DETAILS

Top 12 Best Places to visit in Brazil

Have you always wanted to visit lush rainforests, fantastic cities, tropical islands, and heavenly beaches? Then you’ve been yearning for a trip to Brazil. You’ll find colonial towns that will transport you back in time, red-rock canyons that will transport you to another planet, and awe-inspiring waterfalls and jungles that will make you wish you could stay forever. Brazil is the land of Carnaval, a festival that engulfs every city and every soul. You won’t believe the human capacity for joy and fun until you attend one of these fiestas. Ask yourself what you want from your next vacation, and Brazil will almost certainly have it.

Brazil is the largest country in South America, occupying nearly half of the continent. It is almost entirely in the Southern Hemisphere, and much of it is tropical, with vast stretches of rainforest teeming with exotic plants and wildlife.

Brazil’s Atlantic coast has 7,400 kilometers of golden sand beaches, and its interior is rich in mineral resources. The churches of Portugal, the colonial power that ruled Brazil until 1822, are still adorned with gold from Brazil’s mines. This strong Portuguese influence can be seen in Brazil’s colonial architecture, decorative arts such as glazed tiles in churches and convents, and language.

Brazil is a tropical paradise as well as an exciting cultural destination for tourists, with attractions to suit all tastes, from idyllic beach vacations and jungle explorations to world-class art museums and the pulsing rhythms of Rio’s Carnival.

Use this handy list of the top tourist attractions in Brazil to find the best places to visit and things to do.

Table of Contents

AMAZON RAIN FORESTS

The dark waters of the Rio Negro meet the light muddy waters of the Rio Solimes about 20 kilometers southeast of Manaus, flowing side by side for about six kilometers before merging as the Amazon. Boat trips from Manaus take you to this point, which is known as Encontro das Aguas, or the meeting of the waters.

Other boat trips take you deep into the rain forests and the three rivers’ network of rivers, channels, and lakes. The Anavilhanas Islands in the Rio Negro form an archipelago with lakes, streams, and flooded forests that provide a complete cross-section of the Amazonian ecosystem.

On a boat trip here, you can see monkeys, sloths, parrots, toucans, caimans, turtles, and other wildlife. The 688-hectare Janauari Ecological Park, which is also close to Manaus, has a variety of ecosystems that you can explore by boat along its narrow waterways.

An entire lake here is covered in giant water-lilies that can only be found in the Amazon region. While in Manaus, don’t miss out on seeing the famous Teatro Amazonas, an Italian Renaissance-style opera house built to put Manaus on the map as South America’s great cultural center.

BRASÍLIA’S MODERNIST ARCHITECTURE

In 1960, Brazil’s new capital, Brasilia, was carved out of the wilderness and completed in less than three years, replacing Rio de Janeiro as the country’s capital. The ambitious plan by Lucio Costa and Oscar Niemeyer became a showpiece of city planning and avant-garde architecture, and it is still one of the world’s few cities that represents both a completed plan and a single architectural concept today.

Without the typical mix of residential and business districts, the entire governmental section is made up of major architectural highlights that serve as the city’s primary tourist attractions. Some of the most striking buildings surround Praça dos Tràs Poderes, including the presidential palace, supreme court, and two sharply contrasting congress buildings, as well as the Historical Museum of Brazil and Oscar Niemeyer’s Panto da Liberdade (Pantheon of Freedom).

The circular Catedral Metropolitana Nossa Senhora Aparecida, whose curved concrete columns rise to support a glass roof, is the architect’s most well-known building in the city. The Palácio dos Arcos is another of Niemeyer’s iconic works, surrounded by beautiful gardens designed by Brazilian landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx, who collaborated with Niemeyer on several projects throughout Brazil.

The round Memorial dos Povos Indigenous (Indigenous Peoples Museum) is modeled after a traditional Ynomamö roundhouse. Many consider Niemeyer’s best work to be the Monumento JK, a memorial to Brasilia’s founder, President Juscelino Kubitschek. The city of Brasilia has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

OURO PRETO

The wealth of Brazil’s Minas Gerais state in its glory days of the colonial period is easy to imagine from the interiors of its old capital, Ouro Preto. Entire walls are washed in gold, which flowed from the mines surrounding the city in the 17th and 18th centuries, along with diamonds.

