The cinematic cityscape of Brazil’s second largest city is nothing if not exhilarating. Rio de Janeiro, famed for its breathtaking landscapes of gorgeous mountains, white-sand beaches and verdant forests fronting deep blue sea, sits on the largest bay in the world and the natural harbour has been named one of the Seven Natural Wonders. Add to this one of the sexiest populations in the world and it’s no wonder Rio has enchanted visitors for centuries. With the world famous beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema, lively dancehalls, and a proliferation of bars and cafes, Rio’s inhabitants are all about perfecting the art of living. And during the legendary Rio Carnival, everyone’s invited to join in. Each year Rio de Janeiro is home to the mother of all carnivals when hundreds of thousands of people flock to the city to celebrate. It’s a time to sing, dance, party and have fun whilst immersing yourself in the Brazilian spirit. A major highlight of the carnival is the spectacular Samba Parade where different samba schools battle it out to win the hearts and minds of the audience and the judges. Fabulous floats cruise along whilst dancers dressed in sensational costumes samba their way through the streets to the infectious rhythm of the percussion bands. Don’t miss it.
Straddling the border of Brazil and Argentina, the UNESCO listed Iguazu Falls is one of the largest waterfalls in the world. The falls were created where the Iguazu Rover broadens to around 1.5km and then plunges nearly 100m off a basalt plateau in a series of 274 separate cataracts. Each day tonnes of water crashes over the cliffs, creating a constant mist of spray that rises amongst the jungle. The falls sit in a national park home to more than 200 species of plant, 450 species of bird and rare mammals such as the jaguar. This stunning setting of dense jungle interspersed with vivid swarms of butterflies and the constant roar of the falling water combine to forge an unforgettable impression. It’s possible to see the falls from both Brazil and Argentina, and visitors will soon discover that the perspective of Iguazu Falls changes with every step.
Occupying a space of 210,000 sq km in the centre of South America, the Pantanal is one of the world’s largest and most diverse freshwater wetland ecosystems. Over half of the Pantanal lies in Brazil and although the Amazon may attract all the fame and glory, the Pantanal is a far better place to see wildlife in their natural habitat. In the open spaces of the Pantanal, wildlife is visible to even the most casual of observers and it’s one of the best places to spot a jaguar in the wild. It is estimated that close to 10 million caiman alligators call the Pantanal home and during the dry season, every bridge crossing on the road that runs through the wetlands is surrounded by hundreds to thousands of caiman basking or fighting for space in the ever dwindling lagoons. For nature lovers everywhere, the Pantanal is not to be missed.
The thriving metropolis of Sao Paulo is Brazil’s largest city and a beehive of activity. With an overwhelming array of attractions including world-class museums, nightly concerts, experimental theatre and dance, it’s no wonder it’s deemed the country’s cultural capital. And with its nightclubs, restaurants and bars amongst the best in South America, it’s a popular place to be. It wasn’t always so as Sao Paulo remained a colonial backwater for much of its history. The 19th century saw the city creep from the shadows and the explosion of immigrant workers in the 20th century brought new life to Sao Paulo. With a population of 17 million people from all over the world, the city is Brazil’s most culturally diverse destination. For the wandering traveller, a stroll through Sao Paulo’s neighbourhoods is a window into the shops and restaurants of the world.