Guide to RIO DE JANEIRO

(Updated February 2019)

Rio de Janeiro could be the most beautiful city on the planet: The ocean, the beaches, the hills, the vegetation, the views….I could go on and on.

Icons of Rio de Janeiro unite! The Sugar Loaf to the left, the Dois Irmãos all the way in the back at the end of the beaches, Christ the Redeemer and one of the many favelas. You can see all this going up by tram to the bohemian neighborhood of Santa Teresa.

But then there is the poverty, the violence, the hopelessness, the corruption, the dirt….I could go on and on.

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Guide to BELO HORIZONTE | BRUMADINHO | INHOTIM

(Updated February 2019)

While studying Portuguese in Rio de Janeiro, I thought it might be a good idea to take a trip to Belo Horizonte at the weekend; mostly because I wanted to see Inhotim, a botanic garden full of contemporary art.

Belo Horizonte / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Young Belo Horizontians drumming with vigor.

Turns out, Inhotim was the only spot worth the travel. But so worth it!

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Guide to SÃO PAULO

(Updated February 2019)

I will not beat around the bush: São Paulo was my favorite city in Brazil. Although Bonito enchanted me with its natural beauty, Foz do Iguaꞔu impressed me with the power of nature – São Paulo is the place I see myself live and work and be part of the cool, artsy crowd.

Sao Paulo - Eduardo Kobra / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Two Brazilian heroes in one picture: Star architect Oscar Niemeyer depicted by star muralist Eduardo Kobra.

Talking ’bout cool, artsy crowd: I decided to let one of the most glorious sons of São Paulo guide you through the city – let’s hear it for Mr. Eduardo Kobra!

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Guide to BONITO

(Updated February 2019)

Bonito is one of Brazil’s internationally hidden gems: While Brazilians – as well as other South Americans, for that matter – come to Bonito to enjoy the lush nature, the serenity between the rolling hills and the pleasure of waters in caves, creeks and natural pools, only few international tourists find their way to the Mato Grosso region, located relatively close to the Pantanal, a wetland rich of the most exquisite flora and fauna.

BONITO Mato Grosso / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Bonito’s strongest suits: Lush vegetation and flowing waters

It’s not very complicated to get to Bonito, but it requires some stop overs. Although the town even has its own airport, you can get there only via a weird, complicated routing, so your best option is to go either to Campo Grande or to Dourados and continue from there by bus (about four hours).

Since I didn’t have so much time, I flew from São Paulo to Campo Grande where my hostel had arranged a shuttle straight from the airport to their place. It was much more expensive than going from the airport into town to take the Cruzeiro do Sul, but for me it was worth to pay about 10 US$ more and not having to meander around downtown Campo Grande – and Vanzella grants a plane to door service.

I must admit that I was a bit disappointed when I first arrived in Bonito: having expected cute little houses with some colonial charm, I arrived in a town where streets seem to be drawn with a ruler.

BONITO Mato Grosso / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Bonito is certainly not called bonito (=pretty) because of his charmless streets decorated with pointless planks,….

Bonito’s architecture is not colonial at all, the town itself deems rather mundane: a dull bus terminal, a big super market, around the town square a couple of banks, along the main road cafés, restaurants and souvenir stores. Friendly, but nothing special at all.

BONITO Mato Grosso / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
…it’s called Bonito for its breathtaking surrounding!

The strongest suite of Bonito – which means pretty respectively cute in Portuguese (and in Spanish, too, by the way) – start at its outskirts and goes for miles and miles in all cardinal directions: It’s the nature!

It’s the fields, the pastures, the bushes, the flowers, the trees. It’s the waters that have formed mysterious caves, that are rolling in creeks and rivers and form natural pools for visitors to enjoy.

BONITO Mato Grosso / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
South America at its best: Gauchos mustering their cattle.

Visiting Bonito means spending the day outdoors. And it means spending money, too, since the day trips are far from being cheap.

All the nice places – whether caves, waterfalls, rivers, or pools – are private property and entrance fees are high – between about 50 R$ for a cave tour and about 270 R$ for snorkeling in the Rio de Prata (US$ 15 to US$ 82) – and transportation is not included.

Since Bonito has more national tourism, there is not much public transport to the points of interests – and it’s quickly sold out. So I can only recommend to book your tours as soon as you get there. Since all the tours depend on the weather, it doesn’t make much sense to book long in advance. So yes, it’s a bit of a lottery.

Another thing is that at most places you cannot just waltz in, you need to have a voucher. That’s easy to obtain: every hotel or hostel in town or one of the many, many tour and travel agencies around Bonito will arrange your booking and supply you with a voucher. But this is important – since everything is very eco-oriented, places for basically everything are limited.

Since you have to book your voucher with one of the agents, anyway, it doesn’t make sense to give you the addresses or contacts.

Another thing that I don’t do on purpose is quoting prices: The prices vary (= go up) so fast that it doesn’t make sense that I tell you how much it is right now. For a day including flotation you will pay between 180 R$ and about 300 R$ (55 US$ to 90 US$). Yes, it’s overpriced, but by avoiding a sell out, they are protecting the environment and keep it eco- friendly.

Most of the following places offer a combination of activities like flotation, swimming, horseback riding, and bird watching. Sometimes the rivers also have a smaller waterfall or a cave. I sort them by what they are mostly known for.

You won’t be able to avoid spending much money in Bonito. But I can recommend you very much the hostel I stayed at – you’ll find it in the RATING and CONCLUSION section. They have small dorms, but they have also private rooms with en suite bathrooms at unbeatable prices. There is a pool, you can use their kitchen and they are super nice and fun and helpful.

