Brazil Travel Guide


Brazil Adventure Travel Guide 2014: Ideas and Inspiration

PureTravel Says: All eyes are on Brazil in 2014 as the host of the UEFA World Cup. Brazil is the largest country in South America. In fact, it is the fifth largest country in the world, bigger than Australia and slightly smaller than the United States of America. It is also one of the most densely populated countries in the world. Brazil is bordered to the east by the Atlantic Ocean and also has land borders with Venezuela, Suriname, Guyana and French Guyana to the north; Colombia to the northwest and Bolivia and Peru to the West. Argentina and Paraguay are to the southwest and Uruguay is to the south. Brazil also includes several islands and archipelagos including the Rocas Atoll, which is a wildlife sanctuary and Saint Peter and Paul Rocks.
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Overview

Brazil is the only country in South America that speaks Portuguese as its national language. It was colonized by Portugal from 1500 to 1822 and has been a Republic since 1889. The currency is the Brazilian real. Exports include coffee, automobiles, soy, steel and textiles. Brazil has a large economy and it is developing fast and the country has borders with every other country in South America apart from Chile and Ecuador.
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History

In the year 1500, when the Portuguese arrived, the Amerindians were mostly semi-nomadic. There was an estimated population of 3 million even then and they were divided into no less than 2,000 tribes and nations. Even today, Brazil has many people living without any contact with the civilized world. When gold and diamond deposits were discovered in the 18th Century, the wealth was spent mostly on the Portuguese Royal Court and the Global Empire, which has left an interesting legacy. Brazil was the last country of the Americas to ban slavery. Most Brazilians today can trace their ancestry back to the indigenous Indians, the African slaves or the Portuguese colonists.

Immigrants have settled in Brazil from all over the world. It has the largest Japanese population outside Japan, and the largest Italian population outside Italy. These influences have had a great effect upon the culture and traditions.

The capital city is Brasilia, but the largest city is Sao Paulo. Perhaps the best known city of all is Rio de Janeiro. It was the capital of Brazil until 1960 and is still a huge draw for visitors to the world famous Rio Carnaval.
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Culture

The colonial architecture is certainly a reflection of European influences. The Portuguese language and dominant Catholic religion are also influences of the Portuguese Empire. Cuisine varies greatly from region to region. The African slaves may have influenced the music and dance, which now include samba, bossanova and other styles.

Carnaval is widely celebrated throughout Brazil. The celebrations of costumed parades and street parties mark the beginning of Lent, a forty day period leading up to Easter. The best places to view these spectacular events are in Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, Recife and Olinda. Other regional festivals are held in June and are the Boi Bumba and Fest Junina.

The most popular sport in Brazil is football, or soccer, with the national football team ranked second in the world and Brazilian players are sought for major league football teams all over the world. Basketball, volleyball, Formula One car racing and gymnastics are all enjoyed and supported.
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Wildlife

Brazil is home to many natural environments and wildlife, which is a huge attraction to visitors. Wonder at the tropical birds and see the endangered osprey (fish eagle). There are ibis, macaw, toucan, heron and kingfisher to be spotted. The harpy eagle is rare, but you can also see reptiles, iguana and snakes.

Mammals can be harder to spot but in the jungle you could be rewarded with sights of the Howler monkey, woolly monkey, spider monkey, dusky titi, capuchin and red-faced Ukari monkey. You could also spot sloths, tapir, wild boar and jaguar. The country also features pink and grey dolphins and the Amazon is famed for fresh-water fishing.

There are many diverse topographical zones including hills, mountains, plains and scrublands. It has a mostly tropical climate. Major rivers include the mighty Amazon River, the Parana and the Iguacu River, which has the huge natural attraction of the Iguacu Falls.
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When to Go

Brazil has a diverse climate ranging from the Equator to the high mountains. The majority of the country is tropical.

Northern Brazil has mostly an equatorial climate with no real dry season. Temperatures average 25C (77F) year round. Nights may be considerably cooler than the daytime temperatures. The Equatorial rainforests are hot and humid. Tropical rainstorms in the afternoon are a major characteristic of this area.

Central Brazil has a more seasonal rainfall, with a savannah type climate.

The northeast has semi-arid deserts with less than 800mm (31 inches) of rainfall each year. Most of the rain falls in three to five months, leaving the rest of the year with long periods of drought.

In the South, near Sao Paulo, it rains quite considerably all year round. It has temperate conditions with average temperatures of 18C (64F) in the summer, cool winters and frost at times. Snowfall may also be experienced in the highland areas.

The citizens of other South American countries such as Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay can visit Brazil for up to 90 days with a valid ID card.
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Holidays In Focus

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Culture & Carnaval

Corcovado and Christ the Redeemer - Corcovado is reputedly the best view in Rio de Janeiro. Ascend the mountain and prepare yourself for the famous landmark of Christ the Redeemer overlooking the city. The tram or Cog Train is the best way to travel up the mountain and is a great way to enjoy the stunning views of the city and bay below.