Ouro Preto is a jewel of a colonial town, cascading down the sides of a steep valley and surrounded by mountains, but its steep narrow streets and mountain setting, while appealing to tourists today, did not meet the needs of a growing provincial capital. The government relocated to Belo Horizonte, Brazil’s new capital, leaving Ouro Preto in a time capsule.

The best examples are the 17th-century Baroque and Rococo churches of So Francisco de Assis and Matriz de Nossa Senhora do Pilar, but the entire town is so rich in colonial architecture that Ouro Preto has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The steep streets, which become stairways in places, are lined with gracious colonial mansions, and white churches with Baroque bell towers crown its hills.

PERNAMBUCO BEACHES

Porto de Galinhas is frequently cited as Brazil’s best beach due to its crystal waters, tall palm trees, and broad stretches of silver sand. That’s a lot for a country with more than 7,000 kilometers of Atlantic coast, much of it sandy beaches.

The town that stretches along the beach is laid-back and colorful, with the perfect mix of old-fashioned beach town fun and chic boutiques. Its hotels and resorts are built close to the ground rather than soaring in high-rise blocks.

Jangadas, or picturesque sailboats, will transport you to reef-top pools where brilliant tropical fish swim around your ankles in ankle-deep water. You can also take a boat to a lagoon where tiny seahorses swim, scuba dive to see impressive coral reefs or shipwrecks, kayak in the lagoons and estuary, or purchase a fanciful kite from a beach kiosk to fly in the steady breeze. Surfers flock to nearby Maracaibo.

Porto de Galinhas is just one of the stunning beaches along Pernambuco’s 187-kilometer coastline. Closer to Recife, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of 17th-century Olinda overlooks a popular beach. Recife’s main beaches are Praia da Boa Viagem, So José da Coroa Grande, and Carne De Vaca.

ART MUSEUMS OF SAO PAULO

So Paulo has some of the best fine arts collections in Latin America, and the buildings that house them are architectural landmarks as well. The Museu de Arte, MASP, houses the continent’s most extensive collection of Western art, with works by artists ranging from the Renaissance to modern masters.

There are 73 bronze sculptures by Degas on display, as well as works by Renoir, Manet, Van Gogh, Matisse, Picasso, and Miró. The museum has always focused on the work of mid-to late-century artists, and the building, designed by architect Lina Bo Bardi, is a Modernist landmark.

Oscar Niemeyer designed Ibirapuera Park’s Pavilho da Bienal de Artes, which houses the Museu de Arte Contemporânea. One of Latin America’s largest collections of 20th-century Western artists, with over 8,000 works, includes Picasso, Chagall, Kandinsky, Miró, and Modigliani, as well as major Brazilian painters.

Museu do Ipiranga is a painting and decorative arts museum located above Versailles-inspired formal gardens.

Don’t miss Batman’s Alley, an open-air gallery of street art by local and international artists, for a different kind of art. It is located in the bohemian Vila Madalena neighborhood, which also houses art galleries displaying the works of well-known and emerging Brazilian artists and craftspeople.

BELO HORIZONTE

The state capital of Minas Gerais gave the preeminent Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer his first commissions, and these early Niemeyer buildings still draw tourists and Modernist architecture fans to the city today.

His first major work, which distinguished him from other architects, was the parabolic-curved So Francisco de Assis church in the Pampulha neighborhood, which was built beside a lake. Niemeyer’s earlier casino building, now an art museum, is located on the hillside above it and is linked by gardens designed by landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx.

The sinuous apartment building, Edificio Niemeyer, overlooks the large Praça da Liberdade in the city center and is one of his most famous early works. The clean geometric lines of his later Palácio das Artes mark the edge of the Municipal Park, which houses the Minas Gerais Craft Center, which features works by contemporary artisans.

Another iconic structure in Belo Horizonte is the postmodern Rainha da Sucata – Queen of Scrap Iron – designed by Éolo Maia and Sylvio Podestá. It now serves as a mineralogy museum.

SALVADOR’S PELOURINHO

The Cidade Alta (Upper Town) of Brazil’s former colonial capital has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site for its exceptional collection of 17th- and 18th-century colonial buildings, the best in South America.

This old quarter, known as the Pelourinho, is home to Salvador’s most beautiful churches and monasteries, which were built during a time when Brazil was the source of Portugal’s riches, and the abundant gold was lavished on the colony’s religious buildings.

So Francisco, built in the early 1700s and filled with intricate gold-covered carvings, is the finest and most opulent of the city’s churches. Excellent examples of Portuguese tile panels, known as azulejos, can be found in the choir and cloister.