Rivers

Pools

Waterfalls

Caves

Rivers

Since ‘flutuaꞔao’ – flotation, i. e. basically snorkeling without moving your legs – is the big thing everybody comes for to Bonito, I first list the rivers where you can do it.

It’s actually quite nice and very unusual to snorkel in sweet water – you eyes and mucosa do not burn even if water gets into your mask or snorkel.

Parque Ecológico Rio Formoso

You can enjoy ‘flutuaꞔao’ at the Parque Ecológico Rio Formoso (about 7 km / 4.5 mi from Bonito) as well as floating down the river in a tube, ‘fly’ along a zipline, ride on horses and on bikes. Like all the other parks, they have great, clean facilities and a restaurant.


Rio Sucurí

At this place, located about 20 km / 12.5 mi south of Bonito, you can also do ‘flutuaꞔao’, horse back riding or cycling. It’s a 0,5 km / 0,3 mi walk to the starting point from were you float along almost 2 km / 1.2 mi.

BONITO Mato Grosso / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
First I thought it was a bit exaggerated to dress us up like we were joining Jacques Cousteau; after half an hour in the water I agreed that the suits are a useful protection against the cold.

They supply you with a neoprene suite against the ice cold water and crocs as well as a snorkel and a mask.

Recanto Ecológico Rio da Prata

The farthest and most popular day trip to do engage in ‘flutuaꞔao’ takes you to the Rio da Prata, the silver river, located about 50 km / over 30 mi east of Bonito. Here you can engage in all the activities that are described above, but in addition there is some wonderful bird watching here, too.

Rio da Prata bye:myself
Floating in the ice cold water….
(Photo: Marcos Dias/Grupo Rio da Prata)

Rio da Prata bye:myself
…and observing large schools of colorful fishes.
(Photo: André Turatti/Grupo Rio da Prata)

Rio da Prata is the most expensive of these trips, but its also very nice. However, I’ve met people who found it far too expensive.


Pools

Very similar activities like on and in the rivers, only that they less sporty and more family oriented. The pools are all natural and a couple of fun water games and activities are included. You can decide whether you want the day with our without ‘flutuaꞔao’, the price difference is about 100 R$ / 30 US$.


Balneário Municipal

This public pool is located about 7 km / 4.5 mi north east of bonito – and actually reachable by bike.
Here too: good, well maintained facilities. Although far cheaper than the trips on the rivers, still overpriced for what you get – which is nice floating with the fishes in clear waters. But face it: That’s Bonito.


Balneário do Sol

This pool – located about 11 km / 7 mi north of Bonito – offers more games and fun activities than the Balneário Municipal and is more family and kid oriented. Of course they, too, have a good restaurant and impeccable facilities – and if you are not too much of a coach potato and don’t mind exercise in the sun, you can get here on a bicycle, too.


Nascente Azul

Bird Rio da Prata bye:myself
While you are sunbathing, you can observe the most
beautiful and exotic birds.
(Photo: Maurício Neves Godoi/Grupo Rio da Prata)

This pool, located 34 km / 21 mi west of Bonito, can definitely not be reached by bike, unless you did participate in the iron man contest (don’t underestimate the sun – and the dirt road is not shady at all!). It’s very similar zu the Balneário do Sol with lots of activities in and around a natural pool. There is also a small artificial and a big natural waterfall. You can do – you probably guessed so – some really good ‘flutuaꞔao’ – the Nascente – which means source – is where the Rio do Peixe begins, so that the water is very clear. Here too, after the floating, you can go back to the pool really fast by using a zipline.












Waterfalls

All the waterfalls worth seeing are west of Bonito.

Parque da Cachoeira

Parque da Cachoeira is located about 16 km / 10 mi from Bonito is a nature reserve mostly known for its waterfall. Of course there is also some nice hiking and you can spend the night camping.

Cool waters making this vegetation so lush.
(Photo: Parque da Cachoeira)

Since it’s more about natural beauty than facilities, the entrance fee is about 5 US$. Finally a place that does not burn a hole in your wallet! (If you go on an organized trip including guided tours through the forest, it’s of course about the same price as the other activities listed above).



Estȃncia Mimosa Ecoturismo

The Estȃncia Mimosa is a nature reserve in a breathtaking setting.

Exploring the Edenic surroundings on horses brings you even closer to nature.
(Photo: Beto Nascimento/Grupo Rio da Prata)

On a guided tour, you can enjoy the serene nature – horse back riding is optional, too – and observe some wonderful birds in their natural habitat and swim in the ice cold waters coming from a majestic water fall – simply Edenic. The reserve is about 25 km / 15.5 mi from Bonito.

Boca da Onꞔa

The farthest from Bonito – 62 km / 38.5 mi – is Boca da Onꞔa – and actually it’s the most spectacular place.

The highest waterfalls can be found at the Parque Boca da Onꞔa.
(Photo: Boca da Onꞔa)

Not only is the waterfall really high – 156 m / over 500 ft, you also can go down 90 m / almost 300 ft on ropes to have a closer look into the Rio Salobra canyon. Yap, there is some adrenaline involved.

Caves

Yes, here, too, water is involved: It was the water that created the beautifully shaped formation of the caves that now can be visited around Bonito.

Gruta São Mateus e Museu

Located less than 4 km / 2.5 mi north of Bonito, you can cycle or even walk here. The first thing you notice is the majestic manor that gives you an idea of the former owner’s wealth. Inside there is a nice museum showing antique tools and utensils. The exhibition on the first floor is a bit creepy – it’s stuffed animals, partly in weird poses.

