The world’s fifth largest country in both size and population, Brazil has much to offer, from beaches and mountains, to cities and nature.  Join Kelley Ferro as she journeys through Brazil giving viewers a taste of the all diverse experiences encountered while on tour with a member of the United States Tour Operators Association.  Videos in partnership with EMBRATUR and

Let Your Adventurous Spirit Run Wild in Brazil

Brazil is a country filled with adventure and active pursuits. With the help of USTOA, EMBRATUR and, Kelley Ferro spends three days ziplining, grotto swimming, cave snorkeling, mountain hiking and photographing waterfalls in Chapada Diamantina National Park located in the Northeastern Brazilian state of Bahia.

Taste the Food Culture of Brazil

 A melting pot of ethnicities, accents, and cultures, the food of Brazil is truly unique, offering a variety of dishes.  Join Kelley Ferro as she explores all the local flavors of Brazil while on tour with a member of the United States Tour Operators Association.  Videos in partnership with EMBRATUR and

Capture the Beat of Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro is a large seaside city in Brazil, famed for its energy, beaches and Christ the Redeemer statue. With so much to see and do, members of the United States Tour Operators Association provide travelers with local guides to ensure guests don’t miss a beat of this lively city. contributor Kelley Ferro gives an insider look at the nightlife, neighborhoods, shopping, locals and more in Rio. Videos in partnership with EMBRATUR and

Experience the Brazilian State of Bahia

Video journalist Kelley Ferro starts her Brazil tour in Salvador, the capital of the Northeastern Brazilian state of Bahia. With the help of USTOA, EMBRATUR and, Kelley is immersed in the local Bahia culture from participating in the Brazilian tradition of the “Lembrança do Senhor do Bonfim da Bahia” wish bracelets to learning how to make Brazil’s national cocktail, the caipirinha.

By Colin Roohan, AFAR Ambassador

The mention of Rio conjures up images and emotions for everyone. A funky, hip, fun city, it is a mix of Mother Nature’s paradise and man-made amenities. It’s a place where coastal roads hug the huge craggy mountain faces that jut up towards the sky, and a place that throws one of the biggest parties on earth! I had the pleasure of visiting Rio de Janeiro with EMBRATUR, and LATAM as a part of AFAR’s partnership with USTOA, and although we only had about a day to zip around the city, our itinerary took us to some of Rio’s timeless attractions along with a few that fly under most travelers’ radars.

Our group woke early and took a bus up a winding, densely forested road to Corcovado Mountain, home of the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue. It was early enough that we beat the crowds, but unfortunately on this morning, we also beat the sunshine. Clouds, rain and haze surrounded the platform in front of Christ the Redeemer barraging the statue in a cloak of grey. After roughly 10 minutes, the cloud hovering overhead passed and revealed the statue in its full grandeur. Those that were present on the platform below began frantically taking pictures and selfies before another ominous cloud slowly rolled in, replacing the previous. As nice as it was to see the statue in front of a blue-sky backdrop, the quickly moving storm clouds made the statue even more impressive – all 98 feet of Christ’s form seemingly floating through a mass of haze.

From Corcovado, our local guide, Rodrigo, and I split from the rest of the group and headed to one of Rio’s better known areas, the Lapa neighborhood – the yin to Copacabana and Ipanema’s beach-scene yang. Lapa is a playground of motion and we quickly got caught up in the morning commuters buzzing about the streets, briefcases and aromatic coffee in tow. What I loved about Lapa was the eclectic mix of artistic influences from graffiti and murals to colonial architecture and oddly futuristic buildings – the embodiment of Rio, albeit on a smaller scale.

Undoubtedly, and for good reason, the coolest thing in Lapa is the Escadaria Selarón, a colorful, mosaicked set of steps embellished with bits of tile, ceramics and mirrors created by artist and former local Jorge Selarón. The Chilean-born Selarón began his beautification of the steps as a dedication to the Brazilian people, but what started as a small scale mosaic blew-up in scale and popularity through the years becoming an obsession for Selarón. In the later years of the project, visitors from all around the world donated tile to Selarón’s art piece. Walking up the steps, I found spotting the various cultural references fascinating as they really show how many people Selarón inspired with his art.

