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BRAZIL

Spanning an impressive three million square miles, Brazil shares borders with every South American country except, Chile and Ecuador, making it one of the world's largest nations. Natural splendors abound in this massive country where more than 60% of the Amazon Rain Forest is. The world's largest rain forest is home to the world's largest number of plant and animal species, making this a wonderland of biodiversity. On a much smaller scale in comparison to the Amazon is Iguassu Falls, another staple of Brazil's natural wonders. Witness the rushing falls that are twice as high as Niagara Falls as they cascade down forested steps.

Brazil is also home to over 200 million people of all different backgrounds including Italian, Japanese, and German cultures. The multicultural nation is dominated by Portuguese influence due to settlement of the land in the 16th century by Portuguese explorers—Portuguese is still Brazil's main language. Before the Portuguese conquest of the land, Brazil was inhabited by indigenous groups, but once the European settlers began to claim the land, Brazil's indigenous groups dwindled. For around 300 years, the Portuguese were very aggressive about maintaining their authority over Brazil, waging wars and dividing the nation, but in 1822, Brazil gained its independence.

Now, the locals have managed to establish their own distinct culture, while holding onto important traditions—from the passionate music of choro, samba, and bossa nova, which all have roots in Brazil, to the beloved national dish, feijoada, a savory bean and meat stew, and the title as top coffee producer in the world, which Brazil has held for 150 years. 

 

Brazil Interactive Map

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Rio de Janeiro

Where natural splendor mingles with an urban oasis and tradition meets modernity is where you'll find Rio de Janeiro. From the famous 100-foot Christ the Redeemer statue to the passionate samba dance style that originated here, Rio's undeniable charm is hard to ignore.

Ride a cable car up into the clouds to the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain to experience the city from above and take in breathtaking views of Rio's harbor, which is considered to be one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Looking out over Rio, directly across from Sugar Loaf is Brazil's most recognizable figure, the 100-foot Christ the Redeemer statue that stands tall atop Corcovado Mountain. Rio isn't limited to mountaintop views though. Sandwiched between city and ocean are stunning beaches; sprinkled throughout Rio are scenic parks where you may spot a toucan or monkey; and lining the wide streets are colorfully painted cafés and shops.

As you explore the city, you may hear a fiery rhythm beating through the streets—it is most likely samba music. Samba, a traditional dance style, was created in Rio de Janeiro at the beginning of the 20th century. If you're in Brazil in February and March, you'll witness locals dressed in colorful costumes embellished with sequins and feathers samba down the streets at Rio's annual Carnival festival. Samba translates to "an invitation to dance," and you may just want to join in on this fun festivity.

Experience Rio like the locals

Explore a unique guest house in Rio with the best views of the city—which you can visit on our post-trip extension.

Courtesy CNN
07:04 | 302 views
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Explore Rio de Janeiro with O.A.T. on:

Iguassu Falls

Feel the cool mist on your skin ... hear the roar of the Falls ... and experience the sheer magnificence of the world's largest waterfall in Iguassu National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The site spans more than 1.5 miles and has 275 waterfalls—the tallest of which is over 260 feet tall. Located in Argentina and Brazil, the two countries boast equally stunning perspectives of the Falls, but you can take in panoramic views of nature's masterpiece on the Brazil side, including multiple views of the Devil's Throat. If you're feeling extra adventurous, and aren't afraid of getting wet, boat tours take you directly into the action of the Falls.

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Boat ride on the Rio Negro

Set off on a boat cruise down the Rio Negro, the world's largest black water river and the Amazon's largest left tributary. Embark in Manaus, where the sandy water of the Amazon and the black water of the Rio Negro meet, but they don't mix. This is due to water temperature, flow rate, and the composition of the water. The Rio Negro gets its dark coloring from plant sediment that is picked up as water steeps through Colombia's forests into the river. Witness this natural phenomenon for more than three miles before the two rivers mix together. Along the river, catch glimpses of freshwater dolphins and electric fish—just some of the 700 fish species and 100 species of other wildlife that inhabit the waters.

