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Lonely Planet Brazil

Lonely Planet Brazil

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Lonely Planet Brazil

3/5 (19 ratings)
1,992 pages
18 hours
Jun 1, 2019


Lonely Planet: The world's number one travel guide publisher*

Lonely Planet's Brazil is your passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Party at Carnaval in Rio, come face to face with monkeys and other creatures in the Amazon, and snorkel the natural aquariums of Bonito - all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of Brazil and begin your journey now!

Inside Lonely Planet's Brazil:

  • Full-colour maps and images throughout
  • Highlights and itineraries help you tailor your trip to your personal needs and interests
  • Insider tips to save time and money and get around like a local, avoiding crowds and trouble spots
  • Essential info at your fingertips - hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, transit tips, prices
  • Honest reviews for all budgets - eating, sightseeing, going out, shopping, hidden gems that most guidebooks miss
  • Cultural insights provide a richer, more rewarding travel experience - history, art, food, drink, sport, politics
  • Covers The Amazon, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Brasilia, Salvador, Bahia, Pernambuco, Paraiba, Rio Grande de Norte, Parana, Ceara, Piaui, Maranhao, Santa Catarina, Mato Grosso and more.

The Perfect Choice: Lonely Planet's Brazil is our most comprehensive guide to Brazil, and is perfect for discovering both popular and off-the-beaten-path experiences.

Looking for more extensive coverage? Check out Lonely Planet's Rio de Janeiro for an in-depth look at all the city has to offer.

About Lonely Planet: Lonely Planet is a leading travel media company and the world's number one travel guidebook brand, providing both inspiring and trustworthy information for every kind of traveler since 1973. Over the past four decades, we've printed over 145 million guidebooks and grown a dedicated, passionate global community of travelers. You'll also find our content online, and in mobile apps, video, 14 languages, nine international magazines, armchair and lifestyle books, ebooks, and more.

'Lonely Planet guides are, quite simply, like no other.' - New York Times

'Lonely Planet. It's on everyone's bookshelves, it's in every traveler's hands. It's on mobile phones. It's on the Internet. It's everywhere, and it's telling entire generations of people how to travel the world.' - Fairfax Media (Australia)

*Source: Nielsen BookScan: Australia, UK, USA, 5/2016-4/2017

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Important Notice: The digital edition of this book may not contain all of the images found in the physical edition.

Jun 1, 2019

About the author

Lonely Planet has gone on to become the world’s most successful travel publisher, printing over 100 million books. The guides are printed in nine different languages; English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Brazilian Portuguese, Russian, Chinese and Korean. Lonely Planet enables curious travellers to experience the world and get to the heart of a place via guidebooks and eBooks to almost every destination on the planet, an award-winning website and magazine, a range of mobile and digital travel products and a dedicated traveller community.

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Top quotes

  • As close as you’ll get to experiencing a real Amazonian ecosystem on a half-day trip from Manaus, this 9000-acre park has flooded forests, giant water lilies, large trees, fishing opportunities and a smattering of Amazonian wildlife.

  • Another Salvadoran to be reckoned with is the singer and composer Lucas Santtana, whose 2017 album Modo Avião has earned him comparisons with João Gilberto and other legendary Brazilian artists from the past.

  • The hilarious film Carlota Joaquina, Princesa do Brasil (1995) is about a Spanish princess married to the future Dom João VI, who flees with the entire Portuguese court to Brazil to escape Napoleon.

  • Bye-Bye Brasil is a classic Brazilian film that follows a traveling circus across Brazil’s Northeast, charting the profound changes in Brazilian society that characterized the second half of the 20th century.

  • Better known to international audiences is Seu Jorge, who starred in the film Cidade de Deus and performed brilliant Portuguese versions of Bowie songs on Wes Anderson’s film The Life Aquatic.

Book Preview

Lonely Planet Brazil - Lonely Planet




Welcome to Brazil

Brazil’s Top 20

Need to Know

First Time Brazil

If You Like…

Month by Month




Eat & Drink Like a Local

Travel with Children

Regions at a Glance







Festivals & Events



Drinking & Nightlife



Football Fever


Costa Verde

Ilha Grande & Vila do Abraão


Itatiaia Region

Parque Nacional do Itatiaia

Visconde de Mauá


North of Rio de Janeiro



Nova Friburgo

East of Rio de Janeiro


Arraial do Cabo

Cabo Frio


Beaches of Rio de Janeiro State


Minas Gerais

Belo Horizonte

Ouro Preto


Lavras Novas


São João del Rei



Aiuruoca & the Vale do Matutu


Serro & Around

Parque Nacional da Serra Do Cipó


Parque Natural do Caraça

Parque Nacional de Caparaó

Espírito Santo



Guarapari & Around

Domingos Martins

Pedra Azul


São Paulo City

Paulista Coast


São Sebastião


Iguape & Around

Pizza Paulistana





Ilha do Mel

Iguaçu Falls & Around

Foz do Iguaçu

Parque Nacional do Iguaçu (Brazil)

Parque Nacional Iguazú (Argentina)

Iguaçu Falls


Ilha de Santa Catarina


North Island

East Coast

South Island

The Mainland



North of Florianópolis

South of Florianópolis

Vale Europeu


Porto Alegre

Serra Gaúcha

Bento Gonçalves

Vale dos Vinhedos

Pinto Bandeira


Cambará do Sul

Litoral Gaúcho


Rio Grande

Vale dos Vinhedos





Cidade de Goiás


Parque Nacional da Chapada Dos Veadeiros

Alto Paraíso de Goiás

São Jorge

Niemeyer’s Brasília


Mato Grosso


Chapada dos Guimarães

Parque Nacional da Chapada dos Guimarães

Bom Jardim


Alta Floresta

The Pantanal

Northern Pantanal

Southern Pantanal

Mato Grosso do Sul

Campo Grande


Bonito & Around

Ponta Porã

Driving the Transpantaneira




Cachoeira & São Felix

North of Salvador

Praia do Forte

Mangue Seco

South of Salvador

Morro de São Paulo



Barra Grande



Porto Seguro

Arraial d’Ajuda




West of Salvador


Parque Nacional da Chapada Diamantina








Praia do Francês







Fernando de Noronha


João Pessoa

Rio Grande do Norte


Praia da Pipa

São Miguel do Gostoso

Fernando de Noronha




Canoa Quebrada

Icaraí de Amontada



São Luís

Parque Nacional dos Lençóis Maranhenses

Beach Beauties





Ilha de Marajó


Floresta Nacional do Tapajós

Alter do Chão






Rio Negro Basin


Mamirauá Reserve

The Triple Frontier


Boa Vista


Porto Velho



Rio Branco



Riverboat Travel

Amazon Wildlife


Understand Brazil

Brazil Today


Life in Brazil

Brazilian Rhythms


Cinema & Literature


The Natural World


Directory A–Z

Accessible Travel


Customs Regulations


Embassies & Consulates




Internet Access

Legal Matters

LGBT+ Travelers



Opening Hours

Public Holidays

Safe Travel





Tourist Information




Getting There & Away

Getting Around


Behind the Scenes

Our Writers

Welcome to Brazil

Tropical islands, lush rainforests and rhythm-filled cities set the scene for the great Brazilian adventure.

