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.
I don’t know how it is if you spend only a couple of days in Rio and keep mainly to the beach area in the south. I’ve stayed there for two weeks and Rio’s downsides got to me more day by day.
However, when visiting Brazil, a trip to Rio is inevitable: The country’s most important icons are not in Sao Paulo, they are neither in Recife nor in Salvador – whether it’s Christ the Redeemer, whether it’s the sugar loaf or world’s most famous beaches Copacabana and Ipanema: all these sights and signs are right here. So – bem vindos no Rio!
If you are just coming to Brazil, you’ll probably arrive at RIOgaleão – Tom Jobim International Airport north east of the city. As a newbie, you’ll probably spend far too much for a cab at a licensed taxi stand – they charge around 120 R$ to the city center.
A metered cab will cost about half of that, then there is a comfy shuttle bus for R$ 15 going to Ipanema, but making stops on the way.
That can be tricky if you’re not familiar with Rio since the drivers are not helpful at all. If you know where you are going and you tell them, they stop. If you don’t know it, they just go.
But I wouldn’t recommend it after a long, tiring flight, anyway. In Rio, you have to be on the alert, and you won’t be when you are exhausted from travelling. Hey, you’ve paid a lot of money for a ticket, just spend some more and get to your final destination safely.
Like most Brazilian cities, Rio has two airports to fly to.
If you are coming from a different place in Brazil or another Latin American country, chances are that you’ll arrive at the Santos Dumont airport which is basically in the city center. Here connection is no problem at all: If in doubt, get on the light rail to Cinelândia, there you have connection to the subway system which is really good, reliable and clean in Rio. And taking a cab won’t burn a hole in your pocket, neither.
Unfortunately, after dark, Rio is not only breathtakingly beautiful.
If you are coming by bus, you’ll arrive at the Terminal Rodoviário Novo Rio. While the bus terminal is pretty good with many services, the surroundings aren’t, so retain from lingering around especially after dark. If you don’t want to take a cab, you can take the light rail at Rodoviário towards Santos Dumont, get off at Cinelândia and continue on subway from there.
Most tourists and travellers stay in the Copacabana area which is understandable since you have the iconic beach in front of your nose. Yet it is the best place to learn nothing at all about Brazil.
Right behind the Copacabana is the Leme neighborhood which gives you a far better idea of what Brazil is really like.
However, I stayed in the Botafogo district which is great and I can only recommend it: It’s only one subway stop away from the beaches and really close to the – partly a bit too run down – center with all the museums and shopping opportunities. Talking ’bout shopping: There is a big mall right next to the beach in Botafogo.
Staying in Botafogo means having a great view of the Pão de Açûcar and…
…Cristo Redentor alike.
A beach? Yes, that’s right, there is also a beach, but unfortunately you can only go for a walk there and enjoy the incredible view of the Sugar Loaf since it’s far to dirty to bath or sunbath there.
Praia do Botafogo against the backdrop of the Pão de Açûcar.
A huge plus is Botafogo’s location: There is an incredible number of buses passing in front of the shopping mall, the ‘Metrô na Superficie’ – which is just a faster bus and no ‘Metrô’ at all – and two subway lines. It cannot get more convenient!
Very similar is the Neighborhood of Flamengo, only it’s not as centrally located as Botafogo, but only one subway stop away.
I would always prefer the las two neighborhoods for their closeness to Brazilian life.
I also love the neighborhood of Santa Teresa which is on one of the many ‘morros’, the hills typical for Rio de Janeiro. Unfortunately it’s located amidst a couple of Favelas, one of theme being the notorious Morro dos Prazeres – Hill of Pleasures. This Favela was considered pacified until recently two tourists were shot there; accidentally, wrong moment – wrong place, but does that really matter?!
Great view from a dangerous place.
My Portuguese teacher was a bit shocked when I told her that I was walking down the Rua Santa Cristina by myself.
According to prudent Cariocas, as the people of Rio are called, even the once pacified Favelas are dangerous again. I personally would not go there – especially since I find it a bit weird to go to a neighborhood to see how poor people live. Just ask yourself if you are doing this in your city, too – and then ask yourself why you should do it in Rio.
However, Santa Teresa is beautiful and they have hostels there. I don’t know how people who stay there do – whether they are risking to get mugged on a daily basis or whether they are taking a cab as soon as they leave the premises.
Talking ’bout cabs: It’s very easy to move around in Rio. The public transport system covers the entire city – whether by ‘Metrô’, the subway, by light rail (tramway) or bus – and costs about one dollar per ride. For each of this means you can get a separate card that can be charged. But the only thing you safe this way is time, no money. There is no such thing like a day ticket or some other form of pass, you have to pay for every ticket individually and tickets from one mean of transport to another are not transferable. Hence, I wouldn’t really call it a ‘system’, but it takes you where you want to go easy and relatively fast.
Besides regular cabs, Uber is really big in Brazil, too.
