A Weekend in Paradise: Ilha Grande

A peaceful island with no cars, pristine beaches, rainforest hikes and eye-capturing waterfalls is certainly the making of a weekend in paradise. For Ilha Grande this hasn’t always been the case. Formally, it hosted a high security prison for Brazils most violent criminals. Fortunately, it is now known as one of the safest places in Brazil!

A weekend in paradise

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We escaped city life for some well earned TLC a few weeks into our Round the World adventure. Here is what we got up to in our budget weekend in paradise.

Lopes Mendes
This was once voted as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world by Vogue Magazine. However, to earn the rewards of the beach there is a 3 hour hike ahead of you! Admittedly, this was the first time I had a tantrum on our trip (poor Duncan!). I was lagging behind a bit, struggling with the climb in the heat and flip flops. I think I was more annoyed at myself as I did the research for this day and blatantly ignored the advice I read… so I recommend trainers and take flip flops in your bag for the beach. So when Duncan made the slightest comment about my slowness… that was it… ultimate tantrum!

Luckily this was short lived and I apologised and returned to appreciating the beauty of the rainforest and both of us realising how far we had walked, it was a challenge but worth it. En-route you will pass Praia das Palmas and Praia dos Mangues beaches which are great pit-stops along the way. But be warned you will pay a lot of money for water here as we did, so stock up.

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3 hours later, we arrived at the white sandy beaches with crystal clear water and great waves too! We pulled out our towel, flip flops off, suncream on and I had a well earned rest before going for a swim to cool down.

The sand is very fine which annoyed Duncan. It literally doesn’t come off so you will have a sandy bum for a while! There are strong currents in the sea and we saw this for ourselves when a lifeguard went to save a man who was a long way out struggling to get back.

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After the 3 hour trek you may not want to go through all of that again and risk another tantrum. So we opted for a new experience and took a water-taxi back. It is important to note that you can do this both ways but they drop you off at Praia do Pouso and you still have to do a small hilly walk for 15 mins to get the beach (so not disability friendly at all!). For 25 BR (£5.51) each we jumped on a speedboat with 12 other people which was one hell of an experience. The closer you are to the front of the boat the less wet you get, but it was one hell of a bumpy ride! You would go up, up, up the wave and then drop! We both were hysterically laughing with a girl from London sat beside us! 20 minutes later we arrived safely on the beach.

How to get to Lopes Mendez
The trial you want to follow is T10 but this isn’t as well sign posted as I had read (or maybe we are blind!). There are smaller signs directing the way to the different beaches and if you feel lost don’t be afraid to ask the locals… they are happy to help.

Trail walks
The island has 15 different trails for you to enjoy. I have read of a people taking 5-10 days to cover the entire coast, setting up camp along the way. With our 2 days we opted for a shorter easier trail for the second day… or so we thought.

e339e9ca.jpgTrail 1 is an hour and a half walk that includes the Praia Preta beach where the Ruins do Lazareto are, Praiz do Galego beach, the aqueduct and natural pool. We spent a good few hours at the first beach with a beer and went for a proper swim as there was no waves. Duncan saw something in the water so keep your eyes peeled as theres no lifeguards about but this still didn’t deter him as he swam pretty far out.

We got sidetracked and saw a sign for the Cachoeira e Praia da Feiticeira (Waterfall of Feiticeira). We were convinced that this was on our trail but we were wrong. An hour and a half walk ended up extending by 2-3 hours! It was so worth it though! I didn’t think we could have walked much higher when we reached a stunning waterfall that we could get relatively close to. It would have been great if we could have got a shower under it because we must have stank… but unfortunately that wasn’t the case. IMG_0444 (2).JPG

Top Tip: Take a picture of the map you want to follow so you can keep on track.

Accommodation
I love talking about our big boo-boos, it leads to so many top tips for you all!

Top Tip: Don’t book accommodation with no reviews unless you are afraid of nothing!

We were the ultimate paranoid and pessimistic Brits when we saw that the flimsy door, half a window and a suspicious back room at house we stayed at! We assumed the worst and were anxious about leaving our belongings in the room. However, after one night we acclimatised to the chilled vibe of the island and booked a third night haha!

Were we Stayed:
Katrina e Sophia House
Price: 50 BR a night for a private room
Pros: Plenty of space, utensils in the kitchen and warm shower, live like the locals.
Cons: Didn’t feel too safe, no lockers, locals staying the back room that wasn’t advertised.

Search for hostels and hotels in Ilha Grande on Booking.com

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Getting to Ilha Grande
From our research we found very conflicting pieces of information about how to get to Ilha Grande, how much it costs and which ports were open. Armed with 3 options we aimed for the cheapest option which worked out well for us.

