Brazil is the largest country in South America, dominating the central and eastern portions of the continent. Visitors to Brazil will find plenty of beaches and sunshine to sate their needs, but also some of the most beautiful nature in the world. Home to the massive and legendary Amazon Rainforest, tourists can travel to the city of Manaus to see the meeting of the waters, where the Solimões River meets the Rio Negro to form the Amazon River, and from there take a tour into the depths of the rainforest. On the coast, visitors can scuba dive to find coral reefs, shipwrecks, and an abundance of marine life in the Atlantic, see the sand dunes and seasonal lagoons of Lençóis Maranhenses National Park, or enjoy Brazil’s national cocktail, a caipirinha, on the beaches of Jericoacoara.
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With a population of over 12 million people, Sao Paulo is one of the most populous cities in the entire world. This bustling metropolis is jam-packed with cultural attractions, like the Pinacoteca do Estado and The Museu de Arte de São Paulo (MASP) art museums, the neo-Gothic Sao Paulo Cathedral, and Ibirapuera Park. In Sao Paulo, visitors can also enjoy some of the most delicious food in South America, with a wide array of international restaurants, many of which are owned or hosted by famous chefs, or attend one of the city’s many cultural festivals, including one of the world’s largest LGBT Pride parades in the world, held each year during May.
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2.Angra dos Reis
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The 365 islands that make up Angra dos Reis are located in the southwest region of Rio de Janeiro. The biggest of these islands, Ilha Grande, is known internationally as a destination for scuba diving, and visitors to Ilha Grande can explore beneath its waters to find shipwrecks, coral reefs, and a multitude of sea life. Angra dos Reis is renowned for its beautiful beaches as well as for the colonial era mansions on the islands. Visitors can tour old villages, hike amongst the beauty of Ilha Grande State Park, and even explore the ruins of the old Cândido Mendes prison.
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3.Armacao dos Buzios
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This famous resort, known by locals as Búzios, is located about 100 miles east of Rio de Janeiro and was originally founded as a trading post for whalers. In the centuries since, it has become a thriving destination for tourists, in part due to the numerous beaches that each offer different opportunities for guests, from the calm waters on Ferradura, which are great for snorkeling, to the massive waves of Geribá Beach, where surfers find their heart’s desire. The town is lovely as well, with boutiques, restaurants, bars, and over 200 hotels to provide visitors with everything they could want.
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4.Arraial do Cabo
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Located on the coast of the beautiful South Atlantic Ocean, Arraial do Cabo is another great Brazilian destination for divers. The astonishingly diverse variety of life beneath the waves includes sea turtles, dolphins, squids, stingrays, and many more sights for divers to take in. For those who don’t wish to get wet, a boat tour of the area will show visitors some of the amazing sights in Arraial do Cabo, both on land and in the water. The town of Arraial do Cabo is not a resort, and does not contain any huge luxury hotels, but the small inns and family-run restaurants will offer guests not only a more affordable beach holiday, but one with a much more personal touch as well.
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Belo Horizonte was established in the late 19th century, and it was the first city in Brazil to be planned, with well-organized streets and a carefully curated flow to the city’s design. One of the largest cities in Brazil, Belo Horizonte, known as Beagá by locals, is surrounded by mountains in the southeastern region of the country and is home to bustling street fairs and markets, fascinating museums that cover everything from art to regional history, and a restaurant and food scene that is simply to die for, with local dishes like feijão tropeiro, made with sausage and beans, or torresmo, a salty pork rind.
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Adventurers and nature lovers will sate their wanderlust in Bonito, whose stunning clear rivers are home to schools of tropical fish and whose skies are graced by colorful macaws. Visitors can go snorkeling in the blue waters of Rio da Prata for a look at the abundant ecosystems that dwell underwater, or go diving or abseiling in the Abismo Anhumas, a massive cave with dangling, rocky stalactites descending from its roof down towards an underground lake. Bonito’s stunning nature can be fully explored within the Serra da Bodoquena National Park, with mountains, forests, and grasslands that are home to natural features like waterfalls and caves, and wildlife that includes capybaras, parrots, and ocelots.
