My favorite hidden gems in South America

After a year traveling around Central & South America, these are the places I liked the most. Since they are not very well-known, I’d like to call them ”my hidden gems”.

These ”cities” are very down-to-earth and laid-back places where I have felt something special inside, like a bubbling feeling of happiness, calmness and fulfillness.

 

1. — Holbox – Mexico —

The beach at Holbox

The beach at Holbox

Sunset in Holbox

Sunset in Holbox

 

Shallow water, birds, and blue sky.

Shallow water, birds, and blue sky.

 

There is just something special about this small island outside of the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico. This island has a natural beauty – white sand, palm trees, shallow ocean, thousands of flamingos and pelicans. Most of the habitants work as fishermen and it’s considered a virgin tourist destination unspoiled by mass tourism. There is only a main square and a few streets which are made of sand and there are just a handful of ”cars” on the island. You sleep, eat, do some small excursions, go to small music events, visit small shops with handicraft and just relax. You eat and live cheaply here too.

 

2. — Isabela – The Galapagos – Ecuador —

The mainstreet in isabela... beautiful with sand!

The main street in isabela… beautiful with sand!

The tuneles

The tuneles

Bluefooted boobies

Bluefooted boobies

Beautiful surroundings!

Beautiful surroundings!


I love all the Galapagos islands,
but if I would have to choose one of them for living – it would be Isabela. although it is the biggest island it is the less populated of the habituated islands. Most tourists only come here for day tours so the ambiance feels very local. Also on this island, the streets are made of sand. It is very safe here. There are plenty of things to do and see here, you can visit lava tunnels, active volcanoes, you can snorkel with big tortoises, watch blue footed boobies, pink flamingos. It is not expensive here either.

 

3. — Jericoacoara – Brazil —

Enjoying life!!!

Enjoying life!!!

Windsurfers and a man playing capoeira-music

Windsurfers and a man playing capoeira-music

The streets are full with hantcraft stands

The streets are full with handicraft stands

Sunset in Jericoacoara

Sunset in Jericoacoara

A little street filled with restaurants

A little street filled with restaurants


This is like a bigger version of Holbox
, with more people, more shops and more activity, but still it has a lot of charm. This place is a paradise for windsurfers and kitesurfers. So yes, it is very windy but hey! – there are no mosquitoes :) If you get tired of the wind you can visit the Blue Lagoon, lovely calm lagoon famous for the hanging hammocks in the water. Jericoacoara is a mix of great people – during the day you’ll see all the active sporty people, and during the nights you’ll see all the musicians and the handicraftsmen out selling their work. There are always live music in a bar or a restaurant, always something to do. The main streets are of course – made of sand. :)

 

4. — Lagoa da Conceição – Florianopolis – Brazil —

Barra Da lagoa

Barra Da lagoa

View over Lagoa do Conceicão

View over Lagoa do Conceicão

Praia do Joaquina in Florianopolis

Praia do Joaquina in Florianopolis


This is a magical place
. It’s a laid-back neighbourhood with super nice surroundings. The area has a small town center and some of the island’s best beaches, and a lagoon that is surrounded by beautiful green hills. Surfing is a popular sport here. There is a lovely big mixture of all kind of Brazilians, but also a lot of Europeans that decided to stay or study here. The city Florianopolis has a lot of culture and bars to offer too.

 

5.  —  Isla del sol – Copacabana –  Bolivia — 

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Boats, beach, small houses and snowy mountains behind

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Clear water and hills with place for cultivation

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Local people in the south of Isla del Sol


This is an oasis in all the chaos between Bolivia and Peru
. This small island in the lake Titicaca is beautiful and super quiet. There is no noise, no cars, no rubbish on the streets. Not even lampposts (bring your head-torche). Beautiful sunsets and sunrises and the sky is super clear so you can see a lot of stars during the night. People live in harmony here with the nature and it’s surroundings. You can walk from the north to the south and see llamas and donkeys and some old inca-archaelogical sites along the way. Sweet local kids will offer you a little guided history about the history of Isla del Sol. There are a few small museums on the island too. I really enjoyed the landscapes in the south.

 

¿Have you been to any of these places? ¿What was your impression?

 

~ If I would extend the list these cities would probably make the list too, all though there are all not ”hidden gems” since some of them are capitals.

• Cusco (Peru) • Puerto Maldonado (Peru) • Quito (Ecuador) • Rio De Janeiro (Brazil) • Salvador (Brazil) • San Cristobal De Las Casas (Mexico) • Isla Mujeres (Mexico) • Tulum (Mexico) • La Paz (Bolivia) and • Buenos Aires (Argentina).

Last stop: Paraty. It has everything!

When I arrived in Paraty I called my host Esteban which apparently was downtown close to the Rodoviaria (bus station) so I met him up there. He was sitting at a Turkish restaurant called Istanbul with his lovely daughter Luna, a cute and super happy baby. Another two from the collective works at this restaurant, Marcelo and Akki.

I met another girl there who also lived temporarily in the collective plus Anahi, Estbans girlfriend and Lunas mother. She is also from Barcelona :) So nice people. I also ran into Tracy that I was sharing dorm with in Ihla Grande, so we decided to meet at Istanbul tomorrow for some sightseeing together! Yeah, there is no internet or even cellphone reception at the collective so it was really a lucky coincidence that we could decide everything now :)

After a few hours at Istanbul it was time to take the van to their house, or better said, houses, that are just by the waterfalls in Penha, They have one house where the ones in the community lives and another for couchsurfers. :)

I went to the couchsurfing house called “Refugio Do Sonho” (Refuge of dreams) and left my stuff there and met Chico who lives there plus couchsurfer Marlene and Marion. Then I went up to the other house, “Oasis Mundo”. The house is supercool and colorful.  When they moved in they said “let’s not buy any furniture, but make it ourselves!” and so they have. Almost everything built-in the house is of recycled materials like fruitboxes. This together with a mix of imported fabrics from India makes it really cozy. They have a little store  where they sells things from India too. I bought a really nice skirt. :)

A part of the store in their house. :)

A part of the store in their house. :)

We had a delicious dinner that Khan, the chef from the restaurant Istanbul, prepared for us. We had some hookah and homemade tea and talked for hours about education, dreams, believes, travels. A nice mix of people from everywhere.  Khan has been living here for 7 years now, has a Brazilian daughter of 3 together with a german girl. Cool :)

After dinner

After dinner with Anahi and Akki from Spain, Esteban from Argentina and Khan from Turkia

The town of Paraty is located on the Bay of Ilha Grande, which is dotted with many tropical islands. Rising up as high as 1,300 meters behind the town are tropical forests, mountains, and waterfalls. It is the southernmost and westernmost city in Rio de Janeiro state.