This started with a bus journey from nearby Rio Forest Hostel to the main bus terminal in Rio (Rodoviaria Rio). In this bus station there are stands for coaches to different locations. Coste Verde offer a journey to Ange dos Reis for 57.50 BR each. There is then a short walk (which feels like forever with your backpacks on) round to the ports. There are three main ports on the mainland and this route takes you to the furthest one away (hence the cheapest). We walked to Cais de Lapa and jumped on a ferry for 17 BR each. This option leaves once a day at 3.30pm. This was a steady 2 hour journey with beautiful scenery and we even saw dolphins jumping alongside the ferry!

IMG_0373 (2)We hope this inspires you for a visit to Ilha Grande or helps you in your planning. Find information on ‘Things to Do in Rio’ here

Go the Distance in Ilha Grande,

Chloe

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Top 5 Things to do in Rio de Janeiro

The first part of our Round the World adventure took us to Brazil, starting in Rio de Janeiro. We knew we were throwing ourselves in the deep end starting with South America and a Portuguese speaking country, but we have loved our experiences so far!

We spent 5 nights in two area of Rio; Copacabana and Santa Theresa (near Downtown Rio and Lapa).  It is hoped that this blog will inspire you to book your flights Brazil and explore Rio de Janeiro for yourselves!

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Beaches
Our first few days in Rio took us to Copacabana, that is renowned for it’s world famous beach! So why not walk the entire 4 km stretch! We popped out onto the beach at Copacabana Palace and walked until we ran out of beach. We headed round the bend to find a pathway that led to Ipanema Beach. On this occasion, the surf was much better on Ipanema but it’s not far to walk between the two as the waves inevitably change. Later on, we walked in the opposite direction to the headland, where we saw locals enjoying sea-fishing. We were fortunate to catch a local derby Football Game (Ipanema vs. Racing?). Honestly, when that first goal was scored I never seen so many children run onto the pitch cheering and jumping all over the scorer… unforgettable moment.

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Christ the Redeemer
You cannot visit Rio without going to visit the main man keeping a watchful eye over you. Are you aiming to tick off all 7 Wonders of the World? Well, Christ the Redeemer is one of them to tick off your list. The statue of Jesus Christ and is situated 700 metres high at the peak of Corcovado Mountain in the Tijuca Forest National Park. We took the 583 bus from Copacabana to Trem do Corcovado. The cost of the cable car and entrance to Christ the Redeemer was 150 R$ for the two of us (so £34.61 for 2). From our research, it was suggested to go early morning as the sun wouldn’t interfere with your pictures but naturally this is a busier time. We went on a Saturday morning, in low season and it wasn’t too crowded (I imagined much worse). Be prepared to wait to get the perfect Instagram worthy shot but remember to take the time to have a mindful moment. It is a wonder of the world for a reason, take it all in!

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Escadaria Selarón
This is also known as the Selaron Steps that are world famous! The vibrant tiled steps were created as a tribute to the Brazilian people by Jorge Selaron. The steps go between Lapa and Santa Teresa and feature 2000 tiles collected from over 60 countries. We literally stumbled upon these only 10-15 minutes from Rio Forest Hostel in Santa Theresa. Again, getting the perfect Instagram picture can be difficult with every one else trying to achieve this too. However, a kind guy took our picture together and we took our time for a great shot without other peoples bums or feet in the way.

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Cathedrals and Palaces
Although the exterior the Metropolitan Cathedral is rather dull, inside this cathedral is truly stunning with 4 stained glass windows from floor to ceiling. This pyramid style building is a great place to escape the Rio sun, appreciate the history of Saint Sebastian and observe worshippers.

Paco Imperial is the Royal Palace of Rio that was built in the 18th century. King John VI of Portugal resided there, as well as King Peter I and II. Several important events in Brazils history are associated with the Imperial Palace. It is situated in the Praca XV in Central Rio.

Close by to the Imperial Palace is Tiradentes Palace that is named after the Brazilian hero who’s aim was for full independence from the Portuguese and to create a Brazilian republic. A statue of Tiradentes in a Jesus-esque pose is at the entrance of this impressive building that formally was the ‘Old Jail’ where Tiradentes was imprisoned before his public execution.

 

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Museums
It is worth noting that many of the Museums in Rio are free on a Tuesday. However, the one we chose to visit on a Tuesday… was not free haha! We headed up towards the Maracana Stadium (mentioned below) and came across the Boa Vista Park. This is a very tranquil and well looked after park which is perfect for a picnic or leg rest! Within this park is the National Museum that cost us 6 BR each (£1.50 each). The exhibitions are remarkable, especially the mummified bodies, that I must admit gave me the hebbie-jeebies (although very interesting!). Only some of the explanations are written in English but there is an audible app you can download if you really want to take it all in. So remember to take your headphones, as we didn’t think about this.

