Big expeditions always start in Italy by my wonderful friends, traveller, thinkers, real family members Cinzia and Luca. They are my wonderful close friends, super special guests that come to my tours for 3 years now...this time we decided to see more of our mountains and past history in Minas and more about our north east coast line, adopting the states of Pernambuco, Rio Grande do Norte and Ceará, but our first stop had to be closer to the water and we chose Buzios to relax, planning the trip and simply spending some good times among us and the new family member and now a super big friend of mine Francesca.
Buzios is a charming peninsula in the north of Rio de Janeiro State, famous beach place for all the brazilian jetset, with hidden tropical corners like my favorite secret shelter in the World, Azeda Beach among so many places that I visit all the time, it is just one beach that I go when I decide to go to the beach. Truth be told, I never go to Copacabana and Ipanema to go to the beach, I prefer the privacy and the paradise of many unknown beaches in Brazil. But Buzios is always a chance of amazing gastronomy, fun and just chill out in the fancy cobbled stone street of Rua das Pedras. It was really a good start to spend one night in Buzios and OFF TO THE ROAD.
From the cold and green waters of Buzios to the uphills of Gerais as we say in Brazil. Minas Gerais...uhmmmm it is really difficult to start any text to explain all the love that I have for this land, its people, its traditions, its way of life that we say O JEITINHO MINEIRO DE SER; its waterfalls, rivers, creeks and super rich portuguese, afro and indigenous heritage. A place where you can really experience what Brazil is like. And to start our journey in Minas we had to start with style, the World Heritage Site by UNESCO because of its gorgeous baroque architecture, founded in 1711, first named Vila Rica because of the various gold mines, and later after the brazilian independence, it was considered Imperial City and with a different name, Ouro Preto, so important that it became the capital of Minas Gerais until 1897...so many history in every street and every corner, we had the cooperation of the local guide João with endless knowledge of our interesting history that added so much, and I could learn more about our past and thanks to him I even got prouder of my country.
Walking in Ouro Preto is like being in Portugal, personally I find it very much like the small town of Obidos with its narrow streets and ups and downs. Simply love everytime I go there, and we all stayed in a beautiful solar right in downtown with gorgeous breakfast at Solar do Rosario.
Getting to Ouro Preto driving, my advice is studying with details the streets of Conselheiro Lafaiete, a real night mare because of lack of signals and information, I am still very resistant in the usage of gps, so always when I go to Ouro Preto, this secondary city always becomes a problem, but my passion to Ouro Preto and the help of many gas stations helps me to overcome any problem, hahahahahaha :)
A super interesting combination of History, Nature and Legends. Maybe it is the most mystical part of our journey. It is a pety that I discovered this wonderful place alone, I wish I could have the company of my dearest ITALIAN FAMILY, but my JACQUES COUSTEAU in me sent me to the inners of Diamantina. And Diamantina plays a important role in the brazilian history scenario. This place is so magic that I need to go back and explore more of the Biri Biri Region and the neighbor towns of Milho Verde, Serro and São Gonçalo do Rio Preto. The geological formation is simply stunning and I had the privilege to visit this state park Biri Biri with the collaboration with Pouso da Chica's staff (lovely cottage that we stayed). The starting point of the diamond exploration of Brazil years after the foundation of Ouro Preto.
Diamantina gave to Brazil some famous character, right in the very early years of the little town, we had the slave Chica da Silva, a beautiful afro woman that stole the heart of the General Governor, and she became one of the most important person in the city with such an influence that she changed the project of the main church which front was constructed in front of her house; and never to forget that the city gave us Juscelino Kubitchek, the inventor of Brazil, the one who changed the country making a new capital for Brazil, transfering the power to the middle of the country on order to develop the rest of Brazil, a daring and crazy idea that really worked out.
I will never stop thanking my italian family Cinzia and Luca for chosing this destination for us to explore. The food is also one very important attraction. The old city is also very interesting and I highly recommend a visit but be aware that this is the most distant historical town of Minas, close to the famous Jequitinhonha Valley which other side reaches the state of Bahia.
We are brave travellers and our spirits were brought to Tiradentes, two deserved nights there...just like the time to relax in Buzios by the sea, we had our time to relax in the mountains in Tiradentes. I always have associates in each place to enrich the information, the history and the way of life, so we always see the best places and optimize our time,in this case we had Marcos, what a company. Tiradentes is a very cute colonial city, founded in 1718, almost the same age as Ouro Preto...It started like a small village called Arraial Velho de Santo Antonio or Vila de São José do Rio das Mortes, only after a sort of a "local revolution", the little village became Tiradentes. The narrow streets and fascinating history of colonizers, farmers and slaves make it so special.
The Serra dos Inconfidentes Range of mountains is always present...the nature is absolutely gorgeous there and close to the town there is a little district iof Bichinho that holds one of the biggest art craft centers in Brazil, everything so genuine and authentic. We had a blast there. The food is something else, we found the famous restaurant of Tia Angela where she came to talk to us. If you want a chance to feel this country deep in your heart, I am sure that Tiradentes is the place!
