Official language: Portuguese is the official language, with Spanish English, Italian, French and German being widely spoken
Currency: Brazilian Real
Welcome to the festival capital of the world!
Rated as one of the all-time favorite travel destinations of tourists, Brazil offers you an intoxicating mix of the bold and the oh-so beautiful. Who ever said wild Amazon jungles and exotic beaches don’t blend was surely mistaken, and you can get it all…only in Brazil. Seeing to the fact that it happens to be one of the largest countries in the world, it really comes as no surprise that Brazil is not a stop-over destination, and with so much on offer, you might need well more than a week to soak up its electric atmosphere and raw natural beauty. Just imagine…soft sandy beaches and island getaways, the Amazon Basin with its exotic fauna and flora, the wild Pantanal wetlands, hundreds of waterfalls coming together for a spectacular showdown, all wrapped up into one beautiful destination. But aside from just the natural attractions, Brazil has one thing that totally sets them apart from the rest, and that is their people. Brazilians, with their Carnival in Rio and parties in So Paulo, are simply party animals, and they make the experience that much better! Brazil has a little bit of everything for everyone. From eco-tourism for the nature lovers to extreme sports for the adventure junkies, laid back Amazonian ferry cruises for those who need to kick back and architectural sightseeing for the history buffs. There’s very little that you can’t do in Brazil!
Since Brazil is such a massive country, there are countless things that make it a famous destination. From the famed Rio Carnival to the world’s worst traffic in São Paulo, The Amazon rainforest and the mighty Amazon River system, the Christ the Redeemer Statue in Rio and the impressive coffee beans the country supplies to the rest of the world. Brazil is unique in every sense of the word.
Must see places in Brazil
Rio de Janeiro
With the Christo Redentor and the samba-school parades of Carnival, the glittering sugar loaf of Rio is a sight that is not to be missed. The setting is breathtaking with the sweep of Guanabara Bay, the granite-quartz rocky outcrops in the backdrop, the stunning beaches, the lush Tijuca Forest National Park and a booming metropolis with 12 million citizens. Rio sums up hendonism perfectly when you consider the natural attractions paired with the flair of the nightlife, bars, restaurants, the art and the bohemia. Swing by Leblon for some fashion, or grab a cocktail at a beach bar in Copacabana. You can also get a taste of art at the Museu Nacional de Belas Arte sir the Museum of Naïve Art while exploring the brutalist architecture here. When nightfall comes, the bars and clubs of Lapa and the nightlife district near Carioca Aqueduct keeps travelers entertained.
With around 20 million residents, São Paulo is a force to be reckoned with. The traffic here is terrible to say the least, so while you’re here, limit your outings and just stick to the resorts like Unique or Fasano hotels. You have to get out sometime, so while you’re out there, make the most of it and head over to the art galleries like Pinacoteca do Estado Brazilian and the MASP fine art museum. You’d also want to ensure you stop by the Parque do Ibirapuera gardens that mix architecture with botanical highlights.
Belém & Manaus
These two towns are where you’ll either start or finish your riverboat voyage up the Amazon. There isn’t much to see here except for brown water and a thin green line surrounding the river. But for that you get peace and quiet -albeit coupled with heat and humidity. Good pit-stops would include Monte Alegre with its prehistoric rock cave paintings, Santarém to see Fordlândia, Alter do Chao’s beaches and Parintins to see the colonial architecture.
Once you’re done exploring Rio, instead of heading straight to São Paulo, make sure you stop by Costa Verde so you’ll be able to see the pristine sights on the beaches of Ilha Grande, Paraty, Ubatuba,São Sebastião, Ilhabela and Santos. The Costa Verde is somewhat of an escape from the two bustling cities of Brazil and with its warm clean seas and forests of the Mata Atlântica, it’s the ultimate indulgence destination. Choose from exploring the local scenery by diving, walking or cycling or just feast on the delectable food served in the smart beach hotels.