Landscapes & Biodiversity

One of the world’s most captivating places, Brazil is a country of powdery white-sand beaches, verdant rainforests and wild, rhythm-filled metropolises. Brazil’s attractions extend from frozen-in-time colonial towns to otherworldly landscapes of red-rock canyons, thundering waterfalls and coral-fringed tropical islands. Add to that, Brazil’s biodiversity: legendary in scope, its diverse ecosystems boast the greatest collection of plant and animal species found anywhere on earth. There are countless places in Brazil where you can spot its iconic species, which include toucans, scarlet macaws, howler monkeys, capybaras, pink dolphins, sea turtles and many more.

The Rhythms of Brazil

Wherever there’s music, that carefree lust for life tends to appear – whether dancing with cariocas at Rio’s atmospheric samba clubs or following powerful drumbeats through the streets of Salvador. There’s the dancehall forró of the Northeast, twirling carimbó of the Amazon, scratch-skilled DJs of São Paulo and an endless variety of regional sounds that extends from the twangy country music of the sunbaked sertanejo to the hard-edged reggae of Maranhão.

Days of Adventure

Brazil offers big adventures for travelers with budgets large and small. There’s horseback riding and wildlife-watching in the Pantanal, kayaking flooded forests in the Amazon, ascending rocky clifftops to panoramic views, whale-watching off the coast, surfing stellar breaks off palm-fringed beaches and snorkeling crystal-clear rivers or coastal reefs – all are part of the great Brazilian experience. No less entrancing is the prospect of doing nothing, aside from sinking toes into warm sands and soaking up a glorious stretch of beach, with a caipirinha – Brazil’s national cocktail – in hand.

Joie de Vivre

Carnaval, storms through the country’s cities and towns with hip-shaking samba and frevo, dazzling costumes and parties that last until sunup. Outside of this, festas (festivals) happen year-round, and provide a window into Brazil’s incredible diversity. The streets are carpeted with flowers during Ouro Preto’s Semana Santa (Holy Week), while in the north, Bumba Meu Boi blends indigenous, African and Portuguese folklore. Hit Blumenau’s beer- and schnitzel-loving Oktoberfest, the largest outside of Germany. Several cities, such as Recife, Fortaleza and Natal even host Carnaval at other times of year.


Why I Love Brazil

By Regis St Louis, Writer

The music, the beaches, the wildlife and, most importantly, the people: it’s hard not to fall for Brazil. Rio de Janeiro is one of my favorite cities: I never tire of watching the sunset from Arpoador, chasing the samba scene in Lapa or wandering the village-like streets of Santa Teresa. But Rio is just the beginning, and in Brazil there really is no end. I have fond memories spotting wildlife (especially in the Pantanal and the Amazon), making friends in small towns and finding incredible musicians in unlikely places. There’s really no other country that offers so much.

For more, see our writers

Brazil’s Top 20

Pão de Açúcar, Rio de Janeiro

Some say to come around sunset for the best views from this absurd confection of a mountain. But in truth, it doesn’t matter when you come; you’re unlikely to look at Rio (or your own comparatively lackluster city) in the same way. From here the landscape is pure undulating green hills and golden beaches lapped by blue sea, with rows of skyscrapers sprouting along the shore. The ride up is good fun: all-glass aerial trams that whisk you up to the top. The adventurous can rock-climb their way to the summit.


Top Experiences

Iguaçu Falls

No matter the number of waterfalls you’ve checked off your bucket list, no matter how many times you have thought you’d be just fine never seeing another waterfall again, Iguaçu Falls will stomp all over your idea of water trickling over the edge of a cliff. The thunderous roar of 275 falls crashing across the Brazil and Argentina border floors even the most jaded traveler. Loud, angry, unstoppable and impossibly gorgeous, Iguaçu will leave you stunned and slack-jawed at the absolute power of Mother Nature.


Top Experiences


The world capital of Afro-Brazil, Salvador is famous for capoeira, Candomblé, Olodum, colonial Portuguese architecture, African street food and one of the oldest lighthouses in the Americas. The city’s past, marked by gritty stories of Portuguese seafaring and the heartbreaking history of the African slave trade, is characterized by hardship. But today’s lively Bahian capital offers a unique fusion of two vibrant cultures. The festive music and nightlife scene culminates every February when Salvador hosts one of the best Carnavals in Brazil.


Top Experiences

Ilha Grande

Thanks to its isolation, Ilha Grande served for decades as a prison and leper’s colony. Spared from development by this unusual history, its jungle-clad slopes and dozens of beaches are some of the best preserved in all of Brazil. Days are spent hiking through lush Atlantic rainforest, snorkeling amid aquamarine seas and cooling off in refreshing waterfalls. With no motor vehicles to spoil the party, this is one clean, green island – a true nature-lover’s paradise. It’s also an easy day’s journey from Rio.


Top Experiences

Ouro Preto

The 18th-century streets of Ouro Preto veer precipitously between one baroque masterpiece and the next. Admire the sculpted masterpieces of Aleijadinho, discover the 18th-century African king turned folk hero Chico-Rei and gaze upon opulent gilded churches. The elaborate Holy Week processions are among the country’s most spectacular. From gold trading post to state capital, revolutionary hotbed to Unesco World Heritage site, Ouro Preto has been at the center of the action for more than 300 years.

Igreja Nossa Senhora do Bonfim | UWE BERGWITZ/SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Top Experiences

Beers of Blumenau

Ubiquitous pale lagers such as Brahma and Skol certainly suffice as beat-the-heat treats, but Brazil’s best brews come from greater Blumenau. Heavy German immigration in the 1800s brought Reinheitsgebot, Germany’s beer purity law, and these German-Brazilians aren’t too fond of sharing. That means with the exception of the once-micro Eisenbahn, seriously good artisanal suds such as Schornstein Kneipe, Bierland and Das Bier don’t fall too far from the tree. You’ll need to venture into Santa Catarina’s Vale Europeu to quench your thirst.


Top Experiences

The Pantanal

Few places on earth can match the wildlife-watching experience provided by the Pantanal, a wondrously remote wetland in the heart of Mato Grosso. From cute capybaras to stately storks, the animal life simply abounds and is remarkably easy to see in the open marshy surroundings. There are a million reasons not to miss out on this particular eco-experience, and not least among them is that there is no better place in South America to see the elusive jaguar.


Top Experiences

Fernando de Noronha

This archipelago of one 10km-long island and 20 smaller ones, 350km out into the Atlantic from Natal, has everything a tropical getaway should have – jaw-dropping scenery and seascapes, fine beaches, the best diving and snorkeling in the country, good surfing, memorable hikes, plentiful visible wildlife, good accommodations and restaurants – and no crowds, for visitor numbers are restricted by the limited number of plane seats available each day. Visiting Noronha is expensive, but it’s worth every centavo if your budget will stretch far enough.


Top Experiences

Jungle Trips

Needless to say, the best reason to visit the Amazon is to get out into the jungle: to ply the winding waterways in a canoe, hike lush leafy trails, and scan the canopy for monkeys, sloths and other creatures. The world’s biggest and best-known rainforest has outdoor excursions of all sorts, and for all types of travelers: from easy nature hikes to scaling 50m trees, from luxury lodges to makeshift camps in the forest. Whatever your interest, experience, ability or budget, there’s a jungle trip in the Amazon waiting to blow your mind.


