There is no other country on earth that offers as many top class beaches as Brazil. From the cities to remote islands, brilliant sandy shores can be found up and down the country’s coast.
Visit Brazil for a the beaches, diverse culture and fascinating history also contributes to some must-see sights in the country. Centuries of colonization mixed with tribal and African traditions have left an indelible mark on the culture of the country and created a unique vibe throughout Brazil. Having just hosted the FIFA World Cup and with Rio hosting the Olympics next year, Brazil has already been playing host to people from all over the world and will continue to do so. Start planning your trip to Brazil today with our Travel Guide.
The main impediment to visiting Brazil is transportation within the country. Though there are many airports which are needed to hop from region to region, the quality of roads and air travel leave something to be desired. This is not an issue if you’re just flying into one of the bigger cities (like Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo) but it’s something you should keep in mind when planning your trip.
The majority of Brazil is tropical. Especially around the equator, expect warm and wet weather pretty much year round. More temperate regions slightly to the south of the equator might be a bit cooler but rarely necessitate more than a light jacket. Further south, below the Tropic of Capricorn, there can be be frost and cooler weather in the winter (June-September). Mountainous regions as well as, very rarely, some of the southern cities can experience snow. For the most part however, the weather is warm to hot (and humid) and trips to Brazil are viable year round, especially if you just plan on relaxing on one of the many gorgeous beaches.
Where to go on your trip to Brazil
Rio de Janeiro
If you’re planning on heading down to Brazil but not stopping in Rio de Janeiro, you need to reevaluate immediately. Rio is the most visited and famous city in the country for good reason. The city’s renowned beaches are plentiful and full of life, with all sorts of sports, foods, and more in easy reach. The most famous beach is Copacabana, pictures of which adorn postcards and posters across the world. Ipanema beach is arguably the better value these days but you might as well check them both out. After a day on the beach, Rio is home to some of the best nightlife in the world. Many residents of Rio possess a profound enjoyment for life, and this is expressed in the many clubs and bars throughout the city. Before you leave, you have to make your way up Corcovado Mountain – where Christ the Redeemer stands – and take in breathtaking view of Rio and the surrounding bay.
As the biggest city in the whole of the Americas, São Paulo offers a lot to see and do. The city is very cosmopolitan and considered to be the cultural capital of Brazil. The sheer size of São Paulo makes it a difficult city to wrap your head around, but if you unlock its secrets or get a local to guide you, you’re in for a treat. Numerous performances and exhibitions will appeal to the more artistically inclined visitors. There are also seemingly endless great restaurants to try out, with many types of cuisine on offer. The huge immigrant populations (particularly Japanese, Italian, and Arab) contribute to the cultural diversity of this mega metropolis. There’s also tons of shopping to be done in the chic neighborhoods. If you’re looking to party (and a lot of people are in Brazil), ‘nightlife’ is 24/7. Overall, São Paulo is a huge, trendy city that will appeal to a wide variety of travelers.
We’re not recommending that you set off into the jungle without a clue what you’re doing. If you plan ahead, get a guide, or book a spot on a riverboat, a trip into the heart of the Amazon could be one of the most impressive parts of your trip to Brazil. The flooded forests are sure to capture the imagination of anyone with even a passing interest in nature. The Brazilian portion of the Amazon is bigger than Germany four times over, so you can’t see everything. Still, there are good tours and guides on offer to see parts of the jungle. A good jumping off point for your Amazon adventure is Manaus, the capital of the state of Amazonas, accessed via boat or plane. Parts of the city’s culture are still influenced by old tribal customs unique to this part of Brazil
This relatively isolated city in the northeast of Brazil still manages to attract tons of tourists to its shores. To get a full picture of the city, start in Centro, the oldest district and a lively place during the day. For nightlife, head on down to the nearby Praia de Iracema. However, the city has been nicknamed the ‘City of Light’ so the main reason it’s on people’s radars is so they can enjoy the beaches. The best beach you’ll find in the city is the 5km Praia do Futoro. Outside of the city, quaint fishing villages and rolling sand dunes are common side trips that are definitely worth it.
Another northeastern city, Recife is a unique mix of the historical and the modern. A flashpoint for conflict between the Dutch and Portuguese, the city grew considerably under Dutch rule in the 17th century. The historic, colourful buildings are very similar to what you might find in parts of Europe. Pockets of these historical sections are surrounded by large modern buildings, offering an odd mix of the old and new (similar in some ways to London but on a much smaller scale). Nearby Olinda has an even more historical feel, so travelers sometimes stay there but venture into Recife for the nightlife.
Salvador is the most exciting of the 3 northeastern cities. Arts, festivals, and other cultural events break out at almost any time. African culture is definitely more prevalent here than in many parts of Brazil. Salvador is home to some the best music, capoeira (martial arts mixed with dance), and food in the country – all influenced by the descendants of African slaves. Colourful, European influenced historical buildings are all also found here. While this unique heritage is arguably the biggest selling point for Salvador, the tropical location and brilliant coastline make this the complete package.
