Take a Brazil adventure tour to discover the amazing lengthy white-sand coastline, meet friendly and diverse peoples and enjoy fantastic local foods. The vast Pantanal wetlands offer the chance to see an amazing array of wildlife including hundreds of bird species and even the world’s largest rodent, the capybara. Many pristine colonial towns can be discovered like the 17th century seaside town of Paratí with its cobble stone streets built to be washed clean by the tides.
Our Brazil adventure tours offer the chance to try a traditional sailboat and visit coral reefs at Maceió, relax on fine beaches at Praia Pipa and view massive sand dunes at Canoa Quebrada. Inland you can experience the gem mining city of Ouro Preto, take in the power of the vast Iguaçu Falls, and take an amazing Amazon River ferry cruise from the coast into the heart of the Amazon Jungle. The highlight of any Brazil adventure tour is the dynamic and world famous Rio Carnival, the world’s largest street party. Join in the local street parades or party the night away at the fabulous Sambadrome parades, a highly memorable and enjoyable part of any Brazil adventure tour.
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Brazil Travel Articles, Inspiration & Information
Rio Carnival Video
Check out our video from Rio Carnival 2015 created by Greg and Carole over at Travizeo. Jam-packed with the top highlights from their adventure, it’s a three minute extravaganza into what to expect at the greatest party of the world! You can add Rio Carnival to a number of tours going through Brazil. Read more
What you don’t know about Brazil
When planning a new adventure, it's always great to learn some more facts about the country you are visiting. As the largest country in South America, Brazil is packed with vibrant cities, tropical jungles and beautiful beaches. Check out some of our favourite facts about Brazil below, some may surpise you! Read more
Rio de Janeiro – The Marvelous City
With its perfect beaches, dramatic peaks and year-round sunshine, Rio de Janeiro is surrounded by such outstanding natural beauty that this alone would make it worth the trip. But add to this iconic sites, colonial splendour and bustling nightlife, and you’ll come to know exactly why it’s called a Cidade Maravilhosa – the Marvelous City. Read more
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Brazil Travel Guide
Brazil Travel Guide
Covering almost half of the continent, Brazil's size alone ensures it is a nation of extreme diversity and wonderful variety. Central Brazil is characterised by Mato Grosso, a region of huge plains and wetlands, and the Amazon Jungle which covers over half of the country. Much of the nation's population are based in the south east of Brazil which is where the three largest cities are located; São Paulo, Belo Horizonte and the vibrant Rio de Janeiro. The north east is known for having some of Brazil's best beaches with lush tropical coastline and quaint colonial towns. Every year Rio de Janeiro, Salvador and Olinda are taken over by sequin-festooned revellers during Carnaval, a wild festival marking the beginning of Lent which is celebrated with brightly, plumed costumes, dancing, processions and street parties. Whether it's shaking your hips to samba drums, exploring the wilds of the jungle or wandering tranquil cobbled streets of Brazil's preserved colonial towns, there is an experience here for every taste and interest.
The Brazilian currency is the real, the plural is reais (symbol: R$), and it is made up of 100 centavos. Bank notes come in 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 real denominations. Coins come in 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 centavo and 1 real denominations. It can be very difficult to obtain US dollars in Brazil, especially if arriving over the Carnaval period, so if you require US dollars for your trip it is advisable to bring it with you from your home country.
ATMs are ubiquitous in Brazil. Most, but not all, will accept international cards but they can be unreliable at times, so it is recommended that you do not rely on cards as your sole source of funds. It is preferable to arrive with a small amount of reais and some backup currency (such as US dollars) which you can exchange should your card not work when you arrive. Carrying a mixture of cards and cash is the safest way to ensure you have sufficient funds during your stay.
Rapid economic growth that has led Brazil to become one of the world's emerging economic superpowers has meant that travel in Brazil is not the bargain it once was. Prices have increased sharply over the past years, although it is still a viable destination for budget travellers. Tipping is customary and a 10% tip where a service charge has not already been added to your bill in restaurants will suffice. Tipping for tour guides, drivers and housekeepers is optional but appreciated.