Top Experiences

Nightlife in São Paulo

Rivaling the frenetic pace of New York, the modernism of Tokyo and the prices of Moscow but swamping all of them in options, São Paulo city is home to a pool of 20 million potential foodies, cocktail connoisseurs and clubbers and nearly 30,000 restaurants, bars and clubs to satiate them. From the contemporary gourmet haunts of Itaim Bibi and Jardins, to the edgy offerings of Baixo Augusta, to bohemian bars in Vila Madalena, it’s a gluttonous avalanche of bolinhos (appetizers), booze and beats that outruns the sunrise on most nights. Saúde!


Top Experiences

Brasília Architecture

What the city of the future really needed to back up its claim to be the harbinger of Brazil´s ‘new dawn’ was an architect capable of designing buildings that looked the part. In Oscar Niemeyer Brasilia found the right man for the job. The ‘crown of thorns’ Catedral Metropolitana is a religious masterwork and the interplanetary Teatro Nacional is out of this world! Brasilia is a city overloaded with architectural gems designed by a genius inspired by the concept of a better future.


Top Experiences


Bonito is beautiful! Book yourself on a smorgasbord of aquatic adventures in the jaw-dropping surroundings of the Serra da Bodoquena and prepare for a wild wet-suited adventure like you’ve never experienced before. Whether you’re taking your first foray into flotation on the Rio da Prata or journeying to the center of the earth at the Abismo Anhumas, Bonito is packed with unique experiences that will rank among your most cherished memories of any trip to Brazil.


Top Experiences

Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro

Get plenty of sleep before you board the plane, because once you land, it’s nonstop revelry until Ash Wednesday (sort of) brings it all to a close. With nearly 500 street parties happening all over town, you will not lack for options. For the full experience, join a samba school and parade amid pounding drum corps and mechanized smoke-breathing dragons before thousands of roaring fans in the Sambódromo. Or assemble a costume and hit one of the Carnaval balls around town. The buildup starts weeks in advance.


Top Experiences


The colonial town of Tiradentes is so well preserved, and its natural setting so appealing, you could be excused for feeling like you’ve wandered onto a movie set. Cobbled lanes, flower-draped walls and some stunning colonial architecture make every step a delight – even more if you like to hike. The surrounding mountains are threaded with trails; Tiradentes’ hyperactive restaurant scene serves up delicious meals, both modern and traditional; and its charming guesthouses make a relaxing spot to recharge.

Igreja Matriz de Santo Antônio | MICHAEL HEFFERNAN/LONELY PLANET ©

Top Experiences

Parque Nacional da Chapada Diamantina

A pristine outdoor wonderland of rushing waterfalls, crystal-blue pools, rugged hiking trails and natural waterslides, Chapada Diamantina is a deliciously unspoiled national park well off the beaten path – it’s one of the only inland attractions in the beach-happy state of Bahia. Those who make the effort to explore the park, either on day excursions from Lençóis or on the Grand Circuit with a local guide, often count the Chapada Diamantina as one of their top outdoor travel experiences in Brazil.


Top Experiences

Parque Nacional dos Lençóis Maranhenses

Of all Brazil’s landscape spectacles, the most unexpected has to be the Lençóis Maranhenses in Maranhão – a 70km-long, 25km-wide expanse of high dunes resembling lençóis (bed sheets) spread across the landscape. From around March to September (best in July and August), the dunes are partnered by thousands of crystal-clear, freshwater lagoons from rainwater filling the hollows between them. It can be visited by 4WD tour, by boat down the jungle-lined Rio Preguiças or, for the adventurous, on a three- or four-day trek right across the Lençóis.


Top Experiences

Recife & Olinda

These two contrasting Northeastern neighbors with an intertwined history and shared culture make a heady double act. Recife is the big-city big sister with the skyscrapers and traffic, but also a fascinating historic center becoming ever more appealing through renovations and new museums, restaurants and cultural centers. Photogenic Olinda has tranquil winding lanes, colonial churches and artists’ galleries. Their vibrant shared heritage comes together at Carnaval with some of Brazil’s most riotous street festivities, highlighted by unique music and dance forms such as frevo and maracatu.


Top Experiences

Alter do Chão

Alter do Chão truly has it all: a slice of beachfront in the heart of the rainforest. The Amazonian destination is best known for its picturesque setting, an island made entirely of fine white sand lapped by cool tea-colored water. But Alter do Chão is also a gateway to a major national forest, with massive samaúma trees and a chance to live with local rubber-tapper families. With so much to do, appealing lodging options and a great laid-back vibe, it’s a place where you’ll want to linger for a while – and many travelers do just that.


Top Experiences

Santa Catarina Beaches

Santa Catarina is synonymous with the good life and that has a whole lot to do with its sun-toasted shores. Whether you hang out in Florianópolis (where an easy path to paradise boasts 42 idyllic beaches sitting within an hour’s drive) or head south of the capital to Guarda do Embaú (one of Brazil’s best surfing spots) or to Praia do Rosa (the state’s most sophisticated beach resort), a powerful punch of wow will greet you the first time you dig your toes into the state’s unspoiled sands.


Top Experiences


No place in Brazil offers such an enticing blend of colonial architecture and natural beauty as Paraty. Located a few hours southwest of Rio on the picturesque Costa Verde, it has long been a favorite carioca getaway. Drop-dead gorgeous beaches and a stunning mountain backdrop jostle for attention with the multihued, cobblestoned charms of the 18th-century town center. If you get bored with sunbathing and sightseeing, cool off with a caipirinha, go hurtling down a natural waterslide nearby, or whip up a gourmet Brazilian meal at the local cooking school.


Need to Know

For more information, see Survival Guide


Real (R$)




Required for some nationalities, including holders of passports from the US, Canada and Australia.


ATMS are widespread in Brazil. Credit cards are accepted at most restaurants, shops and hotels.

Cell Phones

Local SIM cards can be used in unlocked European and Australian phones, and in US phones on the GSM network.


Brazil has four time zones. Rio and São Paulo are on Brasília time (GMT/UTC minus three hours).

When to Go

High Season (Dec–Mar)

A Brazil’s high season coincides with the northern-hemisphere winter.

A A hot, festive time – expect higher prices and minimum stays (typically four nights) during Carnaval.

A It’s particularly busy in Rio and popular beach destinations.

Shoulder (Apr & Oct)

A The weather is warm and dry along the coast, though it can be chilly in the south.

A Prices and crowds are average, though Easter week draws crowds and high prices.

Low Season (May–Sep)

A Aside from July, which is a school-holiday month, you’ll find lower prices and mild temperatures in the south.

A July to September are good months to visit the Amazon or Pantanal.

Useful Websites

Embratur ( Official site of Brazil’s Ministry of Tourism.

Insider’s Guide to Rio ( Tips and planning info, with special sections on Carnaval and gay Rio.

Rio Times ( English-language news and resources on Brazil.

What About São Paulo ( Blog exploring the highs and lows of life in Brazil’s biggest city.

Lonely Planet ( Destination information, hotel bookings, traveller forum and more.

