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Brazil is big, bold, and feisty—and visitors would have it no other way! It is the largest South American country, and the 5th largest in the world. This is the home of football, a huge portion of the Amazon, Iguazu Falls, and Christ the Redeemer. Your Brazilian journey will take you from big cities (Rio, São Paulo, Salvador) to the heart of the mist-shrouded rainforest. You’ll encounter weird and wonderful wildlife, scale hills for breathtaking valley views, and walk the streets of colonial Old Towns.

Acquaint yourself with the clipped tones of Brazilian Portuguese, tuck into some of Earth’s best barbecue, sun yourself golden, ride horseback in the surf, or learn to salsa—it’s all waiting for you here.Brazilians are vivacious and fun-loving, and the culture is warm and inviting. Two of the world’s biggest parties are staged here every year: Carnival and the Brazilian New Year celebrations. It’s hard not to get in the spirit when in town! When in Rio, do as the Brazilians do… and live it up!

Top Sights in Brazil

Rio de Janeiro

Rio, the 2nd-largest city in Brazil, is called the Marvelous City. Its spectacular harbor, surrounded by the Sugarloaf Mountains and crowned by the iconic statue of Christ the Redeemer, is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Hosting the 2016 Summer Olympics, as well as the 2014 World Cup, put this city on the map for many. Its glorious sugar-sand coastlines are home to the famous beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana (did you just start humming?), where outstanding surfing can be found, along with sunbathing besides some of the most gorgeous people in the world. As the historic home of samba and bossa nova, you can bet the music and dance are rocking 24/7! Go hang gliding or parasailing, take a guided tour of the favelas, shop, or indulge in the all-you-can-eat service at the world-renowned Brazilian steakhouses! If you are in town over the New Year, don’t miss the enormous party on Ipanema Beach. Everyone wears white, shares wishes for luck and happiness in the year to come, and dances the night away!

Carnival / Winner’s Parade

The biggest, most exciting party in the world takes place each year in February or early March, immediately before Ash Wednesday. Traditionally, Catholics would sneak all the partying and excess they could in before the piety and privation of Lent began. Today, Brazil’s Carnival is the largest and best-known in the world! Flamboyant costumes, headdresses, and masks, shimmying dancers, and inescapable rhythm are all hallmarks of this glittering celebration. One major event of Rio’s Carnival is the Winner’s Parade, during which the major samba schools take to the Sambadrome for a themed, costumed spectacle of music and dance. Either participating in or viewing the Winner’s Parade is a significant component of enjoying Carnival for many, and a great way to indulge in one of the most unique and exhilarating parts of Brazilian culture.

Iguazu Falls

Located at the intersection of the borders of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay are these outstanding, majestic falls. So profound are the power and view of this natural wonder that it was given a place on the UNESCO World Heritage list, in addition to being considered a signature experience of visiting Brazil. The country’s gateway to the falls is Foz do Iguaçu. You’ll thrill to the sight of water crashing down over the falls, giving rise to a habitual mist over the surrounding jungle as well as frequent rainbows—it’s said Eleanor Roosevelt exclaimed, “poor Niagara!” when she beheld the spectacle. As Iguazu is twice as tall and twice as wide as the American/Canadian falls, it’s probably not even a contest! There are hiking trails through the misty hills surrounding the falls, as well as boat rides that will take you behind or past the bottom. Experience 4x4 safari tours of the damp, verdant jungle that open up to a winning view of Devil’s Throat, the showstopping fallsview accessible only from the Brazilian side! Just be sure to bring your waterproof camera and safe cover for your valuables, as you will get very, very wet!