Explore the Rio Negro with O.A.T. on:

Manaus

Manaus is a hidden gem found deep in the Amazon rain forest that is only accessible by plane or boat. Despite being remote, Manaus is the largest city in the Amazon with around two million residents. Fortunately, the isolation has preserved what makes the city so incredible—its history and culture. The Amazonas Opera House, for instance, is Manaus' crown jewel. The Opera House, constructed in the late 19th century, contrasts the lush forest surrounding it with its colorful dome depicting the Brazilian flag, which uses 36,000 decorated ceramic tiles. Construction on the opera house began in 1884, at the height of the rubber industry, which funded the opera house's lavish design. Years after completion when the rubber industry took a hard hit, the opera house was shut down and remained closed for 90 years until its renovation in 2001. Now, the Amazon Philharmonic orchestra performs here.

Explore Manaus with O.A.T. on:

Sway to the Sounds of Samba

Discover the lively spirit of the Salgueiro Samba School where locals celebrate and dance to the rhythm of the festive music.

Earth Diaries - Salgueiro Samba School

Discover the lively spirit of the Salgueiro Samba School where locals celebrate and dance to the rhythm of the festive music.

Produced by Cynthia Younker
06:49 | 91 views   
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Featured Reading

Immerse yourself in Brazil with this selection of articles, recipes, and more

ARTICLE

Which European capital was located 5,000 miles away from its home nation 200 years ago?

ARTICLE

From otters playing in the water to anteaters surveying the land for food, the Pantanal is teeming with wildlife.

Capital Confusion

from The Inside Scoop

Question: Today, world capitals are easy to find, just look in the countries they govern. But 200 years ago, it wasn’t that simple for one European nation—its capital was located 5,000 miles away … in South America. What European nation was it? And which thriving South American city served as its capital?

Answer: The capital of Portugal was Rio de Janeiro

In late 1807, Napoleon's army was marching toward Portugal, intent on capturing all of Iberia during what would come to be known as the Peninsular War. Fearing for the safety of the royal family, Prince John VI ordered that the entire court be transferred from the capital of Lisbon to the Portuguese colony of Brazil.

The royal court arrived in Rio de Janeiro on March 7, 1808, establishing it as the first (and only) European capital city to ever exist outside of Europe.

As you might imagine, the sudden arrival of nobility had a big impact on the tiny colonial capital. Here are some facts about how Rio de Janeiro—and Brazil in general—were changed by the city’s unprecedented status:

  • Eminent domain: Even though Rio de Janeiro had been serving as the colonial capital of Portuguese America since 1763, it was in no way large enough or grand enough to suit royal sensibilities. So the court improvised—much to the chagrin of locals: Residents and shop owners were hastily (and sometimes forcibly) removed from their property to make room for the royal entourage, and wealthier inhabitants willingly gave up their sumptuous accommodations to please the Prince.
  • Keeping up with the sovereigns: Property ownership wasn’t all that changed after the royals came to town—the economy was transformed, too. The influx of a huge court called for an increase in food supply—and the influx of expensive, courtly taste turned Rio into a haven for luxury goods. Over time, rent in the city doubled, taxes rose, infrastructure vastly improved, and Rio was imbued with an air of elegance and sophistication.
  • Brazil gets a promotion: After the Peninsular War ended in 1814, the leaders of Europe balked at the idea that an ancient royal family would continue to reside outside of Europe and demanded that the Portuguese court return to their native home. But the court was thriving in Rio de Janeiro—and in no hurry to leave. In an effort to appease his monarchical peers, Prince John elevated Brazil's status by forming the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil, and the Algarves. Suddenly, Brazil wasn't just a colony, but a kingdom united to Portugal.
  • Goodbye, Rio: Unfortunately for the court, the ploy was ultimately unsuccessful: Leadership in Portugal resented the new status of the much larger colony, and Brazilians were growing more and more eager to govern themselves. So, in 1821, Prince John grudgingly returned to Lisbon, leaving his son, Prince Pedro de Alcantara, to oversee Brazil.
  • A new country is born: The course Prince Pedro took may not have been exactly what his father had in mind: Just one year after the court left, Prince Pedro declared the Brazil’s independence from Portugal. Not long after, the Prince was named the first Emperor of Brazil, and he decide to govern the new nation from—where else?—the former capital of Portugal, Rio de Janeiro.

