The largest country in South America, and the 5th largest nation on earth, combines metropolitan flair with magnificent wilderness, showcasing its historical, cultural and natural attributes in no uncertain terms. When it comes to superlative, Brazil is arguably the ‘mostsest’ of all: home to the most famous carnival, most photographed beaches, most celebrated rainforest, most revered wildlife mecca and most endearing culture. Between all of this, it’s really a wonder visitors to the continent manage to go anywhere else when on a tour of South America.
From the bustling streets of intoxicating Rio de Janeiro to the darkest depths of the Amazon, Brazil serves up some of the best highlights in the whole continent, making it the most visited country of all.
Isn’t it time you came to discover why?
Brazil’s Best Highlights
Rio de Janeiro
Fabulous Rio de Janeiro is one of the most exciting cities you’ll ever visit. It has a life and energy all of its own, and is one of those places that just gets under your skin and stays with you forever. Rio is also not a city you ‘do’ per say but rather a city you can only hope to experience – somewhat – for a few days at a time. Glamorous Copacabana and Ipanema and their gentrified streets are the hubs of all tourist action, and why not, indeed? Excellent dining and sightseeing will have you meandering about town every day but if you stay here the party and effervescence of it will stay with you long after the sun has set. Head up to meet Christ the Redeemer on a crystal clear morning, take the cable car up to Sugarloaf Mountain, visit a favela, suffer indigestion after a delectable churrascaria feast, take a sunset walk along Ipanema beach…and then get up next morning to do it all again. So much to see. So much feasting to be had. Welcome to Rio!!
Paraty & the Southern Coast
Paraty and the beaches south of Rio are just what the doctor ordered after a whirlwind few days spent in Rio. Splendid waters, gorgeous beaches and idyllic islands offering a mix of relaxation, culture and history all in one delightfully tropical package. Paraty is particularly interesting and boasts a truly stunning colonial town centre, complete with cobbled street and colourful façades, which date back to the early 18th century.
Less than 300kms south of Rio, Paraty offers a wonderful seaside escapade and is home to an array of relaxing and rustic pousadas (guesthouse) where you can relax and recharge.
South America’s most famous and forceful waterfalls sit right at the border between Brazil and Argentina and make for a fabulous 3-day side trip from Rio and a particularly convenient ‘Brazil tour end point’ if you wish to also visit Argentina during your trip to South America. Iguazu Falls are the largest falls in the world and a sight that never fails to impress. On a visit, include a few hours at the amazing bird park next door (on the Brazilian side) and you’ll get a taste of all those natural treasures that make this such a unique and priceless country.
When it comes to wildlife watching, Brazil’s Pantanal, the largest wetland system in the world, has no rivals. The open expanses and endless horizons make animal spotting seem like child-play here, most especially for bird watchers. In the Pantanal you can meet Giant Otters, jaguars, capybaras, crocodiles, toucans, monkeys, anacondas and so many more creatures and, usually, that’s just on day one! Covering a mind-boggling area of almost 200,000 square kilometres, the Brazilian Pantanal boasts two easy to reach entry points: Campo Grande in the south and Cuiaba in the south, with both towns boasting airports and daily flights to Rio and Iguazu Falls.
The Amazon Rainforest
For that epitome Brazilian jungle experience, however, nothing beats the Amazon rainforest. Visit during the dry season and you can take long walks in the heart of this incredible wilderness, and if you come during the wet season instead, you can cruise the mighty rivers like an old-world explorer, meandering on canoes in search of sloths and soaking up one of the most ethereal ecosystems on our planet.
On any trip to the Amazon, you’ll learn about the intrinsic medicinal secrets this region hides, all about the unique animals who live and thrive here and plenty about the indigenous people which still call this place home. Brazilian Amazon tours take off from Manaus in the north of the country, a riverside hub easily reached via flights from Rio de Janeiro. Follow our Amazon packing guide if you wish to include a jaunt in this mesmerizing destination to make sure you pack all the right things.
Salvador de Bahia
The northern Brazilian city of Salvador de Bahia beats to a whole different drum, one infused with African tunes and Caribbean rhythms. The birthplace of Carnival is still, without a doubt, the most colourful, most eclectic and most exhilarating city in the country, and a visit – even outside Carnival time – is always immensely rewarding. Salvador is a totally mixed bag of goodies, with Portuguese colonial architecture, Caribbean climate and culture, as well as African roots, combining to create a one-of-a-kind atmosphere.
For over 200 years this was the capital of Brazil, and has literally witnessed the evolution of the country and the marriage of various cultures from every corner of the globe. With a UNESCO-listed historic centre that resembles a living and breathing museum, fantastic beaches, vibrant nightlife, great food, ever-present music and capoeira shows, and the most laid-back vibe of all, Salvador can rightfully stand right up there with the best of them, as a sensational travel destination.
Best of Brazilian Cuisine
Brazilian cuisine is mostly renowned for its meat feasts yet, in country, rustic and traditional international influences offer the palate a bevy of choices. Regional and authentic, if not a little heavy on the starches and meat, Brazilian cuisine stands in stark contrast to those of its neighbouring countries.
The influence of African slaves created unique dishes, like the bean and rice combo that is the national dish (feijoada) and vatapa (a shrimp dish made with coconut milk and peanuts), whilst it’s the geographical attributes of each region which have given them distinctive tastes. A favoured specialty is seafood, which features abundantly all along coastal areas, with meat (as served in healthy proportions in churrascarias) found mostly in the south and inland.
You can read more about Brazilian cuisine right here.
Best Time to Visit Brazil
Brazil boasts 5 distinct climate zones and although it may all get a bit confusing when planning a first-time visit, there’s at least the consolation of knowing that no matter what time of year you visit, it will always be perfect somewhere!
We’ll start with the premise that there’s nowhere that actually gets very cold in Brazil, so at least that’s out of the way. Being in the southern hemisphere, Brazil boasts summer between December and February and winter from about June to September. Summer in Rio can get blistering hot but luckily all those beaches can have a wonderfully refreshing effect on visitors. Winter is cool and quite perfect for sightseeing with little to no rain at all.
Both the Pantanal and Amazon regions enjoy year-round heat and high humidity, with plenty of rains even during the dry season. Rain is the life-force by which everything flourishes in both areas. Both also offer fantastic highlights depending on which month of the year you visit.
Salvador enjoys year-round tropical temps, with the driest month being September. A fab place to visit at any time, as with most of Brazil!
For more info on the climate of Brazil, click here.
Best Way to Reach Brazil
Rio is one of South America’s premier aviation hubs, acting as a superb hub for onward travels and ensuring even those who are short on time can get in and out in a flash. Although there are no direct flights to/from Australia, Rio is easily reached via Buenos Aires or Santiago. From Europe, you can fly nonstop to Rio from Lisbon, Rome, Paris, Frankfurt and Amsterdam, and nonstop services are also offered from several cities in the USA. Overall, Rio de Janeiro and Brazil, in general, is an absolute breeze to reach from anywhere!
Dreaming of a trip to Brazil? Why not call us? We offer a wide array of tried, tested and loved Brazil itineraries and have the know-how to create bespoke unique tours based on your tastes, time constraints and budgets. We’d love to show you Brazil! Contact us for more info.
Author: Laura Pattara
“Laura Pattara is a modern nomad who’s been vagabonding around the world, non-stop, for the past 15 years. She’s tour-guided overland trips through South America and Africa, travelled independently through the Middle East and has completed a 6-year motorbike trip from Europe to Australia. What ticks her fancy most? Animal encounters in remote wilderness, authentic experiences off the beaten trail and spectacular Autumn colours in Patagonia.”