Sensacional notícia out of South America this week, where Brazil announced that the country will waive its travel visa requirement for tourists hailing from the United States, Canada, Australia, and Japan. Although the Olympic Games are set to run from August 5 to 21, Brazil has generously made the waiver a 90-day affair, running from June 1 until September 18.
For U.S. tourists in particular, this waiver will save you $160—nearly enough to buy your weight in caipirinhas, the country's famous sugarcane and lime cocktail. But for those who would rather put their newfound savings to use outside of Rio de Janeiro's lively botecos, here are five things to do in Brazil during the visa waiver window beyond the Olympics.
Olinda: This Portugese colonial town on Brazil's northeast coast dates back to the 1500s, and it has the centuries-old convents, monasteries, and churches to prove it. Today, Olinda has been reborn as an artistic haven, where visitors can spend their days learning the traditional coco de roda dance (a predecessor to today's samba with roots in pre-colonial Africa) with Erasto Vasconcelos or taking traditional puppetry classes with Leila Leal. This picturesque cliffside town overlooking the sea was once a thriving port in the global sugarcane trade, and today lives on as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Trancoso: This beach town is a perennial favorite getaway of Andy Cohen and Anderson Cooper, both of whom have regaled anyone who will listen with tales of their adventures in the tiny charmer. Reminiscent of the surfer villages that dot the coastlines of the Hawaiian islands, Trancoso retains its character both by way of the Bahia town's strict environmental preservation laws that limit development and the necessity of taking an hour-long taxi ride into town after flying into Porto Seguro Airport. Trancoso isn't the easiest destination in Brazil to reach, which ought to provide a peaceful contrast to the booming sights and sounds of Rio during the Olympics.
Inhotim: Contemporary art may not necessarily be synonymous with Brazil at first glance, but only because visitors to the country may not know where to look. The Centro de Arte Contemporânea Inhotim in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais exists in a constant state of transition, with site-specific installations from some of the world's most notable modern artists like Carlos Garaicoa and Hélio Oiticica dramatically changing the museum's grounds for a limited time only, ensuring that each trip is a unique and memorable experience.
Manaus: Put your body to the test in the capital of the Brazilian state of Amazonas with a five-day survival tour of the jungle. Fish for your own food, construct your own tent, and build your own fire each night—with the assistance of a guide, of course. Once you've proven your mettle, canoe down the Rio Negro to its intersection with the Solimões and watch as the Amazon River literally takes shape before your eyes in the phenomenon known as the Meeting of the Waters. The area doesn't lack for tour companies and guides, so do a bit of homework in advance to decide on a trek that fits your budget and level of experience.
Paraty: We'll forgive you if you don't quite remember the 1983 Brazilian movie Gabriela, filmed in this quaint town located in between Sāo Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Much of the film's set still remains in tact and guests can actually stay in the film's bar now that it has been converted to the Pousada Girasol inn (Pousada do Seu Walter on many maps). Don't let the town's small size fool you though. Paraty is known in South America as something of a major festival destination. Tourists to the town during the visa waiver window can take part in the Literary Festival (June 29-July 3) and Pinga Festival (August 10-14), celebrating the famous Brazilian sugarcane liquor.
If you don't call one of the four eligible nations home, have no fear. Brazil already has bilateral travel agreements with more than 80 countries that allow citizens to cross borders without paying a fee.
Note: Check CDC guidelines before you go to make sure you're prepared with the latest information about the Zika virus.