It can be hard to tear yourself away from Rio de Janeiro's gorgeous landscape and vibrant street scene. But Brazil is a massive country, so why limit yourself to one stop?
The trick, of course, is timing, and visitors often end up stressed out trying to figure out how to get a spectrum of Brazilian experiences in a short period of time.
The good news is that it is possible. And the even better news is that we've done your homework for you. Here's a list of easy side trips from Rio, either by car, bus or plane. Whether you're looking for a glimpse into Brazil's colonial past, an unforgettable gastronomic adventure, or a rugged beach day, within just a few hours from Rio, you can find all that and more here:
Nestled along the Green Coast linking Rio with São Paulo further south, Paraty is the jewel in the coast's crown. A colonial port 4.5 hours by bus from Rio, where gold, coffee and sugar were transported through the town in each cycle of Brazil's economy, the historic center today looks stopped in time, with cobblestone streets, gaslamps and colorful arched doorways. It often rains here, and the streets regularly flood during high tides, all of which adds to the town's charm and makes for a refreshing getaway.
For decades, Buzios has been the spot where Rio de Janeiro's wealthy escape to in the summer. Located just up the coast from the city, Buzios is still a go-to destination for fine dining and chic beaching, with a bit of a Miami vibe. Although it can be a bit pricey, surrounding beach towns like Arraial do Cabo allow visitors to scale down their experience to suit their needs.
Cariocas (as residents of Rio are called) love to escape their city for cooler temperatures, and Petrópolis is an easy getaway to serve that need. In fact, the Portuguese royalty used the town as a respite, and their imperial palace is still available for visits. Located a little over an hour's drive from Rio into the forested mountains inland, the city serves as the hotspot of Brazil's beer industry, and a visit here might include strolls in a jacket while sampling locally made beers.
Though it can get packed to exhaustion on holiday weekends and in the summer, this big island off the Green Coast still retains a rustic charm. A boat ride across the green waters from Angra dos Reis will land you on this mountainous island, where beach hikes and barefoot days await. Pack your surfboard and tent, or plant yourself at a local pousada, which can easily arrange island tours for you.
If you want a grittier getaway, try Trindade, which you reach by first catching the bus from Rio to Paraty, then hopping on a local bus. A small town along the same coast as Paraty, this spot has a bit of a hippie vibe. But the bay-like beach is lovely, and nothing beats a beer on the beach stands while snacking on fresh shrimp plucked out of the sea. It's a great camping spot in the middle of the Atlantic Forest, as well.
If you're looking for a getaway day trip, this rugged beach might be your spot. And if you surf, it's definitely your spot. This beach is nestled among big mountains of lush Atlantic Forest, and though you can't stay overnight, it's a great way to enjoy a day away from the crowds.
A quick one-hour flight from Rio, Belo Horizonte is a great spot to dive deep into the country's culinary. A stroll through the city's Mercado Central will fill your eyes with meat, cheese, doce de leite, and coffee. The city's weather is often breezy and sunny, and some of the outstanding day trips from the city include the massive outdoor museum and garden at Inhotim, and the hilly colonial town of Ouro Preto.
Looking to dive deep into another side of Brazilian culture? Salvador, in the state of Bahia, might be your spot. A two-hour flight from Rio, the city is the capital of Afro-Brazilian culture, and it shows. Any given night in the historic center of Pelourinho, Afro-Brazilian drum groups will the streets with contagious thumps, as women dressed in white sell African-inspired regional snacks, like acarajé (a shrimp and bean fritter) and cocada (coconut pralines). Around the city are great beach spots like Praia do Forte, where you can slip away from it all. And the temperature here stays warm year-round.