chapada dos Veadieros is one of Brazil's hidden gems, one of the oldest and most beautiful tropical ecosystems in South America – home to incredible waterfalls, rock formations, caves and grottoes. You'll visit the Vale da Lua or the Valley of the Moon, so called for its lunar rock formations. This area is perfect for hiking, horse riding and cycling, not to mention swimming in some refreshing natural pools. It is said that due to the high amount of quartz in the ground, the park glows from space! Wildlife lovers can keep an eye out for the Rhea (Brazilian ostrich), Seriema, Tapeti, Armadillo (Tatu Canastra), Anteater, Capybara (Capivara), Tapir (Anta), Green-Beek Toucan, Black Vulture and King Vulture.
Over the next two days, travel overland across the central Brazilian countryside towards the town of Lencois and the stunning Chapada Diamantina. On Day 9 we will aim to travel approximately 500 kilometres (9 hours) and find a nice bush camp along the way. On Day 10 the aim is to travel 400 kilometres (8 hours) and stay in an eco-tourism campsite in the laidback town of Lencois. On arrival, stretch your legs and acquaint yourself with this beautiful old diamond-mining town, your gateway to Chapada da Diamantina National Park.
Chapada Da Diamantina National Park, Lencois
Lencois's friendly inhabitants, great restaurants, cobbled streets and brightly coloured buildings make it a lovely place to explore on foot. The Chapada Diamantina, just a short trip away, could easily be counted among South America best national parks, and Lencois is the perfect base for hiking, biking or kayaking adventures in the park. Valleys of lush green dotted with bright tropical flowers surround a mountain range of twisted red-rock formations reminiscent of the American Southwest. Numerous small rivers carve their way through the highlands, splashing over waterfalls and natural slides. There are also numerous caves to explore, some many kilometres long.
Continue to the coast today, arriving in the beautiful beach town of Itacare (approximately 10 hours). It's located just south of Salvador, in the cocoa region of Bahia state. With its stunning Atlantic rainforest, eco-friendly cafes and bars, and 20 miles of postcard-perfect beach, this is a lovely place relax and unwind for a couple of days. Keen surfers won't have to look very far for a wave to catch, and the water is nice and warm.
Enjoy a day to explore the area, stroll along the beach, or take part in some of the many adventure activities available – horse riding, rafting, mountain biking, kayaking or off-road adventures. Alternatively, a great day trip is to visit the stunning Peninsula de Marau, stopping off at Praia Taipus de Fora and Lagoa Azul. You'll be camping at a campsite equipped with facilities.
Today we drive to the beautiful town of Salvador da Bahia (approximately 7 hours). Salvador is a vibrant and exciting place to visit, with its bright colonial architecture, solid street food scene, great music and impressive Capoeira, so there's plenty to keep us busy for two days. Apart from the historic interest of the town, there are some excellent beaches to visit nearby, but you should definitely try to get to a 'Candomble' evening while you are here. Candomble is a popular religious cult in the region, and the ceremonies offer a fascinating insight into the culture of this area. Salvador is also well known for its spectacular Carnival and other festivities, but the nightlife is good fun here at any time of the year. Tonight's accommodation is a hotel situated just by the old centre of Pelourinho.