The 2016 Summer Olympic Games to be held this August in Rio de Janeiro are expected to draw a huge international crowd. The city is often considered one of the world's most beautiful urban areas, with forest-covered mountains surrounding the city and popping up from the sea. While there is much to do in the city of Rio de Janeiro, visitors may want to extend their vacation to include side trips. By getting out of the city, a more peaceful side of Rio de Janeiro state can be experienced. The following are 5 suggestions for side trips from Rio de Janeiro, all requiring an overnight stay. Most are at least two hours from Rio, so unless you're willing to spend a few hours getting there and back in one day, you'll need to plan at least a one night stay. These places can be reached by renting a car or taking the local busses.
Paraty, pronounced "pah-rah-CHEE" and sometimes spelled Parati, is one of the best-loved travel destinations in Brazil. The combination of colonial history and tropical islands appeal to those looking for both a taste of old Brazil and relaxing in paradise. The small town sits on the water and, like the rest of the coast in this region, is backed by dramatic green mountains that separate the coastal areas from the inlands.
The town of Paraty was settled in the 16th century by the Portuguese and soon became an important stopover to the gold mines of Ouro Preto and other towns in the neighboring state of Minas Gerais. The small cobblestone streets of Paraty offer excellent examples of colonial architecture in Brazil. For a taste of paradise, visitors can also visit the many islands that lie in the bay--tours of the islands are offered by boat, both in groups or with a private guide.
Paraty can be crowded with tourists, so make a reservation for accommodations in advance or stay in nearby Trindade.
Trindade, pronounced "treen-DAH-dzee," is one of several small beach towns near Paraty, accessible by boat or bus from Paraty. Trindade offers a quieter option for those who want to enjoy some of Brazil's most beautiful coastline. While you won't find the variety of accommodations or attractions of Paraty, there are simple pousadas (guest houses) and beachfront restaurants serving fresh fish. The beach here is quiet and clean. You can hike in the hills above the beach for stunning views and swim in calm pools created by large boulders along the beach.
Photo credit: Flabbergast ED on Flickr
Visconde de Maua
Inland from Rio de Janeiro and on the border of the states of Rio, São Paulo, and Minas Gerais is the Itatiaia region. While it seems out of the way, this area attracts visitors for its tropical jungle and its Old World charm, thanks to influence from German and Swiss settlers. The towns of Visconde de Mauá and Maringá are dotted with peaceful farms and European-style chalets; visitors can take it all in with a horseback ride down the quiet country lanes and into the forested hills. Just near town are wonderful hiking opportunities with paths leading to numerous waterfalls.
The area is frequented by Brazilian travelers from Rio and even São Paulo looking for a peaceful getaway, so don't expect budget prices despite the area's fairly remote location.
Photo credit: Rosanetur on Flickr
Ilha Grande, pronounced "EE-lyah GRAN-dzee," is one of the best known islands to visit off the coast of Brazil. It's accessible by boat from the city of Angra dos Reis; the ride takes 90 minutes and costs just a few dollars. The island remains mostly undeveloped. The only main town, Vila do Abraão, can be crowded during peak times, but there are plenty of other things to do. With over 100 beaches, many of which are rarely visited, and boat rentals available from Vila do Abraão, you will be able to enjoy a piece of unspoiled paradise here.
Photo credit: Miguel Alvarez on Flickr
Búzios, pronounced "BOO-zee-oos," is a popular seaside resort town on a peninsula about 100 miles east of Rio de Janeiro. This is one of Brazil's upscale travel destinations, so expect boutiques, expensive restaurants, and services geared toward tourists. There are plenty of beaches nearby, so no matter what you'd like to do or how far you're willing to venture to find a spot to relax, you shouldn't be disappointed.
Photo credit: L.C. Notaasen (magnera) on Flickr