My first three weeks in Brazil were weird. You know why? Because I travelled in a way that isn’t necessarily familiar to me. I was social and toured with others. I partied very little. I barely took out my camera.
And even though I look back at how few pictures I took and feel a little bit sad about it – because after all, I love taking pictures, it brings me joy, and I love looking at them later – it was truly an incredible time to just go with the flow and enjoy the moment. Guys, guys, I know, it’s cliched – I sorta hate myself for saying something as sappy as that, too.
Brazil is truly an incredible country and I feel endlessly lucky to be able to to live, study and travel here for these few months. South America is also the fourth continent that I’ve visited AND travelled solo – how about that!
Anyway, here’s pretty pics. If you missed the last photo essay (on Portugal), you can find it here.
I was told beforehand that Salvador is one of the most dangerous cities in Brazil and that I’d have to keep my eyes open. There are streets in the old town where not even locals go to. However, where I stayed by the beach I felt completely safe, and even when I visited Pelourinho, I stuck to the touristy areas and looked after my purse, I didn’t feel threatened or scared in any way.
A statue of a woman wearing baiana, the traditional dress of the state of Bahía, surrounded by fitas (wishes). Salvador is teeming with hawkers trying to sell these flimsy bracelets three or five pieces for ten reais after giving you the first one for free “as a gift” but don’t fall for their spiel; you can get up to 20 fitas from the main market for about two reais. When you do get one, though, you’re supposed to tie it with three knots with each knot representing one wish.
National Park Chapada Diamantina
Did you know that Iguazu Falls is not the tallest waterfall in Brazil? While it is indeed the largest, the tallest one was believed to be located in the National Park of Chapada Diamantina, a seven-hour bus ride west from Salvador. (I’m saying was believed since apparently the 340-metre Cachoeira da Fumaça has been topped by another waterfall that was recently found in the Amazon.) Even though this famous waterfall was dry when I visited, the park still had some great hikes and other attractions.
Most explore the park from the little town of Lençois. While I was there at the end of January, they were just in the middle of celebrating a nine-day festival in honour of the saint of miners (the park used to be a base for big diamond mines). This basically translated as awesome, vibrant atmosphere on the streets in the evenings and getting woken up by a marching band with firecrackers at 5 a.m.
With some 12 million inhabitants, São Paulo is the biggest city in all of Brazil. While at first sight the city might just look like another boring cluster of skyscrapers that you can’t tell apart from each other, Sãa Paulo is actually considered one of the biggest cultural hubs on Brazil. It’s especially famous for its multicultural cuisine (Japanese food especially!), museums and vibrant night life. And – wouldn’t you know it – street art, too.
If you’re around the city, I’d highly recommend taking the free walking tour around downtown to familiarise yourself with some of the quirky stories behind seemingly bland looking skyscrapers.
Rio de Janeiro
Rio was probably one of the places that I was most excited to visit. It is without a doubt the most iconic city in Brazil, and for a good reason; there is just something about the carioca lifestyle. There’s a swag in the locals’ step: they don’t rush around, but at the same time they stroll on confidently while still keeping a relaxed pace. I didn’t spend much time around the most famous landmarks since I knew I’d be going back to Rio in April; instead, I enjoyed the nature of Barra da Tijuca and even got a chance to visit a samba rehearsal on the Sambodromo. Oh yeah, and I went paragliding. That was pretty cool.
(I swear, Cristo is visible from everywhere! Can i also just take a minute to appreciate how this city with a population of millions has got literal rainforest and hiking in the middle of it? Rio is crazy green and I love it.)
If you’re looking for paradise, look no further; Ilha Grande is everything you could ever hope for. Crystal blue waters and exciting sea life, good food and hikes in a rainforest, opportunities to go snorkelling and surfing… I swear, Ilha Grande is perfect. (Well, if it doesn’t rain – I have this curse with alleged paradise islands.) Since it’s far from mainland and everyone staying there is a tourist as well, it’s also extremely safe and has a chilled down, slow vibe to it.
Paraty is cool. Why didn’t I take more pictures? It actually makes me a little sad since Paraty is such a cool little town: an old colonial town amidst mountains, fringed by a canal and located conveniently right by the beach, it’s another one of those dream destinations if you have good weather. I didn’t find the snorkelling to be nearly as good a in Ilha Grande, but that could also be because of the tour that I took. (Oh, and there’s no more underwater pictures to be expected because my waterproof camera got wet and stopped working. Go figure.)
Have you ever been to Brazil or are you planning a trip there?