Head away from the staples of Rio and explore the rest of this magnificent country
Rio de Janeiro
You cannot help but feel that Christ himself is welcoming you to Brazil when you see this iconic 30-m statue perched atop Mt. Corcovado. Unveiled in 1931, it made the list of the Seven New Wonders of the World. You can get to it via taxi, or through a cog train that is older than the statue. The latter winds its way through the world’s largest urban jungle that is the Tijuca National Park. The truly adventurous can hike it up to the 700-m peak.
Rio de Janeiro, Para
Brazil’s beaches are the stuff of legend. Songs have been written about them, they are a parade-ground for some of the fittest bodies on the planet, and their biodiversity is stunning. One of the hidden gems, the Alter do Chao Beach at Para, is actually away from the coast, in the heart of the Amazon, on the river bank. The Fernando de Noronha archipelago, 350km off the coast has one of the finest swimming beaches in the world. Of course, there are always the staples—Ipanema and Copacabana in Rio.
Situated on the cusp of Brazil and Argentina, the magnificent Iguazu Falls are a wondrous sight, offering different views from both countries. The Brazil side shows the massive two-kilometre width of these falls in all their splendour. The falls cut into a raw and jagged cleft of earth, with nearly 7,000 tons of water cascading over every second and crashing down 80m to the misty bottom. Spend time at the Iguazu National Park, a World Heritage Site since 1987. The falls can be viewed via a chopper-ride as well.
The mighty Amazon is accessed from the colonial city of Manaus, which is now undergoing a renaissance after falling into destitution around the 1920s. If you are about to embark on a tour of the mighty river, take some time off in the charming Manaus. Ponta Negra Beach, right in the centre of town, is perfect for a sun-n-sand break. Check out the magnificent Opera House, which dates back to the 19th-century. A couple of hours’ boat ride from Manaus will take you right into the heart of the jungle.
Salvador da Bahia, Bahia
Back in the heyday of Portuguese rule, this stunning city was the capital of Brazil before Rio took over in 1763. All the splendour of Renaissance-Europe was poured into its making. Most of it stands even today, giving it a UNESCO World Heritage Site status. Brilliant coloured stucco houses cascade down a verdant hillside onto the vibrantly blue coastline. Salvador da Bahia is the epicentre of the Afro-Brazilian culture, and also boasts the finest Carnival after Rio.
No visit to Brazil would be complete without an extensive stay in Sao Paolo, easily Brazil’s most dynamic and vibrant city, also its richest, largest and most cosmopolitan. Colonial architecture, gothic and baroque cathedrals and museums form stunning landmarks all across the city. Visit the Ibirapuera Park, a vast expanse of greenery with lakes, lagoons and Japanese gardens. The park also has a museum, a planetarium and several closed and open-air performance venues.
The Pantanal, Mato Grosso do Sul
To experience wild, untrammelled nature, visit the eco-rich wetland of the Pantanal. Most of it is in Brazil, in Mato Grosso do Sul, and the sheer variety of plant and animal life is breathtaking. The Pantanal can be viewed via a boat tour or on horseback. Hiking is also a popular activity here. Opt for a safari that will take you up close with some of the most startling animal species on the planet.
The Baroque Hill-towns of Minas Gerais may be the largest producer of milk and coffee in Brazil, but it’s the magnificent architecture that you should go there for. The names of towns reflect an era of gold and precious-stone mining back in the day: Ouro Petro, Tiradentes and Diamantina. The wealth that accrued from that showed in the opulence of the architecture, in churches, paintings and sculptures, a style known as Barocco Mineiro that developed in isolation from European influences.
Fernando de Noronha Archipelago
The Archipelago of Fernando de Noronha comprises of 21 picture-perfect, volcanic islands in the Atlantic Ocean, which boast some of the region’s finest beaches. The main island is environmentally protected, with only a handful of visitors allowed at a time. Influences of all the European cultures, Portuguese, Dutch, English and French that made landfall here still stand. Save for the main island, tourism is the biggest industry today, with some of the world’s best scuba diving on offer here.
Florianopolis, Santa Catarina
Far from the madness of Rio and Sao Paulo is Brazil’s hidden gem, the state of Santa Catarina and its vibrant capital Florianopolis. Made up of outlying islands and a stunning coastline, there are 42 pristine beaches, favoured by surfers, on which you can soak up the flavour of Brazil. The beauty of its colonial architecture will have your head turning non-stop and the seafood-themed cuisine will leave you well and truly satiated.