This exciting 14-day ‘Trek Brazil’ adventure combines city tours of Salvador and Manaus with a Chapada Diamantina trek and an Amazon cruise. Perfect for active couples and friends, and fit families with teenage kids, the featured activities and accommodations can be tailored to suit your personal wishes. The tours are conducted on a private basis (private transport with a private guide), while the cruise portion is on a shared basis with other passengers.
Your adventure begins with a tour of Brazil’s former colonial capital, Salvador, and its historic city center, Pelourinho. This old quarter has been named a UNESCO World Heritage site for its exceptional collection of 17th- and 18th-century colonial buildings, the finest such assembly in South America. This is where you’ll find Salvador’s most beautiful churches and monasteries, built at a time when Brazil was the source of Portugal’s riches, and the plentiful gold was lavished on the colony’s religious buildings. The finest and most opulent of the city’s churches is São Francisco, built in the early 1700s and filled with intricate carvings covered in gold.
Explore the Chapada Diamantina National Park
Transfer to Lençóis and the neighboring Chapada Diamantina, which is one of Brazil’s most popular destinations for outdoor adventures and home to mountain peaks that span for miles, underground lakes, waterfalls, forests and cave complexes with brilliant blue clear water. Disconnect from the world for three days and immerse yourself in nature.
Ascend to the top of Pai Inácio Peak; explore the Pratinha Grotto, the aquamarine waters of the Blue Lake Grotto and the otherworldly landscapes of the Lapa Doce Grotto. Visit the Cauldrons of Serrano, where mini lagoons and springs form a natural spa. Marvel at the Salon of Colored Sands, a place full of gigantic blocks of sandstone of multiple colors.
Gasp at the Halley Well and follow the river to the Primavera Falls. Bathe in the clear waters of the Cachoeirinha, a pool created by millions of years of water flowing out from the rocks. Make the challenging hike to the Sossego Waterfall, neatly hidden among the rocks and above the large lake into which it flows. Refresh and revitalize before stopping at Ribeirão do Meio, to slide down the naturally formed chute into the lake at the bottom. If you love hiking, water, and the outdoors, then you’ll love this experience.
Your Amazon River cruise
Tour the historic jungle city of Manaus and learn about its rise and fall during the rubber boom era, and then step aboard the wooden, 8-cabin Jacaré-Açu, for an exciting cruise during which you’ll explore parts of the Anavilhanas archipelago. Ride on a motorized canoe through the islands and lagoons, and keep your eyes peeled for river dolphins, herons, egrets, macaws, parrots, caciques, oropendolas, and jacamars. Head to the Madadá Observatory for a spectacular lookout over the Rio Negro.
Hike through virgin rainforest to Madadá Caves and stop by an Amazon farmhouse to learn about local customs, farming techniques, and crops. Cool off with a dip in the Rio Negro. Cruise through the Rio Negro State Park and try your hand at fishing for piranha. Follow the Rio Jaú, a river of mirror-like waters, see the igapó forest and canoe through the Jaú National Park looking for giant otters, and later caiman and nocturnal animals after dark.
Meet and interact with the indigenous community of Aturia and gain an insight into their traditional lifestyle in the Amazon. Continue to Novo Airão and jump at the opportunity to swim with the elusive pink river dolphins. End with a city tour of Novo Airão, to see the shipbuilding, the craftsmanship, and other attractions of this Amazon River town.
Itinerary & Prices
Welcome to Salvador!
Upon arrival at the airport, we transfer you on to your hotel in a comfortable, air-conditioned vehicle.
Salvador is situated on a small triangular peninsula that separates the Bay of All Saints, the largest bay in Brazil, from the Atlantic Ocean. The settlement in its present guise was established by the Portuguese in 1549 after a couple of failed attempts to colonize the area (one ending in cannibalism!).
Now famed for its beautiful beaches and the UNESCO World Heritage Site center of the city, named Pelourinho, Salvador was in fact the first colonial capital of Brazil and is one of the oldest cities in the New World.
