Amazon, Rio de Janeiro, Iguazu Falls,
Pantanal, Salvador and beaches
Brazil is a country packed with icons: the beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana; the bright lights of the Carnival; the Amazon Rainforest and river; the thundering Iguazu Falls… Football, bikinis, favelas, Christ the Redeemer. Each image that characterises Brazil is heady with passion, allure and, most importantly, colour. The largest country in South America (and the fifth largest in the world) is so replete with incredible sights it can be difficult to know where to start.
All holidays to Brazil should include some time spent at the beach: the cerulean seas, golden beaches and emerald rainforest are reminiscent of the colours of the Brazilian flag, and there are many to choose from. Brazil holidays will also benefit from venturing inland, to the wetlands of the Pantanal and the mountains that once boomed with the success of the Gold Rush. This is a country with a culture as varied as its landscapes, of African heritage, colonial Portuguese influences and that Latin American zest for life.
During Carnival Brazil vibrates with energy and samba beats echo through the streets. The best time to visit Brazil depends on what you’d like to see; as a large country the temperature varies hugely between north and south. The northeast is ideal all year round, but visitors to Rio would do well to stick to September to May for the best weather. The Pantanal is best from July to December while the Amazon differs, with March to August offering the best time to travel to the Amazon region. As well as the natural wonders and plethora of sights, sophisticated and romantic hotels make for a fantastic Brazil honeymoon, at any time of the year.
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REGIONS OF BRAZIL
The liveliest and arguably most attractive city in Brazil is Rio de Janeiro. Famous for many things, the city is known for its great swathes of sandy beaches, the curious hump of Mount Corcovado and the outstretched arms of Christ the Redeemer, standing sentry over the city. Rio de Janeiro holidays are often the starting point of any holiday to Brazil, and it’s a good place to begin your adventure. For a taste of Rio rhythm you could visit in February or March for the party of the year, the Brazil Carnival. Over five days the city comes alive for the greatest show on Earth, where visitors flock from all corners of the globe to revel in the celebrations. Away from Rio the beach resorts become more chilled, such as the island of Ilha Grande which remains, to this day, largely undeveloped. As well as being pleasing on the eye, it holds a tumultuous history as a pirates’ lair, a leper colony and a gaol for political prisoners. East of Rio is Buzios, a beach resort with calm bays fringed with soft sands and watersports for those who prefer their beach time a little less horizontal. Between Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo you’ll find Paraty, a small town hemmed in by secluded beaches on one side and steep mountains blanketed by tangled jungle on the other. This is the Costa Verde, and the verdant forests vie for attention with the equally beautiful towns lined with cobbled streets and colonial buildings.
If Rio is beautiful, Salvador de Bahia is the cultured one. One of the oldest cities in Brazil overlooks the Bahia de Todos os Santos, the colonial streets of the Pelhourinho district daubed in pastels like a packet of sweets. This is the country’s Afro-Brazilian gem and the city centre is practically a living museum of 17th and 18th century architecture as well as a centre for music. Bahia is also the gateway to the Chapada Diamantina National Park, one of the most beautiful in Brazil. Here you’ll find canyons, waterfalls, swamps and natural pools. It’s also an easy starting point for visiting Minas Gerais, the heart of Brazil’s gold rush. Cobbled streets are lined with ornate mansions and Baroque churches. The old capital, Ouro Preto, is probably the best example of this, a UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site, perched on a hillside.
It’s well known that places in Brazil are renowned for their dramatic beauty, but none more so than the thundering Iguaçu Falls. Straddling the borders of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay this most impressive of waterfalls is made up of 275 separate cascades and is both taller than and twice as wide as Niagara Falls. The surrounding national park is teeming with wildlife so bring your binoculars: butterflies, toucans, the comical capybara to the tiny ant all roam freely. To get the most out of your visit we recommend viewing Iguaçu from both the Argentinian and Brazilian sides, and walk all the way to the Devil’s Throat. Viewing the falls up close is a visceral experience – be prepared to get a thorough soaking!
Known as the ‘lungs of the Earth’, the Amazon region of Brazil stretches across half of the country. The world’s largest tropical rainforest is made up of several diverse ecosystems, making it a haven for wildlife enthusiasts. Venture into the dense jungle, glide down a tributary of the river that shares its name in a canoe or even take a longer Amazon River cruise along the mighty waterway itself; the possibilities for adventure and exploration are endless. Amazon holidays can also introduce you to different ways of life, meeting some of the indigenous tribes who still call the jungle home. Whether you choose to cruise or stay in one of the fabulous eco-lodges, the vast Amazon Biosphere Reserve has plenty of treasures to uncover.
As well as the Amazon, Brazil is also home to the Pantanal wetlands. This immense, watery playground is one of the most unspoilt and biologically rich environments on the planet and is considered one of the best wildlife spotting regions in Brazil. Imagine coming face to face with a Hyacinth macaw, the elusive giant otter, snap-jawed caiman or the leggy Jabiru stork, or even the largest and most secretive cat in the Americas – the Jaguar. Hop on board a boat or even horseback, or simply trek on your own two feet.
Running along the coastline for almost 5,000 miles, Brazil’s stunning beaches range from the northerly reaches near the Equator to the southern border with Argentina. There’s a beach to suit all tastes, from powdery and paradisiacal to surf-lashed and primed for watersports. Notable beaches include the Lençois Maranhenses National Park, where a natural phenomenon occurs annually to create sand dunes laced with dazzling azure lakes. In Fernando do Noronha you’ll discover 20 small islands ringed with some of the most spectacular beaches in the country, while in Trancoso you can chill out in a pretty town popular with celebrities; the traditional fishing village retains its charm and a clutch of boutique hotels add a little dash of glamour.