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5 days in South America - Brazil or Argentina? (Sao Paolo and Rio excluded)

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Hello keen and expert travellers,

I need your advice on how to spend the last 5 days of my trip to Brazil in Oct this year. I'll be on a business trip for 1 month in Brazil, based in Uberlandia in Menais Gerais, from Sep to Oct – during the weekends I plan to visit Sao Paolo and Rio, and maybe Ouro Preto.

After my work is finished I plan to stay back for 5-6 days. I'm having trouble deciding whether I should spend those days in other cities in Brazil to visit Brasilia, Salvador or the Iguazu Falls and surrounding, or I should fly to Argentina to visit Buenos Aires and the surrounding.

I'm more interested in the culture side (architecture, food, market, music) and nice landscape – more on the cities side and beautiful rural landscape – rather than the beaches (I'm travelling solo, and I normally prefer to have vacations along the beach with families and friends) or the wild (I'm not going to the Amazon because of the long distance travel and I'm afraid of crocodiles).

I'm from Vietnam, and I think this maybe the only chance in life that I can visit South America (it's a long flight, and very expensive). Therefore I'm torn between covering more of Brazil or visiting another country.

FYI, I've been to a few countries in Western Europe and Asian countries. I'm flying out of Brazil from Sao Paolo GRU airport.

Can you please help inspire my decisions? Thanks a lot.

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    Based on your itinerary and departure airport, I would say spend these days in Brazil.

    Based on your interests (architecture, food, market, music and not beaches/the wild), then I would definitely say go to BA.

    If you genuinely have 6 spare days then it may be worth going to BA as the food is amazing, the tango shows are excellent, there are many markets and lots of nice architecture. Although I'm guessing that a return flight from Brazil will not be cheap - how is your budget? Although with flight times and connection etc, you may only have 4 days on the ground in BA which might be a bit tight to see it properly.

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    Given that this may be the only chance for you to visit South America, I would strongly recommend taking the trip to Buenos Aires (I've visited both cities: Rio and BA and loved them both - BA a little more than expected and probably topped Rio). We considered a trip to Salvador however after extensive research, decided against it (seems only worth going for 2 nights and a quite a bit rundown, unfortunately). BA on the other hand, has a great city vibe. Great, active night life(live music, interactive and communal dinners, parties, lots of excellent restaurants, etc). Predictably, I would recommend staying in either Recoletta (think Chicago or NY's Upper East Side) or in Palermo (think downtown Manhattan or downtown Brooklyn). I suspect Palermo may be more your cup of tea...more of a melting pot. Restaurant and bar scene there is awesome! Our days were packed with many typical day tours: visiting Boca for lunch (great history), watching impromptu tango dances in the middle of the street, Japanese Garden, the union square, etc. There really was a lot to do there. We spent 10 days, and we did not run out of things to do - you can choose how much or how little you want to do...go for it, you'll have a really great time - I would be very surprised if you didn't.

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    "We considered a trip to Salvador however after extensive research, decided against it (seems only worth going for 2 nights and a quite a bit rundown, unfortunately)."

    Sorry you decided against Salvador. Your great loss, that hopefully you can make up for one day on another trip.

    The OP mentioned "the culture side (architecture, food, market, music" and Salvador does indeed fit the bill in a very unique way.

    Salvador is an exciting city with lots to see---and hear (the world-famous local music styles and star bands/singers that contribute to Salvador's exciting Carnaval are great fun). There are lots of opportunities to hear music, from the weekly "bencao" in Pelourinho to the small clubs in the Rio Vermelho neighborhood, where you can mix with the gracious locals and drink an ice-cold beer on the praca.

    The pastel Colonial architecture in the Pelourinho historic district is lovely. The neighborhood has gold-encrusted church interiors, many lively bars and restaurants, museums that show off the rich culture and history of the area, many music venues, great shops and good people watching. A short day trip away is the charming Colonial river port of Cachoeira/Sao Felix, with traditional architecture of the era and festivals that attract thousands of international visitors yearly, and the traditional town of Santo Amaro with its Saturday outdoor market (a riot of food choices), and its traditional architecture and ambience.

    The food of the Bahia region is unique, including delicious coconut milk based seafood stews (moqueca) that use the fresh local catch (which you can see being brought ashore at Porto da Barra), and the signature acaraje (a type of African bean fritter topped with sauces and shrimp). There are two well-known ice cream shops whose rich tropical-fruit "sorvette" may be the best you ever taste, and the locally made Capelinha brand popscicles in mouth-watering flavors.

    Local markets in Salvador include the colorful Sao Joaquim market where food and all sorts of interesting related (cooking) items are found, the huge Mercado Modelo with local craft products and souvenirs, many shops in Pelourinho with interesting goods (including the gorgeous African based designs for hand-made clothing by the gifted Goya Lopes at her shop Didara in Pelourinho), a museum quality craft shop in the Barra neighborhood near the urban beach, a leather market with hand-made items of excellent quality, as well as many other interesting local shops.

    And the beaches !!!!!!!!!!! From the lively urban beach at Porto da Barra, to the gorgeous Guarajuba or Jacuipe a short way to the north of the city, to the calm beaches of rural and traditional Itaparica island a ferry ride away, to some of those for an overnight like Morro do Sao Paulo, Boipeba, or Barra Grande........

    But Salvador's most wonderful "feature" is her people--smiling, helpful, open folks who can make your trip a delight.

    I highly recommend Salvador as a destination.

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