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The gallery of Rio de Janeiro artist, Adriana Varejão in Inhotim | © Claudia Regina/Flickr
The gallery of Rio de Janeiro artist, Adriana Varejão in Inhotim | © Claudia Regina/Flickr
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15 Fairytale Locations in Brazil You Won't Believe Are Real

Picture of Euan Marshall
Updated: 8 August 2017
Brazil is so vast that trying to neatly summarize its natural and man-made beauty is an impossible task. From the cool south with its valleys and sleepy towns to the north‘s lush Amazon jungle, the country’s 27 states have their own very unique character, culture and landscape. Here’s a guide to some of the best.
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Inhotim

It is hard to properly explain Inhotim to someone who has never been. A mixture between museum, park and botanical garden, this 2,000-acre space adjacent to the town of Brumadinho, just 35 miles (56 km) from the major city of Belo Horizonte, is a truly unique location which is often regarded as one of the best open-air museums in the world and nicknamed the “Disney World of Art”.

Opened to the public in 2006, Inhotim was founded by mining magnate Bernardo Paz, who wanted a place to house and display his extensive collection of modern and contemporary art. Today, Inhotim is home to countless museums and many open-air exhibitions which integrate themselves beautifully into the surrounding natural environment.

Next time you’re in Brazil, dedicate a couple of days to see this indescribable national treasure. Quoting the owner and creator Bernardo Paz, people transform themselves in Inhotim.

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Av. Inhotim, Brumadinho, Minas Gerais, Brazil, +55 31 3571 9700

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Chapada Diamantina

One of Brazil’s best national parks, the Chapada Diamantina in the north-eastern state of Bahia is a paradise of mountains, waterfalls, caves and valleys which is impossible not to fall in love with. The extent of the park is the size of a small European country and is full of some of the most incredible views imaginable.

Many of the park’s canyons and caves are hundreds of millions of years old, such as the breathtaking Cachoeira do Buracão, which is a gorgeous waterfall in a narrow canyon which has been shaped by erosion.

There is not much tourist infrastructure in the park and visitors are largely left to their own devices. This can be a blessing or a curse – if you want to find a specific cave or waterfall, it may be best to hire a guide in the nearby town of Lençóis, but if you want to go it alone, the entire park is your oyster in which you can make your own discoveries and feel truly close to nature.

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Bahia, Brazil

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Chapada dos Veadeiros

The plateau of the Chapada dos Veadeiros sits in the middle of Brazil, close to the capital of Brasília, and is home to some of the country’s most ancient rock formations, estimated at being over 1 billion years old. This natural paradise is full of gorgeous canyons, hidden waterfalls and some truly spectacular views. While the park itself is the main attraction, the surrounding areas of Alto Paraíso do Goias and São Jorge are equally as breathtaking.

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Rodovia GO 239, Km 36, Alto Paraíso do Goiás, Goiás, Brazil, +55 62 3455 1114

Cachoeira Santa Barbara, Chapada dos Veadeiros | © Aline Fortuna/Shutterstock

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Paraty

Located in a gorgeous bay to the south-west of Rio de Janeiro is the beautiful colonial town of Paraty, an absolute gem on the state’s Costa Verde (Green Coast). With gorgeous views wherever you look, from the Atlantic jungle of the Serra da Bocaína behind it, to the idyllic islands of the Carioca Bay in front, not forgetting the well-preserved Portuguese architecture of the town itself, Paraty is an all-round feast for the eyes. With excellent restaurants, a wealth of activities and loads of cachaça, you’ll never want to leave.

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Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Paraty, Brazil | © Tupungato/Shutterstock

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Praia do Sono

A popular trip from the aforementioned town of Paraty is the jaw-droppingly beautiful beach of Praia do Sono. Maintained by a small indigenous community, its white sands and pristine waters make this one of the most unforgettable beaches you will ever visit.

Part of its charm is in how secluded it is, only being accessible by foot or boat. The sailors at the port of Paraty will take you along for a price, but the traditional route is via a hike from the tiny village of Laranjeiras, offering you a superb aerial view of the beach as you arrive.

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Paraty, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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Ilha Grande

Still on the Costa Verde is the stunning Ilha Grande (“Big Island”), which sits on the bay of the same name. With an interesting history – it was once a settlement for pirates, before becoming a leper colony and then an island prison – Ilha Grande is now one of the most idyllic and sought-after tourist destinations in the south-west of Brazil. With beautiful vegetation and stunning beaches, the island is a joy to explore, with some of the old prison foundations being half-buried and offering a bizarre landscape. Make sure to get up early one morning and trek to see the sun rise at Praia do Aventureiro, before a spot of snorkeling at Lagoa Azul and some relaxation on Lopes Mendes beach.

