Brazil in 2 –3 days
Forget the vast variety of the country and concentrate on where you are. You’re most likely in Rio, so make the most of this most global of cities. Visit the beaches, marvel at the view from the summit of Corcovado, and plan a longer trip next time.
In 7-9 days
You’re still going to have to make some decisions on which part of the country to skip out. Rio is on most travellers’ intinerary, so after a few days here, head westwards to the Costa Verde and spend a night or two enjoying Paraty – one of Brazil’s most beautiful colonial towns.
Next, fly to Iguaçu Falls, where a day and a half is the minimum required to appreciate the spectacle of the falls from both the Brazilian and Argentinian sides. Take a boat trip out into the seething water below the falls to get a sense of the sheer power on show.
For your final destination, choose between the vast wetlands of the Patanal and the magical allure of the Amazon. If the former, make for Corumbá or Miranda. If you’re feeling adventurous, a camping safari is the best way to connect with this magical region. For a little more luxury, stay at a ranch and enjoy traditional Brazilian hospitality.
A trip into the Amazon can mean any number of things. Manaus is the largest city in the region, with good air connections. From here you can organise jungle trips that range from luxury lodge stays to budget boat trips.
Be warned: the Amazon may be a wildlife paradise, but the vegetation is so thick and (depending on the time of year) the canopy so high, that you’ll probably hear and sense more wildlife than you see. Even so, expect to be dazzled by tropical birdlife, see monkeys, cayman and some of the most bizarre insects imaginable.
Given the volume of people passing through Manaus, you’ll need to travel further afield to get a less touristy experience. If you have the time and resources, the best Amazon reserve is at Mamirauá, near Tefe, another flight away from Manaus.
Two weeks +
If you’ve ticked off the Patanál and the Amazon, head along Brazil’s gorgeous coastline, stopping off in the buzzing Afro-Brazilian city of Salvador.
If you fancy the slow life, hop on a river boat heading down the Amazon. The four day trip from Manaus to Belém offers a wonderful way of seeing the natural – and unnatural – wonders of the world’s mightiest river.