From the house you hear the waterfalls loudly. At first I didn’t notice because it was raining outside, but when they told me it was the waterfalls – then wow. Amazing. This neighborhood, Pena, is on the country side, where the jungle meets the mountains. The famous gold trail passes by right through here. It’s where the slaves carried gold from the state Minas Gerais to Paraty for exportion to Portugal in the 18th and 19th century.

Next day supposed to take the 9.20 van to town but another guy from the community, Eduardo and actually Brazilian, was going downtown so I joined him. I met up with Tracy and we walked towards the historical town. It looked cloudy but then the sun really started to shine and we were happy about that.

No cars or trucks are allowed in this part of town, the historical district, only foot traffic or bicycles. Horses is a very common sight in Paraty and are frequently used all around the city.

We walked towards the peer and looked at the boats…

The church

The church

Have to be careful when you walk on the streets!! Haha.

Have to be careful when you walk on the streets!! Haha.

Very common to see horses here

Very common sight

Really like this picture. There is so much going on!

Really like this picture. There is so much going on!

Haha

Haha… that girl just realized she was going to be in the picture! Hahaha..

And since Paraty is famous for it’s  islands (and the waterfalls) we decided to go on one boat for 20 reales that stopped in 4 different places.

It was a reeally nice ride. We were so happy about the nice weather, it had been raining the last 3-4 days. We bought a few beers and sat and listened to the live music onboard (yeah!), had some free fruit and coffee, and when we stopped, we jumped in the water and got to the beaches. I really enjoy Tracys company, it was a long time ago that I laughed so much in someones company. She is superfun.

Down the peer. Colorful boats (but this ones are more expensive, a guy tried to sell us a private boat ride for 120 reales... hmmmm... haha)

Down the peer. Colorful boats (but this ones are more expensive, a guy tried to sell us a private boat ride for 120 reales… hmmmm… haha)

Me and Tracy happy with our beers at the boat :)

Me and Tracy happy with our beers at the boat :)

The historical center from the boat

The historical center from the boat

At the boat we were both looking at the guide that was talking in Portuguese in the microphone., he was sitting behind us so our heads where fully turned to him. Then one guy sitting in front of us pokes me and points to the other side of the boat. There was a man, showing the safety procedures of the life vest. Hahaha. We had both been looking at the guide and trying to understand so hard what he was saying when he apparently just was giving the instrucitons that this other man was showing, and that everybody else was looking at. Yes, we were the only non-brazlians on the boat… Oh, I laughed until I cried haha.

I really like her way of thinking too. For example, she is very afraid of water, but still, she is like “I will jump from the boat. Yes. I AM going to jump!” even if she is terrified, she does it with a little scream and afterwards a big and excited smile. :) Tough girl!

Tracy jumping in with her spaguetti!

Tracy jumping in with her spaguetti!

Only Brazilians on the boat!

Only Brazilians on the boat!

 

Haha!

Haha!

This is life!

This is life!

Tracys pic of us! :)

Tracys pic of us! :)

 

Feeling happy!

Feeling happy!

We were both so happy that we had our bikinis under our clothes, because we really had not planned on going to something like this! We had no towels or sun factor or anything, which resulted in a tomato-red Tracy in the end of the day, haha.

We got back to Paraty around 16 and it was all cloudy there. We walked around the historical center. Paraty has maintained many of its historic buildings. Much of the architecture of the city has not changed for 250 years or more.

It reminds me so much of south of spain with the white houses and cobblestoned streets.  There are plenty of nice boutiques and handy craft stands. ‘

Love the balloons!! Got a little one :) But I want it like this in my home!

Love the balloons!! Got a little one :) But I want it like this in my home!

The hisotircal town

The hisotircal town

Hehe. Yes. Tracy took a picture too...

Hehe. Yes. Tracy took a picture too…

Canoe on the river in Paraty, out to the bay...

Canoe on the river in Paraty, out to the bay…

The river in Paraty

The river in Paraty

We ran into Marcelo, Marta and Marion from the collective there and they recommended a place called Quile Verde for lunch… greeeeat food! I had a eggplant with parmesan cheese, rice and french-fries… it was delicious. We shared a beer and literally sat down there and talked for hours before saying farewell.

And by the way, so many crabs!!! Just like that. And they are so weird, they only have one hand! Haha.

Dinner

Lunch/Dinner at Quile Verde.

Such a ugly crab!

Such a ugly crab! With one hand!

Got back home with the 21 van, met Marlene on it, one of the couchsurfers in the community. At home we and Chico and Marion sat down at “our” kitchen and had some fresh pineapple-juice and home-made bread with butter and talked for a while. So nice to just hang out with interesting people!

Next day we woke up and guess what – there was sunshine again! I finally managed to dry my towel and bathing clothes I got with me from Ihla Grande. We had to move out from the house because some previous owners needed it for the weekend or something like that.

The garden where they plant a little bit of everyhing

The garden where they plant a little bit of everyhing

The view from the house

The view from the house

The kitchen and livingroom. Look at the furniture!! love it!

The kitchen and livingroom. Look at the furniture!! love it!

Marion, Luna and Anahi

Marion, Luna and Anahi

Luna!

Luna!

Nice!!

Nice!!

We left our stuff at Oasis Mundo and hanged a little bit there before heading to the waterfalls. There is one just outside the door, but there are many more and bigger just a few minutes walk, like Cachoeira de Tobogao. Marcelo, Marion and me went there and looked at people sliding down the waterfalls. We didn’t dare to do it, since it was Saturday there were a lot of other locals there watching, haha. We sat there for a while talking and watching people, hehe.

The bridge over the waterfalls

The bridge over the waterfalls

Walking to the waterfalls

Walking to the waterfalls

Sliding down the waterfall Cachoeira de Tobogao!

Sliding down the waterfall Cachoeira de Tobogao!

Heeey! haha. Looks like Marion is holding a stick in her hand!