Welcome to paradise!!! :)))) We had two stops, my italian group stopped in Olinda, to see that wonderful historical towen on the sea and meet my friend Graça; and I stopped in the spectacular north east city of Natal...Another place where finding the words to describe how bewildering it is...All I know is that Natal is the place to go for days if you have it available. OH MY GOD...No doubt it is one of my favorite city in the NORDESTE!
So many things to do...well, all that you can do in Natal is visiting many beaches in the surrounding areas, and the dunes of Genibapu always by buggy, the only car that faces the rough terrain, the access are always going from beaches to beaches, the sand is our road, amazing sights everywhere and the nature is really generous to Rio Grande do Norte which capital is Natal.
I always stay in a very cosy and homely cottage called TOCA DO TATO, the owner is a good friend of mine and this is where I feel really at home. All tours and accomodation can be arranged, just talk with me and I will make this dream possible!
You cannot miss the Dolphins Bay, the reefs of Pirangi, the dunes, and the famous ski bunda which you can see my "darling" facing touching my butt in the water!!!
Me and my expedition members, Luca, Cinzia and Francesca finally met in Pipa, they are so close that I feel like they are members of my own family, so they are in fact my ITALIAN FAMILIA!!! VIVA ITALIA...As you can see, dear Reader, when we get together fun is guaranteed. And Pipa...well, PIPA IS SIMPLY FANTASTIC.
Here the nature decided to give you a show, and I think Pipa simply over reacted, and this is great!!! From the mangroves in Sagi in the limits of Paraiba and Rio Grande do Norte State where I crossed the limited just to say hallo to my dear Paraiba, we had a mud show in the mangroves and had the BEST LOBSTER IN OUR LIVES for less than 3 dollars to the dramatic cliffs of Chapadão, the amazing coast of Formosa Bay, fantastic food in Subauma and two nights in lively little village Pipa.
Rio Grande do Norte is no doubt one of the most beautiful states in Brazil, and this state has Pipa, I know this country a lot and I admit this is one of my favorite places, all the stores in the main street, the restaurants, the nice pousadas, the nature, Pipa just gives you EVERYTHING. In the past in Afogados Beach by a funny rock called Pedra do Moleque, the portuguese used to trade barril of cachaça which they used to name it as PIPA, so the name remains.
In my humble opinion, Pipa, together with Buzios and Praia do Forte is one of the most charming beach places in Brazil.
Solitude, passion, wilderness are all that nature gives to you. Our arrival in São Miguel do Gostoso was an important stop to reach our goal in Galinhos, our last stop before reaching the State of Ceará. What a fantastic surprise, since the reception of our friends in Aki Pousada, they hosted us and provided all the information we need including the buggy to Galinhos, yes, the only main of transportation for you to cover each paradise of Rio Grande do Norte has to be done by buggy...And all you get...forget about Copacabana, Ipanema, Salvador...what you are going to see is the RAW BRAZIL, untouched places and one land exactly like the conquerors found when Brazil was born. SIMPLY AMAZING.
São Miguel do Gostoso went to my life so strongly that I promised I will be back for more days!
No wonder it is my top 3 favorite place in this expedition...beach, lagoons, mangrove, boat rides, lots of sand in your face, lobsters, amazing landscapes...this is all that Galinhos mean to me. Also, I need to mention that the best place to stay is Pousada Oasis, a different and alternative way of accomodation in the middle of nothing.
If "Middle of Nothing" has a great side, I would say GALINHOS is the middle of nothing and nowhere that I mostly love in life.
Characters like the "camera lover kid" on the beach (the ones who met me there will know exactly what I am talking about); Lourenço, the master of welcoming travellers; he runs Pousada Oasis, actually one of the best cottages I have ever been and totally recommend you. Actually, all my tours will be based there! Other funny and unforgetable local character is Junior Tubarão, in his boat I understood more about life in the wetlands and it made me change my mind about wetland tours in Rio, oh God...so many wonderful experiences I had in Galinhos. Witj Junior Tubarão you can have a gorgeous meal in the wilderness all prepared by himself. I will write a special post about him and another special post about Galinhos.
Galinhos closed with honors the page of our TRAVEL BOOK in the state of Rio Grande do Norte. And it marked the start of the final part of this treasure journey through the coast of Brazil's north east.
When I started my tours in Brazil I knew that this idea would take me ti the most beautiful corners of this land. Blessed Brazil, Delicious Brazil, Gorgeous Brazil.
Now you understand why I am so fanatic about my country! Ponta Grossa is our part of the journey before reaching the famous and legendary Canoa Quebrada. Even the images cannot make justice, you just need to be there, and I was there...When you think about SOUTH AMERICA, then you see that your love is way beyond. But no trip to South America will be perfect if you do not start in BRAZIL.
Ceará is for sure an amazing State with very rich geological formation, right by the coast...in many places you will feel like Capadocia or even Gran Canyon with OCEAN, hahahahah :) That was just the beggining of a magnificent trip to the virgin beaches of Brazil.
