The 15 best places to visit in Brazil
The 6 months I spent in Brazil count among my favourite adventures. From the local atmosphere, to the culture and the sublime landscapes, I don’t know which has left the greatest mark on me. In any case, one thing is sure, Brazil is an unforgettable destination that astonishes in 1001 ways. Since it is a large country, it can be difficult to choose which places to visit, so here’s an introduction to the essential discoveries on your trip to Brazil.
If you want to discover the quintessential cities at the heart of Brazilian culture, visit Rio de Janeiro, Salvador de Bahia, São Paulo, Ouro Preto, Tiradentes, Recife and Olinda. Want to relax on heavenly beaches? Take your sarong and enjoy Florianopolis, the Costa Verde, the Fernando De Noronha archipelago and Jericoacoara. Last but not least, visit Brazil’s natural wonders - the Iguazu Falls, the Amazon and the Chapada Diamantina, Lençois Maranhenses and Pantanal national parks.
Our selection of must-see places
Rio de Janeiro
Welcome to the most emblematic city in Brazil! How can you visit Brazil without experiencing the "Maravilhosa Cidade" (Marvelous City)? Here, every street, every neighbourhood is famous: the Corcovado, the statue of Christ the Redeemer who watches over the city; needing no introduction, Sugarloaf Mountain, rises above the Copacabana and Ipanema beaches. Stroll through the Botanical Garden or Tijuca Forest, the largest urban forest in the world. Museum lovers, will be delighted by fine arts, the national museum and the Museum of Tomorrow. Discover the picturesque district of Santa Teresa, its spectacular views of the bay, its cobbled streets and its tramway. And finally, Rio, birthplace of the samba, is the prime spot to enjoy the best concerts - on the streets or the beaches, in cafés or at the famous Sambodrôme during Carnival.
Art & Culture | Museums | Beaches
The Iguaçu Falls
The simply breathtaking Iguaçu Falls are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Imagine 80m waterfalls of phenomenal power, bordered by the rainforest. Take the time to witness the abundant flora and fauna. The rainbows and tropical animals which surround you lend an additional touch of magic. Although most of the park is in Argentina, the Brazilian side is no less spectacular. If you’re still considering a visit to this part of Brazil, then go for it because Iguaçu is a unique place in the world.
UNESCO World Heritage | Natural wonders | Waterfalls | Fauna observation
Recife and Olinda
Proudly representative of the region of Pernambuco, Recife is famous for its folk traditions which come alive during Carnival. The style of the region’s music, dancing, and dress is unique and colourful. Known as the "Venice of Brazil" you will discover the typical Dutch and Portuguese architecture of the area. Linger in Recife Antigo or Pernambuco’s museums to learn more about the traditions of the region. At the gates of the city, you will discover the adorable multi-coloured village of Olinda, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a marvel that you should not miss. Then, on the coast, enjoy fabulous, picture perfect beaches.
Nice village | Art & Culture | UNESCO World Heritage
The Chapada Diamantina National Park
Located in the heart of the Bahia region, this national park is full of wonders to discover. Go on a hike to climb the fabulous hills and plateaus that dominate the valley. The area takes its name from "chapada" meaning the highlands, and "diamondina" referring to the former diamond mines. You can also visit several caves, for spelunking or, more surprisingly, to go swimming. The Poço Azul (blue pool cave) is particularly stunning: the water is both an intense blue and yet so transparent that when you bathe there it feels vertiginous. And if you want to bask in crystal clear waters, visit the waterfalls and small, relaxing beaches.
Natural wonders | Nature reserve | Nature | Hiking
Salvador de Bahia
A veritable cradle of Brazilian culture, Salvador is one of the most beautiful cities in Brazil, thanks to its colourful colonial architecture and its diverse heritage. Here, we find traces of both Portuguese and African culture in the local traditions and food culture. Joyful, multi-ethnic and captivating, the prevailing atmosphere in Salvador is electrifying. Among the most beautiful places in the city, do not miss Pelourinho, the historic centre listed as UNESCO World Heritage site, then take the elevator Lacenda to get to the market. Don’t forget the Barra lighthouse and its beaches, the Dinha square in the Rio Vermelho district, and the beaches of Itapua.
UNESCO World Heritage | Art & Culture
Belém, Manaus, and the Amazon rainforest
Legendary. Mystical. The Amazon rainforest inspires dreams. Its lush flora and abundant fauna, its indigenous communities and unexplored spaces make the Amazon more than a destination - it’s an adventure! Two big cities allow you to acquaint yourself with the rainforest: Belèm and Manaus. Each built in the colonial architectural style, there are some interesting monuments and museums such as the theatres, the Biopark and the museums of palaeontology and natural sciences. After visiting these cities, you can easily find excursions to explore the forest, whether by car or boat. Feel free to take several days and let yourself be guided by local guides.
Nature | Fauna observation
Known as the city where “life is best in Brazil", Florianópolis is the ideal destination for those who want to enjoy a city on a human scale, lined with beaches. Located on the island of Santa Catarina, you can find beautiful natural and urban landscapes in the city. The forests and beaches that cover the island offer a spectacular setting for strolling or lazing around. In the city, the picturesque streets of the historic centre will astonish with their colours and paved floors. There are also many tourist attractions such as the cathedral, the municipal market, the palace and the fortresses which tell the story of the island before it became the favourite holiday destination of Brazilians.