History and Culture of Bahia
Our first stop on this tour of the first capital of Brazil is a visit to the Lighthouse of Barra, where you will have a few minutes to appreciate all the beauty of the place. Continuing our tour, we will pass through the Corredor da Vitória and Campo Grande, areas that, during carnival, serve as the main route for the traditional floats. Upon reaching the Historic Center we continue our tour on foot through the quaint narrow streets and past ancient mansions, feeling very much like we have traveled back in time. Squares, churches, museums, and art galleries give Pelourinho a special charm. Particular highlights on this tour are: Terreiro de Jesús, São Francisco Church, Museu da Misericórdia, Cathedral Basilica, Casa do Olodum, Iglesia Nossa Senhora do Rosário dos Pretos. We also stop in at the newest museum in Salvador, the Carnival house. This museum is devoted entirely to the history of carnival through the ages.
After a traditional seafood lunch, we begin the second set of tours. We take a walk through the Lower part of the city of Salvador, a place full of history, culture, art, and impressive landscapes, starting with the view of the Itapagipe peninsula. Afterward, we make a quick stop at the famous Ribeira ice cream parlor to refresh ourselves with a traditional fruit ice cream or sorbet.
We continue our tour visiting the celebrated Church of Senhor do Bonfim, which is one of the largest symbols of religious syncretism between Catholicism and Candomblé in Brazil. The church is also known for its fencing filled with colored ribbons tied by its members and tourists from all over the world. Our last visit is to the Fort Mont Serrat which still features the original cannons and defenses from centuries ago and is also a great spot for taking panoramic photos of the bay. We end with some free time to explore the artisan market of Mercado Modelo.
Meals (B, L)
To the Diamond Plateau
After breakfast, we accompany you to the airport and your subsequent flight to Lençóis and neighboring Chapada Diamantina. Upon arrival, you will have the rest of the afternoon free to explore the town.
As the name suggests, this destination is famous for its diamond deposits, with the translation into English being “Diamond Plateau”. The story goes that by the middle of the 19th century the region was already known for its diamond deposits, especially in neighboring Mucugê.
A man named Casusa Prado and his slave began searching in lesser-known areas for new and undiscovered diamond deposits. They found lots of different gems, as well as diamonds, and the slave, was sent to Old Chapada to sell them, being told not to draw too much attention to himself. However, upon discovery by the locals the slave was arrested, accused of selling stolen stones, and tortured to reveal the source of that wealth. The news spread and a new diamond rush was established in search of that new mine, with a huge impromptu campsite being set up above the plateau. Locals still talk of the deposit as being like a blanket of fine gems and jewels sparkling across the valley floor as the deposits were exposed to the sunlight.
The Serrano Trail
Today we have a full day’s trip ahead of us, and as such, we have an early breakfast before heading off on the 25km trip to the Mucugezinho River. Our first stop is in a place known as Duck Well, a natural swimming pool frequented by locals. There is even a naturally formed slide to the side of the pool which people use, but we don’t recommend doing this without the expertise formed by years of practice! You will have plenty of opportunities to expend your energy on the subsequent climb up to the top of Pai Inácio Peak. The resulting views are amongst the finest of the Chapada Diamantina and the photographers amongst you will be able to get some picture-perfect snaps of the below scenery.
We stop for lunch at the most popular local restaurant in the area, near the first of our cave networks, the Pratinha Grotto. Here the underground pool’s crystal waters again form a destination for locals to swim, bathe and relax, and leads directly on to the next cave, the Gruta do Lago Azul or the “Blue Lake Grotto”. If the beauty of the blue lake grotto’s pristine aquamarine waters are impressive, the otherworldly landscapes of the Lapa Doce Grotto are a real pleaser. The intricate rock formations, stalagmites, and stalactites need some artificial light to really appreciate the complexity of these million-year-old sedimentary marvels. This cave is long and we are able to walk about 850 meters inside the cave, all the time accompanied by a private guide.
Meals (B, L)
The Grotto Trail
Today’s tour begins after breakfast, where we begin by taking in some of the beautiful 19th Century buildings of Lençóis.
