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Travel to Brazil, South America's Carnival capital

By Dmitry Petrounin Dmitry Petrounin Section editor Profile
A country of excess, Brazil is always out to outdo itself. With its skyline dominated by the striking presence of the Sugar Loaf and Christ the Redeemer the bay of Rio is one of the most beautiful in the world. Here you'll also find the legendary beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema, as well as the Iguazu falls, among the most impressive cascades in the world.

Travel guide

Welcome to Brazil

The mythical Amazon forest, the lungs of the planet, and its indomitable queen, the Amazon River, give the country not only its ravaging beauty, but also make it one of the world's most important ecological footholds. However, Brazil is not only a country of astounding natural beauty, it also boasts a rich and extensive culture, best felt during the Carnival of Rio de Janeiro. Let the sounds of the rain forest and the rhythms of Samba guide you as you explore this massive country with its abandons of magical sites.

Architecture:

A country's architecture is undeniably linked with its history and culture this makes it an intrinsic part of the country's identity. With this in mind the multitudes of architectural styles which form the foundation of Brazil perfectly underline the country's multi-layered personality. The spirit of the past whispers through colonial buildings that dominate the city of Salvador - Brazil's colonial capital. Visit the cities of Olinda and Minas Gerais to marvel at fascinating examples of 19 century Baroque. If examples of modernist architecture are more to your taste do not despair, Oscar Niemeyer, one of the world's most well-known modernist architects, has left a clear imprint on Brazil's architecture, with the country' capital, Brasilia, being a must see for any enthusiast of the modernist style.

The cities:

When planning a trip to Brazil do not limit yourself to a choice between Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo. While these cities are undeniable gems and a must-see they are by far not the only places worth visiting when in Brazil. Brasilia, which in recent years has experience a huge cultural boom, is home to a number of fascinating museums, a buzzing nightlife, and awe inspiring sunsets not to mention top-shelf restaurants. Salvador is Brazil's former colonial capital, named a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its outstanding array of 17th and 18th century colonial buildings. Built at a time when Brazil was the source of Portugal's wealth, plentiful gold was lavished on Salvador's religious buildings. Visit the Pelourinho, the heart of the old city, and you will discover the most beautiful pastel-coloured churches and monasteries in South America.Minas Gerais, which is one state north of Rio, is a perfect place to explore. Surrounded by a mesmerising waterfall-studded countryside, which is dotted with romantic 18 century colonial mining villages, it is nothing if not a feast for the soul.

Wildlife:

The Amazon rainforest, which dominates the country's heartland, is not only considered as "the lungs" of our plant, but is also home to the largest number of animal and plant species in the world. While undeniably worth seeing, the rainforest can be tricky to reach and the tours can be pricy. But do not despair apart from the Amazon Brazil is also home to numerous national parks including the largest wetlands in the world - the Pantanal. Not only is it a natural marvel and one of the country's best value spots, it is also much better for spotting wild animals.

Island retreat:

No trip to Brazil would be complete without a visit to at least one of the many islands located on its territory. The country's islands have something to offer to any type of traveller, whether it's buzzing metropolitan streets of Florianópolis and Vitoria, or clear emerald waters bursting with marine life of the Fernando de Noronha Archipelago, or unspoiled tropical white sand beaches and forests of Ilha Grande.

A football nation:

Few things are as synonymous with Brazil as football (soccer). While not the birthplace of the sport, Brazil is without a doubt its homeland. Since its introduction in the late 1800s by a Scottish expatriate, football has become a part of the county's identity and its national sport. Despite the national team's humble beginnings, today Brazil boasts a record five World Cup trophies as well as having qualified for every single World Cup tournament since the competition's inauguration. With all this in mind attending a match while in Brazil should be on top of any to-do list. Or if live sport events are not your thing visit Sao Paolo's football museum where an enjoyable time is guaranteed for the whole family regardless of whether you are a fan of the sport or not.

Our Editorial team's advice

In terms of natural wonders, Brazil has it all. Iguazu Falls is an awe-inspiring mass of water that tumbles down over the border of Brazil and Argentina. With 275 cascades, Iguaçu is the largest waterfall system in the world. The ominous Garganta do Diabo (Devil's Throat) is the largest fall at 150m high and offers the most thunderous show of nature. Exploration of Iguaçu National Park will also reveal a huge expanse of rainforest, home to more than 1,000 species of birds and mammals.

