Once you realise Brazil’s size, you’ll quickly understand why. Attracting everyone from sun worshippers to adrenaline junkies, nature lovers to city revellers and festival hunters; there is something for everyone in Brazil.
Starting in Rio de Janeiro seems natural: the city straddles mountains and beaches with districts that ooze its long history of dance, music and art. Rio seems to naturally represent Brazil at its core: bursting with energy and flair yet sitting on the cusp of a natural vista, with Tijuca Forest removing you from its bustle.
Travelling to Brazil continues in this motion, bouncing between eclectic cities like Sao Paulo and Salvador that will quickly show you just how diverse the culture and history of this gigantic country is. You’ll then quickly feel like you are in a different world as you enter the Amazon and Pantanal where, collectively, you have the most thriving and biodiverse corner of the planet.
No trip to Brazil is complete without spending some time on the coastline, where you can hop between towns and islands, some showing you the more remote corners of Brazil, whereas others will show you some of the trendiest places to live in the country!
This guide will show you what travelling in Brazil might look like for you, detailing some of the best places to go and giving you some advice to make the very best of your time in Brazil! So, let’s dig in;
The Best Time to Visit Brazil
Despite Brazil’s size, the country is rarely subject to adverse weather conditions making it a year-round destination no matter which part you travel to.
Sitting comfortably within the southern hemisphere, Brazil’s summer is from December to March, when temperatures can be particularly high in the northern regions. The winter period stretches from June to September, which cannot always guarantee sun-filled days. Overall, the best time to go and enjoy Brazil in all its sun-filled glory is between September and October, just before the heat gets turned up.
Due to the unique tropical climate that the Amazon generates by itself, you’ll find that the weather is hot and sticky no matter what time of year you visit.
Best Places to Visit in Brazil
Travel to Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro is up there among one of the most scenic cities in the world. Towering mountains offer a birds-eye view of the pristine beaches that outline the peninsula below; what’s more, they are fronted by trendy districts with familiar names like Ipanema and Copacabana, some of the most iconic in the country.
Among the places to visit in Rio de Janeiro, thriving, colourful areas like Lapa will take you to the beating heart of Rio, its streets, where Samba and art breathe life into the city.
After you’ve covered essentials like Christ the Redeemer and Sugarloaf mountain, Rio de Janeiro day trips include the paradisiacal Ilha Grande and Paraty, where colonial towns and pretty beaches will show you a slower pace of life.
Iguazu Falls – the Brazillian Side
Sitting on the border of Argentina, Iguazu Falls is a colossal set of waterfalls that tumble into the river of the same name. The waterfall has two national parks that show you each country’s perspective of the great gushes of water and the jungle with all its flora and fauna.
Iguazu Falls are the largest by width and flow in the world, blowing impressive waterfalls like Niagara out of the water – pun intended – making an Iguazu Falls holiday second to none.
Iguazu Falls Tours in Brazil will either take you from the nearest town, Foz de Iguazu or from your accommodation in the national park, to the tallest point, Devil’s Throat, totalling 80 metres. You can take numerous circuits to explore the waterfall, crossing both of the national parks to reach lookout points over the falls.
The Sand Dunes of Barreirinhas
Set within the heart of Lencois Maranhenses National Park, the sand dunes of Barreirinhas take you into another world when you travel in Brazil. Interspersed by lagoons and freshwater lagoons, endless plains of white sand dunes, some reaching a lofty height of 50 metres, characterise the landscape.
What attracts so many visitors to Barreirinhas is that no trip will be the same. The lagoons come and go with the rain and tides, and with them come many fish through the river channels that connect them. For the best experience on a Brazil trip, it’s best to visit in July or September after the many rainstorms this area is known for have gone, leaving long, deep lagoons in their wake. Barreirinhas is nothing but a desert landscape outside of these periods with no reward of a swim after hiking.
Amazon Tours in Brazil
The Amazon straddles nine countries, covering an impressive 40% of South America, and Brazil is home to more than half of it!
