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Home of the vibrant Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, world-class football players, lush Amazon rainforests, and passion-fuelled Samba dance, Brazil is filled to the brim with rich culture and stunning natural attractions, making it the perfect tourist destination. While the above-mentioned attractions may initially draw in the crowds, they’re often surprised to find that Brazil also features world-class museums, sublime beaches with powder-like sands, and addictive desserts (have you ever tried a brigadeiro?). For a smooth trip across the Terra do Brasil, book your Brazil car rental in advance with Enjoy Travel.
Guide to Brazil
Brazil is the largest country in South America, occupying over half of the continent’s landmass. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the east, Uruguay to the south; Argentina, Paraguay, and Bolivia to the southwest; Peru to the west; and Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana to the north.
Its landscapes include tropical rainforests, subtropical grasslands, savannas, mountainous highlands, coastal lowlands, shrublands and thorn forests. Its most well-known geographic feature is the Amazon River basin - the world’s largest river system and home to thousands of indigenous plant and animal species as well as ethnic tribes.
As a large country, Brazil’s climate differs depending on the region. Most regions experience a humid tropical and sub-tropical climate; however, Rio de Janeiro can be better classified as having a tropical savanna climate. In general, the interiors tend to be arid while the tropical rainforests in the north are generally humid. The coastal regions also sometimes experience maritime microclimates.
Brazil is an incredibly multiethnic country, due to cultural mixing between various ethnic groups including the Portuguese, Africans, Spaniards, Arabs, Armenians, Japanese and indigenous peoples, among many others. A lot of this is attributable to Portuguese colonization, but many other ethnic groups immigrated to Portugal for other reasons as well.
This multicultural identity of the nation is reflected in its languages, art, food, music, dance, and traditions. Some examples of cultural elements brought over by immigrants include the staple diet of rice and beans, feijoada, colonial architecture, capoeira, and samba.
Festivals in Brazil
Rio de Janeiro’s Carnival is a sensational experience and should be among the top things to do in your Brazil itinerary if you’re visiting during the month of February. Spectators from all over the world come to watch breathtaking performances of competing samba dancers inside a specially built stadium called the Sambodromo, which features a 700-meter parade route where the musicians and dancers strut their stuff in a dazzling explosion of brilliant costumes. The light and sound, intense creativity and athleticism of the dancers, combined with exuberant music and elaborate floats all conspire to give you a sensory experience you’re unlikely to forget. The performances start at 10pm and continue well into the wee hours of the morning.
Things To Do in Brazil
See the Christ the Redeemer statue
One of the most recognized symbols of Christianity all over the world is the art deco statue of Christ the Redeemer (Cristo Redentor) in Rio de Janeiro. This colossal cultural icon of Brazil, standing at an altitude of more than 100 feet and weighing around 635 metric tons, is perched atop the Corcovado Mountain, which is part of the Tijuca National Park. Its outstretched arms are over 92 feet wide, as if to embrace all of humanity. Climb up to the observation deck at the foot of the statue to get breathtaking panoramic views of the entire city of Rio de Janeiro looking out towards the Atlantic Ocean.
Hike the Sugarloaf Mountain
Another tourist magnet in Rio is the incredible Sugarloaf Mountain (Pão de Açúcar), a rounded rock peak situated on a peninsula at the mouth of Guanabara Bay. It gets its name from its resemblance to the traditional shape of refined loaf sugar. The tree-covered promontory looks out towards the Atlantic Ocean, 394-meters above the city. As you get to the summit, you’ll be rewarded with stunning east-facing views of the sun rising from behind the ocean, almost like a painting. As the clouds float beneath you and the mist rises, it lends the place a surreal beauty. Later, opt for a thrilling cable car ride that connects Sugarloaf and the Morro da Urca, a lower peak.
