Places in Brazil

There are dozens of "must-see" places in Brazil, so deciding where to go can be tricky. Below is a breakdown of places of interest by region.

Places in Brazil: The southeast

Places in Brazil: The southeast, Botafogo Bay by CelsoPupo

The highlight of the southeast, and one of the most popular places in Brazil, is
. No city on earth has a setting to compare: rainforest-covered mountains rise sheer from a bottle-green ocean and a vast wine-glass bay. And Rio clusters and claws at them; its centre climbing over smaller hills and crowding behind crescent gentle coves; its slums clinging to their smooth granite sides. The beaches and music are wonderful, and carnival - which takes place in a stadium, and not in the streets - is one of the world's great spectacles. Rio's ugly and far less courted big sister,
, lies a few hours' bus ride away. Its interminable labyrinths of concrete are unprepossessing at first, but those who find their way into the maze, preferably with a local guide, discover the best nightlife, restaurants, high-end shopping and popular culture in South America. The land-locked state of Minas Gerais is Brazil's literary heartland. Its pastoral landscapes are broken by rocky mountains and dotted with tranquil colonial towns like
. Minas is infused with a nostalgic lyricism, which inspired Brazil's greatest writer (João Guimarães Rosa), its greatest poet, (Carlos Drummond de Andrade), musician, (Milton Nascimento) and footballer (Edson Arantes do Nascimento or Pele).

Places in Brazil: Bahia and the northeast

Places in Brazil: Bahia and the northeast, a beach in Bahia by Schmid Christophe

Northeastern Brazil is famous for its beaches and colonial cities. The most popular place to visit, Bahia, offers the best of both with a string of palm-shaded silvery strands lining its coast and islands, and the largest colonial city in the Americas,
. Bahia is the home of capoeira and African Brazilian
religion, and Salvador's street carnival is Brazil's most raucous. The state's arid backlands are broken by dramatic, waterfall-covered mountains in the
Chapada Diamantina
, capital of Pernambuco, and its twin city
, are almost as pretty as Salvador and have an even livelier cultural scene, with some of the most exciting contemporary Brazilian music and the country's largest street carnival. Travelling to the north 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 in
, or kitesurf in the neo-colonial settlement of
. Then there are the vast dune deserts of the
Lençóis Maranhenses
on the windswept Maranhão coast and the last major city before the mouth of the Amazon,
, whose centre is covered in colonial tiles, and whose streets reverberate with some of Brazil's best nightlife.

Places in Brazil: The centre west

Places in Brazil: The centre west, Brasília by Gary Lim

The centre west of Brazil is dominated by the expansive grasslands, table-top mountains and scrub forests of the
and the Pantanal wetlands. The
comprises South America's most acutely threatened biome, almost as rich in unique flora and fauna as the Amazon and, in the wilds of the
Chapada dos Veadeiros
, just as magnificent. The rivers, lakes and grasslands of the
are the best place to see wildlife in the Americas; at the end of the dry season, there are few places on earth where birds can be seen in such astonishing numbers. At the eastern end of the centre west is the country's capital and one of the most impressive places in Brazil,
. Carved from the
in the 1960s, Brasília is now a World Heritage Site for its repository of striking modernist architecture.

Places in Brazil: Northern Brazil

Places in Brazil: Northern Brazil, the Amazon river by ANDInc

The north of the country is dominated by the
, its forest and its tributaries that spread as wide and thin as the blood vessels in a human body. The first Europeans cut their way into the interior of South America in search of an inland sea and an empire rich with gold. And when the river is in full flood its tributaries link through the inundated forest to form what seems like an oceanic labyrinth of
lakes. These are served by sea-going cargo boats that call in at river ports along its length. Some ports are little places while others, like
, with its cutting-edge alternative music scene, and
, with myriad forest lodges, are home to more than a million people. North of Manaus is the overland route through Boa Vista to Venezuela. The forest stretches north into Colombia at
São Gabriel
, and into Venezuela and the Guianas near
Boa Vista
, and south to the central tablelands of
Mato Grosso

Places in Brazil: Southern Brazil

Places in Brazil: Southern Brazil, Iguaçu Falls by Eduardo Rivero

With its maté-sipping
, beer festivals, squeeze-box tango and blonde-haired, blue-eyed super models, the three states of southern Brazil feel closer to Uruguay, or even Germany, than they do to the rest of Brazil. Most visitors come for the world's most famous waterfalls,
, on the border with Argentina and Paraguay. But there are canyons and good hiking in the
Serra Gaúcha
mountains in Rio Grande do Sul and the
Serra Graciosa
in Paraná, and beautiful beaches around the laid-back city of
in Santa Catarina and the tranquil sub-tropical island of
Ilha do Mel
. There's also the world's second-largest beer festival - in the German- Brazilian enclave of
, every October.
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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