Creating a wealth of life for flora and fauna, the Amazon has more animal species in one place than anywhere else on Earth, creating unparalleled biodiversity – the word was first coined by specialists here!
Amazon River tours in Brazil follow the snaking trail of this infamous river, with the option of jungle explorations following nature trails and hopping between long-tail boats as you get deeper into the world’s most abundant natural vista.
As you’ll see on this 16-day natural wonders of Brazil tour, you can also be introduced to some of the native peoples of the Amazon, of which over 150 communities are living here.
Sitting in the shadows of the mighty Amazon, Pantanal is often overlooked. However, this vast floodplain is home to a vibrant and diverse ecosystem; this is the world’s largest tropical wetlands.
Every year, Pantanal’s basin fills, attracting more wildlife than anywhere else on the continent. With such open plains, you’re able to spot everything from the prolific birdlife to the odd green anaconda, the largest snake in the world, with ease in Pantanal. Brazil’s tours of the area will take you by boat, on safari and trekking, just like in this 7-day Bonito and Panatal tour, to spot all that you can in this truly unique corner of the world.
Your trip will mainly stick to the Paraguay River, where you’ll be exploring from day to night through reeds and mangroves to spot as many species as possible, many of which are endemic to this bountiful landscape.
The endless high risers of this city elevate Sao Paulo to lofty heights with a modern concrete jungle feel. This is Brazil’s financial and administrative centre, the fourth-largest city in the world!
Home to an exploding art scene, a burgeoning foodie centre and endless opportunities to shop and party until you drop, Sao Paulo is truly a city that never sleeps. The atmosphere is electric; every local will have their own way of enjoying all that the city has to offer. When you are on your Brazil tour, you’ll quickly learn the hidden spots and best areas to hang out!
Minas Gerais and the Gold Rush
Once known for its wealth of mineral riches, Minas Gerais was the original gold rush state. Today, the towns and cities of Minas Gerais echo their gold mining past with impressive colonial architecture created to showcase the riches made from the amount of gold that was sent to Portugal.
This historical state does not come without sadness; the peak of the gold rush was also the height of African slavery in Minas Gerais and Brazil as a whole. Thousands of people were brought to Minas Gerais to extract as much gold as humanly possible from the land.
When you explore Minas Gerais on your visit to Brazil, you’ll start in Belo Horizonte, the state’s capital, before delving into town after town filled with colonial architecture. Among them are Congonhas and Tiredentas, some of the most prominent gold mining towns in the 18th century.
You’ll finish in São João del Rei, one of the most prominent towns during the gold rush and one of the few that continued to flourish after the industry collapsed. From this colonial town, you’ll be able to see a brighter side of Minas Gerais – this is the gateway to its countryside with many nature trails.
Fernando de Noronha and Jericoacoara: Two Paradises
The archipelago of your dreams sits far from the mainland of Brazil. Fernando de Noronha comprises 12 islands and islets protected to ensure their natural beauty is maintained. With visitors limited, this is an exclusive opportunity to embrace island life, just like in this 5-day Fernando de Noronha tour.
Powder-white sands, azure waters, swaying palms, and abundant marine life will characterise your time here – with so much effort to preserve the waters and land, Fernando de Noronha offers a genuinely spectacular diving experience!
A fun-loving quaint town, Jericoacoara is your little slice of paradise without leaving the mainland. Surrounded by natural vistas and dunes, Jeri, as locally affectionately called it, will lure you in with its promise of tropical lagoons and laid back boho vibe. Between the sense of adventure and the gentle sway that the sound of the waves, you’ll easily fall into the easy-going pace of Jeri, so much so, you’ll forget to leave!
The City of Salvador
As a former capital and centre of colonialism for years, Salvador is a city with many layers. At the centre of it is Afro-Brazilian culture in all its glory.
Today, Salvador has a vibrant energy that expresses itself in capoeira and Candomble ceremonies that bring African legacies to the forefront of the city’s activity. While here, you’ll often run into performances, festivals from various religions that fill the streets with life.
