2-Week Brazil Itinerary: Perfect for First-Time Visitors

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Brazil was my 65th country and somewhere I was incredibly excited about. At the same time, despite all my travel experience, I found planning my trip to Brazil daunting. I received countless warnings about safety and the country itself is massive which made it hard to plan when I had a limited amount of time. In the end, I joined a group trip to explore Brazil and while I was grateful for the friends I made, I now know that I easily could have done it myself safely and for (a lot) less money. So, for anyone trying to figure out a 2-week Brazil itinerary and wondering if you can do it on your own, the answer is yes. Here’s how to best spend 2 weeks in Brazil if you are a first-time visitor.

Getting to Brazil

beach umbrellas lining the sandy beach of Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro

Getting to Brazil is pretty easy by air and overland if you are coming from a neighbouring country. If you are flying directly into Brazil chances are you will route through Sao Paulo Airport. It’s the largest and the most popular among international airlines. For my suggested itinerary, however, I suggest you start in the South of Brazil to see Iguazu falls. It might seem a little bit out of the way but trust me, it’s worth it. So, book a connecting flight to Foz do Iguaçu/Cataratas International airport.

If you are crossing into Brazil from neighbouring Argentina you can also fly directly into Foz de Iguaçu/Cataratas airport. This is the easiest option if you are coming from Buenos Aires. However, you can also easily cross the border by land.

Getting Around Brazil

Stormy sunset skies and Rio as seen from the top of Sugar Loaf

Brazil is enormous and unless you are renting a car (which I do not recommend for this 2-week Brazil itinerary) you will rely on a mix of public transportation, Ubers, boats and your feet!

Buses, shuttles, and flights are the easiest way to get from city to city. When in smaller towns you can easily walk around. When in larger cities, such as Rio de Janeiro, you can use the public transportation system or Uber. I found Uber to be very affordable, easy, and safe as a solo female traveller in Rio. You can connect the app to your credit card, no need for cash.

Two Weeks in Brazil Itinerary: My Suggestions for First-Time Visitors

As I said earlier Brazil is a huge country and there is tons to see and do. My itinerary will take you from the Southern border and end in Rio de Janeiro since this is the part of the country I explored. That being said, if you have more time, then consider heading north which is meant to have some of the most beautiful spots in the country when it comes to nature and beaches. Don’t forget that Brazil also holds nearly 60% of the Amazon rainforest, so if that’s on your bucket list, then consider adding it into your itinerary.

With that in mind, here is my suggested 2-week Brazil itinerary which is perfect for first-timers looking to explore some of the major highlights of the country.

2 Days in Iguazu Falls

Iguassu Falls is located in Southern Brazil on the border of Argentina. With 275 waterfalls, this incredible area is of the natural wonders of the world and a world UNESCO heritage site. I recommend spending your first 2 days here so you can see them from both the Brazilian side and the Argentinian side. Although I suggest staying in Brazil itself to make things a little easier.

For recommendations on where to stay near Iguazu Falls, I suggest the following:

Hostel: Concept design hostel and suites or Hostel Wanderlust 

Midrange: Viale Iguassu or Foz Plaza Hotel

Luxury: Hotel Das Cataratas which is right by the falls themselves.

Your first day, when you are probably a bit tired from travel and jetlagged, should be spent on the Brazilian side. Brazil has the best view of all the falls since you look across to the Argentinian side. You only really need a couple of hours here to walk the trail and take your photos. Keep an eye out for the local wildlife as well which includes everything from multi-coloured butterflies to jaguars if you are incredibly lucky. From the Brazilian side, you can also take a helicopter ride to see the falls from above.This tour will pick you up from your hotel and take you to explore Iguazu falls from the Brazilian side.

On day two, head over to the Argentinian side for the day. This will be a full day as there are multiple walking trails and a boat excursion that I highly recommend. Only two of the three walking trails were open during my visit. The upper one, we were told, was much more beautiful than the bottom trail so that’s what I did and wow was it stunning. It’s amazing seeing all the waterfalls from a distance when you are on the Brazil side, but the Argentinian side really allows you to get up and close and see just how big and powerful they are. 

There is then the option to take a boat ride to see the falls from the water. In my opinion, this was the most fun so I highly recommend it. Just note it’s a long downhill trail through the jungle to the boats and you will get soaking wet (so wear a bathing suit and bring a change of clothes!). This tour will pick you up and take you across to explore Iguazu falls from the Argentinian side.

