Brazil boasts more than 70 national parks and dozens of monuments, including one of the Seven New Wonders of the World – Christ the Redeemer, in Rio de Janeiro. Together, these attractions create one of the most appealing and exciting destinations in South America. People come from every corner of the world to discover the superlative coastline, sprawling metropolises and thick jungles, which are home to monkeys, jaguars and river dolphins. The vast Brazilian landscape holds many prized spots, yet the places below are some of the very best destinations in the country.
Belo Horizonte is known for its bar scene rather than thumping nightclubs, which comprises dozens of bars packed together to create the ideal late-night drinking spot for socializing and winding down at the end of the week. For food, you’ve come to the right place as everything from mobile stalls to sophisticated restaurants serve up classic Minas Gerais cuisine molded around home comfort and slow-cooking. If art is more your thing, hire a car to Inhotim, a large interactive art gallery set within a botanical garden.
They don’t call São Paulo the concrete jungle for nothing. This often misunderstood city, home to over 12m people, is regarded as the business and financial capital of Brazil. Yet that sweeping definition overlooks the quirks and curiosities that make São Paulo the buzzing cosmopolitan city that it is. For culture, it has some of the country’s finest art galleries and museums, and you can excite your palate at one of many international restaurants celebrated for their haute cuisine. For a change of pace, head to Praça Roosevelt for hipster bars and an alternative, liberal crowd. Pace yourself, as you’ll need stamina for the nightlife here, which gives São Paulo its reputation as a city that doesn’t sleep.
Founded in the early 16th century by Portuguese settlers, Olinda is a small colonial town neighboring much larger Recife. Its collection of baroque churches, 18th-century convents, and vibrant houses cling to the hillside, coupling exquisite architecture with sweeping ocean views. The local bohemian crowd have restored many of the buildings into artistic hubs, creating a center of art galleries, museums and open studios. Come here in February to experience one of Brazil’s most traditional and lively carnivals.
Located in the south of Brazil, Florianopolis, the capital of Santa Catarina is known for its picturesque beaches, pastel-hued sunsets and popular holiday resorts. Enjoy the many sun-kissed beaches on 54km-long (34mi) Santa Catarina Island. Or pick up the pace at Lagoa da Conceição, a saltwater lagoon with strong winds ideal for windsurfing and pleasant boat trips.
Down in the south of Brazil, straddling the border of Argentina and Paraguay, is the small town of Foz do Iguaçu, one of the most visited spots in the country. That’s because it’s home to the Foz do Iguaçu waterfalls, one of the world’s largest waterfall systems, comprising hundreds of mighty cascades. Venture out onto the wooden platform that juts over the 80m-tall (262ft) Devil’s Throat fall, where mist clouds the bottom on a rainy day. Then marvel at the exotic feathered friends at the bird park, which has several ongoing conservation projects. Other highlights include a trip to the Itaipu Dam, an imposing hydroelectric dam, and quick bus trips over to the border towns of Argentina, and Ciudad del Este in Paraguay, known among savvy shoppers for its cheap and cheerful shopping opportunities.
This imposing mountain swallows up the border with Venezuela, but also stretches out to Guyana and Brazil. Located in the far north of Brazil, it’s remote and hard to get to, which makes it even more appealing to adventurers and hikers. Those who make the effort to go there will enjoy solitude and nature in its rawest form, with untouched rocky landscapes, mind-boggling heights and sweeping views that capture three countries at once. All this without a soul in sight.
One of the most striking ecosystems in Brazil, the vast Amazon rainforest continues to be an imposing, mysterious jungle, despite deforestation and illegal mining in the area. This complex ecosystem comprises hundreds of species that co-exist in a network unlike any other in the world. Sustainable tours in the region are actually good for the forest, providing an income to resource-lacking locals who come to depend on tourism instead of hunting endangered animals. It also gives you the chance to explore a magnificent part of the world that river dolphins, monkeys and brightly colored tree frogs all call home.
It may not register on everyone’s itinerary yet and that makes it all the more appealing to go there. Manaus is a city in the northwest of Brazil, and sits on the banks of the Negro River. Check out the nearby natural phenomenon known as the “meeting of the waters”, where the dark, nutrient-rich waters of the Negro River flow into the brown, murky waters of the Solimões River, creating one, long stretch that is half black, half brown. Linger by the riverbank at sunset for a wonderful visual treat and explore the elegant Amazon Theatre for a spot of culture.
For a country of more than 210m people, it’s easy to forget that Brazil is not all like Rio de Janeiro, and Curitiba is a good reminder of that. Located in the south of Brazil, Curitiba is hailed as being among the top cities in the world when it comes to urban planning, including examples of sustainable architecture, leafy parks brimming with trees and an efficient recycling system. With its efforts to address homelessness and create organized public transport links, it’s a safe and functioning city in which to sit back and soak up the culture.