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 Basil is today—a major culturally diverse, dynamic nation.
Rio de Janeiro
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.
Salvador de Bahia
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.
Best Things to do
Art Museums of Sao Paulo
São Paulo holds some of the best fine arts collections in Latin America, and the buildings in which they are housed are also architectural landmarks. The Museu de Arte, MASP, displays the continent's most extensive collection of western art, with representative works by artists from the Renaissance through modern masters. There are 73 bronze sculptures by Degas and works by Renoir, Manet, Van Gogh, Matisse, Picasso, and Miró.
The Pavilhão da Bienal de Artes in Ibirapuera Park, home to the Museu de Arte Contemporânea. More than 8,000 works of art - one of Latin America's largest collections of 20th-century Western artists.
Set above Versailles-inspired formal gardens, Museu does Ipiranga houses paintings and decorative arts.
Amazon Rain Forests
About 20 kilometers southeast of Manaus, the dark Rio Negro waters meet the soft muddy water of the Rio Solimões, flowing side by side for about six kilometers before mixing as the Amazon. Boat trips from Manaus take you to this point, named Encontro das Aguas, gathering of the waters.
Other boat trips take you into the heart of the rain forests and the rivers, channels, and lakes formed by the three rivers. In the Rio Negro, the Anavilhanas Islands form an archipelago with lakes, streams, and flooded forests that offer a complete cross-section of the Amazonian ecosystem.
Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro
Downtown Rio's most popular and famous section follows Avenida Nossa Senhora de Copacabana and is bordered all along one side by four kilometers of white sand and breaking surf. The beach is isolated from the buildings and traffic by a broad promenade paved in black and white mosaic in a moving pattern reminiscent of streets in Lisbon, Portugal.
It's also a famous yard filled with sun-worshipers, swimmers, and kids building sandcastles whenever the weather is fine. Stroll the streets here to find restaurants, trendy shops, cafés, and lovely old buildings from when Rio was Brazil's capital.
At the point where Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina meet, the Iguaçu river drops impressively in a semicircle of 247 waterfalls that crash down into the gorge below. Just above the falls, the river is compressed to one-fourth of its usual width, giving the force of the water even more power.
Some of the falls are more than 100 meters high, and they cover such a broad area that you'll never see all of them at once, but you do get the most comprehensive panorama from the Brazilian side. Catwalks and a tower give you different views, and one bridge reaches one of the largest, known as the Garganta do Diabo (Devil's Throat). The falls are preserved by the UNESCO-acclaimed Iguaçu National Park, where subtropical rain shelters are the home to more than 1,000 species of birds and mammals, including deer, otters, ocelots, and capybaras.
Cristo Redentor and Corcovado, Rio de Janeiro
Christ, the redeemer, is installed at the top of the mountain, one of the most wanted touristic sides of Rio de Janeiro. The biggest and most famous scripture Art Déco of the world, the Christ statue, started to be planned in 1921, and it was developed by the engineer Heitor da Silva Costa over five years of job, from 1926 to 1931, the opening year of the monument.
It's located at Parque Nacional da Tijuca, 710 meters above sea level, where anybody can recognize one of the city's most beautiful views. Overall, 220 steps led to the famous statue feet; it was elected one of the Seven Wonders of the World made by formal voting in 2007 by the Swiss Institution New 7 Wonders Foundation. The monument is accessible by train, van, or car.
To get into the masterpiece, there's a nice ride by train that, during 20 minutes, it crosses Mata Atlântica until Corcovado's top. Making easy access to the visitants, three panoramic elevators and four escalators were built. The visible is lovely; it makes an unmissable program for those that visit the city.
Exceeding the beaches of Copacabana, the splendid white sands merge into the just-as-famous beaches of Ipanema. The same wave design of Copacabana's wide promenade continues here, separating the sand from the line of hotels, restaurants, cafés, art galleries, and cinemas that make this a famous social zone year-round.
Faraway along, beyond the Jardim de Alá Canal, which drains Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon, are the beaches of Leblon. With more locals and fewer tourists, these beaches are favorites for families. Sunday is especially busy, with an antique market at Praça de Quentaland and the Feira de Artesanato de Ipanema, alive with music, art, handicrafts, and street food. The waves at Ipanema and Leblon can be extreme and variable, so be careful where you swim. Follow the locals and stay out of the water where you don't see others swimming. If the surf is what you're looking for, head to the stretch between Copacabana and Ipanema, where the surfers hang out.