Let’s just work our way around Rio starting in the west. The south-west, to be precise, and precise is key here since the northern parts of the city are the rough regions while the fartheꞔr south you get, the more sophisticated gets the neighborhood.
About four blocs north of the beach of Ipanema is the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, a beautiful lagoon that the wealthy Cariocas enjoy for walking and jogging and hanging out at the posh Clube dos Caiꞔaras.
Morning work out on the lagoon.
If you walk westwards around the lagoon, enjoying great views of Rio, you’ll first get to the Hipódromo da Gávea, the Jockey Club. It’s worth to take a closer look at the club’s fence since it’s decorated with a fun mural of viewers of a horse race.
Your best bet: Watching the race without losing money.
The palm-fringed avenue even made it on the
At the end of the club turn left into the Rua General Garzon and you arrive at the north entrance of the Jardim Botânico, Rio’s botanic garden, mostly known for its glorious palm-fringed avenue. But there are definitely many attractions – 9,000 plants from about 1,500 different species beautifully arranged between walkways, on hills, around ponds and fountains.
If you want to spend a couple of hours in a tranquil environment, soothing for the eye and the soul alike, this is the place to go.
Of course you do not have to walk around the lagoon to get to the garden. There are many buses going there – just type your starting point in this map and you’re ready to go.
Jardim Botânico do Rio de Janeiro
Rua Jardim Botânico 1008
Rio de Janeiro
Phone: + 55 – 21 – 38 74 18 08 and 38 74 12 14
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Open Tuesday to Sunday from 8 a. m. to 5 p. m. and Monday from noon to 7 p. m.
Entrance fee is R$ 15 and they don’t accept credit cards (which is very unusual in Brazil)
The manicured cactus garden close to the main gate.
Well, besides the Cristo and the Sugar Loaf, the southern part of the city is what Rio stands for:
They are city beaches, yes, but for being city beaches, they are very nice and relatively clean.
It starts in the west with Praia do Leblon, leading into the Praia de Ipanema and Praia do Arpoador.
Beach with a western view: Morro Dois Irmãos, hill of two brothers, seen from Praia Ipanema.
Here you cannot continue, but have to cross the Parque Garota de Ipanema (that’s right – a park called after the girl of Ipanema) and walk down the Rua F Otaviano before you can get back to the beach – the world famous Praia de Copacabana.
Beach with a eastern view: Morro de Leme, seen from Praia da Copacabana
The Copacabana is hemmed with bars and restaurants, there is a market where you can buy souvenirs, there are public bathrooms – they really make sure that tourists have a good time.
This lady is selling sandwiches – ‘natural’ sandwiches.
Once you are in the Urca and Praia Vermelha neighborhood, make sure to stroll around a bit – from here you can even walk along Avenida Pasteur to Botafogo – passing the Yacht club and the soccer club house of the rather hapless team of Botafogo.
Cristo Redentor and Trem do Corcovado
To get to the next – and most important – attraction of Rio de Janeiro, you have to leave the coastline and take the subway at Botafogo station northbound to Largo do Machado – which is two stops. There you catch bus #583 that takes you straight to the Trem do Corcovado – the train taking you up to Jesus.
This Christ statue was created in the art deco style by French sculptor Paul Landowski. The sculpture – 30m (98 ft) tall – was constructed between 1922 and 1931. Christ is protecting the city of Rio with his arms opened over a stretch of 28 metres (92 ft).
With everybody posing around the Cristo, the ambience is not very contemplative up there,….
….yet the views through the clouds are breathtaking. Here you can spot the lagoon with the horse race court to the right.
You cannot buy a ticket for the same day at the trem station. You need to buy the ticket either online or from an authorized dealer. At the trem station’s booth you can only change your voucher against your ticket. Especially during high season I recommend to get your ticket well ahead.
Continue the coastline up north passing Praia do Flamengo and you’ll get the Parque do Flamengo where the quite interesting Museu de Arte Moderna (MAM) is located.
Art and culture everywhere you look: A huge sculpture honoring toilet tissue in front of the museum building designed by Affonso Eduardo Reidy and built in 1948. The young people were performing some acrobatics and dancing.
This venue is located in a park designed by one of the most influential landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx (1909 – 1994), actually distantly related to German philosopher and politician Karl Marx, so already the gardens make a visit worthwhile.
A very creative form of selfies: Employees of the MAM composed self portraits from black squares within a defined space on white paper.
Here is a chart of who is who.
I love the idea that people working day by day at this place become part of the exhibition.
Original and respectful from the Italian artist Lucio Salvatore.
And since we are on it: I became part of a piece of art, too, by taking a selfie with Waltercio Caldas’ installation “Água/Cálice/Espelhos” (“Water/Chalice/Mirrors”)
Although the museums own a collection of 12,000 pieces, their temporary exhibitions are far more interesting.