Major Cities and Towns in Brazil
Brasilia is the country's futuristic capital city, located inland about a third of the way up the country. It was founded in the late-1950s and best known for its unusual space-age feel and as a starting point for hiking and ecotourism in the surrounding area. In the south east corner of the country lie Brazil's three largest cities: Belo Horizonte, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Near the border with Argentina and Paraguay, Foz do Iguaçu is the gateway for visiting the renowned Iguaçu Falls. Along the north-east coast, hugging the Atlantic Ocean are some of Brazil's best preserved colonial towns. This was the first area to be settled by the Portuguese and Salvador, São Luis and Olinda (near Recife) are particular examples of their legacy. Manaus and Belem are two major cities sitting on the banks of the mighty Amazon River, the first located far inland and the latter located on the coast at the river mouth.
Electricity supply in Brazil can vary between 110 and 220 volts, so it is best to check before plugging anything in. The most common plug type used is two round prongs such as is found in continental Europe or the similar three round prong plug.
Etiquette and Culture
Brazil's population is predominantly of European origin, with around 54% of the people descended from immigrants from countries including Portugal, Spain, Italy and Germany. A legacy of the African slave trade, around 44% of Brazil's population are black or mixed-race and less than 1% are from indigenous groups. There are small Asian and Arab communities in Brazilian cities including São Paulo which has the largest population of Japanese people outside Japan. The nation is around 80% Roman Catholic.
Unlike the rest of Latin America, Brazil's national language is Portuguese rather than Spanish. It is spoken virtually everywhere and by everyone and learning a few words before you travel will be appreciated by locals and will likely make your passage run more smoothly.
You may find the level of intimacy and physical contact is more than you are used to at home as Brazilians tend to stand quite close when speaking to one another and are more likely to touch one another, such as a touch on the arm. This is considered to be friendly and/or concerned and should not be misinterpreted as flirtatious or inappropriate.
Brazil is the largest country in South America and covers almost half the continent. It is only slightly smaller than the United States and shares a land border with every other South American country except Chile and Ecuador. Over half of the country is covered by the Amazon Jungle, the largest forest in the world and the mighty Amazon River runs from west to east across the north of the country. The geography of Central Brazil is characterised by the vast Planalto Central (central highlands) a vast plateau of savannah, hill ranges and rocky outcrops. Just below this is the Pantanal Wetlands, a wetlands larger than France with a reputation for having some of the best wildlife viewing opportunities in Brazil. South-east Brazil was once covered with dense forest, but as the country's industrial heart it is now home to its largest cities. In addition, Brazil has 7,400 kms of coastline along the Atlantic Ocean.
Little is known of Brazil's pre-European Indian cultures. When Portuguese explorers arrived in the 16th century they found large villages, but nothing on the scale of the Inca and Aztec civilisations. The Portuguese discovered Brazil in 1500 when Pedro Alvares Cabral steered too far west avoiding the equatorial doldrums on his way to India. He drowned a few months later in a shipwreck and when King Manual I sent Amerigo Vespucci to explore the continent further in 1501 the continent was named after him rather than Cabral. The country itself was named Terra do Brasil after a tropical redwood tree which was its first export.
To push back encroaching privateers from other European nations the Portuguese established captaincies along the coastline and when that didn't work, the king brought the area back under direct royal rule sending the first governor-general in 1549 to the designated capital city of Salvador. Control was retained and slaves were imported from the African coast as sugar plantations began to spring up in the north-east. Over the next 200 years around 10 million Africans would be transported to Brazil, ten times the number as were sent to the United States. The Dutch invaded from their naval bases in the Caribbean between 1624 and 1654 and, although they were repelled by Portuguese settlers, took control of Olinda in the north and the sugar zones of Purnambuco before they were eventually expelled altogether.
