An Alternative Guide to Brazil: Unusual Things to See and Do

Nave Especial de Varginha |© Oluap251 2/WikiCommons
Nave Especial de Varginha |© Oluap251 2/WikiCommons
Photo of Sarah Brown
13 March 2017

Brazil’s vast size grants it ample space to accommodate some weird and wonderful places that won’t score any points on a tourist checklist, but will open up some eyes to the astonishing and intriguing places that exist throughout the country. Here are 10 places in Brazil that definitely raised a few eyebrows.

Rua do Amendiom, Belo Horizonte

Rua do Amendiom – or ‘Street of the Peanut’, as the name translates to – has nothing to do with food, but everything to do with a bizarre phenomena that seemingly makes cars roll up hill when the brakes are off. Everything from haunting to magnetic strips have been theories behind this unusual stunt, yet the real answer is an optical illusion: while the road appears to be on an incline, there is actually a slight dip in the road surface.

Slum Dog Favela

Caixas do Sul is a poor town in the south of Brazil where residents are less well-off and live in economically and socially challenging situations. This isn’t a problem that only affects people, but also the resident dogs and cats, too. To cope with the abundance of stray animals in the street, animal rights organisation So Ama (Just Love) copied human favelas and built a mini-slum for dogs and cats that provides shelter, food and medical treatment for the four-legged residents.

Casa da Flor, Sao Pedro da Aldeia

Casa da Flor ( ‘House of the Flower‘ in English) is a small house in São Pedro da Aldeia in Rio de Janeiro. The outside is made up of everyday objects such as light bulbs, stones and unwanted items that are re-purposed as art. The house’s architecture is the result of the inspirations and visions of Gabriel Joaquim dos Santos, a former salt worker and the son of a slave. He died in 1985, but left his legacy in this gorgeous house, leaving behind his belief that even rubbish can be turned into a thing of beauty.

Boca do Acre

The hub of a host of religious controversy, Boca do Acre is the birthplace of the Santo Daime religion, which blends elements of Christianity, spiritualism, shamanism and African animism. An important part of the religious practice is drinking a tea made from Ayahuasca that causes a hallucinogenic experience that apparently brings clarity and peace. Practices exist all throughout Brazil and have even spread internationally.

Old Petrolandia

Petrolandia was renamed Old Petrolandia when the remains of the Brazilian town in Pernambuco were submerged under water by the construction of an energy-saving hydroelectric dam. The area is now completely flooded, yet one hint of the ghost town remains: the top of an old church breaks through the surface, a reminder of the small town that lies beneath.

The top of the church in Old Petrolandia | © Andre Estima/Flickr

Glowing termite nests

In Emas National Park, which is home to extraordinary wildlife such as jaguars and maned wolves, an unusual natural phenomena takes place that is best seen at night. Termites build impressive towers that reach dizzying heights of 7m (7.6 yds.) tall and span across an area of up to 30m (32.8 yds.), the home to several million termites and intruders such as the pyrohorus beetle – more commonly known as the headlight beetle. The adults are bioluminescent, yet it’s the larvae that glow, creating a nocturnal light display that is bright enough to read by. The result is spell-binding, yet that’s the point – the larvae seduce insects with their glow, pulling them in close enough to eat them.

Gruta do Lago Azul

Gruta do Lago Azul, or the Blue Lake Grotto, is aptly named. It is a small part of one of the largest flooded depressions in the world, an underground cave that went unnoticed for thousands of years until its discovery in 1924. It has remarkably clear waters that become a vibrant blue when sunlight comes through the cave and reflects off the water’s surface. The most astonishing fact about this cave is that the bottom is layered with thousands of prehistoric mammal bones from the Pleistocene era, the remains of sabre-toothed tigers and giant sloths serving as a reminder of when giant animals ruled the Earth.

Gruta do Lago Azul | © Sidney Michaluate/WikiCommons

Victoria Amazonica, Amazon

Found on certain parts of the River Amazon, these giant lily pads grow an astonishing 6 in. (152mm) per day, up to a grand total 2.5m (2.73 yds.) in diameter. Like something straight out of a fairytale, these magnificent specimens can support the weight of a child, conjuring up images of picnics on lily pads while floating around the river. These lilies can barely survive for longer than a year outside the Amazon forest due to their sensitivity in their environment; they need exactly the right heat and humidity to grow and thrive.

Ilha da Queimada – Snake Island

Ilha da Queimada seems the stuff of nightmares. Lying 150km (93.2 mi.) off the coast of São Paulo is a small island that has an immensely dense population of snakes, between one to five per square metre. This population of snakes is made up of one species: the golden lancehead snake can grow up to one meter (1.19 yds.) in length, and is highly venomous. Its bite melts the surrounding flesh, cuasing organ failure and internal bleeding. The island is forbidden to visit, unless as part of a scientific expedition. Despite the snakes’ powerful poison, they are a critically endangered species and exist in no other place in the world outside of this small island.

Ilha da Queimada | © Prefeitura Municipal Itanhaém/Flickr

Nave Especial do Varginha

On January 20, 1996, two sisters and their friend spotted a thin creature with v-shaped feet and large red eyes wandering through the streets of Varginha, Minas Gerais. This was the beginning of an avalanche of UFO and alien sightings, including the claim that a creature was retrieved by three military trucks after it was found dead in a ditch. The town has become the UFO hotspot of South America, complete with a water tower in the shape of a UFO that glows at night.

Nave Especial de Varginha | © Oluap251 2/WikiCommons

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