Since at the time when I was in Rio, there was a huge exhibition of Tarsila do Amaral’s oeuvre in New York, I was very happy to have the chance to see at least some of her beautiful paintings in bold colors like “Os Anjos” (“Angels”)
Walk down the Avenida Infante Dom Henrique and turn right into Rua Teixeira de Freitas and follow Rua Teotônio Regadas – here you are, at one of the most intriguing pieces of Rio’s street art, the Escadaria do Selarón.
There are some pretty cool murals to be admired on Rua Teotônio Regadas before you get to the highlight – the Escadaria do Selarón.
These stairs leading to the neighborhood of Santa Teresa consist of 215 beautifully decorated steps.
Chile born Jorge Selarón decorated them with tiles from over 60 countries: First the artist used tiles from construction sites and waste dumps, but eventually visitors from around the world contributed.
The French sent cheese.
Of the over 2000 tiles, about 300 are handpainted by the artist depicting a pregnant African woman. Selarón claimed he financed his work by selling more than 25,000 portraits of this lady.
Jorge Selaron settled in Rio de Janeiro in 1983 and began to ‘renovate’ the stairs in 1990. Until his mysterious dead in 2013 he never considered his work done; as soon as he finished one section, he started to work on another one.
Selarón sorted the tiles according to topics – like musicians or flags.
Selarón was found dead on his famous steps on January 10, 2013. Until this day the circumstances of his death are unclear.
Don’t give up – you’re almost there! The is the upper part of the stairs leading to Santa Teresa.
Once you climb up the stairs – which might take a while not because of the height, but because there are millions of details to be admired – you can continue your walk to the Parque das Ruinas from where you have the best view of all that makes Rio grand.
Little tip: If you don’t have much time in Rio and can make it to only one observation platform, you might consider coming to this park instead of standing in line at the Trem do Corcovado or the Bonde Pão de Açûcar.
From the Parque das Ruinas it’s only a short walk – along cute little specialty shops, you might consider doing your souvenir shopping right here – to the Largo dos Guimarães. From here you can take the old Bonde, the tram, back down to Lapa.
Largo do Lapa – most of the time occupied by homeless people – becomes a party zone during carnival season.
It is better to do it this way for two reasons: Climbing the Selarón stairs up gives you a much better view at all the details than taking them down; and while they charge you R$ 20 for the tram when coming up, taking it downhill from Santa Teresa is actually free.
Coming back from Santa Teresa to Lapa, you’ll find yourself in city’s old, historic neighborhoods – and busies business and shopping streets.
Catedral de São Sebastião: As if Saint Sebastian hadn’t suffered enough, now they had to name the ugliest cathedral on earth after him.
This nuclear power plant-like house of God is also very close to the Largo da Lapa.
Walk down the Rua Evaristo da Veiga to the Praça Floriano dominated on its northern end by the Teatro Municipal, built from 1904 to 1909 in an Eclectic and Art Nouveau style – inspired by the opera house in Paris.
Next to it, you’ll find the Museu Nacional de Belas Artes, housing fine international and Brazilian art such as sculpture, painting, drawings, and photography.
Avenida Rio Branco, 199 – Centro (Cinelândia) Rio de Janeiro RJ – CEP: 20040-008 – Telefone: (21) 3299-0600
Terça a sexta-feira das 10 às 18hs; Sábados, domingos e feriados das 13 às 18 horas. Ingressos: R$ 8,00 Sunday free
As you continue on the Avenida Rio Branco, don’t miss the lovely colonial church Igreja da Ordem Terceira de São Francisco da Penitência to your left right before Rua da Carioca.
Don Pedro I has been riding across the Praça Tiradentes since 1862.
Rua da Carioca ends at the Praça Tiradentes, a rather unspectacular square, but turning right, you’ll see the Real Gabinete Português de Leitura, a beautiful library founded in 1837 by Portuguese immigrants in order to maintain the Portuguese language.
Real Gabinete Português de Leitura – cultivating the Portuguese language.
I cannot make up my mind what’s better at Cafeteira Colombo in the old center of Rio de Janeiro, the pastry or the decor.
Check yourself from 9 a. m. to 7 p. m. at Rua Gonçalves Dias 32
Walking from Praça Tiradentes towards the Guanabara Bay, you’ll get to the majestic Assembleia Legislativa do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, the Seat of the State Assembly.
The Parliament of Rio de Janeiro.
Turn left and walk up north, passing three ladies. What – three ladies? Yes, first to your left is Nossa Senhora – which means ‘our lady’ – do Carino. One blog further to your right Nossa Senhora da Lapa dos Mercadores and finally at the Praça Pio X the baroque Nossa Senhora da Candelária.
When I write north, I’m talking about the northern part of the center. I would never dare to send you to the north of Rio and I cannot recommend to venture there by yourself.
Museu do Amanha, seen from the Museu de Arte do Rio.