The interior of Brazil was slowly opened up as explorers plunged deeper into the continent in search of gold and looking for Indians to enslave or convert. These explorers were called bandeirantes after the identifying banners they carried and São Paulo became one of the main centres for them on their way to or from the interior. Gold was first found in 1695 in Minas Gerais and by the mid-18th century Brazilian gold was keeping the Portuguese Crown afloat and there was a steady influx of immigrants to Brazil. As a result of this, the capital was transferred from Salvador to Rio de Janeiro. During this time, Jesuit missions, who first arrived in 1549, held a great deal of power working in the interests of the Indians and protecting them from settlers while converting them to Catholicism. Inadvertently they also brought foreign disease to remote communities that in some cases wiped out entire tribes.
Brazil's path to independence was precipitated by Napoleon's invasion of Portugal in 1807 and King João VI's evacuation by the British to Rio de Janeiro, named the temporary capital of the Portuguese Empire. The British used the situation to force the opening of Brazilian ports to international trade. When João returned to Portugal after Napoleon was defeated he left his son Dom Pedro I as prince regent and governor of Brazil. Frustrated with being controlled from a far, Dom Pedro declared himself Emperor of Brazil on December 1, 1822. The Portuguese put up little resistance and by the end of 1823 none of their forces remained in Brazil.
The War of the Triple Alliance was fought from 1864-70 with Paraguay against an alliance of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. It was the bloodiest war in South America's history with almost as many casualties as the American Civil War, caused as a result of Paraguay invading Brazil when it saw Brazil attempting to incorporate Uruguay into the Empire which would block Paraguayan access to the sea.
Brazil was the last country in the Americas to abolish slavery after continued pressure from the British to do so. The slave trade was abolished in Brazil in 1854 but slavery itself would end until the passing of the “Golden Law” in 1888. The following year, the monarchy collapsed and Brazil was declared a republic. After a few years of incompetent dictatorial rule, Brazil's first elected civilian president, Prudente de Morais came into power in 1894.
Between 1890 and 1930 Brazil's coffee and rubber industries boomed leading to high immigration from Europe and Japan. Political corruption and centralisation of power in the states of São Paulo and Minas Gerais led to revolution in 1930 bringing Getúlio Vargas into power. Vargas had one of the longest and most dynamic political careers in Brazil's history. When Brazil was the only country to play a part in World War II, fighting in Italy from 1944, the military declared it inappropriate that Vargas remained in power while fighting for democracy abroad. Elections were called and general Eurico Dutra was elected, although Vargas ran against him in 1950 and won, reinstating his position as president. He proposed raising the minimum wage and increasing taxation of the middle classes which was attacked in the media as being communist-leaning. When the escalating argument led to shooting at a journalist which was traced back to one of Vargas' bodyguards, Vargas was forced to resign in 1954 and killed himself, shooting himself in the heart.
Brazil suffered a military coup in 1964 which would last 21 years, although it was not a bloody as the military periods of rule in Argentina and Chile. The slow return to democracy began in the 1980s with the first properly democratically elected president not coming into power until 1990.
Best time to travel in Brazil
Owing to its size, Brazil has several climatic zones which can be generalised into the north-east, the Amazonia region, the coastal region and the south/south-east.
The equator runs across the north of the country along the Amazon River meaning that much of the country falls in the tropics. Near the equator, the climate is tropical, hot and humid with little seasonal variation and the Amazonia region fits this description with temperatures in the mid-20s to mid-30s year round and steady precipitation throughout the year. There is a dry season between June and December and it is hot and sunny. The wet season is typically between January and May. Expect higher humidity during the rainy season, usually building to afternoon downpours. It is still possible to visit during the wet season, ensuring to plan your day's activities around the fairly predictable afternoon showers. The north-east is too hot to have a winter, with temperatures rarely falling below 25 degrees C (77 degrees F).