Heeey! haha. Looks like Marion is holding a stick in her hand but it’s just the bridge! Haha

When we got back to the house Esteban and Anahi were going downtown with their van, so we went there. I had a delicious falafel at Istanbul (Marcelo made it for me :) and then me and Marion went to a internet café and then for a walk around the historical center.

In the van :)

In the van :)

On the streets in the historical center

On the streets in the historical center

Horse in the end of the alley :)

Horse in the end of the alley :)

The sugarcane thingy

Making sugarcane-juice!

Finally had my first sugarcane-drink! It is superpopular here, and it was really good! Should have tasted it before! haha

Finally had my first sugarcane-drink! It is superpopular here, and it was really good! Should have tasted it before! haha

We went home in the afternoon, had a shower and tasted different brazilians beers we bought in the supermarket earlier. Since it was my last Saturday I really wanted to go out in the center, the only problem is the transport, last bus leaves at 21.40 and first bus comes back about 6 in the morning… And when you live in a collective and there are a lot of nice people around , it’s easy to stay at home too haha. We were about 10-15 people there and we had carpirinhas and dinner together and stayed up talking until late.  Really nice evening anyhow!

Zé preparing carpirinhas while Marion is baking bread! Hehe

Zé preparing carpirinhas while Marion is baking bread! Hehe

Carpirinhas!

Carpirinhas!

Always people and movement :)

Always people and movement :)

Next day I was leaving at night. I had no plans for the day what so ever, just to visit a market in the evening. It turned out to be a nice sunny day too, and Eduardo asked if I wanted to join to the beach in Trindade with him and Marion. Perfect!

We walked through some trails and beaches until we got to some natural rock formations and pools there. At first we climbed up at a rock, we had to pass by the water to get there and we had water up to our chest and got all soaking wet haha, but it dried in a few minutes on the rock.. yes, it got to hot  there when the sun was bursting, so later we went down to the water and the shadow for some swim and feeding the fishes, hehe.  I would never have found that place if I wasn’t with a local, so cool with couchsurfing.

Walking throug the beaches on our way there

Walking throug the beaches on our way there

Hello on my LAST DAY OF SUN!!!

Hello on my LAST DAY OF SUN!!!  And look at the amazing forest behind!!!

Looks magical! Like a whale or something!

Looks magical! Like a whale or something!

View from the stone

View from the stone

Haha. So fun with group pictures when you don't know if you are going to fit in the picture or not! Hahaha

Haha. So fun with group pictures when you don’t know if you are going to fit in the picture or not! Hahaha

Feeding the fishes!

Feeding the fishes!

Marions pic of us looking at the fishes, haha!

Marions pic of us looking at the fishes, haha!

What?? I had no idea that this was inside the snailhouses on the rocks!! Haha. I thought it was snails!

What?? I had no idea that this was inside the snailhouses on the rocks!! Haha. I thought it was snails!

On our way back we stopped by Eduardos boat which he is fixing for future scuba dives. So cool. We had a coffee there and relaxed and then it was time to head back home for a shower, and to pack my backpack for the last time.

At Eduardos future scuba-boat! So nice!

At Eduardos future scuba-boat!

Sunset at the marina

Sunset at the marina

The adorable kid Miguel, he looks like Mowgli!

Ah, Miguel doing a funny face ;) He is adorable!  Reminds me of Mowgli!

Since my bus was leaving at 23.30, we had a few hours in town. We ate at Istanbul agan and then we visited a second hand market, nothing cool left haha. We walked around the historical center. So much live music and people hanging out on the streets everywhere. Really cool. I will miss this so much!!! We grabbed a beer and sat outside a bar with a local forron band.

Second hand market

Second hand market

The streets in the historical center, a sunday afternoon. Love!!

The streets in the historical center, a sunday afternoon. Love!!

The band that played Forron

The band that played Forron

The last minutes in Paraty before taking the night bus. We asked this other girl if she could take a picture of us, but she wanted to be in it. Haha. :)

The last minutes in Paraty before taking the night bus. We asked this other girl if she could take a picture of us, but she wanted to be in it. Haha. :)

Wow. This has truly been an amazing journey.

And it could not have ended better.

In a great city with great company.

Byyyyeeeee!!!!!

Christ the redeemer, Beaches and Hang gliding

On Tuesday morning Kike took me to a park there in Santa Teresa, Parque das ruinas. Santa Teresa is the name of the neighborhood we are living in, and it’s located on a top of a hill. In the park there is a viewpoint there with a view over almost the whole city. Really cool.

View over the center from the viewpoint in Parque das ruinas in Santa Teresa. That cone-thing there is the cathedral!

View over the center from the viewpoint in Parque das ruinas in Santa Teresa. That cone-thing there is the cathedral!

View over Rio and sugarleaf mountaing from Parque das ruinas in Santa Teresa

View over Rio and sugarleaf mountaing from Parque das ruinas in Santa Teresa

Christ the redeemer seen from Santa Teresa

Christ the redeemer seen from Santa Teresa

I was expecting rain in the evening once again, but since the sky was really clear I took advantage of it and went to the Corcovado mountain, the highest in Rio with it’s 700 meters. It’s on that mountain top that one of the seven wonders of the world – Christ the Redeemer is located. I took the famous Corcovado train up (expensive 56 reails.. not so special…but ok) once up there, cooool. I was actually impacted by the statue of Jesus Christ.

It is considered the largest Art Deco statue in the world, with it’s 30 meters, not including the 8 meters pedestal. Just between the arms it is 28 meters wide.. and it weighs 635 tonnes!!

The corcovado train

The corcovado train

The famous Corcovado train that goes up to the christ.

The famous Corcovado train that goes up to the christ.

Christ the redeemer, one of the 7th wonders of the world!

Christ the redeemer, one of the 7th wonders of the world!

The view from up there is spectacular too. Since Rio have many mountains and hills there are many view points over the city, all with different perspective.

It’s quite difficult to get a good picture with Christo, there are so much people there on the platform and the statue is so high. And the people are really baaaad photographers too! Haha. I took a few pictures for them, and they are good. But when they take a picture of me, they always cut something of or get some head in the middle. So in the end, I took my own picture with timer, haha. I think it was a better result ;)

In the evening I hanged out at Kike and Vickys place, fixing a little with the computer. We were all three being nerds haha. But it’s needeable sometimes :)

When I let someone else take my picture with Christ

When I let someone else take my picture with Christ

Hello Christ the redeemer. I think I'm best at taking my own pics. haha

When I take a picture with Christ

View over Rio and Lagoa

View over Rio and Lagoa

View over Rio from Corcovado

View over Rio from Corcovado

Having LAN. Hahah.

