The Mata Atlântica road trip from Santos to Rio de Janeiro was my first expedition in South America, and with my now wife (then girl friend) did this trip in 1988.
The Atlantic Forest stretches from northeast Brazil, south along the Brazilian Atlantic coastline and inland into northeast Argentina and eastern Paraguay.Although only a small part of the original forests remains, it is still one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet, second only to the Amazon.
Santos to Rio de Janeiro
We started our 600 KM road trip from Santos, where my in-laws lived in a beach front condo, heading north on BR 101 along the Atlantic coast, the port city soon fades and open ocean on the right and rain forest and mountains on the left come into view.
As we rode along the highway it was pretty much empty. First place we stopped was Ubatuba, an amazingly beautiful beachside town where my wife spent plenty of time with her family.
Next up was Paraty, founded in 1597 by the Portuguese the city has splendid examples of colonial architecture and is a world UNESCO site.
Further up the coast is Angra dos Reis, an archipelago of more than 300 islands and thousands of beaches. We charted a boat and spent a day out on a deserted island, swimming, sunbathing and having a Brazilian picnic.
After a week exploring the Mata Atlântica, we made it to Rio de Janeiro. I have been back to Rio many many times over the last 30+ years and it’s beauty never ceases to amaze me.
My last trip to Rio was right before the pandemic. My wife and I went Parque Nacional da Tijuca, part of Mata Atlântica ecosystem just outside Rio for a day hike and waterfalls.