São Paulo

Huge, sophisticated São Paulo is Brazil’s biggest city. It is often overlooked by visitors focusing only on the sunnier, more boisterous pleasures of Rio de Janeiro… but neglecting this sprawling urban center would be a mistake. It’s said that São Paulo doesn’t blink, let alone sleep. Paulistanos are hard workers, considering São Paulo kicks in 45% of the GNP, but when they aren’t working, they like to play. Consequently, the nightlife here is glittering and wild—you’ll love dressing to impress on a night out! Avenida Paulista is the main thoroughfare, and the best place to orient oneself to getting around the city. It is lined in hotels, upscale cafes, boutiques, and gourmet restaurants, and serves as a gateway to Sao Paulo’s historic city. Check out São Paulo Zoo and São Paulo Aquarium, take in a football game, take Portuguese lessons, or book a walking tour of the old, artsy historic district. A surprising Asian influence runs rampant in Liberdade, a section of town that used to be a Little Italy before becoming popular with Chinese and Korean expats, as well as the largest accumulation of Japanese people outside of Japan itself.

Amazon Rainforest

Brazil claims the largest percentage of the mighty Amazon, with 60% of the rainforest located within Brazilian borders. Animal life is absolutely abundant here! From tiny tree frogs the color of fresh leaves to the flaming plumage of the scarlet macaw, from stalking jaguars to slithering boas and dolphins to electric eels, the rainforest fauna is overwhelming. One-third of all the species on Earth are represented within the Amazon Basin, including an equally-impressive array of plants and tree life. Guided tours are plentiful, especially at the Reserve of Mamirauá and Humaitá where sport fishing the Roosevelt River is popular. The town of Manaus is located right within the rainforest state, offering a rare (civilized, cultured) reprieve from the great wilderness adventure of trekking the jungle all day. Check out native arts and crafts, go out on safari, and take lots and lots of pictures.

Salvador

Brazilian culture was born in Salvador, they say. The city is the capital of the Bahia region, known for amazing food and rich heritage. The pastel buildings of the Old Town encompass a UNESCO World Heritage Site! It’s divided into an Upper and Lower section, and unlike some cities that use those designations, in Salvador they are talking about vertical orientation. The Lacerda Elevator will shuttle you up and down as necessary. Walking tours are popular, featuring guides well-versed in the city’s fascinating culture and history! Salvador gains new, electric life each year during the weeklong celebration of Carnival. Theirs is the biggest in the world, larger even than that of Rio. During the rest of the year, lounging on the exquisite beaches is a quintessential pastime. Quaint lifehouse views, calm waters, and the hot South American sun all delight beachgoers.

Quick Facts

Capital: Brasilia
Primary Airports: International Airport (GRU), Galeão International Airport (GIG), Congonhas Airport (CGH), Presidente Juscelino Kubitschek International Airport (BSB)
Government: Federal Republic
Currency: Real (BRL)
Population: 201,032,000 (2012 est.)
Language: Portuguese
Electricity: 127V/60Hz / 110V/60Hz (European, North American)
Time Zone: UTC -2 - -4
Brazil

Brazil Travel Reviews


Exploring Exotic Salvador, Brazil

Aly Vale

I had heard great things about Salvador, in northern Brazil, but had never been to that part of the country, despite numerous trips to Rio de Janeiro. Brazil is an enormous country and a road trip from Rio to Salvador takes about 22 hours. Being short on time, I opted to take a two hour flight instead.

Salvador, located in the state of Bahia, is one of the oldest cities in the Americas and was once the colonial capital during Portuguese rule. There's a lot of history in Salvador, so it's easy to see why the Historical Center, known as Pelourinho, has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A leisurely stroll through its streets revealed its rich Afro-Brazilian history in both its people and the music I heard coming from bars and numerous street performers.

One unexpected plus I experienced while visiting Salvador was the food. I was told by many Brazilians, not just the locals, that Salvador and the state of Bahia are generally considered to have the best cuisine in the country. I enjoyed freshly caught local shellfish prepared with coconut milk and exotic ingredients, such as palm oil, that were another nod to Salvador's African influences.

After a full morning of sight-seeing, I decided to partake of one of Salvador's most popular attractions: a local beach. I kicked up my heels at gorgeous Porto da Barra beach, considered a top 10 beach by many travel authorities. With a drink in my hand, I was already planning my next trip to Salvador, for Carnival.

