Brazil Travel Guide
Describing Brazil is sort of a difficult task because it's impossible to say all there is to say about the country. The massive country, which is slightly smaller than the United States, is often seen as a different continent by its citizens. It's an exaggeration, but an understandable one when one considers the sheer size and cultural diversity of the country.
Brazil offers powdery white-sand beaches, thundering waterfalls, coral-fringed tropical islands, an abundance of lush and untamed nature. and cultural diversity you would expect from such a vast country. Outdoor enthusiasts will have a blast exploring the country. Prepare to spend more than a week in Brazil. There's just so much to see.
Capital city: Brasilia
Currency: Brazilian Real (BRL) 1 USD = 5.43 BRL.
Electricity: Power voltage is 127/220 Volts. Power sockets type C and N.
Languages: Portuguese is the official and widely spoken language. However, there are several other indigenous languages such as Apalai, Caraja, Terena, Tucano, Guarani, and so on. The country has a total of 201 indigenous languages!
Fun fact: Brazil shares a border with every South American country with the exception of Ecuador and Chile.
10 Handpicked Highlights of Brazil
There’s so much to do and see in Brazil. When you aren’t exploring the landscape of the vast country, you can walk the streets to meet locals, spend an evening learning the popular Samba dance, or attend a futbol (soccer) match. You won’t find yourself in a hurry to get back home.
Below is a list of some of the best places to visit in Brazil:
Rio de Janeiro and its iconic geography and beaches
No visit to Brazil is complete without spending some time at one of the world’s most exciting, beautiful, and enthralling cities – Rio de Janeiro. Rio has some of the greatest landmarks in the world. There is the famous statue of Christ the Redeemer on the Corcovado mountain, the rounded incline of the Sugar Loaf mountain, and the famous lengths of sands in the Ipanema and Copacabana beaches.
Rio also has several museums, cool street art, bohemian neighborhood, and party spots. There is never a dull moment in the city, which becomes even more fun during the Rio carnival. Rio de Janeiro offers a unique experience you won’t find elsewhere.
It’s not an overexaggeration when I say Iguaçu Falls are the most beautiful waterfalls in the world. Mother Nature’s work on the falls can only be described as a work of art and you are bound to spend hours by the falls, getting lost in the ridiculously large volume of water rushing by your eyes every second.
As if the waterfalls aren’t beautiful enough, the wildlife is also amazing. You’ll see several racoon-like creatures called coatis and beautiful butterflies will dance around you as you wander through the trails. There are colorful birds, crocodiles, monster catfish, monkeys and if you are very lucky, you might spot a jaguar. I was lucky enough to see a giant otter on the Argentinian side of Iguaçu!
Chapada Diamantina National Park
Nature lovers and outdoor specialists will feel like they stepped into paradise when they visit the Chapada Diamantina National Park. From beautiful waterfalls to clear lakes, underground rivers, magnificent rock formations, quartzite caves, and one of the most beautiful valleys on this planet, this national park has it all.
There are several opportunities for hiking, rock climbing, horseback riding, and biking at the Diamantina Park. Some of the most popular trails include Cachoeira do Sossego, Morro do Pai Inacio, among others. Hire a local guide or take on the park yourself using a reliable GPS device if you are experienced enough.
Salvador de Bahia
Travelers often skip Salvador de Bahia, the capital city of the Brazilian state of Bahia during their travels. However, I believe the city is worth exploring due to its impressive colonial architecture and idyllic beaches. There’s also a lot of history behind Salvador as it was the first capital of Brazil and the birthplace of the cultural diversity in the country. Visit the Salvador Cathedral or the Rio Branco Palace, go to the forts to watch the sunset, and don’t forget to try the City’s delicious cuisine.
The Pantanal is the largest inland wetland in the world stretching across two Brazilian states (Mato Grosso and Matto Grosso do Sul) and parts of Bolivia and Paraguay. With over 11,000 species of animals living in this wetland, the Pantanal offers a superb opportunity for spotting them in their natural habitats.
Expect to see giant anteaters, rare marsh deers, and jaguar spotting, especially if you are visiting from the Mato Grosso side. The Mato Grosso do Sul side has more budget-friendly tours and you get to see cattle farms and cowboys.
Any visit to Brazil should include a trip to the Lençóis Maranhenses National Park, in Maranhão State. Easily one of the top natural attractions in the country, the park is filled with white dunes that spans about 383,000 acres. Seasonal lagoons, which are usually formed during the first six months of the year, makes the landscape truly unique. Put in some deserted beaches and bursitis (a special and graceful kind of palm tree) and Lençois Maranhense becomes a place outdoor lovers must visit.
Explore the landscape in a jeep or buggy with an experienced guide, swim to your heart’s content in some of the beautiful lagoons, or hop on a boat to visit the lighthouse in Mandacaru. You can also go tubing on the Formiga River in Cardosa.
Every experience in Floripa (as the locals call it) is unique and magical. Floripa is a modern city with an old town center blessed with several beautiful beaches. Hiking enthusiasts will have fun on the several trails with some trails leading to white-sand beaches. Surfing, kiteboarding, and swimming are some of the activities you can enjoy at the seashore.
Did I mention that most of the beaches in Florianopolis are only accessible by foot or by boat? And there’s a beach that’s tailored for you, so have fun exploring the beaches of Floripa (there are more than 40 beaches though, haha).