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The layout of the capital city of Brasilia was extensively planned by architects Lucio Costa and Oscar Niemeyer during the 1960s, and every building in the city adheres to a strict code of regulations that follow its unique “pilot plan.” This architecture and layout is entirely singular, and is renowned for its resemblance to an airplane. Visitors to Brasilia will marvel at the unique and orderly layout and distinctive white architecture in this city, which is the federal capital of Brazil. With plenty of green spaces and a massive lake that offers water sports and activities like stand-up paddleboarding, Brasilia is a unique addition to any Brazilian vacation.
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8.Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park
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The waterfalls and canyons of Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park, located in central Brazil, are some of the most beautiful sights in the country. Hikers can enjoy the trails within the park, which vary in length and difficulty from the short but beautiful Dos Cânions trail to the 23 km Sete Quedas (Seven Falls) trail. The sheer canyons and stunning rock formations of Chapada dos Veadeiros, some of which are over a billion years old, are a fascinating home to some of nature’s most amazing creatures, including macaws, jaguars, and armadillos. The park is accessible from either the town of Alto Paraíso de Goiás or from São Jorge.
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This city, capital of the state of Paraná, offers a lot of history and sightseeing opportunities for tourists. Visitors to Curitiba can explore the 19th century Catedral Basílica de Nossa Senhora da Luz, walk along the pedestrian-only Rua das Flores, or see the giant 24-hour clock on the main street. Curitiba is known for its culture and is home to many different theaters within the city as well as museums, galleries, and a beautiful botanic garden. Touring the city of Curitiba is easy as well, with a bus line designed specifically for tourists, which will take them to some of the most visited sites in the city. Things to Do in Brazil
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10.Fernando de Noronha
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About 200 miles off the coast of Brazil’s mainland, Fernando de Noronha is a small volcanic collection of islands characterized by jagged, rocky coasts and lovely natural beaches. Because of its distance from the mainland, Fernando de Noronha is very secluded and great efforts are made to preserve the natural wildness of this beautiful place. There are only a few thousand permanent residents in Fernando de Neronha, and tourism is incredibly restricted. Travelers can visit Fernando de Neronha only with a purchased package from a handful of agencies, and once on the islands, they can scuba dive, snorkel, and see the dolphins and sea turtles that call the area their home.
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Florianopolis, or Floripa as it is referred to by locals, is located on Santa Catarina Island in the southern region of Brazil. It is known for its stunning beaches, where visitors can sunbathe and relax or go boating, swimming, and windsurfing, and there are several beach resorts on the island, which also boasts plenty of restaurants, shops, and a bustling nightlife for visitors. Guests to Floripa can shop in its markets for the traditional woven tapestries made there, and enjoy a meal of fish, or shellfish, which are very common on the island.
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The red cliffs of the beaches at Fortaleza are beautiful and set it apart from other beaches on this list. It is the capital of the Brazilian state of Ceará, and although it is one of the smallest states in Brazil, it has an incredibly long coastline, one of the longest in the country. In Fortaleza, visitors will find some truly spectacular beaches, but travel a little further from the city and they will see some very quiet and almost wild natural beaches, with cliffs, trees and, of course, a stunning coast. In Fortaleza, guests can take a tour of the city and its historical cathedral, fortress, and markets, and when night falls, they can drink and dance in Iracema, the party district.
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13.Foz do Iguacu
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The Iguazu Falls are the largest system of waterfalls in the world, stretching almost 9,000 feet in width, which makes them about four times the width of Niagara Falls. They are located directly on the border of Brazil and Argentina, and visitors can see the falls from either country, each with a different vantage point. On the Brazilian side, visitors can take a bus to the trailhead, where they can then walk a short trail to come face to face with a full panoramic view of the giant waterfalls. Guests can also opt to take a helicopter ride over the falls for a full aerial view or take a longer hike on the Poço Preto Trail, which extends for about 5.5 miles.
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Tucked into the beautiful mountains of Rio Grande do Sul, Gramado is a mountain town that was heavily influenced by German settlers during the 19th century, so the buildings and structures have a very Bavarian feel to them, with chalets and lots of heavy timber framing. The town is home to many chocolate producers and shops, and during the winter Gramado is a Christmas-themed wonderland, with markets, spectacular light displays, and even a Santa-themed amusement park. During the spring, Gramado is well known for its beautiful hydrangeas, and many town-wide festivals are held here each year.
