Ilha Grande, Brazil

A two-hour drive from Rio de Janeiro, you will find yourself in paradise. Ilha Grande is an island off the coast, totally unspoilt, with turquoise water, lush green hills and waterfalls.Ilha Grande-4

We joined a boat excursion for the day from Rio, and after a boisterous ride out to the island with singing musicians and dancing Brazilians, we spent the day swimming, sunbathing and diving off the boat. Ilha Grande-1Ilha Grande-2Ilha Grande-3

A day excursion was fantastic, but spending a few days (as many of the backpackers we met were doing) would be even better.

Formerly a prison (very effective location… why would anyone want to escape?), the Big Island has snorkelling, hiking trails, surfing and scuba diving. There is a handful of restaurants and accommodation in the main town of Vila do Abraão, where most of the ferries from the mainland dock.

Good to know: There are no ATMs on the island.

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If you are ever in Rio, ensure you make time for trip to Ilha Grande.