Brazil: Main Sights
The world's largest country in the tropics
A land of magnificent beaches, vast rain forests and music-fuelled cities flush with vibrant colour, Brazil bears an astounding variety of natural and cultural wonders. This is the world’s largest country in the tropics, and the only limit to a journey here is your imagination. Setting the stage are idyllic, unspoiled islands, pristine stretches of coastline fronting emerald seas, and jewel-box colonial towns. Then you have the cities: Brasilia, the futuristic inland capital; Salvador, historic and colourful pearl of the northeast; action-packed megalopolis São Paulo and, of course, Rio de Janeiro. Spectacular, sassy and simply unforgettable - you'll run out of superlatives trying to do this marvellous country justice.
Amazonia National Park
Covering an impressive 7 of Brazil's 27 states, "The Green Inferno" covers almost 40 per cent of Brazil's total landmass. Although parts of the Amazon cover countries bordering Brazil (notably Bolivia, Colombia, Guiana and Peru), it is to Brazil that most tourist come if they want to take in the splendours of this most magnificent natural wonder. Things to do in the Amazon include bird watching, trekking/hiking, climbing and taking boat journeys along the river. Without doubt, a tour to Brazil is incomplete without a trip to the Amazon.
Copacabana Beach is one of the world’s most famous beaches. Located right in the heart of Rio de Janeiro, it is also one of the most lively beaches in the world with thousands of visitors flocking to its 4-km stretch of sand every year. Located in front of the black and white wavy mosaics on Avenida Atlântica which were designed by Burle Max, the area is busy both day and night and lined with shops, bars, restaurants and luxury hotels. There are also fine examples of Art Deco architecture in the area, such as the Copacabana Palace Hotel which was built in 1923. Copacabana Fort, which was built in 1914 to defend Guanabara Bay, is situated at the end of the beach and offers panoramic views of the surrounding area.
Sometimes described as the jewel in Brazil’s crown of natural Wonders, Iguassu Falls are is a site where some of the world’s most breathtaking waterfalls can be witnessed. Set along the Parana River, the falls act as a natural border to the countries of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay and compose of 275 cataracts in total. Best time of year to see the Iguacu Falls is between October and December and as this is such a magnificent sight, it is highly recommended that you make arrangements to stay at least one night here before moving on to your next destination!
Fernando de Noronha
For travellers interested in ecologically friendly tourism, this tiny island off the northeast coast of Brazil is a hidden jewel waiting to be discovered. Approximately 340 miles from the city of Recife, this paradise is part of an archipelago of 21 separate islands, islets, and crags, all situated atop a submerged volcano in the warm waters of the Southern Atlantic. Fernando de Noronha, at a mere 7.1 square miles, is by far the largest and only inhabited island in the archipelago. Today the island boasts approximately 3,000 inhabitants, who subsist on fishing, agriculture, and a budding tourist industry.
Although most places can be easily reached on foot, by renting or bike, or just calling taxis, a great way to discover the island is by renting a dune buggy. A buggy is basically a four wheel drive vehicle that doesn't really have door or windows, but is more of an outdoor ATV. Another wonderful way to explore the area is by taking a boat tour of the surrounding islands, often in the company of schools of dolphins. The climate is tropical with year-round average temperatures ranging between 70 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. There are two distinct seasons: the wet season, which lasts from January to August, and the dry season, September through December.
Situated on the island of Santa Catarina and serving as the state capital, Florianopolis is a major tourist destination not because of the town itself, but for the beautiful beaches and islands that surround it. Besides having 42 beaches, at the edges of the city there are mountains, mangroves, and sand dunes. The city is a popular base for island excursions that have a more remote, tranquil setting.
