Brazil- the ULTIMATE guide
Brazil- the ULTIMATE guide
Brazil will surprise you. We pretty much guarantee it.
A lot of people visit Brazil to see the two big bucket-list items – the world-famous beach-and-party city of Rio de Janeiro and the massive spectacle of Iguazu Falls.
But if you give Brazil a little more time in your itinerary, you'll find a country that is absolutely awash with natural wonders. There's dazzling rainforests, vast wetlands, dramatic escarpments, cave lakes and remote beaches.
Here's seven of the world-class highlights that make Brazil a spectacular destination.
The Pantanal is the world's largest tropical wetland region. A sprawling basin that extends into Paraguay and Bolivia, the Pantanal area is bigger than the whole of Greece. Every year in the wet season, most of the region is underwater and becomes a haven for fish and shellfish. Then the water subsides and the birds and mammals feast on the fish that haven't made it out to deeper water. Few roads and no towns make it difficult to access much of the Pantanal – but that is what makes a wilderness a wilderness.
There are incredible wildlife viewing opportunities – jaguars are perhaps the most famous residents, but it's the abundance of creatures that will take your breath away. Jabiru stork, macaw, eagle, marsh deer, giant river otter, tapir, giant anteater, caiman, capybaras and anaconda all call the Pantanal home.
Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro is the beating heart of Brazil – a sprawling, samba-fuelled city perched between the coast and the mountains. The white-sand beaches run for miles and are the city's biggest tourism drawcard. But for the locals, the beaches are simply a part of Rio's way of life – sunshine and beach volleyball are the norm.
The forested mountains come right to the city's edge, so toucans, monkeys and iguanas are close by and can sometimes be seen in the city parklands. And on top of it all, there's the incredible statue of Christ the Redeemer overlooking the city.
Music provides a pulsing backdrop to everything – festivals, music events and beach parties all offer Rio's residents the excuse to get out and dance the night away. The party life culminates in the annual Rio Carnaval in February, a massive celebration of music, samba dancing and sparkly costumes.
A charming seaside colonial town, Paraty is awash with history. The old city centre is Instagram heaven – the rough cobblestone alleys are lined with whitewashed colonial buildings with brightly-painted doors. The pedestrians-only town centre is studded with hip cafes and galleries and is perched right on the waterfront where colourful fishing boats bob on the water.
As well as being a charming town, Paraty is set on the glorious Emerald Coast, where small beaches are lined with palm trees and rocky coves have crystal clear water. Take some time here to have a boat trip around the offshore islands or try your hand at stand-up paddle boarding. You can snorkel, dive, hike the coastal trails, or just swim the warm waters and laze on the beach.
Iguazu Falls doesn't win the award for being the world's biggest falls. But it's a serious contender to win the award for the world's most spectacular falls. The huge Iguazu River is broken up by numerous islands, creating a waterfall that is broken into over 275 individual flows of water falling over a multi-layered cliff system. The falls are up to 80 metres high and the whole falls area stretches for 2.7 kilometres along the horseshoe-shaped cliff. The permanent cloud of spray creates a damp and humid ecosystem around the falls which is dense with flora and fauna.
Iguazu Falls sits on the border of Brazil and Argentina and the curving cliff edge provides many different access and viewing points – some in Brazil and some across the border in Argentina. A comprehensive walkway system provides close access to the falls, and, on the Brazil side, you can walk along the canyon below the falls.
It's not the town of Bonito that brings people to Bonito – it's the surrounding ecotourism wonderland. The area is a pristine ecosystem of glorious waterfalls, caves, lakes and clear rivers that has become a popular place for adventure. It's a model for eco-tourism at its best – the whole region is carefully managed and strict conservation-driven controls ensure that the environment is cared for.
There are endless activities on offer. Snorkel in absolutely clear rivers amongst hundreds of colourful fish. Abseil into a deep natural cavern, then snorkel in the clear blue lake at the bottom of the cave. Go river rafting, kayaking, horse riding, hiking or mountain biking. Abseil down waterfalls, explore caves or go wildlife watching. It is a genuine wonderland of natural beauty and extreme adventure.
Once voted in the top ten most beautiful beaches in the world, Jericoacoara is a hidden piece of paradise. The small fishing village is accessible only by 4WD across sandy dunes – once there you'll find a town studded with palm trees and the roads between shops, cafes and houses are simply made of sand.
Jeri (as it is locally known) features long beaches, warm water and massive sand dunes. Inland there are beautiful freshwater lagoons, and the whole area is surrounded by national park. It's a great place to go hiking, windsurfing, kite flying and fishing. If the beach is your thing, just laze in a hammock pitched over the shallow turquoise water and let the day happen around you.
Chapada Diamantina National Park
Looking down on Chapada Diamantina from a helicopter, you would see the huge plateau and dramatic escarpment that are the major geological features of this national park. But down at ground level there is so much more. Waterfalls tumble over the plateau's edge into clear aqua pools. Cave systems weave into the cliffs, with glistening limestone walls, delicate stalagmites, underground rivers and blue cave pools.
The area was part of a diamond mining rush until is became a national park in the 1980s.The park is huge and also contains rock formations and mesas, dry grasslands and lush rainforests, home to a loads of wildlife and plant species. It is an extraordinary environment and is perhaps Brazil's best hiking area – walking the remote trails is a definite must for hiking enthusiasts.