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2016 Best of Brazil: Cultural Rhythms & Natural Wonders

Sold out in 2016

Rio de Janeiro • Salvador • Manaus • Amazon River cruise • the Pantanal

Trip Experience

Witness the diversity of wildlife in the Pantanal and learn the moves to the Brazilian martial art of Capoeira.

Trip Itinerary

See how this adventure unfolds, from cosmopolitan Rio de Janeiro to the lush Pantanal wetlands, 

Trip Leader

Watch Trip Leader Gonzalo Trama show travelers a new perspective of Brazil at a community center in Salvador.

Trip Leader

Meet Brazilian Trip Leader Koen Vandezande, who describes his Belgian heritage and what attracted him to Brazil.

Trip Extension: Santiago & Chile's Atacama Desert

On this trip extension, learn how life thrives in the arid Atacama Desert.

Trip Extension: Iguassu Falls

On this extension, we discover the majestic tropical landscapes of Iguassu Falls.

Trip Preview

Cruise along the Amazon, feel the pulse of Rio, and meet the people who make up Brazil's vibrant culture.

Courtesy Kico Santos
A Maquina

Become a fly on the wall in the workshop of an eccentric Brazilian mechanic.

Courtesy Travel
Going Local: Rio de Janeiro

Experience Rio de Janeiro as a local by following a host who is up for anything.

Courtesy Travel
My City: Rio de Janeiro

From beaches to shanty towns, get the real story on some of Rio's most iconic locales.

Courtesy Travel
In Chile, A Search for Remnants of Revolt

Hunt for communist propaganda from Chile's 1973 military coup.

©2013 The New York Times
Intersection: Fête Fashion in Rio

See how the residents of a Rio suburb use music, dance, and pop culture influences to create their own unique style.

Courtesy CNN
Rio's stunning ocean views

Experience Rio de Janeiro like a carioca (local) by visiting the city's trendiest restaurants and catching panoramic views.

Courtesy CNN
Experience Rio like the locals

Explore a unique guest house next to one of Rio's favelas (shantytown) and discover some of the best views of the city.

Courtesy CNN
Discover the real Rio

From surfing at the beach, to practicing jiu-jitsu, discover how some locals of Rio spend their free time.

Courtesy Cynthia Younker
Earth Diaries - Candomble Ceremony

Witness Salvadorian locals perform a traditional Candomble Ceremony—dancing and chanting prayers to the beat of a drum.

Courtesy Cynthia Younker
Earth Diaries - Salguerio Samba School

Discover the lively spirit of the Salguerio Samba School where locals celebrate and dance to the rhythm of the festive music.

Courtesy Cynthia Younker
Earth Diaries - Capoeria

Learn about the popular Brazilian “game” Capoeria—an African rooted martial art style dance combined with lively music.

Courtesy Cynthia Younker
Earth Diaries - Favela da Mare

Experience this Rio de Janeiro community’s optimistic attitude despite rough living conditions in this Favela da Mare.

Sold out in 2016
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Itinerary Overview

Join us to experience the best of Brazil on this adventure in South America’s largest country, an emerging superpower whose history and natural diversity are equally remarkable. You’ll encounter a unique blend of Portuguese, African, and indigenous cultures from the beaches of Rio ...  to the Pelourinho neighborhood in Salvador da Bahia ... the Amazon River capital of Manaus ... and beyond. Explore the tropical rain forests of the Rio Negro watershed during a river cruise, then discover the wildlife-rich Pantanal region, the world’s largest wetland. And what you’re likely to remember most are the Brazilians you’ll meet who eagerly share their country’s spirit with you, from the family who welcomes you for a Home-Hosted meal in Salvador to the village fishermen of the Pantanal. Join us in Brazil to experience a country where the food, drink, dancing, and music feel as exuberantly alive as the lushness of the tropical rain forest.