Travel to Paraty

Old colonial white buildings on a cobblestone street

I apologize in advance but Day 3 is going to be a long travel day. I promise you, however, that it is worth it!

The next stop on my suggested 2-week Brazil itinerary is Paraty, which means you’ll need to take a domestic flight and a bus ride.

Start by flying to Sao Paulo’s Guarulhos airport. It’s a 1.5 hour flight and should only cost you about $85CAD if you book in advance. From Sao Paulo Airport you will need to get a bus or shuttle to Paraty which will take 5-7 hours depending on traffic. Trust me, there will be traffic. 

You can take public transit which will be the cheapest method but also the longest. Using the local buses will require 2-3 transfers.

The other option is to take a shuttle. They have 2 pick-ups per day from the airport and will take you to Paraty direct. It is more expensive (about $90 CAD one way). However, it is comfortable, with room for your luggage in the back, and air conditioning. They also include a rest stop. The shuttle company we used was Paraty tours and it was fantastic. You can find them here.

I suggest staying in Paraty for 3 nights. The old town is beautiful but the streets are pedestrian only and will be incredibly difficult to wheel a suitcase down. If you travel with a suitcase, pick a hotel just outside the old town centre. If you are backpacking, you can stay in the old town if you like.

Suggestions for accommodation in Paraty:

Hostels: Che Lagarato Paraty 

Midrange: Pousada recanto do Jabaquara or Pousada Antigona 

Luxury: Pousada do Ouro or Sandi Hotel

2 Days in Paraty

reflection of white building with blue windows in a puddle in Paraty, Brazil

Days 4 and 5 of my 2-week Brazilian itinerary are for Paraty. Paraty is a colonial Portuguese town located along the coast against a backdrop of jungle and mountains. It is gorgeous! Not just the picturesque old town but the location and the scenery. You’ll want to spend at least two full days here, one exploring the town and area and the second on the water.

Paraty old town is quite compact which is ideal because it’s accessible by foot only. No cars allowed! This will make sense once you see the streets; cobblestones of all shapes and sizes and nowhere is flat. So, make sure you wear good shoes; these streets are potential ankle-breakers!

Paraty is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is famous for its beautiful buildings and the local cachaça, which is the liquor used to make caipirinhas. There is a special type of caipirinha here in Paraty called the Jorge Amado which uses a cachaça infused with cloves and cinnamon and passionfruit. It was by far my favourite drink in Brazil. If you plan on buying any cachaça while in Brazil, Paraty is the place to do it. There are a number of shops in the old town where you can try different types or you can take a local distillery tour. Try this half-day jungle waterfall and cachaça distillery tour. 

Hannah laughing in a purple bikini on a boat

For your second day in Paraty, take a boat trip around the bay. The trip I took included 4 snorkel stops. You could also order all types of food anddrinks on board. It was a really fun day that allowed us to see some of the beautiful islands and beaches in the area. The water here is also a beautiful blue/green colour and really clear. You can book your boat trip here.

In the evening, wander around the old town and have a drink somewhere with music. There are lots of great restaurant options here. 

One thing to note about Paraty is that if it rains, the streets really flood here. I walked through water well above my ankles when I got caught in a rainstorm the first night!

Travel to Ilha Grande

Walking out of the jungle to a white sand beach with a boat, and an island in the distance

Day 6 is another travel day but don’t worry, it’s not a long one! You will, however, be taking a combination of a bus or shuttle and then a boat.

The first part of your journey is to travel from Paraty to Angra Dos Reis. There is the local bus or, again, you can book a shuttle which is what I took. The journey is a little under two hours. Try to grab a window seat on the right side of the bus for the best coastal views.

Once you arrive at Angra Dos Reis you’ll head to the pier where you will catch a ferry across to Ilha Grande. Now, these ferries aren’t quite what you probably have in mind. They are large speed boats and you get a plastic seat while the luggage is all lined up in the middle. It’s the local mode of transportation, nothing super fancy. Our journey wasn’t rough at all but if you do get seasick, take some meds just in case!

The ferry will take you to the main village in Ilha Grande which is Vila do Abraão. This is where you will spend the next 4 nights. For accommodation recommendations consider:

Hostel: Mahalo Hostel or Biergarten Hostel

Midrange: Pousada Recanto da Ana Alice or Pousada Porto Girassol

Luxury: Pousada Portal do Sol

Two important things to note about Ilha Grande. The first is that there are no vehicles. You walk and get around by boats. The second is that cash is king but there are no ATMs (at least not as of March 2024) on Ilha Grande. So, make sure to get cash beforehand because not everywhere takes credit cards. 

