Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Brazil: Iguassu Falls and Rio de Janeiro Itinerary

Brazilian World Wonder Tour

How it’s already May is beyond me. Scott and I booked our trip to Brazil (Iguassu Falls and Rio) late in 2014, excited to have a big trip to look forward to as the season begins to wind down. May seemed so far away for so long that planning and thinking about Brazil (minus the whole visa acquisition thing) fell a bit to the wayside. Now, inexplicably, it’s nearly arrived and I couldn’t be more excited to continue our Latin American sightseeing trend that’s been so on point this year (read about our trips to Honduras, Panama, and Puerto Rico for some background).

Christ the Redeemer, Rio

The route above shows our flight path to get to Iguassu Falls. As you may imagine, the airport isn’t huge and to get there from St. Maarten requires connections in Panama City, Lima and Porto Alegre (plus one other stop that’s a quick pause without a plane change) before arriving at Iguassu’s Brazilian side. In total, it represents about 25 hours of travel time, not the greatest route ever executed but I’m trusting that our excitement for our final destination will be the fuel that we need to get through a few long legs. Hey, we booked this fully on miles so we can’t really complain!

Part 1: Iguassu Falls // Brazil + Argentina

Iguacu Falls, Brazil

After our day of travel, we arrive at beautiful Iguassu Falls, where we will spend three days. Iguassu is often considered one of the natural wonders of the world, and one of the most impressive waterfalls next to Victoria Falls in sub-Saharan Africa. I’ve read about many people doing this as a single day trip or a quick stopover, but we wanted it to be a bit more comprehensive. Everything we’ve read and heard about potential activities near the falls made it appealing enough for a few days of sightseeing, plus some necessary R&R. This will be a contrast to what we’re planning on doing in Rio, and at this point in the year, I’m genuinely excited for some time to just disconnect and enjoy. We’ll be basing ourselves at the Belmond Hotel das Cataratas, a stunning property within the national park, facing the falls. I’m usually the more frugal of the two of us, but Belmond properties (formerly Orient-Express) are a unique case. We had such a brilliant time experiencing their hotels throughout Peru and it truly made a lasting impression. Their locations are unique, their service is on point, and their properties – while not always small – manage to capture the essence and character of a destination.

While we’ll be based on the Brazilian side, everyone I’ve spoken with who’s visited mentions that visiting both side of the falls (Brazilian and Argentine) is a must. Considering we have enough time, we’ll be doing just that. Also on the docket: the Macuco Safari (seeing the lower falls by speedboat), a full moon walking tour to glimpse a lunar rainbow, and checking out the national park and bird park.

Part 2: Rio de Janeiro

Sugarloaf Mountain, Rio de Janeiro

From Iguassu Falls, we’ll fly into Rio, a relatively quick non-stop flight to the coast (under $100 on Tam or Gol if you book in advance). Scott’s parents, who’ve visited the city before, will be joining us for most of our time in Rio as we explore the city and check off some must-see sights on our list. Christ the Redeemer is a must, of course, as we continue our World Wonder tour (read about our trips to Machu Picchu in 2013 and Petra in 2014). Beyond that, we’ve loaded up our schedules with some fun dinners to get us out to different parts of the city, and a Favela Tour to explore another facet of the Brazilian city. Lastly, if I don’t chicken out, I’ve semi-committed to going hang gliding while we’re there to take in the awesome views and to test the outer boundaries of my comfort zone!

For those that have been to Brazil (I know there are many of you!), have you gone hang gliding there? What other musts are there for our time in Rio?


Shannon Kircher, The Wanderlust Effect

More about Shannon Kircher

Shannon Kircher is the founder and editor of The Wanderlust Effect, formerly The Traveling Scholar. Founded in 2009, she has continued to document her international escapes as an expat in Europe and the Caribbean. She is a former resident of London and San Francisco and now calls the island of Anguilla home. In addition to The Wanderlust Effect, Shannon is the Director of Marketing for the Frangipani Beach Resort and is on the Board of Directors of the Omololu International School in Anguilla.

  • Sarah Lambert

    Wow that is quite a journey to get to Iguassu! You’ll love it though. It is beautiful. And great you’re staying in the park. You’ll get to enjoy it when the crowds aren’t there.

    Tips for Iguassu:

    – Watch out for the coatis (they may look cute but they can get aggressive),
    – Be prepared to get wet on the boat tour – very wet!
    – When you go over to the Argentinian side, if its hot take a swimming costume and you can go for a dip at the waterfall at the end of the Sendero Macuco nature trail. If you do the trail early in the morning, you’ve got a good chance of spotting lots of wildlife (mostly monkeys!)
    – Heard great things about the bird park too – although we didn’t go.

    Here’s our blog post about our time in Iguazu –

    As for Rio – we preferred the sugar loaf to the White Christ. The Christ was just sooo busy on top! Santa Teresa is a lovely neighbourhood to hang out in – walk up the pretty Selaron Steps to get there, go out in Lapa, but go easy on the Caprinhas! Here’s a list of things every visitor to Brazil should know –

    • Fabulous info, Sarah! Thanks so much for sharing! My in-laws went to Rio last year and mentioned the same about Christ the Redeemer – a must for visitors but they much preferred Sugarloaf, too. Have read wonderful things about Santa Teresa, as well, so we’re doing dinner one night in that area – great to hear you give it the thumbs up as well.

      Also, great info on Iguassu, thank you! Will definitely take a swimsuit and a waterproof camera. Assuming I should be careful with taking my DSLR! 🙂

      • Sarah Lambert

        They give you a waterproof bag when you get on the boat so you can put your camera in it, if you want to take it with you for the rest of the day… Santa Teresa has some nice shops as well as restaurants and bars… While in Brazil, do try some acai too –

        • Woo hoo! Good to know! Cannot wait to experience it first hand. 🙂