The Cristo Redentor (Statue of Christ the Redeemer) stands 38 meters (120 feet) tall and weighs 700 tons (635 tonnes). It is the tallest statue of its kind in the world and it is made of reinforced concrete and soapstone. The idea began in 1850, but the statue was not funded and built for many years. Paul Landowski, the sculptor began it in 1922 and it took 9 years to complete. It was finally completed in 1931.

Mulata Dancers - The traditional mulata dancers can be seen on parade at Carnaval and also at cultural shows. They wear beautiful feathered costumes and high heels as they dance traditional South American dances.

Carnaval - The biggest national event in Brazil is Carnaval. It has spectacular street parades, costumes and vibrant music. Many people visit Rio specifically to see the Carnaval parades. The Carnaval is held 40 days before Easter at the beginning of Lent. Other huge celebrations also take place in Salvador, Recife and Olinda.
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Scenery & Beaches

Sugar Loaf Mountain (Pao de Acucar) - Sugar Loaf Mountain has a twin set of cable cars, which ascend the 390-foot mountain to give great views of the city and the beaches. The first cable car brings passengers to the top of Urca Mountain and the second cable car takes riders to the summit. It is a great place to visit first to give an overview of the area. There is a small nature resort there with monkeys.

Ipanema & Copacabana Beaches - These world famous beaches were made even more popular by the song ‘The girl from Ipanema’ and of course ‘Copacabana’. There is a hiking trail from Ipanema and both have chic boutiques and restaurants nearby. The beaches are exceptionally beautiful with safe bathing and lovely scenery. Ipanema Beach is adjacent to Copacabana Beach, which together must make the two best known beaches in the world and probably the two longest stretches of sand in the world.

Lapa Arches (Arcos da Lapa) - The Carioca Aqueduct is an 18th Century aqueduct used to carry water from the river into the city. It is an impressive sight and is often known as the Lapa Arches (Arcos da Lapa). It now carries the trams connecting the Santa Teresa neighbourhood with the city.
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Parks, Garden & Rainforests

Botanical Gardens - The Botanical Gardens are well worth exploring in Rio. They were created by the Royal Family and are surrounded by the coastal rain forest and a beautiful lagoon, which feeds a stream and irrigates the gardens. In the bustling and crowded city, the gardens are a pleasant respite of calm. There are a host of fruit trees, bromeliads and orchids high in the trees.

Tijuca National Park - Tijuca National Park is a huge tropical rainforest within the heart of the city of Rio de Janeiro. It covers 120km square (46 square miles) and is the largest urban park in the world. Christ the Redeemer on Corcovado Mountain is within the park and there is also Gavea Rock (Pedra de Gavea) and Beautifulo Rock (Pedra Bonita).

A Jeep Tour is the best way to see Tijuca National Park as it can negotiate the steep terrain and narrow rough roads. The tour will take you to see archaeological ruins, hidden caves and beautiful waterfalls. The park is also home to snakes, sloths, monkeys and other small mammals.

Amazon Rainforest - The Amazon River is the largest River in the world. It is estimated to be somewhere between 6259 – 6800 km (3889 - 4225 miles) long. It also has the largest drainage basin and in places appears to be more of a sea than a river. There are no bridges across the Amazon. No bridge could span it and also it flows through the remote rainforest so there are no roads either. The Amazon does have a bore, or tidal phenomenon just north of Cabo do Norte. The walls of water flow down carrying silt at up to 16mph, which the Ocean sweeps up and carries out to sea. This is a popular spot for River surfers to practise their sport.
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Adventure & Activities

Surfing and Watersports - The best beach in Brazil for perfect waves is Arpoador Beach in Rio de Janeiro. The rocky outcrop creates stable breakers of 7 to 10 feet high. The strong riptide along the promontory gives a very small take-off point. Often only locals and professional surfers use the waves here.

River Surfing - Many people practice river surfing on the mighty Amazon River. The Amazon has a bore, or tidal phenomenon just north of Cabo do Norte. The walls of water flow down to the ocean at speeds of 9-16 mph. his is a popular spot for River surfers.

Piranha Fishing - Piranhas are carnivorous fish which congregate in large shoals. They attack livestock and animals with their razor sharp teeth and even humans on occasions.

Jungle Walks - Organized tours arrange wildlife trips, birdwatching and jungle walks for a few days or longer.

Canoe Trips on the Amazon - Canoeists love the challenge of the Amazon River and tours are available in canoes to see much of the wildlife and fish from the water.