Having LAN. Hahah.

Next day I got a message from the instructor I had been in contact with about doing Hang Gliding over Rio de Janeiro, he said “the weather conditions are really optimal for today, so I would recommend to hang glide today instead for tomorrow!”. Haha. So I did!

Hang gliding is a popular activity in Rio because of it’s geography, the steep mountains and the beaches provide perfect take-off locations and great landing zones.

My instructor showed me some pictures, one with Kurt Cobain. Apparently he was his instructor too and flew with him two times here in Rio, how cool is that?! :)

We went to Pedra Bonita where there is a take off-point. It wasn’t really much more then putting on a weird suit and then “just look at the horizon and run when I say to run, and never stop running” haha. Then, just like that, you were flying!

The take off at Pedra Bonita

The take off at Pedra Bonita

Soooo cool. I was really surprised (and a little bit sad) that I didn’t feel any adrenaline kick at all, it was just super calm and quiet with an amazing view, no problems talking up there at all. The flight was about 13 minutes total, and it actually does feel quite long.

It costed 250 reales to fly, and additional 100 reales for video and photo. But the instructor forgot to tell me about that, so I didn’t have enough money… and they gave it to me for 50. :)

Hang gliding over Rio de Janeiro!!

Hang gliding over Rio de Janeiro!!

From the Praia do Pepino in São Conrado I took the bus to Ipanema beach and met up with Kike. It was late afternoon and it was a very comfortable weather. We sat there and talked a few hours, then walked to Copacabana beach in the sunset, went to the handycraft market there and then found a place to eat some dinner before heading back home.

With Kike at the beach

With Kike at the beach

Helluu!

Helluu!

Sunset over Copacabana beach. Brazil is the world leading in volley boll.. they play it everywhere

Sunset over Copacabana beach. Brazil is the world leading in volley boll.. they play it everywhere

Next day I didn’t really have anything planned, so I went to the beach again. Kike said that Copacabana is more crowdy and more dangerous then Ipanema since sometimes people from the favelas around go there. Also, he said that I should find some tourists or a nice couple and ask them to watch my stuff if I go down to the beach to take a bath. And so I did. And guess what, they were Swedish!! Haha. So fun. So we hanged the whole day there in the sun, they were leaving at night so they were also enjoying the last sun before going back to the winter.

Ipanema during the day is… buff! Too loud. The Ipanema beach was selected the best city beach of the world by CNN… but yeah.. to me it was too loud. So much people walking around selling stuff, it’s nice that you really don’t need to leave your place and still can get food and drinks or jewelry or clothes, but it get’s really tirening to hear people scream what they are selling every two minutes, and some people even have a megaphone!

Anyhow. The sun was shining and the water was really cold, so I can’t complain too much when it’s winter storm in Sweden ;) And I enjoyed talking Linda and Johan (?), they were very funny and crazy haha.

Typical brazilian!

Typical brazilian!

Typical brazilian2!

Typical brazilian 2!

With these two funny swedish people, both from skåne. The girls name is Linda, the guy I think Johan..

Typical swedish! Haha.

Later I walked towards Copacabana and visited the rock between the beaches, a nice hang out in the city. I was about to go to a couchsurfing meeting, I was in the area, but I didn’t have the address, so I went back home instead (with the metro for the first time, which works really fine too!).. and phew! I’m so glad I did that, because about 1 minuted after I arrived inside, it started to rain SUPER heavily! Vicky came like 15 minutes after me and was soaking wet just by walking from the bus stop and home, a walk of 30 meters, haha.

View from the rocks between Ipanema and Copacabana beach.

View from the rocks between Ipanema and Copacabana beach. The clouds are getting heavy!

Yesterday we were all sitting by our computers, and asking ourselves what we would do if we didn’t have computers. Today we got the answer, because the lights went out and so the did internet. Me and Vicky exchanged some handy craft, she gave me a pair of beautiful earrings she had made herself, and I gave her a bracelet I’ve made. Kike sang and played some music for us. So super nice and cozy evening too :)

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When the lights are out, we lit some candles and get creative!

My last day I spent shopping a little bit. First I did my first Brazilian wax in Brazil, hehe. You have to do it when you are in Brazil, right? :) It went super fine, didn’t hurt almost at all compared to the ones I’ve had in mexico, peru and argentina… here they are pro ;) And it was cheap too!!! 25 reales (in Jericoacoara they wanted 80 reales, so I didn’t do it there).

Then I had a lovely sandwish around the corner there, with cheese, banana and canela. LOVE!! Why don’t we have that kind of sandwish in Sweden?!?!

MmmmM!!!! Love the sandwiches here. This one has banana, cheese and cinnamon!

MmmmM!!!! Love the warm sandwiches here. This one has banana, cheese and cinnamon!

Then I walked towards Rua Buenos Aires where it’s filled with small stores. I was looking for a small Christ to add to my collection around my neck. After visiting many jewelry stores, I finally found the one I liked – and it was also the cheapest one. Never give up! ;)

I also visited an armador-store, where you can by stuff for bracelet making.. he he. Can’t help myself. I also bought some lace to organize Vickis ear rings, because she have them all in a box and barely uses them because it’s a mess. Also I found a nice world-map that I got for Kike. ;)

In the evening we went out to the local pub/restaurant here in Santa Teresa for a good bye dinner. We shared a big veggie pizza and some beers. :)

Street art ;)

Street art ;) Hehe.

I organized Vickis earrings a little. Most of them she had made her self! But she stored them in a box and never used them!

I organized Vickis earrings a little. Most of them she had made her self! But she stored them in a box and never used them!

Good bye dinner with my lovely hosts. Had veggie pizza at the local restaurant/bar

Good bye dinner with my lovely hosts. Had veggie pizza at the local restaurant/bar

My last night in Santa Teresa. All this street-hang, gonna miss!

My last night in Santa Teresa. All this street-hang, gonna miss!

Actually, I feel that Rio is one of the safest big cities I’ve been in. There are many hobos here sleeping outside, but they are not dangerous. And if you don’t visit the favelas, then it’s no difference to walk around in Stockholm or Barcelona.