Brazil’s Pantanal Wetlands

A South American paradise for wild animals

for O.A.T.

Among other wetland giants, the Brazilian tapir is a large herbivore that can weigh more than 500 pounds.


Near the geographic center of South America in western Brazil, the vast wetland region known simply as “the Pantanal” spans 77,000 square miles—more than 30 times the area of Florida’s Everglades. Most of the rainfall that makes the Pantanal a watery expanse falls during the region’s wet season, between November and March, when the rivers rise and flood low-lying areas, submerging some places by as much as 15 feet. This is followed by a dry season that extends from April through October, when the floodwaters recede and expose large, open areas of grassy savannah that offer some of the best wildlife viewing in South America.

In the Pantanal, you’ll find many of the same tropical animals that inhabit the Amazon rain forest, but instead of being concealed by dense vegetation, they can be spotted in the open by the ponds and streams that serve as their watering holes during the dry season. While wildlife sightings can never be guaranteed, circumstances in the Pantanal are exceptionally good for observing more than 80 species of mammals and 50 kinds of reptiles—so it’s possible to see a large variety of creatures in this expansive natural wonderland.

A land of giants

One mammal that’s a favorite with wildlife enthusiasts is the giant otter. These water-loving animals can grow to more than five feet in length, and they have a wide range of vocal expressions, including whistles, whines, barks, hums, and coos, each with specific meanings. Their inquisitive and playful natures, gregarious social structures, and noisy interactions make them a joy to observe. They haven’t always been popular, however; many indigenous people considered them to be competition for catching fish, and hunted them to the point of endangering them. In recent times, conservation efforts have begun to change attitudes through education and help to preserve the species.

Another “giant” among Pantanal mammals is the giant anteater, the largest of the world’s four anteater species (also called the “ant bear”). Five to seven feet long from the tip of its long snout to the end of its bushy tail, this remarkable creature is equipped with strong front claws for tearing open anthills and termite mounds, and it has a distinctive way of walking with its claws turned under. The collared anteater or southern tamandua is also present in the Pantanal; most often active at night, it is easily distinguished from its larger relative by its tail, which is prehensile (like a monkey’s) rather than bushy.

An abundance of other species

Other Pantanal mammals include the marsh deer, a variety unique to South America that favors watery habitats and is an excellent swimmer; and the Brazilian tapir, a large herbivore that can weigh more than 500 pounds. Capuchin and tamarin monkeys swing through the trees; capybaras and coatimundis roam the edges of the savannah. At the top of the food chain, feline predators including the jaguar and ocelot prowl—though they are elusive and it is a rare privilege to see them.

Although the Pantanal’s array of mammals is impressive, it is a reptile—the crocodilian Yacare caiman—that could serve as the region’s wildlife icon. Millions of caiman inhabit Pantanal waters, far outnumbering the human population of the area. The seven-foot-long Yacare is the most common variety; its diet consists primarily of fish, including piranha, and it is not particularly dangerous to people. Other varieties of caiman are also found in the Pantanal, including the spectacled caiman and the 16-foot black caiman—the largest crocodilian species. And in the region’s waters, a diverse array of turtles and frogs, plus some 260 species of fish, provide food for the caiman and other predators.