In front of it the Praca Mauá, behind it the bridge connecting Rio and Niterói (see last section of this post).
So the most northern area for us is the Praça Mauá where you’ll find the spectacular Museu do Amanha – the museum of tomorrow, dealing with all different aspects of planet earth and its inhabitants. Interesting facts and fun hands-on exhibitions – but also the unusual appearance of the building, designed by Santiago Calatrava and opened in 2015, make this museum a must-see when in Rio.
The globe explaining many important facts regarding planet earth is one of the coolest features – at the same time decorating the gorgeous entrance hall.
Open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a. m. to 6 p. m., entrance fee are R$ 20
Across the Mauá square is another museum, the Museu de Arte do Rio (MAR), housing different exhibitions on Rio-related topics.
Museum with a view.
May I present my favorite piece – a man helping another escaping through a….tabletop.
Gustavo Rezende “Qual é a matéria do sonho?” (What’s the material of the dream?)
To be honest, the most impressive thing about this venue that was opened in 2013, is the building itself – designed by Paulo Jacobsen, Bernardo Jacobsen e Thiago Bernardes – and the fantastic view of the adjacent Museu do Amanha and the Baía de Guanabara, the Guanabara bay.
Much better art can be seen along the adjacent Avenida Rodrigues Alves where not only graffiti super star Eduardo Kobra painted his epic mural “Ethnicity” on the occasion of the Olympic Games in 2016, but also other muralists perpetuated themselves.
“Ethnicity” – five portraits by Eduardo Kobra
The Avenida Rodrigues Alves is also the perfect place to grab a bite – or a souvenir – and watch people strolling by between old structures of the former store houses – the global gentrification you find in basically every bigger city.
The last northern stop was not for me, but it will be for you, you soccer aficionados: If you walk back to the Praça Pio X and take the subway at the Uruguaiana station, it will take you right to the soccer mecca, Estádio Mário Filho, better known as Maracanã.
Soccer on the beach – good enough for me.
The stadium can be visited, The tours last an average of 40 minutes, but on days when a match is taking place, the last tour finishes three hours before the game.
Estádio Mário Filho
Avenida Presidente Castelo Branco
Rio de Janeiro
Phone: + 55 – 21 – 983 41 19 49
Can be visited daily from 9 a. m. to 4 p. m.
A guided tour costs R$ 60, a non-guided tour costs R$ 50
The last place I’d like to introduce is located on the other side of the Baía de Guanabara – it’s the town of Niterói. It’s worth the visit for three reasons:
A) You cross the Baía de Guanabara on a comfortable, relatively cheap ferry.
B) You have a great view of Rio de Janeiro looking across the bay.
C) You get to visit one of the most important buildings designed by Oscar Niemeyer, the Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Niterói.
Taking the ferry to Niterói, you’ll also have a good view of the beautiful palace on the Ilha Fiscal.
There are two ways how to get to Niterói: You can go by bus crossing the Ponte Rio – Niterói, which is completely pointless and deprives you from above mentioned reason number one. You should take the ferry that leaves Rio at the Estação das Barcas at Praça Quinze de Novembro behind the State Assembly (see above). The ferry operates daily from 6h às 23h30 and costs 6 R$ one way. It takes you to the Praça Arariboia in Niterói in about 20 minutes.
View of Rio de Janeiro from Niterói.
As you leave the terminal, you will spot a little mobile tourist information where you can obtain a map for free. Hence, you don’t really need it: Just turn right and walk along the road as it’s turning along the shore. It’s a scenic walk of about 3 km / 2 mi.
At the Museum of Contemporary Art in Niterói, form beats content big time.
I will not lie to you: When I visited the museum, there were two completely pointless exhibitions and I’ve heard from others that the venue cannot exactly pride itself on showing breathtaking art. The visit is still worth it – for the building and for the views.
And another thing: You don’t have to walk there, there is a bus circling between the port and the Mirante, the observation point the museum was built on. Actually I’d recommend to walk there – which will take about 30 minutes – and take the bus on your way back.
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.
Young Belo Horizontians drumming with vigor.
Turns out, Inhotim was the only spot worth the travel. But so worth it!
Still let me tell you a bit about Belo Horizonte, although I would never recommend to actually plan a trip there. If you happen to pass through, make sure you don’t miss going to see Inhotim – but we get to that later.
Going to Belo Horizonte by bus from Rio de Janeiro takes about six hours which I find a bit too long for a weekend trip. I was lucky to get really cheap tickets for about 70 US$ round trip – I booked about six weeks ahead.
Going to Belo Horizonte, the views of Minas Gerais from way up high was the most alluring sight of the day.
Like many other Brazilian cities, Belo Horizonte has two airports, one close to the city and about 30 km / 19 mi north. Hence, here comes my first advice: Don’t take the bus that goes to the bus terminal. I thought it would be a good idea since ‘bus terminal’ sounds centrally located. Well, it is, but it is also located in a very bad area. Plus the bus that goes there is the cheap bus for the poorer crowd and it stops at every corner and it takes forever to finally arrive at this shady area.
