Brazil‘s vast land is replete with extraordinary things to do and see that will leave visitors feeling enriched and awakened. While the obvious attractions include Christ the Redeemer, Sugarloaf mountain and the famous Rio Carnival, there are a great deal more opportunities to explore. Here we’ve sidestepped the big names to bring you ten activities that explore a different side to Brazil.
Go diving in the crystal clear water of Fernando de Noronha
Fernando de Noronha is the name of a group of 21 little islands off the coast of Recife, and is truly a paradise on earth. With untouched beaches, fertile waters, and rugged forest-covered peaks, the landscape is breathtaking – the area is under tight environmental protection, which has allowed marine life to flourish. Divers will be in their element here, with shoals of colourful fish, reef sharks, dolphins, and elegant turtles gliding through the turquoise sea.
Enjoy the wonders of Brasilia
Brasilia has a bit of a reputation as a stuffy, serious city, which boils down to the fact that it is the Brazilian government’s residence and is a business hub. However, if you look beyond the formal business scene you’ll discover a world of architectural wonders. Brasilia was designed by Brazilian architect, Oscar Niemeyer, whose creative flair ebbs through the city and is showcased in imposing buildings such as the Cathedral and the National Congress that were also his creations. Take a step out of the city to visit the nearby Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park, an area of fantastic hikes and stunning wildlife
Browse the historical streets of Ouro Preto
Ouro Preto is a colonial city with well-preserved architecture that sets it apart thanks to its charmingly quaint feel. It is located in Minas Gerais, a state that became incredibly rich after gold and diamonds were discovered there in the 17th century. Browse the cobbled streets replete with colonial churches and ornate mansions, and be sure to try some of the famous Minas Gerais food – the pão de queijo (‘cheese bread’) and typical Minas Gerais cheese are both absurdly good.
Wonder at the art in Brazil’s largest open-air gallery
Another treasure in Minas Gerais is Inhotim, the creation of mining tycoon, Bernardo Paz who constructed a huge, open-air gallery in a 5,000-acre botanical garden landscaped by Roberto Burle Marx. The gallery is an artistic showpiece, with extraordinary sculptures and art pavilions from a range of Brazilian and international artists. Some highlights include the room of speakers, each one playing a different instrument that allows visitors to experience what it would be like to walk through a live orchestra (surprisingly emotional, it turns out). Allow two days to fully appreciate the art and the stunning grounds, though time-conscious travellers can still reap the rewards in one day.
Absorb the cultural hub of São Paulo
Often overlooked due to its sheer intimidating size and association as a financial centre, São Paulo is in fact so much more. A thriving underground scene dominates the city’s nightlife which sees a liberal crowd from all walks of life partying together in clubs, at street raves, or in abandoned warehouses. During the day, the city has fantastic restaurants, world prominent art galleries, and fascinating museums. The vibe of the city is electric, making it a must-visit.
Feel the energy in Salvador
One of Brazil’s most dynamic cities is Salvador, a city rich in culture and history that seems to linger in every corner and turn. The city sees a convergence of African, European, and indigenous cultures, which has created a fertile ground for the development of some of Brazil’s best musicians, writers, and artists. Salvador is also renowned for one of Brazil’s best carnivals, with the lively music genre axé relentlessly coursing down the streets for days on end.
Go sandboarding in Florianopolis
Florianopolis in the south of Brazil is known for its beautiful white beaches and charmingly constructed towns that reflect its past European immigration. Head to Joaquina beach, famed for its tall white dunes that have provoked a new sport – sandboarding. Following the same rules of snowboarding, boarders surf down the dunes, picking up speed on the way. There are dunes for beginner level and higher, and steeper slopes for advanced boarders.
Laze the day away in Jericoacoara
The idyllic crystalline, warm waters of Jericoacoara gently lap its white paradisiacal shores, while hammocks rigged up in the shallow shoreline swing and sway. Jericoacoara is considered the Maldives of Brazil’s north, yet the waters are not actually the ocean – they are, in fact, freshwater lagoons. Enjoy one of the many bars and restaurants that fringe the coastline and be sure to head to Sunset Dune to watch, as the name suggests, a jaw-dropping sunset over spellbinding landscapes.
Go wildlife-watching in Bonito
Bonito has defined eco-tourism in Brazil. The area in Mato Grosso do Sul state is famed for its incredible biodiversity and draws in tourists who come to marvel at the pristine clear rivers, the caverns with imposing stalactites, and the famous deep cavity – known as Buraco das Araras – that is home to hundreds of bright red macaws. Hire a snorkel and pass the day floating on the still rivers, observing the thousands of colourful fish that dart around below.
Explore the Amazon Rainforest
Head to Manaus, the capital city of Brazil’s Amazonas state and the gateway to the Amazon Rainforest. Standing on the bank of the Negro River, the city itself is one of contrasts – a bustling, cultural hub that is never too far from a reminder of its location next to the world’s largest rainforest. Take a trip to see ‘the meeting of the waters’ where the dark Negro River meets the light brown Solimões River, causing the water to clearly split into two colours. Hire a guide and explore the depths of the forest, camping under the tall, forest canopies and getting up close and personal to the shy, local wildlife.