3 Days in Ilha Grande

Hannah Logan in a red swimsuit sitting on a rock with a huge wave splashing behind her

Ilha Grande was my favourite part of Brazil. It’s a beautiful island full of incredible beaches, a national park, hiking trails, and is a great place for scuba diving. If you are a beach/water person like me, you are going to love it here.

I suggest spending 3 full days on the island. Even if you choose not to be super active it’s a good place to relax before heading to busy Rio do Janeiro.  Here’s how I suggest spending 3 days on Ilha Grande.

One day should be a beach day, specifically, Lopes Mendes beach. This beach is considered to be one of the best beaches in Brazil and one of the most beautiful in the world. I absolutely agree-it is stunning. However, it’s a bit of a trek to get there. You will need to take a boat from Vila do Abraão about 20 minutes to another beach. Here, you will follow the signs through the jungle trail to Lopes Mendes beach itself. The walk takes about 30 minutes but it is a proper up-and-downhill hike over rough and uneven terrain. I didn’t trust my flipflops so actually did it barefoot. It wasn’t too bad (made even better by the baby monkeys I saw) but it is definitely a bit of an adventure. However, it’s 100% worth it when you get to the beach on the other side. Huge expanses of soft, white sand. Bright blue waves, palm trees, jungle, and rocks. Lopes Mendes beach is gorgeous. What you do need to keep in mind is that it is a natural beach. There are no shops, toilets, etc. So, bring everything you need for your time there including plenty of drinking water. Personally, I could have spent the entire day here but I’m also a big beach person. I’d suggest at least half a day since your journey also includes the boat ride and hike.

For your second day, book a boat tour. Ilha Grande has half and full-day boat options that will take you to some of the most beautiful swimming and snorkelling spots around the island. The water is clear and beautiful and the boat tour will allow you to see some more of the island. You can book your boat trip here.

For your third day, you can go scuba diving, hike, or just hang out and explore town. There is a cool national park within walking distance of the village. You’ll spot plenty of wildlife and there is a small natural waterfall that you can slide down and swim in the pool below. It’s a lot of fun!

Hannah in a blue swimsuit with her arms in the air ready to slide down the waterfall

If you are a super-keen hiker you might also want to consider hiking to the Pico do Papagaio, or the parrot head. This rock, which really does look like a parrot head, can be seen from the water towering over the island. Hikers can go at any part of the day, but many leave around 1am to get to the top for sunrise. It is a long, tough hike. I did not do it but a couple of my friends did. You get hiking sticks because you can’t grab branches/rocks in case of poisonous spiders (my literal nightmare) and there is some climbing involved. You will definitely want to hire a guide, especially if you want to go for sunrise. Just do yourself a favour and be sure to check the weather first. If it’s clear, the views look amazing. My friends went and it was all covered in fog, they couldn’t see a thing. 

Travel to Rio De Janeiro

Colourful street art of a cartoon toucan

Day 10 is another travel day! Don’t worry, today isn’t too long but you do still need to take a boat and bus/shuttle to get into Rio. Traffic again may be an issue so I don’t suggest planning too much for today aside from travel. I’d recommend enjoying your final morning in Ilha Grande and then making your way to Rio in the afternoon. The journey will take around 3-4 hours.

To get from Ilha Grande to Rio de Janeiro you’ll need to take the boat back to Angra Dos Reis where you can either catch a local bus which is the cheapest option or book another shuttle. We took the shuttle which was easy and comfortable. You can book it here.

Rio is the last stop on this 2-week Brazil itinerary and I am suggesting you spend 4 nights so you have three full days here. There are a number of different neighbourhoods to explore in Rio but I loved and recommend staying in Copacabana. It’s right by the beach, safe to walk around and through to Ipanema, and central enough to get to other parts of the city easily enough by public transit or Uber.

Here are some suggestions on where to stay in Copacabana.

Hostel: Pura Vida Hostel

Midrange: CLH Suites Domingos Ferreira or Rio Design Hotel

Luxury:Emiliano Rio or Copacabana Palace 

3 Days in Rio De Janeiro

Christ the Redeemer statue against a very storm sky

Rio is a vibrant city full of life and character. I wasn’t sure how I would feel about it but I absolutely loved my time here. I found that my three days in Rio went by really quickly but also allowed me to see and experience some of the best parts. Here’s how I recommend you spend 3 days in Rio de Janeiro.