Manaus & the Amazon River/ The Rio Negro
The capital of the Brazilian state of Amazonas, Manaus is located deep in the rainforest. The city is packed with culture and allows you to see the convergence of the Rio Negro and Amazon river, a natural spectacle that draws tourists to the city. That’s the picture at the very top of this page! Cruises are available to see the meeting of the waters.
When you aren’t seeing the convergence, or taking a tour to the jungle, visit the Rio Negro Palace, Adolpho Lisboa Market, and the Catedral Metropolitana – and the masterpiece: the Teatro Amazonas.
Climb Pico da Neblina
Located in the middle of the Amazon Basin, the Pico de Neblina is as remote as you can get in Brazil. The mountain wasn’t discovered until some time in the 1950s due to the constant mist that rose from the river basin and engulfed the mountain.
The starting point of your journey up Pico de Neblina is São Gabriel da Cachoeira which is about 140 km away from the mountain. But it’s the closest civilization to it. Three operators are currently authorized to organize climbs for the mountain and they are Amazon Emotions, Roraima Adventures, and Environmental Tourism.
Pico da Neblina offers the chance to conquer the highest summit in Brazil. It’s a challenging journey that takes about two weeks and requires you to have some experience with elevation but it’s a very rewarding undertaking. This is a very off-the-beaten-path experience!
Saco do Mamangua
This one is a hidden gem! Located in the little town of Paraty that’s at the Southern tip of Rio, Saco do Mamangua is blessed with Portuguese colonial architecture and natural wonders.
The mamangua is a fjord that comes with well preserved mangrove forest, rivers and waterfalls. Expect to see a seashore surrounded by mountains and an abundance of plant and animal life in a tropical rainforest. There are opportunities to go on hikes for those wishing to explore the stunning landscape.
Brazil's Geography & Landscapes
The immense and complex Brazilian landscape can be divided into five geographic regions:
- The Guiana Highlands in the North
- The Amazon Lowlands
- The Coastal Atlantic Lowlands
- The Pantanal in the Central-West
- The Brazilian Highlands
Brazil contains over 60% of the Amazon Rainforest alongside long stretches of highlands. The country also features wetlands, rugged hills, and endless and spectacular coastlines featuring stunning coral reefs, lagoons, mangroves, and dunes.
Best Time To Go To Brazil
While Brazil is mainly tropical in climate, the weather can vary greatly across Brazil due to its big size. Brazil climate goes as thus:
- May to September: Winter
- November to March: Summer
The coldest parts of the country are the far South and Southeast regions although temperature rarely dips below freezing there. If you are visiting these regions, the best time to go there is during summer.
Brazilian coastal areas enjoy warm weather all year round. There’s near constant sunshine and temperatures greater than 25°C (77°F) even during the winter months although rainfall occurs from October to January (the rainy season).
There’s no real winter season in the northeast (around the Amazon) as temperatures reach or often exceed 40°C (104°F). The climate there is mainly rainy and dry. The dry season runs through July to October in Central Amazon and cities like Manaus and this is the best time to see wildlife in the Amazon and the Pantanal.
Also read: When is The Best Time to Visit Iguaçu Falls?
Traveling in Brazil
Petty theft is very common in major cities in Brazil. Real violence occurs in the slums and you should have no reason to go there as a tourist. Below are safety tips to observe when touring Brazil:
- Don’t flash or flaunt your belongings. You’ll make yourself a target for thieves if you do.
- Don’t go anywhere alone at night.
- Ask your hotel or hostel management about places to avoid.
- Keep your original documents in a safe in your hotel. Carry only duplicates with you.
- The streets are usually empty on Sundays. Not the best time to go sightseeing.
- Purchase good travel insurance.
- Check the weather, dress appropriately, and carry the right gear before you go hiking.
- Don’t drink tap water or accept ice cubes in your cocktails. The local water quality isn’t very good. Consider buying a filter water bottle if you want to save cash on single-use water bottles.
- Don’t get involved with drugs.
Getting to & Around Brazil
Sao Paulo Guarulhos International Airport is the largest gateway into Brazil. You can also fly in through the Rio de Janeiro Galeao International Airport.
Public transportation in major cities is modern and efficient. Cities like Rio and Sao Paulo have subway systems. Buses are readily available and are very affordable.
Taxis are also readily available and are recommended to be used in the evening as public transportation may not be as safe then. Use apps like Uber and 99Taxis to get a licensed taxi.
Trains are pretty much limited to the big cities and are expensive. Not recommended.
Air travel is useful if you are pressed for time. Major airlines are Avianca, GOL, Azul, and LATAM. It’s easier if you are flying between two big cities. Car rentals are available but I don’t recommend it. Brazil may have wonderful landscapes but the roads aren’t great. Also, other road users, mainly drivers, can be aggressive. Carjacking is also quite common and a foreigner behind the wheels may be a more appealing target. On top of that, the distances are so big that it would make any road trip extremely tiring.
Hostels are spread throughout Brazil and you’ll easily find one within your price range. There are also hotels, cool Airbnbs, and a ton of B&Bs. Do some research about the hostel, hotel, or Airbnb you want to stay in and choose one that has good reviews.