It’s a little sad that It’s time to leave.. Now that I know how to get around in the city and that I feel at home here. I have really enjoyed my stay here in Rio… there are many more things to do here too. But time’s up! :(

 

Rio de Janeiro – Free Walker Tour and Sugarloaf mountain

Rio de Janeiro is the capital of the state with the same name. It was Brazil’s capital until 1960, when Brasília took its place. It’s the second largest city of Brazil and it lives about 6.3 million people within the city and about 11–13.5 million in the state. Residents of the Rio are known as cariocas.

I arrived in the morning to Rio and took the airport bus to the center for 11 reales. When I arrived in the center it was raining. Buhu. I got of in Cinelandia and walked towards Lapa to take the local bus to Santa Teresa where my host Kike lives with his girlfriend Vicki. Both of them really super sweet and the apartment is super cool. We had some fresh expresso coffee and toasts and talked and got to know each other a bit :) It stopped raining so Kike took me out for a walk in the neighborhood, we went to Gloria where they have the Sunday food market and I bought some fruit and bakery stuff.

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Sunday market in Gloria

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A stand in the market

It started to rain a little bit again and we went back and Vicky prepared a nice vegetarian meal (yes, they are both veggies, woho :) Around 15 Kike went to work and me and Vicky stayed and had some more coffee and some sweets, love to have coffee after food!! I have so missed it! Haha.

Having lunch with Vicky and Kike in their lovely appartment!

Having lunch with Vicky and Kike in their lovely appartment!

Coffee and the local pasteries I got in the market earlier :)

Coffee and the local pasteries I got in the market earlier :)

Then I went out for a walk around the neighborhood which is really calm and charmy. It’s filled with art galleries, handy craft shops and a lot of bars. In the evening me and Vicky passed by Cafecito where Kike works and had dinner there together with Domingos, their friend who is a supercool artist. After that we grabbed a few beers out on the street. Apparently Sunday is a party day here. Haha. Then home to sleep… I was really tired! Haha.

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Streets in Santa Teresa a sunday afternoon. People gather outside cafés and bars.

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A main waiting for the bus in Santa Teresa.

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Having dinner at Cafecitos. I had a great cheese and parisian mushroom sandwich – with chimirchurri!! Hehe.. the owners are argentinian :)

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Outside the local bar. :)

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Having a few beers :)

Next day I started with a free walking tour in the city center with Walker Tours.  They have it everyday at 10.30, meeting point just outside Carioca metro station. It showed up a lot of people, around 30 or something, and I was seriously thinking about leaving because I would never hear something, but boy was I wrong haha. The little girl had a super voice, and she was so funny and sweet too. Really great guide and tour through the city! This is a good way to cover the center of Rio too, because the main tourist attractions are not in the center (sugarloaf mountain, Christ the redeemer, the Copacabana and ipanema beach etc).

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Our guide Luana with our group of Walkers!

The Center lies on the plains of the western shore of Guanabara Bay, which Rio de Janeiro was named after (January river). Centro is the historic core of the city, as well as its financial centre. We visited plenty of sites of interest and got a good introduction of Rio.

The evolution of the center of Rio during 400 years. I like the 1910-one, when you still could see the sugar loaf mountain from the center.

The evolution of the center of Rio during 400 years. I like the 1910-one, when you still could see the sugar loaf mountain from the center.

The center is a big mix of churches and buildings from the 16th to the 19th century together with new and modern designs of the 20th century. Since Rio was home to the Portuguese Imperial Family for many years, and the architecture has been influenced by the Portuguese, English and French. It is weird to see this old buildings together with the modern sky scrapers and then all the trees in the middle. Crazy! It is not so beautiful in the center though due to the sky scrapers which mostly are just ugly haha.

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One example of the mixture of buildings here in Rio

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I really enjoy the extremely high trees between all the high sky scrapers. Makes it a little bit easer to breath.

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The municipal theatre, really beautiful. I planned to go on a guided tour inside when it was going to rain, but it never did.. haha

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Inside Confiteria Colombo, the most famous conditory in Rio where Queen Elisabeth had her coffee when she was in Rio.

This is a little bit of a miracle here in Rio. This statue fell from the church top, really high up, and didn’t break anything but it’s finger. But the bell clock of iron, it broke in the middle. Mystical! We also got bracelets that you knot with three knots, for every knot you make a wish. Then you can’t cut it of yourself, but when it falls of, your wishes will come true. Apparently this is true :)

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The statue that only broke her finger when she fall from the church top. There is a little bit of the cross missing too, but it didn’t break at that time, but later.

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The bell clock which broke in the middle in the fall..

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Bracelet with three wishes :)

We walked towards Lapa, a neighborhood besides the center which also is very arty. It houses the modern Cathedral of Rio de Janeiro. Very ugly from the outside.. apparently beautiful inside but I didn’t visit it..

We visited the famous path between Lapa and Santa Teresa which is complete covered in red tiles, made by the artist Jorge Selaron. Almost every city or country has their own brick there in the red mosaic stair-thingy. Really cool!

We rounded up with a typical Brazilian lunch in Lapa – Feijoada for about 25 reales, and I had the vegetarian version, and it was really good!

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The colonial arcs of Lapa and the ugly cone there behind is the cathedral….

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Walking around in Lapa

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The Selaron-path. Really cool with tiles from all over the world!

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The swedish and the spanish (barcelona) was just beside each other :)

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The graffiti street in lapa, haha!

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Having Feijoada. This is the australian couple, Ray and Lori!

In the evening it was supposed to rain so I had planned in a few museums, but since it turned out to be a clear evening, I took the opportunity and went to the Sugar Loaf Mountain.  I went with a really sweet couple from Australia I met on the tour who also were completing their bucket list before going home to build their family.

But guess what? When we jump of the bus at the Sugar Loaf mountain, I notice that I don’t have any money left!! I knew I had a 50 reales-bill there but I must have dropped it  when I paid something, the bus or the food or something. I was like… well.. I’ll do this another day then. But, oh, the Australian couple said they would pay for me, that it was no big deal for them. Such a nice gesture. I wanted to be able to pay them back, tried to have a meeting point so I could pay back another day, but they just said that I should pass it on and help another fellow traveler who is in need instead :)

 

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The first mountain. Lets hike up there!

