This is for those who like to stroll and observe and learn, understanding a country's culture by researching its history, and by close observation of that most enduring of the visual arts, architecture. The route takes in both of Brazil's former capitals (Rio de Janeiro and Salvador), the rich baroque cities of Minas Gerais, and the modern new city of Brasilia.
Days 1-3: Rio de Janeiro
Start in Rio de Janeiro. Brazil's former capital is rich in history. Tour the Museu Histórico Nacional and the Quinta da Boa Vista where the Emperor Pedro II lived in baroque splendor, collecting scientific specimens all the while. Wander the Paço Imperial where the emperor once ruled, and the nearby Praça XV where rebellious army officers brought his reign to an end. Don't forget to have a look at the Palácio Gustavo Capenema in Rio's downtown. Designed by Le Corbusier and Oscar Niemeyer, this building is where the Brazilian love affair with modernism began, where the seeds of what became Brasilia were laid.
Days 4-7: Historic Cities of Minas Gerais
Rent a car (or hop on a bus) and take a road trip through the historic cities of Minas Gerais, Ouro Preto, Mariana, and Tiradentes. These cities were awash in gold when the colonial baroque was at its height. Admire the churches and fine buildings, and the phenomenal sculpture works of crippled sculptor Aleijadinho.
Days 8-10: Salvador
Back in Rio, catch a flight to Salvador. Stay in one of the lovely pousadas in Pelourinho like the Boqueirão. Wander through the 17th-century streets of Pelourinho, and marvel at the wealth brought by sugar. Tour the Museu de Arte Sacra to see the fine artwork wrought from Brazilian silver.
Days 11-13: Recife & Olinda
From Salvador fly north to Recife, a city founded not by the Portuguese but by the Dutch, who conquered northern Brazil for a time. For more on this period, tour the city's fine history museum, housed in the Fort of Five Points. To compare Dutch and Portuguese styles of city-building, travel but a few miles north to Olinda, the former capital of the region, and a city built by the Portuguese. Olinda rivals Salvador for the quality of its churches and historic buildings.
Days 14 & 15: Brasilia
Leave the 17th century behind and make a bold leap into the modern world. Fly to Brasilia. Admire the fluid and futuristic architecture of Oscar Niemeyer. Judge for yourself whether the world's first fully planned national capital has succeeded or failed in making Brazil the country of the future.
Day 16: São Paulo
From Brasilia, fly to São Paulo. See Niemeyer's later (and to my mind, inferior) works such as the Monument to Latin America. Then see what Brazilian architects are doing now. Walk the Avenida Paulista. If you can afford it, stay at the Hotel Unique. If you can't, have a drink on its rooftop bar. Admire the run of skyscrapers on the Avenida Paulista in the distance.
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.