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Ilha Grande is the largest island of Angra dos Reis, an archipelago of 365 islands in the state of Rio de Janeiro. This beautiful island has an illustrious history and some beautiful natural features, which visitors will love exploring, like the sweeping views from Pico do Papagaio, or the Castelhanos Lighthouse, which is one of the oldest in Brazil. At Lagoa Azul, snorkelers and divers can explore the clear waters to see dozens of varieties of tropical fish. Adventurers can hike through the jungle to the Cachoeira da Feiticera, a 50-foot-tall waterfall with a natural pool at the bottom, where they can rappel down the steep cliff’s edge and swim in the pool beneath the cascade.
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16.Jijoca de Jericoacoara
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This resort town is the perfect destination for a relaxing beach destination, with unpaved streets full of sand and packed with restaurants and bars and plenty of beaches for guests to enjoy. A visit to Jericoacoara National Park will present the beauty of Jericoacoara Beach in all its glory, as well as the unique arched rock formation of Pedra Furada, which is the perfect spot for a photo. The beaches in Jericoacoara are perfect for kitesurfing and windsurfing, and those who don’t want to get wet can ride a board down some of the sandy beach dunes instead. On Sunset Dune, visitors can watch the sun sink below the horizon from a giant sand dune that provides a truly spectacular view, and even catch a glimpse of the starry night sky.
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17.Lencois Maranhenses National Park
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On the northern coast of the Atlantic is Lençóis Maranhenses National Park, a vast area of desert-like land that is known for its tall white sand dunes and the shallow lagoons that form seasonally during the rainier seasons. Although Lençóis Maranhenses National Park looks at a glance like a desert, it actually receives a lot of rain every year, and the lagoons that form are due to a thick layer of hard, dense layer of rock not far beneath the sand. The lagoons are at their largest during the summer months, and after July, when they connect to rivers like the Negro River, there are even fish that live in the shallow pools. Some of the fish lie dormant in the mud when the lagoons dry up, and come back each year when the water returns.
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A perfect starting point for those looking to explore the vast and beautiful Amazon Rainforest, Manaus is located on the dark waters of the Negro River, just east of where they meet the Solimões River to form the mighty Amazon River. This meeting point is known as the “meeting of the waters,” and the visual spectacle of the muddy water meeting the dark waters is an unforgettable one. Visitors to Manaus can see the colorful ceramic tiles of the Amazonas Theater, take a boat tour to explore nearby resorts and towns, or hire a guide to show them the wonders of the Amazon. The local cuisine is heavily fish-based, with many exotic dishes that are sure to leave its visitors salivating, and local fruits and delicacies that are simply divine.
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19.Morro de Sao Paulo
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The island of Morro de Sao Paulo is a beautiful little piece of paradise, complete with sandy beaches, green palm trees, and unbelievably blue waters. There are no cars allowed anywhere on the island, so packing light for a trip to Morro de Sao Paulo is recommended. The streets are unpaved, and for a small fee, carriers with wheelbarrows are more than happy to help tourists lug their bags to their hotels. Life on this island is relaxed, with plenty of small shops and markets where locals sell their wares, and restaurants and bars for tourists to enjoy a nice cold caipirinha made with fresh fruit.
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The city of Natal is well known throughout Brazil for its gorgeous beaches and the huge coastal sand dunes that line the ocean shore. Visitors can take a tour along the many beaches of Natal in a dune buggy to see the dunes and the waves and to hit several beaches in one day. Away from the sand is the Forte dos Reis Magos, a star-shaped fortress built in the 16th century, which was actually the first structure built in Natal. Visitors can tour the fort and learn about its history over the years and the people who controlled it, from the Portuguese to the Dutch. Natal’s beautiful weather, sunny beaches, and the blue waters of both the ocean and its freshwater lagoon make it a great destination for a holiday, year round.
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The small port town of Paraty has an illustrious history as a major port during the Brazilian Gold Rush of the 17th and 18th centuries. Located on the Costa Verde, about halfway between Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, Paraty is a beach town with a historic center that features cobbled streets and stunning colonial architecture. Visitors can enjoy a refreshing caipirinha, the national cocktail of Brazil, hear some traditional music, or even catch a demonstration of capoeira. There are no cars allowed on the cobblestone streets of the town center, so a stroll through the shops, restaurants, and other buildings of this peaceful town feels like a trip back in time.
