Brazil is one of the world's most culturally diverse and captivating countries. Powdery white-sand beaches, massive (although shrinking) rainforests and rythmic cities. Brazil's has colonial towns, otherworldly landscapes, thundering waterfalls and coral-fringed tropical islands on its coast.
And the country has unparalleled biodiversity. Its legendary megafauna rivals that of Africa, boasting the greatest collection of plant and animal species found anywhere on earth. There are a wealth of places where one can track iconic species including jaguars, macaws, howler monkeys, capybaras, sloths, pink dolphins, sea turtles and thousands of other living species.
Rio de Janeiro is one of the main gateways to the country, and is one of a handful of cities in Latin America which shouldn't be missed. The iconic statue of Christ the Redeemer towers over the city, looking out over Copacabana Beach and Sugar Loaf Mountain, and all the different bays, beaches and islands give Rio one of the most beautiful settings of any city in the world. From old-school Bossa Nova music to Samba-fueled nightlife, spectacular football matches to its unnique gastronomic scene. And Rio knows how to party. Carnaval, and the buildup to it, the city's most famous soiree.
From Rio, the options of where to go onto are endless. Brazil is a massive country and holds a diverse range of ecosystems within its borders, full of flora and fauna, many of these endemic. Around 60% of the Amazon rainforest is located in Brazil and so is the world’s largest freshwater wetland, the Pantanal. This is not to mention Brazil’s other diverse ecosystems, harbour incredible numbers of birds, mammals, fish and reptiles.
Wildlife enthusiasts will no doubt make a beeline for Brazil's most important biomes: the Pantanal, the Amazon, the Cerrado and the Atlantic Forest.
The Pantanal is the the world’s largest wetland covers some 210,000 square kilometres, right in the heart of South America. The majority of these wetlands sit in Brazil, split between the states of Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul. These open marshes are home to an immense variety of life reminiscent of Africa's Okavango Delta. While not as well known as the Amazon to the north, the Pantanal is one of the most biologically rich environments on the planet with more than 4,700 plant and animal species.
From October to March, floodwaters fill the Pantanal like a giant reservoir and drain out slowly between April and September, providing ideal wildlife and birdlife viewing conditions. Head out on a big game safari by boat, by car, on foot or on horseback to explore the vast array of flora and fauna, which includes magnificent jaguars, tapirs, giant anteaters, ocelots, pumas caimans and capybaras, not to mention macaws and parrots and almost 700 bird species.
The Amazon rainforest is the world's largest intact forest. It is home to hundreds of thousands of Indigenous Peoples belonging to 180 different groups. To date, at least 40,000 plant species, over 400 mammals, 1,300 birds, over 350 reptiles, more than 400 amphibians and around 3,000 freshwater fish have been recorded in the Amazon.
In addition to its incredible biodiversity, the Amazon plays an essential role in helping regulate our planet’s atmospheric carbon levels. The Amazon Basin stores approximately 100 billion metric tons of carbon. Here in the largest rainforest in the world, one can explore the wonders of the forest and its indigenous communities by day and by night, from the comfort of a luxury rainforest lodge or by private yacht.
Covering a quarter of Brazil, the Cerrado is one of the world’s most important ecosystems. The Brazillian Cerrado or arid grassland, the largest savanna region in South America encompasses the most extensive woodland-savanna in South Ameria, an ancient biome rich in biodiversity with an estimated 160,000 species of plants, fungi and animals. Large mammals such as jaguars, pumas, maned wolves, giant anteaters, giant armadillos and marsh deers thrive in this dry eco-system. The Cerrado has more than 12,000 plant species, about 4,000 of which only exist here.
The enchantic Atlantic Forest stretches from northeast Brazil, south along the Brazilian Atlantic coastline and inland into northeast Argentina and eastern Paraguay. Although only a small part of the original forests remains, it is still one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet, second only to the Amazon. Running on and off for several thousand kilometres along the coast, the forest is home to 10,000 plant species that don’t exist anywhere else, more bird species than the whole of Europe, and more than half of Brazil's threatened animal species.
In the interior subtropical Atlantic Forest, mighty Iguaçu Falls and its thunderous roar of 275 falls crashing across the Brazil and Argentina border will floors even the most jaded traveler. Iguaçu Falls is nearly twice as tall as Niagara Falls and rivaled only by Zambia and Zimbabwe's Victoria Falls, which is taller at 108 meters, But Iguaçu Falls is significantly wider still than Victoria Falls. In 2011, it was selected as one of the winners of the New Seven Wonders of Nature. Loud and impossibly gorgeous, Iguaçu is a sight to behold.
If you are in search of something more cultural, Salvador, the capital of Bahia, is widely acknowledged as Brazil’s cultural capital and the country’s rich Afro-Brazilian heritage is evident everywhere, from Capoeira martial arts displays to delicious local cuisine. Salvador's centre is a living museum of 17th and 18th century architecture and gold-laden churches. Festivals happen regularly, with loud and rhythmic drum beats piercing the air almost 24/7. And crowds of religious followers celebrate and reconnect with African gods at the city's Candomblé ceremonies.
To the south of Bahia, Minas Gerais was an important state in Brazil’s 18th century gold rush. Today, visitors can explore its beautiful cobbled streets and stunning architecture of Ouro Preto and Tiradentes, home to some of the finest churches ever built in Latin America. This landlocked wonderland of rolling pastoral hills and postcard-perfect mountains is steeped in colonial history and boasts a culinary pedigree that counts itself among the South American giant's heartiest and richest. This is Brazil's God's country.
For landscape afficionados, Lençóis Maranhenses, an immense expanses of dunes, which look like bedsheets, stretch across the horizon. Still relatively unknown because of its remoteness, inaccessibility and somewhat harsh environment with little wildlife, flora or fauna, the area is spectacular when rain filtered through the sand forms thousands of crystal-clear pools and lakes between the dunes.
And then there are the beaches. Our favorites are located in Fernando de Noronha, a volcanic archipelago 350 kilometres off Brazil's northeast coast. Named after its largest island, the area is a protected national marine park and ecological sanctuary with a jagged coastline. Fernando de Noronha's natural beauty will hold its own against any tropical beach in the world. With crystal-clear waters, rich marine life - including the highest known concentration of resident dolphins in the world - and spectacular tropical landscapes.
Even if lounging on the beach is not the main reason for your visit, Brazil is blessed with thousands of miles of beautiful Atlantic coastline and there is a reason why the vast majority of the population lives near the coast. So whether it is a chic boutique hotel on an exclusive beach or somewhere more low-key near a quaint fishing village, the options are endless.
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We do not subscribe to the ‘one-size-fits-all’ philosophy. Sample itineraries and cost estimates are meant purely as a guide. To find out more, please contact one of our expert travel consultants to plan a customized itinerary based on your budget and interests.