Important Numbers

Exchange Rates

For current exchange rates, see

Daily Costs

Budget: Less than R$200

A Dorm bed: R$40–80

A Sandwich and drink in a juice bar: R$18–25

A Long-distance buses: around R$15–18 per hour of travel

Midrange: R$200–400

A Standard double room in a hotel: R$160–300

A Dinner for two in a midrange restaurant: R$80–160

A Jungle trip: R$150–350 per day

A Admission to nightclubs and live-music venues: R$20–50

A One-way flight from Rio to Salvador/Iguaçu/Manaus: from R$470/500/550

Top end: More than R$400

A Boutique hotel: from R$500

A Upscale jungle lodges outside Manaus: R$600–1200 per night

A Dinner for two at top restaurants: R$200–500

Opening Hours

Banks 9am–3pm Monday–Friday

Bars 6pm–2am

Cafes 8am–10pm

Nightclubs 10pm–4am Thursday–Saturday

Post offices 9am–5pm Monday–Friday; some open Saturday morning

Restaurants Noon–2:30pm and 6–10:30pm

Shops 9am–6pm Monday–Friday and 9am–1pm Saturday

Arriving in Brazil

Galeão International Airport (Rio de Janeiro) Premium Ônibus 2018 (R$16, one to two hours, every 30 minutes) buses to Flamengo, Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon and other neighborhoods. Radio taxis (set fare R$130, 45 to 90 minutes) to Copacabana and Ipanema. Metered yellow-and-blue comum taxis cost between R$82 and R$100. Ride-sharing services cost around R$60. Shuttle service costs R$25.

GRU Airport (São Paulo) The Airport Bus Service (; R$50) is the most efficient way to/from GRU Airport. Guarucoop ( is the only taxi service allowed to operate at the airport (R$150 to Jardins or Vila Madalena, R$157 to Vila Mariana). Ride-share services cost about half as much. By train, the brand new CPTM Linha 13 (Jade) connects GRU Airport with Engenheiro Goulart station on Linha 12 (Safira) in northeast São Paulo.

Getting Around

Plane Useful for crossing Brazil’s immense distances; can save days of travel; prices are generally high, but airfare promotions are frequent.

Bus Extensive services from comun (conventional) to leito (overnight sleepers) throughout the country, except for the Amazon. For timetables and bus operators, check out Busca Ônibus (

Boat Slow, uncomfortable, but brag-worthy transport between towns in the Amazon, with trips measured in days rather than hours. You’ll need a hammock, snacks, drinking water and a high tolerance for boredom.

For more information, see Getting Around

First Time Brazil

For more information, see Survival Guide


A Make sure you have your Brazilian visa if you need one.

A Inform your debit-/credit-card company of your travel plans.

A Make arrangements to be able to use your mobile phone upon arrival.

A Download essential smartphone apps (see our Top Tips section below for more on this)

What to Pack

A Good walking shoes

A A sarong (handy for the beach and as an extra towel)

A Lightweight rain jacket (for those unexpected tropical downpours)

A Brazilian electrical adaptor

A Portable water filter (to cut down on waste from plastic water bottles)

A Language phrasebook

A Insect repellent

A Sunscreen, hat and sunglasses

Top Tips for Your Trip

A Brazil is a massive country, and it’s impossible to see it all. Pick one or two regions, rather than losing a lot of time transiting between far-flung parts of the country just ticking off highlights.

A If you haven’t already, download WhatsApp and set up your profile. Tour operators, guides, restaurants, guesthouses and everyone else uses it. It’s also the best way to stay in touch with Brazilians you meet.

A Using a ride-sharing app (like Uber, 99Taxis or Easy Taxi) to get around major towns and cities is generally faster and cheaper than using a traditional taxi.

A Brazil has many facets; decide what kind of trip you want while making your plans: wildlife-watching vs big-city nightlife, remote beaches and island-hopping vs cultural experiences etc. Customize your itinerary based on your own interests.

What to Wear

The dress code is very casual in Brazil, but it’s a good idea to bring along something a bit more dressy for a night out. Given the heat and humidity, lightweight, natural, breathable fabrics are best.

On the beach, women generally wear tiny bikinis, and men wear tight swim trunks. Everyone flaunts it all, regardless of body shape and size.


Brazil has a wide range of lodging, covering all budgets. Reserve well in advance when booking during high season (December to March).

Hotels From simple accommodations in cookie-cutter high-rises to boutique options with ocean views in luxury buildings.

Pousadas Guesthouses running the gamut from basic to plush, with many family-run options.

Hostels Dorms and a few private rooms with communal good cheer at locations across the country.

Jungle lodges Found in the Amazon; prices are midrange to high and luxuries are few, but the wildlife-watching can be astonishing.

Safe Travel

Crime is a concern in Brazil, but if you take basic precautions, you’ll minimize your risk of becoming a target.

A Dress down and leave expensive jewelry, watches and sunglasses at home.

A Carry only the money you’ll need for the day.

A After dark, don’t ever walk along empty streets, in deserted parks or on urban beaches.

A Use ATMs inside buildings. Before doing so, be very aware of your surroundings.


A little bargaining for hotel rooms should become second nature. Before you agree to take a room, ask for a better price: ‘Tem desconto?’ (Is there a discount?) and ‘Pode fazer um melhor preço?’ (Can you give a better price?). There’s sometimes a discount for paying à vista (cash).

You should also bargain when shopping in markets. In unmetered taxis, be sure to agree on the price before departing.


Hotels Tipping is optional for housekeepers, but appreciated.

Parking Usually R$2 or more; assistants do not receive wages and are dependent on tips.

Taxis Not expected but most people round up to the nearest real.

Tours It’s customary to tip guides at the end of a tour, and certainly appreciated if you can give a little to the assistant or boat operator(s).

Restaurants A 10% service charge is usually included.

Phrases to Learn Before You Go

English is not widely spoken in Brazil. You’ll have the best luck communicating in popular tourist destinations like Rio de Janeiro. It helps to master a few basic Portuguese phrases. You’ll have a head start if you’ve studied Spanish, as Portuguese and Spanish share many words and grammatical structures. The pronunciation, however, is completely different, and very few Brazilians speak Spanish. Note too, that European and Brazilian Portuguese have different spelling, pronunciation and to some extent, different vocabulary.


Brazilians are pretty informal, but there are a few key rules of etiquette.

Greetings When greeting or bidding goodbye to women, an air kiss is exchanged on each cheek (start to her left). Men shake hands with one another.

Dining Use a napkin or a toothpick when eating finger food. Brazilians tend to eat pizza with a knife and fork.

Touchy subjects Brazilians are exasperated by their country’s corruption, but can be defensive if foreigners criticize their government or talk about poverty or religion.

If You Like…


Brazil has some of the finest beaches on earth: you’ll find idyllic island getaways, vibrant big-city beaches and rainforest-backed sands all along the coastline.

Baía do Sancho On Fernando de Noronha, this is easily one of Brazil’s most gorgeous beaches.

Ilha Grande Enchanting island with gorgeous beaches, a welcome lack of cars and a laid-back island vibe.

Trancoso Cliff-backed beaches are a short stroll from this pretty Bahian village.

Jericoacoara Hip international beach scene with good activities, pousadas (guesthouses), restaurants and nightlife.

