The Jardim Botânico de Curitiba is tucked away in the far southeast of the city of Curitiba, the capital of the state of Paraná. Opened in 1991, it’s a 178,000-square-meter stretch of horticultural paradise, laid out in the style of French gardens, where flower-filled beds and finely manicured geometric lawns are strewn with regal sculptures, spurting fountains and criss-crossed by gravel walkways. The crowning glory is the vast art nouveau-style greenhouse, constructed in iron and glass and inspired by London’s Crystal Palace. Follow the carpet of flowers through the entrance to find the decorative frame housing a profusion of amazing tropical plants. Don’t miss the newest attraction too — the stimulating Garden of Senses.
Jardim Botânico, R. Engo. Ostoja Roguski, Curitiba, Brazil, +55 41 3264 6994
Anyone looking for a breath of fresh air in hectic Rio will find its Jardim Botânico an oasis of tranquillity. Designed by order of Prince Regent Dom João in 1808, the 350-acre site sits below high peaks and contains an impressive collection of 8,000 different plant species. Start by walking the avenue of palms, with trees measuring 30 metres high, before seeking out the Amazon garden that flourishes with weird and wonderful tropical blooms. Other striking features include a lake strewn with giant water lilies and an enclosed orquidário housing 600 types of orchids. Weekdays offer a more peaceful experience, while at weekends, you can find heaps of merry families, couples and sometimes even live music. The garden also contains a library and a terrace café.
Around 500 works including immersive art installations and sculptures by leading Brazilian and international artists litter the lush grounds of Inhotim — a remarkable contemporary art complex set amid 500,000 acres of botanical gardens in the hills of southeast Brazil. Take part in the art trails (or hop on a golf buggy that transports visitors between the huge pavilions) to seek out spectacular open-air exhibitions amid exotic and rare plant species, 1,000 different types of palms and fields of eucalyptus trees. It takes several days to see the park in its entirety, but luckily, the off-the-beaten-track paradise has its own bars and restaurants and will soon offer onsite boutique accommodation.
Instituto Inhotim, Rua B, 20, Brumadinho, Brazil, +55 31 3571 9700
Set on the far-flung westerly outskirts of Rio, Sítio Roberto Burle Marx is definitely worth that extra mile. This national landmark is the former home, gardens and studio of Brazil’s groundbreaking landscape architect Burle Marx — the mastermind behind Rio’s colorful, mosaicked beachfront walkway who is universally recognized as a pioneer of tropical landscaping. The dazzling site has more than 3,500 plant species, many of which were discovered and named by Marx himself, as well as many endangered varieties. Marx’s house is now a cultural center housing many of his belongings, and his studio and a small colonial chapel are also open to the public.
Those heading to the Brazilian rainforest may well find themselves in bustling Manaus — the Amazon’s largest city set in the middle of the jungle. For a taste of what’s to come, head to the Adolpho Ducke Botanical Gardens — named after a notable Brazilian Amazonian botanist — a 100-km ecological reserve and the world’s largest urban forest. Guides are on hand to take visitors along the five scenic walking trails, which wind through vines, past colossal trees and provide plenty of wildlife-spotting opportunities. For those less inclined for a two-hour hike, there are three outdoor exhibitions of Amazonian flora and fauna.
For a great family day out, make for the urban hub of Belo Horizonte, Brazil’s sixth largest city and capital of the Minas Gerais state, which is home to an integrated botanical gardens and zoological park. Kids will love the nature reserves and mammal and amphibian houses, where 1,500 animals and more than 150 different types of birds and reptiles represent the five continents and count among them many endangered species. Biodiversity abounds in the themed gardens where medicinal and deadly flowers sit beside colorful blooms, and greenhouses exhibit native and regional vegetation.
Garden-loving globetrotters visiting São Paulo will find its Botanical Gardens rich in natural bounty. Spend the day strolling its 143 hectares of magnificent greenway to the chorus of birdsong, noisy cicadas and the roar of red howler monkeys. Spread across the gardens are various fascinating blooms, many native to Brazil, and you’ll find the two large greenhouses — the hallmark of the gardens — home to various Amazonian plant varieties. There is also small museum housing botanic drawings and a library. Don’t forget to pack a picnic to enjoy lunch on the picnic tables or find a sunny spot at the onsite café.
By Zoë McIntyre
Written by award-winning freelance travel writer Zoë McIntyre who has spent much time living, travelling and writing about South America. Follow her at @zoevemac.