Highlights While the northern part of the island is more modern and geared towards tourism, the western and southern sides still reflect the 18th century colonial times. Because of this, central Florianopolis has some great architectural and historical highlights. You can stroll through the narrow streets and original neighbourhoods to see the old quays, a covered market built in 1898 and sitting on the waterfront. At the Praca 15 de Novembro there are local artisans selling their handicrafts and the Catedral Metropolitana, which is worth a visit. Nearby is the magnificent Palacio Cruz e Souza, which was once the governor's residence. Inside it houses the Museu Historico de Santa Catarina, which displays a bland of baroque and neoclassical art, décor, and furniture. Beaches There are many beautiful beaches on the east coast of the island. Lagoa da Conceicao is a lagoon situated 6 miles from the mainland. Travelling along the Estrada Geral da Lagoa, there is an excellent hilltop view of the lagoon, dunes, and the ocean. A few miles down the coast is the Praia da Joaquina, which is famous because of the national surfing championships that are held here every summer. The dunes are also particularly good for sand boarding.
Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro: where sparkling waters, beautiful people, and historic neighbourhoods and museums combine with the rich sounds of Samba and a thriving nightlife to give this Brazilian city its reputation as one of the most striking in the world. The Cidade Maravihosa (Marvelous City), as Brazilians call it, displays a unique blend of contrasts: a bustling metropolis amidst beautiful mountain ranges, rain forests and wetlands, tremendous wealth amidst crushing poverty, old traditions juxtaposed with desires for modernity.
Rio de Janeiro is usually divided into three zones: the North (Zona Norta), the South (Zona Sul) and the Centre (Centro). The North is the least interesting, and not to be wandered into at night. The South contains the beautiful beach areas of Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon, Leme, Loigoa and Sao Conrado. The Centre holds the majority of the city's highlights, and stretches from the Morro de Sao Bento in the North to the monuments of the fallen soldiers of World War II in the South. The beaches in Rio face the Atlantic Ocean, thus providing bigger waves and cleaner waters. Surfers and boogie boarders are welcome at one of the many beaches, and sailing is highly recommended. The Copacabana beach area, which also boasts some of the best hotels, has easy access via the Metro to the city centre. Ipanema (and all the lovely girls and boys who are from it) is an urbanized beach where the bikinis are teeny-weenie and street vendors line the streets selling all kinds of local artistry and crafts. Come explore the weekly Hippy Fair (Babilonia Feira Hype), where you can hear live music and get a massage, a henna tattoo, and much more.
Architecturally, Rio is quite diverse and offers a number of interesting contrasts. Some buildings and monuments have stood strong and proud through several centuries, while others attempt to take on the modern, sleek looks of other contemporary cities. There are also many churches worth exploring, such as the Nussa Senhora de Candeleria. The downtown neighbourhood of Centro, along with most of Rio, offers great deals for shopping. There are enthusiastic street vendors everywhere, and street markets that sell crafts ranging from the most typical tourist merchandise to beautiful locally designed jewellery and musical instruments, such as the berimbau.
Sao Paulo is huge: the largest city in all of Latin America! Such a megalopolis was formed through a long and complex history. Each neighbourhood seems a testament to a different period of the city's history. Sao Paulo's first inhabitants, Jesuit missionaries and treasure-hunting pioneers, lived in the largely pedestrians-only hilltop and valley areas, particularly Vale do Anhangabaú. Later these areas became Centro (downtown district), a financial and cultural center that's still home to the stock exchange and many banks. It's now the focus of revitalization efforts. The Bela Vista and Bixiga (the city's little Italy) neighbourhoods, near Centro, are home to many theatres and bars. In the 19th century many families who made fortunes from coffee built whimsical mansions in the ridge-top Avenida Paulista neighbourhood. Beginning with the post-World War II industrial boom, these homes gave way to skyscrapers. Many of the best hotels are also on or near this avenue. During the economic growth of the 1970s, many businesses moved west and downhill to a former swamp. You'll find the tall buildings of Avenida Brigadeiro Faria Lima, the stylish homes of the Jardins neighbourhood, and the Shopping Centre Iguatemi (Brazil's first mall) just off the banks of the Rio Pinheiros.
