Where to Go
Brazil is home to a lot. Like, a lot. With over 70 national parks, dozens of monuments, festivals, cultural events – even the Christ the redeemer Statue – it can be very overwhelming to try and plan a trip here.
To make it a bit easier, we scoured and hunted for the absolute best places to go to experience all the best the country has to offer.
Rio de Janeiro
Often mistaken for the capital of Brazil, Rio de Janeiro is a place of rolling lush mountains, fantastic beaches, and one of the best and biggest carnival celebrations in the world, known as Cidade Maravilhosa, which translates to Marvellous City, Rio has a coastline that stretches for miles, and people from all over the world and the country come just to laze on the beaches in the ultimate relaxing getaway. From biking along the coast, to hiking in Tijuca rainforest, hang gliding, rock climbing, sailing and more, there’s nothing you can’t do in Rio.
The New World Capital first established by Portugal over half a century ago, Salvador has an energy that fits the stereotype of Brazil. Here, the colonial architecture form the European invasions is still very much intact, with brightly coloured houses and buildings lining the cobblestone alleys, and churches with baroque features and gilt woodwork standing proud in the plazas. Salvador also has an impressive arts movement, with Olodum drummers on every street, Capoeira martial artists, and festivals almost every other week.
Sao Paulo City
One of the largest cities in the world – and the largest by far in Brazil – Sao Paulo city is a cultural hotspot, with multiple different ethnicities and cultures living together in harmony. In fact, Sao Paulo is actually home to the largest community of Japanese outside of the country of Japan. It’s here that travellers will see unbelievable art galleries and experimental theatres, fine-dining restaurants, and upscale bars. The sophisticated city life blends with the Brazilian love of life in unexpected and magical ways.
The official capital of Brazil, Brasilia was first built in 1960 – which is fairly late for a capital city, especially by western standards. As a result of its later creation, the city has been thoroughly planned and intricately organised, with the infrastructure interestingly laid out in the form of an aeroplane. Each section of the plane has been designated a different section of the city, whether that’s residential, governmental, cultural, or commercial, which makes for an interesting wander round.
One for the nature lovers, Paraty can be found along brazil’s green Coast in the state of Rio de Janeiro. It’s a city bursting with waterfalls, dominant coastline mountains, an emerald green sea, tropical forests and more. Plus, as it was once a Portuguese colony, the city’s centre is historic and beautiful, with multi-coloured colonial buildings and the signature cobbled streets of the 17th century.
What to Do
From cultural hot spots, to hiking opportunities, the Amazon rainforest, sites of historical significance and more, everything about Brazil combines to make it one of the most unique and interesting places you’ll ever visit.
Visit the Wildlife in the Amazon
The Amazon is one of the natural wonders of the world, but the jungle is so immense it’s impossible to explore it all. Instead, take a cruise down the Amazon river, and see all the jungle’s natural glory from the water. Plus, this also gives you the chance t spot the elusive water creatures that call the river their home: such as the Amazonian pink dolphin, which is incredibly rare.
Go Jaguar spotting in the Pantanal
One of the most elusive animals in the world is the south American jaguar; now so rare, it’s almost impossible to sport them, especially if you don’t know where to look. The largest predator on the continent, the only place you can almost guarantee a sighting is along the Cuiaba River in the heart of Brazil’s Pantanal. Typically, they’ll; be spotted during the day making their way down the highway or lazing by the river enjoying the midday sunshine.
Hike through Chapada Diamantina
The Chapada Diamantina National Park is pretty much the standout hike across the entirety of Brazil, with the elusive and remoteness of the hike creating a Lost World atmosphere. The hike takes travellers from Lençois, up through the distinctive and iconic table-top massifs, passing through the wide plateau with views of the emerald valleys, and taking in a few fresh water pools along the way.
If you make it to the top, meet the residents of Vale do Capào, and admire the 400m high Cachoeria da Fumaça – one of the highest waterfalls in Brazil.
A beach so great it inspired a whole song, it has to make the cut for any Brazilian itinerary. The Copacabana Beach is a fantatci stretch of golden sand with a 4km coastline full of tourists, bars, restaurants, and a great nightlife. Not the most relaxing of beaches, but the place to come if you want to try a traditional caipirinha cocktail.
