Brazil things to see and do

Tourist offices

Brazil Embassy and Tourist Office in the UK

32 Green Street, London, W1K 7AT, United Kingdom
Tel: (020) 7399 9000.
Opening Hours:

Mon-Fri 1000-1300 and 1400-1800.


www.visitbrasil.com

Things to see and do

Brasília

See Oscar Niemeyer's futuristic vision in the capital Brasília, with his curvaceous buildings dominating its flat horizons. Often overlooked by visitors, the city was designed in the 1950s by the world-renowned architect, who died in 2012, who was still working at 104 years old. Many of Niemeyer's creations, including the city's cathedral and the national congress, are now UNESCO World Heritage sites. The Planalto region also has some great hiking countryside, including national parks such as Chapada dos Veadeiros.

Costa Verde Islands and Beaches

There are literally thousands of gorgeous islands and beaches along Brazil's coastline, including the chic resort of Búzios, and car-free Morro de São Paulo in Bahia. Tropical islands are liberally sprinkled off the Costa Verde between Rio and São Paulo; among the most idyllic are Ilha Grande and Ilhabela. The ultimate getaway island paradise though is Fernando de Noronha, 330 miles (540km) off the northeast coast, with few hotels but thousands of seabirds for company. Top surfing sites include bohemian Jericoacoara in Ceará, Joaquina beach on Ilha Santa Catarina and Saquarema in Rio state.

Diamantina National Park

Go hiking, river rafting or just chilling in the Chapada Diamantina National Park (http://www.guiachapadadiamantina.com.br/), set in dramatic mountainous landscape. Deep within Bahia in the northeast, this is one of Brazil's ecotourism hotspots and an adventure playground for trekking, caving, diving and rafting. The park is full of natural attractions: mountains, forests, caves, underground lakes and waterfalls, including Cachoeira da Fumaça, at 1250 ft (380 m) the highest in Brazil. Access to the park is via the nearby town of Capão, which attracts New Agers for its laidback alternative lifestyle.

Explore the Amazon

Floating through the rainforest on an Amazonian ferry is one of the great travel experiences. The world's largest rainforest contains one-third of all the living species on earth. It is fed by 10 of the world's 20 largest rivers, including the Amazon itself, which rises high in the Andes and is the biggest river system on the planet. The usual base for trips is Manaus, a city with a distinguished history symbolised by its incongruously magnificent Teatro Amazonas opera house.

Football at the Maracanã

Watch the belo jogo – beautiful game - in Rio's Maracanã Stadium, once the largest stadium in the world. With dancing crowds, pounding drums and clouds of coloured smoke, the carnival atmosphere on the terraces sometimes overshadows the action on the pitch. Football is a national obsession and matches are passionately noisy affairs. Supporters are fiercely partisan but it’s generally a safe and social event for the whole family.

Fortaleza

Bounce around the sand dunes of northern Brazil in a beach buggy. From the coastal resort city of Fortaleza, it’s a four-hour drive to Jericoacoara, a picturesque village set between a dazzling white desert and a balmy turquoise sea. The beaches along this stretch of coastline are wonderful, with some excellent conditions for surfing, kite-surfing and windsurfing; best of all at Jericoacoara itself.

Go diving off Fernando de Noronha

Dive into the deep blue waters of coastal Brazil. Diving is particularly popular in the north, where the water is usually warmer and clearer. The protected marine park on the island of Fernando de Noronha has probably the best diving, with underwater grottos sheltering thousands of fish and coral; also the reefs off Recife, where many shipwrecks attract marine life. In the south, there are hundreds of islands ripe for underwater exploration; some of the best dive spots include Arraial do Cabo, Búzios, Ubatuba, Santa Catarina and Laje de Santos.

Hang gliding over Rio

Soar above the tropical landscape on a tandem hang gliding flight from Pedra Bonita in São Conrado, on the outskirts of Rio. This popular adventure sport gives stunning bird's eye views over the city and its Tijuca forest park before landing on the beach. Other popular hang gliding sites include Niterói, Corumbá (near the Pantanal), and Pico do Ibituruna in Minas Gerais.

Iguaçu Falls

Go rafting beneath Iguaçu Falls, set amid rain forest teeming with butterflies, birds and many other animals. These majestic waterfalls in southern Brazil are one of the great wonders of the Americas, with 275 individual falls encompassing a vast area protected by two national parks. The highest fall, the Garganta do Diabo (Devil's Throat) reaches 70m (230ft), which is one and a half times the height of Niagara Falls. The Iguaçu Falls span the border with Argentina; access to the Garganta do Diabo is from the Brazilian side, but over the border there are walkways which come closer to many of the other falls.

Learn Samba in a Rio Gafieira

Learn to dance the samba, Brazil’s most popular dance and unique expression of its joie de vivre. Let a local show you the moves at a rehearsal in an escola de samba (samba school), which open their doors to visitors a couple of months before Rio de Janeiro's Carnival. Or visit a gafieira, a traditional dancehall, where several generations of Cariocas girate across the floor with natural fluidity. One of the best is Estudantina in downtown Rio.