BONITO Mato Grosso / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
After a visit to the museum located at this gorgeous old farmer’s mansion, you reach the cave by crossing the pendant bridge on the left side.

The upper floor grants finally access to a pendant bridge that leads into the jungle. After a short hike you reach the entrance of Gruta São Mateus.
Nothing spectacular, but very nice.

BONITO Mato Grosso / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Water – and many, many, many years have carved these unique formations.

Grutas de São Miguel

Only the very sporty ones will go to Grutas de São Miguel by bike since it’s located 18 km / over 11 mi south east of Bonito. Although this is Bonito’s most popular cave – and bigger than Gruta São Mateus, I’m not sure if it’s really worth the detour if you’re no geologist.

Gruta do Lago Azul

Located about 22 km / 14 mi from south west of Bonito, Gruta do Lago Azul – the cave of the blue lake – is the most beautiful one; exactly for the blue lake, a water of an incredibly shiny blue color – partly 90 m / almost 300 ft deep. Here, too, I would say if you have seen grottos like this before – e.g. in Italy, its questionable if the trip, that in total will take about three hours, is worth the effort.

Wanna read how Bonito was for me after days of heavy rain? Check out this lesson of my Class of Brazil series:

Class of Brazil – 6th Lesson: Bonito – Nomen est Omen

Do you want to read about all the other cool places I’ve visited in Brazil? 
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Guide to FOZ DO IGUAÇU

(Updated February 2019)

Foz do Iguaçu, worldwide known for the spectacular waterfalls that are located at the border between Brazil and Argentina, has far more attractions to be visited than this ‘Natural Wonder of the World’.


Foz do Iguaçu

The city, located in the western part of the federal state Paraná, has about 260,000 inhabitants. The name derives from the indigenous word Iguaçu („big water“) and the portuguese word foz, which means embouchure, hence it’s the „embouchure of the big water“, and seeing the waterfalls, the Paraná river, the Itaipú lake and the waterpower plant Itaipú – who would dispute that?!

“Big water” – this nobody can deny.

You can get there by bus – for instance in about 16 hours for about 70 US$ from São Paulo, for other destinations check out this website – which is long and relatively expensive compared to a quick’n’comfy flight that will cost you the same if you search a bit (look for Azul- and GOL-flights*; I paid from Curitiba 65 US$, but I also booked my ticket with Azul two months ahead – here I refer to my last post on planning and booking).

You’ll find the links to the companies I travelled with in the RATING and CONCLUSION section of this post.

Foz is a medium sized city with great attractions in the outskirts; but the center itself is not very exciting. Like in most other Brazilian cities, the public transport system is good, reliable and covering the entire region. Particularly important to the visitors is bus #120 going from the bus terminal downtown all the way to the water falls, passing not only the airport, but also many other attractions.

If you arrive at the airport, make sure to check out the tourist information there. The lady was not very welcoming and cheery, but she was efficient, handed me a map and explained me how to get where I wanted to go. I can do without a smile…

No matter how many amusement parks will be built around Foz – the waterfalls will remain the main attraction.

Regarding accommodations – of course you’ll find in a touristy place like Foz do Iguaçu everything from a bunk bed in a dorm of a cheap hostel to a wide range of luxury places, the Belmond Hotel das Cataratas being the best one insofar that it’s the only accommodation within the national park. You care for the price? About 370 US$ a night (which is a bargain compared to the Belmond next to Machu Picchu which starts somewhere at 1,200 US$).

The Belmond Hotel – this is not where I stayed.

Since I was there only for two nights and had an early flight out, I stayed at a nice place being part of the San Juan Hoteis chain – located about 4 km / 2.5 miles from the airport and a ten minutes bus ride from the national park and the waterfalls; and I paid a fraction of the above quoted price.

Because I stayed only two nights and I felt very comfortable at my hotel, I had Caipirinhas at their bar (for a cheaper price than at less elegant places in Rio!) and I also ate dinner there: They have a huge buffet including everything your heart – and stomach – desires for less than 50 R$ (about 15 US$). Their food is really excellent!

The San Juan Eco hotel – this is where I stayed.

Cataratas do Iguaçu

Usina Itaipú

Parque das Aves

Three Frontiers Landmark

DreamLand

Aquamania Water Park

Cataratas do Iguaçu

Of course the waterfalls are the main reason for people coming to Foz, and they are right: The falls are a breathtaking spectacle of nature: They consist of 20 large and 255 smaller waterfalls along almost three kilometers / two miles. Most of them are about 65 meters / 213 feet high, but there are some up to 82 meters / almost 270 feet. Incredible 1.500 to 7.000 m³ / 53,000 to 247,000 ft³ of water do plummet down from the rocks.

You have to see it to believe it – these masses of water are just incredible.

The Iguaçu-waterfalls are one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Since 1984 (Argentinian side) resp. 1986 (Brasilian side) they have been a UNESCO world heritage sight.

The entrance fee is 62 R$ (about 19 US$) for foreigners (locals, nationals and Brazil’s neighbors pay less) and the ticket booths are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. After that you can still finish your walk – or your meal with a view at the restaurant located at the final point ‘Porto Canoas’.

At the points with the most impressive views, the park people built platforms so everybody can have their picture taken with on of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.

In addition to just walking along the falls you can also hike some trails through the park and e.g. do some kayaking or getting really close to the falls on a dinghy ride. All these extras also cost extra.