Our guide gave us a tip about how to do the Sugar Loaf Mountain for half price – you can do a hike there to the first mountain, and from there take the cable car to the next mountain, then it will only cost you 26 reales instead of 53 for the whole thing.  So you only pay for the one between the mountains, because after 19, the cable car back is for free too. :) I did that by myself… and I had got to understand that it was quite easy, but it really was in the middle of the forest, and it was about 50 minutes hike, straight up hill, climbing up on roots and it was all muddy and jungle-like haha. A sweaty experience!

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It started with a paved nice path, and then I came to this….time to get into the forest!  and this is the eeeasy part!

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View from the cable car over to the Sugarleaf Mountain

But once there on the top… the view… amazing!! Made me I understand how Rio de Janeiro is connected… it’s huge, but still there are so many green parks and lakes. Very nice! And so calm up there. I took the cable car from the first mountain over to the other higher mountain, the sugarloaf mountain, and I met the Australian couple there. We talked for like a few hours about everything and just enjoyed the sight over Rio and then watched the beautiful sunset there.

Cloudy Christo

Cloudy Christo

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View over Rio and lakes in a dizzy sunset

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Copacabana and sunset

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View from the cable car on the sugarleaf mountain to the other mountain I hiked up to :)

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Rio at night.. the white thing at the top there is Christ the Redeemer

Lovely first day!

Salvador de Bahia – Brazil’s capital of happiness

I don’t know if I told you, I started to talk to a french couple (Philipina and Stan) now in the bus station in Recife while waiting for the bus to Salvador. We were also on the same bus from Pipa to Recife, but then we didn’t talk then but now we recognized each other (being the only backpackers on both buses haha) so we started talking and then when we arrived in Salvador in the morning we went together to the same hostel.

We took a bus that took us along the whole coast line, very nice, but our hostel was in the middle of the historical center in the neighborhood Peulorinho, so that bus ride was the only thing I saw of the beach haha.

After checking in to the hostel (which was great, and they even welcomed us with some bisquits and fresh manga juice!!! So luxurious) we went for a walk around the historical center. Everything is very colonial with cobblestone streets and colorful houses. It is also a unesco world heritage site.

Terreiro the Jesos and Igreja de Santo Domingos

Terreiro the Jesos and Igreja de Santo Domingos

Igreja de San Francisco

Igreja de San Francisco

Historical city

Historical city

Colonial houses. this is the square were they hang the slaves before.

Colonial houses. this is the square were they hang the slaves before.

HIstorical center

Historical center and the wishing fence :)

Salvador is the largest city on the northeast coast of Brazil and the capital of the state Bahia. It was the first colonial capital of Brazil and the city is one of the oldest in the Americas.

Salvador was divided into an upper and a lower city, the upper one being the administrative and religious area and where the majority of the population lived. The lower city was the financial center, with a port and market. In the late 19th Century an elevator, the Elevador Lacerda, were built to link the two areas.

A few important buildings in the cidade alta, the higher town and historical center

A few important buildings in the cidade alta, the higher town and historical center

The port and  the central market in the lower town

The port and the central market in the lower town

Having lunch buffet. The cheapes I've tried yet! My plate and a fresh juice was a total of 12 reails or something. (about 6 usd)

Having lunch buffet (pay per kilo). The cheapest I’ve had in Brazil! My plate and a fresh juice was a total of 12 reails or something. (about 6 usd)

Everyone had told me that Salvador is one of the most dangerous places in Brazil, but I found it safe and adorable. People are happy and friendly here. Sure, there are armed police men in almost every corner, so it must be quite many assaults, but it feels safe. And we walked on the safe places, not the abandoned neighborhoods.

It was a very hot day and I had not slept very well on the night bus, so after a few hours walking and a good lunch I went home for a little siesta and a shower. Then I woke up in time to enjoy the free cairpirinhas-hour they have in the hostel starting 17.15. It’s a great way to meet new people!

We all had dinner at Zulus restaurant and the we went to a free samba concert close by. I didn’t know it then, but it was with a very famous singer here in Brazil, Elza Soares (google her and see the pics, you won’t believe me when I say she is 86 years old!)

Free cairpirinhas night at the hostel. Hanging with the french people :)

Free cairpirinhas night at the hostel. Hanging with the french people, Stan, Filipina and Carine :)

Dinner at Zulus with the whole hostel gang!

Dinner at Zulus with the whole hostel gang!

At the samba concert!

At the samba concert!

They had fireworks and everything, and there were soooo much people there! But still not that crowded, you had enough space to breath and to dance. It was like a street festival. So nice feeling, everybody happy singing and dancing outdoors to samba. Salvador is known a Brazil’s capital of happiness due to its countless popular outdoor parties… and I understand that!

Fireworks and Samba!

Fireworks and Samba!

Elza Soares concert

Elza Soares concert

Elza Soares, famous brazilian samba singer, born 1937!

Elza Soares, famous brazilian samba singer, born 1937!

Happy people during the concert :)

Happy people during the concert :)

Some of our mixed gang :)

Some of our mixed gang :)

Next day I slept until 10, I really needed that. Then I had the greatest hostel breakfast buffét I’ve ever had – this is exactly how I like a breakfast!! Fresh fruit, fluffy toasts, eggs, bisquits, coffee, fresh juice etc etc. After countless bread-butter-marmelade-boxjuice-breakfastes in peru and bolivia, this is heaven!

LOVE my breakfast!!!

LOVE my breakfast!!!

Later I joined a city tour for a few hours. We visited almost the same places as yesterday but had a little bit more of background story about everything. Interesting story!

Salvador was the first capital of Brazil and remained so until 1763, when it was succeeded by Rio de Janeiro. As the first capital of Portuguese America, Salvador cultivated slave labor.

Zumbi dos Palmares and our guide Luis

Zumbi dos Palmares and our guide Luis

This bishop was eaten by the native people here. It was a ritual, not because they were hungry. They thought they got their wisdom and power if they ate him. The eaten ones lived as king the last night while the natives were preparing their barbecue haha

This bishop was eaten by the native people here. It was a ritual, not because they were hungry. They thought they got their wisdom and power if they ate him. The eaten ones lived as king the last night while the natives were preparing their barbecue haha

The African influence in many cultural aspects of the city makes it the centre of Afro-Brazilian culture. This is the second place where most black people live after Africa. Here in Salvador about 90% of the population is black, compared to the south where about 90% of the population are white.

