Traveling across South America was a dream come true. Our adventure had just taken us from the highlands of the Andes in Bolivia along the Amazon River towards the Atlantic Ocean. The next phase of our adventure was to travel south and the first major stop on this route was Rio de Janeiro, where we pick up today. This would be the overland bus phase of our trip, traveling on a series of very very long bus routes from Brazil to Argentina. This seems like a lot of ground to cover, as there are many incredible things to see and do between Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires.
Backpacking around the continent in 2005, this was the route we chose to take from north to south. It has always been a popular route, as part of the “gringo trail” frequented by many foreigners. Our first three nights in Rio were spent mostly on the beautiful beaches in the heart of the city. We we’re introduced to and promptly fell in love with Caiphirinas – a Brazilian Mojito, made with local sugar cane Cachaça. This helped to lubricate our arrival in Brazil’s party scene. This sugary drink and many 4am nights limited our daytime excursions mainly to the 4 block walk to the beach and back to the hotel.
After returning to Rio for a few more days, we traveled along the Atlantic coast visiting a few small towns along the way. There are many great things to see between Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires – including the Waterfalls of Iguazu – and many small beach towns we visited.
What makes the travel between Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires so amazing?
Rio de Janeiro is neither the capital city of Brazil, nor it’s largest city, but it is synonymous with Brazil in the minds of people around the world. It has to be considered a cultural center of the country, and one of the most beautiful places in the world! The views from some of the many mountains in the city reflect this; the lush mountainside contrasted by the white rooftops of the buildings and the beautiful Atlantic Ocean surrounding the coastal city. Discovered in 1502 by the Portuguese and incorrectly named “The River of January”, the giant bay was never renamed and Rio de Janeiro has stood in its place ever since.
South-east of Rio is a tiny beach town called Saquarema. We came and spent a restful week surfing and lounging in the tiny beach side community. We took a boat trip along the coast, proceeded to go snorkeling in crystal clear waters with fish that would be worthy of a millionaire’s fish tank, with our day ending at a floating bar in an isolated bay just outside of town. This paradise, only an hour or so outside of Rio was an amazing detour on an otherwise hectic continent.
Our final stop was Buenos Aires, where we found ourselves party hostel called the Limehouse. We were 23 years old and ready to spend a few days in the Argentinian capital; we ended up spending a few weeks. While we didn’t spend much time sightseeing or taking pictures, we spent a lot of time meeting people from all corners of the globe, which made this a certain type of cultural exchange program or something similar.
Somewhere between Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires is the hidden gem Ilha du Mel (Island of Honey)
The distance between Rio and Buenos Aires is quite large. There were many overnight busses that helped us along the way. There were also lots of incredible food and even more drinks shared with new friends. The highlight of the southern coast without a doubt was Ilha du Meil, which at the time was a rarely visited fishing island off the coast of Paranagua.
This was the most rewarding, off the beaten track place i have ever encountered. Looking back in time, it’s most certainly been discovered in the 15 years since I visited last. The town’s road were not paves and instead covered with beach sand, and the villagers we’re ultra friendly. This is where I wish i could spend the rest of my days, with no contact with the outside world. We stayed with a local family who invited us into their lives, even though we didn’t share a language. We got to play catholic bingo with our adopted family and ended up winning a full sized duvet, which we gave to our host family. This certainly made sure this night would remain memorable evening for all involved.
This beautiful island was mostly deserted, with lots of empty beaches and rugged views to discover. Without a doubt, the highlight was the natural setting, which we discovered during a long walk mostly-circumnavigating the island.
Where is the Rio de Janeiro & Buenos Aires and how do you get there?
Well a little geography lesson will tell you these two famous destinations are actually quite far apart. They’re both coastal cities and famous for different reasons as cultural centers of the continent, but that should be where the comparisons end. You couldn’t find two place on the planet more different.
The road between these two places will allow you to visit some of the lesser known spots, including little beach towns, islands like Ilha du Miel or the famous Iguazu Falls. There is also Uruguay, the small coastal country stuck between the two big countries. This is a well worn path, so there are many routes and options for anyone making the trip.
Both Brazil and Argentina have many things worthy of your attention and this post will help to highlight a few of them. Vibrant cities with unbelievable vibes, food or drink options you have never considered and incredible natural wonders like incredible beaches. This can all be found along the road between Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires.
Rio de Janeiro & Southern Brazil
Ilha du Mel
Montevideo & Buenos Aires