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Temperatures rising: Feel your pulse quicken in Brazil‘s megacity-on-sea, then discover tropical tranquility on its hip northern beaches…

From Sugarloaf Mountain to Christ the Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro‘s spectacular geography and many-million population make it as dramatic as destinations get. Caipirinhas, baile funk and bar-hopping are part of the electric ‘carpe diem’ culture, which reaches full Technicolor glory for the tail-feathered celebration that is Carnival in February. Whether you’re a VIP up in Joa, Brazil’s Beverly Hills, or a beach bum on Copacabana, life moves fast – dancing, flirting and posing are national pastimes. The Carioca spirit of Rio de Janeiro is intoxicating.

Skip-a-beat views over favela-dotted mountains and the white-sand-fringed Atlantic-side are a specialty of seven-room La Suite in Joa (left, view from hotel). For lower-key chic, try glamorous sister guesthouse La Maison in Gávea. Hosting the World Cup in 2014, and the Olympic Games in 2016, expect new museums and revitalized old neighbourhoods throughout Rio. Take a tram to hilly, leafy Santa Teresa and stop in an arty café abuzz with bossanova beats.

After admiring peeling colonial mansions, architecture fetishists could take the 20-minute drive to São Conrado for a dose of Brasilia’s blueprinter, Oscar Niemeyer’s 1953-built home, Casa das Canoas. Voyeurism is a cornerstone to time in Brazil: for a fashionable dinner, book a table in Philippe Starck-designed Fasano Rio. Its seafood restaurant is right on beautiful-people-beloved Ipanema.

After the resplendence of Rio, head to the no-holds-barred north, where forest and falls meet vast deserted beaches ripe for exploring. Home to stylish seaside resorts, bustling cities and a lush jungle interior, Bahia offers all that intrepid visitors to South America could crave. Catch a schooner to offshore marine parks; take a horseback ride in the surf, feast on spicy vatapá or laze in the sun while the rhythms of samba chula waft through the air. This sprawling state hundreds of miles above Rio is hedonism central.

Fly to Porto Seguro and you’ll be where Portuguese explorer Pedro Alvares Cabral first hit South America in 1500. Hip hideaway Uxua Casa Hotel is in the historic main square of the fishing village of Trancoso, 18 miles south. Seeking utter isolation?

Or, for hammock snoozes and rainforest wanders, fly to Ilhéus and check into one of 14 roomy cabanas at Hotel Fazenda da Lagao near Una. Surrounded by miles of white sand and coconut palms, these chic beach shacks are separated from civilization by a sweep of meandering lagoon (walk there at low tide).



Style Modernism outside, maximalism inside
Brazilian Beverly Hills

Located in exclusive hilltop neighbourhood, Joatinga, cliff-side retreat La Suite has the design requisites of an intimate boutique hotel, and a world-class ocean view. Light, spacious rooms, two outdoor pools in tropical gardens, and a private beach within walking distance.
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Style Boutique bed and breakfast
Upmarket Gavea

The first boutique hotel of its kind to open in Rio, 10 minutes north of Ipanema by car, the property feels like a private residence. An absence of amenities such as in-room audiovisuals, ensures La Suite’s sis feels a world away from corporate chain hotels. All five boudoirs differ: book one to match your Rio fantasy.
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Style Rustic Modernism, casual luxury
Beachside, yet at the heart of village life

The Brazilian elite and style-savvy visitors from the US and Europe, flock to Uxua’s nine private casas year round, drawn by its stunning beachside location, sustainable tourism and interiors that you’d expect to see in a magazine. Its owners have struck the balance between luxury and laid-back.
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Style Eco cabañas
Amazing Amazon lagoon

The 14 spacious cabãnas at this Bahia-coast hotel are adorned with a smart mix of bright white and bold colours by the style-sensitive owner, and they are surrounded by lush jungle the last word in beach-shack chic.
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GETTING THERE It’s an hour and 50 minute’s flight from Rio to Porto Seguro’s tiny airport and Ilhéus airport is an hour and a half from Rio. December to February is summer, so high season; Carnival in February sees long days on the beach and equally long party nights. Winter is cooler and calmer – but only just. There’s never a bad time to go to Bahia as temperatures are high all year round.

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