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Porto Alegre is the state capital of Rio Grande do Sul, located in the southern region of Brazil near Aparados da Serra National Park. Visitors can stroll along the stalls and stands of Brique da Redenção, located in the Bom Fino neighborhood, to shop for art, crafts, and handmade goodies to bring home with them as a unique souvenir, or go for a walk in one of Porto Alegre’s beautiful parks, like Parque Moinhos de Vento, which features a waterfall, a lake, and a windmill. The city is very easily walkable, and once all that walking has worked up an appetite, visitors will be pleased to discover that Porto Alegre is home to some fantastic restaurants, where guests can enjoy some traditional gaucho barbecue or a cup of chimarrão yerba mate.
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The historic Old Town in Recife is located on an island, separated from the mainland by the Beberibe River. The city has grown since the 16th century, when the island was the thriving center of town, but the historic buildings that still stand there tell the story of this old port town and its history over the centuries. Recife is also home to many beautiful beaches, including Boa Viagem, where tourists can go diving amongst the coral reefs and abundant marine life. Recife’s coastline and the jagged coral reef beneath the water’s surface is known throughout Brazil for the large number of shipwrecks in the area, and a dive from the coast of Recife will allow visitors to explore some of these sunken vessels.
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24.Rio de Janeiro
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In the city of Rio de Janeiro, visitors will find no shortage of fantastic attractions and things to do. There’s the music and passion at the Copacabana Beach, made famous by Barry Manilow, or the illustrious Ipanema Beach, made famous by Frank Sinatra. On top of Mount Corcovado is the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue, which, at 125 feet tall and on top of a mountain, towers above the city. From the top of Sugarloaf Mountain, which is accessible by cable car, visitors can get a glimpse of the city from above as well as the blue waters of the ocean at its edge. And if the timing is right, tourists in Rio can participate in Carnival, the massive celebration held each winter just before the beginning of Lent.
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Salvador was founded during the 16th century by Portuguese explorers, and the influence of these early Portuguese settlers is very evident today in the architecture of the city. Located on the coast in the northeastern region of Brazil, Salvador is a city where the local culture has been heavily influenced by Portuguese and African cultures, a blend which can be seen in the religion, food, and music of its people. There are over 300 churches in Salvador, like the grandiose Sao Francisco, which was built during the 18th century, and there are many beaches for visitors to enjoy, like Porto da Barra and Rio Vermelho, which also is home to a fun nightlife and vibrant music scene.
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25 Best Brazil Destinations & Places to Visit
- Sao Paulo, Photo: Courtesy of filipefrazao - Fotolia.com
- Angra dos Reis, Photo: Courtesy of R.M. Nunes - Fotolia.com
- Armacao dos Buzios, Photo: Courtesy of Tupungato - Fotolia.com
- Arraial do Cabo, Photo: Courtesy of basketmoreira - Fotolia.com
- Belo Horizonte, Photo: Courtesy of gustavofrazao - Fotolia.com
- Bonito, Photo: Courtesy of conanedogawa - Fotolia.com
- Brasilia, Photo: Courtesy of dabldy - Fotolia.com
- Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park, Photo: Courtesy of barkstudio - Fotolia.com
- Curitiba, Photo: Courtesy of martvirunurm - Fotolia.com
- Fernando de Noronha, Photo: Courtesy of CPJ Photography - Fotolia.com
- Florianopolis, Photo: Courtesy of Pela Vida Afora - Fotolia.com
- Fortaleza, Photo: Courtesy of phaelshoots - Fotolia.com
- Foz do Iguacu, Photo: Courtesy of Anne - Fotolia.com
- Gramado, Photo: Courtesy of diegograndi - Fotolia.com
- Ilha Grande, Photo: Courtesy of Rafael - Fotolia.com
- Jijoca de Jericoacoara, Photo: Courtesy of Kseniya Ragozina - Fotolia.com
- Lencois Maranhenses National Park, Photo: Courtesy of RonaldoMelo - Fotolia.com
- Manaus, Photo: Courtesy of Matyas Rehak - Fotolia.com
- Morro de Sao Paulo, Photo: Courtesy of lazyllama - Fotolia.com
- Natal, Photo: Courtesy of marchello74 - Fotolia.com
- Paraty, Photo: Courtesy of choupi33 - Fotolia.com
- Porto Alegre, Photo: Courtesy of Dominic - Fotolia.com
- Recife, Photo: Courtesy of Bastos - Fotolia.com
- Rio de Janeiro, Photo: Courtesy of ekaterina_belova - Fotolia.com
- Salvador, Photo: Courtesy of diegograndi - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of sfmthd - Fotolia.com