Ilhabela Dense jungle, waterfalls and picturesque beaches a few hours from São Paulo.

Florianópolis & Ilha de Santa Catarina Protected dunes and cliff- and forest-lined beaches, plus stunning lagoons in the interior.


Brazil is home to a staggering array of plant and animal species, with memorable wildlife-watching in the rainforests, wetlands and along the coast.

Mamirauá Reserve One of the best places in the Amazon to see wildlife and experience the wonders of the mother of all rainforests.

The Pantanal You’re likely to see a great many animal species in these wildlife-rich wetlands.

Fernando de Noronha World-class diving and snorkeling amid abundant marine life.

Praia do Rosa Watch southern right whales off the coast between June and October.

Parque Nacional de Monte Pascoal Part of the bio-rich Atlantic rainforest, this park lies just south of Salvador.

Estação Biológica de Caratinga Head to this remote reserve in Minas Gerais to see some of the largest primates in the Americas.


Blessed with verdant rainforests, thundering waterfalls, craggy mountains and tropical islands, it’s easy to see why Brazilians say ‘Deus e Brasileiro’ (God is Brazilian).

Rio de Janeiro The Cidade Maravilhosa (Marvelous City) lives up to its name with forested mountains and lovely beaches.

Fernando de Noronha Cliffs, rock pinnacles, beautiful bays and beaches all packed into one 10km-long island.

Iguaçu Falls Spread between Argentina and Brazil, these are some of the most spectacular waterfalls on earth.

Parque Nacional da Chapada Diamantina In the Bahian interior, you can hike across dramatic plateaus and swim in refreshing waterfalls.

Parque Nacional dos Lençóis Maranhenses An otherworldly landscape of windswept dunes and sparkling blue lagoons.

Alter do Chão Startling white-sand beaches surrounded by jungle deep in the Amazon.

Parque Nacional Serra dos Órgãos Great hiking amid dramatic mountain scenery just two hours north of Rio.

Food & Drink

Specialties in Brazil range from African-influenced stews to delectable Amazonian fish.

Ipanema & Leblon These twin beachfront neighborhoods have some of the best restaurants in Rio.

São Paulo With great pizzerias, sushi bars and restaurants serving first-rate Brazilian and international fare, you won’t go hungry in Sampa.

Vale dos Vinhedos This scenic valley in the south is the heart of Brazil’s wine-growing region, and has top restaurants as well.

SENAC Take a cooking class or simply come for the buffet, which features all the great Bahian dishes.

Belém Sample lip-numbing tacacá (a soup) and many delicious Amazonian fish such as the prized tucanaré (peacock bass).

Tiradentes Great place to feast on mineira cooking, particularly during its 10-day gastronomic festival.

Getting off the Beaten Path

Pre-Columbian rock art, deserted beaches, end-of-the-earth fishing villages: these are just a few of the sights you can see by heading off the tourist path.

Parque Nacional da Serra da Capivara This dramatic rocky landscape contains thousands of prehistoric rock paintings.

Peninsula de Maraú Peaceful and remote, the Bahian peninsula’s quiet beaches feel far removed from the tourist crowds.

Itaúnas Charming beach town in the little-visited state of Espírito Santo, with a wildlife-filled state park nearby.

Algodoal Isolated little village on the edge of wild beaches near the mouth of the Amazon.

Reserva Extrativista Baixo Rio Branco-Jauperi Magnificent rainforest reserve 500km north of Manaus.

São Miguel das Missões Gateway to the mystical 17th-century ruins left behind by Jesuit missionaries.

Rock paintings, Parque Nacional da Serra da Capivara | MARCOS AMEND/SHUTTERSTOCK ©


Brazil offers some memorable ways to experience its stunningly diverse landscapes, from multiday treks across dunes to snorkeling in crystal-clear rivers.

Trekking Take the three- to four-day journey across the spectacular Lençóis Maranhenses and see the dunes by moonlight.

Hang Gliding Soar over Rio’s stunning tropical landscape on a tandem glide off a mountain.

Ecotourism Bonito is a great spot for adventure, with river snorkeling, cave crawls, hiking and rappelling (abseiling).

Climbing The scenic high-country Parque Nacional do Itatiaia is a must for hikers and rock-climbers.

Tree Climbing Get an intimate view of the rainforest canopy on an ascent inside the Amazon.

Slow-Boating String up your hammock and travel the old-school way on a riverboat trip between towns in the Amazon.

Kitesurfari Go on a long-distance kitesurfing adventure in Rio Grande do Norte, complete with vehicle support.


You can delve into the past on a stroll through Brazil’s magnificent colonial centers, some of which are Unesco World Heritage sites.

Salvador Bahia’s star attraction is packed with historic churches and Afro-Brazilian culture.

Manaus Learn about indigenous culture and history at this city in the heart of the Amazon.

Ouro Preto One of Brazil’s most alluring towns, hilly Ouro Preto is packed with 18th-century architectural treasures.

Olinda Remnants of lovely architecture left by the Portuguese as well as the Dutch.

Alcântara Fascinating town in Maranhão full of restored and abandoned mansions and churches.

Paraty Picturesque cobblestone village with beautifully preserved 18th-century buildings.

Museu Histórico Nacional One of the best places to learn about the presence of the Portuguese royals in Rio.

Cidade de Goiás A Unesco World Heritage site that’s packed with architectural treasures from centuries past.

Church ruins, Alcântara | KSENIA RAGOZINA/SHUTTERSTOCK ©


Whether you prefer the colorful pageantry of Semana Santa (Holy Week) or the unbridled revelry of Carnaval, Brazil has you covered.

Carnaval Many cities throw a wild pre-Lenten bash, but Rio, Salvador, Olinda and Corumbá are among the most festive.

São Paulo Gay Pride Parade The world’s biggest gay pride parade, with an estimate three to four million in attendance.

Oktoberfest Experience Brazil’s European roots at this beer- and bratwurst-loving bash in Blumenau.

Bumba Meu Boi São Luís erupts with color, music and dance in this fascinating June festival.


Nightlife here is electric, fueled by the nation’s incredible music scene. Samba, Afro-Brazilian drumming, rock and hip-hop are all essential parts of the Brazilian soundtrack.

Lapa The epicenter of Rio’s nightlife is packed with bars and samba clubs, and transforms into a street party on weekends.

São Paulo There’s always something afoot inside this nightlife-loving metropolis.

Pelourinho Salvador’s historic center is the place to hear drum corps like Olodum laying down the heavy rhythms.

Lagoa da Conceição Live music, lake views and top-notch DJs are the big draw of this town on Ilha de Santa Catarina.

Belo Horizonte Take in the lively arts scene and buzzing nightlife of the Minas Gerais capital.

Búzios Bask on the beach by day and hit the clubs by night at this stylish resort town.

Month by Month


Carnaval, February or March

Semana Santa, April or May

Bumba Meu Boi, June

Oktoberfest, October

Reveillon, December


Following the excitement of New Year’s Eve, Brazil starts off the year in high gear, with steamy beach days and the buzz of pre-Carnaval revelry.

z Lavagem do Bonfim

In Salvador, on the second Thursday in January, this equal-parts Catholic and Candomblé fest features a ritual washing of the church steps followed by all-night music and dancing.


