by Heather Cassell

It’s great that Brazil has its first woman President Dilma Rousseff, who is in her second term of office, but she’s not the reason we’ve selected Brazil as one of the places to go in 2016 … or more accurately put, she’s only part of the reason. Under her leadership Brazil’s economy is tilting in travelers’ favor as the Summer Olympics approaches in August. Right now the estimated exchange rate for the US dollar to Brazil’s real is $1 to 4.02110, that exchange rate is projected to jump to potentially 5.96 – 6.91 real for $1 when the games begin in Rio de Janeiro this summer.

Bad economics and poor politics are a bad example for a woman leader (Dilma has fallen upon controversy and calls for her to be ousted as her campaign promises have flat lined), however with that all aside, Brazil is a spectacular place that has lived in my imagination from childhood since I saw “Black Orpheus (English Subtitled),” which was filmed in Rio. Rio isn’t the only city in Brazil that’s on Girls That Roam’s mind. That was just the starting point of decades of building up the hype in my imagination. Brazil is a huge and lush country slightly smaller than the US from its cities too its wilderness. The Amazon River and forest running through it, to surf and sunbathing ready beaches, to bustling cities full of art, culture, music, and food.

Where To Go:

Beaches: Florianopolis is 1 hour and 20 minutes south from Rio by air and Rio Grande do Norte, endearingly known as the “elbow of South America,” is 3 hours north by air from Rio. These locations are in opposite directions but boast of incredible beaches. Florianopolis, the capital of the Santa Catarina state of Brazil, is a popular resort town popular with boaters, surfers, and windsurfing and of course sunbathers. Rio Grande do Norte’s capital city Natal boasts of 233 days of sunshine a year, reported National Geographic Traveler. With that amount of rays of sun kissing the earth it’s already popular with beach goers, but now it’s offering up visitors more than endless beaches. Investors – private and public – are tapping into the local art, culture, history, and music and serving up mouth watering cuisine to die for just as a way to polish up restoring it to its heyday when WWII US troops were stationed in the area.

Cities: So, you bet Rio is on our mind with its spectacular Carnival, February 5 – 10 and the Summer Olympics, August 5 – 21, but we also have our sights set on Sao Paulo, south of the famed city, and Salvador, north of Rio.

Oh Rio, I can hear Super G singing “Copacabana” and see her eyeing the ladies of the Ipanema Beach while I wander through the streets checking out everything and attempting to samba all while the Christ the Redeemer statue atop Mt. Corcovado overlooks the bustling city. Visitors can also get a birds-eye view of Rio taking the cable cars up to Sugarloaf.

We are curious how Rio is going to handle the Summer Olympics after the issues it had handling the influx of visitors for the World Cup in 2014. Girls That Roam will be scouting it out late this spring before the Olympics. We will report back for Girl Roamers who are planning on heading to Rio for the games this summer.

Bursting with life, Sao Paulo, is where urban travelers want to go. The financial heart of Brazil beats with the pulse of art, architecture, cultural, gastronomical delights, colorful nightlife and so much more. It is a vastly complex and richly diverse city that lives deeply and “sucks out all the marrow of life,” in Henry David Thoreau’s words literally. It is one of the few cities where you will feel really alive and in the moment. Sao Paulo is only a 40 minute flight by air from Rio.

Beautiful Salvador is the center of Brazil’s arts movement and the jewel of the country’s Afro-Brazilian culture. Girl Roamers into art and architecture shouldn’t miss Salvador, which is a 1 hour and 40 minutes by air from Rio. This is a festive town, the 17th and 18th-century buildings pop with color and the gold-laden churches bedazzle visitors, music is everywhere, and festivals are just as a common. That’s just the beginning of what this Brazilian city has to offer travelers.

Country: Become an Amazon in the Amazon. OK. Bad pun. I’ll admit it. But making a trek to the Amazon jungle and river is a once in a lifetime experience, what better place to do it than in Brazil? However, the Amazon is only one of the many outdoor adventures Brazil offers. Brazil is the motherload of escapes out into nature. Eco enthusiasts can venture to amazing waterfalls, such as the Iguazu Falls, and trek through the not quite as well-known tropical rainforest at the World Biosphere Reserve of the Atlantic Rainforest, to name one or two eco adventures the South American country offers nature enthusiasts.

Oenophiles head to the Vineyard Valley (Vale dos Vinhedos) in Serra Gaúcha in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul. The emerging wine region, which has been cultivated by Italians who have graced the land since immigrating in the late 19th century produces 90% of Brazil’s wines and they aren’t bad, we are told. Wine Enthusiast named the region one of the 10 best wine travel destinations in 2013. The vines are only a 3 hour and 20 minutes by air from Rio.

Who to Travel With: We wouldn’t recommend anyone other than our friends at Brazil Ecojourneys. There’s nothing better than a) traveling with friends and b) traveling with a native. Marta Dalla Chiesa was born and raised in the Florianopolis area and her business partner and wife Lesley Cushing is from the United Kingdom. They both have extensive experience in the travel industry and they are travel leaders in Brazil. We guarantee you will have a great time traveling with Marta.

Book your next adventure with Girls That Roam Travel. Call Heather Cassell at Girls That Roam Travel at Travel Advisors of Los Gatos at 408-354-6531 or directly at 415-517-7239 or email at .

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