Nowadays, large-scale construction of corporate headquarters continues south, between the Marginal Pinheiros Beltway and Avenida Engenheiro Luís Carlos Berrini, not far from the luxurious Daslu.
Salvador de Bahia
A city of rich folklore, Salvador has maintained an ambience of archaic mystery that lures in many a marvelling visitor. The state of Bahia has kept a firm grip on its strong African, Brazilian, and European roots it has acquired throughout 500 years of existence. It is with such African and indigenous background that Salvador is provided with the authentic, mythical appeal it holds today. Through its ability to successfully balance tradition with modernity, Salvador has been able to produce some of the richest Brazilian art forms: capoeira, samba de roda, and afoxe- an African rhythm that influenced many Carnival groups. The city has been crowned "the land of happiness," and not without reason. Thirty miles of gorgeous beach area and an immeasurable amount of smiling, laughing, and partying radiate from the city. Lodging options are divided by area as well: the Barra district along the coast offers new, hip luxury hotels, while Pelourinho holds the more antiquated hotels and pousadas, with wooden interiors and decorated facades.
Pelourinho (Pelo, by the locals) is the historic, colonial area that has been nominated a UNESCO World Heritage site for its large collection of Baroque colonial architecture - the largest in Latin America. Restored in the early 1990's, Pelo has become a famous attraction for visitors and locals alike, with its history, beauty, famous Baroque churches, and a thriving nightlife that divides itself between the many restaurants, bars, clubs and music venues.
Statue of Christ the Redeemer (Cristo Redentor)
The Statue of Christ the Redeemer, standing 30 metres tall and overlooking the city of Rio de Janeiro, is one of the tallest statues in the world. The statue represents Jesus standing with outstretched arms and is one of the most famous symbols of this lively city. Developed by the engineer Heitor da Silva Costa and originally conceived in 1921, construction started in mid-1926 and was completed in 1931. The statue sits on top of Corcovado Mountain (Hunchback Mountain) located in Tijuca National Park, a popular area for picnics and walking. From the statue there are superb views of Sugar Loaf Mountain, downtown Rio de Janeiro and Rio’s beaches.
The Amazon is simply the world's greatest bio-system. The region of Amazonia, the correct name of this area, houses the most diverse collection of flora and fauna in the world. As much as 20% of all the world's species are found in the enormous rivers and jungles of Amazonia. The common way to refer to this whole area is simply: The Amazon. The Amazon River is the second biggest river in the world (just behind the Nile in Egypt) and just happens to pass through the region of Amazonia in Brazil. The river is formed at the meeting of Rio Negro and Rio Solimoes. At this location, appropriately named, Meeting of the Waters, the black waters of Rio Negro join and mix with the clay-coloured waters of Rio Solimoes. The effect can be brilliantly enjoyed right in front of a visitor's eyes, and happens to be one of the greatest highlights of the region.
The Meeting of the Waters happens just near the central city in Amazonia: Manaus. This city has the biggest airport in the region and serves as the base for most trips into the surrounding Amazon. The Amazon's fantastic size has bewildered the minds of many adventurers and explorers, giving rise to as many myths and legends, including those of giant sloth and amorous dolphins. Fantastic plans to dominate and profit from this natural wonder, from Henry Ford's attempts to tame the wild rubber trees to Brazil's Finance Minister Delfini Neto's attempts to pay off the countries' foreign debt through profit from the Amazon, have all ended in failure, and have given this mystical and steaming green land the alternative title of "Green Hell."
Considered one of the world's great wildlife reserves, any tour to the Pantanal needs to be carefully planned as the area is not ideally suited to the tourist - with little infrastructure in place. However, don't let this stop you from making arrangements to visit the Pantanal as this is truly a splendid place. Fishermen will also be attracted to the Pantanal as it has some of the best fishing in South America. But, it is for the birds that most visitors come to the Pantanal and bird watching here is truly amazing!