It’s far better to take the airport shuttle – that costs next to nothing more – and go to Connection Airport Terminal at Av. Álvares Cabral 387, that’s a bit less depressing and dangerous.
A young street vendor selling flip flops on a sidewalk in Belo Horizonte.
Belo Horizonte’s artery is the Avenida Afonso Pena where you find many stores and restaurants. It’s central point is the Praça Sete de Setembro, honoring the centenary of Brazil’s independence. While the square is just an obelisk marking the city’s zero point.
Igreja São José
One bloc down south you’ll see to your right the unusually colored Igreja São José, St. Joseph’s Chruch, founded in 1904 and finished in 1912. At the next bloc to your left already begins the quite nice Parque Municipal Américo Renné Giannetti, the central park.
There are a couple of interesting exhibitions, especially regarding the history of the miners: Belo Horizonte is the capital of the federal state of Minas Gerais, translated as general mines. As a matter of fact, in Minas Gerais – a territory as large as France – you can find a large variety of different mines and extraction fields.
The museum is open from Tuesday to Friday from 10 a. m. to 7 p. m., weekends from noon and Thursday from noon to 9 p. m.
Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil
Another nice place worth visiting is the Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil, a cultural center financed by the oldest and largest Brazilian Bank. They run cultural centers in various Brazilian cities, and in Belo Horizonte the elegant building alone is worth a visit.
Of course you feel welcome at this grand hall. (Photo: Vagner Costa/CCBB)
The center is open from Wednesday to Monday from 10 a. m. to 10 p. m.
Feira de Arte e Artesanato da Avenida Afonso Pena
What I’ve liked best in Belo Horizonte was the Feira de Arte e Artesanato da Avenida Afonso Pena, an arts and crafts fair that takes place every Sunday from 8 a. m. to 1 p. m. on the Avenida Afonso Pena between Rua da Bahia and Rua dos Guajajaras. It’s not touristy at all, you can buy literally everything you might need in your house – and the best part are the food stands selling really good Brazilian street food.
The market on Avenida Afonso Pena is one of very few treats Belo Horizonte holds for its visitors.
So yes, there are certainly some things to do, but I’ve found the city extremely run down and depressing. The number of obviously deranged, intoxicated people squatting and camping in the streets was overwhelming. I didn’t feel comfortable at all.
I spent one night and took the bus to Brumadinho the next morning.
I don’t know how many buses are actually going from Belo Horizonte to Brumadinho since it’s really not that far. Since I had to make sure to catch my plane the next day, I made reservation online and went with Saritur.
It’s also possible to book a day tour from Belo Horizonte straight to Inhotim and back in one day, but I wasn’t so crazy about getting back the same day…
As I learned from my friendly, hippie-ish landlord, ‘bruma’ is the coal dust – and that’s where the town of Brumadinho got his name from – must be something like ‘Little Coaldust’…
Brumadinho, a friendly little town – about an hour by bus from Belo Horizonte.
I didn’t get to see much of the town itself since I was rushing more or less straight to Inhotim, but what I saw looked tranquil and nice and if I ever come back, I will skip Belo Horizonte and go straight to this cute little place.
I managed to get a room at a guesthouse within walking distance to Inhotim, so that was a plus. The hostel is cute and the hosts get out of their way to make you feel welcome, but unfortunately I must say that it’s not very comfortable: There is only one bathroom for up to eight people, the walls and doors are paper thin so when people are talking or watching TV in the communal area, it’s like you are sitting right next to them. This would be fine and dandy for a hostel-price, but not for the 120 R$ (36 US$) they charged. The night before I paid less in Belo Horizonte for an executive room with all the hotel standards (private bathroom, A/C, TV, fridge etc.).
One of the venue’s best views: Groups of different palm trees and one of Inhotim’s most famous outdoor sculpture, “Invenção da cor, Penetrável Magic Square # 5, De Luxe” by Hélio Oiticica
Anyway, I wasn’t there to hang out at the hostel, I was there so Inhotim could kill me softly with its beauty. And it did, my gosh, how it did!
It all started in the mid 1980 when Bernardo de Mello Paz, one of the few people who could actually say ‘yes’ if rhetorically asked whether he owns a mine, began to establish on his huge piece of land outside of Brumadinho an exquisite botanic garden containing rare and precious species of plants, beautifully arranged on hills and around ponds.
The gardens alone are worth the trip to Inhotim.
This man has a very good taste. In plants, but also in art. Therefore he arranged his art collection, one of the most significant collections of contemporary art in the world, on these premises.
“Deleite” by Brazilian sculptor Tunga was one of the first pieces in Bernardo de Mello Paz’ collection.
There are about 500 works by Brazilian and international artists from about 30 different countries on display; in the gardens and in special galleries.