Cataratas do Iguaçu
Br 469, KM 18
Foz do Iguaçu, Paraná
Phone: +55 – 45 – 35 21 44 00
Email: contato@catarataspni.com.br 

Of course you get the most spectacular and also most expensive view from a helicopter, either on a 10-minute flight over the National Park and the Iguaçu Falls or a 35-minute flight over the Iguaçu National Park, Itaipú Hydroelectric Plant and Three Borders Landmark for about a 130 US$ resp. about 250 US$.


Helisul Aviaꞔão
Phone: +55 – 45 – 35 29 74 74

The park can also be visited from Argentina, where you can easily get, too. From there the entrance fee is a bit more expensive, about 24 US$, the ticket booth closes already at 4.30 p.m. and you can stay till 6 p.m.

Iguazú Argentina
Puerto Iguazú, Misiones
Phone: +54 37 57 49 14 69
Email: iguazuinformacion@iguazuargentina.com 

To get to the falls from downtown Foz in about 20 to 30 minutes, take bus #120 at the bus terminal (Terminal Transporte Urbano TTU).

Note: If you change buses at terminals, i.e. final stops, in Brazil, you don’t have to pay another ticket, you just get on the connecting bus. It only works like this if your are changing, i.e. if you arrived at the terminal by another bus. If you are boarding your first bus there, you do have to pay.


Usina Itaipú

Another huge, water-based tourist attraction is actually not a touristy, but an industrial plant, it’s the bi-national project Usina Itaipú.

The premises you are visiting are impressively huge.

In 1974, Brazil and Paraguay started this “Herculean job” as US magazine ‘Popular Mechanics’ called the project. Till 1981, up to 5 thousand people were hired every month. Throughout the construction period, there were about 100 thousand people working on the project – at the peak of the dam’s construction, about 40 thousand workers on the job site as well as employees in Brazil and Paraguay worked for Itaipú, finding great facilities such as good housing, schools for their kids, hospitals etc.

In 1984, Brazil and Paraguay opened world’s largest hydropower plant that in 1994 was elected by the American Society of Civil Engineers being one of the seven modern Wonders of the World.

Until now, more than 20 Million visitors from 197 countries paid Usina Itaipú a touristic visit.

They truly made an effort to make this industrial site alluring for tourists.
An indispensable picture with their logo.

You can join a panoramic bus tour that takes you to four stops, takes about two hours and costs R$ 38 (US$ 11,50), a complete visit where in addition to the panoramic tour you get to see the factory halls. This trip takes about three hours, costs R$ 38 (US$ 11,50) – and please don’t forget to bring your passport.
The panoramic bus stops at lake Itaipú where you can join a Catamaran ride (not included in the entrance fees).

The touristy visits are remarkably elaborated. Besides restaurants and gift shops, there is  some additional entertainment involved like e. g. navigating on the storage reservoir on a catamaran. 

For all visiting options – there is also a pass that allows you to visit Foz’s three most important attractions, i.e. the falls, the plan, and the tripoint, for R$ 109, check out their page:

Usina Itaipú
Centro de Recepção de Visitantes
Av. Tancredo Neves, 6702
Foz do Iguaçu
Phone: + 55 – 45 – 35 76-70 00
Email: info@turismoitaipu.com.br

To get to the site from downtown Foz is easy, but it is quite a ride (about 30 to 40 minutes): At the bus terminal (Terminal Transporte Urbano TTU), just take either bus # 101 or 102.

Other Attractions

Besides these two pretty wet attractions, Foz do Iguaçu tries to attract and entertain visitors with other attractions, some of which I find a bit too theme park oriented. And since they also have a couple of shopping centers, the whole thing reminded me at bit of the International Boulevard in Orlando/Florida. Fortunately they are not that professional yet.


Parque das Aves

Although the bird park deems pretty touristy and just like a little zoo, they actually do grant the birds shelter and work on their recovery and conservation.

You get really close to the Flamingos – on of the first species you get to see.

It’s located next to the falls, and I would rather visit before going to the overwhelming water falls.
If for some reason you miss it, it’s no drama, I’m even not sure if the R$ 45 (about 14 US$) are worth it, especially since there are so many beautiful, exotic birds flying around everywhere you go, anyway.

Yes, it’s true: I saw flocks of toucans flying around in Brazil. However, the bird park was the only place where I go close enough to take a picture of them.
Do they really have to live in captivity so that people like me can take their picture?!

Parque das Aves
Av. das Cataratas, KM 17.1
Foz do Iguaçu
Phone: + 55 – 45 – 35 29 82 82

The park is open daily from 8:30 a. m. to 5 p. m.

It’s nice that the visitors have to get into the huge aviaries where the birds live in relatively natural habitats.


Three Frontiers Landmark


Each of the three connecting countries has its own landmark. All three are located where the Iguaçu river flows into the Paraná river. The Brazilian one was installed over hundred years ago and is an obelisk painted in the colors of the flag, standing in the middle of a fountain.

Marco das Três Fronteiras - the Three Frontier Landmark (Photo: Grupo Catarata comunicaꞔao)
Marco das Três Fronteiras – the Three Frontier Landmark on the Brazilian side.
(Photo: Grupo Catarata comunicaꞔao)

You find restaurants and gift shops and you can look over the rivers to the other. It’s open till 11 p. m., so at night you can see an illuminated version.