The coastal region of Brazil has an exceptionally pleasant climate with warm, tropical temperatures and a pleasant breeze coming off the ocean. It receives higher rainfall during the winter months between June-July but even this tends to be fairly minimal.
The south and south-east of Brazil, south of the Tropic of Capricorn, is the only part of the country that really gets cold. Summer is between December and February and winter falls between June and August. Winter is cool but rarely falls below freezing; temperatures tend to float around 10-15 degrees C (50-59 degrees F) and will likely seem mild to most visitors. Rainfall is fairly consistent throughout the year in the south and it does not experience the wet/dry weather pattern of the north.
When to travel
Weather-wise Brazil is a year round destination, with plenty of sunny beach days to be had. Rio de Janeiro and the coast north of the city are good to visit year round.
If visiting the Pantanal wetlands, it is best to avoid the depths of the wet season with most rain falling in this between December and March. During this time flood, rain and heat can make travel difficult and uncomfortable. As the rain recedes and the wetlands begin to dry out, May to September are ideal months to visit and bird watching is at its best between July and September. This may also be the best time of year to try and spot the elusive jaguar.
Travel along the Amazon River follows a similar pattern; the peak season for travellers is between June and November, coinciding with the dry season. The wet season sees heavy afternoon showers and higher humidity, although the advantage to this time of year is that the water level is higher and parts of the forest flood allowing boat access to more remote areas improving your chances of wildlife sightings.
In addition to weather considerations, there are several events and festivals throughout the year you may wish to incorporate into your travels. The biggest and most famous is Carnaval whose date vary from year to year in relation to the beginning of Lent, but always fall in February or early March. The major Carnaval celebrations occur in Rio de Janeiro, Salvador and Olinda. Rio de Janeiro will also hold the Olympic games in August 2016 and the para-Olympics in September 2016. Amazonas Festival de Opera happens each June in Manaus held in the famously opulent Teatro Amazonas. Festas Juninas happen throughout Brazil in June, celebrating various saint's days with regional dress, food, drink and dance.
Guide to food in Brazil
Brazil's cuisine is a reflection of its diverse geography and ethnic diversity. There are five main regional cuisines in the country:
Comida Mineira – from the state of Minas Gerais (just north of Buenos Aires) which is mainly based on pork and vegetables and a thick bean sauce called tutu made with uncooked ground beans and manioc flour.
Comida Baiana – this cuisine is from the coast around Salvador and uses lots of fish and shellfish, cooked with chillies, coconut milk and coriander.
Comida do Sertão – is from the interior and north-east regions and uses beans, tubers and roots like cassava, dried or salted meat and fruit grown in the area.
Comida Gaúcha – this is from the southernmost state in Brazil and is similar to cuisine more typically associated with Argentina, that is barbecued meat grilled over charcoal.
Comida Amazônica – cuisine from the Amazon region typically uses a lot of river fish as well as fruits, palm-based ingredients and cassava-based sauces.
In addition, Brazil has had many international influences on its food including Portuguese, African, Japanese, Indian, Italian, German and Arab making it exceptionally diverse.
Some dishes that are worth seeking out include pão de queijo, chewy cheese bread made with tapioca flour, cachaça, a liquor made from fermented cane sugar, açaí (pronouned a-sa-ee), a purple berry from the Amazon that has gained super-food status and feijoada a hearty stew of black beans, sausages and pork.
Top Attractions and Highlights in Brazil
1. Rio de Janeiro
One of Latin America's most enigmatic cities, Rio de Janeiro sits on the shore of the stunning Guanabara Bay with the iconic Christ the Redeemer overlooking it all from atop Corcovado mountain. Geographically picturesque with rocky islands littering the bay and verdant mountains framing the city limits, it also has historical and architectural draws with museums, galleries, restaurants and a great night life.
2. Iguaçu Falls
This mighty natural occurrence brings visitors from far and wide. Accessible from Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay, the falls are formed by the Rio Iguaçu which flows north to south, beginning in Brazil near Curitiba. The falls are enveloped in thick tropical forest where butterflies, birds and small mammals can be spotted.