In 2009, international super star of dots, Yayoi Kusama, contributed her work ‘Narcissus Garden’ that was nominated for the First Mies Crown Hall Americas Prize, granted by the Illinois Institute of Technology.
There are huge sculptures and installations that would never fit in a gallery.
Where else could Chris Burdon show his “Beam Drop Inhotim”, made of some not exactly delicate steel beams? At Inhotim, there’s enough space even for the largest sculptures.
When the dark clouds approached, the installation looked even more dramatic.
There are huge sculptures and installations that do fit in a gallery as long as they can fill the whole room undisturbed.
Another one of Tunga’s quirky installations: “True Rouge”. At Inhotim, they reserved an entire gallery building for this sculpture.
There are sculptures and installations that form a nice, almost symbiotic togetherness.
Symbiosis of nature and art and the visitor – all in one single selfie (in case you wonder: I’m standing in Dan Graham’s “Bisected Triangle” – made of glass and steel – taking a picture of my reflection and the incredible view behind; no filters, no editing involved!)
At Inhotim, there is room for all of this. Since there is space, lots and lots of space.
Yes, you have to do a lot of walking, but if you get too tired, there are lovely young people driving you around in little carts.
Anyway, Inhotim is good to you: there are sockets to recharge your phone or your camera, there is free WiFi. There are many clean bathrooms and many water faucets so that visitors do not necessarily have to buy overpriced drinks; which aren’t overpriced at all, anyway.
Even from the cheaper cafeteria you can enjoy good food – and of course the great view.
There are two restaurants, on more upscale (whereby you get an excellent buffet for about 20 US$ which you’d never get at this price in Europe or in the US) and one more a cafeteria. In addition there are snack bars and ice cream parlors. And lots of shady spots to relax for a while – some equipped with wooden deck chairs or cute lounge chairs, others with extraordinary seats carved in raw wood.
A huge bench made of a humongous tree trunk in front of a…humongous tree trunk.
I’ve been to Louisiana north of Copenhagen – and it was really nice.
I’ve been to Huntington Garden and Library at San Marino in the outskirts of Los Angeles – and it was really very nice.
But none of these places can compare to Inhotim.
Open Tuesday to Friday from 9.30 a. m. to 4.30 p. m., weekends and holidays till 5.30 p. m.
Entrance fee is 44 R$ (13 US$), use of the carts an additional 30 R$ (9 US$) (highly recommended) Charter of a private cart for up to 5 people 500 R$ (150 US$) per day or 200 R$ (60 US$) per hour.
Important: You cannot visit the premises without proof of yellow fever vaccination!
Update: Since Summer 2018, you do not need to have proof of yellow fever vaccination to visit Inhotim. However, to save yourself from disappointment, you might want to check their website or inquire directly regarding the status quo short before visiting.
Wanna know how I perceived Belo Horizonte, Brumadinho, and Inhotim the day I got there? Check out this lesson of my Class of Brazil series:
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.
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!
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 ‘Ethnicity’ that he has painted on the occasion of the Olympics in Rio in 2016.
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.
So lets go, we 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.
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.
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 the Rua Augusta (check the CONCLUSION and RATING page for details) 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.
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.
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.
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.
Especially in the evening you should turn left into the Rua Augusta, the city’s vibrant party and entertainment street full of restaurants, bars, theaters, clubs and fun and follies.
Four blocs further is 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.
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$)
Another three blocs down, to your left on Alameda Joaquim Eugênio de Lima, a nice surprise is waiting for you: a brandnew Kobra – I even saw it in the making beginning of 2018!
A assume this mural was commissioned by the hospital. I particularly like that the doctor’s name is ‘Bueno’ – which means good.
Keep walking – whereby if you don’t like to walk, you can hop on one of the buses going down the Paulista or even take the subway. The disadvantage is that in Brazil you pay one price per ticket, i. e. it doesn’t matter if you go just to the next stop or across town – you always pay the same price (which is 3,60 R$ (about 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.
Right behind the Saint Catherine’s Chapel is the wonderful Japan House, a venue showing Japanese art and serving excellent Japanese food.
Avenida Paulista 1578
Phone: + 55 – 11 – 30 90 89 00
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.
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.
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.
Once you are close to the Brigadeiro station, let’s visit some more Kobras – and some other fantastic venues. But I have to warn 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.
A monument honoring great man…
…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
I can only recommend visiting this venue.
Museu Afro Brasil
Avenida Pedro Alvares Cabral
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.
Northern wall of the Marquise (including the entrance to the gents’ bathroom)
Western wall of the Marquise.
Southern wall of the Marquise – including the entrance to the ladies’ bathroom.
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
Phone: + 55 – 11 – 50 85 13 00
Open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a. m. to 6 p. m.
Entrance fee are R$ 7,00 and Saturdays are free.
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”
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.
There is enough art to be admired even on Tuesdays when the Pinacoteca is closed.