Espaço das Américas S.A. 
Av. General Meira
Jardim Eldorado
Foz do Iguaçu
Phone: + 55 – 45 – 31 32 41 00
Email: contato@marcodastresfronteiras.com.br

The landmark is open daily from 2 p. m. to 11 p. m. (the ticket booth closes at 10 p. m.). The entrance fee is R$ 23,60 (a bit over US$ 7).


DreamLand

Right in front of the very recommendable Hotel San Juan Eco are three a bit bizarre attractions: a wax museum, a valley of dinosaurs, and a miniature wonderland. There’s nothing wrong with either of these, I just find it strange that at a place where nature is pampering us with one of the natural wonders and another man made wonder – the hydro plant – was added, people obviously need additional artificially created attractions showing i. a. Whoopie Goldberg in Sister Act.
So the real wonders aren’t enough?!
However, if you want to visit Whoopie and her fellow wax figures, here is their address:


DreamLand
Avenida das Cataratas, KM 14
Foz do Iguaçu

Phone: + 55 – 45 – 35 27 81 00
Email: comercial@grupodreams.com.br

They are awaiting you daily from 8 a. m. to 7 p. m. just like the Maravilhas do Mundo, the wonders of the world, miniature replicas of e. g. the statue of liberty, the Taj Mahal, Egyptian and Mexican pyramids, the Eiffel tower and more.

The dinosaurs get up a bit later than the wax people, so the place is open from 9 a. m. to 6 p. m.

Each individual entrance fee is also R$ 50 (a bit over 15 US$), but you save if you add more attractions to the fun and buy combo passes


Aquamania Water Park

And since for some reason all the waters at some of the most powerful waterfalls and world’s largest hydropower plant with the connecting Paraná river and the great Itaipú lake aren’t enough, they had to add a water park. So if all these natural waters do not satisfy your needs, here is where you can take a dip:

Acquamania Foz
Avenida das Cataratas
Foz do Iguaçu
Phone: + 55 – 45 – 40 53 92 72
Email reservas@acquamaniafoz.com.br

The water park is open daily from 10 a. m. to 6 p. m. (weekends to 7 p. m.)

Entrance fee is R$ 36 for kids up to 14 and R$ 72 for adults (US$ 11 resp. US$ 22)

Wanna read some thoughts about my stay? Check out this lesson of my Class of Brazil series:

Class of Brazil – 9th Lesson: Foz do Iguaçu and the Games Without Frontiers

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INHOTIM Botanic Garden and Gallery

Have you ever heard of Inhotim, the Botanic Garden and Open Air Gallery? No? No wonder, since this amazing place is hidden on the outskirts of a lost place called Brumadinho, located about one hour from Belo Horizonte.

Sem título, 2000; Sem título, 2002; Sem título (Bronze 5) by Edgard De Souza at Inhotim Gallery and Botanic Gardens in Brumadinho, Brazil
Outdoorsy art by Edgard De Souza – being untitled gives it a pretty long title: Sem título, 2000; Sem título, 2002; Sem título (Bronze 5)

At Inhotim, God’s artistic creations such as flowers and trees are of genuine, pure beauty, indeed. However, in combination with creations by earthly visual artists, they become just marvelous.

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The Voice of Colors: Rita, Eduardo, and Jorge in Rio

Streetart is becoming more and more not only tolerated, but recognized and promoted. Especially in South America, it has a long tradition – as a medium where colors give the people a voice.

#favelismo – an art movement turning poverty and humiliation into power and pride. That’s what great street art stands for.

I’m introducing Rita Wainer, Eduardo Kobra, and Jorge Selarón, three of the greatest urban artists that left ineradicable traces in Rio de Janeiro.

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SÃO PAULO – a tour ‘guided by’ muralist Eduardo Kobra

Christ the Redeemer? In Rio de Janeiro. The jungle? At Manaus. The waterfalls? In Iguacu. So when in Brazil, why go to São Paulo?
Why? Because it’s the coolest and most artsy city of Brazil and you will get inspired and have a great time; that’s why.

Probably Kobra’s most political mural, raising awareness for indigenous people being threatened by a factory being built in the city of Altamira in Belo Monte.

Talking about cool and artsy: Let one of the most glorious sons of São Paulo guide you through the city to different neighborhoods and iconic buidings – let’s hear it for Mr. Eduardo Kobra!

Eduardo Kobra was born in 1975 in São Paulo and is one of world’s most recognized muralists. His huge, very expressive works are found in the US – and of course in Brazil. I introduced his pentaptych ‘Ethnicities’ that he has painted on the occasion of the Olympics in Rio in 2016.

Rio de Janeiro - Eduardo Kobra / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Mural “Ethnicities”: Kobra’s most famous mural in Rio de Janeiro used to be – according to the Guinness Book of World Records – till 2017 the largest spray paint mural in the world (3,000 square meters (over 32,000 sq ft)). It depicts five indigenous people from different parts of the world.

His kaleidoscope-ish portraits are – well, rather hidden than found – all over São Paulo, and not only do I lead you to the walls, at the same time I point out attractions and points of interests in their surroundings.

Wanna follow my route? I’ve marked all the Kobras on this map – and for your convenience all the other spots mentioned in this post, too.

São Paulo

How to get there and where to stay

Avenida Paulista

Parque Ibirapuera

Luz

Centro

São Paulo

 

São Paulo has over 12 millions inhabitants and is not only the most populous city in Brazil, but also the 13th largest city in the world (according to population). It has by gross domestic product the largest economy in South America – and is ironically being called Germany’s largest industrial city since approximately 1000 (!) German companies are operating and producing in São Paulo – Volkswagen being probably the largest and most famous.

