A comprehensive tour of southern Brazil this holiday includes colonial towns, waterfalls and wildlife. Starting in Rio de Janeiro, travel to the town of Paratí, then continue onto the Pantanal wetlands and finally to the spectacular Iguazú falls.
Day 1: Rio de Janeiro: Seven million people live, work and play in this tropical city at the ocean's edge. The beaches are legendary, and the views over the city from Sugarloaf Mountain and Christ the Redeemer statue are world-renowned. But other highlights abound - the serene botanical gardens, the artists' colonial quarter of Santa Teresa, downtown museums and art galleries, and the stupendous Niteroi Bridge over Guanabara Bay. Private transfer to your hotel. Overnight in Rio de Janeiro.
Day 2:Corcovado and Tijuca forest jeep tour: Half-day shared excursion - Transfer by jeep to the entrance of Tijuca National Park - a vast tropical forest of creeks, waterfalls and mountainous terrain. The park is home to birds, iguanas and monkeys. It is a remarkable natural delight just 15 minutes from the hotels and bars of Ipanema and Copacabana. Visit its crowning feature, the iconic statue of Christ the Redeemer at the summit of Corcovado Mountain (701m). The vistas over the city and bay are dizzyingly impressive. There is also a stop at the viewpoint of Mirante da Dona Marta with its impressive vistas over the Maracanã stadium, Guanabara Bay and Sugar Loaf. Also take a short walk to the lovely waterfalls of Cascatinha Taunay. The jeep has a waterproof cover but we suggest you come prepared with a waterproof - and a light jumper on cooler days. The trip lasts about four hours with a maximum of 10 passengers per jeep, which keeps to a minimum time spent picking up and dropping off at each end of the excursion. Overnight in Rio de Janeiro.
Day 3: Shared transfer to Parati: Drive along a coastal highway, with fantastic views of the lush Costa Verde. The journey takes up to six hours by shared transport (the first shared transfer service departs at approximately 08:30). Paratí is a picturesque and colourful fishing port and leisure resort located at the foot of the rugged, verdant hills of the costa verde, southwest of Rio. Its setting is delightful, between lush mata atlântica cloud forest and the warm waters of Ilha Grande Bay. The pedestrian-only historic core is composed of typical whitewashed Portuguese colonial architecture lining flagstone-cobbled lanes and squares. The centre is protected by UNESCO heritage status. Alongside chic boutiques are a number of excellent restaurants, many of which serve fresh seafood in generous proportions, and pavement bars offering live music performances. The bay is peppered with rocky tropical islands draped in tropical vegetation and fringed with tiny beaches, which can be visited by schooner. Overnight in Parati.
Day 4: At leisure to explore Parati. Optional boat trip to near-by islands and tour of the bay. Overnight in Parati.
Day 5: Shared transfer to Rio de Janeiro. Drive along a coastal highway, with fantastic views of the lush Costa Verde. The journey takes up to six hours by shared transport. Overnight in Rio de Janeiro.
Day 6: Private transfer to the airport. Fly to Campo Grande: The Pantanal do Mato Grosso wetlands span an area half the size of France. They are seasonally flooded, drained by the Paraguay River, and comprise swampy grasslands, lagoons and channels, with sparse forests, leaving some of the greatest concentrations of fauna on the continent exposed to view. The wildlife coexists harmoniously with the cattle which breed on the ranches. According to season, you may observe flocks of parakeets, rosy spoonbills, ibis, macaws and giant storks taking flight. In the dry season, scores of caiman laze on the river beaches, giant capivaras stroll across the road and you may come across armadillos, anteaters and howler monkeys. Private transfer to your Pousada. Breakfast, lunch and dinner included. Night Safari - shared excursion. Overnight in the Pantanal.
Day 7: Programme of shared excursions: Exploring wildlife and horse-back riding. Enjoy a morning photo excursion by open 4WD, on the lookout for wildlife. A large area can be covered by vehicle encompassing different landscapes such as open grasslands, stunted cerrado vegetation, swampland and permanently flooded bays. In the mid-afternoon, there is a horse-riding trip across the savannah led by local guides. Overnight in the Pantanal.
Day 8: Private transfer to Bonito. Lunch included.
Depart in the morning for Bonito, first visiting the area of Bodoquena a beautiful corner of Southern Brazil with numerous waterfalls (including the spectacular 156m-high Boca da Onça), pristine forest and natural swimming pools. Continue to the small town of Bonito (2 hrs), and base to enjoy the areas crystalline rivers, streams and caves. Boca da Onça Falls - half-day shared excursion. Overnight in Bonito. Breakfast, lunch and dinner included.
Day 9: Blue Lake Grotto - half-day shared excursion. Lunch included. Visit the Blue Lake Grotto, a beautiful subterranean lagoon at the end of a 100m-long cave, about half an hour from Bonito. You join a group, maximum 15, and all go together. For the sake of preservation, swimming is not allowed, no matter how tempted one may feel. Return to Bonito and then on to a local farm for lunch.
Programme of shared excursions - Snorkelling the Sucuri River.
After lunch there's a trip to the Sucuri river with a chance to snorkel downstream. After getting your equipment, including wet suit if necessary,(changing rooms and lockers are available), it's a short truck ride followed by a short walk along the riverbank to the put-in point. You can see a number of species of birds and plants. If you're lucky, you might spot other local wildlife such as a capuchin monkey or agouti. The river is very clear and rich in aquatic life and it's an enjoyable way to end the afternoon before returning to Bonito. Overnight in Bonito. Breakfast and dinner included.
Day 10: Morning at leisure, there are excursions available at extra cost from the lodge, such as horse riding, canopy tours and snorkelling in the Sucuri River. Private transfer to Campo Grande. The return journey to Campo Grande is 4-5 hours with a stop for refreshments, depending on how many photo stops you have.
Fly to Foz de Iguazú. Foz do Iguazú is the frontier city (and airport) which lies at the river confluence where Brazil meets Argentina and Paraguay - and Brazil has friendship bridges to both. The nearby Cataracts of Iguaçú straddle the border with Argentina - although since most of the falls are on the south side of the 3km canyon, Brazil gets the panoramic view. The sub-tropical Iguazú National Park, 20km from the town, is renowned for its variety of tropical flora, birds and butterflies. A new ruling by the Brazilian National Park authorities now restricts vehicle use within the Brazilian side of the Falls. This means visitors may need to change vehicles at the National Park entrance and board an onward shared National Park service for the final stretch to the Falls. Private transfer to your hotel. Overnight in Iguazú
Day 11: Argentine Falls - half-day private excursion.
You will be driven across Fraternity Bridge, which links the towns of Puerto Iguazú in Argentina and Foz do Iguaçú in Brazil. From the National Park Visitor Centre, a little natural-gas-powered train takes you to where the Upper Walk begins, a walkway linking dozens of tiny basalt islands. Continue to Devil's Throat where a kilometre-long walkway leads you across the river to the thunderous Garganta del Diablo, which offers a spectacular vantage point peering into the thundering vortex below. The excursion lasts about four hours. Overnight in Iguazú.
Day 12: Private transfer to the airport for your return journey home or for the continuation of your South American adventure.
This itinerary can be quoted with the preferred category of hotel to suit your budget. Please note that in the Pantanal only informal lodge or ranch style accommodation is available.