Later that afternoon, the same clouds that earlier graced the hem of Christ’s garment had relocated to Copacabana Beach. Fortunately, after a while the rain stopped and pedestrians started to emerge, repopulating the cycling lanes and walkways lining the beach. The little cafés brushed water off of their chairs and readied their bar stations, and even though the weather wasn’t ideal, it was easy to see why these beaches are so appealing. I sat down with a coffee and watched groups of men juggle a soccer ball while others competitively pummeled a volleyball back and forth. I didn’t get the picturesque beach-scene sunset that is often depicted in travel shows and movies but just being present and enjoying the distinctive vibe was rewarding enough.

Later that evening our group headed back to Lapa to get a taste of the night life. As I suspected, the night crowd around Lapa was as energetic as the commuters I had encountered that morning. You could tell Rio de Janeiro is a city where citizens work and play equally as hard. As we walked toward a boulevard full of cafes and restaurants, we were sidetracked by a rhythmic raucous coming from inside a dimly-lit warehouse. We peaked inside and were greeted by the sound of drums thumping heavily while a circle of musicians swayed along to the beat. We watched for a while then headed back outside where tables and chairs began filling the sidewalks, making it tough to discern where one restaurant ended and another began. The whole area was filled with a cheery air, such as that of a family function. It was the perfect way to cap off a day in Rio de Janeiro, and surprisingly, I didn’t regret that I had only been able to explore for one day. It is such a charming city that it made a very vivid and lasting impression, one that will stick with me until my next visit!

Colin Roohan is a travel photographer interested in documenting experiences with culture and life. In addition to his work with AFAR, Colin has been published in Travel + Leisure, The Royal Geographical Society’s Hidden Journeys, and Groove Magazine, amongst others. In addition to journalistic pursuits, Colin captures portraits and documents events around Southern California. Hear more about his journey to Brazil at

by Colin Roohan, AFAR Ambassador

When I learned I would be going to Brazil with EMBRATUR and LATAM as part of AFAR’s partnership with USTOA, I was extremely excited yet a little concerned as my knowledge of the country was limited. Almost everything I knew came from a high school friend who had emigrated from Brazil to the United States when he was fairly young.

I learned my group and I would be spending the majority of the time in the state of Bahia, a place I would soon come to know as a beautiful, flamboyant mixture of culture and excitement with charismatic people and intoxicating landscapes. We would start the journey in the state’s capital (and third largest city in Brazil), Salvador, one of the oldest colonial cities in the Americas, then head to the less populated pastures of Brazil’s Chapada Diamantina National Park which is an enormous area full of caves, grottos and rough terrain conducive to exploring.

Salvador is a historically rich and vibrant city that dates back to the 1500s and is often referred to as “Brazil’s Capital of Happiness.” Simply walking around Salvador’s Pelourinho (Historic Center) neighborhood provides a clear sense of this happiness. The buildings were seemingly painted by a coalition of ornery toddlers all trying to out-do each other, one building’s color more outlandish than the next. The neighborhood has an interesting mix of architecture and landscapes that keep you on your toes; the scenery is as random as the town’s paint choices. We made our way through the cobblestone streets of the Pelourinho neighborhood, weaving our way through the constant concrete rainbow. We took the iconic, Art-Deco Lacerda Elevator to Salvador’s commercial district on the waterfront, and after taking a few photos of the beautiful harbor, walked through the Mercado Modelo, a market with numerous vendors selling everything from flavored Cachaca (popular sugar cane alcohol used to make Caipirinhas) to vibrant, textural paintings created by local artists.

The next order of business was to re-fuel, so we headed to the most popular snack stall in the city to dine on acaraje, a bun made from ground white beans, deep-fried, split in half and stuffed with various toppings. The food stand was a hive of activity, especially around the preparation counters where customers in the queue were placing and customizing their orders to go. We were greeted by the restaurant’s owner, who simultaneously took orders while explaining acaraje to us. She was unfazed by the chaotic atmosphere and had an ever-present glow on her face while mentally tallying order totals. She led me over toward a huge vat of bubbling oil that smelled rich and nutty and placed a few buns into the oil. The aroma was magnificent and after a few seconds the golden brown morsels were retrieved, blotted, and then placed in a small serving basket. They were then sent to be topped and after eyeballing a few options, I went with the one that seemed to be most popular with the locals – finely chopped tomatoes and peppers, whole cooked shrimp and a spicy pepper-based sauce. The result was wonderfully satisfying, and oddly enough, it reminded me of a hush-puppy stuffed with incredibly fresh shellfish and vegetables.