Besides its pretty powerful economy, São Paulo can pride itself to have a vast art scene, many excellent museums and exhibition – and very relaxed and friendly people. If you don’t want to rely on people’s English (which is often not so great), you might brush up yours on babbel.

Oh, once we’re on it and talking ’bout cash: In São Paulo – as anywhere else in Brazil – you pay with Reais. The exchange rate is 1 US$  = 3,43 BRL (as per April 2018; check the current rate  e. g. on XE.

For an excellent tourist service and loads of really great brochures and maps go to one of the Centrais de Informação Turística (CIT), the tourist centers located at the airport, at the central bus station, at the Paulista and the Praça da República (where you can also meet the guys from the Free Walking Tour). They even had a mobile tourist office a the Parque Ibirapuera where I collected a vast variety of information material right from a truck – and the lady handing them out was a darling and very nice and helpful.

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How to get there and where to stay

Let’s start right at the airport:

Like most bigger cities in Brazil, São Paulo has two airports, too: Guarulhos International, located 30 km / 19 mi north east of the city center, and Congonhas which is in the city and can be reached in about 30 minutes by public transport.

Sao Paulo - Eduardo Kobra / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Kobra’s colorful interpretation of  Congonhas airport.

If you are coming to São Paulo by bus, you’ll arrive at the Rodoviária do Tietê from where you get to the center by either bus or subway in about 20 minutes.

There is an excellent system of public transportation consisting of a subway (here’s a map) and different bus types (rapid and conventional).

If you find a reasonably priced hotel around the subway station Consolaꞔão/Paulista, go for it: it’s centrally and conveniently located. I stayed at a really nice apartment-hotel at the Rua Augusta which is the off-scene theater and clubbing district, however, the hotel was very quiet, very comfortable, yet reasonably priced. I can only recommend it.

Augusta Park Suite Hotel
Rua Augusta 922
São Paulo
Phone: +55 – 11 – 31 24 44 00
Email: augusta@augustapark.com.br

The Rua Augusta is packed with all sort of restaurants and cafés and bars – just walk around and take your pick, they are all very nice.

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Avenida Paulista

Although there is a ‘center’, São Paulo’s lifeline is the Avenida Paulista, stretching from Praꞔa Marechal Cordeiro de Farias all the way to the subway station Paraíso.

So let’s get started at the Paulista’s western end close to the subway station Consolaꞔão where Kobra painted the great Brazilian racing driver Ayrton Senna, who died in 1994 at the age of 34 at the San Marino Grand Prix.

Sao Paulo - Eduardo Kobra / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Honoring the late Ayrton Senna who tragically died at the age of 34. Now his portrait lives on at Rua Dr. Antonino dos Santos Rocha, close to the Consolacão subway station.

Walking down the Paulista, you’ll pass many tall bank buildings, big stores, and malls: The Paulista is basically São Paulo’s 5th Avenue.

Four blocs down from Rua Augusta, you’ll find one of the best art museums São Paulo has to offer, the Museu de Arte de São Paulo. Besides their own collection of modern art, they organize inspiring exhibitions. For art-lovers, a visiting this venue is a must.

MASP
Museu de arte de São Paulo
Avenida Paulista 1578
São Paulo
Phone: + 55 – 11 – 3149 5959

The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a. m. to 6 p. m. (Thursday to 8 p. m.), entrance fee is 35 R$ (10,50 US$)

Another three blocs down, to your left on
Alameda Joaquim Eugênio de Lima, a nice surprise is waiting for you: a brandnew Kobra – I even saw it in the making beginning of 2018!

Sao Paulo - Eduardo Kobra / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
A assume this mural was commissioned by the hospital. I particularly like that the doctor’s name is ‘Bueno’ – which means good.

Keep walking – whereby if you don’t like to walk, you can hop on one of the buses going down the Paulista or even take the subway. The disadvantage is that in Brazil you pay one price per ticket, i. e. it doesn’t matter if you go just to the next stop or across town – you always pay the same price (which is 3,60 R$ (a bit over 1 US$)).

Getting to the end of the Paulista means getting to the highlights – of the Kobras as well as of the attractions: concentrated behind the subway station Brigadeiro, you’ll find the Capela Santa Catarina to your left.

Sao Paulo - Eduardo Kobra / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Two Brazilian heroes in one picture:
Star architect Oscar Niemeyer depicted by star muralist Eduardo Kobra

Right behind the Saint Catherine’s Chapel is the wonderful Japan House, a venue showing Japanese art and serving excellent Japanese food.

Japan House
Avenida Paulista 1578
São Paulo
Phone: + 55 – 11 – 30908900

The Japan House is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 10 a. m. to 10 p. m., Sunday to 6 p. m., entrance to the exhibitions is free.

They also have a very nice restaurant – and don’t feel funny for eating Japanese food in Brazil: São Paulo is famous for Japanese and fusion cuisine!

Now, don’t you miss one of the most important Kobras right behind this building depicting another Brazilian art hero, namely star-architect Oscar Niemeyer!

You might get an even better look from the last attraction, located on the other side of the road, the romantic Casa das Rosas.

Sao Paulo - Casa das Rosas / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
The Casa das Roses – obviously named after the beautiful rose garden.

The Casa das Rosas – the house of roses – is a culture center organizing exhibitions, concerts and much more. It’s always worth it to drop in and check out what’s on.

