Spotlight on Brazil
For hundreds of years, Brazil has symbolized the great escape into a primordial, tropical paradise, igniting Western imagination like no other South American country. From the mad passion of Carnaval to the immensity of the dark Amazon, it is a country of mythic proportions. Perhaps it's not quite the Eden of popular imagination, but it's still a land of staggering beauty. There are stretches of unexplored rainforest, islands with pristine tropical beaches, and endless rivers. And there are the people themselves, who delight the visitor with their energy and joy. São Paulo is the world's second most populous city.
Rio de Janeiro – Brazilians say that God made the rest of the world in six days, and devoted the seventh to Rio. It is the second largest city in Brazil, on the South Atlantic coast. Rio is famous for its breathtaking landscape, its laidback beach culture and its annual “carnaval”. The jagged Sugarloaf rises from dark blue Guanabara Bay, with legendary beaches like Copacabana and Ipanema in the foreground, forested mountains behind. This great city has an enticing atmosphere of samba and fun, and its locals are as joyous as they are beautiful. The harbor of Rio de Janeiro is comprised of a unique entry from the ocean that makes it appear as the mouth of a river. Additionally, the harbor is surrounded by spectacular geographic features including Sugar Loaf Mountain at 1,296 feet, Corcovado Peak at 2,310 feet, and the hills of Tijuca at 3,350 feet. These features work together collectively making the harbor one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.
Manaus – The capital of the State of Amazonas, the belle époque splendor of Manaus is still evident in the graceful mansions and the Teatro Amazonas opera house. This city, resting on the Rio Negro, was created by the rubber boom of the mid-19th-century, when steam navigation opened up the Amazon to entrepreneurs and the social elite. Today, stroll down the Parisian-styled boulevards and Italian piazzas, or watch the fisherman at Municipal Market unload their catch of the day on the river’s edge. Manaus is the largest city and chief port in the Amazon region and an important jumping off point for expeditions into the rain forest.
São Paulo is the largest city in Brazil, with a city population of about 11 million and almost 20 million in its metropolitan region. It is located on a plateau at an elevation of about 2,700 ft divided by the Tietê River, and is a beehive of activity that offers a jovial nightlife and an intense cultural experience. São Paulo is one of the richest cities in the southern hemisphere, though inequality between the classes typically observed in Brazil is blatant. Historically attractive to immigrants as well as Brazilians from other states, it's one of the most diverse cities in the world. Both the Modern Art Museum and the Municipal Library have outstanding collections and are worth visiting.
Salvador, Bahia – Spanish and African influences combine in the city of Salvador Bahia, famous for its colonial churches, rainbow-tinted houses, and colorful markets. Explore Fort de São Marcelo for insight into Bahia's interesting past. See an exhibition of energetic capoeira mixing dance and martial arts. Even the palates most difficult to satisfy will appreciate the delicious rich flavors of Africa and Brazil blended in Salvador's local restaurants.
Fernando de Noronha is an archipelago consisting of 21 islands, located 340 miles from the coast of Pernambuco. Its pristine beaches, landscapes and wildlife attract tourists worldwide. Fernando de Noronha is home to two of the top beaches in Brazil - Praia do Leão and Baía do Sancho. Both beaches offer crystal clear blue water with areas for swimming and snorkeling. If you decide to visit, it is a good idea to bring along your own provisions as well as an umbrella as there is no shade at Praia de Leão and the shaded areas of Baia do Sancho quickly fill up with other visitors.
Florianopolis & Iguaçu Falls – Florianopolis was founded in 1726 by immigrants from the Azores, along with German and Italian settlers. Located on Santa Catarina Island, which is joined to the mainland by three bridges, the late 19th century pastel-colored, plastered buildings still recall faint "old world" images. The natural beauty of the island, its beaches and bays make Florianopolis a popular tourist centre. Most visitors head straight for the island's 42 beaches, with the best ones found on the north and west coast along with fashionable resorts and some of the best hotel facilities in the country. From here you can also take a flight to see the dramatic Iguaçu Falls.
One of the great natural wonders of the world, the Iguaçu Falls are situated near the border of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina. The area is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The Iguaçu Falls are an awesome sight as tons of water throw themselves over cliffs and the mist rises amongst the jungle. They are taller than Niagara Falls, and twice as wide, for which Eleanor Roosevelt is said to have exclaimed on her first sight of the Falls: "Poor Niagara!"
It is well worth spending a day on each side of the falls.