The abundance of animals and the favorable terrain for observing them have drawn increasing numbers of wildlife viewers to the Pantanal in recent years. While the area’s natural character faces threats from some human activities, such as dam-building on rivers in the region, awareness of its value as one of the world’s great wildlife habitats is also increasing. The resulting research and conservation efforts may help to keep the Pantanal a paradise for wildlife for years to come.

Brazil: Month-by-Month

There are pros and cons to visiting a destination during any time of the year. Find out what you can expect during your ideal travel time, from weather and climate, to holidays, festivals, and more.

December-March in Brazil

Vast Brazil stretches across half of South America’s landmass, with regional climates varying from equatorial in the north to a true southern hemisphere climate (hot summers and cooler winters) in the south.

Summery weather combined with the trinity of seasonal holidays—Christmas, New Year, and Carnival—draws visitors to Brazil during December, February, and March. This is also the most popular time of year for Brazilians to travel within their home country, and as such, you can expect crowded beaches and peak season prices. But the longer daylight hours and festive atmosphere make this a great time of year to visit Brazil.

Those seeking adventures in nature will also enjoy traveling in Brazil’s summer months: Heavy rainfalls across southern Brazil and the rain forest swell the Amazon River, creating the perfect conditions to explore the rain forest by boat, and make Iguassu particularly lush. 

Holidays & Events

  • December 31: New Year’s Eve in Brazil is known as Reveillon, a night of dancing on the beach to ring in the new year. Brazilians dress in all white and wear flower garlands for the Reveillon celebrations, which last until dawn and feature live music performances and firework displays at the stroke of midnight.
  • Mid-January: Lavagem do Bonfim is a popular festival in Salvador, the capital city of Brazil’s northeastern Bahia state, and is held on the Thursday after Three Kings Day each year. It is a festival of cleansing after the holiday period, when baianas, or women dressed in traditional full skirts, wash the steps of the Church of Senhor do Bonfim.

Must See

Known throughout the world for its extravagant street parades, glittering performers, and wild partying, Rio de Janeiro’s Carnival sets the bar for all other carnivals. More than two million people take to the streets of Rio each day to witness the spectacle, which keeps the city up all night for five days before the start of the Lenten season. 

Watch this film to discover more about Brazil

Earth Diaries - Salgueiro Samba School

Discover the lively spirit of the Salgueiro Samba School where locals celebrate and dance to the rhythm of the festive music.

06:49 | 91 views
0

April-May in Brazil

April and May mark the beginning of Brazil’s low season, when the heat and humidity of summer are replaced by warmer, more pleasant weather, and Brazilians’ summer holidays draw to a close. Water levels are still high in the Amazon, bringing you closer to the canopy wildlife, while roaring Iguassu remains verdant from its bountiful mist. 

Holidays & Events

Late March-mid April: Semana Santa, or Holy Week, is celebrated with aplomb in this Catholic nation. Brazilians throughout the country celebrate the week leading up to Easter with elaborate religious processions, featuring costumed penitents and heavy floats.

Watch this film to discover more about Brazil

Intersection: Fête Fashion in Rio

Discover Rio’s colorful locals, who show us what’s new in this fashion-forward city.

02:32 | 191 views
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June-July in Brazil

Winter comes to Brazil in June and July, though its equatorial position means temperatures remain mild throughout much of the country. Head south for more traditional signs of the season: Snow can be spotted in the southern mountain ranges.

Winter is also the start of Brazil’s dry season, making it a great time of year to enjoy outdoor activities like hiking. While the Amazon rain forest is hot and steamy with the possibility of rain showers year-round, visitors during the dry season will experience significantly less rainfall; for this reason, June through November are considered the best months to visit. And at Iguassu, water levels lower throughout the season, offering a different view of this natural wonder. 