The Pantanal is the ultimate destination for wildlife enthusiasts. Twenty times bigger than Florida's everglades, it is the world's largest wetland and covers wide expanses of Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay. It's so big, in fact, that the only way to get around is in small airplanes and motorboats. The open marshes of the Pantanal make for a much more rewarding trip than the Amazon, where dense foliage often prevent views of giant otters bathing in the water or an anaconda snaking around a tree.

Chapada Diamantina is Brazil's lost world. The 1520-sq-km national park houses waterfalls that tumble down the Sincora Mountain Range, rivers and streams that wind through grassy valleys and endless trails. The park is a hiker's adventure kingdom, untouched by developers since its creation as a reserve in 1985. Don't miss the array of biodiversity to admire such as macaws, jaguars and quati.

Manaus is Brazil's gateway to the Amazon. When the dark Rio Negro pours into the buttery Rio Solimões, the two don't mix. Instead, they flow side by side for almost 4 miles due to differences in temperature, speed and density. This is the most dramatic show of the bi-colour phenomenon that occurs throughout the Amazon.

In general the services in Brazil are slow or more precisely relaxed, so forget stress, patience and relaxation are de rigueur to travel in this country. Don't try to pressure, choose to negotiate, or even better, be resourceful.

While a trip to Brazil might at first glance seem like an expensive endeavour, especially if staying in Rio or Sao Paolo, there are a number of simple tricks to help you economize. Don't avoid local public transport, it is both cheap and efficient. When going out for a meal look out for restaurants that serve pratos feitos (set plates) - traditional main courses for an affordable price, also keep an eye out for street vendors selling traditional small dishes such as acarajé and pastéis de feira. Don't try to visit the whole country in one go, the distances between cities can be huge this results in equally high travel costs.

Don't carry all of your valuables with on you. If you are going to the beach, do it the Brazilian way - take almost nothing (and especially not your hotel key and wallet), leave the place where you are staying in a bathing suit and a pareo. When walking in a crowded area always keep an eye on your belongings, if you are carrying a backpack do as the locals and carry it in front of you with your arms around it.

When packing for your trip put some light clothes in your suitcase, but take a jumper, especially if traveling in the winter months (July or August). If you are planning a trip to the Amazon or the Pantanal, take walking shoes, a hat, and a waterproof garment.

You should also be aware that the carnival in Salvador is much more festive than in Rio, so go to Salvador if you are looking for a truly memorable experience. In Rio, you can (by booking in advance) go to the sambodrome parades, however street processions have practically disappeared. To find out the dates of the carnival in advance, remember that it begins 4 days before Ash Wednesday, so festivities begin at the weekend and culminate on Shrove Tuesday.

pros

  • +Breath-taking scenery
  • +The climate
  • +Cultural diversity of a country with an unforgettable personality
  • +Kindness and warmth of the local population
  • +

cons

  • -Not all areas are safe.
  • -Vast distances between places worth seeing

Traditions

The population is warm, curious, and communicative. Do not be surprised or alarmed if the locals seem overly keen on physical contact: touching your shoulder and hugging is common, so try not to be too formal. Although Brazilians may seem sincere and friendly during your time together, they can then forget you very quickly, but if not you can be sure that you have made a friend for life. Giving discounts (referred to as "discono"), which is firmly rooted in their mentality, is common practice, so do not hesitate to ask for it.

