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Rio’s Favela Tourism – Eyes Wide Open

28 Nov

Our mini-van climbed high into the hills of Rio de Janeiro leaving behind the glitzy malls and million-dollar apartments lining the famous Copacabana and Ipanema beaches.  We sped past a chaotic mass of ramshackle houses clinging precariously to the steep mountainside.  We noticed the prevalence of armed police and our guide Ricci pointed out walls ravaged by bullets and covered in gang graffiti. We had arrived at Rocinha – Rio’s largest favela – and we were about to step into a world once firmly off limits to tourists.

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Rio de Janeiro – City of God

8 Nov

Rio de Janerio is a city living life at full throttle. It’s energetic, vibrant and dedicated to pleasure. Famous for its hedonistic carnival, fanatical beach culture, pulsating music and passion for sport, nothing is ever done half-heartedly. Rio’s intense urban beauty is also nothing short of mind-blowing. Undulating mountains covered in lush forests overlook curving bays of golden sand and sparkling blue sea. Old districts with colonial mansions and leafy parks blend seamlessly with soaring skyscrapers and modern stadiums. Even the ramshackle favelas stacked high into the hillside add colour and life to this diverse and open-minded city. Locals love to boast, with a cheeky smile, that “On the eighth day, God created Rio” and it’s easy to believe this city has truly been blessed.

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Festival Fever – Festa do Bonfim

19 Jul

Brazil is famous for its vibrant festivals and raucous celebrations. Naturally outgoing and full of life, smiles and laughter, Brazilians instinctively know how to have a good time making their parties amongst the biggest and best in the world. Images of streets thronged with carefree revellers, live bands playing every kind of music and curvaceous ladies dancing in sequined bikinis is not a marketing ploy, this is the real deal! The Brazilian calendar is chock-full of festivals and if you spend any length of time in the country, it’s highly likely you’ll stumble across one. For those lucky enough to be swept up in the festival spirit, the anything-goes celebratory vibe is infectious and it will undoubtedly be the highlight of any trip to Brazil.

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THIS is Salvador

9 Jul

A cacophony of drums pound out rhythmical African beats. This is Salvador. Muscular bodies soaked in sweat kick, flip and twist inside a Capoeira circle. This is Salvador. Parades of people holding religious statues aloft, march on ancient churches where singing and clapping congregations watch miracles performed. This is Salvador. Young boys with jet black skin and tight curly hair, tirelessly perform back flips on golden sandy beaches. This is Salvador. Baiana women wearing traditional Bahian dress weave along the old town’s cobbled alleyways and past colourful colonial buildings evoking imagery of African slaves. This is Salvador.

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Urban Beach Dreams – Maceió

28 Jun

Meandering along the palm-lined promenade and looking out across golden sand to painted sailboats bobbing on the clear green sea, it was easy to see why Maceió is a destination on the up.  Located in Brazil’s northern state of Alagoas, the modern city of Maceió initially thrived due to the sugar industry but is now fast becoming a hotspot with tourists in the know. The laid-back city has vibrant nightlife with excellent restaurants and bars but its biggest crowd pleaser has to be the miles of urban beaches and access to idyllic shorelines to the north and south.

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Explore Beautiful Olinda

7 Jun

Olinda is a highlight of any trip to Brazil’s north-eastern Atlantic coast. It has bags of personality and looks to die for. The historic centre offers one of the largest and best preserved examples of colonial architecture in all of Brazil and earned Olinda UNESCO World Heritage status in 1982. The city is built into rolling green hills and is studded with beautiful painted houses, baroque churches and tree-lined plazas. The views out to the turquoise sea and back towards Recife from one of Olinda’s many look-out points are simply magnificent. Over past decades artists and creative types have settled in Olinda, making it a hotspot for art and creativity. The city is also home to one of Brazil’s most famous carnivals, rich in folklaw traditions.

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Discover the Amazonian Megalopolis Manaus

28 Jan

Thoughts of the almighty Amazon have the power to excite and delight travellers like few other places on Earth can. In our minds eye we picture thick natural rainforest with giant trees and an abundance of wildlife, isolated indigenous communities with painted faces and fresh, clean waterways filling the World’s largest river system. So imagine our initial disappointment on arrival in Manaus, the Amazon’s largest city (approx. 1.7 million population) to find a sprawling, dirty hot and humid metropolis seemingly devoid of any natural flora and fauna. The frenetic streets were choked by traffic and its streets filled with rubbish and unsavory characters. On face value Manaus had limited touristic appeal but it frequently finds its way onto traveller’s itineraries using it as a base to arrange jungle trips or considering it a destination in its own right. We realised that perhaps we’d set ourselves up for a fall, with expectations so high, that Manaus was always fighting a losing battle. We knew there must be more to the city than its face value so we set out to discover what Manaus was all about.

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A tale of two cities…seperated by the world’s longest mountain range

10 Aug

The Andes mountain range is one of the world’s most wondrous spectacles. It is the longest continental mountain range in the world stretching the entire west coast of South America for 4,500 miles or 7,242 kilometres and spanning seven countries – Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela. The range has the highest mountains on the planet, outside of the Himalayas, the tallest of which is Aconcagua in Argentina (6,962m), plus over 50 volcanos reaching 6,000 metres, including the world’s highest, Ojos del Salado (6,893m). Filled with glaciers, lakes, ski fields, the ruins of lost civilisations, thriving cities and indigenous communities amongst other things, these mountains truly are a special place. Our small claim to fame in all of this was travelling the whole length of this incredible range in just over 8 months – from the city of Ushuaia at the ‘world’s end’ in the south of Patagonia, to the city of Merida in the north of hot blooded Venezuela. Continue reading

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