Best of Brazil

A trip to Brazil this year is bound to be invigorating with the country playing host to the Summer Olympics in 2016. Discover the best Brazil has to offer with our top eight places to visit, adapted from our South American Handbook.

Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro was for a long time the image of Brazil, with its beautiful setting – the Sugar Loaf and Corcovado overlooking the bay and beaches, its world renowned carnival, the nightlife and its favelas (slums – which are now being incorporated into tourism). It is still a must on many itineraries, but Rio de Janeiro state has plenty of other beaches, national parks and colonial towns (especially Paraty) and the imperial city of Petrópolis.

São Paulo

São Paulo is the country’s industrial and financial powerhouse; with some fine museums and its cultural life and restaurants are very good. All the São Paulo coast is worth visiting and inland there are hill resorts and colonial towns.

Minas Gerais

The state of Minas Gerais contains some of the best colonial architecture in South America in cities such as Ouro Preto, Mariana, São João del Rei and Diamantina. All are within easy reach of the state capital, Belo Horizonte. Other options in Minas include national parks with good hill scenery and birdwatching and hydrothermal resorts.

Paraná, Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul

The atmosphere of the South is dominated by its German and Italian immigrants. The three states, Paraná, Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul have their coastal resorts, especially near Florianópolis, capital of Santa Catarina. Rio Grande do Sul is the land of Brazil’s gaúchos (cowboys) and of its vineyards, but the main focus of the region is the magnificent Iguaçu Falls in the far west of Paraná, on the borders of Argentina and Paraguay.


The Northeast is famous for beaches and colonial history. Combining both these elements, with the addition of Brazil’s liveliest African culture, is Salvador de Bahia, one of the country’s most famous cities and a premier tourist destination. Huge sums of money have been lavished on the restoration of its colonial centre and its carnival is something special. Inland, Bahia is mostly arid sertão, in which a popular town is Lençóis, a historical monument with a nearby national park. The highlight of the southern coast of Bahia is the beach and party zone around Porto Seguro, while in the north the beaches stretch up to the states of Sergipe and Alagoas and on into Pernambuco.


Recife, capital of Pernambuco, and its neighbour, the colonial capital Olinda, also mix the sea, history and culture, while inland is the major handicraft centre of Caruaru. Travelling around to the north-facing coast, there are hundreds of beaches to choose from, some highly developed, others less so. You can swim, surf or ride the dunes in buggies.

São Luís

Last stop before the mouth of the Amazon is São Luís, in whose centre most of the old houses are covered in colonial tiles. East of São Luís are the extraordinary dunes and lakes of the Lençóis Maranhenses and the labyrinthine Parnaíba delta.

The North and Centre West

Through the North flows the Amazon, along which river boats ply between the cities of Belém, Santarém and Manaus. From Manaus particularly there are opportunities for exploring the jungle on adventurous expeditions or staying in lodges. North of Manaus is the overland route through Boa Vista to Venezuela. The forest stretches south to the central tableland which falls to the Pantanal in the far west.  This seasonal wetland, the highlight of the Centre West, is one of the prime areas for seeing bird and animal life in the continent. At the eastern end of the Centre West is Brasília, built in the 1960s and now a World Heritage Site in recognition of its superb examples of modern architecture. Also in this region is one of the largest river islands in the world (Bananal – a mecca for fishing) and the delightful hill and river landscapes of Bonito in Mato Grosso do Sul.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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