From the jungle calls of the Amazon to the thong-clad crowds of Copacabana beach, Brazil is an intoxicating mix of the big, the bold and the beautiful, perennially one of the world’s favourite destinations.
It’s also one of the largest countries on the planet, with an awesome array of treasures to match. Its vast coastline is fringed with soft sands and island getaways; the Amazon Basin teems with an unrivalled mass of flora and fauna; and the wetlands of the Pantanal, the largest on Earth, support a staggering diversity of wildlife.
Into the jungle: The first rule of a trip to the rainforest is to book a tour from a certified tour operator. A good guide will know where to spot birds such as parrots, macaws and aquatic birds, as well as tamarins, squirrel monkeys, and perhaps a troop of howler monkeys. Try to include a night hike to spot nocturnal creatures such as tree frogs, giant crickets and potoo birds. On a budget trip, you’ll sleep in a hammock in local style dwellings, and eat simple meals such as beans or fish, rice and manioc. Bear in mind: conditions will be hot and damp, you will encounter disagreeable creatures such as stinging ants, mosquitoes (take malarial precautions) and black flies that seem to want their pound of flesh. But that aside, it will be a trip to remember.
Christ the Redeemer: This statue, which towers over Rio, made the list of the Seven New Wonders of the World in 2007. It stands 120 feet tall and is perched on the top of Corcovado Mountain, overlooking Rio de Janeiro. It was designed by the Brazilian Heitor da Silva Costa and created by the French sculptor Paul Landowski. The statue took five years to construct and was inaugurated on Oct. 12, 1931. It has become a symbol of Rio and of the warmth of the Brazilian people, who receive visitors with open arms.
Rio de Janeiro’s beaches and mountains: From sexy Ipanema and Copacabana, to more secluded and slightly lesser-known stretches of sand, like Prainha Beach, Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro is best known for its beaches. Grab your sunscreen and Brazilian bikinis and head to the sunny shores of Rio’s best beaches. The song “The Girl From Ipanema” evokes the sultry tropical pleasure of Rio’s unsurpassed beaches. Some of Rio’s best hotels are located along the beachfront, such as the legendary, opulent Copacabana Palace. A few doors down is the more reasonably priced Windsor Excelsior Hotel. You can walk out the front door of your hotel, cross Avenida Atlantica onto Copacabana beach and enjoy. Rio’s mountains are also legendary. Sugar Loaf is a landmark that instantly identifies any picture of the harbor as Rio. The monolithic peak of granite and quartz pokes straight up over the harbor at the mouth of Guanabara Bay. It was named by Portuguese sailors who thought it looked like the lumps of sugar that were common at the time.
You can take a cable car to the top of Sugar Loaf, starting from Urca Beach (where Carmen Miranda was discovered performing in a beachfront casino) to Urca Hill, a little brother to Sugar Loaf. Then a second cable car takes you all the way to the peak of Sugar Loaf, where you can spend as much time as you want at the observation deck. Tables and chairs are provided at a concession area where you can buy drinks and food and enjoy them while looking over one of the most exhilarating panoramas in the world.
Manaus, gateway to the Amazon: From San Francisco, it will take you eighteen hours flight-time and cost around $1,500 to reach Manaus in Brazil. Manaus is a sleepy little city left over and almost forgotten from the days of the Great Rubber Barons, yes rubber not robber. We had the Robber Barons and Brazil had the Rubber Barons. There was a time when natural latex sap was like gold. The vast sums these few Rubber Barons made found its way into the city of Manaus in the oddest ways. The Manaus Opera House is one of the remnants of these affluent times. It is a beautiful 19th century building and seems completely out of place today. Take the tour inside of the house and you will see how opulent times where once in Manaus. Around the Opera House, you will find streets filled with bazaars and colourful shopping. The city is snuggly nestled into the mighty Amazon River. Its multi color shacks and shanties give the place character and at the same time reveal the poverty there today; how far it has fallen from its heyday.
No matter how interesting Manaus might be, it is nothing to the majestic splendour of the mighty Amazon River and jungle. Just a short 20-minute ride on a small boat will have you at the Eco Lodge. This is the place to experience the Amazon and its wilderness. The lodge is set deep into the Amazon rain forest and is only approachable by boat. Everyone stays in small huts surrounded by the rainforest. Once settled into to your cabin you will meet your personal guide. These guides are local people and they know their stuff. There are many options for tours, but a must-do is to board one of the larger riverboats and sail up the river to visit a village of local Indians. There you will experience their dancing and playing of native instruments; it is wonderful.
Fernando de Noronha: A trip to Fernando de Noronha is comparable to a dream coming true. A tropical island, 545 km away from the coast of the Brazilian State of Pernambuco, some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, a bit more than 2,000 inhabitants and where the tourism is developped in a sustainable way, creating the opportunity of an equilibrated meeting between man and nature in one of the most important ecologic sanctuaries of the world. For enjoying the numberless natural attractions and experiencing a little bit of the history of our colonization, a trip to Noronha requires at least 5 days. There are countless activitiy and tour options, which satisfy different people and offer to the visitor the chance to see all natural beauties of the islands.
The Baroque hill towns of Minas Gerais: The state of Minas Gerais is a Brazilian giant. It covers 587,000 sq km (352,200 sq miles), and has nearly 20 million inhabitants. It is rugged and isolated, with a central plateau rising sharply from an escarpment that rims the entire eastern frontier. Folklore contrasts the mineiro sharply with the extravagant carioca (inhabitant of Rio de Janeiro) and the industrious paulista (of São Paulo). The mineiro is said to be stubborn, cautious, hard-working, and thrifty. He is also an assiduous preserver; he has kept not only the music-box churches of his Baroque past, but also saved family heirlooms and trinkets, which clutter his attic rooms. And São João del Rei residents have preserved the music, and even the instruments, of the 18th century, performing a liturgy of Baroque orchestral pieces every Holy Week.
Sao Paulo: Sao Paulo is Brazil’s largest and richest city, the country’s business center and the seventh-largest metropolitan area in the world. Landmarks include the Museu Paulista do Ipiranga, the gothic Metropolitan Sé Cathedral, the São Paulo Museum of Art (MASP), the Bandeirantes monument and Ibirapuera Park. Ibirapuera is a cultural complex with a museum, planetarium, auditorium and more than 2 million square meters of green space featuring lagoons, flowerbeds and a Japanese garden.
The Pantanal: The Pantanal of South America is one of the most immense, pristine and biologically rich environments on the planet. Often referred to as the world’s largest freshwater wetland system, it extends through millions of hectares of central-western Brazil, eastern Bolivia and eastern Paraguay. With its extraordinarily concentrated and diverse flora and fauna, and a landscape spanning a variety of ecological sub-regions, the Pantanal stands as one of the world’s great natural wonders.