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Destinations Visited: Brazil

Go For The Food

Marina

Brazil is one of the most beautiful countries I've ever visited, but I would be a little nervous to go there alone. There is still a lot of visible poverty, which made me feel a little unsafe sometimes as a foreign woman. The food is legitimately amazing though, especially the meat, and was probably my favorite part of the trip. Brazilian "churrascaria" restaurants, which loosely translates to barbecue, are extremely popular locally and for good reason as they generally are all-you-can-eat without sacrificing quality.

I stayed in the Alto de Boa Vista neighborhood, which is primarily a residential neighborhood and therefore very quiet. Mercado Municipal de Santo Amaro was a nearby covered market that had all sorts of local fruit, meats, and prepared food. Right next door was Padaria Gemel, which was the perfect breakfast bakery and had, in my opinion, the best pao de queijo in Sao Paulo.

While I mainly stayed right in the city, I did take a day trip to Praia Grande for a beach day, which was amazing in its own right. I've never seen whiter sand than on a Brazilian beach, and I grew up near the water in Florida. Fresh coconut water is all over the place, and when I say fresh I mean straight out of a coconut shell. Overall, I would go back in an instant, though for safety reasons I'd rather visit with some friends than go completely by myself.

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Destinations Visited: Brazil

Carnival in Rio Janiero, Brazil – An Experience of a Lifetime

Toni C.

While attending a boring medical conference in Sāo Paulo, Brazil, my husband and I learned that we were just in time for Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. We were fortunate to find a very expensive one-star hotel a few blocks from the Sambódromo, an enormous grandstand along the parade route. We were within walking distance of Cinalȃndia Square, in the center of the city.

We purchased tickets to the Samba Parade held on the first day of Lent. We were amazed by the spectacular floats, as well as the costumes worn by dancers, musicians and performers throughout the city. Many of the lavish and frivolous costumes were influenced by traditional Brazilian, Portuguese and African culture.

Before leaving Rio, we made a couple of side trips to see historic and cultural landmarks in the city including the Maracana Stadium, one of the largest football stadiums in the world. Despite the crowds, we especially enjoyed Copacabana and Ipanema beaches.

One of our favorite landmarks was the Christ the Redeemer statue, built on a hill on Corvovado Mountain. The art-deco statute looms over the city and is visible from miles around.

We are definitely planning a longer trip to Brazil and hope to spend at least a week in Rio de Janiero during off-season. One thing we learned is that Catholics certainly know how to throw a party!

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Destinations Visited: Brazil

Sightseeing In Rio de Janeiro

Eric

Like so many other travel-happy individuals, I was drawn toward Brazil and finally made the trip. While there, I spent five fun-filled days in Rio de Janeiro, known by the locals as "Cidade Maravilhosa", Portuguese for "Marvelous City". Rio is visually stunning, with steep mountains rising directly from the white sand beaches. I stayed at a nicely-appointed hotel in the Copacabana District, just two blocks from the beach. My first day sightseeing itinerary included the Botanical Garden, a beautiful collection of plant species from all corners of the world. After lunching on a fat Libra sandwich at a nearby restaurant, I headed across the bay to Niterói to visit the incomparable Museum of Modern Art.

On the second day, I explored one of the famous favelas - Brazilian shantytowns - along with a group headed by an experienced guide. On the third day, I shopped about in the Flamengo District before riding the electric train to the top of Corcovado Peak. Here stands the famous Christ the Redeemer Statue. The views of the city and Guanabara Bay were fantastic. On my last full day I hiked along the Copacabana and Ipanema beachfronts, taking hundreds of photos and enjoying a snack on the rock cliffs of Arpoador.

I highly recommend learning some basic Portuguese before traveling to Rio. Many of the locals understand some English, but I found that I was much more in tune with the local culture because of the language lessons I had studied. Rio has plenty of public transportation - including a subway system - so getting around town was simple and the fares were relatively cheap. The ATMs located throughout the city were easy to use when it came time to get some cash. Rio is not as dangerous a city for visitors as one may have heard, so long as prudent behavior and the avoiding of flashy dress is observed.