Manaus

Visit Manaus, in the heart of the Amazon at the juncture of the great Solimões and Amazon rivers. Transformed by the 19th-century rubber boom, the city boasts some extraordinary colonial buildings including the famous Teatro Amazonas opera house and the Centro Cultural Palácio Rio Negro, containing extensive archives of naturalist Alexandre Ferreira. The teeming dockside is an unmissable experience, with Amazonian fruits, vegetable and fish sold under the markets’ art nouveau arches, alongside the ferries and barges. Manaus is also the main hub for Amazon wildlife safaris and cruises.

Minas Gerais

Head to the mountainous inland state of Minas Gerais and witness some of Brazil's best preserved colonial architecture. Following the discovery of gold and diamonds in the 17th century, the region became fabulously rich from mining. A cluster of towns in the heart of the state, most notably Ouro Preto, Mariana, Sabará, and Diamantina, are historic gems, with hundreds of ornate Baroque churches and colonial mansions filled with religious art and sculpture. The main city Belo Horizonte is an ideal base for visiting the surrounding countryside, but the historic towns also have plenty of charming pousada hotels.

Olinda

Join the carnival atmosphere in Olinda, a gorgeous coastal town in northeastern Brazil. The streets come alive once a year with festivities considered to be among the best in the country, after Rio and Salvador. Olinda was once the centre of Brazil's slave trade and is a UNESCO World Heritage site, with a well-preserved colonial quarter crammed with Baroque architecture. It’s also a popular haven for artists and musicians, with a large gay community.

Paraty

Wander the cobblestone streets of Paraty (www.paraty.com.br), a delightful, historic coastal town that grew rich on the 18th century gold trade. Its wealth is reflected today in the beautifully preserved colonial buildings, such as Santa Rita Church, built by freed slaves. Paraty is a popular destination for schooner cruises around its bay and islands, and is well stocked with pousada boutique hotels and gourmet restaurants.

Rio de Janeiro

Find out what makes this one of the happiest and hippest cities in the world. With buzzing Copacabana and Ipanema beaches’ vast stretches of sand, the jungle-clad mountain backdrop, and the Cariocas’ infectiously joyful spirit, what’s not to love about Rio? See this breathtaking setting from the foot of the iconic Cristo Redentor statue by taking the cog train (www.corcovado.com.br) to the top of Corcovado mountain. Or catch a cable car up Sugarloaf mountain to view Cristo on the horizon at sunset, as the city lights sparkle over the sea below – an unforgettable sight.

Rio de Janeiro's Carnival

Witness the wonderful mayhem of one of the world's best parties. While Rio is most famed for the spectacular processions through its purpose-built Sambódromo, Carnival is celebrated throughout Brazil. São Paulo also holds a big citywide carnival, but elsewhere around the country, there is often a more local feel. In Salvador, crowds dance in the street to Afro-Brazilian drumming; as well as in Olinda, a beautiful colonial town, which throws the most traditional event.

Rio Grande do Sul

Visit the ruins of 300-year-old Jesuit missions in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul. There were once 30 missions, which formed an important role, defending the indigenous Guaraní people against colonial slavery. Today, Saõ Miguel das Missões (www.saomiguel.rs.gov.br) is the only surviving mission in Brazil. The crumbling redbrick building is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and despite the ravages of time and neglect, is well worth seeing for its stylised Baroque architecture and historical interest.

Salvador da Bahia

Explore colourful Salvador da Bahia, capital of the northeastern coastal state of Bahia. This UNESCO World Heritage site boasts dozens of churches and other colonial-era buildings clustered around the winding cobblestone streets of Pelourinho. Salvador was the first national capital and is one of Brazil’s most culturally vibrant cities, for many years spawning some of its best-known musicians, artists and writers. The Museu Afro-Brasileiro (www.ceao.ufba.br/mafro) gives a fascinating insight into Afro-Brazilian culture, or just soak up the vibes during Carnival, one of the best in the country.

São Paulo

Judge for yourself whether Rio’s arch-rival really does have better nightlife, art and, of course, football teams. Uber-cool Paulistanos, clean and wide streets, and a thriving night scene characterise the centre of Brazil’s largest city. With art galleries, live music and restaurants galore, São Paulo is a fascinating destination for culture vultures, as well as anyone who likes their city break taken with a good helping of sophistication. The nearby beaches aren’t bad either; Ilhabela, for instance, has several gems.

Wildlife watch in the Pantanal

Take a safari through the Pantanal, a spectacularly rich ecosystem that is home to jaguars, caiman, anaconda, giant river otters, toucans and hundreds of other species. These vast wetlands in west-central Brazil have wide-open savannah, which, unlike the Amazon’s dense forests, allow easy viewing of their abundant wildlife. The dry season (April-October) is the best time to visit, when animals cluster around the waterholes and the birds are nesting.

Edited by Jane Duru
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