A world of road trip adventures can be had if you get behind the wheel of a car. The sense of achievement that comes from driving the country's coastal byways, inland highways and high mountain roads will stay with you for the rest of your life.

With the opt-in approach to road traffic laws and the fact that most of Brazil's rodovas are unsurfaced, undivided roads, driving in this huge country isn't always easy. Road travel in Brazil gets a lot easier if you stick to daytime driving.

A road trip through Brazil can be an uplifting adventure if you take it slow and carefully. There are many road trips in Brazil.

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Rio-Santos Road

Best road trip for beautiful beaches

The distance is 341 miles.

It is not the fastest way to get between the two cities, but it is the most fascinating. The route takes in all the curves of the coastline, passing thousands of beaches and hundreds of islands, some of which are worth an overnight stop.

The journey can be completed in two or three days. The road was built in the 70s and has views of the ocean for most of the way, as well as crossing sparkling rivers and fishing villages. Praia do Félix and Itamambuca are two of the best beaches north of Ubatuba.

Leave time for other things as well. Along the way, you can explore waterfalls, hike in the dense Atlantic Forest, and taste cachaa at distilleries. The seafood-rich cooking tradition of the coastal communities in Brazil's southeast is known as caiara cuisine.

Woman walking past colorful colonial architecture in Ouro Preto, Brazil
The colonial-era town of Ouro Preto is known for its steep cobbled streets © Danny Lehman / Getty Images

The Royal Road

Best road trip for historical sites

Ouro Preto–Paraty is a distance of 710 km.

A major slice of Brazil's colonial history can be found on the Royal Road. The Estrada Real was built on the labor of thousands of enslaved people from the 17th century onward to connect the mining towns in Brazil's interior with the ports in Paraty and later Rio de Janeiro. It's the usual colonial story.

Many of Brazil's most striking Portuguese-era townships are linked by the route today. Maps and a Royal Roadpassport can be provided by the Instituto Estrada Real, which can be used to find a route. The colonial towns of Ouro Preto, Tiradentes, Mariana and Congonhas are known for their Baroque churches and steep cobbled streets.

A 4x4 is a must if you want to drive the Caminho Velho. The route begins in Ouro Preto and ends in Paraty, both UNESCO World Heritage sites. Traditional cheesemakers and restaurants serving comida mineira are located along the way to visit waterfalls. There are many festivals on the route, including film, photography, and food.

Dancers at a festival in Salvador, Brazil
Salvador is a vibrant hub for Afro-Brazilian culture © Peter Adams / Getty Images

The Northern Bahian coast 

Best road trip for sea views

Aracaj–Boipeba is 578 km long.

The Discovery Coast is one of the evocative names applied to specific stretches of the coastline. The best approach to take on this road trip is to stop as often as possible for fresh seafood lunches and dips in the sea because no one is rushing.

The start of the Coconut Coast can be reached from the Sergipe state capital of Aracaj. Before you reach the historic state capital and the heart of Brazil's Afro-Brazilian culture, you should visit the vacation town of Praia do Forte.

There is a regular car ferry that crosses the Bay of All Saints to Bom Despacho. To get to Boipeba Island, take a small speedboat over to Valena or Graciosa.

Lagoon in the dunes of Lençóis Maranhenses National Park, Brazil
Freshwater lagoons form during the rainy season in the dunes of Lençóis Maranhenses National Park © Luiz Felipe Sahd / Getty Images

Rota das Emoções

Best road trip for escapism

So Lus do Maranho–Jericoacoara is a distance of 609 km.

We hope that a ride on the wild side is a more poetic translation of the "Route of Emotions" There is a road connecting So Lus with the seaside vacation town of Jericoacoara on the northeastern coast of Brazil.

During the rainy season, crystal clear freshwater lagoons form across a large expanse of sand dunes. The best place to view the park is from a charter flight, but hiking, quad bikes and jeep tours are also available. The Parnaba River Delta contains dozens of islands and is best explored by boat. There are flocks of bright red guars in the sky at sunset.

One of the world's top destinations for kitesurfing is along the Cear coast, which ends in Jericoacoara, where you can relax on the beach. If you want to drive all the way to Jeri, you can deflating your tires in Jijoca or Prea and pick up a local guide. You can take a transfer by 4x4. There are parking options in the small town of Camocim.

Wild Jaguar walking through thick vegetation in Pantanal, Brazil
The jaguar is the creature everyone hopes to see in the Panatal © dickysingh / Getty Images

Estrada Transpantaneira

Best road trip for wildlife

Poconé–Porto Jofre is a distance of 150 km.

The world's largest wetlands are located in Brazil but also spilling into other countries. The forests are home to big creatures such as caimans, capybaras and jaguars, as well as a plethora of birds. The Transpantaneira road is one of the best ways to get to the more remote parts of the Panatal.

It is possible to drive a car on this dirt road during the dry season of April to September, when it is easier to see wildlife. During the rainy season, a 4x4 is necessary. Most hotels in the Transpantaneira can arrange nocturnal excursions to seek out wildlife.

The campaign was launched to encourage tourists to visit in order to help protect the region's unique flora and fauna. The Instituto Homem Pantaneiro is a local non profit organization that invests its income in local conservativism.

Walker at the top of Pico da Bandeira, Brazil
Climbing Pico da Bandeira is a highlight of a trip to Espírito Santo province © André Dib / Getty Images

Espírito Santo Mountains 

Best road trip for eating and drinking

The start and finish are in Vitria and Altodo Capara, respectively.

Some of Brazil's best hikes can be found in the green mountains of Esprito Santo. The Serra Capixaba is less than an hour's drive from the state capital of Vitoria. On a gentle route, you can find organic farms, delis, restaurants, cafes and guesthouses.

Immigrants from Germany, Italy and Pomerania arrived in this area in the 19th century and lived in relative isolation until the BR-262 was built in the 1960s. Their kitchens are where many of their traditions are found. The town of Venda Nova do Imigrante has an annual polenta festival that serves up a huge pot of polenta weighing in at more than one ton.

Hikers can climb to the top of the blue granite rock that gives the park its name if they take the 8 km detour off the BR-262. It takes another 62 miles to get to Pico da Bandeira, the third highest mountain in Brazil.

Lush green landscape of Serra do Rio do Rastro in Brazil
The road that hugs Serra do Rio do Rastro might just be the most breathtaking drive in Brazil © Micael Bergamaschi / Getty Images

Rio do Rastro

Best road trip for panoramic views

Bom Jardim da Serra is a 34 km road.

The Rio do Rastro road goes along a ridge that is covered with snow in the winter. The most breathtaking drive in Brazil is this short stretch of road, which precariously hugs a steep mountainside.

Spectacular views of the valleys below open up beside the route, and panoramic lookout points along the way allow drivers to stop and take a break. The two small towns that end the Rio do Rastro road are Lauro Muller and Bom Jardim da Serra. The Mirante Serra do Rio do Rastro is the highest point on the road. Visitors can see as far as the Atlantic Ocean on a clear day if they visit between 11 am and 3 pm.

You can take a short detour to visit the canyon, a wind farm and a hiking trail. The Barrinha waterfall and the Laranjeiras canyon are worth a visit.

The article was first published in December of 2011.