Day-to-Day Itinerary

  • 5 nights from only $1595

    The Atacama Desert in northern Chile is the driest place on Earth. Still, people have lived here for thousands of years, dwelling in oasis towns like San Pedro. On this extension, we'll explore the landscape and meet local people, while also discovering Chile's capital, Santiago.

    View Extension Itinerary
Rio De Janeiro The Pantanal Expand All
  • You depart from the U.S. on an overnight flight to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

  • Arrive this morning in Rio. As the home of the bossa nova, world-famous beaches, and a renowned annual carnival, Rio is a city known for its exuberant zest for life. With lush mountain peaks jutting upward dramatically from a sand-wrapped coastline, it's a city blessed as much with natural beauty as with cosmopolitan delights. In recent years, Rio has also ascended to the world stage as a major cultural capital.

    When you arrive, an O.A.T. representative meets you at the airport and arranges for your transfer to your hotel. After lunch on your own, join your Trip Leader and fellow travelers, including those joining us from the Santiago & Chile's Atacama Desert pre-trip extension, for an orientation walk. This walk will acquaint you with the neighborhood near your hotel and give you a first look at the city. Afterward, we meet with our Trip Leader and fellow travelers for a briefing on our upcoming trip. Later, on our way to dinner, we'll walk along the shoreline for a look at the famous Copacabana and Ipanema beaches. Then we'll enjoy a Welcome Dinner at a churrascaria, a traditional Brazilian restaurant where meat reigns supreme. Churrasco is the Portuguese word for barbecue and it applies to all kinds of grilled meat, from beef to pork to duck and sausage. The most common preparation is beef top sirloin, known as picanha. At a churrascaria, the grilled meats are brought to your table on long metal skewers by passadores (waiters) who carve it for you and will keep returning as long as you like.

  • This morning, we'll visit Corcovado, the site of the Christ the Redeemer statue. Completed in 1931, the 625-ton statue rises 124 feet on its pedestal atop 2,300-foot-high Corcovado Mountain, with its outstretched arms spanning 92 feet. After decades of exposure to the elements and erosion of the soapstone exterior—plus being struck by lightning and marred by graffiti from an itinerant house painter— the statue was restored to its full luster in 2010. Then we'll explore downtown Rio and see the Selarón Stairs, an outdoor staircase of 250 colorfully decorated steps created by artist Jorge Selarón.

    Next we'll savor an included lunch featuring Brazil's national dish, feijoada. To prepare it, smoked meat is simmered for hours in black beans, before the meat and beans are served separately, accompanied by collard greens, farofa (toasted manioc) and hot sauce. Originally a slave dish, the end of slavery saw feijoada become more widely known, and soon it was being served in the best restaurants of Brazil. By the 20th century, it had become a comfort food and staple.

    After lunch, we'll continue exploring Rio around the Praça XV de Novembro, one of the city's main public squares. The rest of your afternoon and evening are free for relaxing or making your own discoveries, and dinner is on your own.

  • After breakfast this morning, we transfer to the airport for our flight to Salvador, in the Brazilian state of Bahia. This is northern Brazil's largest city, and a center of Afro-Brazilian culture: more than 80% of the population consists of descendants of Africans who were brought to Brazil during the slave era.

    We transfer to our hotel early this afternoon, then enjoy an orientation walk to get acquainted with our surroundings. Later this afternoon, we enjoy a panoramic driving tour that brings us to the coastline and past the Barra Lighthouse. As we travel through the city, we'll see how African influences and Portuguese colonial touches entwine in a setting where the sweeping Atlantic Ocean meets glittering Todos os Santos Bay. This evening, we'll enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.

  • Today we explore the Pelourinho, the historic neighborhood the locals call the Pelo. The heart of the Portuguese colony of the 16th-19th centuries, it is a district of great beauty and some tragic legacies. The pastel facades of the centuries-old buildings surrounding the cobbled triangular plaza speak to the elegance of the colonial era, but the very name—which means pillory, or whipping post—speaks to the brutality of the slave trade that occurred on these same streets.

