This is the itinerary for those who want to be out doing -- hiking, climbing, swimming, diving. Brazil is rich in outdoor sports, be they on mountain peaks, on the beach, in the ocean, or underneath it. This route starts in Rio, then has three different options for hiking -- in the mountains near the city, on an island covered in Atlantic rainforest, or farther north in the dry highlands of Bahia. The route then includes time in Fernando de Noronha and the Lençóis Maranhenses, two magical landscapes found nowhere outside Brazil.
Days 1 & 2: Rio de Janeiro
Arrive in Rio de Janeiro. Spend a half-day rock climbing up the Sugarloaf, or else hike the Floresta de Tijuca, a vast rainforest that wraps itself around the city. Or rent a board and catch the surf bus out to Barra for the city's best waves.
Days 3-6: Teresopolis to Petrópolis
The 2- to 3-day hike between the royal cities of Teresopolis and Petrópolis takes in the high mountain terrain (approx. 1,500m/4,900 ft.) in Serra dos Orgãos mountains close to Rio de Janeiro. Hiking specialists Rio Hiking can arrange transfer to and from the city, and make your trek more comfortable.
OR Days 3-6: Chapada Diamantina
Fly to Salvador and get a bus or plane up to the Chapada Diamantina. This magic highland area is full of bluffs, buttes, and waterfalls, and laced with stunning crystal caverns. Do day hikes from the city of Lençóis, or contract a guide to take you on a multiday trek past the Falls of Smoke (Cachoeira de Fumaça).
OR Days 3-6: Ilha Grande
Take the bus and ferry to Ilha Grande. This former prison colony has beaches for surfing, swimming, and bodyboarding, forest-covered mountains for hiking, wrecks for diving, little sheltered inlets for snorkeling, and wide-open seas for kayaking. Take 3 days and do it all.
Day 7: Transit Day
Whether you start from Rio, Ilha Grande, or the Chapada Diamantina, it's going to take you most of a day to get to the island of Fernando de Noronha.
Days 8-11: Fernando de Noronha
Grab your scuba gear and go diving. This isolated archipelago has the best underwater sea life in Brazil. Atlantis Divers is the company to go with. Don't forget to rent a buggy and explore the island. While you're there, try to see the baby sea turtles hatch.
Days 12-15: Lençóis Maranhenses
From Fernando, fly to São Luis and catch a plane or bus for Barreirinhas, gateway to the Lençóis Maranhenses. An ecosystem unlike anything else on earth, the Lençóis is a vast desert of shifting white-sand dunes, chock-full of rainwater. In the wet season the rainwater collects to form countless crystal pools and lakes in the depressions between dunes. Best of all, the sand is so fine-grained that it's cool on your feet, even in the height of summer.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.