Vlavianos “Homem Pássaro”
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.
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.
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.
A very political mural by Eduardo Kobra – raising awareness for indigenous people being threatened by a factory being built in the city of Altamira in Belo Monte.
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.
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’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 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.
…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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Floating in the ice cold water…. (Photo: Marcos Dias/Grupo Rio da Prata)
…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.
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$.
This public pool is located about 7 km / 4.5 mi north east of bonito – and actually reachable by bike.
Here too: good, well maintained facilities. Although far cheaper than the trips on the rivers, still overpriced for what you get – which is nice floating with the fishes in clear waters. But face it: That’s Bonito.
This pool – located about 11 km / 7 mi north of Bonito – offers more games and fun activities than the Balneário Municipal and is more family and kid oriented. Of course they, too, have a good restaurant and impeccable facilities – and if you are not too much of a coach potato and don’t mind exercise in the sun, you can get here on a bicycle, too.
While you are sunbathing, you can observe the most
beautiful and exotic birds. (Photo: Maurício Neves Godoi/Grupo Rio da Prata)
This pool, located 34 km / 21 mi west of Bonito, can definitely not be reached by bike, unless you did participate in the iron man contest (don’t underestimate the sun – and the dirt road is not shady at all!). It’s very similar zu the Balneário do Sol with lots of activities in and around a natural pool. There is also a small artificial and a big natural waterfall. You can do – you probably guessed so – some really good ‘flutuaꞔao’ – the Nascente – which means source – is where the Rio do Peixe begins, so that the water is very clear. Here too, after the floating, you can go back to the pool really fast by using a zipline.
All the waterfalls worth seeing are west of Bonito.
Parque da Cachoeira is located about 16 km / 10 mi from Bonito is a nature reserve mostly known for its waterfall. Of course there is also some nice hiking and you can spend the night camping.
Cool waters making this vegetation so lush. (Photo: Parque da Cachoeira)
Since it’s more about natural beauty than facilities, the entrance fee is about 5 US$. 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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Water – and many, many, many years have carved these unique formations.
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:
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$). Their food is really excellent!
Of course the waterfalls are the main reason for people coming to Foz, and they are right: The falls are a breathtaking spectacle of nature: They consist of 20 large and 255 smaller waterfalls along almost three kilometers / two miles. Most of them are about 65 meters / 213 feet high, but there are some up to 82 meters / almost 270 feet. Incredible 1.500 to 7.000 m³ / 53,000 to 247,000 ft³ of water do plummet down from the rocks.
You have to see it to believe it – these masses of water are just incredible.
The Iguaçu-waterfalls are one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Since 1984 (Argentinian side) resp. 1986 (Brasilian side) they have been a UNESCO world heritage sight.
The entrance fee is 62 R$ (about 19 US$) for foreigners (locals, nationals and Brazil’s neighbors pay less) and the ticket booths are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. After that you can still finish your walk – or your meal with a view at the restaurant located at the final point ‘Porto Canoas’.
At the points with the most impressive views, the park people built platforms so everybody can have their picture taken with on of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.
In addition to just walking along the falls you can also hike some trails through the park and e.g. do some kayaking or getting really close to the falls on a dinghy ride. All these extras also cost extra.
Of course you get the most spectacular and also most expensive view from a helicopter, either on a 10-minute flight over the National Park and the Iguaçu Falls or a 35-minute flight over the Iguaçu National Park, Itaipú Hydroelectric Plant and Three Borders Landmark for about a 130 US$ resp. about 250 US$.
The park can also be visited from Argentina, where you can easily get, too. From there the entrance fee is a bit more expensive, about 24 US$, the ticket booth closes already at 4.30 p.m. and you can stay till 6 p.m.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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$) are worth it, especially since there are so many beautiful, exotic birds flying around everywhere you go, anyway.
Yes, it’s true: I saw flocks of toucans flying around in Brazil. However, the bird park was the only place where I go close enough to take a picture of them.
Do they really have to live in captivity so that people like me can take their picture?!
Parque das Aves
Av. das Cataratas, KM 17.1
Foz do Iguaçu
Phone: + 55 – 45 – 35 29 82 82
The park is open daily from 8:30 a. m. to 5 p. m.
It’s nice that the visitors have to get into the huge aviaries where the birds live in relatively natural habitats.
Three Frontiers Landmark
Each of the three connecting countries has its own landmark. All three are located where the Iguaçu river flows into the Paraná river. The Brazilian one was installed over hundred years ago and is an obelisk painted in the colors of the flag, standing in the middle of a fountain.
Marco das Três Fronteiras – the Three Frontier Landmark on the Brazilian side. (Photo: Grupo Catarata comunicaꞔao)
You find restaurants and gift shops and you can look over the rivers to the other. It’s open till 11 p. m., so at night you can see an illuminated version.