High season is in full swing, with people-packed beaches, sold-out hotel rooms and the unbridled revelry of Carnaval. It’s a festive and pricey time to travel, and advance planning is essential.

z Carnaval

In February or early March, for the five days preceding Ash Wednesday, the famous bacchanalian event takes place nationwide. It’s liveliest in Rio, Salvador, Olinda and Corumbá, with parades, costumes and round-the-clock merrymaking.


After Carnaval, prices dip, the intense heat subsides and the crowds dissipate, particularly in the north and northeast (when heavy rains continue through June). In Minas Gerais, however, Holy Week festivals keep things lively.

0 Semana Santa

In Ouro Preto, Holy Week (the week before Easter) is a colorful event of processions and streets ‘painted’ with flowers. São João del Rei’s Holy Week features parades accompanied by fabulous traditional orchestras. Other well-known Holy Weeks happen in Congonhas and Cidade de Goiás.


May is a quiet time for tourism with cooler temperatures beginning to arrive (particularly in the south) and heavy rains still falling in the Amazon.

z Festival Internacional de Balonismo

Torres springs to life for five days in early May or late April when it hosts a colorful hot-air balloon festival. Concerts, extreme sports, films and a country-style fair are among the attractions.

z Virada Cultural

One of the best times to visit São Paulo is during this 24-hour cultural fest. It takes place all across town and features concerts, film screenings, art exhibitions and other events.

z Festa do Divino Espírito Santo

This old-fashioned folk festival in Pirenópolis comprises medieval tournaments, dances and festivities.


In the south, winter arrives (with cold weather the norm through August). Tourism-related activities remain curtailed (also through winter) in the north, south and northeast, though it’s a good time to visit the Pantanal.

z São Paulo Pride

It’s official, São Paulo throws the largest gay pride parade on earth in early June, attracting more than three million people to this massive parade.

z Bumba Meu Boi

Maranhão’s magnificent mythic bull festival has African, Indian and Portuguese roots and features singing, dancing, poetry and countless ox costumes. Held from 13 to 30 June.

z Boi-Bumbá

In Parintins in the Amazon, this popular traditional folk festival on the last weekend of June recounts the death and resurrection of an ox, with music and dancing.

z Festas Juninas

Spanning the month of June, the feast days of various saints mark some of the most important folkloric festivals in Brazil. Expect concerts, food stands, fireworks and bonfires. Bahia is one of the best places to be.



After months of rain, the dry season arrives in the Amazon, making it a good time to visit. The weather is mild (cold in the far south), but Brazilians travel during July, which is a school-holiday month.

z Festitália

Italians have made many cultural contributions to the south, including this vibrant Blumenau fest featuring a week of wine, pasta and music in mid-July.

z Festival Literária Internacional de Parati

This important literary festival in mid-July brings together celebrated authors from around the world. It also includes film screenings, exhibitions and musical performances.

3 Festival Nacional de Forró

Music lovers wanting to get off the beaten track should make their way up to the pretty beach town of Itaúnas, which hosts 10 days of concerts and dancing (to forró music of course).


The tail end of winter is a quiet time in Brazil, with fewer tourists (and limited services) in the south and north. Temperatures are pleasant in the tropics and cold in the south.

z Festival de Gramado

European-style town Gramado hosts an important film festival each year, running for nine days in August. This long-running fest (around since 1973) is a showcase for Brazilian and other Latin American films.

z Folclore Nordestino

Olinda’s highly recommended fest celebrates music and folklore from across the Northeast in late August.


The tourist masses and high-season prices haven’t yet arrived, though the weather is beginning to warm and cities are already livening up for the following year’s Carnaval.

z Círio de Nazaré

Belém’s enormous annual event on the second Sunday in October brings one million to the streets to take part in the procession of one of Brazil’s most important icons.

6 Oktoberfest

This beer-drinking extravaganza in Blumenau is the best place to connect to southern Brazil’s German roots. Held mid-October.

0 Bienal de São Paulo

This major art event occurs in even-numbered years (next in 2020 and 2022) between October and December and showcases the work of over 120 artists from around the globe.

z Rio International Film Festival

Rio’s international film festival – Latin America’s biggest – features more than 200 films from all over the world, shown at some 35 theaters over several weeks in October or Novmber.


This late spring month can be a great time to visit, as the crowds are generally small and you can often score good off-season deals (flights, accommodations).

z Maceió Fest

Maceió’s biggest bash of the year is much like Carnaval, with street parades, outlandish costumes, bars that are open 24 hours and a general joie de vivre among the populace, only it’s held in the third week of November.


Summer marks the beginning of Brazil’s most festive season (through February), with hot temperatures and ideal beach days. The crowds are growing and prices are rising (but typically rise even more in January and February).

z Carnatal

The country’s biggest ‘off-season Carnaval’ is this Salvador-style festival held in Natal in the first week of December. It features raucous street parties and pumping trios elétricos (bands playing atop mobile speaker-trucks).

z Reveillon

Some two million revelers, dressed in white, pack the sands of Copacabana Beach in Rio on 31 December, where music concerts and fireworks ring in the New Year.



Rio & the Southeast


Gorgeous beaches, rainforest-covered islands and historic towns are just some of the things you’ll experience on this loop around the Southeast.

Spend a few days discovering Rio and its beaches, restaurants and incredible music scene before heading to Paraty, a beautifully preserved town with rainforest hikes and stunning beaches nearby. Next, stop in Ubatuba with its jungle-clad mountains and spectacular coastal scenery. Ilhabela is a car-free island of beaches, forests and waterfalls. Stop in São Paulo for high culture, including the nation’s best museums and restaurants.

Head next to exquisite Tiradentes and Ouro Preto, with some of Brazil’s finest colonial architecture. Afterwards, take in a bit of friendly Mineira hospitality, good restaurants and buzzing nightlife in Belo Horizonte. Make a day trip to the outstanding collection of art galleries and gardens at the Instituto de Arte Contemporânea Inhotim, 50km southwest of Belo Horizonte.

Visit the hiker’s paradise of Parque Nacional de Caparaó; further east, relish the dramatic beauty of Parque Estadual da Pedra Azul. Further south you’ll find the stunning beaches and high-end dining and nightlife of Búzios, which makes a great final stop before heading back to Rio.


Eastern Highlights


Even on a short trip, you can take in some spectacular scenery and get a taste of Brazil’s staggering diversity. With a few key flights you can maximize your time here.

Start off in the Cidade Maravilhosa, aka Rio de Janeiro. Spend two days taking in grand views from the forested mountaintops overlooking the city (atop Pão de Açúcar and Cristo Redentor), leaving time for relaxing on Ipanema Beach, biking along Copacabana Beach and strolling through the historic center. When evening arrives, head out for dining and drinking in Lebon (Rua Dias Ferreira is a great place to start) and be sure to check a samba club or two in nightlife-packed Lapa.

On days three and four, fly up to Salvador for a heady dose of Afro-Brazilian culture. Check out the brightly painted colonial buildings of the Pelourinho, take in a dazzling dance performance of the Balé Folclórico da Bahia and feast on seafood at Pelô Bistrô. Browse for handicrafts at the Mercado Modelo in Cidade Baixa, and try to catch a sunset out at Barra (the stylish eatery and bar Pereira is a good choice).