On par with the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty, and the Big Ben in terms of iconic landmarks, the Cristo Redentor dominates the skyline of Rio de Janeiro, sitting on the top of Corcovado hill. The mountain itself sits above the city at roughly 710 metres above sea level, and at the night the 38-metre-high statue is lit up so that it’s visible from virtually every part of the city.
Read More About Brazil
Best Time to Visit Brazil
In terms of weather, Brazil is privy to the southern hemisphere’s weather system, which means it’s pretty much the opposite of the UK, USA, Europe, or anywhere like that. That means winter lasts from May through until September – however, it’s still fairly warm, with temperatures reaching 30 degrees in some places.
The lack of tourists during this period, and cheaper prices, makes this one of the best times to visit for a backpacker’s budget.
In terms of nature and wildlife spotting, the dry season between May and September is the best for the tropical wetlands, while July and August is great if you’re an avid bird watcher looking to spot some of the incredibly rare flying creature that visit the area.
For fun and parties, then head to Brazil for the annual Carnival in February/ early March – one of the most famous events on the social calendar around the world.
How Much Does it Cost
Brazil is home to some of the biggest parties, celebrations, and events in South America, so it makes sense that a visit here can quickly become very expensive. However, if you’re a traveller on a backpacker’s budget, then it’s also very easy to keep costs down.
A daily budget here could easily be as low as $20, using cheap hostel accommodations and street food carts.
Typical costs while backpacking across Brazil:
One of the best ways to save some money is to agree taxi prices before you start your ride; taxis aren’t typically metered – not in the same way that they are in the UK or USA, for instance – so if you don’t agree a price beforehand the drivers will likely try to rip you off. Alternatively, skip the taxis altogether and use the public buses, which are very frequent and reliable.
Another good tip is to travel during the off season. Typically, December through to March is the busiest season to visit as it’s the best weather, and people from the northern hemisphere are looking to escape the dreary winter period. However, the weather is still great outside of this period, and with a number of fun and interesting celebrations and cheaper prices, it’s a win-win.
What to Pack
Brazil is one of those destination that requires both city wear and outdoors gear – suitable for mountains and jungles – which can be fairly daunting.
The essentials list has to include: a comfortable swimsuit, waterproof shoes, hiking boots, hiking socks, activewear shorts and leggings, a couple of outfits for the night life, lightweight rain jacket, sunglasses, sun cream, a towel, and a toiletry bag. A first aid kit is probably a good idea as well.
Given the often-rural nature of Brazil, it’s a good idea to bring a water bottle with you – fairly large, that you can refill wherever you find clean drinking water. Note: the tap water across Brazil isn’t safe to drink, so buy bottled water or a water bottle with filter technology.
Luckily for any budding backpackers, hostels are very common across Brazil, and they’ll typically not cost more than $15 a night – even in the major cities of Brasilia and Rio.
A vey Brazilian style of accommodation is a pousadas, which is essentially a local, traditional guesthouse similar to an English B&B, which has the added bonus of friendly locals that cab give you tips about the area.
There are also fazendas, which are local ranches that essentially serve as a guesthouse and a farm at the same time – which can be a lot of fun to stay in for a night or two.
Food and Drink
Brazil has a rich and interesting cuisine, with high standards and influences from all over the world. A lot of traditional dishes makes use of the fruits and plants available in the Amazon – such as the açai berry – as well as the abundance of fresh fish that can eb sourced from the extensive coastline.
One classic dish that can be eaten pretty much anywhere in the country is the feijoada: a pot of black beans with chunks of meat – although traditionally this meat will be pig’s ears, trotters, and other parts. It’s then served with fried kale, bacon bits, rice, farofa, and a slice of orange.
There’s also vatapá, which is shrimps and chicken in a creamy sauce that’s made from fish oil, coconut milk, and manioc paste all served with rice, and pão de queiko, which are cheesy doughballs freshly made.
In terms of alcohol, Brazil has the works. There’s chopp, a traditional draught beer, or cachaça, a fiery sugarcane spirit that’s often mixed with sugar, crushed ice, and limes to make a classic caipirinha cocktail. There’s also Brazilian wine, which is a must-try – especially the white wines from Santa Catarina.
Brazil as we know it today has been created from European immigrants and indigenous tribes that still live in the Amazonian jungles with little or no contact with the outside world, so it makes sense that the culture here is likely a little different to what you’re used to.