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Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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Cascata do Caracol

Set in the idyllic Serra Gaúcha region in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul is the imposing Cascata do Caracol waterfall, one of the grandest landscapes of a beautiful part of the country. The nearby observation tower offers incredible views of the 130 meter (427 feet)- high waterfall and the deafening roar as the river crashes into the ravine below. Close to the equally beautiful mountain towns of Gramado and Canela, the area is known for its lush vegetation, stunning views, incredible hospitality and superb food and drink.

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Rodovia RS 466, KM 0, Canela, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil

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Fernando de Noronha

The archipelago of Fernando de Noronha, off the coast of the northeastern state of Pernambuco, is possibly the closest thing you can ever find to paradise on earth. Its beautiful beaches are strictly preserved, meaning they look almost completely unspoiled, while the surrounding water is chock full of marine life, having the highest concentration of dolphins in the world. With phone signal and broadband internet being almost unheard of on Fernando de Noronha, it is the best place to truly get away from it all and switch off.

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Pernambuco, Brazil

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Jericoacoara

The freshwater lagoons and golden sand dunes of Jericoacoara offer some seriously fantastical and unmissable views. Located along the northern coast from the major city of Fortaleza, it is not the easiest spot to reach, requiring a 4×4 ride over the sand dunes from the nearby town of Jijoca de Jericoacoara. Either way, it’s worth the effort.

Spend your days kicking back on a hammock, sunbathing on the beach and eating some delicious local food, or if you fancy a bit of an adventure, Jeri (as the locals call it) is one of the best kitesurfing spots in Brazil during the second half of the year.

Be sure not to miss the sunset from the Duna do Pôr do Sol, as the horizon from Jeri is an ideal spot to see the famous “green flash”, where the sun turns a brilliant shade of emerald green for no more than a second before disappearing.

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Ceará, Brazil

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Foz do Iguaçu

On Brazil’s border with Argentina and Paraguay and the meeting between the Iguaçu and Paraná rivers is the world-famous Iguaçu Falls. One of the largest waterfalls on Earth, it is made up of hundreds of cascades that stretch over almost two miles, with water crashing into the fast-moving river below. On the Brazilian side is the Garganta do Diabo (Devil’s Throat), the largest waterfall in Iguaçu, measuring around 80 meters (263 feet) high.

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Paraná, Brazil

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Ouro Preto

Ouro Preto is a quaint colonial city in the state of Minas Gerais with well-preserved architecture that has made it a UNESCO World Heritage Site since the 1980s. During the gold rush of the 17th and 18th centuries, all eyes in Brazil were on Ouro Preto, being one of the continent’s most important cities at the time. With the exhaustion of the gold mines and the subsequent isolation of the town, a large part of its ornate, Baroque buildings were perfectly preserved, making a trip there seem like a voyage back in time. Don’t miss the São Francisco church, designed by master sculptor Aleijadinho, whose work can be found all over the town.

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Minas Gerais, Brazil

Ouro Preto, Minas Gerais | © Curioso/Shutterstock

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Pantanal

The massive wetland ecosystem of the Pantanal national park is a truly breathtaking sight and one of Brazil’s natural wonders. The wide range of flora and fauna in the region, located in the west of Brazil and spilling over into Paraguay and Bolivia, is astounding. It has the highest concentration of caimans on the planet, as well being the natural habitat of just under half of the bird species recorded in the whole of Brazil, including the threatened hyacinth macaw and the large jabiru stork.

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Poconé, Mato Grosso, Brazil

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Alter do Chão

On the River Tapajós and close to the city of Santarém in the Lower Amazon microregion lies Alter do Chão, an idyllic beach town widely regarded as having the most beautiful freshwater beaches in the world. The most famous beach in the town is the Ilha do Amor (Love Island), which for half of the year is almost completely submerged below the river’s surface.

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Pará, Brazil

Alter do Chão, Pará | © Antonio Rosiere/Shutterstock

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Mount Roraima

At around two billion years old, Mount Roraima, located right on Brazil’s northern border with Venezuela and Guyana, is one of the world’s oldest geological formations. The massive tabletop mountain offers spectacular landscapes and looks positively prehistoric. It is no coincidence that Mount Roraima inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to write his 1912 masterpiece, The Lost World. Getting to the top is no mean feat, usually requiring a challenging expedition of around a week, but it is completely worth it for any mountaineering enthusiast.

Roraima, Brazil

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Bonito

Often overlooked by the Pantanal to the north, the state of Mato Grosso do Sul has an amazingly diverse natural landscape and easily some of the best ecotourism in Brazil. The town of Bonito is the state’s flagship ecotourism destination, incredibly well preserved with waterfalls, rivers, caves, freshwater pools and a stunning variety of wildlife. One of the highlights is Gruta do Lago Azul (pictured below), an underground flooded cavity that stretches more than 200 feet deep and is home to the fossilized remains of prehistoric animals.

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Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil