Significant in soccer, samba, carnivals, and above all—excitement and rich culture. South America's biggest country is its biggest market, its most giant industrial powerhouse, and its biggest attraction. The country is vast in population and landmass. Still, also in biodiversity—it is where the bulk of the Amazon Rainforest lies, the Earth's primary 'lung' and home to a myriad variety of wildlife not to be found elsewhere. The vast expanse of the country is populated with ethnicities from nearly all over the world: from China and Japan to the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and Oceania. Its diversity is evidenced in its rich culture and history, all of which combine to present what Brazil is today—a major culturally diverse, dynamic nation.
Brazil's most essential and second-largest city, Rio De Janeiro, or just Rio, has created a world reputation. It is by far the most dynamic, most visited city in Brazil...even to those who still hold Sao Paolo as their champion in that department. Arriving in town, the mind begins to absorb the sights and sounds of this big city of skyscrapers, apartment buildings, endless shopping boulevards, numerous hip cafes, splendid beaches, and of course, the beginning of iconic scenes: Sugar Loaf Mountain, the statue of Christ the Redeemer atop Corcovado Mountain with its impressive view of the city, and the outstanding beauty of its two beaches—the legendary Copacabana (especially electrifying during New Year's) and Ipanema, both considered to be the most charming, and also, the most extensive in the world. There's Barra da Tijuca with its many shops, condos, and frenetic nightlife paradoxically coexisting with its peaceful beaches. And if you arrive in time, not only will you receive a good dose of Rio charm, but a lot of dancing fun—Carnival! Ah, who hasn't succumbed to the beauties dancing at the contagious rhythm of samba, all playfully contesting the title 'Queen of the Carnival'? And for the lovers of football (soccer to others), drop by for an intense afternoon of excitement watching a tournament in its vast stadium, the Maracana, one of the largest in the world. The city also boasts dozens of museums of classic and contemporary art, hundreds of galleries, imposing cathedrals, hundreds of Belle Époque buildings, theatres, glittering shopping avenues like Avenida Rio Branco, the 'Manhattan' of the South, and a random forest of skyscrapers towering over an incredibly vibrant mega-metropolis of over six million.
The 'Heart of the Amazon,' as some call it, is entrenched—reasonably so— in the middle of the Amazon Rainforest. Thousands of miles north of hectic Rio, Manaus has a more serene profile of Belle Époque buildings like the Amazonas Opera House (An opera house in the middle of a jungle? Really?), quiet, picturesque streets, and above all, the opportunity to explore the forests and wildlife which have made of the Amazon the most important place on Earth where living creatures and lush vegetation exist. The city is also home to many commercial streets and markets like the Mercado Adolpho Lisboa, luxurious hotels, and a burgeoning nightlife that attempts to rival the electrifying one of its southern counterparts, Rio and Sao Paolo. There are also other shopping malls like Manara, Millennium, and Ponta Negra. Manaus also hosts a zoo and orchid greenhouse containing some of the world's rarest specimens. The city is also home to many parks that offer trekking or simply a stroll through a fraction of what the imposing rainforest around it has to offer.
With an immense extension of the alluring coastline, Salvador is the country's most famous beach destination amongst foreign and local visitors. And there's no exaggeration in that; one of its beaches, Porto Da Barra, was dubbed the third most attractive beach in the world after Copacabana and Ipanema. The city is also a culturally rich metropolis as it is the center of Afro-Brazilian heritage in the country, consequently giving rise to big festivals, cuisine, and arts. Every February ushers in the carnival, hectic and colorfully kaleidoscopic, to the point of rivaling the sumptuous extravagance of Rio. The richness of its culture is also evident in Salvador's magnificent cathedral and what may consider it the most well-preserved colonial architecture on the continent, wresting the UNESCO World Heritage Site title in 1985. Other sights of importance include the Campo Grande Square and its impressive monument, Ponta de Santo Antonio, and the Barra Lighthouse at the tip of All Saints Bay, facing the immense Atlantic. The city is also replete with high-end beach resorts, verdant parks, and beautiful lakes where tourists can engage in canoeing and snorkeling. Salvador is also home to Brazil's number one surfing tournament, which attracts thousands each year. Driving along the BA-099 highway, one cannot but be captivated by an endless line of coconuts and picturesque towns. Salvador is also a major commercial center in the northeast, giving rise to posh malls like Shopping Iguatemi, Salvador Shopping, and Shopping Barra.
São Paulo is addressed to 20 million fiercely proud Paulistano (as residents are known), all of whom will cheerfully tell you at length how they'd never live elsewhere. Spend time with them, and the grounds will soon unfold. Maybe they will introduce you to the city's innumerable art-house cinemas and experimental theaters. If they're gluttons, they'll focus on the intelligent cafes and gourmet restaurants that make the town a world-renowned foodie haven. Follow them on a loud tour of underground bars and the 24/7 clubbing scene if they're scenesters. Whatever pleasures you might covet, Sampa (the city's affectionate nickname) probably has them.