2 Weeks in Brazil: Rio de Janeiro State

When looking for itinerary inspiration for 2 weeks in Brazil, it’s very easy to find yourself frittering precious days away on a plane. To state the obvious – this wonderful country is big, REALLY big. And so, we scrapped any plans to try and see everything and decided to tackle just one state on her first trip to Brazil – Rio de Janeiro.

Hotel Villa Rasa Marina - Boutique hotel in Buzios, Brazil

Arriving exhausted into this huge city, we shipped directly out to the beautiful coastline just north of Rio and awoke, the next morning, dazed and confused in the gloriously comfy bed of our room at Hotel Villa Rasa Marina. Just outside of the action on Praia Rasa, we spent the first couple of days not travelling much further than the pool, to the beach, to the bar and back to bed again (slightly embarrassing considering the great food and party scene just a short drive away in Búzios.)

White sand beaches in Brazil

By day three, we mustered the strength to head to a different beach and drove an hour down the coast to Arraial do Cabo. With crystal clear waters and sand so white it hurt our eyes, we were glad to have ventured down (despite a fair bit of traffic) and even more so with the pink skies we enjoyed on the drive back.

Casa Marques in Rio de Janeiro

Rested and restored it was time to return to the bright lights of the city to soak up some culture and see in the New Year. We stayed at the lovely Casa Marques, in the arty Santa Teresa district. We quickly fell in love with this bohemian neighbourhood, full of boutiques, cafés and bars and plenty of old-world grandeur. After a day’s exploring, the hotel’s infinity pool with its views out over Rio beckoned us for a dip.

Raining in Rio de Janeiro

Typical of this time of year, the weather was tropical with temperatures in the early 40’s and the odd, intense downpour but this did little to divert us from our exploration.

Visiting Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro

Views out over Rio de Janeiro from Christ the Redeemer

We enjoyed the views from up by Christ the Redeemer (well-worth it) and from atop of Sugarloaf Mountain (less worth it).

Visiting the favelas in Rio de Janeiro - Vidigal

Despite our scepticism for the so-called ‘ghetto-tourism’, we spent an afternoon exploring the incredible Vidigal favela with a charming guide. And, rather than ogling at the impoverished inhabitants, were invited to discover their brilliant art, design and creative farming techniques. We enjoyed more fantastic views out over the city over a cold beer at Bar Da Laje before meandering back down with a stop off for a deliciously deep-fried treat of a pastéis or two.

New year on Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Keen to see in the New Year with a front row view of Rio’s world-famous fireworks, we decided to base ourselves at Copacabana for the evening. After watching the sunset from Arpoador – a huge rocky outcrop dividing Ipanema and Copacabana, we headed to a bar to soak up the atmosphere and some caipirinhas before hitting the beach. As midnight struck, we ooh-ed and ah-ed to the best fireworks display of our lives, showered by the fizz of the Brazilians that surrounded us and returning the favour with our own. Following the lead of our fellow revellers, we piled down to the sea to jump seven waves and make our seven wishes for the year ahead.

Sunset over Ipanema beach in Brazil

After a long night of merry-making, all we were fit for was a day spent snoozing on the beach. And so, we headed to Ipanema where we enjoyed New Year’s Day sunning, swimming and people watching with the world famous backdrop of the Two Brothers peaks.

Dancing in Lapa in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

With a palpable party spirit still firmly in the air, we freshened up and cabbed over to Lapa for an evening of Samba. Set over three floors, in a beautiful old building decorated with an array of eclectic antiques – there’s something rather magical about Rio Scenarium with each level offering balcony views to the stage below. Despite a fairly hefty entrance fee and a fair few tourists to boot, we spent a very happy evening eating, drinking and dancing to the brilliant live music at this historic spot.

Nothing clears the cobwebs like a cold dip and so, for our final day in town, we headed into Tijuca National Park to explore the Horto Waterfalls. Having set off early with our own guide (the team at Amarelo can advise), we managed to beat even the most eager early-morning beaver and, after a short hike, arrived at the falls. Despite the rain, the water levels were low-ish but there was plenty enough for a decent splash around – the light forming rainbows on the spray.

The pretty streets of Paraty in Brazil

Later our guide dropped us at the bus station to catch a ride south. The buses in Brazil are great, really great, and just a few hours later we arrived in the colonial town of Paraty. We headed to our hotel, hauling our bags through the cobbled streets before arriving tired and hungry at the lovely Pousada do Ouro, set on a quiet street in the old-town. It wasn’t until morning that we realised quite how picturesque a place Paraty is – backed by mountains and with stunning 17th and 18th century Portuguese colonial architecture, it felt almost like a film set and our pousada was no less impressive.

Sadly the weather was mixed for our last few days in Paraty but we spent sunny mornings by the hotel’s gorgeous pool and rainy afternoons wandering the streets, exploring the lovely galleries and boutiques of the old-town. The food was amazing and we soon found our favourite spots for coffee, ice cream, lunch and dinner.

It was an early start from the island to get back to Rio in time for our flight and it was with heavy hearts that we boarded the plane home. We had quickly fallen in love with this vibrant, colourful place and its people. From the cosmopolitan buzz of Rio, to the total return to nature on Ilha Grande – Rio de Janeiro State had offered more than enough to discover over our 2 week break and we’d barely even ventured inland. With the Amazon, Bahia and São Paulo still firmly on our hit list of places to explore, we’re already plotting another visit. O local é lindo maravihoso!

Where to stay

We stayed at Hotel Villa Rasa Marina near Buziós, Casa Marques in Rio’s Santa Teresa neighbourhood and Pousada do Ouro in Paraty.

See our full collection of boutique hotels in Rio de Janeiro here

Roxane has a passion for budget boutique travel. From cheap and chic city boltholes or owner-run rural retreats in Europe to faded palaces in India and simple beachfront cabañas in Mexico - she believes that style doesn't always have to come at a price (and restaurants with plastic chairs, packed full of locals are invariably the best ones).