See the world’s largest rainforest, fed by 10 of the world’s 20 largest rivers, in all its might. The Amazon River system (the one you’ll be traveling on) is the world’s largest river system. On your journey you’ll pass Belém with its lively Ver-o-Peso arket, the dockside warehouses of Estacão das Docas and then finally, Olha do Marajó, which is the largest river island in the world, measuring in at the size of Switzerland. The island is mainly uninhabited, but you’ll likely spot some scarlet ibis, cranes and water buffalo herds. Continue upriver to Tefé where you can stay in a jungle hotel in the Mamirauá Nature Reserve, the world’s largest floodplain.
Fortaleza, São Luis & Natal
For a not-so-touristic experience, head to the far north-east of Brazil and visit the towns of So Luis and Fortaleza. São Luis is known for its carnival and folk festivities, the French foundations and breathtaking architecture. It’s also close to Lençóis Maranhenses inland lagoons. Fortaleza and Natal are well known for their pristine beaches. Just south of Natal, the Rota do Sol takes you pass dozens of beachside resorts, with Pipa being the most impressive of the bunch. A 1 hour plain trip from Natal gets you to the archipelago of Fernando de Noronha with its 21 islands that form a marine park. Protected here are exotic species of marine animals like the hawksbill turtle, whales, lemon and reef sharks, clownfish and parrotfish.
Located on the Brazil/Argentina border, the Iguaçu waterfalls offer you some truly magnificent panoramic views. With hundreds of falls, in sizes ranging from tiny to the massive Devil’s Throat, this sight set in the national park is unique in every sense. The diverse plant life that surrounds the falls together with the animal life makes for one awesome experience. You might want to pop by and visit Argentina while you’re here to see the close at a closer proximity or spend the night in Puerto Iguazú.
This is Brazil’s most highly promoted wilderness destination, which means you cannot miss it. The tropical wilderness occupies the west of Mato Grosso do Sol and a part of Mato Grosso state. Pantanal translates to “wetland”, so the fact that flooding occurs in the grassland and palm savannah during the rainy season (October to May), doesn’t come as a surprise. Some of the mammals that you might get to see include the tapir, the giant anteater, the maned wolf, the giant river otter and the jaguar.
Brasilia was not shaped only the architectural influence of Oscar Niemeyer, in essence, it was his masterpiece. Coming in as one of the most remarkable cities in South America with its poured concrete, sensual curves and plain surface areas, Brasilia almost looks “too” perfect. Make sure you catch a sight of the impressive presidential residence, the Palácio da Alvorada and then make your way to Paranaíba Headwaters and Chapada dos Veadeiros national parks that from part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site for some eco-exploration.
Salvador and surrounds
Salvador is where you’ll experience Brazil’s African influence strike through with the capoeira dancers in Pelourinho and the local dishes prepped in palm oil. Salvador also has many historic sites to explore like the Elevador Lacerda, a lift between the upper and lower cities that take you between many museums and markets. Some of the beaches that are really worth spending the day at include Barra within close reach, or if you take the Estrada do Côco (Coconut Highway) just a little north, you’ll discover more serene beaches like Praia do Forte and Praia de Sitio do Conde. From Salvador you can head about 260 miles inland to Lençóis to go and explore the Chapada Diamantina National Park. There’s more than enough to see here with mesa rock formations, waterfalls, gorges, caves and shimmering pools.
Just south of Brasilia lies the hilly state of Minas Gerais. The modern architecture in the town of Belo Horizonte is a must see for colonial-era lovers. The St Francis of Assisi Church and Museu Mineiro are both definitely worth seeing. From here you can take a scenic rail trip to Vitória located in Espirito Santo, which is a great destination for enjoying the popular beaches and colonial buildings around. After you’ve stopped by Belo Horizonte, be sure to head south-east to Ouro Preto, famed for its “black gold” discovered during the gold rush in the late 17th century. What once was the capital city of the Minas Gerais state is today a discovery field with its mansions, churches and civic buildings.