A tour in Salvador, like in this 8-day romantic Brazil tour, will introduce you to Brazilian artists and writers like Jorge Amado while demonstrating the city’s creative flair through food, music and dance. And, if you happen to be here at the right time, this will all come together in the biggest carnival party there is – Salvador is not a city that does things by half measures.
How to Get Around Brazil
Any Brazil vacation that includes one than one state will require flights. This country is huge, with some regions only really accessible by plane, particularly if you are looking to travel to the Amazon.
Flights in Brazil can be expensive; however, by keeping an eye on prices or arranging your trip with our Local Experts in Brazil, you’ll be able to find some good deals for your trip. Be aware that flight times can range from an hour to between 7-9 hours to get you across the country; schedule enough time in your trip to allow for this.
Due to the unpredictable nature of road rules and the risk of being robbed at traffic lights, hiring a car on a trip to Brazil is not advised, even for the most confident drivers.
When booking with our Local Experts in Brazil, you will have the less stressful option of hiring a driver and a car. This is the best option for exploring outside of major cities. It’s generally advised that you keep doors and windows locked when vehicles are stationary to prevent theft.
With so many islands to explore, travelling by boat is a popular option for those looking to get remote. If you are looking for a Brazillian rainforest tour to the Amazon River, it’s only natural that you take a boat; often, it is the only way to get from one place to the next.
Most of the time, travelling by boat is very cheap with local boat taxi services operating regularly.
Where to Stay in Brazil
Rio de Janeiro
This city is packed to the brim with activity. Each district has its own perks and charms, making it difficult to choose where to stay. The best way to begin your search for your ideal district is to decide whether you want to be close to the beach and if you are looking for Rio’s iconic parties and then take it from there.
Choosing the wrong neighbourhood could completely change your trip to Rio. Among some of the best areas to stay for first-time travellers are Copacabana, Santa Teresa and Leblon.
Exploring the mighty Amazon River is a dream of many. However, the accommodation available is limited. With efforts to have as little impact on the environment as possible, there are just a few options for lodges on any Brazil Amazon tour that offer all-inclusive packages; that’s food, tours, and access to the lodge facilities. Most lodges look out to the Amazon River, a dreamy chance to embrace the lungs of the world.
As the world’s fourth-largest city, Sao Paulo will intimidate even the most seasoned traveller with its size. Sao Paulo is known for its culinary delights, creative flow and shopping malls, so choosing where you stay comes down to what you want to get out of your time here.
If you are looking to get stuck into the pulse of the city, areas like Centro and Higienópolis will place you right in the centre. If it’s your first time in the city and shopping and culture are what you are looking for, Paulista Avenue has it all. Those looking for a more local, artistic atmosphere to punctuate their trip, Vila Madalena will have you struggling to leave the city!
With so much to do in Salvador, it’s important that you are at the heart of the action. As with Brazil’s other major cities, there is a part of the city for every type of travel. If you like a mix, not to worry, it’s easy to get around to make the most out of your experience.
Salvador boasts Brazil’s great mix of beautiful beaches and vibrant nightlife. For both, Barras and Rio Vermelho are perfect and benefit from being not too far away from each other. For those looking for a little more history, Pelourinho is Salvador’s colonial centre where great mansions and beautiful city buildings were created during the height of the slave trade.
Iguazu Falls Accommodation
The biggest question there is around Iguazu Falls accommodation is whether to stay in Brazil or Argentina. Separated by the Iguazu river, both have a broad range of accommodation options. In Brazil, most accommodation options are in Foz do Iguazu, the closest city; however, there are some options in the national park for those looking for a little more luxury.
For those looking to stay in Foz do Iguazu, the downtown area offers easier access to restaurants and bars.
