Brazil is just as amazing as it is large. South America's largest country deserves all the time you can spare. There are wonderful people, superb beaches, the world's largest rainforest, amazing wildlife, beautiful cities, samba, football, and much, much more.
It's almost a given that your journey to Brazil should start in the country's most famous city, Rio de Janeiro. It can be tempting to stay in Rio forever since there is so much flavour and charm within its colourful neighbourhoods and streets. But as you will soon discover, Brazil offers much more than just Copacabana and carnival.
Ilha Grande - one of the world's most beautiful islands
Ilha Grande may be not be as well-known as some of Brazil's other attractions, but the island, which lies a few hours southwest of Rio, is divinely beautiful. It has crystal clear, turquoise water and amazing beaches, each one more inviting than the last (Lopes Mendez Beach takes the prize, though). There is also a sumptuous, dark-green lushness everywhere, especially on the picturesque mountain slopes, which run almost directly down into the sea. There are no paved roads, almost no cars, and a superb ambiance of tropical seclusion and relaxation.
Beaches and cities in Brazil
Continue your journey in Brazil on the mainland coast near Ilha Grande, which has many beautiful bays and colonial cities, such as Parati. On the other side of Rio lies the seaside resort of Buzios, a piece of heaven on earth. This never-ending coastline, which runs along the Atlantic Ocean, epitomises Brazilian culture and lifestyle. The beaches are the country's vital rallying point, as you will find people there from sun-up to sun-down. Enjoy the day with your friends, watching the boys and men play football while waiters serve you cold beer, Caipirinhas, grilled shrimp, and refreshing fruit drinks. You will quickly fall in love with the beautiful singing of the Brazilian Portuguese language. Life really is a celebration when you are in Brazil.
If you need a change of scenery, the other cities in Brazil are lining up to win your heart. You can visit Salvador (with a carnival celebration that is second only to Rio's), Recife, Olinda, Sao Luis and Belem. These cities are an indulgence of colours, smells, tastes and sounds. The markets and colonial buildings are fascinating, and the streets and alleys are swarming with people of all shapes and sizes.
Jericoacoara - a secluded paradise
Do not leave the coast until you have visited the remote village of Jericoacoara between Sao Luis and Fortaleza. You can only reach it after a three-hour trip in a four-wheel drive vehicle that takes you over sand dunes, beaches and rivers. This paradise makes you feel as if you are at the end of the world, as it is so peaceful, serene, and far from everything. But, don't worry, you will have the huge sand dunes and the wonderful beach to keep you company. In the evening, the cozy beach bars turn into excellent seafood restaurants that are as good and as cheap as anywhere else in Brazil. For truly unique entertainment, be sure not to miss out on a breakneck buggy or four-wheel drive tour through the steep sand dunes that characterise the area.
The Amazon: river, adventure, and jungle animals
Your journey in Brazil just wouldn't be complete unless you spend a night in one of the pousadas. These simple hotels are cheap and provide the most authentic experience of the country. You can find them everywhere, even in the middle of the world's largest rainforest, the Amazon. This natural wonder is not to be missed while traveling through Brazil. You will see another side of Brazil as you travel through remote villages by riverboat, observing and partiicpating in local life. A visit to the Amazon is an adventure like no other.
For a great journey, travel from the city of Manaus in the middle of the Amazon all the way to the coast city of Belém. The large iron cruzeiros sail along the river and you sleep in a hammock on deck. If you prefer to sleep in one of the charming pousadas, then it is advisable to get off in Santarém and search for the small village of Alter do Chao, deep in the jungle. At the city's river delta, you'll find white sand beaches. There's an opportunity to sail into the mangroves and snorkel for fish (the kind that we only know from the aquarium). Can it get any better? Indeed, if you are lucky enough to see one of the pink, hump-backed dolphins that frolic in the waters here, you will arrive at complete bliss.
Whether you choose to do it here or at another destination in the Amazon, you should definitely go on a longer, guided excursion into the jungle. Try sleeping in pitch-black darkness underneath the open sky and enjoy the symphony of thousands of cicadas and other nocturnal species. During the day, you might be inclined to go fishing for dangerous piranhas. You will be overwhelmingly enthused by the breathtaking views, the picturesque flora, and of course, the fauna. The Amazon is teeming with creatures such as alligators, monkeys, parrots, river pigs, birds, tarantulas, and jaguars, just to name a few. The chance of seeing these animals is even greater in the Pantanal, just south of the Amazon. It's a humid and adventurous swamp area the size of France. Truthfully, Brazil is so enormous and diverse that you simply have to get out there for yourself.