Brazil – the name alone conjures up images of iconic beaches, flashy carnival festivities, natural wonders of the Amazon and Iguassu Falls, not to mention recent mega world sporting events. And while those are all reasons in itself to visit Brazil, on a recent site inspection traveling with seven university partners we engaged with the local communities, businesses, and organizations.
While the options for Brazil itineraries are infinite and can vary greatly depending on a program’s focus, Rio de Janeiro is the ideal gateway city, with great flight routes, competitive hotel rates and, thanks to the recent mega events, a rejuvenated hotel market, as well as improved public transit infrastructure. I recommend staying in the Copacabana or Leme area which has accommodation options for all budgets. Ipanema is another option but rates tend to be a bit higher. All these neighborhoods offer good dining options in walking distance and access to the beach and public transit.
A few of the educational and cultural opportunities I recommend:
Learn about key social projects and non-profits that engage and empower local communities such as The Pimpolhos de Grande Rio Samba, a non-governmental and non-profit organization for children that focuses on promoting social inclusion through art and culture.
Meet with industry leaders that are driving and supporting Brazil’s development. From CDURP, the municipal company working on one of the largest urban renovation projects ever undertaken in Brazil at Porto Maravilha, to the Brazilian National Bank of Development, the main financing agent for development.
Experience the culture from Copacabana to the famed Corcovado to the up and coming Barra neighborhood to historic Lapa, Rio de Janeiro continues to exceed my expectations every time.
If time and budget allow, I recommend incorporating Salvador da Bahia into any Brazil itinerary. With its unique history, culture and development challenges and opportunities, Salvador da Bahia provides a complementary and contrasting experience to a stay in Rio de Janeiro. The city itself has been undergoing extensive renovations and no visit would be complete without experiencing the historic Pelhourinho district, the Tuesday night cultural festivities are worth experiencing. The beauty of Salvador, in my opinion, lies in its community and the organizations working to promote its citizens, from the Steve Biko Institute, a pioneering educational institute focused on preparing students for the all-important matriculation exam, to Arte Consciente Recreational and Cultural Group, a community organization that has gained immense respect by engaging youth in arts and sports. In the surrounding areas, agricultural industries and environmental programs round out the diverse opportunities in and around Salvador.
I continue to be inspired by Brazil and the Brazilian people more with each visit. The growth and change that the country is experiencing is the reason to continue to travel to Brazil. I recommend as a starting point spending 4 nights Rio de Janeiro / 3 night Salvador, but the opportunities are endless . . .