Update: Unfortunately, on September 2nd 2018, there was a fire at the National Museum destroying many ancient artefacts. Read more about this tragedy on the National Geographic website.

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Other:
We had headed over to the Maracana Stadium under the impression there was a free museum/club shop there but this could not be found. There are tours that cost from 25 BR to 50 BR depending on whether you want access only or guided tour around the stadium. We chose not to do this but for football enthusiasts i’m sure it would be a fantastic experience.

The free walking tour will enable you to see the Seleron Steps, palaces and many important historical buildings. This is a 3 hour tour with very knowledgeable tour guides so tip generously at the end of the tour… they work hard for their money!

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Where we Stayed
Cobanacopa Hostel
Price: 70 BR pp/n for a 5 person dorm
Pros: Great sense of community, larger kitchen, washing machine, impressive communal areas, water fountain, great security, clean rooms and toilets.
Cons: Cold Cold shower, our of stock beer, limited kitchen facilities

Rio Forest Hostel
Price: 45 BR pp/n for a 8 person dorm
Pros: Vibrant art, friendly english speaking staff, artistic communal areas, warm showers, clean rooms and facilities, cable luggage car for luggage
Cons: Basic Kitchen with few utensils, lots of steps

Find a detailed review of Rio Forest Hostel here.

Go the Distance in Rio,

Chloe

Rio Forest Hostel Review

This is the hostel I have been looking forward to staying in the most and it didn’t disappoint. We moved here on Day 3 in Rio de Janeiro and came from the Copacabana area up to Santa Theresa in order to move closer to Central Rio.

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After a journey through winding roads, narrow streets and up very steep hills I was thankful that we had took a taxi. The mister’s foot was still not working properly, so we had to taxi it but I would recommend doing the same if your carrying all your earthly goods with you in a rucksack or two!

When we arrived we were faced by never ending steps but … there was a saving grace! What can only be described as a mini cable car came down the mountain side as a trolley for our 60L rucksacks. We were so grateful! We were greeted by the loveliest staff who also speak very good English, which was helpful. We were super early for check in but there was a place to rest our bags and plenty of places to relax and soak up the views of Santa Theresa and Lapa.

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Again, the staff were fantastic and our ‘Samboromo 8 dorm room’ was ready within 30mins. This room had 4 bunk beds, it’s own bathroom with a warm shower (this was a first for us in Brazil) and 4 large lockers inside the room and 8 just outside. The rooms were clean and supplied with clean sheets and pillows and linen was stored in the lockers.

This place is truly stunning with colourful graffiti artwork throughout the many floors and lots of comfy seated areas on balcony areas overseeing the city lights. The first main floor has a Reception and Kitchen. As well as the graffiti murals, canvas artwork transforms the building. The colours and textures of the art add to the vibe of this beautiful hostel. The Kitchen is basic, as it seems to be in hostels. Although, a few extra pans, knives and a tea towel would improve this.

The second main floor hosts the mini bar and pool. When we arrived the atmosphere up there was chilled with all the good vibes, beers and people laid by the pool. There are secluded areas shaded by trees with benches up some more steps, as well as a great photo opportunity with the front end of a VW orange campervan! Living the dream ey! There is BBQ facilities up there too which we by accident stumbled upon a birthday BBQ party! Blissfully unaware, we were invited across for some food by pleasant Brazilianoes that made us feel very welcome. As it is low season, it is quite quiet in the day time so this added a great atmosphere.

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The mini bar and pool area is also where the Free Breakfast is on a morning. We were delighted to see an array of food, drinks and utensils on offer. We had cereal, toasties, fruit, coffee and juice, so we were set up for the day. It was lovely to see healthy looking fruit that was well covered (elsewhere food can often be left out for a while!)

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This place is literally built into the side of the mountain, it is incredible! We have seen lizards, birds and even got to see 5+ little monkeys keen for their banana breakfast too!
Our 8 person dorm cost 45.00BR each which is £10.38 pp/n. The dorms range from 9 person at 40BR to a family room at 220BR. As we arrived in low season we had the dorm to ourselves with its own bathroom. You cannot beat the service, the smiles of the staff, the vibrant artwork, clean rooms and chilled atmosphere, especially for the money!

While in Santa Theresa we stumbled across the Secleron Steps and completed a walking tour in Downtown Rio and Lapa, which are both walking distance of Rio Forest Hostel. There will be a blog featuring ‘Things to do in Rio’ to soak up more knowledge before you arrive, coming soon.

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If you would like to stay at Rio Forest Hotel, I recommend taking a look at their website, Facebook or Instagram. However, for simplicity and best rates book through booking.com.

We intend to return to Rio Forest Hostel in the future in Carnival Season.

Go the Distance in Rio,

Chloe