Casa das Rosas
Avenida Paulista 37
São Paulo
Phone: + 55 – 11 – 32 85 69 86
Email: contato@casadasrosas.org.br

The exhibitions are open from Tuesday to Saturday from 10 a. m. to 10 p. m., Sunday to 6 p. m. Regarding other activities, please check their website.

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Parque Ibirapuera

Once you are close to the Brigadeiro station, let’s visit some more Kobras – and some other fantastic venues. But I have to prepare you: We are going to the Parque Ibirapuera, where especially on weekends many São Paulians are strolling with their families, walking their dogs, or jogging by themselves.

Take any bus going down the Avenida Brigadeiro Luís Antônio and tell the driver you want to get off close to Praça Armando de Sales Oliveira.

Here you can admire the Monumento às Bandeiras, created in 1954 by Victor Brecheret, an Italian-Brazilian sculptor, commemorating the settling expeditions into the inner Brazil in the 17th century.

Sao Paulo  / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
A monument honoring great man…
Sao Paulo - Eduardo Kobra / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
…and a great man honoring the monument.
Unfortunately, this mural by Eduardo Kobra, located on the wall below the Igreja do Calvário   is strongly damaged.

Now cross the Avenida Pedro Álvares Cabral and you’ll find yourself at one of the nicest places in  São Paulo, the Parque Ibirapuera.

Ibirapuera is only city’s second largest park (in case you wonder: the largest one is Parque Anhanguera in the northern part of the city), however, it spreads over 2 qkm / 0.8 sq mi and besides its lush meadows, trees, and flowers as well as creeks and lakes, there is much to see even for those who are oblivious to the beauty of nature: three fantastic museums as well as the planetarium are located on or adjacent to the premises:

To be honest, I’m not so crazy about planetariums, but I like the design by Eduardo Corona, Roberto G. Tibau and Antônio Carlos Pitombo, that reminds me of an air saucer – very suitable.

Planetário Ibirapuera Prof. Aristóteles Orsini
Avenida Pedro Álvares Cabral
Phone: + 55 – 11 – 55 75 52 06

To tell you the truth, I find the info on their hours a bit confusing, so if you want to visit, you better contact them beforehand; and tell them to improve the info on their site, please.

Just a stone throw away is the very nice Museu Afro Brazil.

While the exhibition on Portuguese colonial art on the ground floor is a bit pointless, the upper floor is an artistic treasury showing Afro-Brazilian art from different Brazilian regions as well as the African and Caribbean influence – like masks from Benin and artefacts from Haiti.

Whether folkloric naive sculptures….
….or political drawings like this one by Sidney Amaral “Estudo para gargalheira ou quem falará por nós?” (Study of a gargalheira* or who will be speaking for us?) – the museum shows a vast collection of all different kind of Afro Brazilian art.
*a gargalheira is the iron choker that was used on slaves 
Whether it’s traditional bead embroidery for the tropical carnival….
….or contemporary sculptures by Afro-Brazilian artists (here again a piece by Sidney Amaral whose work is so diverse)
Sidney Amaral Os chinelos da Mara (Mara’s flip flops)

I can only recommend visiting this venue.

Museu Afro Brasil
Avenida Pedro Alvares Cabral
São Paulo
Phone: + 55 – 11 – 33 20 89 00

The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a. m. to 6 p. m., entrance fee are R$ 6

You think we forgot about Kobra? No way, he will be our next stop. Let’s walk along the facade of the Pavilhão das Culturas Brasileiras and take a look at murals by other also very talented artists.

One of many great murals decorating the Pavilion

Once you spot the Marquise Do Ibirapuera, you will immediately recognize Kobra’s style – decorating a public bathroom. I guess once you are a star like him, you get away with painting also restrooms.

Sao Paulo - Eduardo Kobra / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Northern wall of the Marquise (including the entrance to the gents’ bathroom)
Sao Paulo - Eduardo Kobra / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Western wall of the Marquise.
Sao Paulo - Eduardo Kobra / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Southern wall of the Marquise – including the entrance to the ladies’ bathroom.
Sao Paulo - Eduardo Kobra / bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Eastern wall of the Marquise – depicting to women kissing: A tribute to the extremely LGBT-friendly attitude found everywhere in Brazil.

Next door you might want to visit the Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo – and maybe have a snack at their very nice cafeteria.

Museu de Arte Moderna – decorated by a mural created by two other Brazilian graffiti super stars, namely OSGEMEOS.
Here she is again, Tarsila do Amaral, and her cubist painting
“Estrada de Ferro Central do Brasil”

MAM – Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo
Avenida Pedro Álvares Cabral
São Paulo
Phone: + 55 – 11 – 50 85 13 00
Email: atendimento@mam.org.br

Open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a. m. to 6 p. m.

Entrance fee are R$ 7,00 and Saturdays are free.

Next to the MAM seems to have landed another air saucer – but this one has a famous creator: It was Mr. Oscar Niemeyer himself who design the Lucas Nogueira Garcez Pavillion, better known as “Oca”.

Parque Ibirapuera Oca_Foto_JoseCordeiro, trata-se de vista da fachada da Oca e o crédito. Foto: Jose Cordeiro/SPTuris.
The art has landed: Iconic “Oca” by Oscar Niemeyer
(Photo: Jose Cordeiro/SPTuris)

Since 2017 it’s part of the city museum for being a historic building.
If you are interested in visiting, you have to inquire when it’s possible.

Museu da cidade de São Paulo 
Avenida Pedro Álvares Cabral 50
São Paulo
Phone: + 55 -11 – 50 83  0199
Email: oca@prefeitura.sp.gov.br

Before you continue to the best and biggest of the art museums, the Museu de Arte Contemporânea, you shouldn’t miss to take a look at the sculptures in this part of the park – some of them are really outstanding.

