Heading to Brazil?
Get ready to be smitten by the glamour of a country, where everything is exquisite, right from women and world-class landmarks to wild forests. Also, don’t expect anything quintessential American in this largest country in South America and the Latin American region. Unlike the most of the Americas, Brazil is a melting pot of diverse ethnicities with a rich cultural heritage defining its very existence. Brazil is one of its kind—vibrant, free-spirited, and exquisite. The country of carnival and soccer is the largest Portuguese-speaking country in the world and also home to baffling Amazon tropical forests to add a mysterious aura to its enchanting beauty. With a great and distinct environmental heritage, Brazil is one of the 17 megadiverse nations, which are subjects of great interest for the environmental protection and deforestation studies.
The world’s largest coffee producer for the past 150 years, Brazil is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the South America attracting millions of tourists every year. And rightly so, because Brazil has everything needed for a perfect vacation—pristine beaches, wild alluring jungles, dramatic landscapes, roaring waterfalls, world class music and electrifying environment of a huge party. Brazil is for everyone and offers great adventure trips to every traveler—grownup or a kid—irrespective of the age. Wondering what to do in Brazil? Here is a Brazil travel guide for some major tourist attractions in Brazil that must be visited at least once in a lifetime.
Visit Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer)
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to state that the Cristo Redentor or Christ the Redeemer, built between 1922 to 1931, has now become the identity of Brazil. Made of soapstone and reinforced concrete, the giant art deco statue of the Christ at the Corcovado Mountain in the Tijuca Forest National Park watching over the city of Rio is no just magnificent but jaw-dropping.
Explore the colonial heritage in Paraty, Rio
The city of Rio is not only about the golden beaches and the dazzling nightlife. It has Brazil’s most precious colonial architectural gems too. Paraty, the historical colonial town of Rio was first settled in 1667 by Portuguese, who left behind a colonial heritage of cobbled streets and beautiful churches. Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Glória do Outeiro is the finest example of religious colonial architecture in Brazil.
Instituto Ricardo Brennand (Recife)
Located in the city of Recife in Brazil, Instituto Ricardo Brennand is a cultural institution having 3000 pieces of armoury. One of the largest collections in the world, most of the pieces were produced in Asia and Europe from the 14th to 19th century. Housing some rare historical items, the institution with a museum, park, art gallery and a library within its boundary is a must-visit in Brazil.
Palácio do Planalto
Located at the capital city Brasilia, Palácio do Planalto is the office of Brazil’s president. One of the finest examples of the modern architecture, Palácio do Planalto will let you peep into the president’s workplace.
The former colonial mining town of Brazil, Ouro Preto is listed as one of the UNESCO’s world heritage sites for its exemplary baroque architecture. A charming historical town with remarkable churches located in the narrow alleys offers some of the most wonderful glimpses of the Brazilian history.
If you are a wildlife lover and wish to see the animals in their natural habitat, then head to the Pantanal—the world’s largest tropical wetland sprawling over an area of approximately 140,000 to 195,000 square kilometres. The world’s biggest inland swamp is perhaps not as much in the spotlight as the Amazon, but it’s a must-visit if ecological diversity thrills you.
Travel Tip: It can be difficult to reach the Pantanal as there are no towns here and very few people reside in the area. The on-ground transportation is extremely poor and long travelling distances are covered by motorboats or small aeroplanes.
Iguazú National Park & Iguaçu Falls
Located at the heart of Iguazú National Park, Iguaçu Falls at the Argentine–Brazilian border has not just one or two but hundreds on thundering and cascading waterfalls. You can imagine the jaw-dropping sight at the Iguaçu Falls. Listed as UNESCO’s world heritage site, Iguazú National Park is also home to some of the most stunning flora and fauna species.
Pedra Azul State Park
Not a typical tourist destination, Pedra Azul State Park is an off-beaten path with an abundance of natural beauty. The stunning landscape of a granite and gneissic formation—Pedra Azul which literally means Blue Rock—is worth devoting a day.
Parque Nacional Chapada dos Veadeiros
One of the world’s most diverse and the oldest tropical ecosystems, Chapada dos Veadeiros is a natural and best-preserved area has a UNESCO World Natural Heritage site in its heart. Spectacular with natural geological formations, gushing waterfalls mysterious caves and inviting hiking trails, the Parque Nacional Chapada dos Veadeiroshason has one of the oldest rock formations on the planet.
Brazil cannot be imagined without its gorgeous beaches and some of the most popular and picturesque beaches are in the city of Florianópolis. With as many as 42 beaches, the city is also the surfing centre of Brazil. Named as one of the ‘Ten most dynamic cities of the world’ in 2006 by Newsweek, the beaches in the city are not to be missed.
Most (in)famous of all Brazilian beaches, Copacabana definitely deserves a visit. Expect a sea of thong-clad humans, a flurry of activities and plenty of security personnel.