Amazon Village - There are tours where visitors to Amazon villages can stay in a lodge and learn what to eat and how to survive life without modern conveniences. Excellent guides lead walking tours and track wild animals.
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Nature & Wildlife

Jungle Wildlife - More than a third of all the species in the world live in the Amazon Rainforest. There are also over 3,000 recognized species of fish and more are still being discovered. Sharks live in the Amazon, even though it is fresh water. The huge anaconda snake also dwells in the river, keeping submerged with just its nostrils showing above the surface.

The number of plant and animal species in the Amazon rainforest could be as many as 4 million. Large cats including jaguar, puma and ocelot inhabitant the dense greenery. Peccaries, tapirs, sloths, anteaters, oppossums and armadillos are the smaller mammals. Deer and monkeys also thrive.

Pink Dolphins - Botos are freshwater dolphins found in the Amazon River. They are considered to be most intelligent and have a brain capacity which is considerably larger than a human. Due to the destruction of the rainforest, these beautiful pink-colored dolphins are now considered to be endangered. Many boat trips give visitors an Amazon experience complete with sightings of these wonderful mammals.
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Cities in Focus

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Brasilia

The capital of Brazil offers a wealth of cultural and historical sights, although as a planned city the key sights tend to focus more on the 1960's style of architecture. Inaugurated in 1960, Brasilia's breathtaking modernist architecture has earnt it a coveted UNESCO World Heritage listing.

In 2008 Brasilia, which is located in the Highlands, hosted the American Capital of Culture City honour. The city's basic structure was created in just four years from 1956 to 1960. Brasilia is bursting with palaces, memorials, museums and modern landmarks.

It’s a modern town planning dream come true: the city was built from scratch, together the dedicated town planner ad architect set about creating a city that would exist in harmony. The result is an architectural spectacle bursting with notable buildings, in particular the official structures – so much so that the city achieved UNESCO World Heritage Status in 1987. Don’t miss the stunning modernist Brasilia Cathedral, aka Catedral Metropolitana Nossa Senhora Aparecida, which features 16 concrete ‘arms’ reaching towards the heavens. Gawp at the iconic Palácio da Alvorada (Palace of Dawn) which is the president’s official residence and take in the awesome Congress, Presidential Palace (Palácio do Planalto) and the Supreme Court within the Three Powers Square.
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Rio de Janeiro

The spectacular metropolis of Rio de Janeiro is buzzing and travellers are treated to iconic white sand beaches, centuries of fascinating history, verdant rainforests and majestic mountains. It’s time to discover for yourself why this city is dubbed the ‘cidade maravilhosa’ – marvelous city!

Climb the mighty Corcovado and admire the resplendent Christ the Redeemer statue which is located in Tijuca National Park. The 125-foot statue is recognized as one of the Seven Wonders of the World and rides the granite Corcovado Mountain at 2,300 feet. All of Rio de Janeiro gets to witness its grandeur. And did you know that Corcovado translates as ‘hunchback’ in Portuguese!

Check out Grumari Beach, which is a little slice of serenity and a welcome antithesis to Ipanema and Copacabana beaches. With no luxury hotels, kiosks or restaurants, visitors have oodles of space along the mile of red and white sand beaches. This is a favourite beach with local sunbathers and is far from the crowded, tourist-filled beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana.

Explore the rich Tijuca National Park which spans massive 8,300 acres and is by far the biggest urban rainforest in the world. Experience a myriad of activities, from admiring the famed Christ the Redeemer statue to hiking and hang-gliding. Fun-filled activities are just a stone’s throw away at this urban retreat. Open from 8 am to 5 pm every day of the week, Tijuca National Park is brimming with activity.
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Sao Paulo

The pulsating city of Sao Paulo, also known as Sampa, is the largest, most diverse and most cosmopolitan city in Brazil. Its Downtown area was founded in 1554 and the compact area is bursting with neoclassical and baroque architecture. People watch at the central square, aka Praça da Sé, admire the 17th century church and monastery of the Largo São Bento Square and soak up the architectural diversity within the Praça da República, from the Edifício Esther of 1935 and the Edifício Copan which represents the letter ‘S’.
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Fortaleza

The northeastern city of Fortaleza is often compared to Rio de Janeiro, thanks to its lively nightlife and bustling commercial center. Travellers should take the time to explore the colourful heritage within its rich architecture and diverse culture. Don’t miss the exquisite Gothic-Roman Fortaleza Cathedral (which also happens to be the third largest church in the country) and stop by the impressive 17th century Fortress of Nossa Senhora da Assuncao. And when the multitude of museums, galleries and markets finally take their toll, chill out on one of Fortaleza’s stunning beaches; try the Praia de Iracema and Praia do Meireles right next door, which really comes alive at night.
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Belo Horizonte

The cosmopolitan metropolis of Belo Horizonte is most noted for its contributions from the famed Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, who designed many of the concrete masterpieces at Brasilia’s inception. Spot Niemeyer’s influence within the Pampulha Architectural Complex and the Praça da Liberdade square which is lined with sumptuous 19th century architecture.
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Porto Alegre

