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Best for more Venturesome types-Venturers, Mid-Venturers and some Centric-Venturers

Did You Know…?

  • Until 1967, the country’s official name was United States of Brazil.
  • Brazil occupies 47.3% of the South American continent.
  • Native Indians are about 0.15% of the population and speak 180 different languages.
  • More than 37% of all slaves taken from Africa were brought to Brazil.
  • Voting is compulsory for citizens between ages 18 and 70.

Of Carnival and coffee

Brazil is the world’s fifth-largest country and the largest of the lot in South America. It also is the world’s largest Portuguese-speaking country, which distinguishes it from its smaller, Spanish-language neighbors.  With that kind of reach, it can and does encompass a wide variety of climates, terrain, flora, fauna and lifestyles — a lot more variety than most prospective visitors know about.

Outsiders most often associate Brazil with Rio de Janeiro and Carnival; the Amazon and its associated jungle, and, less frequently, with colonial cities, Bahia’s African culture, coffee, Brazil nuts — and a great natural wonder called Iguacu Falls.

Contrasts abound in Brazil. Jungles spread immediately outside major cities; extreme poverty lives in the shadow of great wealth; fantastic natural beauty coexists with industrial areas of cities like Sao Paulo. The romantic image of Brazil created by Carnival and movies like “Flying Down to Rio” can be recaptured in the things visitors experience today, but that requires wearing blinkers to ignore areas of blight, poverty and over-commercialization.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s principal tourist city, lays claim to 45 miles of white sand beaches, celebrated in song and story — remember Ipanema and Copacabana? These two beaches are still beautiful (although crowded) and are overlooked by wealthy residential neighborhoods, something not true of other nearby oceanfronts, where slum areas abut the beaches and the cafes are not so nice

Fans cheer the good hotels, good service and warm and friendly people of Brazil. But, there is the issue of crime, especially robbery, in the cities, particularly in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. Visitors have to be alert to the issue.

Capturing Brazil’s rhythm means experiencing more than beaches and modern cities — and rhythm is the operative word. African and Caribbean influences combine with Portuguese Catholicism to produce music and celebration that are uniquely Brazilian: mostly joyous and sensual, sometimes reverent, sometimes dark.

The adventurous will want to leave the crowded coast and head into the Amazon forest, which occupies more than 40% of Brazil. Also, travelers on the rest of the personality scale can locate comfortable tours and cruises that allow their sense of adventure to bloom.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Go diving in the Abrolhos Archipelago off the coast of Bahia. Considered one of the world’s best places to dive, it lures divers with its huge coral reefs, a wide range of fish species and, between July and November, humpback whales.
  • Every country has its favorite fire water. Carefully sample cachaca, 80-proof Brazilian white rum distilled from sugar cane. It will put you in the mood for some of the country’s Afro-Brazilian cult ceremonies!
  • Visit the Amazon jungle for the chance to snuggle sloths, drink water from the inside of trees, eat fruit you never heard of, fish for piranhas and visit local river dwellers.
  • If you like up-in-the-air sightseeing, try hang-gliding or paragliding.
  • Learn the samba. For Carnival, sign on with one of Rio’s samba schools to join the members as they (and you) don Carnival costumes and dance together.
  • Arrange to attend a candomble (a religious ceremony which mingles African and Catholic traditions, producing the Brazilian version of voodoo) in one of several cities in Bahia, such as Salvador, Cachoeira or Sao Felix.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Attend Carnival in Rio, which is held the four days preceding Ash Wednesday (February or March), at the height of the tourist season. Fair warning: It wouldn’t be Carnival without crowds, so avoid this time of year if you seek peace.
  • Sign on for Amazon River sportfishing aboard a houseboat. The main target: peacock bass.
  • Visit some of Brazil’s colonial cities, such as Ouro Preto and Tiradentes, in the state of Minas Gerais. The cities were built in a state known for its gold mines during colonial times.
  • Go whale watching off the coast of Bahia.
  • Visit Brazil’s planned city, Brasilia, the modern capital that was built in the jungle. You will find it more satisfying if you are not also looking for a beautiful place.
  • The jungle and rain forest environments are a bird-watcher’s paradise, but the best place for birds is the Pantanal, a World Biosphere Reserve to the north and west of Rio. It also is described as having a much greater abundance of wildlife than the Amazonian jungle and offering the best photographic safari in the Americas.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Play golf, a game that is taking off in Brazil, on courses across much of the country.
  • Sample churrasco, the Brazilian version of a barbecue.
  • Put the grand Iguacu Falls on your itinerary. That arc-shaped array of falling water is actually 275 falls, forming an 8,100-foot-long semicircle, the widest span of falling water in the world.  Spend time in the associated national park looking at wildlife, and, for perspective and a little more adventure, sightsee over the falls in a helicopter.
  • Carnival in Rio is a wild and crowded scene. For a similar but less-demanding option, attend Carnival in one of Brazil’s smaller cities.
  • Drink Brazilian coffee in Brazil, bearing in mind that the best is exported.
  • Shop for amethysts, topazes and other gems in H. Stern jewelry stores. The chain was founded in Brazil in 1949.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult the Brazilian Tourism Board (Embratur) at and choose your language if necessary.