Archives, Pro Tips and Guides, South America

Top Ten Brazilian Destinations You Don’t Want to Miss!

So, you’re thinking of going to Brazil are you? Or, maybe more accurately just thinking about getting out of wherever you have been since COVID hit. Whether reading this post is for planning, research, or a mental escape, it goes without saying: Please do not travel until it is safe to do so in light of the recent COVID outbreak.

This post is long overdue seeing as I returned from Brazil over two years ago now. But, with my recent return to the blog, and my newly acquired photobook from Shutterfly with all my Brazilian memories, I felt it was finally time to bring this post out of the Drafts section.

My, does it feel good to be back writing! Life always comes in seasons and although I may not write in all of them, I find that it’s something I always return to. Such a wonderful way to process, communicate, and in this case, reminisce about what once was such a lovely time to see the world! Without further ado, let me introduce you to my top ted Brazilian destinations you do not want to miss!

Number 10: Florianopolis

Florianopolis is number ten on this list as it is a city up and coming, budding with touristic attractions in the south of Brazil. Here surfers, foodies, and partiers alike can find a space to vibe in, all in the stunning scenery of the island Santa Catarina. In recent years, many people from Sao Paulo, Argentina, and even Europe have been seeking vacation homes in this vibrant city because of it’s recent title as “Best Place to Live in Brazil”!

Since the city is on an island, there is an old 16th century fort and characteristic architecture of the times of colonization. The governors of Santa Catarina have enforced fairly strict building laws in order to preserve this aesthetic. Don’t let the architecture fool you though, this city is one of the most developed on the country with an educated population and modern amenities.

Despite this urban development, the island is surrounded by pristine ocean water and great tides for surfing. Mostly all of the top things to do here involve beaches and boat tours. Once you find yourself here, take advantage of this for sure!

Number 9: Arrial do Cabo

Arrial do Cabo is number nine on this list of top Brazilian destinations for it’s glistening waters and accessibility to Rio. This is the perfect getaway destination if you find yourself in need of some R&R. The fishing town, while strongly influenced by tourism, still feels residential with many houses, neighborhood bodegas, and families on the beach. The water here is crystal clear and primarily makes the list due to the fact that this was the best water I sawm in while in Brazil. Softest sand, almost no waves, clear down to the bottom, hidden coves everywhere, not overly crowded. It was simply perfect. Go here to swim in the ocean, eat good food, and do absolutely nothing else. You might also want to combine this trip with a visit to Cabo Frio as well.

Number 8: Ilha Grande

This island is another strong beach destination, but I promise it’s the last one! This island is off the state of Rio de Janiero but after taking your bus you’ll need to take a ferry from Mangaritiba to the island itself. To read more about my experience and info on the island, click here.

Number 7: The Amazon Rainforest

Taking up 60% of Brazil’s landscape, venturing into the Amazon affords plenty of opportunity for wildlife viewers. Manaus is the most central “city” for those who wish to fly in. Car travel is virtually impossible once in the forest but there are some options to boat into other towns if you want more of a remote experience. Please do not venture into the jungle alone, you’ll need a tour guide and there are great ones available via Trip Advisor.

Packages range from just two days to a whole week with options to stay in jungle cabin or rough it in hammocks. Disclaimer; please visit your doctor before traveling to Brazil if you plan to venture into the jungle. There are vaccines and treatments you should receive before exposure, namely, Malaria.

Number 6: The Pantanal

The Pantanal region is one commonly overlooked in place for the Amazon Rainforest, but in some cases can actually yield a more spectacular views of wildlife! The Pantanal is the largest tropical wetland and flooded grass ecosystem in the world and is home to many species including the Capybara, Macaw, Giant Otter, Caiman, Piranha, Tapir, Armadillo, Toucan, and the elusive Jaguar. Due to the expansive waterways in the Pantanal, participating in a boat tour is the easiest way to see the landscape. This is why the Pantanal ranks higher than the Amazon rainforest. Although the rainforest is amazing, it’s incredibly dense and hard to get to. The Pantanal is still pricy, but you have a higher chance of seeing the wildlife you bargain for and it’s not quite as far of a flight. I recommend flying into Cuiabá unless already in or near Mato Grasso do Sul.

Number 5: Minas Gerais

Minas! This state of Brazil makes my list in entirety because all experiences I had there were amazing. Although this state does not boast amazing coast lines or beaches, it does have a rich history, plenty of cultural events, and amazing food (the best food in Brazil I would argue)!

Ouro Preto is the closest city to Rio and is eligible to be traveled to by bus (although cheap, not my recommended method of sleeping if you take the overnight option). The city is founded on mining and has the most unique architecture that is featured on each hilltop the city spans over. If you find yourself here, you must go to the nearby national park and find the hidden waterfall along the hiking trails!

Belo Horizonte is another notable city to visit because of the incredible outdoor art exhibit of Inhotim! This day exploring nature and art together was my favorite day of my entire study abroad experience. This simply cannot be passed up! For more, read here

Number 4: Salvador

Rounding out number four on my list is the Northern city of Salvador as this is a cultural/historical epicenter of Brazil. When you visit here, you will see the undeniable fingerprint of African origins through food, music, religion, and more. Brazil as a country was founded on slave labor, even more so than the US, and as later reformation freed them, they beautifully folded the culture of their original home with the culture of their new home. African origins have become key cornerstones of Brazilian culture today. Visiting Salvador and learning about this is a crucial part of understanding Brazil as a whole.

Number 3: Foz do Iguaçu

One of the New Seven Natural Wonders of the World, Iguazu Falls is unmissable if you find yourself in Brazil. Straddling the boarders of both Argentina and Paraguay, this 2.7km long system of waterfalls pours over 461,244 gallons of water over the edge every second! While visiting the Falls, there are options to walk along walkways both high and low, take a guided boat tour up to the base of the falls, or hike around established trails within the national parks. Now before you go, do your research because entrance fees are present both on the Argentinian side and Brazilian side, so if you choose to view both angles be aware you will have to pay entrance twice. But it’s worth it in my opinion! The Falls are the one place I desperately wish I didn’t pass over during my time abroad! They are top of my list the next time I’m in South America! I’ll be sure to fill you all in when this happens 😉

Number 2: São Paulo

The runner up as the best place in Brazil on my list is the grand city of São Paulo! After a weekend spent exploring, I was left wanting so much MORE! This city is the New York of South America, bustling, cultural, and actually a little bit chilly. The food is global, the parties are iconic, the metro system is complicated, and the art is amazing. São Paulo was unexpected but filled such a place in my heart. For more read here

Number 1: Rio de Janeiro

Okay okay okay, you all know I’m very bias towards Rio but in all honesty, if anyone thinks of Brazil, they most likely think of Rio. Beaches, samba, carnival and so much more!! This quintessential city simply cannot be anywhere but first on the list. It has so much to offer, in fact, I put everything in an Ultimate Guide post which you can see here! If you are looking for a guide to carnival specifically, click here instead

There you have it folks! My top ten destinations in Brazil! As always, if you have any questions or are seeking more info on anything drop me a comment and let’s start a conversation! I wish you all health and safety as you navigate this uncertain time of COVID.

Remember to fight for social equality through conversation, education, and action, and make sure you register to vote!


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