Carnival or not, Brazil is a musical, culinary and cultural festival all year long. People singing, guitars humming, children kicking a soccer ball or several girls from Ipanema giggling on a Rio beach, the sounds of Brazil surround you. So do the sights and the many things to do.
Gate One Travel (tel. 800/682-3333, www.gate1travel.com) features a fall/winter special that includes seven-nights and five-days in Rio de Janeiro including air and hotel starting at approximately $639 for departures between September 26 and December 8, 2005. Departures are good on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from New York, Washington D.C. and Boston and out of Miami from April 1 to June 26, 2006. The trip includes round-trip airfare, accommodations with several different hotels to choose from, daily breakfast, and a travel assistance program. It does not include airport security taxes or departure fees. Additional nights, sightseeing excursions, and airport transfers are all available for an additional cost. Augusto's Copacabana Hotel, one of the available hotel options costing no additional fees, is a few blocks from the beach and has a small business center with two computer stations.
Gate 1 also offers an eight-day six-night air/land trip that includes Rio and the popular and picturesque Salvador de Bahia, known for its African-oriented drum beats and music-drenched nightlife. Starting at $899 this trip departs on November 22 and December 6, 2005 before moving to a more frequent schedule in January, February, and March of 2006. Slightly north of Rio, Salvador de Bahia has an old world charm filled with cobblestone streets and Portuguese architecture. At night, the music can be as intoxicating as the ice-cold beer. (Try the Skol, Brahma and Antarctic, all tasty Brazilian brews.) Watch out for the Cravinho, a very inexpensive local alcohol made by soaking clove in a sugar-based alcohol and then sweetening it with sugar. It's Brazil's version of moonshine. Make sure you know how to get back to your hotel. This stuff hits you fast.
For a tour that takes you to Rio as well as inland into the Brazilian jungle and the Amazon River, Freegate Tours (tel. 888/373-3428; www.freegatetours.com/sa28.htm) offers a special ten-day eight-night air/land "Highlights of Brazil" package starting at $1,869. The trip includes round-trip coach travel from the United States, air travel within Brazil, eight nights hotel accommodations including stays in Rio, Iguasso Falls, Manaus, and the Amazon, all transfers and bag handling, hotel taxes and service charges, five days of escorted and guided sightseeing excursions in an air-conditioned bus with an English-speaking guide, entrance fees on scheduled sightseeing trips and some Brazilian meals. A single-room supplement will run you $470. Airfare is out of Miami with the cost of the trip departing out of New York starting at $1,949 and $1,999 out of Los Angeles. Rates are based on double occupancy stay good through December 26, 2006. Prices are based on mid-week departures with weekend travel available for an additional fee. In the Amazon, you'll stay at the EcoPark, a rustic tourist and science initiative next to a "monkey" reserve where Brazilian monkeys were taken when their homelands were burned or developed for commercial or research and development interests.
General Tours (tel. 800/221-2216; www.generaltours.com) has a seven-day five-night trip to Rio starting at $879 including air, hotels, airport transfers and a tour of Rio's famous Sugar Loaf Mountain. This trip leaves you with a lot of free time as days four through six are left open for you to enjoy the beach, shop, or tour other parts of the large city. Additional nights will run you $33 for a single room or if you want to stay a few days extra on your own. Hotels range in levels of luxury with stays at some beach hotels running at around $1,249 for the same package.
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