Salvador was however primarily influenced by Catholicism and is still a center of the Brazilian Cahtolicism. There are over 300 churches here!

Ordem terceira de San Francisco. This whole church was completely flat and white before. While restoring, they noticed this was underneath!

Ordem terceira de San Francisco. This whole church was completely flat and white before. While restoring, they noticed this was underneath!

Locals

Locals

Guards, Filipina, and the Cathedral Basilica

Guards, Filipina, and the Cathedral Basilica

Me with Mary, having a typical fried tapioca with sugar and canela.. not to nice.. haha. But she was adorable!

Me with Mary, having a typical fried tapioca with sugar and canela.. not to nice.. haha. But she was adorable!

Kid playing football in front of the church

Kid playing football in front of the church

Samba train on the street! Hehe. Love it!

Samba train on the street! Hehe. Love it!

 

 

The historic center of Salvador was designated in 1985 a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. In the 90’s, the Pelourinho (the historical center) was subject for a big restoration that led to the rebuilding of hundreds of building fasades making it a desirable tourist attraction. Today there are almost only stores and hotels in the historical center, nobody lives there because all the afro-descendend working class living there were expulsed in the renovation. This led that they didn’t get any economical benefits from it either… Apparently this happens quite often to UNESCO World Heritage Sites, that they sacrifice the population to the needs of tourist-based preservation…. :/

Peulorinho neighborhood. Mostly stores, cafés and hotels.

Peulorinho neighborhood. Mostly stores, cafés and hotels. And churches, of course. 

After the walking tour me, Filipina, Catrine and a English couple went to Jamnomam, which is like a jazz concert every Saturday by the Mam museum. There were plenty of food, sweet and drink stands there (vegan-empanadas!!). We watched the sunset there and then enjoyed a couple of hours of jazz jam.

Different stans at the Mam museum

Different stans at the Mam museum

Vegan empanadas!

Vegan empanadas!

Sunset in Salvador

Sunset in Salvador

Sunset in Salvador

Sunset in Salvador

At Jamnomam!

At Jamnomam!

Sunset at Jamnomam

Sunset at Jamnomam

The jazz group

The jazz group

Terreiro de Jesus a saturday night!

Terreiro de Jesus a saturday night! Churches, music and party! Haha



Then we shared a taxi back to the hostel, the others enjoyed a little bit more of the outdoor parties in the center and I went back to pack my bag, at 4 am my taxi was picking me up to the airport.  I slept like 2 hours haha.

Weird thing, the way into the airport there at night was the most beautiful I’ve seen – it was like a tunnel of illuminated bambu trees. Really cool! And another fascinating thing – I thought I was going to arrive to an empty airport – but it was full of life at 5 in the morning, with souvenir shops open and plenty of different cafeterias to have breakfast in. Big like!

My whole experience in Salvados has been a completely big like!

 

 

 

 

Recife – half modern, half historical.

I arrived in Recife around 19.30 and took the metro to Joana Bezerra where I changed to a bus to Boa Viagem, where my host lives. I was surprised they have metro here!! Yay! And it worked so fine. It even announced how much time it was left for it to come! Haha.

Apparently Recife’s infrastructure is among the most developed in Brazil for travellers and business people.

I found the building where my host lives – huge complex, he lives at the 14th floor with a cool view over other sky scrapers and the beach (all though you don’t see the beach at night). And Jose was supernice! Like the first second he gave me a map over Recife and showed me some different attractions and how to get there and I liked him immediately.

His apartment is so nice too, filled with travel photos on the walls and different souvenirs from all the countries he has been to. A well traveled and experienced couchsurfer and host :)

 Boa Viagem at night

Boa Viagem at night, view from the balcony!

My host José aka Zé and his reaally nice wall of travel photos

My host José aka Zé and part of his wall of travel photos

My hosts living room :)

My hosts living room :)

We prepared some dinner, a nice sallad of fresh mozzarella, tomato, balsam vinegar, carrots and warm bread in the oven.  We talked a lot and then around 12ish I went to sleep, so tired! Haha.

Next morning I had some breakfast looking out over the buildings and the sea and then went to Olinda (where I’ve already posted from).

Taking care of the plats in the balcony :)

Taking care of the plats in the balcony :)

Good morning Recife!

Good morning Recife!

Recife is the fifth-largest metropolitan area in Brazil, with about 3,8 million inhabitants. It’s the capital of the state of Pernambuco.

Recife is a major port on the Atlantic Ocean. Its name comes from the coral reefs that are present by the city’s shores. On wikipedia they say Recife is like ”the Brazilian Venice” because of the many rivers, small islands and over 50 bridges found in Recife city center. But I didn’t really find it that way.

The city of Recife is formed by three islands. I walked between two of them, where the historical center and the city center is. I visited a nice handcraft market and tried to find the ”important buildings” in the historical center, but I couldn’t find it really. I had a map but I wasn’t sure if that was the right building or not.. haha. But there are a few nice churches and colorful buildings, which I always enjoy :) Hehe.

The sculpture park at the port is made of Francisco Brennand

The sculpture park at the port is made of Francisco Brennand

Some houses by the harbour

Some houses by the harbour

A street in the historical center. I like the round christmas light and the shade of the trees :)

A street in the historical center. I like the round christmas light and the shade of the trees :)

 

The artisanian market

The main hand craft market

Such a nice work. You might not notice the details....

Such a nice work. You might not notice the details….

...But here you see a close up :)

…But here you see a close up :)

 

Plenty plenty of churches here though. I talked to some people and they are very friendly here, but so stressed. There is people and shops everywhere, and people walking around. Everyone seems like they know where they are going and that they are in a hurry. Is not really ”just walking around and chilling”. I wanted to sit down somewhere just to chill, but I couldn’t find a nice place or a park to hang out there. So I felt stressed there compared to calm and pretty Olinda. I like more the neighbourhood of Boa Viagem.. even if it’s very modern, it’s much calmer!

