|Country Information & Lifestyle|
Experience a Whole New World
Brazil is the fifth largest country in the world and occupies almost half of South America and borders every country except Chile and Ecuador. Land of samba and sunshine and if 7,000 km of beach was not enough the sheer size and diversity of Brazil make it an extraordinary country.
The language and culture is derived from Portugal with Portuguese being the main language and English the second. A land of opportunity, sunshine, diverse beauty, colourful landscapes, exotic animals, fruit and food. Almost half of Brazil is covered by the basin of the Amazon River and its tributaries, a region that is one of the world's largest rain-forest ecology's.
The Portuguese were the first European settlers to arrive in the area, led by adventurous Pedro Cabral, who began the colonial period in 1500. The Portuguese reportedly found native Indians numbering around seven million.,today fewer than 200,000 of Brazil's indigenous people survive, most of them inhabit the jungle areas. The immigrant Portuguese language was greatly influenced by the numerous Indian and African dialects they encountered, but it remains the dominant language in Brazil today.
Brazil's winter lasts from June to August, with temperatures between 13 and 18 C, but it only gets really cold south of Rio. Summer is from December to February, a period frequently bringing stifling humidity to the far south. Brief rain showers are common, given Brazil's tropical climate, but the dry interior has only a few months of heavy rainfall a year. Of course, the Amazon Basin is the wettest area, with damp, moist temperatures averaging 27 C.
Brazilians are warm, friendly people who love to party, in fact music seems to vibrate from every corner. The sizzling sounds of the Samba and the world famous song Girl from Ipanema are reflected in the heat, passion and zest for life of the Brazilian people. The official language is Portuguese but Spanish, English and French are widely spoken. The Portuguese who gave the country its most popular language and culture were a dominant influence but so were the Native Indians and the big influx of African slaves whose music and food tastes were absorbed and now hold a permanent residence in the overall Brazilian culture.
Since Brazil is such a vast country temperatures vary significantly from region to region. The Amazon is hot and humid year round, while in Pantanal most of the rain falls December through March. Rio de Janeiro has hot and humid summers, and winters are mild. Being in the southern hemisphere Brazil is the ideal place to head for some winter sunshine. Visiting Brazil September through November promises summer weather although all the other months are usually pleasant but carry a somewhat greater chance of possibility of rain. The north east has all year round sunshine and the coast from Salvador to Piaui is quieter. A trip inland reveals an entirely different way of life and is almost entirely covered with dense rain forest.
The cuisine varies a great deal from north to south and in the north, in the area commonly known as Amazonia the diet consists of local fish and root vegetables. In the northeast the Bahia region has heavy African influence where the coastal areas the staple of the menus usually include seafood, shellfish and tropical fruits. Locally caught fish and beef dominate the Central West region, pork from the surrounding ranches is another common meat from this area as well as soya bean corn rice and manioc. The southeast has distinct cooking styles whereas in Minas regional dishes include a lot of corn, beans, pork and cheeses, and around Rio and Sao Paulo you will encounter a lot of bean and meat dishes in the south the gaucho cowboy introduced siahs with salor sun dried meats and churrasco.
Natal is a peninsula in the northeast of Brazil belonging to the state of Rio Grande do Grande which is the closest point to Europe. Places such as Praia do Pipa and Grande do Norte and Jericoaquare in Ceara have become popular with European travellers largely because the region has some of the most stunning beaches and coastline in the country and a near perfect climate. The island of Ilha Grande off the southern coast offers the best of tropical Brazil in one compact area. Ilha Grande offers more than a hundred pristine beaches, a extensive network of hiking trails through its lush interior rain-forest, and rumours of buried pirate treasure.
Especially recommended is the trek to the ghost town of Praia da Parnaioca, once a fishing village. Its residents were scared away a few years ago after a string of escapes from a now-closed prison that was located nearby. The world renowned archipelago of Fernando de Noronha is a beautiful place to visit and diving is a popular activity, but sightseeing and relaxing on the beach are popular on this beautiful collection of islands.
The Iguassu Falls is one of the world's greatest waterfalls and can be explored on foot or from a boat that gives you a view of the water falling from below. The Iguassu Waterfall is a true wonder of nature and is heralded as the most beautiful waterfall in the world by many visitors. The waterfall is located near to the little town of Puerto Iguazu and right at the border of the countries of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay about a two hour flight from Sao Paulo. The waterfall itself is physically located in Argentina, but the panoramic view of the Falls is best from the Brazilian side.
The surrounding jungle is well worth including in your explorations and a plethora of animals and birds make their home in the lush vegetation around the Iguassu National Park. There are also a number of other highlights in this region such as The San Ignacio Jesuit Mission Ruins, The Itaipu Dam and the Yacutinga Lodge. Garganta del Diablo, The Devil's Throat, is the site of the biggest waterfall and the greatest sight Iguassu Falls have to offer. There are helicopter tours that let you see this amazing spectacle from above.
The region of Amazonia houses the most diverse collection of plants and animals in the world and it stretches across 2.3 million square miles, making it also the largest tropical rain-forest in the world, covering over nine countries and is full of rivers and jungles. The Amazon River is the second biggest river in the world and is formed at the meeting of Rio Negro and Rio Solimoes. A great way to experience the rain-forest is by staying in an Eco Lodge which provides a unique opportunity. Take a cruise or a brief flight into the Amazon to experience a quick love affair with the forest or if you are really adventurous experience first hand the way of life of the local people.