The landmark is open daily from 2 p. m. to 11 p. m. (the ticket booth closes at 10 p. m.). The entrance fee is R$ 23,60 (a bit over US$ 7).
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:
Avenida das Cataratas, KM 14
Foz do Iguaçu
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:
Ever heard of Inhotim? No? No wonder since this amazing gallery and botanic garden is hidden on the outskirts of a lost place called Brumadinho, located about one hour from Belo Horizonte.
Nevertheless, to visit Inhotim, one Friday, I hopped on a plane in Rio de Janeiro and flew to Belo Horizonte. There, I took God’s artistic creations – such as flowers and trees – are of genuine, pure beauty, indeed. But in combination with creations by earthly visual artists, they become just marvelous.
…and what I am needs no excuses – the beginning of Gloria Gaynor’s evergreen is the perfect intro to this post, which deals with my perspective on the Carnival in Rio, an extremely gay event – gay in every sense of the word.
Bar on the Copacabana beach
Carnival in Brazil – yay or nay? Spoiler alert: I am what I am, and what I am is not a person who likes carnival; anywhere in the world.
Brazilian carnival is world famous, on many travellers’ bucket lists, so you probably have to be a major grouch not to have a great time and enjoy yourself like crazy.
However, I don’t like carnival.
You might think I’m just a pathetic loser with no sense of humor whatsoever.
But that’s not true, you can ask anybody who has known me for five minutes that I am great fun and ready to say the darndest things. I’m just not the dropping pants-falling water buckets-smashing cream cake-red nose-funny hat-kind of humorous.
Party crowd at the otherwise rather idyllic Largo dos Guimarães in the Santa Teresa district.
And I detest crowds. Even if I would participate in a freedom march, I’d prefer to march by myself than in a crowd. But especially vinous party crowds give me the creeps.
This pretty lady – a street vendor in Belo Horizonte – came closest to the image I had of the carnival in Brazil.
I do like the carnival-ladies in the micro sequin bikinis shaking there not so micro behinds. I like the drummers drumming with vigor. But this takes place only at the Sambadrome where the Samba schools compete.
The real carnival is a bender at every corner in the city.
I’m actually not that crazy about ridiculously accessorized drunks. Nowhere in the world.
There is a carnival in Germany, too. Fortunately, it’s outsourced to the Rhine-Main-area so you can give it a wide berth. Surprisingly the German carnival is pretty much the same thing like the one in Rio: Hordes of disguised drunks are stumbling and staggering through the streets, their make up slowly dissolving, bumping into each other, blocking roads. Since in Germany it’s cold at carnival season, they mostly cover up (big thumb up!). In Rio, it’s 32 degrees Celsius (90 Fahrenheit) at 9 p. m., so people walk around basically naked.
It’s only February and I’ve had my share of bare chests for the rest of the year.
Bare chests – unadorned version…
….bare chests – glittering version.
The latino macho’s favorite costume is a skirt. Skirts seem to be the most hilarious – or maybe coolest – thing a man can wear. I wonder whether the Scots are aware of that.
….group tutu – and of course bare chests.
You might think at least the music is rhythmic and latino and hot so you cannot stand still.
Well, it’s not, take it from me.
Some tacky techno-merengue-mix-songs are blaring from boom boxes and the crowds are blaring along. My Portuguese is sufficient to understand that some of the lyrics must be quite X-rated.
Makes me wonder whatever happened to Barry Manilow’s Lola, the showgirl, with yellow feathers in her hair.
Nope, no yellow feathers.
The worst thing is that as people drink a lot, nature calls; and as soon as they hear it calling, they open the door naked; metaphorically and unfortunately literally.
The sharp stench of ammonia is everywhere; sometimes mixed with the stink of vomit.
#CoisaBOA is a campaign by Antarctica beer dealing in a fun way with different issues that might occur during the carnival. Here it says that it’s a good thing (= coisa boa) to make xixi – I presume that you don’t need a translation for this one… – only in a bathroom. The bad thing (which for the record would be coisa ruim) is that obviously, not many people took notice of this billboard.
This makes me think of another song, the first big success of one of the earliest hip hop bands, namely Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five: “….people pissing on the stairs, you know they just don’t care” (from “The Message”)
Furious Five – that sounds pleasantly grumpy. I think I would spend a great carnival in the company of the Furious Five: We would drink just a bit, maybe get a hit or two from a spliff and roll our eyes on all these self-proclaimed clowns.
We would use the mobile toilets that are everywhere at people’s disposal – and I bet the Furious Five would keep their shirts on.
Wanna know what happened before? Here are the previous lessons:
Note to the curious reader: Like I did during my former trips like e. g. Cambodia, while travelling, I’ll be posting little stories and reflections on my stay. At the end of the entire tour there will be an extended travel guide with all the relevant information including addresses, links etc. Until then, just enjoy some special moments with me.
If you choose to pin this post, please use one of these pictures:
The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.