11 Best Things to Do in Brazil
From lively and cultural Rio do Janeiro, to southern Brazil’s lush and wild jungles, to serene island paradises 350 km off its northeastern coast, Brazil is home to an excess of things to do, and most of them aren’t Samba, believe it or not. Here are our ten best picks for things to do in Brazil.
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Learn how to Samba
Discover Brazil’s most popular dance, the Samba. Let a local show you the moves at a Gafieira (dancehall), or try your luck at an Escola de Samba (samba school). Doors open for all visitors a couple months prior to the festivities of Carnival so there is ample time to learn. Experience how Brazilians move with such fluid grace, then follow their beat with your feet and don’t forget to shake those hips.
Explore the Amazon Rainforest
The Amazon Rainforest covers 1.7 billion acres, 60% of which lies in Brazil. That 60% is still a lot of acreage, filled with far too much beauty, adventure and unique experiences to describe well in one short paragraph. So the short and skinny of it is: take a cruise down one of its many tropical rivers, overflowing with wildlife, lush surroundings and fascinating indigenous cultures; visit Alter do Chao, a hippie beach town along a river in the thick of the rainforest, where you can stay in a luxury thatched hut hotel, lounge on white sands or in cool shallows and bow-fish for your own local gourmet; finally, stop by Manaus, a mango tree-lined metropolis amidst wild jungle. Manaus also isn’t very far from Presidente Figueiredo, also known as the ‘Land of Waterfalls.’
Cable Car up Sugarloaf Mountain
Take a cable car up Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro and watch as the ground beneath disappears. Catch your breath at the height of 396 meters, where Sugar Loaf unveils stunning panoramic views that overlook the harbour of Guanabara Bay. As you lean against the railing and marvel at the landscape, a sense of peace will wash over you with the mountain peak’s cool winds. The cable car up to Sugarloaf makes for a good change of pace from the bustling, lively city below.
Rio de Janeiro has markets in abundance, each with their own style and flavour so they shouldn’t be missed. Head down to Feira de São Cristóvão for some local nibbles and a warm-hearted atmosphere with the musical tunes of forró, light, catchy accordion-based music. For a night time stroll, stopover at Feira de Copacabana night market after a day relaxing at the nearby famous beach. Better known as Hippie Market, Feira Hippie De Ipanema offers the best local handicrafts; everything from artwork, clothing, instruments to even your very own piranha. Or if you’re looking for something a little bit different, O Mercado Estilistas Independentes has creative, custom-made gifts from local independent stylists and artists.
Experience this incredible rush and roar of nature; as your eyes pan across this wide expanse of 275 individual, powerful falls cascading together, crashing together, into the Iguacu River. Whether you’re on the Brazil or Argentina side of the falls and river, you’ll be engulfed by a misty cloud of water spray. A jaw dropping experience not to be missed and one to fill all of your senses.
Curitiba-Paranagua Train Ride
Also known as Serra Verde Express, the Curitiba-Paranagua Train Ride is one of the most scenic train rides in Brazil. Kick back and let the scenery take you on a 4 hour journey, starting from Curitiba, the train crosses through the rare, tropical beauty of the Atlantic Forest and Serra do Mar mountain range—passing captivating views of the exclusively rich fauna and flora that cannot be found in any other part of the world—before ending in the historical town of Paranagua.
Bonito – Gruta do Lago Azul
The Gruta do Lago Azul is a large cave with a lake of glassy blue water, out of this world stalactite formations, and amazing waterfalls. You can dive, swim or snorkel into the cavern, go eye to eye with hundreds of fish and other marine life. When sunlight hits the lake, its depths shimmer and shine with wandering rays of light, like something out of a fairytale, perfect for those magical moments.
Travel through the cobblestone streets of this tropical paradise and marvel at the century-old architecture, sink your feet into the soft sandy beaches, take a refreshing dip in a cool waterfall, cruise along peaceful waters or explore its depths with a dive and a snorkel. The island limits motor vehicles on land to keep the island clean and to preserve its history.
Bay of Pigs
Not to be confused with the Bay of Pigs in Cuba, this Bay of Pigs is in Fernando de Noronha’s archipelago of 21 islands, roughly located about 350km east of the Brazilian Coast. The islands are a part of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites and their surrounding waters makeup one of the best diving sites in Brazil. Sightings of sea turtles, dolphins and even humpback whales are the norm. What also entices divers to travel here, besides the alluring marine life, is the south equatorial current that flows hot water all the way from Africa to the Bay. The waters are so warm that there’s no need for a wet suit.
San Miguel das Missoes Mission
Home to one of the most magnificent and well-preserved missions from the early colonial period in Brazil. Stepping foot here is like walking through the 17th century, with impressive ruins left by the Jesuit missionaries. The remains hold the history of the Indios Guarani of Brazil with an accompanying museum that holds photographs, handcrafted sculptures, woodcarvings and religious statues as well as other archaeological discoveries and collected works of the only seven still standing missions.
Besides New Year’s, Carnival is Brazil’s craziest and one of the world’s wildest parties. Months of preparation are needed to create this annual event that has the streets of Rio De Janeiro littered with millions of people flocking to see the samba school parade. A parade of dazzling samba dancers walking along or atop magnificently designed floats, every colour of the rainbow glitters and shines as music blasts and pounds through the body of every single person in Sambadrome. Be prepared to party all hours of the day and night for a five-day celebration.