Like anywhere, it can come as a bit of a culture shock to some travellers unaccustomed to Brazilian norms, so it’s good to do a bit of research before you go to avoid the dreaded faux pas.
A few things to bear in mind when backpacking through Bolivia:
- Make eye contact with those around you – even in the streets, marketplaces, and public transport
- Brazilians are not often drunk, and don’t respect people that indulge in too much alcohol
- Plastic surgery is very common – most people you meet will have had something done, so don’t be judgmental
- Interruptions and interjections when someone else is speaking is not typically considered rude
Brazilians typically speak a version of Portuguese, rather than Spanish like a lot of South American countries. So, if you’re planning a trip to Brazil, there’s no underestimating the value of knowing a few basic phrases in Brazilian Portuguese.
With that in mind, here are some handy phrases to help you get around Portuguese:
- Oi / Opa / Tudo bem?
- Como vai / Como estás?
- Meu nome é
- Obrigado / Obrigada
- Até depois
- Quanto é?
- Não entendi
- Fala inglês?
- Hi / Hello / How are you?
- How are you?
- My name is
- Thank you
- See you later
- How much?
- I don’t understand
- Do you speak English?
The easiest way to get around Brazil – especially in the major cities – is using the municipal buses, which run frequently enough that a lot of Brazilians use them to get to work every day. There’s also the metro, although this can only be accessed in Rio and Sao Paulo.
Given the size of the country, if you’re looking to explore most of it in a short time, then it’s worth taking advantage of the 4000+ airports that can found around the country. In fact, in some parts of the Amazon, flying is one of the only ways to get around.
The main entry requirement is a passport that’s valid for at least 6 months from the date of entry. If you’re travelling from the UK or the EU, there’s no visa required – although a return ticket is, to ensure you have your travel back home planned in advance. Travellers from these destinations can stay in the country, VISA-free, for up to 90 days.
Everywhere else must apply for a tourist visa – which can differ in price depending on the origin country. Visas for Australians, for instance, cost £108, while Canadians will only have to pay £72, and Americans £144. These visas are valid for up to 90 days.
Is It Safe?
The fifth largest country in the wold, with a lot going on, it’s understandable if maybe not everywhere in Brazil is completely safe.
Brazil is technically one of the most criminalised countries in the world, with a murder rate 4 times higher than in Western countries. Not only this, but a lot of Brazil is made up on untamed wilderness, which can bring with it a different set of safety concerns.
Having said this, there’s a reason 6.5 million people visit every year. The best way to stay safe is to simply keep track of your itinerary, book accommodation ahead of time, and check your route for any potential disruptions from protests or natural disasters – such as landslides, for example.
Stay vigilant, travel smart, and just don’t do anything you wouldn’t do at home.
A Brief History
Once dominated by stone-age tribes, it wasn’t until the arrival of the Europeans in the 16th century that Brazil began to form modernised civilisations. The Portuguese were the first to arrive in 1500 when Pedro Alvares Cabral claimed Brazil as a Portuguese colony.
In 1532, the first colony war formed, and Portugal began to dominate more of the land, using the sugar canes that grew here as a primary export to fund the economy. Slaves were imported from Africa, and the Portuguese fought a number of wars and battles to expand the Brazilian territory until it became one of the largest countries in the world – and still is today.
In 1807, the Portuguese royal family fled to brazil to escape Napoleon, and the prince remined in Brazil after his family returned home, becoming the emperor and declaring independence in 1822.
The first coup to take over the emperor occurred in 1889, when the government became a republic ruled by a constitution, and since then the country has been intermittently ruled by elected presidents and military coups.
In 2011, Dilma Vana Rousseff became the first female president of Brazil.
- Brazil is home to “Snake Island” which is almost entirely populated by snakes
- Maria and Jose are the most common names
- The country has been the largest producer of coffee for the last 150 years
- There are more than 4000 airports
- It’s home to the biggest Japanese population outside of Japan
- Brasilia is the capital, not Rio de Janeiro
- Brazil’s football team is the most successful national team in the world
- In 1958, a rhinoceros called Cacareco was a candidate in the city council elections in Sao Paulo and received the most votes
If you really want to make the most of your time in Spain, then check out these useful resources. When you’re backpacking, it’s always better to be safe and prepared than winging it.
- Links incoming