Make day one all about seeing the highlights. This means Christ the Redeemer, Sugar Loaf, the colourful Selarón Steps etc. You can visit them on your own and purchase your own tickets but I do recommend spending a little extra money and taking a tour. It means you don’t have to worry about public transit since everything is spread out and you get a guide who will also fill you in on some facts, history, stories, and provide tips for the rest of your time in the city. It’s a great way to learn a little about Rio while getting to see the big tourist attractions. You can book a 6-stop highlights of Rio tour here. You’ll finish the tour in the late afternoon leaving you time to rest a bit before a night out or, time to head to the beach for the evening.

For your second day, head to Parque Lago, which is a rainforest in the middle of the city. It’s here that you will find Plage Café which despite its Instagram fame, does have pretty good food and a beautiful setting. It fills up quickly though so if you want to go for brunch, get there early as you will likely have to put your name on a list. In the meantime, you can wander around the park area itself. If you like, you can visit the nearby Jardim Botânico.

Pink building in the jungle of Parque Lago

In the afternoon, I suggest joining a favela tour. Favelas are the slums of Rio and while there are mixed thoughts about visiting them, after having a discussion with a couple of different guides and locals I decided to go. Favelas are a huge part of Rio. Oftentimes the people you meet working in the tourism industry like hotels, restaurants, etc. may live in a Favela. Favelas are a reality of life in Rio and I don’t think you can turn a blind eye to that. However, you do need to go with a reputable guide and a company or tour that visits the favelas responsibly. The most popular Favela that tourist groups will be taken to is Rocinha, which is where I went. I don’t want to give too much of the tour away but I thought it was really well done, I found everyone we came across and spoke to very friendly and welcoming, and honestly, while it might not have been shiny and new, there were parts of Rocinha that were truly beautiful. I definitely recommend it.

Street art and a view of the street in Rocinho Favela

For your third day in Rio de Janeiro, take it slow and enjoy the beaches and neighbourhoods. You can easily walk between Copacabana and Ipanema by the beach. If you happen to be in Rio on a Sunday, Ipanema has the ‘Hippie Fair’ which is one of the most popular markets in the city. While in Ipanema, head to Nusa Café for an amazing acai bowl and the Havianas flagship store to pick up some of the famous flipflops. At the flagship store, you can even customize the straps with fun little jewels and beads.

For the evening, head to the Santa Teresa neighbourhood. This neighbourhood is home to old mansions, street art, and lots of samba music. I spent a few hours in a bar called Armazem Sao Joaquim which had incredible live music. The entire bar was up and dancing in the middle of the day- it was amazing. From here, if you want to experience some of Rio’s best nightlife, you can head to the Lapa district. 


Depart Brazil

Stunning library in Rio with shelves and shelves of old Portuguese books

Today is day 14, the final day of this 2-week Brazil itinerary so depending on the time of your flight you have a little more time to explore Rio or head to the airport. If you do have some time, consider checking out the Real Gabinete Portuguese de Leitura which is a small but stunning library. Sadly you can’t get close to the books, they are roped off. But the library itself looks like it belongs in Beauty and the Beast.

International flights will depart from Rio de Janeiro/ Galeão airport. If you are flying back to Sao Paolo to get your connecting international flight there, then you will probably leave from the domestic airport which is the Santos Dumont Airport. The easiest way to get to both is by taking an Uber. Just remember that Rio can have quite a bit of traffic so give yourself some extra time.

Insider tip: If you are flying out of Santos Dumont Airport (the domestic one) ask for a window seat on the right side of the plane. The view is incredible as you fly right by Sugar Loaf!

What to Eat and Drink in Brazil

Different types of cocktails

Wondering what to eat and drink in Brazil? Here are a few of my favourites:

  • Brazilian BBQ: there are places in everywhere where you can try this. Essentially you play a flat fee, load up at the salad bar and then the staff will come around with different cuts of meat that you can choose to try or pass.
  • Sushi: Japan has the second largest population of Japanese people so sushi here is actually incredible. I had it twice during my trip!
  • Acai: I found acai to be served two ways in Brazil. The first is like a smoothie bowl like we are used to at brunch in North America. The second is more like a dessert. It’s sweeter and you can add toppings like candies and chocolate.
  • Pao de Queijo: little cheese bread puffs. Delicious.
  • Coxhinas: chicken croquettes. Very typical street food and they are amazing.
  • Caipirinhas: the famous Brazilian cocktail made with cachaça liquor, sugar and lime.
  • Brigadeiro: a little ball of chocolate-y goodness. Love them.