Holidays & Events

  • Late June: Celebrated throughout Brazil, Festa Junina blends Catholic celebrations with seasonal traditions. The festival marks the harvest time and the transition into winter, and also honors the feast days of St. Anthony, St. John the Baptist, and St. Peter with street parades and music performances.
  • Late June: Boi Bumpá, also known as the Parintins Folklore Festival, is a lively festival held each year on the island of Paratins in the Brazilian Amazon. Rival teams don colorful costumes and tails, and compete in live performances of traditional folk stories, complete with musical interludes, dancing, and puppetry. 

Watch this film to discover more about Brazil

A Maquina

Become a fly on the wall in the workshop of an eccentric Brazilian mechanic.

03:21 | 1506 views
6

Brazil in August-November

For many, Brazil’s springtime offers ideal weather conditions: clear blue skies, rising—but still pleasant—temperatures, and little rain. Temperatures increase throughout October, and summer begins to settle in by November, but it is not yet too hot or humid. This is generally considered the best time to visit Rio and the tropical beaches of the north, and tourists from the Northern Hemisphere take full advantage; expect lots of international visitors, especially during August. 

Holidays & Events

  • Mid-August: The Festa do Peao, or Festival of the Cowboy, is a 10-day celebration of all things rodeo. Held each year in the  city of Barretos, located in the state of São Paulo, this annual event features rodeo competitions, open-air concerts, typical “cowboy food” like braised meats and beans, and a larger-than-life metal cowboy statue.
  • October 12: Dia das Criancas, or Children’s Day, is an annual highlight for many Brazilian children. On this day, children receive gifts and candy from their parents. Children’s Day also coincides with the feast day of Our Lady of Aparecida, the patron saint of Brazil.
  • Late November-early January: Natal Luz, which means “Christmas of Lights” is an annual Christmastime festival featuring elaborate light displays. It is celebrated in the southern Brazil mountain town of Gramado, whose alpine-style architecture offers a festive backdrop for the holiday decorations. 

Must See

Perhaps surprisingly, the world’s second largest Oktoberfest is held each year in the southern Brazilian city of Blumenau. Founded by German settlers who brought with them their love of beer and alpine architecture, Blumenau is best known in Brazil for its raucous beer-drinking extravaganza. In fact, Blumenau’s Oktoberfest is one of Brazil’s largest street party, second only to Rio’s Carnival.  

Watch this film to discover more about Brazil

Discover the real Rio

Experience Rio de Janeiro through a local's eyes by following a host who is up for anything.

Courtesy of CNN

07:47 | 233 views
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POST-TRIP EXTENSION

Iguassu Falls Jungle Expedition

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Discover the majestic nature of the Brazilian and Argentinian sides of Iguassu Falls
Get a glimpse of the tropical flora and fauna in the rain forest surrounding Iguassu Falls

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Iguassu Falls & Buenos Aires, Argentina

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Discover the majestic nature of the Brazilian and Argentinian sides of Iguassu Falls

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Find the Adventure That’s Right for You

Our Activity Level rating system ranks adventures on a scale of 1 to 5 to help you determine if a trip is right for you. See the descriptions below for more information about the physical requirements associated with each rating.

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Easy

Travelers should be able to climb 25 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 1-2 miles over some uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last at least 1-2 hours at a time. Altitude can range from zero to 5,000 feet.

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Moderately Easy

Travelers should be able to climb 40 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 2-3 miles over some uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for at least 2-3 hours at a time. Altitude can range from zero to 5,000 feet.

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Moderate

Travelers should be able to climb 60 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 3 miles over some steep slopes and loose or uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for 3 or more hours at a time. Altitude can range from 5,000 to 7,000 feet.

Activity Level 4:

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Moderately Strenuous

Travelers should be able to climb 80 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 4 miles over some steep slopes and loose or uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for 4 or more hours at a time. Altitude can range from 7,000 to 9,000 feet.

Activity Level 5:

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Strenuous

Travelers should be able to climb 100 or more stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 8 miles over some steep slopes and loose or uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for 4 or more hours at a time. Altitude can range from 10,000 feet or more.

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