On your fifth day, make a day trip out to Morro de São Paulo for a slice of tropical, car-free paradise. Be sure to check out the island’s 17th-century ruins, and pay a visit to a few beaches (go to Segunda Praia for dining and seaside drinks; while less visited Quarta Praia makes for an alluring retreat).

Beat the sunrise for an early-morning flight down to Foz do Iguaçu (via São Paulo). Spend the first day exploring the Brazilian side of the majestic waterfalls. Take the walkways that make up the Trilha das Cataratas (Waterfall Trail) and marvel at the view of the Garganta do Diabo (Devil’s Throat). On your last day, cross to the Argentine side for a walk through rainforest along elevated walkways. Keep an eye out for shimmering butterflies, dazzling hummingbirds, eye-catching toucans and other bird species, as well as the odd monkey. In the afternoon, take a boat trip near the thundering falls. That night toast your adventures with drinks along lively Av Jorge Schimmelpfeng in Foz do Iguaçu.


Best of Brazil


On this epic trip you’ll experience the rhythm-infused towns of the Northeast, the jungles of the Amazon and the biodiversity of the Pantanal, with beaches, tropical islands and historic towns thrown into the mix.

From São Paulo, head east towards Rio, stopping at glorious beaches such as Ubatuba, Trindade and Paraty-Mirim. Leave a couple of days for hiking the rainforest paths and basking on the beaches of Ilha Grande. Continue northeast to Rio de Janeiro, for a hearty dose of nightlife, beach culture and panoramic views.

From there head north, via bus or plane, to Salvador, the country’s Afro-Brazilian gem that’s known for its colorful colonial center, drumming in the streets and lively (and numerous) festivals. Further up the coast visit historic and arts-loving Olinda, then catch a flight from neighboring Recife to the spectacular archipelago of Fernando de Noronha, where you find pretty beaches, snorkeling, diving and a paradise-like setting.

Back on the mainland, travel north, stopping in the backpackers’ paradise of Jericoacoara en route to the surreal dunes in the Parque Nacional dos Lençóis Maranhenses, a stark contrast to the historic beauty of Alcântara. To the west lies Belém, a culturally rich city near the lush island of Ilha de Marajó. Catch a boat up the Amazon to Santarém and on to Alter do Chão for a trip into the jungle. Then continue to the burgeoning city of Manaus.

From Manaus, fly to Brasília to take in its stunning architecture, then visit Parque Nacional da Chapada dos Veadeiros for waterfalls, canyons and dips in natural swimming pools. Next head to Cuiabá, gateway to the breathtaking canyons of Parque Nacional da Chapada dos Guimarães. Spend a few days horseback riding and boating in the Pantanal, one of Brazil’s best destinations for wildlife watching. Head south via Campo Grande to Bonito for crystal-clear rivers, lush forests and caves. Continue south to the awe-inspiring Iguaçu Falls. Before completing the circle, explore the secluded beaches and charming Germanic towns around Florianópolis.



Bahia & the Northeast


Those looking for the soul of Brazil would do well to focus on the Northeast. A confluence of music, history and culture amid spectacular natural scenery makes for an unforgettable journey.

Catch a flight to Porto Seguro, then quickly make your way to the pretty towns of Arraial d’Ajuda and Trancoso, both blessed with great guesthouses and restaurants, festive nightlife and access to walks on a seemingly endless cliff-backed beach. Continue north to Itacaré, a lively town with great surf and cove beaches reached via trails through hilly rainforest. Then head on to rhythm-filled Salvador, Bahia’s most vibrant and colorful city. From there, catch a boat to Morro de São Paulo, an island with enchanting beaches and a laid-back vibe. Don’t miss boat rides around the island, taking in mangroves, reefs, oysters and the quiet village of Boipeba.

Detour west to the tranquil diamond-mining town of Lençóis, which has pretty outdoor cafes, cobblestone streets, and caves, rivers and waterfalls nearby. From here, head into the Parque Nacional da Chapada Diamantina for crisp mountain streams, panoramic views and an endless network of trails. Back on the coast, go north to Maceió, a vibrant, youthful city with gorgeous beaches nearby. Keep going north to reach Olinda, home to some of Brazil’s best-preserved colonial buildings and a Unesco World Heritage site. From Olinda’s buzzing neighbor Recife, fly out to Fernando de Noronha, an exquisite archipelago of rich marine life and splendid beaches.

Returning to the mainland, visit beautiful Praia da Pipa, then hit the spectacular coastline stretching from Natal to Jericoacoara, including the enticing coastal spots of São Miguel do Gostoso and Galinhos. In the sandy-street village of Jericoacoara, try your hand at sandboarding, kitesurfing and beachfront capoeira, and watch memorable sunsets. West of Jericoacoara, Parque Nacional dos Lençóis Maranhenses is a striking landscape of dunes, lagoons and beaches. Continue west to the reggae-charged São Luís, home to 18th-century buildings, seafood restaurants and buzzing nightlife. It’s worth planning a trip around one of the town’s many folkloric festivals. The last stop is Alcântara, a little-visited colonial town with remarkable architecture.


Waterways of the Amazon


Few places ignite the imagination like the Amazon. The largest forest on the planet has an incredible array of plant and animal life. Surprising to many visitors, these wetlands also contain vibrant cities, architectural treasures and beautiful river beaches.

Begin in Belém, a culturally rich city at the mouth of the great river. Explore the revitalized riverfront docks, visit the waterfront market, sample Amazonian dishes and catch a performance at the lavish Teatro da Paz. From here, explore the forest-covered island of Ilha de Marajó, which has bird-filled forests, friendly locals and itinerant water buffalo roaming the streets. Back in Belém, dip south to Palmas, another ultraplanned city like Brasília and the jumping-off point for 4x4 tours of rugged Parque Estadual do Jalapão.

Get a hammock and prepare yourself for a few hardy days of boat travel up the Amazon River. Set off from Belém and stop in Monte Alegre to see ancient rock paintings in the sandstone hills beyond towns. Upstream is Santarém, a pleasant city with many nearby attractions. Also reachable is the virgin rainforest of the Floresta Nacional do Tapajós, where you can lodge in simple pousadas and hike through pristine forest in search of massive samaúma trees. It’s also worth stopping in Alter do Chão for its picturesque lagoon with white-sand beaches.

Continue upriver to Manaus, Amazonia’s largest city. Visit the city’s opera house, market, indigenous museums and nature parks, and the Encontro das Águas. From here, head to the Rio Urubu, base yourself in ecofriendly lodges and take in great wildlife-watching opportunities. Afterwards, go west of Manaus to the small town of Novo Airão, the jumping-off point to the Reserva Extrativista Baixo Rio Branco-Jauaperi, a remote and pristine rainforest reserve where you can see a stunning array of plant and animal life.

Outside of Tefé, visit the Mamirauá Reserve, a vast rainforest reserve where you can see dolphins, sloths, macaws, various monkey species (including the rare uakari) and other wildlife. From there, continue by river to Tabatinga, a fascinating place where you can visit three different countries in an afternoon (Brazil, Colombia and Peru). End your trip by crossing into Leticia in Colombia and staying in a jungle lodge along the Rio Javari.