The Best Time of Year to Go to Brazil

Hannah wearing a white t-shirt looking out over Iguazu Falls

Brazil is in the southern hemisphere so the seasons are opposite from the northern hemisphere. This means that if you live in the north and want a warm escape from winter, it’s a great place to go. Summer in Brazil runs from December to March meaning it will be the hottest. However, it’s also worth noting that this is vacation time for Brazilians as well, so it’s considered high season. Especially if you plan your trip during the world-famous Carnival. Brazilian summers are also very humid and can be quite rainy which is worth keeping in mind.

That being said, winter in Brazil isn’t exactly cold. Temperatures in Rio will range from around 20C-30C which may feel cool to the locals but is still beach weather for many tourists. It’s also a lot drier during the winter months which means beautiful blue skies and sunny days. July is when Brazilian schools have their winter break, so it can be busy at this time.

My 2-week Brazil itinerary doesn’t include the Amazon, however, those looking to venture to the Amazon as well, the seasons are a little bit different. Rainy season is December to June which is colder and wetter than dry season. There are pros and cons to visiting during both seasons but dry season is the best time to go if you are keen on hiking the jungle trails.

Is Brazil Safe?

Hannah standing on Copacabana beach in a red swimsuit looking out to the mountains

Out of all the countries I have been to so far, I’ve never received more safety concerns for a destination than I did for Brazil. I was warned about drugs, violent crime, petty crime, gang violence, and more. Even the government of Canada’s travel advisory website lists Brazil as a destination where travellers should exercise a high degree of caution.

However, during my time I never felt unsafe in Brazil. I found the locals to be warm and friendly, especially in the smaller towns. And never felt threatened. I will say that I was more cautious than normal in Rio. If I was out after dark I didn’t walk anywhere, I took Ubers. I stayed in busier places during the day, again choosing to use an Uber rather than walk long distances when I was unfamiliar with the neighbourhoods. I put my phone away and left my big camera behind, making sure I had nothing too flashy. It was totally fine. As with every destination, common sense goes a long way! And if you are unsure, ask the locals at your accommodation, restaurants, a tour guide etc. for their opinions and suggestions.

One important thing that is worth noting, I had an incredibly difficult time getting my Canadian debit card to work at any of the ATMs, even at actual Brazilian banks. One day I went to 12 different ATMs before I found one that would work. Apparently, this is quite common for foreign cards. I would recommend making sure you have a couple of different credit cards on you and when you can get cash, take out a large sum at once. It also might be a good idea to have some of your home currency on you in case you need to visit a currency exchange if you can’t get your cards to work. 

Final Thoughts on This 2-Weeks Brazil Itinerary

With all the warnings I received about Brazil, I wasn’t sure how I would feel about the country. However, I absolutely loved it and definitely plan on going back.

As I said above, I visited as part of a small group tour which, in my opinion, was kind of a waste of money. The 2-week Brazil itinerary I shared above is easy for independent travellers to do on their own and allows for more time and flexibility than a tour would.

I hope that this 2-week Brazil itinerary comes in handy and that you love Brazil as much as I did!

Ready to Book Your Trip?

Don’t forget travel insurance!

Please do not travel without travel insurance! I’ve had to use it multiple times throughout my travels and it has saved me thousands of dollars. You can learn more about travel insurance here. If you are looking for a provider I love and recommend SafetyWing. For Canadian readers, take a look at SoNomad.

Book your accommodation

I love and recommend booking.com for accommodation. They have a range of hostels, guesthouses, hotels, and resorts. Plus, the platform has a great loyalty program that means the more you book, the more you can save. 

Book your tours

My go-to tour provider that I love to recommend is GetYourGuide. They have options all over the world and partner with local companies for everything from day trips to food experiences and even airport transfers. 

Get connected

If you want to have data while travelling for online maps or any other needs, an esim is one of the easiest solutions. I’m a big fan of Airalo and have used their sim cards around the world from Brazil to Uzbekistan, Greece to the USA. It’s really easy- you download the app, pick what country you want an esim for, and after you purchase it follow the installation instructions. You can use promo code HANNAH3326 to save $3USD on your next esim purchase. 

Not sure what to pack?

I have destination-specific guides for some countries but you can also check my travel essentials and camera gear if you are looking for some ideas. 

Looking for a travel buddy?

Check out my group trips!

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