Food & Drink to Try in Brazil
In Brazil, tapioca is much more than an ingredient. It sits at the base of all cooking; you’ll barely go a day without eating it! Here are some household classics and essential dishes to try while travelling;
This hearty main course dish will act as the backbone of your meals in Brazil. Feijoada is packed with flavour and all of the nutrients that you could need to fuel your day. This is a stewed pot of black beans mixed in with pork, although it is traditionally made with all the parts of a pig you could imagine. To complete the meal, kale and rice are served on the side.
Moqueca de Camarão
Don’t leave Bahia without sampling the seafood! Moqueca de camarão is a light, fresh and healthy approach to eating prawns: stewed in coconut milk with vegetables! Best accompanied by your choice of various other dishes, moqueca de camarão is a light and warming addition to any meal.
A favourite for breakfast or any other time of day as a filling snack, tapioca crepes are delicious and straightforward. Once only popular in the north and now slowly making their way down the coast, tapioca crepe stalls will be at your beck and call after a day on the beach.
Pão de Queijo
Like most of Brazil’s favourites, Pão de Queijo is hard to describe. It’s a bit like cheesy bread, but on a whole different level. The cassava-based bread has a slight crunch to the outside while remaining doughy and squidgy on the inside. Sometimes, there is a surprise lump of cheese inside to make your day!
You may be familiar with this cachaca as a spirit that has a place on just about any cocktail bar shelf.
Cachaca is the national spirit of Brazil and the pride and joy of its people. Known for its essential role in a Cairprinhia, cachaca is made from distilled sugarcane juice, creating a sweet addition to your cooling beverage of choice.
Festivals in Brazil
Festa do Bonfim
When it comes to folk festivals in Bahia, Festa do Bonfim, or Lavagem da Igreja do Bonfim, which literally means the ‘washing of Bonfim church’, comes first.
To mark the occasion, the largest religious parade in Brazil takes place in Salvador as believers, and those from other religions, make their way to the church. Once there, the ceremonial washing of the church steps begins. In the days that follow, many other rituals take place to bless the church.
The most remarkable event on the calendar is Carnival, South America’s most anticipated festival; and in Brazil – it’s big!
At the heart of Carnival is religion: the festival started in Uruguay to celebrate the beginning of Lent – one big party before 40 days of giving up your vices begins. Carnival is big throughout Brazil; however, a trip to Rio de Janeiro for Carnival is a must! At this time, downtown Rio is bursting with people dressed in vibrant costumes and dancing samba until they can’t possibly samba anymore.
Festival de Cachaca
This tasty festival is packed to the brim with activity, all of which surrounds Brazil’s national spirit, cachaca.
Throughout the festival, vendors from across the country bring their own cachaca and create a variety of drinks that you can sample throughout the day. Taking place in Paraty on the outskirts of Rio, it makes for the perfect day out with friends.
Things to Know Before You Go to Brazil
Visa: Brazil has different rules for various countries. Most nationalities require a visa. It’s advised you check this information far in advance.
Currency: The currency in Brazil is the Brazillian real. At the time of writing, April 2021, 1 US dollar is 5.48 Brazillian real.
Language: The most widely spoken language in Brazil is Portuguese, some much so that Brazilian Portuguese is now the official version of the language. You will find that most young Brazilians have some conversational English.
Safety: Brazil is not known for being a particularly safe country; however, this only materialises in petty theft. Be aware of your possessions when out and about and you’ll be fine!
Greetings: When greeting people that you know, no matter their gender, Brazilians kiss each other on each cheek. Depending on where you are, you may receive a different number of kisses to say hello.
ATM Fraud: Many ATMs are inside banks with security guards, it is advised that you use these as some ATMs across Brazil and particularly in big cities have been tampered with.
Looking to Travel to Brazil?
With so much ground to cover and even more to see and do, Brazil is a country that requires careful planning before you go. Luckily, our Local Experts in Brazil are at hand and ready to help craft your perfect trip!
Browse our range of fully-customisable trips to Brazil that take you from remote corners to bustling cities with ease and grace. If you can’t see anything that you like, select ‘design your own trip’ and answer a few simple questions related to your travel needs and wants and our Local Experts will design a trip that will meet them!