That evening, we sat in on a capoeira demonstration at a private academy. Our local guide, Rodrigo, had been training with the academy for a few days prior to our arrival, so we had an instant connection with the soulful practitioners. We met the master who quickly showed his physical prowess. As the group began doing their warm-up routine, he showed his extreme dexterity, at times balancing on his hands for unreasonable periods of time! The room became a furnace of collective body heat as the athletes rolled, jumped and walked about on their hands, using every inch of the provided space. (A few times I had to move my camera back for fear of it catching an errant foot!)

Once the warm-up was complete, the “sparring” portion of capoeira began. Several of the students took their places in the corner of the room; one behind a large drum, the others with a percussion instrument known as a berimbau. Like a well-orchestrated ensemble, the members began filling the room with the distinct sound of the berimbau, followed by a djembe-deep bass line. As soon as the group started in with their chanting, goose bumps surfaced on my skin. The athletes began moving in an elegant yet primal way: a backwards handstand suddenly turning into a high kick, one contestant sliding backward through an opponent’s legs. It was truly a memorable moment even though I wasn’t a member of the group; the collective feeling of comraderie embraced everyone in the room.

The following morning our group left Salvador and headed to tranquil and scenic Lençóis, a quiet town on the edge of the enormous Chapada Diamantina National Park, which serves as one (if not the major) hub for exploring the park. Lençóis would be our home for the next three days, and with its immediate appeal, that was fine by all of us.

The town spreads from a river basin up into the hills, bisected by the flowing river. There were more people on foot than in cars, random dogs barking and kids playing soccer. We stopped for acai and as time passed, surrounding restaurant owners began pulling out tables and chairs while musicians and performers set up in the streets. Soon the city of Lençóis would take on another persona— that of a socialite who enjoys Caipirinhas and can strum a mean folk song, the gayety infectious.

Just after sunrise the following morning, I woke up as the surrounding hills were still shedding their morning mist. In the parking lot, our driver awaited the group next to an old, army-green Toyota 4X4 playing some 90s’ rock and wearing a grin on his face. The ride that day was great: scenic off-roading with stops at the large and violently flowing Primavera Waterfall and the pristine blue-tinted water of Poco Azul.

For me, the highlight was the Poco Encantado, or Enchanted Pool. At first I was curious what I had gotten myself into as I was outfitted with a helmet and head lamp, but as we ascended into the earth, I was pleased to learn that we would not be spelunking too far before reaching the viewing area. We had to reach the pool at a certain time in order for the sunlight to pour into the cave and shine into the pool, causing it to omit a bluish hue. The combination of the sun hitting the unique, mineral-laden water plus the pools’ reflection of the top of the cave created one interesting optical illusion, making it tough to discern how deep the pool actually was and what contents lay beneath its surface.

The next day we traversed more of Chapada Diamantina National Park, swam at the Pratinha e Gruta Azul and explored the nearby Poco do Diabo. Towards the end of the day, we made our way up into the mountains to view the sunset from atop Pai Inacio Hill. There were roughly 30 other hikers, everyone taking in the incredibly vivid pastel colors provided by the ascending sun and trying to keep warm in the face of a very strong wind. Chapada Diamantina National Park had some truly stunning geography but seeing these mesa-like mounds amid the vast valley was something I was not expecting. Surprises like these are what make traveling extraordinary.

Bahia is an incredibly diverse region of Brazil and one that often gets overlooked by tourists. If you’re looking for an adventure outside of the bustling cities of Central and Southern Brazil, I highly recommend a trip to Lençóis and some time in Chapada Diamantina National Park. For other great travel recommendations from like-minded travelers and adventure seekers, visit

Colin Roohan is a travel photographer interested in documenting experiences with culture and life. In addition to his work with AFAR, Colin has been published in Travel + Leisure, The Royal Geographical Society’s Hidden Journeys, and Groove Magazine, amongst others. In addition to journalistic pursuits, Colin captures portraits and documents events around Southern California. Hear more about his journey to Brazil at