Travel Tip: Don’t venture out to the secluded areas of the Copacabana beach after sunset. It’s not safe.
Take a River journey
No trip to Brazil can be concluded without a river journey along the Amazon to witness the expansive river and its amazing wildlife.
Explore the Bazaars in Brazil
The country of coffee is also famed for its vibrant bazaars. Explore the Brazilian bazaars to experience the abundance of nature in this beautiful country. São Paulo’s Mercado Municipal filled with produce from all over Brazil is a must-visit.
You can’t doubt the entertainment quotient of a country which is famous for its electrifying carnival. The captivating Brazilian carnival is an annual festival celebrated before the beginning of the Easter lent. The carnival is a must-attend celebration if your visit is well-timed with it. The celebration is especially grand in Rio, Olinda and Salvador.
Apart from the carnival, the nightlife in Rio is exhilarating too. Nightclubs and bars are in plenty in Brazil. ‘Jam no MAM’ at Salvador is highly recommended for music lovers for a Saturday-evening jazz and the famous Brazilian music Bossa Nova at Museu de Arte Moderna (MAM). Take a taxi for ‘Jam no MAM’ as mugging is prevalent in the stretch between Pelourinho to the venue.
Catch an incredible show by the renowned folkloric ballet company ‘Balé Folclórico da Bahia’. ‘Bip Bip’ at Rio de Janeiro has been the local’s favourite for many years for Live Samba. If you are in São Paulo, head to ‘Studio SP’ for an evening filled with astounding LIVE local music, free of cost.
Try your hand at Capoeira, a mixture of dance, music, martial arts, and game. Developed by the African slaves, Capoeira is one of the best ways to keep yourself entertained in Brazil.
Food: Brazilian food is a confluence of African, European and American-Indian influences. If your palate in deep-soaked in spices, you may find the local everyday Brazilian fare bland. However, there are plenty of restaurants and eateries all over Brazil serving the world cuisine. Try sea food in Brazil which is excellent for obvious reasons of being a coastal country. Pizza is extremely popular in this South American nation. Fast food such as hot dogs, sandwiches and hamburgers are not just popular here but are worth trying too. ‘Bob’s’ is the McDonald equivalent in Brazil.
Restaurants in Brazil serve mostly two types of meals— Rodízio (buffets with all you can eat and barbecue served at the tables) and Por Quilo (price per weight), where you fill your plate and get it weighted before eating. Both types are common during lunch. There’s also traditional Italian ‘Galeto’ down South in which you get different types of salads, pasta, salads, meats, and soups served at your table. Some restaurants serve meals only for two at reduced charges. 10% service charge is added to the bill which goes as the tip to the waiters. Taste Brazil’s national booze Cachaça. Imported alcohol is extremely expensive here. If you get a chance, stop at Theatro Municipal in Rio for lunch or enjoy a drink in its extravagant, Assyrian-inspired café.
Travel Tip: As a law, you can step into a restaurant kitchen to monitor how your food is being prepared. However, it is considered impolite and is not commonly practiced.
There are plenty of hotels all over Brazil to suit your requirement. However, hotels are not classified with star ratings. Therefore, you must check the facilities before booking an accommodation. During high seasons from December and January (summer) and during the Carnival, the prices can be exorbitant, especially in cities like Salvador or Rio. You may have to pay in advance during the peak season and some hotels also put a minimum day clause of 3-4 days of stay to confirm the booking.
Pousada or the guesthouses, similar to a British boarding house, are more common and popular in Brazil than hotels. Fazendas or ranches provide well enough lodging options in wilderness. In some small towns, hotéis-fazenda or farm hotels are also a lodging option. Motels in Brazil are locally known as ‘sex hotel’ where the charges can be hourly basis. Albergues da Juventude or youth hostels are also gaining popularity in Brazil nowadays.
Local Transport: Brazil is well connected through airline services, however travelling by car is recommended not only because Brazil has the largest road network in Latin America, but also because road travel offers the best sightseeing opportunities. Trains lines are few and not to be experimented with. Intercity buses are efficient, comfortable and economical. Bicycles are the best way to commute locally.
Points to remember:
Since Brazil has a very liberal approach to homosexuals, you will find many gay and lesbian travellers in the country. Rio has twice been elected the world’s sexiest destination, Brasília hosts the world’s largest Pride Parade, and the locals are sensitive towards homosexuals. Refrain from being judgmental. Some of the locals are also fanatic about soccer. Supporting a rival team can land you in trouble. Racism is also an extremely sensitive issue in Brazil..
The crime rate in Brazil is very high. Avoid wearing expensive jewellery and going to unknown places after dark. The efficiency of Police can vary from city to city, but ‘Do not Try to Bribe the Police’ under any circumstances. Getting drunk, even in a bar is frowned upon, unless you are with very close friends or relatives.
Kissing on cheek is usual way of greeting, refusing to do so is considered impolite.