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The Most Epic Cycling Routes In Brazil

Sand dunes in Jalapão |© A. Duarte/Flickr
Sand dunes in Jalapão |© A. Duarte/Flickr
Brazil is huge; it’s the fourth largest country in the world in coterminous area (after Russia, Canada and China) with an area of 8.516 million kilometers squared, taking up nearly half of the South American continent with 26 states and one federal district. This leaves a huge amount of land just waiting to be explored and it’s hard to imagine a better way to than on one of these amazing cycle routes.

Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul – Salvador, Bahia

This is a long route from the south of Brazil to the northeast and is over 3,000 kilometers long. The route starts in Porto Alegre, the capital of Rio Grande de Sul, which is a large industrial city and follows the coastal path. This path tends to be nicely paved and with wide, hard shoulders, it’s relatively safe and avoids traffic. The path continues north, passing Florianopolis, known for its beautiful beaches, before going into São Paulo. In São Paulo state, the beaches seem more lush and green as the route leads to more tropical climates before entering Rio de Janeiro, Espirito Santos state and finally arriving in Salvador, Bahia. This route is safe but long, making it ideal for experienced cyclists, especially those that are used to cycling alongside traffic. Accomodations can be found in pousadas, little and often cheap hotels.

A beach in Salvador © Jorge Ara Saldías/Flickr

Sertão, Northeast

Sertão is a region in the northeast that is outside of the typical tourist spots and is fascinating to visit. This poor region is dependent upon agribusiness with temperatures hovering around 35 – 40 degree Celsius all year round. The air is incredibly dry and thunderstorms with strong lightning is common, so always seek shelter during a storm. This area shows a different side to Brazil and the people are curious yet friendly when a rare tourist wanders though their slow-paced life. To cycle through, follow the main truck roads going south from Teresina and down the state of Pernambuco; these roads have larger hard shoulders and are quieter during the day when truck drivers rest to avoid the heat. Look for pousadas or gas stations to sleep in, as they often rent out a place to sleep for cheap.

The dry region in the northeast, Sertão © Renato Ribeiro/Flickr

City Cycling

Some of the best cities in Brazil to cycle through are São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, João Pessoa, Vitoria, Santos, Florianopolis, Recife, Teresina and Porto Alegre. These cities have come leaps and bounds in cycle path development and although there is still room for improvement, there are great cycle route options available regardless. The best options within the cities are along the coastal roads, as not all places throughout the city have bike lanes. Rio de Janeiro has a wonderful, flat cycle path that can be easily achieved in a couple of leisurely hours. The cycle path starts in Flamengo within the park filled with palm trees; follow it over to Botafogo and admire the backdrop of the Sugarloaf Mountain before continuing into Urca with its stunning little beach, Praia Vermelha. Then, go through the tunnel and into Copacabana, following the jaw-dropping coastline towards Ipanema and Leblon, before heading over to the seven kilometer track that encircles Lagoa.

Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro © Catarina Oberlander/Flickr

Espirito Santo

Tucked between Rio de Janeiro and Bahia, Espirito Santo is largely overlooked by tourists, which makes it a fantastic cycle route for an option off the beaten track. Take the main road that follows up the coast and see the wide, tropical beaches and endless fields of pineapple and sugar cane grown by local farmers. Pay attention to the nature reserves that pass by; they are homes to boa snakes, panthers, capybaras and other exotic animals. Stop at the town Marataizes and relax by the meditative lake, Lagoa do Siri — you’ll be the only tourist there.

Circuit of Serra da Canastra , Minas Gerais

This is a well-known cycle route that goes straight through the National Park, Serra da Canastra, renowned for its natural beauty. The route from east to west is about 80 kilometers and is demanding. The most common path is to start at São Roque de Minas, the main entrance to the park, and finish at Cachoeira Casca D’anta, one of the five largest waterfalls in Brazil standing at 186 meters.

National Park of Serra da Canastra © Bart van Dorp/Flickr

A Estrada Real, Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo

This incredible route is made up of more than 1,630 kilometers of dirt track that takes you away from the city and into the natural environment. The route is broken down into four routes of different lengths, levels, preferences and themes with the paths mapped out by the Instituto Estrada Real. The routes work through Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Through these routes you can discover the history of Ouro Preto, experience the charm of colonial Paraty and wonder at the nature throughout the linking national parks.

Chapada Diamantina, Bahia

Chapada Diamantina is one of the most outstanding natural parks with exotic nature, wide open land, rocky canyons and underground pools, and is a popular route for mountain biking and cycling in general. The whole course is 270 kilometers long and visits main attractions such as A Cachoeira da Fumaça, o Vale do Pati and the Poço Azul, the latter being an absolute must-visit. Poço Azul is a large pool of water that, due to a natural phenomena, seems an immense bright blue.

The Blue Pool at Chapada Diamantina in Bahia © Danielle Pereira/flickr

Estrada da Graciosa, Curitiba to Morretes, Paraná

This wonderful path is mostly downhill cycling, which goes through the mountains of the Serra and gives a firsthand experience of the Atlantic forest. However, that ‘mostly’ part means there are some steep uphill climbs — some that are long and challenging. The road is paved and comfortable for cycling and at the end, you will reach the beautiful, historical city of Morretes, where you can try the typical food from the region, barreado, which is a hearty meat dish.

Cananéia to Paranaguá, Sao Paulo and Parana

Arguably one of the best routes, this cycle path combines kilometers of sand, islands and deserted beaches. Most of the route is cycled over beaches made from compact sand. The path takes you through the beautiful National Park of Superagui with 38 kilometers of beach, in addition to a visit to Ilha do Mel, a place famous for its paradisiacal beaches. The whole route is about 100 kilometers and is moderately easy.

Beach at Ilha do Mel © Otávio Nogueira/Flickr

Gramado to Canela, Rio Grande do Sul

This route starts at Gramado and finishes in Canela, is only 26 kilometers long and is fairly easy. The cycle can be done at a leisurely pace to enjoy the countryside and the cooler climate of the region makes the path even more pleasurable. The two cities are charming with their German-style architecture and wealth of history. There are plenty of regional breweries, too, that are worth stopping at and sampling.

Jalapão (Novo Acordo to Ponte Alta do Tocantins), Tocantins

Jalapão has been gaining popularity year after year in the natural tourism scene in Brazil. In a place of difficult accessibility by car without 4-wheel drive, cycling is a great option. The route is hard and demanding, especially due to the amount of sand on the roads, but is incredibly rewarding. This route crosses the two cities leading into Jalapao, Ponte Alta do Tocantins and Novo Acordo, and passes by Mateiros. Jalapão is a natural wonder and a trip to this region comes complete with vibrant sunsets behind large sand dunes and swimming in the blue waters of various waterfalls and crystal clear wells.

Sand dunes in Jalapão © A. Duarte/Flickr