As a tourist destination, no country on earth can match Brazil. It’s enormous, it’s beautiful, it’s vibrant and it’s varied. But even in a cornucopia like Brazil, some spots are better than others. This week, we round up the best of the best. Enjoy the ride…
Hit the beach
In a country that’s blessed with warm tropical waters and over 4,700 miles of coastline, you won’t have much trouble finding a beach. Locals can’t agree which state has the best beaches on mainland Brazil, but Alagoas and Bahia in the North, Rio de Janeiro (both the state and the city) and Sao Paolo (the state not the city) in the center and Santa Catarina in the South all have legitimate claims to the title. If you’re prepared to include beaches which aren’t on mainland Brazil, it’s a little easier to reach consensus: most experts agree that the archipelago of Fernando de Noronha 350km off the North-East coast of Brazil is as close as you’ll ever come to heaven on earth. The sand is finer, the water is clearer and because it’s so far from the mainland there’s much more sealife.
Nature raw in tooth and claw
The Amazon Rainforest is home to 10% of the world’s species and it produces 30% of our oxygen. The forest is enormous, and although it is shared between eight countries, almost two-thirds of it falls within Brazilian territory. The river of the same name is just as impressive, and its basin comprises 40% of Brazil’s area. A trip to the Amazon is an essential addition to any Brazilian itinerary, and travelers can choose between some truly splendid jungle lodges.
Visiting the Amazon is a truly mind-boggling experience, and although you will be certain to see some amazing birds and monkeys you would need a lot of luck to clap eyes on a jaguar or a tapir: there are just too many trees! For the best wildlife viewing in South America look no further than the Pantanal – the seasonal wetlands on Brazil’s Western border. The Pantanal is the one place in the world where spotting a jaguar is more of a likelihood than a slim possibility but it’s also a fantastic place to view caimans, alligators, macaws and giant river otters.
Dance the night away
Anyone who’s ever had any contact with Brazilian people, music, food or football will know that this a nation where every citizen holds a PhD in merriment. Even the most boring suburb in Brazil has more life than New Orleans, Vegas and Paris rolled into one, but there are a few Brazilian cities which are especially noted for their love of a good festa. Like most Brazil-related lists, the incomparable Rio de Janeiro is right at top of this one (especially during carnaval), but there are quite a few other contenders. Sao Paolo is the best city in South America for fine dining and home to some seriously snazzy nightlubs. In Florianapolis there’s no need to bother with taxis – just hop on the yellow party bus and go where everyone else is going. And the northern cities of Recife and Salvador are particularly famous for their carnivals…and they’re far from dull at other times of the year.
Go back in time
Because Brazil is so famous for everything I’ve already mentioned, many tourists overlook its rich and fascinating past. But they do so at their peril. Five centuries of Portuguese rule (and the fact that the country has not been plagued by significant wars or natural disasters) have bestowed Brazil with countless architectural gems. The two megalopolises, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, do have some very important churches (most notably the Candelaria in Rio) and administrative buildings, but these are somewhat hidden obscured by 21st century urban sprawl. Of Brazil’s big cities, Salvador has the best-preserved colonial center, but if you want to experience the best the country has to offer, you’ll have to include some smaller cities and towns on your itinerary. Olinda in the North is very very linda, but the central state of Minas Gerais contains the real motherlode. The gold-rush town of Ouro Preto gets all the press, but if you have time to explore the area you will discover some seriously quaint villages which see very little tourist pressure: Sao João del Rei and Tiradentes are two of the best.
Too beautiful not to mention
Lovers of Brazil will have noticed one major omission from this list: the Iguazu Falls is one of the 7 Wonders of the World, and is probably the most beautiful place I’ve ever. Likewise, the truly stupendous city of Rio de Janeiro may have been mentioned a few times in this post but more must be said. Read about these two great attractions at the following links: Iguazu and Rio de Janeiro.