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Destinations Visited: Brazil

In Brazil: 2004

Anonymous

When my grandfather was in high school, he had an exchange student from Brazil come live at his house by the name of Joe. In 2004, he decided to take me with him to visit Joe during the summer in Rio de Janeiro, and it was the trip of a lifetime. Upon arriving, we got to visit the city for a while–the fruit is delicious! Star fruit is my favorite; it has a nice tangy flavor. When I did visit Rio, the people seemed really nice and helpful towards us when we needed help understanding where we were supposed to be, which at the time was Sugarloaf Rock, a rock that poked out of the water, and that had a cabled ferry to it. In the middle of our trip, we went to the botanical gardens in the city. To my amazement, there were monkeys jumping from tree to tree unchained by society. Just outside of Rio, we visited the famed statue called "Christ the Redeemer". The "Redeemer" was a splendid work of art; I though that it accurately portrayed the welcoming attitude that the people and places of Brazil were towards us. Lastly, we went to the airport to grab Guana Na, a popular soda in Brazil. It tasted wonderful! We had to grab some more before heading home. Overall, this trip showed me that Brazil is an amazing place to visit.

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Destinations Visited: Brazil

The Crystal White Sands of Rio

Anonymous

I started traveling to the Caribbean and to South America for business but I quickly fell in love with the South American lifestyle. The people are beautiful and the weather is pure and breath taking. Being caught in an afternoon rain anywhere in South America is a spiritually cleansing experience, especially in Brazil.

My senses and experiences were treated to my recent visit to Rio de Janeiro. I stayed at the historic Belmond Copacabana Palace Hotel, which is sited overlooking Rio's most pristine sandy white and world famous Copacabana beach. The Hotel's polished white stucco edifice makes it appear as if the hotel blends into the shoreline and then into the ocean. Unlike many tourist's images of Rio's beaches being crowded, the Copacabana beach line adjacent to the hotel was sparse with only a few occupants. The hotel is as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside. The architecture is as amazing as the service and while I could have easily stayed in my hotel during the entire trip, I had to sample some of the Brazilian night life. I was determined to enjoy the Rio night life experience as the locals do and not as an outsider or campy tourist.

Car service and local taxis were available to me but I felt more comfortable with the driver with the hotel car service. My first stop was at a favorite watering hole of the locals, as well as the tourist called "Botequin," which is more of a location than a place. Some of the locales refer to it as "pe sujos," or "dirty feet", and is a great place to unwind, kick up your heels and sample some of the local beers and enjoy live music.

As the night continued, I decided to change locations and went to a spot located on the southern side of Rio called "Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas." This is a lagoon surrounded by various kiosks selling beverages and various samplings of Brazilian cuisine a well as other food stylings, including Arabian fare which I was surprised to find. All of the food I sampled was delicious. I especially enjoyed a dish called Acarajé, which is a fried ball with a shrimp like stew in the middle and Pamonha which is the best tasting tamale I have had in my life. I noticed many patrons hopping from kiosk to kiosk, which I also tried to do but I became full after just four stops. I found a comfortable plastic chair, ordered a few Brahmas (beer) and just enjoyed the scenery and music under the gaze of the Cristo Redentor statue presiding over the entire affair.

The Rio night life never seems to stop and I quickly found myself spoiled as I could do the same thing each and every night in this beautiful city.

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Destinations Visited: Brazil

Brazil? Yessss!!

Anonymous

Honestly 200 characters is NOT enough to explain how thoroughly I enjoyed my trip to Brazil!! If you live in the northern hemisphere, it is DEFINITELY worth it to go in the winter to escape the snow.

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Destinations Visited: Brazil
Tour Operator: Gate 1 Travel

Jaguars in the Pantanal

Gis

The purpose of the trip was to see jaguars in the wild and it was absolutely incredible to see them in the wild. There were many exotic birds and animals in addition to the jaguars - definitely worth the trip.

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Destinations Visited: Brazil
Tour Operator: Arcana Mundi

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