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Private Journeys

Trailblazer Brazil: Inside Bahia and the Pantanal

15 days from £3,750pp

Brazil

Itinerary

map marker Map

Day 1

Arrive Salvador and transfer to the beach at Praia do Forte

Bahia’s coconut coast is lined with golden beaches backed by lofty palms. From Salvador airport it’s just an hour to the laid-back beach town of Praia do Forte, a low-key and low-rise resort and a protected haven for sea turtles. Beyond its car-free main strip, lined with small bars, shops and restaurants, are miles of beaches and natural pools which offer a warm bath at low tide. You have two full days of leisure here: swing in a hammock, fruity cocktail in hand, or dip your toes in the ocean.

praia

Day 2

Relax at Praia do Forte; optional whale watching (Jul-Sep)

An early morning walk along the empty sands is a great way to work up an appetite for a Brazilian breakfast. As the tide goes out, sheltered natural pools appear where swimming and snorkelling is popular. You may visit the Project Tamar which protects the sea turtles which nest right here on the sands, or the nearby Sapiranga nature reserve. From July to September, humpback whales can be spotted off the coast: there’s a good chance of seeing them close-up if you join a boat excursion.

Humpback whale

Day 3

Relax at Praia do Forte; optional visit to Salvador

Optional day trip to Salvador de Bahia, around 1½ hours from Praia do Forte and one of Brazil’s great cities. This is an outdoor city, the spicy aromas of Afro-Bahian cooking waft on the balmy air, and there’s no better way to explore than on foot. The vestiges of Portuguese colonial architecture and culture blend well with African traditions in the centre of the city, known as the pelourinho, crammed full of colourful colonial mansions, churches and museums. The area brims with bars, shops and restaurants, and you can expect spontaneous eruptions of music at every turn.

Salvador

Day 4

By road to Lençóis in the Chapada Diamantina

Setting off after an early breakfast it’s a 6-7 hour drive to Lençóis in the Chapada Diamantina. Lençóis was the centre of a diamond rush in the 19th century but more recently the accent has been on ecotourism. Your base for the next few days within the Chapada Diamantina’s tabular mountains, this pretty, colonial town is a well-watered oasis of densely vegetated beauty set close to the dusty Sertão desert. The region has a hot climate all year around, which makes visiting its natural pools, rivers and delightful waterfalls an even more welcoming attraction. You excellent hotel has a pool and plenty of space to relax outside after the long journey.

chapada

Day 5

Full day highlights tour of the Chapada Diamantina

After breakfast there’s a full day guided adventure into the Chapada Diamantina, a combination of travel by road and on foot. It’s suitable for most abilities and, having a private driver, you can opt out of any of the elements as you wish. Drive from Lençois to the Mucugezinho river, and walk to the black lake of Poço do Diabo. From here there’s a chance to visit Lapa Doce cave, which involves about an hour’s exciting walking underground. You’ll also visit Pratinha Cave, a beautiful subterranean river and lake in which you can cool off with a dip. Later, drive to Pai Inacio plateau and walk the last 300m for today’s grand finale. The 20-minute steep uphill stretch is certainly worth it for perhaps the most amazing, far-reaching view in Bahia.

chapada

Day 6

At leisure in Lençóis; optional walking in the Capao Valley and Fumaça Falls

If you’re feeling up to an energetic, spectacular hike we wholeheartedly recommend this full day out which starts with a 2 hour drive from Lençois to the remote community of Capão which sits within the heart of the stunning tablelands of the Chapada Diamantina. From here, there’s a 12 km walk to the top of the steaming Cachoeira da Fumaça (waterfall of smoke). At 340m this is the second highest waterfall in Brazil and the only way it can be viewed in its entirety is to lie horizontal and peer down into the canyon! A picnic lunch is included at the top of the waterfall, before the hike down – which offers more magnificent views over the Capão valley.

waterfall chapada

Day 7

At leisure in Lençóis, with a range of optional excursions

Spend some time simply relaxing in and around Lençóis, enjoying the hotel, pool and gardens and watching the world go by from one of the cafés in the plaza. Within easy walking distance are the natural pools of the Rio Serrano, where, if you dare, you can glide down the natural rock slides of multi-coloured rock to the cool cobalt waters of a pool below. Several day trips are also possible. For a moderately challenging hike, it’s hard to top the riverside, rock-hopping route to Sossego Falls; you’ll need a guide and we can pre-arrange this. Alternatively, head out for the day by road to the caves of Poço Encantado (Enchanted Grotto), Poço Azul (Blue Grotto) and the remote village of Mucugé. For something completely different, the Marimbus wetlands can also be visited and explored by guided canoe.

chapada cave

Day 8

Return to Salvador and fly to Brasilia (2hrs)

It’ll take about 6 hours to get to Salvador airport, with a brief stop for lunch (payable locally). Fly to Brasilia (2hrs) and transfer to your hotel in the city.