    Our walking tour of this UNESCO World Heritage Site will bring us this morning to the San Francisco Church and Convent, built over the course of a hundred years in the 17th and 18th centuries. Though its twin spires and classic façade are attractive, it's the interior of San Francisco that dazzles: the ceiling is crisscrossed with paintings outlined in interlocking geometric patterns of wooden framing, and Lisbon tiles outline the lower walls with scenes from the life of St. Francis of Assisi.

    After lunch at a local restaurant, we'll explore Salvador's seaside Lower City, including the 18th-century Church of Senhor do Bonfim (The Lord of the Good End). Built in the 18th century to house a statue of Christ carried to this spot all the way from Lisbon by a sea captain, the church is this area's most prominent house of worship. We return to our hotel later in the afternoon; dinner is on your own.

  • This morning, we visit the colorful São Joaquim Market, where local people buy everything from fruits and vegetables to manioc flour and candles. The warmth for which Salvador is known will be on full display as we share a Home-Hosted Lunch with a local family. After lunch, your afternoon is free for making your own discoveries. After lunch, your afternoon is at leisure for making your own discoveries. In the late afternoon, we'll gather for a percussion lesson that will give us insights into the rhythms of Brazilian music.

    This evening, we enjoy dinner in a local restaurant before a performance of Bahia Folklore, including capoeira. Like an intersection between dance and martial arts, capoeira mixes stylized fight moves with gymnastics and graceful steps. Because of its African roots, it was banned in public for generations, until the 20th century finally saw not only the easing of the ban but the embrace of capoeira as a national art form.

  • This morning, we transfer to the airport and fly to Manaus via Brasilia. Arriving in Manaus this afternoon, we transfer to our hotel and settle in before a briefing about what to expect on our upcoming Amazon cruise. Manaus means “Mother of the Gods” in the local indigenous dialect, but as the biggest city in the Brazilian state of Amazonas, it is better known as “The Heart of the Amazon.” Manaus is located where the upper Amazon River and its biggest tributary in Brazil, the Rio Negro, meet. We'll enjoy dinner at our hotel this evening.

    • Meals included:
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    This morning, we take in the history and culture of Manaus, beginning at the Art Noveau-style Mercado Municipal. In this marketplace, patterned after Les Halles in Paris, vendors offer produce, spices, fresh fish, and handcrafts. We'll also see the Opera House, dating from 1881, which was was designed to be “the jewel of the Amazon." With Renaissance flourishes, a pink-and-white facade, and a multi-hued dome composed of 36,000 colored tiles, this fine example of Belle Epoque architecture still makes a dramatic impression. After we enjoy a lunch in a Manaus restaurant, we embark the Premium II for our Rio Negro cruise. Once aboard our 16-passenger ship,  which is privately chartered by O.A.T. exclusively for our group, we gather for a briefing from the ship's naturalist. We'll learn about the activities for our next three days on the river. Note that this is an expedition cruise, and the order of activities may vary due to weather, water levels, currents, and the season. As we navigate downstream, we'll be able to take in the views of Manaus' waterfront. Afterwards, we'll attend a caipirinha demonstration, where we'll learn about Brazil's famed national cocktail. This evening we'll enjoy our first dinner on board. Later, we'll board motorized canoes for a night tour through Januauari Ecological Park. As we glide along, we'll listen to the sounds of birds and frogs, keeping our eyes and ears open for signs of nocturnal animal activity on shore and in the water.

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    Early this morning, we begin exploring our rain forest surroundings in Janauari Ecological Park to see nature’s early risers, like parrots and toucans, and to learn about the diverse flora along the riverbanks. After breakfast aboard ship, we'll attend a talk about the Amazon given by our Trip Leader and local naturalist.  After we enjoy lunch aboard our vessel, we set off to visit the native community, Terra Petra, where we'll meet local people and learn about their way of life. This evening, we'll ply the waters of Anavilhanas National Park by canoe. One of the largest freshwater archipelagos on earth, Anavilhanas is composed of a labyrinth of waterways and some 400 islands. We return to our ship for dinner this evening.