Stroll around Brazilia
Brazil’s new city of Brazilia replaced Rio de Janeiro as the country’s capital in 1960 and is known for its avant-garde architecture. We recommend visiting the Cathedral of Brasilia (also called the Metropolitan Cathedral of Our Lady of Aparecida), one of the landmark architectural marvels of the city and the seat of the Archdiocese of Brasilia. Unlike its European cousins, this Roman Catholic church is quite unique due to its modernist design. Look out for unique artworks like hand-painted ceramic tiles by Athos Bulcão and gorgeous stained glass by Marianne Peretti.
Be in awe of Iguazú Falls
Eleanor Roosevelt’s first words upon seeing the magnificent Iguazú Falls were: “poor Niagara!” Widely acknowledged as one of the most stunning natural wonders of the world, Iguazú Falls attracts tens of thousands of visitors from all over the world to witness its magnificence. The 275 separate cataracts fall over 80 meters (260 feet) in a semicircle, thundering down into a gorge below. Some of the falls are more than 100 meters high and cover such a broad area that it might be difficult to see all of them at once, so to get the broadest panorama from the Brazilian side, take the intricate series of catwalks that provide different perspectives of the cascades. The star of Iguazú Falls is easily Devil’s Throat (Garganta del Diablo), the tallest of all of the falls. These spectacular waterfalls are a part of the UNESCO-protected Iguazú National Park, which also boasts of tropical rainforests and over two thousand species of plants, birds and animals, including otters, ocelots and capybaras.
Spend a day at Copacabana
The world-famous beach of Copacabana – a striking crescent-shaped 4km white sand beach - lies in downtown Rio’s most fashionable district. Over 2 million visitors come here for New Year’s celebration every year to watch the gorgeous fireworks display. It was also the official venue of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, as well as the beach volleyball portion of the 2016 Olympic Games. It is a popular playground for sun-worshippers, swimmers, jet skiers, and kids building sandcastles. The mosaic-tiled boulevard next to the beach is home to skyscraper hotels, art museums, cafes, restaurants, bars, art deco buildings, theatres, bars, and more importantly – Rio’s moneyed crowds. Out of these art deco buildings, we suggest visiting Copacabana Palace Hotel, a protected national monument and one of South America’s most famous hotels. Once you enter the lobby, it’s easy to picture why many royals and film idols have stayed here.
Eating Out in Brazil
Brazilian cuisine varies a great deal by region reflecting the country’s combination of native and immigrant populations. As such, the culinary traditions and customs are characterized by European, African, American and Asian influences.
At the heart of the Brazilian diet are rice, beans, and manioc. Most Brazilians go out to restaurants to eat the beloved feijoada, their national dish. The name stems from the word feijão or beans - the key ingredient of feijoada – which is then mixed with beef or pork and cooked into a celebratory stew. An interesting fact about the feijoada is that it is traditionally eaten at noon on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Enjoy the national dish with a tipple of cachaça or coffee, the latter of which Brazil is the largest producer in the world.
Other popular dishes to try include: Picanha, Brigadeiros, Acaraje, and Pao de Queijo.
Some of the top restaurants across the country we’d like to recommend are: D.O.M, Mani, Olympe, Aprazivel, Fogo de Chao, A Figueira Rubaiyat and La Madre Ristorante.
The main airport serving Brazil is Rio de Janeiro/Galeão – Antonio Carlos Jobim International Airport (GIG), more popularly known as simply Galeão International Airport. Other major airports include Sao Paulo International Airport (GRU), International Airport of Brasilia (BSB), Santos Dumont Airport (SDU) – also in Rio de Janeiro, and Deputado Luís Eduardo Magalhães International Airport (SSA).
It has the second largest number of airports in the world, only behind the United States.
Some of the major cities have metro systems, including Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paolo, Brasilia, Recife, Salvador, and Porto Alegre. There are also vintage tramways operating in some cities like Campinas, Rio de Janeiro, Belem, and Santos.
Brazil has more than 1.7 million km of roads of which the two most important highways are BR-101 and BR-116. This makes it a breeze to get from place to place via car and, if you’re traveling in a large group, a 7 seater or a 9 seater van would actually work out to be more cost-effective than taking public transport.
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