Our next stop is the Cauldrons of Serrano, an underwater river complex where the Lençóis River flows under the rocks, surfacing in points where these “cauldrons” are formed. The resulting cauldrons are dark and reddish waters of the river which surface in the forms of mini lagoons and natural springs to form a natural spa. Our colorful journey continues as we head to the Salon of Colored Sands, a place full of gigantic blocks of sandstone of multiple colors, from which the artisans removed material to produce their art which they place inside small glass bottles. These huge rocks are so striking and important that further mining of their material is strictly prohibited.
We follow the trail from there on to Halley Well, a dramatic natural well-formed in the surrounding rock and a continuation of the river complex we saw at the start of the trip and the natural predecessor to our next destination. We follow the river until Primavera Falls, a waterfall that Cascades down through a gap in the pink sandstone rocks. A little further on, we will arrive at the viewing point, where you can really appreciate the immensity of the Chapada Diamantina. En-route back to the city, we make one last stop for a refreshing bathe in the clear waters of the Cachoeirinha, a natural pool created by millions of years of water flowing out from the rocks and onto the stone below. With our bodies and souls refreshed we head back to the hotel.
Meals (B, L)
Spectacular Sossego Waterfalls
Today marks the hardest hike of our itinerary – a trek to the lesser-known Sossego Waterfall. One of the best-kept secrets of Chapada Diamantina, this trail could be considered moderate to difficult on the trekking scale, depending on how much hiking you’re used to doing. However, those with the correct gear and some experience will be comfortable on this hike. We head towards the final destination of the Sossego Waterfall along some dry paths in the area of Caatinga. The paths are flanked by brush which takes its name from the area and is also known as Caatinga, a hardy plant capable of surviving harsh conditions, including a drought. Our environment changes dramatically as we approach the waterfall, and we head down a long stretch of this arid countryside to observe up close the remarkable survival techniques the plants of this biome utilize to survive.
From here we head up through the forest before beginning our descent towards the river. The terrain becomes rocky, and this is the most challenging part of the walk. We descend towards the river bank and follow the stream itself for a short while, using the river bed as our path. All our effort is rewarded when we finally arrive at Sossego Waterfall, neatly hidden among the rocks and above the large lake into which it flows. We refresh and revitalize before heading back to our hotel, but not before making one last stop in Ribeirão do Meio, where you will be able to slide down the naturally formed slide cut onto a huge rock and down into the lake at the bottom.
Departing Chapada Diamantina
After breakfast, we transport you to the airport and your flight back to the sunny climes of Salvador and its beautiful beaches. This is a transition day, so you will be spending the night before making your way to the Amazon tomorrow!
Welcome to the Amazon
We pick you up from the airport and transfer you to the airport for your flight to the jungle city of Manaus. Manaus is located right in the middle of the world’s largest rainforest and was founded when the Portuguese needed a base from which to defend their claim on the surrounding area from the Dutch who were based in what is now modern-day Suriname. Manaus became known worldwide as a city in the 19th Century with the Rubber Boom, and at the time was amongst the richest cities in the world.
These riches prompted extravagant spending, and a series of one-upmanship from rubber barons left a legacy of marble-clad buildings and huge estates that soon fell into disrepair once the rubber boom ended. Modern-day Manaus is a testament to this fascinating period in South America, and any visit to the Amazon in Brazil should include a stay in Manaus in order to understand modern-day man’s impact and interaction with the surrounding rainforest.
Heart of the Brazilian Amazon
Today, we pick you up from your hotel for your city tour of Manaus. We will learn about the rich history of this jungle city, its role in the colonization of South America by various European countries, and its rise and fall during the rubber boom era.
We begin with a visit to the Amazonas Theater, the best example of construction that encapsulates the extravagance and opulence of the rubber boom era. Better known in English as the Opera House, this astonishingly grandiose building fell into disrepair for many years, but now once again hosts operas from all over the world. Home of the Amazonas Philharmonic Orchestra, it was listed by Vogue Magazine as one of the most beautiful Opera Houses in the world. From there, we take a short walk to visit the Largo de São Sebastião, one of the city’s main squares, followed by a tour through old Manaus and Paço da Liberdade.