Seaside resort | Island
The Lençóis Maranhenses National Park
This absolutely exceptional park is unique in Brazil. Imagine endless sand dunes intermingled with lagoons and a magnificent view of the ocean. Unfolding over 30km by 50km, the park is as large as the city of São Paulo. Travel the desert in a 4x4 searching for lagoons to take swimming breaks. You will particularly appreciate them in the local heat. Some oases are surrounded by a jungle so dense that you might think you were in the full Amazon. Kitesurfing enthusiasts will find an ideal playground here. The cities of Barreirinhas (the best known) and Atins, smaller but equally magical, both offer access to the park.
Nature reserve | Natural wonders
The Pantanal National Park
Known as the largest marsh in the world, the Pantanal is also the most beautiful animal sanctuary in Brazil. Here, nature exercises its full power over virgin landscapes. Here we see how fragile, precious and magnificent nature can be. Nature lovers can discover a corner of paradise to observe monkeys, jaguars, sloths, iguanas, caimans, toucans and parrots. Even endangered species such as the anteater, the giant otter or the Brazilian tapir can be seen. A visit inspires great respect for Mother Earth and a wild desire to defend it.
Nature reserve | Fauna observation
Situated between Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, the Costa Verde is a corner of paradise spread over 200km of coastline. Beaches are entwined with mountains covered in lush vegetation, and no fewer than 300 small islands dot the coastline. Among the many wonders to discover is the fishing village of Paraty. Its cobbled streets and architecture give the impression that time has stood still. Ilha Grande is an island where there are no cars, only lovely beaches and all manner of excursions to explore the mountains or the coast. Finally, Costa Verde is host to two incredible sites for exploring the area’s flora and fauna - the Serra da Bocaina National Park and the Joatinga Ecological Reserve.
Nature | Island | Beaches | Fauna observation
Fernando De Noronha Archipelago
As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the archipelago is a model of ecotourism. Each day, only a handful of tourists are allowed to visit and ecology is at the heart of local life. Arriving on the island, you’ll soon understand the desire to preserve this area where nature is so rich. Tropical forests abound and are home to various species of flora and fauna, the beaches are exceptionally beautiful, and the transparent waters attract marine animals such as dolphins and turtles. Such a teeming ecosystem brings divers from far and wide. The beauty of the archipelago relaxes and restores with its calming energy.
UNESCO World Heritage | Nature reserve | Beaches | Fauna observation
If you like cobblestones and small picturesque villages, then do not miss a visit to Tiradentes. Between Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte, this adorable village is a picture perfect blend of multicoloured cobblestone streets, churches and colonial architecture. Due to its geographical location, Tiradentes became an important staging post for gold and gem prospectors. Today, it retains the authenticity and typical charm of an old Brazilian village. The kind of village to take time strolling around. Among the must-see attractions, discover the magnificent fountain that has become the symbol of the city, as well as the Padre Toledo Museum. You will discover Tiradentes’ an important role in the history of Brazil’s independence.
Nice village | Architecture
The economic powerhouse of Brazil, São Paulo is the largest and most dynamic city in the country. Within its maze of buildings, the city hides marvels to be discovered. Lovers of culture and history will be fascinated by the art galleries of São Paulo, the football museum , Afro Brazil museum, the cathedral and the abbey. Contemporary culture is also apparent - every street corner hosts street art and entertainment. Paulista Avenue is the ideal venue to take in the the local atmosphere. Finally, if you want to breathe in more natural spaces, visit the Botanical Garden, Luz Park and Ibirapuera Park. In the evening, visit the small bars and restaurants so typical of the city and let yourself be carried away by the festive atmosphere.
Art & Culture | Museums
Jericoacoara or "Jeri" to its friends is a destination that is off the beaten track. Located 300 km from Fortaleza, it is accessible only by 4x4. Once you have arrived, you will find a beautiful seaside resort where even the the streets are covered with sand. You will amble past fishing boats and animals roaming free. The white sand beaches and fresh water lagoons will make you want to walk for hours or just bask in the warm, transparent waters. You can also enjoy activities such as sandboarding, windsurfing, paddle boarding, horse riding, quad biking and even capoeira.
Seaside resort | Relaxation
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ouro Preto is a charming city steeped in history. Built in 1711, it was very popular with prospectors in search of gold. In the middle of this luxuriantly wooded valley, you will discover the typical architecture of the colonial cities - white houses with coloured doors and paved floors. Even more beautiful are the 10 Baroque churches of bewitching splendour. You can also visit the old mines and take guided tours to trace the history of the region at the time of the gold rush. As for local crafts, soapstone is the specialty of the area - you will find a colourful selection of vases, mortars and pestles and statuettes.
UNESCO World Heritage | Nice village | Architecture
Journalist and travel blogger
Brazil is a country with a uniquely different culture. By taking part in the local activities we get to soak up the culture and have meaningful exchanges with local people. So it would be a shame to visit Brazil without taking participating in the events that give life to this wonderful country. Music, dance, cooking, sport, every activity becomes an excuse to share with the locals. If you are daunted by the language barrier, many locals working in tourism speak at least some English.