From Canoa Quebrada we find another door away to Paradise, Morro Branco is the place, where we find the jangadas (hand made boats that go to the ocean searching for lobsters) and we find the famous falesias that makes us imagine we are in another World, simply perfect. Also it is a perfect place for us to close our incredible adventure in this part opf Brazil. More than 100 km of virgin beaches, secret fishing villages and lots to experience in this fabulous country called Brazil. My thanks to my precious italian family Cinzia, Luca and Francesca, as usual, very dear people, I hope I could give you the best of my country and also special thanks to Luca that planned with honor the itinerary in Nordeste, and I made it work.
You all can do it and count on me to make this dream possible.
That was a deserved farewell...delicious waters.
Back to Rio, back to the journeys again...From Buzios crossing a big portion of Brazil and finally Ilha Grande...a paradise in Brazil...so green, fulkl of wondefful hills and absolutely gorgeous hidden inlets and beaches. Ilha Grande conquers the heart of every traveller, and I had the honor to meet Carlos Gamboa and his wife Stefani, great friends from Washington DC, and they are the master of entertainment, so the big challenge was making Rio special. We had a quick stop in Rio city and ending the tour in Ilha Grande in less than four days because I had to continue my journey to the south west of Brazil, and then entering in Argentina to see the Falls and also going to Paraguay to show more guests the daily life of a rural reality by the Falls of Monday. But we had a blast in the island, and again I managed to make more two people to fall in love with Brazil. We rent a speed boat to see all the best places in Ilha Grande, wonderful lunch in the mangroves, special stops in Blue and Green Lagoons.
Stefani was producing a special travel tv program for the latin community in the States and I could help her giving some hints about Rio and all you can do when you come to Rio, two days in the city and a relaxing one day trip to Ilha Grande. Thank you Carlos, and thank Stefani for being such wonderful people!
WOW WOW WOW WOW TURN OFF THE PAGE OF MY BRAZILIAN JOURNEY FINAL CHAPTER COULD NOT BE SO SPECIAL....Iguazu Falls, one of the most beautiful places on Earth, and Brazil has the privilege to share with Argentina such a phenomenal place...I took my catalanian guests to see this region, we had a great time there, all this was pissible with the help of my staff in Puerto Iguazu, great drivers and amazing guides, this time we had this incredible assistance.
A trip for many places in Brazil that started in Buzios and ended with delicious millions of water drops in my face walking in the paths of Peixoto Falls, in Porto Canoas, and being welcomed by various rainbows. Iguazu Falls is one of my tour destinations. I am always happy to take my guests there.
But the mission was crossing the border and visit the Argentinean Side and also see one amazing place in Paraguay that very few people know, and I want to make it a popular destination in my tours throughout South America.
Yes, you read it right, PARAGUAY! :)))) This country is never in your bucket list...maybe it is a big mistake, at least half of your day, maybe the entire day and why not one night, or two nights to feel the depth of south american way of life...The europeans in the past got fascinated, took centuries to understand these huge new lands, now it is time for us big travellers to abandon our prejudices and open your mind to the new, to the untouchable, to the unknown...and as a result you find places and you experience the real thing...stop being a tourist and become a traveler, and you will meet wonderful people and fascinating places.
The entire south american tradition except Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil) of guaguas, these colorful truck buses we see everywhere in Paraguay, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela and all over Central America, the different flavors of herbs in the Terere Tradition and bewildering nature spots like Salto Monday, a little paraguayan version of Iguazu Falls, adventure crossing rivers in funny improvised ferry boats, ridiculous but interesting bureaucrazy and the crazyness of going shopping in Ciudad del Este; the curious guarani language that makes you feel in China. So diverse and so fascinating a simple visit to Paraguay can do. Join me in the crazy tours and you will have lots of fun!
And finally...Parque Nacional del Iguazu in my beloved Argentina, always a wonderful time when I go there, counting with the brilliant help of my tour guide Pilar, that always has something to teach me and make my tours in South America even better, this is the place where you can get closer to the falls and enjoy the breathtaking views of this 7th World's Wonder.
Being based in Puerto Iguazu is the best way to enjoy the 2 countries, best and cheaper accomodation, incredible gastronomy in the city and better structure. Anything you need in Puerto Iguazu I have my staff there to make your life simple gorgeous there.
It was the longest tours in my whole life, almost the whole month promoting the beauty and the magic of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. a journey that I would do over and over again. A chance to keep on meeting spectacular people and make people happy, this is my mission in life!
Special thanks to all the staff in Brazil; Pouso da Chica, Antonio in Tiradentes, Tato, Magali, Iko, Alexandre, Margo; in Argentina as usual Fernando, Myriam, Pilar, Mario and the folks at Luces de La Selva, nothing in this journey would be possible without your precious help.
RAFAEL TORRES LOPES
Tour Guide and Travel Planner
ATTENTION READERS: For more details about the tour, it is very important to write an email to me, remember that in the tours I just include guiding and transportations, tickets and meals are NOT INCLUDED, I am flexible and I need you to be flexible...be aware that TOURS CAN BE MODIFIEDACCORDING TO INTERESTS AND TIME.
I will have the best of our knowledge, spirit and fun! :)