    • Meals included:
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    Early this morning, we'll set out on a sunrise tour of Anavilhanas National Park, where we'll discover the exotic flora and fauna that is native to this region of Brazil. After breakfast aboard ship, we continue observing the tropical flora and fauna during an interpretive walk in the forest, with time afterwards for a short swim in the Rio Negro. This afternoon, we'll have a briefing on the Pantanal, Brazil's tropical wetlands that are the largest wetlands on Earth, and is home to myriad diverse species of plants and animals.

    This evening, we'll enjoy our Farewell Dinner aboard our ship for the last night of our Amazon cruise.

  • Today we rise very early and have a full day of traveling.We disembark and transfer to the airport to take a four-hour flight to Cuiaba. It’s then a 3.5-hour overland transfer to our lodge in the Pantanal, the largest wetland area on Earth, which spans 77,000 square miles. The lodge is in the heart of this hotbed of biodiversity and natural splendor and is ideally situated to take advantage of the qualities that draw ecotourists to this lush region. Your activities here will vary depending on the season, the weather, and water levels in the Pantanal. Before dinner, we'll have a talk on the Pantanal and what we can expect on this next portion of our adventure. We enjoy dinner at our lodge tonight.

  • After breakfast, we'll take a guided walk through the forest to explore our natural surroundings. Next, we visit a fishing village to share A Day in the Life of this small community in the Pantanal. We'll meet three generations of village residents, and local fishermen will show us how they catch piranha. Then, we'll participate in preparing and tasting piranha soup, a local specialty. We'll have the chance to interact with the villages and schoolchildren, as well as visit the village's garden where medicinal plants are grown.

    Later in the afternoon, we take a walk in forest, then return to our lodge for dinner. Our final excursion takes place after dinner. We return to the forest to experience it after dark, listening for nocturnal animals as they awaken for the night’s activity.

  • We rise before dawn today to enjoy the beauty of the sunrise from motorized canoes, then return to our lodge for breakfast. After breakfast, we'll take a horseback ride along wetland trails and a boat ride around the Pantanal. We return to our lodge for lunch. Later in the afternoon, we take a boat ride and have the chance to apply what we've learned as we do our own piranha fishing. With dozens of razor-like teeth and a tendency to hunt for prey in packs, piranhas have a reputation for ferocity that is not entirely undeserved. Though they can be vigorous predators, as we've seem they are also part of the local economy, providing food to those who live along the river.

    We'll stay out to watch the sunset, then return to our lodge for dinner.

  • After breakfast, we have a little time to relax at our lodge and pack up. Then we begin a long day of travel, with a boxed lunch included. The overland transfer to the Cuiaba airport takes about 3.5 hours. Then we board flights to Rio that arrive in the evening. Dinner is on your own tonight. Please note: Most flights to Rio from Cuiaba travel via Sao Paulo, with a connecting flight to Rio.

    • Meals included:

    This morning, we'll explore some more of Rio, then head for one of Rio's iconic landmarks: the Sugar Loaf, a mountain rising abruptly 1,299 feet from the water's edge. A cable car transports visitors to the top from the nearby peak of Morro de Urca. The steep granite faces of the Sugar Loaf are popular with rock climbers, and there is a panoramic view from the summit. Then we'll sit down with our fellow travelers for a Farewell Lunch to celebrate our Brazilian discoveries. You have the afternoon free to relax or finish packing. Later in the afternoon or evening, transfer to the airport to board your overnight return flight to the U.S. If you are continuing on our optional post-trip extension to Iguassu Falls, you'll remain at the same hotel in Rio tonight.

    Iguassu Falls

    3 nights from only $1395

    It’s easy to add thundering Iguassu Falls—twice as wide as Niagara Falls—to your explorations of South America’s natural wonders. On this extension, we’ll visit the Brazilian and Argentinean sides of this array of 275 separate cascades.

    View Extension Itinerary

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