Porto Alegre is capital of Rio Grande do Sul state and the largest urban area within southern Brazil. The area is diverse, with Brazilian, Portuguese and Spanish cultures in evidence. The atmospshere is distinctly European in heritage which gives the city a unique background. Incidentally Porto Alegre is also the book capital of Brazil.
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Salvador

In the northeast of Brazil is the very first capital city of Brazil: Salvador, which was founded in 1549. This lively, colourful and intoxicating city is nicknamed the ‘Capital of happiness’ thanks to its very own annual carnival to rival Rio's lively affair and packed annual calendar of year-round festivals. It’s also proud of its sheer diversity, with African and European influences in evidence in its culture. Don’t miss the seriously impressive colonial Igreja de São Francisco, shop for handcrafts in the Mercado Modelo Market and watch displays of capoeira (traditional martial arts dance) in the public squares.
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Recife

The major city of Recife is best known for its myriad of waterways between its many islands, which earnt its moniker, the Veneza Brasileira, aka Brazilian Venice. Recife was originally settled by Dutch colonizers in 1637 and is rich in art, history and folklore. Recife actually means ‘reef’ in Portuguese. Highlights include wandering the beautiful streets, admiring the many beautiful old churches and spotting the traditional Dutch-origin buildings. Don’t miss the exquisite 17th century Santo Antonio do Convento de Sao Francisco church, the pretty Santa Isabel theatre which dates back to 1850 and the fascinating Museu do Acucar which tells the tale of local sugar production.
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Cuiabá

The small laidback town of Cuiabá lies in the very heart of the Brazilian cattle country. As well as picking up supplies of cowboy clothing and equipment, Cuiaba is a pleasant town to while away a few days. Browse the natural history museum housed within the baroque Palácio de Instrução and wander the Municipal Aquarium. Cuiabá is also the perfect gateway into The Pantanal.
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Manaus

The majestic city of Manaus lies on the Rio Negro, in the very heart of the Amazonas (see listing above). It’s here that the Negro and Solimões Rivers converge to create the mighty Amazonas River. Manaus is a great base to explore the rainforest as well as being a gateway to Anavilhanas: the 400 island complex which boasts a diverse ecosystem and incredible biodiversity. It’s also a great base to explore the Jaú National Park, the biggest forest reserve in South America, which covers some 5.6 million acres. Spot dolphins, jaguars and Amazonian manatees here.
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Natal

The Atlantic coastal city of Natal, which mean Christmas in Portuguese, was settled in 1599. The historic center is a particular highlight, with its architecture spanning colonial, neoclassic, art-deco and modern. Indeed the modern elements are again the legacy of the incredible architect Oscar Niemeyer, who created the city’s Parque da Cidade which is a tower structure, somewhat resembling an eye shape. Don’t miss the 1875 Memorial Câmara Cascudo which is in memory of the anthropologist Luis da Câmara Cascudo and admire the French style Teatro Alberto Maranhão which as constructed in 1898.
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Curitiba

The other large city within the south of Brazil, in addition to Porto Alegre (see above) is Curitiba, which boasts a beautiful ‘cidade velha’, aka old city. Throw a penny into the Memory Fountain, admire the Moorish style Arab Memorial and climb the 95 meter tall Mercês Tower which has superb panoramic views over the city and Paraná region; one of the ultimate things to do in Brazil!
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UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Brazil

There are 19 World Heritage sites in Brazil in total, with 12 Cultural sites and 7 Natural sites;

Cultural Properties:

- Carioca Landscapes of Rio de Janeiro
- Town of Ouro Preto
- Town of Olinda
- Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Congonhas
- Jesuit Missions of the Guaranis
- Historic Centre of Salvador de Bahia
- City of Brasilia
- Serra da Capivara National Park
- Centre of São Luís
- Centre of the Town of Diamantina
- Historic Centre of the Town of Goiás
- Town of São Cristóvão; São Francisco Square in the

Natural Properties:

- Iguaçu National Park
- Atlantic Forest South-East Reserves
- Discovery Coast Atlantic Forest Reserves
- Central Amazon Conservation
- Pantanal Conservation Area
- Brazilian Atlantic Islands: Fernando de Noronha and Atol das Rocas Reserves
- Cerrado Protected Areas: Chapada dos Veadeiros and Emas National Parks
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Top Tips

- The annual Brazil Carnaval is held between February and March in line with Easter celebrations.
- Flight fares don't normally increase over the Carnaval period. There is a lot airline competition, which helps with prices and availability.
- Local travel in Brazil is easy with buses and a few trains. Transport is plentiful and cheap but busy.
- Cars can be rented but the roads may prove to be a challenge.
- There are five main regional cuisines so ensure you sample the local delights.
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Travel Resources

By Julie Bowman

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