Teatro Amazonas, Manaus | FILIPE FRAZAO/SHUTTERSTOCK ©


Southward Bound


This trip through Brazil’s southernmost states takes in forested islands, scenic beaches, mountainous national parks, historic missions and Bavarian-style towns with largely European roots.

Start in Foz do Iguaçu to gaze at the most impressive waterfalls on the planet. Take short day trips to Argentina and Paraguay to get a taste of lush rainforests before heading east (by overnight bus or quick flight) to Curitiba, a city with an intriguing environmentally friendly design, plus pretty botanic gardens and an Oscar Niemeyer museum. Next, take the scenic train ride to the sleepy waterfront town of Morretes. From there you can visit the Parque Estadual Pico do Marumbi, a lush reserve that offers some memorable walks amid the highlands. Continue on to Paranaguá, the departure point to car-free Ilha do Mel. The forest-covered island has lovely beaches and low-key guesthouses, and is skirted by some pretty trails.

Next head to beer-loving Blumenau and nearby Vale Europeu, where Pomerode boasts Teutonic architecture, blond-haired residents and a local brew more Bavarian than Brazilian. Head back east to the coast and continue south to Ilha de Santa Catarina, a forest-covered gem of sand dunes, sparkling beaches, pretty lagoons and sleepy fishing villages. Keep going south to Guarda do Embaú, a bohemian seaside town with excellent surf. A short jaunt south is Praia do Rosa, which has pretty beaches and whale-watching.

On into Rio Grande do Sul, explore the dramatic canyon and waterfalls of Parque Nacional de Aparados da Serra. It’s worth heading further inland to Gramado, a charming mountain resort where gourmet chocolates, fondue and excellent infrastructure might make you feel like you’ve stepped into a Swiss portal. Continue west to Bento Gonçalves, gateway to the award-winning vineyards of the Vale dos Vinhedos, set amid the rolling hills of the Serra Gaucho.

Head south to Porto Alegre for transport links to Santo Ângelo, which leads on to the Jesuit missions. From there you can visit São Miguel das Missões, São João Batista and numerous other holy sites. At trip’s end, return to Porto Alegre for an onward flight.

Plan Your Trip


One of the world’s largest parties, Carnaval – in all its colorful, hedonistic bacchanalia – is celebrated with verve in practically every town and city in Brazil. Millions of visitors come for the spectacular costume parades, rhythm-filled street parties, and merriment of every shape and form.

Carnaval through the Year

If you can’t make it to Brazil during Carnaval, you can still join the party by hitting one of the so-called out-of-season Carnavals.


Natal’s huge out-of-season Carnatal is the country’s biggest, drawing upwards of one million revelers each year. The celebration kicks off in the first week of December, with extensive street parties and Salvador-style trios elétricos (electrically amplified bands playing atop trucks). The big event happens outside the Arena das Dunas.


Half a million revelers celebrate Carnaval street-party style at Fortaleza’s big bash in the last weekend of July. Going strong for over 25 years, Fortal brings some of Brazil’s top musicians to town to play forró, sertanejo and other regional sounds. The main action happens in the open-air Cidade Fortal, located some 9km southeast of the city center.


Carnaval, like Mardi Gras, originated from various pagan spring festivals. During the Middle Ages, these tended to be wild parties until tamed, in Europe, by both the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation. But not even the heavy hand of the Inquisition could squelch Carnaval in the Portuguese colony, where it came to acquire indigenous costumes and African rhythms.

Some speculate that the word carnaval derives from the Latin carne vale, meaning ‘goodbye meat,’ owing to the 40 days of abstinence (from meat and other worldly pleasures) that Lent entails. To compensate for the deprivation ahead, sins are racked up in advance with wild parties in honor of King Momo, the king of Carnaval.

Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro

If you haven’t heard by now, Rio throws an exceptional party, with music and dancing filling the streets for days on end. The culmination of the big fest is the brilliantly colorful parade through the Sambódromo, with giant mechanized floats, pounding drummers and whirling dancers – but there’s lots of action in Rio’s many neighborhoods for those seeking more than just the stadium experience.

Out-of-towners add to the mayhem, joining cariocas (residents of Rio) in the street parties and costumed balls erupting throughout town. There are free live concerts throughout the city (near the Arcos do Lapa, on Largo do Machado and on Praça Floriano, among other places), while those seeking a bit of decadence can head to the various balls about town. Whatever you do, prepare yourself for sleepless nights, an ample dose of caipirinhas (cane-liquor cocktails) and samba, and mingling with joyful crowds spilling out of the city.

To get more information on events during Carnaval, check Veja magazine’s Veja Rio insert (sold on Sunday at newsstands) or visit Riotur, the tourist organization in charge of Carnaval.


The following are the Carnaval dates (Friday to Shrove Tuesday) in coming years:

2020 February 21 to 25

2021 February 12 to 16

2022 February 25 to March 1

2023 February 17 to 21

Carnaval on the Streets

Joining the bandas and blocos (street parties) is one of the best ways to have the Carioca experience. These marching parades consist of a procession of brass bands (in the case of bandas) or drummers and vocalists (in the case of blocos) followed by anyone who wants to dance through the streets. Currently there are more than 400 street parties, filling every neighborhood in town with the sound of pounding drums and old-fashioned Carnaval songs – not to mention thousands of merrymakers. For many cariocas, this is the highlight of Carnaval. You can don a costume (or not), learn a few songs and join in; all you have to do is show up. For Zona Sul fests, don’t forget to bring your swimsuit for a dip in the ocean afterwards.

For complete listings, check the latest issues of Veja Rio when you arrive during Carnaval season.

AfroReggae h9am Carnaval Sun) A massive and hugely popular bloco (street party) with a heavy rhythm section that celebrates along the beachfront Av Atlântica near Rainha Elizabeth in Copacabana.

Banda de Ipanema (h4pm 2nd Sat before Carnaval, Carnaval Sat & Carnaval Tue) This long-standing banda (procession) attracts a wild crowd, complete with drag queens and others in costume. Don’t miss it.

Banda Simpatia é Quase Amor (h4pm Sat before Carnaval & Carnaval Sun) A favorite Ipanema banda, with a 50-piece percussion band.

Barbas (h3:30pm Carnaval Sat) One of the oldest bandas of the Zona Sul

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  • (5/5)
    I always love the Lonely Planet guide books. They always start off with such wonderful pictures and the top 20 or 10 of places to visit. For example, in Brazil, the best tourist attraction, according to them, is Pão de Açúcar. It's a lovely mountain with a lovely view of golden beaches and green hills with skyscrapers on the shore. Pick up a copy from Amazon, or your local bookstore to find out the rest! I like the beginning most, because each of the places in the top 20, have their own page in the book. For example, you can find out more about Pão de Açúcar on page 59 and 60. I also like how the authors put the history behind the buildings and landmarks. There are also transportation tips, restaurant tips, hotel tips, boat tips, and so much more! You could really flip to any page and learn something new about Brazil. The authors didn't forget to add pictures and detailed information about the wildlife living in the Amazon Rainforest! If you need to know anything about Brazil, this book is one of the best books that you can get to learn more about Brazil. So the next time you're in a bookstore, try flipping through the pages, I am sure you'll find something that sparks your interest!