Food

As the fifth largest country in the world, Brazil offers a huge variety of dishes, enriched even further by the contributions of the country's immigrant population (Portuguese, Italian, German, Lebanese, and Japanese). The first thing you are bound to notice is pao de queijo, hot bread balls made out of manioc flour and cheese. While traditionally a specialty of the state of Minas Gerais, they can be found on practically every street corner in Brazil. Rice, manioc flour and meat added to beans: this is the staple of daily Brazilian food. When cooked, it becomes feijoada, the national dish. In Rio it is made with pork and comes with black beans, rice, cassava flour, cabbage and orange slices.The cuisine of Salvador will blow you away, try moqueca, a dish of fish, shrimp, langoustine, or crab cooked in palm oil and coconut milk with tomatoes and peppers. Xinxim de galinha is a dish of chicken simmered in oil with peanuts, shrimp, cashew nuts, and coconut milk. Requeijão, which is traditionally associated with the region of Minas Gerais, is a delicious cheese spread. For desert, or simply if craving something sweet and delicious, try with quindim which is a traditional baked dish made with eggs, sugar and ground coconut. Amazonian cuisine, which is original and sublime, is based on cooked manioc and fresh water fish. If fish dishes are not to your taste try pato no tucupi (wild duck, garnished with a sauce based on fermented manioc juice). Just as Argentina, Brazil is a meat country, so do not hesitate to push the door of a churrascaria (an inn that specializes in meat) where you can discover the famous churrascos, assorted grilled meats on skewers (served mainly in southern Brazil). Needless to say take advantage of the remarkable fresh fruit: bananas, mango, watermelon, pineapple, orange, papaya, passion fruit and guava are just a few that come to mind, however don't miss out on the lesser-known star fruit, acai and Brazilian cherry, which is an excellent source of Vitamin C and A. Brazil's national alcohol cachaça or pinga, made from sugar cane and drunk pure or mixed. With sugar, lime and the art of mixing, you get a caipirinha. If you are in the mood for something a bit fruitier in flavour try a batida which is made with fruit juice or coconut milk. And finally Brazilians often accompany their meal with a can of guarana, a popular soft drink made from Amazonian seeds; it's a great exotic alternative to your usual Coca Cola.

Ideal Weather Search

Find weekly weather forecasts for Brazil . Different criteria make it possible to predict with precision the best time of year to go to Brazil . A comprehensive weather score, made up of temperature indicators, bad weather predictions, sunshine levels and wind speeds, will allow you to choose the activities best suited to the weather conditions and therefore make the most of your holiday in Brazil .

Reviewed hotels

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Our journalists' reviews for you 110 hotels Brazil . Take a look at our hotels, their facilities or their value-for-money score according to your departure dates so that we can find the best offer to suit you Brazil . Book a hotel Brazil it's never been so simple !

Souvenirs

Brazil is the foremost world producer of gem stones: aquamarines, amethysts, diamonds, emeralds, rubies, sapphires, and topaz all come from the mines of this naturally rich country. Go to specialised shops that sell precious and semi-precious stones with a guarantee of authenticity. If you are in Rio one shop worth visiting is Moreno located at 23 Rua Xavier da Silveira (just a couple of steps away from the Copacabana beach). In Rio, fashion shops can be found on the Visconde de Pirajá Street, in the Ipanema district. In Salvador, the Mercado Modelo (one of Brazil's largest markets) offers more than 200 shops where you can find almost anything imaginable. The North-East of the country is a famous manufacturer of hammocks, embroidered linen for the house, pottery, leather and silver work, items made of straw, musical instruments, naive paintings, and wooden carvings. Amazonia specialises in bows, arrows, objects made out of carved wood, ornaments decorated with exotic bird feathers and jewels.
Shops are usually open from 9.00am to 6.00pm, apart from Sundays.

What to see

Morro de Sao Paulo , Morro de Sao Paulo, Brazil , Brazil
Morro de Sao Paulo
The Iguazu Falls , The Iguazu falls, Brazil , Brazil
The Iguazu Falls
Fernando de Noronha , Fernando de Noronha, Brazil , Brazil
Fernando de Noronha
Ilha Grande and Angra dos Reis bay , Ihla Grande, Brazil , Brazil
Ilha Grande and Angra dos Reis bay
Boipeba , One of Brazil's dreamy beaches , Brazil
Boipeba
, Le Pantanal, Landscapes, Corumba, Brazil
Le Pantanal
The bay of Guanabara , The Bay of Guanabara, Rio de Janeiro , Brazil
The bay of Guanabara
All Saints' Bay , All Saint's Bay fort, Salvador da Bahia , Brazil
All Saints' Bay
The Costa Verde , The Costa Verde, Brazil , Brazil
The Costa Verde
The Green Line , The Coconut Coast , Brazil
The Green Line
La plage de Jericoacoara , Jericoacoara beach , Brazil
La plage de Jericoacoara
Rio Botanical Gardens , The Botanic Garden of Rio, Brazil , Brazil
Rio Botanical Gardens
Tijuca Forest , The Tijuca Forest , Brazil
Tijuca Forest
Amazonia , The Amazon Rainforest , Brazil
Amazonia
The Tamar Project, Praia do Forte , Brazil
The Tamar Project, Praia do Forte