3. Pantanal Wetlands
These are the largest wetlands in the world covering an astonishing 210,000 sq. km at their largest. The unique ecosystem is home to 3500 plant species, 656 bird species, 325 fish species, 159 mammals, 53 amphibian and 98 reptiles.
4. São Paulo
The largest city in Brazil, São Paulo may not have the immediate aesthetic draw of Rio de Janeiro, but its growing cultural, culinary and clubbing scene has seen it dubbed 'the New York of the tropics'. There's certainly plenty to do here with over 70 museums, 50 parks and 120 theatres to keep you entertained.
Olinda is a UNESCO World Heritage listed site and one of the largest examples of colonial architecture in Brazil. Its cobbled streets pass gleaming white-washed Baroque churches, pastel coloured houses, elegant squares and beautiful fountains.
6. Parque Nacional dos Lençóis
One of the most beautiful sites in Brazil, this remote national park in the north-east is a coastal desert of about 300 sq. km whose giant sand dunes are interspersed with deep, crystal blue lakes formed by the high rainfall received in the area.
Paraty is said to be one of Brazil's best preserved colonial towns, staying virtually as it was in the 18th century when it played a role as staging post in Brazil's gold rush for those travelling between Portugal and Minas Gerais. From the quay there are hundreds of beaches and many islands that can be visited by schooner.
8. Ouro Preto
Ouro Preto is one of Brazil's preserved colonial towns with elegant Baroque churches and gleaming whitewashed buildings. The town is built around steep hills restricting its size ensuring this elegant gold mining town remains small and quaint.
9. Amazon River
Take a boat or a ferry up river to explore the lush jungle scenery, try spotting wildlife and visit the jungle cities such as Belem and Manaus where elegant theatres, cathedrals and squares that clash vividly with the untamed wilds of the jungle surroundings.
10. Salvador and the beaches of Bahia
Salvador is the capital of the Bahia state and has a great music scene, colonial architecture and plenty of beautiful beaches close by. In the entire state of Bahia there is over 1000km of palm-fringed, sandy beaches and it has one of the most agreeable climates in the country.
10 Interesting Facts about Brazil
1. Brazil is the fifth most populous nation on Earth with around 200 million inhabitants.
2. If you were to exclude Alaska, Brazil would be slightly larger than the United States. It is the largest country in South America and covers almost half of the continent.
3. Roughly two thirds of Brazil's population live near of next to the coast and over half live in cities.
4. The Amazon River dominates northern Brazil, although it is not just one river but a network of hundreds of waterways. The total length of these waterways is over 6000kms making it the second longest river on Earth after the Nile. It supports a vast variety of life including the rare and elusive pink river dolphin.
5. As part of the slave trade, over 10 million Africans were transported to Brazil – 10 times as many as were sent to the United States. Conditions were so bad and the death toll so high that despite the much higher numbers being transported, the population of black slaves in Brazil was only half that in the United States. In 1888 it became the last country in the Americas to abolish slavery.
6. Brazil has won the FIFA World Cup five times, more than any other nation.
7. Brazil's famous street party, Carnaval, can trace its roots back to a time in Brazil's history where, for the led up to Lent, the “world would turn upside down” and slave-owners would serve their slaves food, giving them time off work.
8. The central-west of Brazil is the location of the Pantanal Wetlands. This is the largest wetlands in the world covering an area of up to 210,000 sq. km (or 81,000 sq. miles).
9. The Portuguese discovered Brazil by accident in 1500 when explorer Pedro Alvares Cabral steered too far west and was blown off course on his way to India. Unfortunately for him, he drowned in a shipwreck a couple of months later and so the continent was named for the next explorer to visit in 1501, Amerigo Vespucci.
10. Brazil's custom-built capital city Brasilia has the outline of an aeroplane when viewed from above.