This was the friary church, and next to it is the Franciscan Third Order church. The riotously carved façade, covered in statues and intricate decoration, is impossible to miss. The interior is equally ornate, outdoing even the Portuguese Baroque in terms of opulent detail.

IPANEMA

Beyond Copacabana’s beaches, the glorious white sands merge into the equally famous beaches of Ipanema. The same wave design that distinguishes Copacabana’s wide promenade continues here, separating the sand from the line of hotels, restaurants, cafés, art galleries, and cinemas that make this a popular social zone all year.

The beaches of Leblon are located further along, beyond the Jardim de Alá Canal, which drains the lagoon of Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas. These beaches are popular with families because they have a higher proportion of locals and fewer tourists. On Sundays, there is an antique market at Praça de Quentaland and the Feira de Artesanato de Ipanema, which is alive with music, art, handicrafts, and street food.

The waves at Ipanema and Leblon can be very strong and unpredictable, so swim with caution. Stay with the locals and avoid areas of the water where no one else is swimming. If you’re looking for surf, head to the stretch between Copacabana and Ipanema, where the surfers congregate.

CARNAVAL, RIO DE JANEIRO

Few shows in the world can compete with Rio’s pre-Lenten Carnaval (Carnival) extravaganza in terms of color, sound, action, and exuberance. Make no mistake: this is not just another rowdy street party, but a carefully staged showpiece in which spectators can watch the parades of competing samba dancers from a purpose-built stadium designed by none other than Oscar Niemeyer, Brazil’s most well-known architect.

This long series of grandstand boxes, known as the Sambódromo, provides ringside seats to a 700-meter parade route where dancers and musicians from competing samba schools strut their stuff in a dazzling explosion of brilliant costumes.

If mob scenes aren’t your thing and you prefer more spontaneous celebrations (which are equally riotous and colorful), Carnivals are also held in Salvador, Bahia, Recife, and other Brazilian cities.

IGUAÇU FALLS

The Iguaçu river drops spectacularly in a semicircle of 247 waterfalls that thunder down into the gorge below at the point where Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina meet. The river is narrowed to one-fourth of its normal width just above the falls, increasing the force of the water.

Some of the falls are more than 100 meters high, and they cover such a large area that you’ll never see them all at once, but the Brazilian side offers the best view. Catwalks and a tower provide different perspectives, and one bridge extends all the way to the Garganta do Diabo (Devil’s Throat).

Cross to the Argentine side for better views from catwalks that extend deeper into the heart of the falls. Because the two sides provide different perspectives and views, most tourists plan to visit both.

The falls are protected by the UNESCO-listed Iguaçu National Park, which is home to over 1,000 species of birds and mammals, including deer, otters, ocelots, and capybaras.

CRISTO REDENTOR AND CORCOVADO, RIO DE JANEIRO

From the summit of Corcovado, the colossal Art Deco statue of Christ, known as Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer), gazes out over Rio de Janeiro and the bay with arms outstretched 28 meters as if to encompass all of humanity.

The 709-meter height on which it stands is part of Tijuca National Park, and a rack railway climbs 3.5 kilometers to its summit, where a large plaza surrounds the statue. The 30-meter statue was built in 1931 by Polish-French sculptor Paul Landowski and Brazilian engineer Heitor da Silva Costa out of reinforced concrete and soapstone.

The eight-meter base houses a chapel that is frequently used for weddings. Although this is one of Brazil’s most well-known icons, it is frequently misidentified as The Christ of the Andes, as it is confused with the older statue that marks the border between Argentina and Chile.

The railway’s mid-point stop leads to trails through Tijuca National Park, a vast forest that protects springs, waterfalls, and a diverse range of tropical birds, butterflies, and plants. Within the park, several more viewpoints become available.

SUGAR LOAF, RIO DE JANEIRO

Sugar Loaf, Rio de Janeiro’s easily recognized emblem, juts out of a tree-covered promontory, rising 394 meters above the beaches and city. Its summit is one of the first places tourists go for views of Rio de Janeiro and the harbor, as well as the thrill of riding suspended in a cable car between Sugar Loaf and the Morro da Urca, a lower peak from which a second cableway connects to the city.

Rio’s first settlement was below these peaks, near the long Praia da Urca beach, and one of the three early forts there, the star-shaped Fort So Joo, can be visited.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *