As the largest country in South America, Brazil is a vast playground for the intrepid traveller with everything from dense, exotic rainforest to bustling, dynamic cities, as well as sprawling national parks and glorious, jaw-dropping beaches. If you’re feeling spoilt for choice, here are the 20 attractions that are must-sees in Brazil.
Foz do Iguaçu are one of the largest waterfalls in the world. This impressive natural phenomenon straddles the border of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay and is made up of hundreds of powerful cascades that tumble down into the fast-moving body of water below. A highlight is the Devil’s Throat, an 80-metre fall where visitors can look over the edge of a wooden platform that crosses the top.
One of Brazil’s most iconic monuments and Rio’s most visited attraction, Christ the Redeemer captures the imagination and hearts of hundreds of thousands of travellers each year. In addition to the symbolic importance in the Catholic community, the statue is also one of the New 7 Wonders of the World and provides spell-binding views over Rio de Janeiro.
Made up of a collection of 21 islands, Fernando de Noronha is a slice of paradise in Brazil. As a protected national marine park, the area is home to a diverse and rich ecosystem that includes dolphins, reef sharks, tropical fish, and rays. Famed for its undeveloped beaches and rugged, green coastline, it is a picturesque retreat and ideal for scuba diving and snorkeling.
One of Brazil’s most visited natural wonder is Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro, a rounded peak surrounded by the sea. Visitors take a cable car to the top to enjoy panoramic views over the city, the coastline and across the ocean – the most rewarding time to go is at sunset when the lights of the city twinkle below, while the sun casts shades of pink, orange, and red across the sky and sea.
Located in the north of the country, Lençóis Maranhenses National Park is a striking desert landscape made up of sloping white sand dunes that stretch tall and wide, and dotted with rainwater lagoons that nestle between the valleys of the sand banks. The largest lagoons there are Lagoa Azul and Lagoa Bonita.
A huge wetland that swallows up the west of Brazil before sprawling into Bolivia and Paraguay, the Pantanal is a wildlife haven rich in a diverse ecosystem of rare and wonderful creatures. Nature lovers can spot hundreds of species of birds, in addition to large mammals such as jaguars and capybaras. Some of the most famous residents there are the thousands of caimans.
One of the most ecologically complex regions in the world, the Amazon rainforest is an extraordinary natural wonders. The dense forest provides fertile grounds for thousands of endemic species, while the Amazon river provides a home for incredible freshwater life, including the elusive pink river dolphins.
Stretching across the central of Brazil is Chapada dos Veadeiros, an immense national park comprising deep canyons, hardy vegetation, and imposing quartz crystal formations. It is a fertile ground for several orchid species that grow wild throughout the park, and local residents include jaguars and armadillos.
Pelourinho is the historic city centre of Salvador in the state of Bahia. The vibrantly coloured buildings are a picturesque example of how the African, indigenous and European cultures, which were thrown together in Salvador, have converged throughout the centuries.
Located in the exotic northeast of Brazil, Fortaleza is a coastal city with strong winds that have attracted adrenaline-junkie kitesurfers for years. Watch the surfers race across the sea’s surface, their trajectory temporarily broken by impressive, daredevil leaps. The city is famed for its fresh, locally-sourced seafood with beachside restaurants in abundance serving Fortaleza’s delicious cuisine.
Jalapão State Park is in the lesser-known state of Tocantins, yet the park has long been on the radar of curious travellers who love adventure. Known for its deep-orange dunes, raging rivers, and cascading waterfalls, it is a prime example of untouched wilderness that will keep any intrepid visitor satisfied.
Just a short drive from Natal in the state of Rio Grande do Norte, the Genipabu dunes are an ever-changing collection of sand dunes that are shaped and reshaped by the daily winds that come off the coastline and whip over the sands. The region offers a host of adventurous activities such as buggy rides, camel treks and sledging down the sand dunes.
The charming colonial city of Olinda sits in the north of the country, in the state of Pernambuco. Located on a hilltop, it is a cultural wonderland of churches, museums, and buildings that have kept their colonial façade. The best time to go is during carnival when the city comes alive with vibrant, colourful street celebrations that reflect its strong African roots.
With its crystal clear waters and white, pristine beaches, Porta de Galinhas has deservedly earned the title as one of the most beautiful beaches in Brazil. When the tide comes in, the shoreline fills up with warm pools, locked between walls of coral and filled with a thriving ecosystem of marine life. It is possible to see marine turtles here, as well as seahorses for the observant snorkeller.
A rock formation that seems straight out of The Lost World, Mount Roraima is an imposing flat-top mountain that extends across the borders of Brazil, Venezuela, and the less-explored Guyana. To reach the top takes between seven and 10 days, but those that try will be treated to unforgettable views and waterfalls on the way.
Inhotim is located outside of Belo Horizonte in Minas Gerais, and has inspired art lovers across the world. The open-air art gallery is located on the grounds of a 5,000-acre botanical gardens and houses sculptures, art pavilions and interactive masterpieces from both Brazilian and international artists.
A region teeming with natural resources and wildlife, Bonita in the southwest of the country is recognised for its ecological importance and has become a well-protected haven. With freshwater pools and waterfalls alive with thriving shoals of tropical fish, it is a must-visit for any keen nature explorer. One of the highlights is Gruta do Lago Azul, an underground flooded cavity that stretched more than 200 feet deep and home to the fossiled remains of prehistoric animals, such as sabre-tooth tigers. The source of the mysterious, underground river that has yet to be discovered.
This large national park is teeming with an extraordinary range of biodiversity from rare orchids to large animals such as giant anteaters and armadillos. The large flat top rock formations with long, sloping plains beneath them create breathtaking views and scenery.
This cathedral with its circular-inspired ceiling is the masterpiece of Brazilian architect, Oscar Niemeyer. The all-around stained glass walls slant up to a single point in the ceiling and allow natural light to flood in, creating an airy atmosphere. The cathedral has a capacity of 4,000 people, watched over by angels that hang suspended from the ceiling.
The landscape of Bento Goncalves comprises sloping hills, rows of grapevines and quaint rivers, ringing a persistent bell that sounds of the Italian countryside scenery. That’s unsurprising, given the area is largely influenced by Italian immigration in the 1800s. The area is replete with wine regions, locally-produced foods such as cheese and jams, and the streets are lined with charming boutique restaurants and places to eat.