From the Amazon's mouth on the Pacific to Manaus, the region's bustling main city, the river is heavily travelled, and wildlife is scarce. Away from the cities and the main course of the Amazon smaller tributaries lead past unspoiled habitat and traditional villages. Any adventurous traveller who comes to Brazil will want to head for the Amazon. Most travel in the Amazon region is by boat the trip from Benjamin Constant, on the border with Colombia, to Manaus, the bustling centre of the region, takes four days. In this narrowest stretch of the Amazon, boats pass houses built on stilts along the river and passengers can hear the screeches of monkeys and birds in the forest.
At Manaus is the famous "meeting of the two rivers," where the Negro and the Solimoes, both tributaries of the Amazon, run side by side without mixing waters. Camping in the forest offers a whole different perspective on the region. Since many of the area's most fascinating animals are nocturnal, the best way to view wildlife here is on a night walk. Armed with a strong flashlight or headlamp, visitors can get up-close looks at tarantulas, tree frogs, bats, spiny rats and snakes (most of which are non-poisonous).
Rio de Janeiro or Cidade Maravihosa "Marvelous City" as the Brazilians call it, displays a unique blend of contrasts of a bustling metropolis amidst beautiful mountain ranges, rain forests and wetlands. Friendly people, historic neighbourhoods and museums combine with the rich sounds of Samba and a thriving nightlife to give this Brazilian city its reputation as one of the most striking in the world. All of this is showcased between the outstretched arms of Cristo Redentor, the statute of Christ the Redeemer atop Corcovado Mountain overlooking the city. The famous Sugarloaf Mountain also provides some of Rio's greatest views.
The south of the area contains the 45 miles of white sand beaches where Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon cuddle together like a clique of celebrities each brilliantly different. Beautiful, bronzed people can be seen and street vendors sell all kinds of local artistry and craft. Carnaval in Rio is world famous and is a four day long party which attracts thousand of people from around the world who all enjoy the Samba dancing and an abundance of food and drink. New Year is an all night festival that is treasured for its beautiful displays of fireworks that light up the Copacabana beach.
Squeezed into a narrow, astonishingly lovely zone between rain-forest clad cliffs and the sea, in what many have called the world's most beautiful city setting, Rio de Janeiro pulses like an artery. The city throbs day and night from the cobblestone streets and artist-inhabited Victoria mansions of Santa Theresa to the favelas which blanket the hillsides, Rio is indisputably the most exciting city in the world.
The Pantanal, an enormous marshy plain, almost 10 times the size of the Everglades, spreads out along Brazil's western border with Paraguay and Bolivia and is famous for its abundant wildlife. The flat open vistas are perfect for spotting jaguars, giant otters, anacondas, caimans, hawks, kites, Marsh deer, Tapirs, egrets, herons, ibis and roseate spoonbills, not to mention tropical birds such as toucans, parrots and macaws. Heavy, seasonal rainfalls and flooding characterise the region and allow for the thriving growth of wildlife.
The area remains very much untouched, and so offers a great opportunity to experience the Pantanal wetlands. One of the best ways to explore the Pantanal is just like the locals do: on horseback. There are very few roads that exist in the Pantanal, and horses can carry you into areas that otherwise couldn't be reached due to flooding and other conditions. There are outlying bases for exploring the Pantanal, the most serviceable being the towns of Cuiaba, Campo Grande, and Corumba on the Bolivian border, and rides in small planes and hot-air balloons give views of the wildlife from above.
Although Recife is a major port city and the fourth largest city in Brazil, it is less modern and cosmopolitan than its more famous counterparts. High rises, colonial churches and markets dot the city mixing old with new. Often called the Venice of Brazil for its many canals, bridges and tiny one-way streets and is a wonderful city to wander about. Recife and its environs have only recently become a tourist destination, so visitors are often a novelty for its inhabitants, especially those of the neighbouring fishing villages.
Explore the old city from Gracas where much of Recife's nightlife is and where the city's deep cultural roots are notable and its traditional cultural activities should not be over-looked. Receife is one of Brazil's richest places to explore folk art and craft, including music, dance, sculpture and painting.
The city of Salvador and the region of Bahia are some of the most interesting highlights of Brazil. The colourful, historic city is situated near 30 miles of gorgeous, amazing beaches and coastline and the city has been crowned "the land of happiness" - not without reason. Salvador was the first capital of Brazil and is currently the capital of Bahia state. Bahian cuisine is known for its distinct and delicious flavour that emerged from the use of African cooking products and dende oil and coconut milk. Sitting in the Bay of All Saints the city becomes a series of hills and valleys, the upper city Cidade Alta and the lower city Ciodade Baixa are connected through the famous Elevador Lacerda.
Sao Paulo overwhelms the senses with its sheer size and with over 10 million inhabitants it is the world's third largest city and the largest in South America. The city's attractions lies in its vibrant culture and there are an array of nationalities living in Sao Paulo. The museums are the finest in South America and its surrounding coastline is graced with many lovely beaches. In recent years the city has evolved into a centre for Brazil's own martial art, capoeira, whose dance like movements are performed to music.
Originally developed as the martial art of the slaves of the Bahia, capoeira was banned by the ruling classes. To keep the art alive the slaves turned capoeira into a dance and the berimbau, which had warned of an approaching master, began to accompany the dance itself. As late as the 1920s capoeira was still outlawed and practised only underground today it is a well-known and much-loved spectacle.
Brasilia became the capital of Brazil and has beautiful architecture and is the site of the greatest city planning project in the world. The large city of Fortaleza is bustling with spirit and is a gateway to miles and miles of beaches. Combine the the urban, colourful city feel, with the best urban beaches, and throw in some quiet villages for a complete experience in Fortaleza.
There is so much more to Brazil that it is impossible to do this vast country justice. It is the ideal place to retire to, purchase a holiday home or bring up a family. Why not make a visit and see for yourself.