Where to go trekking in Brazil
By Martha Hales
Brazil may be overflowing with impressive landscapes, abundant nature and wide open spaces, but surprisingly it is not really known for its hiking and trekking possibilities. With the trails being so unknown, hikers can enjoy many routes which are peaceful, secluded and largely untouched.
One thing that Brazil doesn’t lack is variety. Whether you would like to embark on a multi-day trek or a half day hike with the kids in tow, there will be plenty of options open to you. Similarly, different hikes are available for those seeking wildlife encounters, panoramic views, coastal routes or dramatic landforms.
All our itineraries are tailor made to your specifications by our local experts who know their destination inside-out, so if you are keen to make your Brazil trip into an adventure on foot, they can oblige. Combining hiking with cultural activities or hiking with nature is also a possibility, and with your input they will craft your trip to suit your priorities.
Here’s our lowdown on some of Brazil’s best hiking routes.
Climb Rio’s peaks
Rio de Janeiro is a city that tucks itself in and around its iconic hills, and several of these are well set up for day hikes. Of all the hikes in Brazil these are among the most popular, so you are unlikely to be walking by yourself. Choose between Dois Irmãos, Corcovado, Pao de Acucar or Pedra da Gávea, all of which promise interesting hiking and views to wow even the most seasoned ramblers.
Pão de Açúcar, or Sugar Loaf mountain, is one of Rio’s best known landmarks and has two trails to reach the top - the Morro da Urca Trail and the Pão de Açúcar Trail - which both begin at the Vermelha Beach. The first is a straightforward uphill walk to the cable car station where you can take a scenic ride across to the Sugar Loaf itself. The second is a more challenging, steeper climb directly to the peak. Both afford incredible views over the city and its shore.
The 360 degree panorama over Rio is one of the major draws for the Dois Irmãos - or Two Brothers - hike, which winds up to the twin mountains which mark the end of Ipanema Beach. If you catch a bus to the base of the trail it is then just 1.5 kilometres along a clear path, steep in places, to the peak. Photographers will be spoilt for choice when they reach the top as the outlook is truly spectacular.
Corcovado is the 704-metre-peak which displays Rio’s world famous Christ the Redeemer statue. The 4 kilometre trail to the peak’s summit has some sections steep enough for rungs and chains, however, the trail is still straightforward and there is also a train to take you down if you have run out of puff when you get to the top.
The last of the major peaks in Rio is the Pedra da Gavea. This peak is the most challenging by far, so should only be attempted by hikers with a head for heights and who are prepared for some scrambling or even rock climbing. It’s a steep 3 kilometre trail incorporating a 30 metre wall of rock known as the Carrasqueira which needs to be tackled with great care, but it’s all worth it when you reach the top where the view will take your breath away.
Around two hundred square kilometres of verdant hills fringed by sandy coves and a few scattered villages nestled on the shore, Ilha Grande is a brilliant place for some hiking. Warm up with the popular trek from Vila do Abraao to Lopes Mendes - a two to three hour route which takes you through the jungle, packed with colourful birds and butterflies, before culminating at the Lopes Mendes beach. You can then graduate to the more strenuous Pico do Papagaio hike, which leads you through 11 kilometres of lush rainforest to the 1,000 metre summit of ‘Parrot’s Peak’ where the views are magnificent. To ensure you are off the mountain by sundown it is wise to take a guide and set off in the early morning. If seeing more of the surroundings appeals then consider walking the Ilha Grande Circuit, a five day circumnavigation of the whole island. This takes you through forests teeming with monkeys, birds and insects, past countless glorious beaches, and stops off at charming local pousadas.
Not too far from the convivial Afro-Brazilian cultural hub of Salvador, this national park is a treasure trove of untouched nature. An almost unbroken expanse of forest scattered with flat top peaks and scored by rivers, waterfalls and caves, it is one of Brazil’s premier locations for ecotourism and trekking, full to bursting with pristine wilderness and gorgeous panoramas. Some of the most memorable sights in the park include the beautiful cave systems, which shelter crystal clear pools of water and caverns filled with stalagmites and stalactites. Numerous waterfalls dot the park including the Cachoeira da Fumaça, Brazil’s highest waterfall at 400 metres, which you can hike to the top of for unforgettable views. Another impressive waterfall, which is best experienced from the pools at its base, is the Fumacinha Falls which has sliced deep gullies into the surrounding rock.
Standing at a lofty 2,875 metres tall, Mount Roraima is the highest flat-topped mountain in the whole of South America, split between three countries and overlooking the vast expanse of the Amazon rainforest that surrounds it. Hiking to Mount Roraima is tough and requires a multi-day trek to get the best experience. Early stages of the trek will entail hot and humid conditions, whilst the weather atop the 30-square-kilometre plateau can be incredibly cold. The mountain sits on the border of Brazil, Guyana and Venezuela, the latter of which you will likely have to cross into to reach the most accessible route to the summit. As well as the physical challenge and the incredible views from the trail, the immersion in the Amazon is the major draw for this trek, and you can expect to see some wonderful wildlife along the route.
Make it happen
The hiking trails of Brazil open up some of its most pristine landscapes and gets you closer to all that abundant wildlife. Get in touch with our local experts who know their country’s highlights inside out and can build as much hiking and trekking into your bespoke itinerary as you wish. To speak to someone in the TravelLocal office please call +44 (0)117 325 7898.