Brasilia

Day 9

Discover Brasilia

The spacious federal capital Brasilia is certainly a city like no other in Brazil, if not the world. It was only in 1960 that the capital, formerly in Rio, was moved to a brand new, futuristic city, designed by architects Oscar Niemeyer and Burle Marx, to the middle of nowhere here in the interior. Initially admired for its innovation and glittery science fiction looks, the imposed philosophy of Order is somewhat alien to the Brazilian love of chaos and spontaneity. Brasilia may no longer merit the space-age accolades it attracted back in 1960, but it certainly has space: so much so this unique city is practically impossible to appreciate on foot. We’ve included an overview with a local driver-guide to get you orientated.

Brasilia

Day 10

Fly to Cuiabá (2hrs) and transfer to lodge in the Pantanal

Arriving in Cuiabá, our private driver-guide will meet you and whisk you straight off to your lodge in the Pantanal Wetlands (4hrs), the Pousada do Rio Mutum. The lodge offers a programme of activities where you can view wildlife. Sun-seeking caiman (alligators) stretch out on the river beaches or observe you with a beady eye just visible above the water’s surface. Gangs of the ubiquitous capybara -a giant rodent – stroll lazily across the road. Giant storks and roseate spoonbills wade through the standing water while agitated parakeets and clouds of snowy ibis take to the sky

pantanal

Days 11-12

Wildlife spotting from your lodge in the Pantanal

The Pantanal wetlands cover a large basin half the size of France. This basin is seasonally flooded and is drained by the Paraguay River, which flows into the south Atlantic via the River Plate estuary. The result is a paradise for nature lovers, especially for wildlife observation. Unlike the areas of high jungle, the Pantanal is an open area of swampy grasslands, leaving some of the highest concentration of fauna in the continent exposed to view. Depending on local conditions, daily expeditions may include boat rides, walking trails and horse-riding through the Pantanal’s watery landscapes. You could visit a fazenda (farm) on the banks of a shimmering lake for sunset, when birds congregate for evening feeding with a raucous cacophony of sound. You may set off on an excursion by safari vehicle or boat to view wildlife in the crystal clear waters on a remote section of the Mutum river; seize an opportunity to fish for piranha, or take a boat trip to a small fishing community on the Cuiabá river.

capybara

Day 13

Transfer to Cuiabá and fly to Rio de Janeiro, transfer to Barra da Tijuca

It’s a 4hr drive back to the airport from where you fly to Rio (2½ hrs), the last stop on this Brazilian journey. Your hotel for the next 2 nights is in Barra da Tijuca. This upscale, outlying beach suburb of Rio is 20km west of Copacabana, and was the setting for the Olympic Village during the 2016 games. The area was transformed during the run up to the event, with a new metro station, golf course and a cycling track that runs along the spectacular 18km beach which is the longest in Rio. It is also well served by good hotels and restaurants. Barra’s waters are popular with surfers and while the waves and currents make the ocean unsuitable for swimming, your hotel has umbrellas and towels to enjoy the wonderful beach here.

barra da tijuca

Day 14

Full day at leisure in Barra da Tijuca

At leisure in Barra, allowing time for pre-departure testing if required. Rio’s famous downtown beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana as well as the big draws of the Sugar Loaf cable car and Corcovado Christ statue can all be visited on an optional excursion which we can pre-arrange before departure. Or, a taxi to Copacabana should take about 30 mins.

Rio de Janeiro

Day 15

Catch your international flight home from Rio de Janeiro

Transfer to the airport. If departing on BA, the flight usually goes in the evening, allowing time to enjoy much of the day in Barra. (Hotel check-out time is midday, late check-out may be available on request).

Inspired by this trip

Our exciting range of articles on Latin America explore everything from iconic destinations and lesser-known cultural gems to delicious traditional recipes. You’ll also find exclusive travel tips, first-hand client reviews and the chance to get your personal questions answered by our travel experts.

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Your edit for Latin American inspiration

Our exciting range of articles on Latin America explore everything from iconic destinations and lesser-known cultural gems to delicious traditional recipes. You’ll also find exclusive travel tips, first-hand client reviews and the chance to get your personal questions answered by our travel experts.

View Extraordinary Inspiration

Real Latin America Experts

  • Kathryn Rhodes
    Kathryn Rhodes - Travel Expert

    Kathryn backpacked across Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Peru before joining us. She has a degree in Philosophy and French and is a keen netball player.

  • Ben Line
    Ben Line - Travel Expert

    Ben fell in love with Latin America on a six month backpacking trip from Colombia to Mexico in 1995. Since then he has explored most of South America, including living in Peru for a year. He is now Head of Sales.

  • Hannah Waterhouse
    Hannah Waterhouse - Travel Expert

    Hannah had an early introduction to Latin America when her family moved to Ecuador and she returned to study in Buenos Aires for a year before backpacking across the continent.

  • Lina Fuller
    Lina Fuller - Travel Expert

    Lina's passion for the continent where she was born really took off when she moved to Córdoba (Argentina) to study, spending the holidays travelling between Argentina and her native Colombia.

  • Carrie Gallagher
    Carrie Gallagher - Travel Expert

    A former JLA tour leader, Carrie brings a wealth of on-the-ground experience to our London-based Tailor-made and Group Tours department.

  • Sophie Barber
    Sophie Barber - Travel Expert

    Sophie lived in Chile before joining us and has travelled extensively across Latin America, from Mexico to the furthest tip of Patagonia and beyond to Antarctica.

Meet the team