Must do activities in Brazil
See the romantic side of Paraty
The historic town of Paraty on the Costa Verde offers great schooner cruises around its bay and islands. You’ll get lost in the beautifully preserved colonial buildings, boutique hotels and gourmet restaurants on offer
Tour the islands
With thousands of gorgeous islands and beaches, an island adventure is always an option in Brazil. You can take your pick; the chic resort of Búzios, peaceful Morro de São Paulo in Bahia, Ilha Grande and Ilhabela and off course, the most idyllic of all the islands, Fernando de Noronha, located about 540km off the northeast coast.
Glide across the Rio skies
In the Tijua National Park, located in Rio de Janeiro, you can embark on a tandem hang-gliding flight that gives you a unique bird’s eye view. The flight takes you over the city, its forest backdrops and then lands on São Conrado beach.
Explore Diamantina National Park
This is an absolute must, and whether you decide to take a hike, go river rafting or just soak up the tranquil atmosphere, the national park in the Bahia Mountains makes for a full day’s Brazilia eco-tourist experience. Boasting caves, underground lakes and waterfalls, there’s more than enough to ignite your inner explorer.
Get a feel for Brazilian culture in Salvador
The capital of Bahia, Salvador da Bahia, is colorful, lined with colonial-era buildings along the cobblestone streets, and culturally, as vibrant as they come. Some of Brazil’s best known musicians, artists and writers hang out here and all help collaborate to yet another unmissable Carnival every year. The town also happens to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which means the sights and sounds are truly impressive and unique.
Take a dive
Coastal Brazil has some pretty spectacular waters, ideal for diving. The best spots are probably in the north where the water is clearer and usually warmers. The island of Fernando de Noronha, with its protected marine park is a diver’s paradise, but you should also consider the Abrolhos Archipelago. In the south you might want to test the waters of Arraial do Cabo, Ubatuba and Laje de Santos.
Learn to dance the Samba!
It goes without saying that while you’re in Brazil, you HAVE to learn how to dance their most popular dance, the Samba. Your best shot for learning to move your booty is in Rio di Janeiro, where locals will happily show you the moves in an escola de samba, available a couple of months before the kickoff of Carnival.
Pick the time right
Tourists travel to Brazil March and November during the dry season
Brazil has a tropic climate and rarely sees average temperatures that drop between 20°C during the year, with the exception of the mountains and the southern regions. The interior part of the country tends to be hot and dry, while the rainforests of the Amazon jungle sees humid and warm weather. The Pantanal and Amazon are known to reach temperatures of up to 40°C. There isn’t really a right or wrong time to visit Brazil, but the most ideal time would probably be between March and November during the dry season.
Did you know?
- Rijsttafel, a smorgasbord with 12 kinds of different meats, fish, vegetables and curry dishes
- Nasi goring, a fried spiced rice dish, considered Indonesia’s national dish
- Ayam goring, fried chicken
- Soto, a soupy broth with either chicken or beef
- Sambal, a hot chilli sauce that accompanies dishes in Indonesia
- Bakso, meatballs
- Sate, a dish consisting of either beef, fish, pork, chicken or lamb that is cooked on hot coal and then dipped in peanut sauce
- Rendang, a buffalo coconut curry from West Sumatra
- Gado-Gado, is a salad with raw and cooked vegetables with a peanut and coconut milk sauce
- If you get invited to the home of a local, take a gift like flowers to show respect, but keep in mind, Brazilians associate the colors black and purple with mourning, so avoid gifts in those colors.
- Avoid heavily congested areas as they are a haven for pickpockets
- Avoid using roadside ATM’s
- Don’t take your valuables to the beach and be extra vigilant on crowded beaches
- Take this rule to heart: when you’re in Brazil, if you can’t afford to lose it, leave it at home. Don’t flash your most expensive jewelry when you’re out and about and never take too much cash with you on the street