Whether you are looking to relax, explore the jungle or try your hand at surfing, Brazil is one of the most captivating countries on the planet. South America’s largest nation is full of exciting adventures, vibrant culture, white sand beaches and natural wonders, not to mention delicious caipirinhas. It is home the lungs of the world, towering waterfalls and enchanted sunken pools. From bustling cities to traditional villages to the unspoiled scenery in between, here are just ten of the amazing things to see and do in Brazil.
1. Visit Ilha Grande
Breathtaking beaches and towering hills combined with an abundance of wildlife makes this “Big Island” a must do while in Brazil. The former prison and leper colony is now a scenic protected area rich with tropical forest. The trails are home to endangered species such as the maned sloth and brown howler monkey. The emphasis on this eco-island is hiking, canoeing, kayaking and swimming. It also boasts one of the top beaches in Brazil, Lopes Mendes. Here you will find ultimate relaxation and tranquility in an otherwise lively country.
2. Hit the Beach
Brazil has no shortage of beautiful white sand beaches with crashing surf and plenty of all night long entertainment. Prainha Beach is a crescent shaped beach that boasts some of the best surfing spots near Rio. The beach is bordered on each side by rocks and cliffs that add to its breathtaking beauty. If you are traveling with kids, Leblon Beach is ideal as it hosts an area that is exclusive for youngsters. Organized activities and all day sports will keep the wee ones occupied while you soak up the rays and enjoy the warm waters.
3. Visit Iguaçu Falls
One of the largest and most spectacular waterfalls borders the countries of Argentina and Brazil. Iguacu Falls is comprised of 275 stunning individual cascades. The falls are home to unique and endangered species of flora and fauna. This enormous waterfall spans an impressive 2,700m. The Brazil side offers the best panoramic views of the falls. Double-decker buses will take you to a variety of trails where wildlife viewing is plentiful. Keep your eyes open for howler monkeys, toucans, jaguars, pampas deer and brilliant hued birds.
4. Visit the Iconic Christ the Redeemer
No trip to Brazil would be complete without a trip to see the iconic statue Christ the Redeemer. One of the seven modern wonders of the world, the big guy sits atop Corvacado Mountain which is the highest peak in the city of Rio. Minibus tours run up to the statue daily. A train also provides a way up and takes you through the heart of the Atlantic Rain Forest of Tijuca to the statue. There are plenty of tour operators that will provide round trip hotel transportation and will guide you through the amazing sites of the city you will view from the top.
5. Experience the Amazon
Bigger than the next eight largest rivers combined, the Amazon River and its surrounding jungle is truly a natural wonder. The biodiverse Amazon offers experiences such as tree climbing, piranha fishing, cayman spotting, swimming with pink river dolphins and interactions with local rubber-tapper communities. Jungle lodges offer visitors the opportunity to sleep in the tropical rainforest and explore the area on survival trips. River boat excursions offer the chance to chug along the waters and experience the river from a different point of view. With so many options, there’s an awesome Amazon experience for everyone.
6. Attend a Football Game
You can’t get a feel for Brazilian culture without experiencing a live football game. The newly renovated Maracana Stadium was home to Rio’s 2014 World Cup and is arguably the most famous soccer stadium in the world. Towering mountains set the backdrop for this incredible stadium. Although fireworks are no longer part of the experience, expect plenty of drumming, chanting, cheering and a very lively atmosphere. To really immerse yourself in the experience, head to a shop and buy a home team jersey. Watch as the local fans high five you as you root for their team.
7. Visit the village of Buzios
What was once a tiny fishing village is now a place of beaches, shops, adventure and an awesome nightlife. Rua das Pedras is the main drag and the cobblestone street is lined with bars, clubs, hotels, art galleries, restaurants and shops. Boasting 23 beaches has made this village a popular spot for kite, wind and wave surfers. Snorkelers and scuba divers love it here, too. Something to note is that the Eastern side of the peninsula is windy and caters to the surfing crowd, whereas the Western side tends to be calmer and more tranquil.
8. Lençois Maranhenses
Blindingly white in color, these huge sand dunes tower over the rain-made lagoons in this fascinating National Park. July is the best time to visit as the lagoons are full of sparkling blue or green waters, depending on which one you visit. Relax, swim and walk barefoot among one of the most unbelievable landscapes on the planet. Avoid the touristy activity of joy riding up and down the dunes in an all-terrain vehicle because of the danger it poses to the animals that call this place home.
9. Take in the View Atop Sugarloaf Mountain
More than a million visitors make their way to the top of Rio’s Sugarloaf Mountain each year to take in the bird’s eye view of beaches, mountains and forests. The ride to the top is via two different cable cars. The first one gives visitors a chance to see Copacabana beach, the Christ statue, Niteroi Bridge and Guanabara Bay. The second one takes you to the top for a 360 degree view of the region. The best time to go up the mountain is in time for sunset where breathtaking scenery awaits.
10. Poco Encantado and Poco Azul
Poco Encantado or Chapada Diamantina is a sunken pool nestled in a cave with crystal clear water and enchanting visibility. From April to September, the sun is at the perfect angle to shine through the natural window and hit the water, creating a glowing blue effect. The clear sapphire water allows visitors to view the ancient rocks and tree trunks that line the bottom. Note, no swimming is allowed. Poco Azul is very similar to the Enchanted Well with one defining difference. Here, visitors are allowed to swim in the natural pool but must shower first and wear a life preserver. Both are recommended things to see and do in Brazil.