At night I had a dinner with my host again, we did a brazilian couscous with hot vegetables. :)

The bridge between the islands

The bridge between the islands

San Francisco church I think

San Francisco church I think

On of the central park in Recife

On of the central park in Recife

Basilica Nossa senhora do carmo

Basilica Nossa senhora do carmo

Church... Igreja do Pratos? Don't know really

Church… Igreja do Pratos? Don’t know really

People waiting for the bus

People waiting for the bus

Dinner with José. Haha, He had just put in a spoon before the photo went off, and he said "I think I did a face, the food was so hot!" hahaha

Dinner with José. Haha, He had just put in a spoon before the photo went off, and he said ”I think I did a face, the food was so hot!” hahaha

 

I was leaving the afternoon next day, and my host works from like 7.30. So I woke up early and did some breakfast (he usually don’t have time to eat it in the morning even if he wants to). Super nice. I really feel at home at his apartment and I got the keys to it even before I met him haha. So then we said good bye and he left for work.

I visited the ”Oficina de Ceramica Francisco Brennand”. It wasn’t that easy to get there – It took about 1,5 hours and a few bus-changes and then had to take a taxi the last kilometers, because the museum is sort of in the middle of a forest outside the city.

These four guys welcomes you to the museum

These four guys welcomes you to the museum

Francisco Brennand is a famous contemporary sculpture artist in Brazil. His studio is set in an old ceramic tile factory that belonged to his father Ricardo. It’s a huge house with a studio, workshop, a gallery with his paintings and a museum of the sculptures he does.  Really impressive!!

”Visitors traveling down Recife to the famous atelier are experiencing a dreamlike trip into a strange world.  While there the visitors can take note that the studio is divided into two sections, the indoor and the outdoor.  The courtyard is where you walk through a footpath enclosed by a Romanesque arcade leading to the outdoor section filled with sculptures.  At the end of this area is the indoor section where a temple like structure can be found.  The structure has a dome ceiling.  ”

Very impressive courtyard

Very impressive courtyard

The walls

The walls

Nice sculpture

Nice sculpture

The courtyard and part of the fountain

The courtyard and part of the fountain

The courtyard and big butts. Te gusta Duilio? ;)

The courtyard and big butts. Te gusta Duilio? ;)

 

The fantastic Francisco Brennand museum

The fantastic Francisco Brennand museum

It really is one of its kind!.. really remarkable!  The museum with over 2000 pieces which all are different from each other and the gallery with his paintings and also his tile work is very impressive and very unique. There is everything from symbols to animals to butts to people to penises.. haha.

One of the rooms filled with sculptures

One of the rooms filled with sculptures

A hall with ceramic paintings

A hall with ceramic paintings

Love the small white tiles with black dots, looks like skulls.

Love the small white tiles with black dots, looks like skulls.

The factory where they make wall tiles

The factory where they make wall tiles

Cool special faces. Reminds me of långa farbrorn!

Cool special faces. Reminds me of långa farbrorn!

The marx park, designed by famous desginer Marx with Brennand scupltures

The marx park, designed by famous desginer Marx with Brennand scupltures

After the museum I got back to the neighbourhood Boa Viagem, had lunch and then packed my back and got to the Rodoviaria.

Good bye lovely room :(

Good bye lovely room :(

Bye bye Recife, hello Salvador!

 

Visiting charming Olinda – oh! Linda!

Woke up around 7.30 after a really good nights sleep. I have such a great bed, it’s so big, but the best thing are the pillows – perfectly fluffy! Haha. Yeah, I’m couchsurfing again, in Recife, with a lovely host, José. I will tell you more about him and Recife in another post, this one will be about Olinda :)

Olinda
 is about 7 km north of Recife in the north-eastern Brazilian state of Pernambuco. There are direct buses from Recife there for about 3 reails.

When I arrived a city guide met me up and asked if I wanted a guided tour. It’s ”free”– you give what you want after the tour.. And my guide was so nice, walked around with me a couple of hours telling me so much, so to give to little is very hard face to face. Haha. But yeah, when you think about it, maybe it’s not so much to give around 15 dollars.. But still it wasn’t planned expenses.

The Olinda faculty. Lovely buolding!

The Olinda faculty. Lovely building!

The only dutch house here!

The only dutch house in Olinda!

Vlamir, my guide, is born and raised in Olinda, and has been working as a guide since he was 10 years old :) So I would guess about 20 years now. He told me this city is very famous because it’s carnival – it’s said to be the best in Brazil.. (I don’t know if this is the general opinion though), but it’s very famous though :)

Olinda is listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It’s one of the oldest towns in Brazil.

For being such a small town, at least the historical center, it has surprisingly many churches!

Igreja Nossa Senhora do Carmo

Igreja Nossa Senhora do Carmo

Convento São Francisco

Convento São Francisco

Igreja Nossa Senhora do Amparo

Igreja Nossa Senhora do Amparo

Igreja Nossa Senhora da Graça

Igreja Nossa Senhora da Graça

Igreja da Sé in Alto da Sé. This was the first church built in Brazil, built in 1540 and was briefly a Protestant church during the Dutch occupation in the 17th century.

Igreja da Sé in Alto da Sé. This was the first church built in Brazil, built in 1540. All the other churches faces this church, which is the main church.

View from the hill, all the churches facing

View from Igreja da Sé, you see all the churches are facing the hill (alto da Sé)

It was founded in 1537 by the Portuguese. From the 16th century onward, many churches and convents were built. But then in 1631 the city was pillaged by the Dutch and they destroyed almost everything.  About 25 years later the Portuguese returned and started to restore, so now most of the buildings at Olinda date from the 18th century.

The scenery is beautiful – it’s a colonial architecture so there are small houses in many colors, together with a lot of flowers and trees. From the hills in Olinda you also see the blue-turquoise water.. really beautiful!

Olinda’s is a calm and safe place to walk around, a nice breeze compared to the hectic Recife.

Street, trees and worker.

Street, trees and worker.

Colors!!

Colors!!

Colonial Olinda and further away, modern Recife

Colonial Olinda and further away, modern Recife

One of the streets in Olinda. Hills!

One of the streets in Olinda. Hills!

Olinda

Olinda

There are many artist and craftspeople studies and galleries to visit here too, and markets to have tapioca, coco-water or ice-cream. :)

Oh by the way I forgot to tell you why the name is Olinda – it’s said that when the Portuguese arrived to the Hill in Alto da Sé, and saw the view over the town, they said ”Oh, linda situação para se construir uma vila!” (in portuguese, oh, beautiful place to build a village!)

 

Hello from Alto do Sé :)

Oh, linda view from the hill Alto do Sé :)

Definitively worth a visit :)