There are few places in the world like Brazil: where else can you find a rainforest, vast tropical wetlands, and golden coastlines balanced by thriving cities and the world’s largest Carnival? Brazil is a backpacker’s dream and a place that never fails to entertain, so we’ve gathered the best spots that all backpackers need to visit.
Morro de São Paulo
This picture-perfect paradise of white sands lined with palm trees and bordered by clear blue water can be found at the tip of Tinharé Island, across from Salvador’s coast. Its tropical appeal draws in locals and travelers during the high season who come for the beach days and open-air nightlife. There are beachside bars that typically stay open late, serve caipirinhas, and have music and dancing.
Located on Bahia’s jaw-dropping coastline, Salvador has a casual vibe that trumps Rio de Janeiro’s laid-back attitude. And though you might think Salvador is a sleepy city, it vibrates with energy and has a great mix of African heritage, stunning architecture, tantalizing rhythms, and a buzzing nightlife scene. Its many hostels range from budget-friendly to pricy and from tranquil to classic college dorm.
Foz do Iguaçu
The quiet town of Foz do Iguaçu is one of Brazil’s largest tourist attractions, thanks to the Iguaçu Falls. This roar of cascades straddling the borders of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay will leave you speechless and their enormity provides hours worth of hiking trails and unique photo opportunities. It is also a popular backpacking spot with an overwhelming number of hostels. While the nightlife there is as quiet as the waterfalls are impressive, most of the hostels have a bar and an outdoor area for mingling and meeting like-minded travelers.
Rio de Janeiro
The city that leaves the greatest impression on most of its visitors, Rio de Janeiro is the number one backpacking spot in Brazil. With stunning landscapes, miles of beaches, and a samba-fuelled party scene, there are few cities in the world like Rio. The best hostels are located in the south zone of the city in Ipanema, Copacabana, and Botafogo, yet those looking to be in the heart of the nightlife should head to Lapa. Rio also makes a great jumping-off point for visiting other popular backpacking spots such as Ilha Grande, Búzios, and Paraty.
Jericoacoara is a small resort town a four-hour drive from the much larger Fortaleza and has little in terms of commerce and shopping. However, that’s exactly where its charm lies—its gorgeous stretches of white sandy beaches with relaxed vibes are what draw in backpackers more than anything else. It’s a great spot to settle down for a few days, chill out with some locals and fellow travelers, and watch (or join in) the windsurfing, the sport Jericoacoara is renowned for.
São Paulo may not have the breathtaking natural scenery of Rio de Janeiro, nor the warm, bath-like ocean of Salvador, but it oozes urban life with its towering skyscrapers, cultural events, and some of the best nightlife in Brazil. It’s a huge city with a population of 12 million people, so planning your day is important to get the most out of your time there. With hundreds of quirky, eclectic, and social hostels throughout the city, it’s a great place to meet fellow backpackers while feeling embraced in Brazilian culture.
Located in the south of Brazil, Floripa (as it’s often shortened to) is known for its abundance of beautiful beaches and for its excellent surfing spots that regularly host surf championships. The colonial center is a dream to wander through and has a varitey of charming cafés, quality restaurants, and funky bars. The fact that the area also has a solid nightlife helps attracts thousands of backpackers each year who have plenty of great hostels to choose from.
Praia da Pipa
Lying south of Natal, a large city in the north, Pipa is a small yet dynamic beach town with lazy white beaches and rolling sand dune landscapes. The surrounding sea is an underwater paradise for those who love snorkeling and diving with colorful fish, turtles, and dolphins who visit the shoreline regularly. Despite its small size, it’s a popular party region, especially among Brazilian students and backpackers. Try going there for a weekend break to make the most of the daytime natural attractions and the great Saturday parties.
Known as the eco-tourism haven of Brazil, Bonito provides access to the less visited areas of the Pantanal as well as its own unique and dazzling attractions: crystal clear rivers teeming with freshwater fish, underground caves riddled with stalagmites, and a rich ecosystem of exotic birds and wildlife. Despite the area’s overall priciness, it’s still popular with backpackers and there are plenty of friendly and social hostels to stay in.
The main appeal of Manaus for backpackers is its proximity to the Amazon rainforest. The city sits on the banks of the Negro River, a large river that flows into the Amazon River just outside the city. Though there are plenty of guided tours through the jungle to choose from, one of the most popular ways to experience the forest is to stay in a jungle lodge that provides food, basic amenities, and the chance to camp outside for one night in the wilderness. There are also river cruises that gently chug down the Amazon river, stopping at points of interest and offering on-board lodging for a few days.