Novo Airão, Brazil

Photo: Jason Auch from Calgary, Canada (L1002527) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Jason Auch from Calgary, Canada (L1002527) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
There are a lot of questions about the upcoming Olympics in Brazil this summer. Will all of the facilities be ready, as the organizers promised? Can the U.S. women’s soccer team win another gold medal? Is Zika virus going to dominate the headlines? But you’re thinking about more than just Rio de Janeiro. You’re trying to decide where to add a side trip while you’re visiting South America.

This is the perfect time for you to finally see the Amazon. The longest river in the world is surrounded by a dense tropical jungle. Margays, jaguars, and anacondas call the area home. National parks are larger than many U.S. states. Remote towns are only accessible by boat or seaplane. Amazon river dolphins, Amazonian manatees, and other unique species live in the river. While your lodging options are just as extraordinary.

You’re heading to Amazonas, the largest state in Brazil. Novo Airão sits nearly 200 kilometers upstream from Manaus, the state’s capital, along the Rio Negro, the Amazon’s largest tributary. Isolated tribes lived in this area for thousands of years before the Jesuits arrived in the mid-17th century. Ruined towns, petroglyphs, and more than 400 islands are now protected by UNESCO. A floating café sits near the harbor on the water. Plus swimming with the dolphins—the pink dolphins—is one of the most popular activities.

Photo: Mirante do Gavião Amazon Lodge
Photo: Mirante do Gavião Amazon Lodge

But you should see your hotel first. The Mirante do Gavião Amazon Lodge is just as spectacular as its surroundings. Its buildings, made of certified wood, blend in with the landscape. Wooden boardwalks connect the open-air structures with overflowing gardens and high lookout points. The stunning pool has a view of the river. Meals, featuring locally caught fish, are served at a communal wooden table from a spotless kitchen. Each of the suites, of which there are only seven, features a spacious terrace and a hammock. Personal guides are always ready to help you navigate the lodge and figure out your activities.

Your first stops are the lookout points. The Hawk’s Lookout is the highest point at the lodge. The Castaheira Lookout looks like the crown of a great Amazonian tree. And iguanas and sloths hang out near the Forest Lookout. They all give you a bird’s-eye view of the blackwater river and the endless jungle. After pointing out animals that blend in with the trees and identifying birds by their songs, your smiling guide offers a jungle trek, piranha fishing, and a canoe tour as your next activity. Alligator spotting happens at night. A visit to a local village can be arranged tomorrow. And he hasn’t even mentioned the dolphins yet. Your little side trip is becoming just as exciting as the Olympics.

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