Young people hanging out on Angelo Venosa’s sculpture of bones made of aluminium.

Talking ’bout outstanding: if you want to visit only one single exhibition while in São Paulo, it should definitely be the Museu de Arte Contemporânea.

Wild creatures welcome the visitors at the entrance hall:
Nina Pandolfo “Um Amor Sem Igual” (left) and one of Marino Marini’s horses.

It’s the place where the São Paulo Bienal is taking place – and obviously after every bienal is over, they leave some great art behind. Actually you could spend an entire day here and awing at great pieces from all over the world.

Rafael Canogar “Os Revolucionários”
Cybèle Varela “De tudo aquilo que pode ser I, II e III”

Not to be missed!

Museu de Arte Contemporânea da Universidade de São Paulo 
Avenida Pedro Álvares Cabral 1301
São Paulo
Phone: + 55 – 11 – 26 48 02 54

Opening hours are Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a. m. to 6 p. m. (Tuesday to 9 p. m.), entrance is free.

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Luz

Another beautiful park full of lush plants and great art is the Jardim da Luz behind the art museum Pinacoteca.

Facade of the museum with matching sculptures.

The Jardim has an area of 82,000 square meters, with two reflection pools and two ponds; it was declared a historic landmark by Condephaat in 1981.

What a great service: A mobile ophthalmologist at the park. You see that the name for the eye doctor is very similar in English and Portuguese – so you have that covered…
There is enough art to be admired even on Tuesdays when the Pinacoteca is closed.
Vlavianos “Homem Pássaro”
Various sculptures made of aluminium by Odette Haidar Eid between 1983and 2002
Lasar Segall Três Jovens against the backdrop of the Pinacoteca

As part of the downtown revitalization project, it resumed dialogue with Pinacoteca, and was renovated in 1999. In 2000, the State Government earmarked funds for the purchase of Brazilian sculptures for its lawns. Even today, the exhibit is free of charge, for those who want to stroll through its green areas and also visit an open air exhibit. The Pinacoteca houses a vast collection of modern Brazilian art and is another mecca for the art aficionados. Founded in 1905, it is the city’s oldest art museum.

Pinacoteca
Praça da Luz
São Paulo
Phone: + 55 – 11 – 33 24 10 00
Email: pinacotecasp
@pinacoteca.org.br

The Pinacoteca is open from Wednesday to Monday from 10 a. m. to 6 p. m.

Entrance fee are R$ 6, Saturday is free

And Kobra?

His mural is to be found at the corner Avenida Tiradentes and Rua Dr. Rodrigo de Barros. On the way there you might want to see some sacred art – you can do so at the Museu de Arte Sacra de São Paulo.

A perfect painting in a perfect location.

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Centro

To explore São Paulo’s historic center, I recommend you join a ‘free’ walking tour (remember: the guides work for tips, so please don’t make it a free ‘free’ tour).

The happy wanderers – and now it’s your turn: Find W….no, Renata.
(Photo: Sao Paulo Free Walking Tour)

For the ‘Old Downtown’-tour, they meet at the tourist information booth at Praꞔa República (they also offer a tour along the Avenida Paulista and to the bohemian quarter Vila Madalena).

Well, this is what sadly happens when art is exposed to weather and pollution – it’s getting demolished.

Anyway, the downtown-tour takes you i. a. to the Biblioteca Mário de Andrade, to the grand Teatro Municipal, the Monument to Carlos Gomes – a copy of the Fontana di Trevi at the Praça Ramos de Azevedo, the Prefeitura – which is the townhall with a botanic garden and a pond on the roof; you cannot visit the building on this tour, but of course on another occasion.

Without a doubt there are many options where to grab a bite at the Centro. If you are opting for a healthier meal, give “Apfel” a try; that it means apple in German gives you a hint that they serve vegetarian food:

Apfel Centro
Rua Dom José de Barros 99
São Paulo
Phone: + 55 –  11 – 32 56 79 09

Open Monday to Saturday 11 a. m. to 3 p. m.

The beautiful fountain behind the Teatro Municipal.

If you don’t mind walking, you can stroll from downtown up towards the Paulista along Rua da Consolação.

While you admire the Nossa Senhora da Consolação church at the first big junction, don’t miss the great murals all around you; although they are not by Kobra – one of his best murals is to be seen at the corner of Rua Maria Antônia.

Although the paintings are large, they are not always easy to spot. I kept my eyes open for you.

Once you are here, you might want to get a drink – and a break – at the bar next to the mural, that is called ‘Esquina do Índio’, the Indian’s corner.

Esquina do Índio
Rua da Consolação/Rua Maria Antônia 49
São Paulo
Phone: + 55 – 11 – 31 20 24 18

Open from Monday to Saturday from 7 a. m. to 2 a. m.

Esquina do Índio – the Indian’s corner: A nice bar named after Kobra’s most political mural.
While these gentlemen are taking a short rest, the people in the family grave are resting for
ever; hopefully in peace.

Either keep walking or get on a bus and get off at the Cemitério da Consolação, a small, Brazilian version of the legendary Parisian Cimetière du Père-Lachaise. This cemetery is much smaller and the people buried here are not as world famous as those in Paris, still it’s a beautiful and interesting place.

São Paulo was only a three day stop on my trip to Southern Brazil. To read about the other – likewise fascinating destinations – check out my BRAZIL travel guide.

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