Next, we visit the Provincial palace and the State of Amazonas art gallery, followed by a quick stop in a museum full of artifacts from the Amazon region.
We take a slightly livelier turn next and visit the Municipal Market, named the “Adolpho Lisboa”, a building as colorful as the Amazonian fruits, spices, and souvenirs sold there. En route, we pass several fantastic examples of Colonial architecture, particularly the buildings of Alfândega and Guardamoria. We end our day by making a visit to the floating port area of Manaus, and a visit to the Rio Negro Palace, and a stroll back to our transport via the water’s edge.
AM: At 9:00 we pick you up from your hotel or the airport in an air-conditioned van, and drive to the riverside town of Novo Airão. We arrive here in the early afternoon and give you a briefing on Amazon’s biology, history, and the things you may see, along the way. After boarding the Jacaré-Açu, we start sailing through the spectacular Anavilhanas Archipelago while enjoying our first delicious lunch on board.
PM: In the afternoon, we take a ride on the motorized canoes through the islands and lagoons of the archipelago. This is an area rich in wildlife, and we hope to see two species of river dolphin, as well as multiple species of birds, such as herons, egrets, macaws, parrots, caciques, oropendolas, and jacamars. Once back on the boat, we set sail to Madadá Observatory, a spectacular lookout over the Rio Negro, with basic bungalow facilities in the middle of the jungle. After dinner onboard, you can choose if you want to spend the night in your cabin or a hammock at the Observatory.
Meals: (B, L, D)
Anavilhanas & Madadá Caves
AM: After breakfast, we make a three-hour round-trip hike through virgin rainforest to Madadá Caves, with our guides giving a mini jungle survival course, along the way. We then visit an Amazon farmhouse to learn about local customs, farming techniques, and crops. In the late morning, we have a chance to cool off with a dip in the Rio Negro.
PM: After lunch on board, we set sail for the Rio Negro State Park area and a chance to try our hand at piranha fishing before sunset. Once back on the boat we set sail to Sleepy Beach, on the Rio Jau, where we will anchor for the night and enjoy dinner and sit around a bonfire for a night of native folklore storytelling.
Meals: (B, L, D)
Jaú National Park
AM: This morning we sail to the Jaú National Park Ranger Station, and then along the Rio Jaú, a river of mirror-like waters, with likely sightings of aquatic mammals and birds. The Park consists of three major rivers – Unini to the North, Carabinani to the South, and Jau in the middle – along with countless smaller black water tributaries.
The water level varies drastically during the year and the igapó forest found near the waterways can be flooded for up to eight months of the year. This type of forest is tropical and humid, with as many as 200 species per hectare. In the rainy season, we moor the boat and take the canoes through the Park’s creeks, looking for families of Giant Otters. In the dry season, we explore the Rio Pauini, a tributary filled with boulders and waterfalls.
PM: On return to the Jacaré-Açu, we sail to the indigenous community of Aturia where we moor for the evening. After dark, we go looking for caiman and nocturnal animals in the canoes, using spotlights.
Meals: (B, L, D)
Jaú National Park
AM: This morning, after breakfast, we visit Aturia village, where we can learn more about traditional life in the Amazon. The children of the village are always extremely happy to interact with visitors, so be prepared to get involved in a game of soccer or swimming or some impromptu arts and crafts.
Later we will be visiting a giant tree around the community, a very old lady from the ancient forest, before we begin an aquatic trail with regional canoes, keeping a lookout for Bicoh Monkeys and other animals.
PM: Once back on the boat, we have lunch on board before we return to the IBAMA base and sail out of Jaú National Park.
Meals: (B, L, D)
AM: Today we continue sailing from Jaú to Novo Airão. On the way, we may have the chance to swim with Pink River Dolphins. A real highlight. Once back in Novo Airão, we take a city tour to see the ship-building, the craftsmanship, and other attractions of this Amazon River town.
PM: We have a farewell lunch at “Flor do Luar”, a floating restaurant in the Anavilhanas National Park. before taking the van back to Manaus, arriving mid-afternoon for your flight home.
Meals: (B, L)