You would be hard pressed to find a place in the world where people enjoy themselves more than the Brazilians do. Prepare to lose yourself in the infectious rhythms of street music, glorious stretches of white sandy beaches and lush expanses of the rainforest. Brazil’s attractions range from pulsating, year-round nightlife to serene red-rock canyons and colourful coastal reefs.
Cities to visit
Rio de Janeiro - one of the most vibrant places on Earth. Brazil’s most visited city is famous for its mountains, landmarks, beaches and epic Carnival celebrations.
Florianopolis - this island city—once dubbed ‘the best place to live in Brazil’—brims with crystal blue lakes and lagoons, amazing nature and undeveloped beaches.
Sao Paulo - Brazil’s largest city is known for its impressive modern skyline, rich multi-cultural community and delicious dining experiences.
Salvador - one of the oldest cities in the Americas, where beautiful historic buildings sit along a coastline offering fantastic swimming and surfing.
Olinda - situated on the Atlantic coast, Olinda’s red-roofed houses sprawl across a tree-lined hilltop. The ‘Old Town’ area is a web of colourful colonial-era houses, churches, restaurants and art studios.
Iguazu National Park
It’s easy to see why Iguazu National Park is World Heritage Listed. The unspoiled rainforest is home to wildlife such as jaguars, giant anteaters, ocelots (dwarf leopards) and howler monkeys. The park’s main attraction is Iguazu Falls, a massive semicircular series of waterfalls over 80 metres high and 2,700 metres across. The falls sit on an ancient lava flow, spanning the border between Brazil and Argentina.
Climb Sugarloaf Mountain
One of the most beautiful views you will have of Rio de Janeiro is found on top of this mini-mountain. Located in the quiet neighbourhood of Urca, you can hike the first 220 metres for free but if you’d prefer to sit back and relax, you can buy a ticket for the cable car that runs up to Urca Hill and then on to Sugarloaf Mountain. Either way, it’s worth it—the 360-degree view from the summit takes in Rio de Janeiro, neighbouring Niteroi city, Guanabara Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.
Dance the night away
If you love to party, you will never be short of a trendy cocktail bar, nightclub or beach cafe. It goes without saying that Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo have amazing nightlife—venues like the Rio Scenarium, Lapa 40 Graus, Cafe Cultural Sacrilegio (all in Rio), Bourbon Street Music Club and Skye Bar (Sao Paulo) will give you a taste of what’s on offer. To the north, the city of Recife is known for its dance clubs and, to the south, Curitiba is a top destination for lovers of the alternative and indie scene.
It’s one of the world’s largest parties—the Carnaval do Brasil (or simply ‘Carnival’) is celebrated in cities and towns across Brazil. Officially, Carnival is an annual five-day festival held between the Friday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. However, celebrations can begin weeks in advance and some towns keep on partying for weeks afterward. Rio is the Carnival capital, throwing a wild and colourful street party that peaks with a parade of brightly decorated floats, samba dancers and giant papier-mache heads.
Foods to eat
Brazilian barbecue - Churrascarias (barbecue restaurants) will charcoal-grill a variety of meats on skewers including pork, lamb, wild boar and chicken hearts.
Moqueca - Fish and/or other seafood are stewed in diced tomatoes, onions and coriander and served piping hot in a rustic clay pot.
Acaraje - Usually sold as a snack, it consists of a deep-fried patty of crushed black-eyed peas, palm oil and pureed onions, stuffed with dried prawns and a spicy puree of nuts, bread and seafood.
Feijoada - Eaten across the country, this hearty stew of black beans, sausages and various pork cuts (possibly including ears and trotters) takes 24 hours to make the traditional way.
Hit the beach
Beach life is heavily ingrained in Brazilian culture. Young and old, you’ll often find the locals enjoying a day of surfing, beach volleyball, soccer and suntanning. Best of all, there’s over 7,000 kilometres of Atlantic Ocean coastline for travellers to choose from. At city beaches—such as the world-famous Copacabana and Ipanema beaches—the waterfront action never stops. If you prefer a more chilled-out vibe, Prainha Beach is flanked by rainforest-covered mountains.
Swim with dolphins
Praia da Pipa, located in the northeastern corner of Brazil, used to be a sleepy village until it was ‘discovered’ by surfers in the 70s. In addition to beautiful beaches, its granite cliffs and coconut palm-lined coves are home to spinner dolphins. Charter boats are always available, and several tours let you swim up close with pods of wild dolphins, where you may even be joined by giant sea turtles.
Visit a legendary rainforest
The Amazon, covering much of northwestern Brazil and extending into several other South American countries, is the world’s largest tropical rainforest. It’s famous for the wide variety of plants and animals found under its canopy, as well as for the mighty Amazon River. There’s plenty of ways to experience the jungle, including guided walks, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, sports fishing, canopy climbs and riverboat cruises. And when you’ve filled your sightseeing quota of toucans and macaws, you can sleep in the heart of the Amazon at one of the many luxurious eco-lodges.
Soccer is something of a religion in Brazil. The national team is one of the best in the world, and Brazilian players such as Pele and Ronaldo are considered among the best of all time. The good news for tourists hoping to catch a match is that soccer is played nearly year-round. Rio de Janeiro hosts four major teams — the Flamengo, Fluminense, Botafogo and Vasco. While Vasco has its own home ground, the other three always play at Maracana Stadium (home of the 2014 FIFA World Cup). Match tickets can usually be purchased at the stadium on game days, unless it is a major game or championship.
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