After Rio de Janeiro, this waterfall and the nearby city of Foz do Iguaçu is the most visited tourist destination. The majority of the waterfall actually resides within Argentina, but it’s still easily accessible from the Brazilian side. Iguazu is made up of a stunning 275 separate waterfalls, creating a massive cascade of water that is truly magnificent. The surrounding jungle is constantly growing, lending an ever-increasing wildness to the falls which visitors navigate with the aid of walkways that bring you to the edge of the falls. Iguazu is almost twice as tall as Niagara Falls, and that isn’t even considering how spread out the whole thing is. The falls are easily accessible thanks to nearby airports.
Lençóis Maranhenses National Park
This 1500 square kilometre national park is a rough barren land that supports almost no vegetation. While that may not sound like a place to immediately pack your bags for, this national park is both visually stunning and ecologically fascinating. The entire landscape is covered by large sand dunes, however, it is not a desert due to an abundance of rain provided by its proximity to the Amazon basin. This causes fresh water to collect throughout the region, trapped on top of the sand dunes by a layer of rock just under the surface. The result is an unearthly landscape of what appears to be a sweeping desert but full of fresh water lagoons that give off a green and black hue.
The city resides on the Island of Santa Catarina, which gives Rio a run for its money as the best party and recreation destination in Brazil. The many beaches offer both great surfing and calm waters for more relaxing swimming. Barra da Lagoa in particular has become famous as one of the best places in the world to learn how to surf. The waters aren’t too rough but you can really get going if you do it right. Beyond surfing there’s diving, hang gliding, rowing, mountain biking and more all on offer. As if all that isn’t enough, the New York Times called Florianopolis the party destination of the year not too long ago. After a day in the surf, relax and let the party bus drive you around to the top nightclubs on the island.
Fernando de Noronha
This archipelago of 21 islands and islets can be an adventure to get to, but it’s absolutely worth it. By taking a plane or cruise from Recife, you’ll find yourself on some of the most enchanting beaches on earth. Many parts of the environment are preserved but that only helps to keep the natural beauty of the islands intact. Make sure you find time to swing by Sancho Bay – TripAdvisor’s best beach in the world. In a country of gorgeous beaches, visiting the best of the bunch is worth the side trip.
How much does it cost?
Despite not having to cross an ocean to get there, flying to Brazil can still be expensive. Look for round trip flights to cost around $700-$1100 Canadian from Pearson to Rio. There will often be deals and savings if you shop around. Be sure to adjust your arrival and departure dates to find the best possible price for your flight.
On average, expect to spend about $78 per day. This includes $46 for lodging and $16 for food. If you’re thrifty, you could likely get by with the low cost of $29 per day while aiming for luxury will skyrocket the price to about $576. As always, this will vary greatly depending on where you are and what you’re doing. The nightlife is a big draw in Brazil and if this is what you’re visiting for, expect your daily expenses to increase. Likewise, if you’re on a more relaxing vacation away from the hustle and bustle of the club-scene, you’ll likely spend less.
Health and Safety
Though Brazil is a popular tourist destination for people of all ages, economic and crime problems have made it dangerous in many areas. The Government of Canada recommends that you exercise a high degree of caution throughout the country due to a high crime rate and gang related violence. Due to police crackdowns on gangs in favelas (shanty towns), there is an increased risk of violence. In places where there is a clear wealth disparity, this is especially true. Be vigilant at all times and avoid traveling alone, especially at night.
Beyond organized gang violence, there is also a risk of serious and petty crime, especially in big cities like Rio and São Paulo. Armed robberies are common, so avoid isolated and unsupervised areas, even during the day. Even in tourist hotspots be aware, as flash mob robberies have been known to occur. Restaurants are a growing place for armed robberies as well. Sexual assault with use of sedatives has also been reported, so female travelers especially should be wary of strangers or invitations. Petty crime is common, especially during the Carnival. As a tourist, avoid carrying a lot of extra cash or advertising wealth (e.g. watches, jewelry, iPad’s, etc.). Authorities require some sort of identification with you, so it’d be good to have a photocopy of your passport or visa (or something similar) instead of the real thing.
Carjackings and kidnappings are also a danger, especially in the cities, so use caution at red lights and ATMs among other places. Last but not least, it is not recommended to go into the favelas for any reason, but if you do make sure you have a reputable guide. Police assistance is very limited in these areas and violence is prone to break out without warning.
These were just some of the options you have on your trip to Brazil – there’s tons more to see and do! If a particular place or activity should be on the list, let us know in the comments! Check out our Country of the Week for a broader understanding of Brazilian history and culture.
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