Brazil Travel Guide
Famously known for its partying, Amazon and amazing football prowess, this is a country you with a verve you simply can’t ignore. Taking up almost half of the South American continent, Brazil is well known for beaches, football, samba and carnival. But beyond these popular images, vast stretches of unexplored rainforest and endless rivers abound with the same energy and joy as the people themselves.
Why You Should Go
What’s Cool: Carnival, samba, Copacabana and Ipanema beaches, Amazon rainforest, Bossa Nova, Sugar Loaf Mountain, the tanga, Iguaçu waterfalls, surfing, low prices, nightlife in Rio and São Paulo, caipirinha cocktail, fine coffee, fantastic surf beaches, Ronaldo.
What’s Not: City crime, language barriers, huge distances, malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever, mudslinging shoe shiners, no change for large bills, shanty town tours, begging kids, beach pick-pockets, dodgy motels, hotel elevator tax!
When to Go
There are large variations in climate and temperature across Brazil. The arid interior is hot and dry, while the rainforest is hot and wet. On the coast it’s mostly hot and sticky, while it can get cold in the south and in the mountains.
Winter (June to August) is when the south sees temperatures of between 55°F and 64°F.
In summer (December to February), Rio is hot and humid, with temperatures in the high 80s (°F) not uncommon.
The northeast coast gets just as hot as Rio, but tropical winds bring relief. The central plateaus are less hot and humid and experience summer rainfalls. The Amazon Basin gets lots of rain and is very humid, but temperatures are reasonable.
Getting There & Away
Rio is the main flight hub, but many visitors also arrive in São Paulo and Recife. Given the huge distances, domestic air travel is a good choice for getting around.
Coastal ferries and river transport in the Amazon Delta are often the only transportation options in these regions. The old and dilapidated railway system is not very reliable. The easiest and most popular way of getting around Brazil is by coach, though road conditions vary. Besides, the country is huuuuuge!
All main cities have extensive bus services. Rio and São Paulo both offer two-line metros and local railways, and there are trolleybuses in São Paulo and several other cities.
Health & Safety
Malaria and dengue fever are prevalent, so cover up and slap on some mozzie lotion before dusk. Tap water quality varies and should be filtered. In larger cities, street crime is widespread, but is no reason to put off your holiday. Use your common sense and take every possible precaution, and chances are you’ll enjoy an undisturbed holiday.
Food & Hospitality
Even the smallest towns have easy-to-find self-service restaurants which tend to be pretty clean, and in many of them you can actually see the kitchen. Here the size of the bill is often according to the weight of your plate! Hotels are abundant in most areas and are usually clean and quite cheap. Be aware that a motel may have many couples spending just a few hours for close negotiations.
Nine days is the least you need to spend to take in some of the highlights.
- Two or three days to see Rio’s beaches, historical highlights and landmarks.
- Two or three days in Manaus, the gateway to Amazon rainforest, with colonial architecture.
- Three or four days on a boat cruising the Amazon River and watching the abundant wildlife while swatting mosquitoes.
- Three days in Salvador da Bahia, with colonial era buildings and winding cobblestone streets. This UNESCO World Heritage site offers a stunning number of churches.
- One or two days in the often-overlooked capital of Brasília, whose cathedral and national congress have been bestowed UNESCO World Heritage status.
- Two or three days in Salvador da Bahia. This sensual and attractive colonial city boasts a buzzing music scene and outstanding beaches.
- Three or four days in Diamantina National Park, one of Brazil’s ecotourism hotspots offering mountains, forests, caves, underground lakes and Fumaça Waterfall.
- Two or three days in Blumenau to experience a small piece of Germany, with German architecture, culture and language. Don’t miss the annual Oktoberfest.
- A couple of days in Belem in the Amazon, a thriving port city with a wonderful historical center.
rio: take the railroad to the top of Corcovado Mountain and enjoy one of the world’s most gorgeous views from under the arms of the iconic Jesus statue.
iguacu-falls: are spectacularly high waterfalls with 275 cataracts including the impressive Devil’s Throat. A nearby national park is home to hundreds of species of plants, animals and birds.
manaus: was transformed by the 19th century rubber boom and boasts some excellent colonial era buildings.
olinda: is a charming little colonial town in a wonderful location, with a dynamic cultural scene and great Carnival.
curitiba-paranagua: offers a spectacular train ride and the amazing Vila Velha weird stone park.
fortaleza: is a popular holiday resort and the starting point for a trip to Jericocoara, a delightful village nestled between a glittering white sand-dune desert and a gentle turquoise sea.
jesuit-missions: are 300 years old and can be found in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul.
paraty: on the coast was once a key port for the export of gold and coffee. Its former wealth can be seen in the beautiful colonial buildings, many built by freed slaves.
Cultural sightseeing: is a must, with all the lovely churches and landmarks, stunning scenery and intriguing colonial history.
River cruising: up the Amazon with spectacular scenery and untamed wildlife. Some of the human inhabitants are pretty wild, too.
Hiking: in the Amazon rainforest with lots of creepy crawlies, who mostly come out at night.
Surfing: on the great beaches near Rio and to the south on Santa Catarina Island, especially at Florianopolis.
Gold panning: in the state of Minas Gerais, home to abundant gold and diamond mines and a treasure trove of Baroque art.
Strolling: along Rio’s world-famous Copacabana and Ipanema beaches, where sun-bronzed beauties share the spotlight with beach soccer and volleyball hunks.
Dancing: the samba. Authentic samba can be seen at the samba schools, which welcome visitors a couple of months before the beginning of Rio de Janeiro’s Carnival.
Watching football: at Rio’s Maracanã Stadium will see you become part of a national obsession, with colorful and noisy matches.
Festivals & Events
There are festivals and then there is the Rio Carnival!
January: Washing of the Steps of Bonfim Church (Salvador) sees hundreds of women marching in procession with perfumed water to wash the church steps.
February: the Carnival in Rio is the mother of all festivals and goes on for five days with music, dance, floats, sweat, tears and lots of flesh.
February: the Goddess of the Sea is honored at the beach in Salvador with offerings of flowers, perfumes and jewelry.
July: Festival of St Benedict features traditional dances and cattlemen in full leather regalia, who get together to celebrate a special outdoor Cowboy’s Mass.
August: Pinga Festival in Parati celebrates cachaca, or pinga, Brazil’s brandy made from cane sugar.
October: Cirio de Nazare in Belem features a parade to transport the statue of the Virgin of Nazare from the city cathedral to the basilica.
October: Oktoberfest in Blumenau is based on the Bavarian harvest festival with much revelry, beer drinking and sausage eating.