Manaus is the capital of Brazil’s largest state, Amazonas, and is situated around various streams, creeks, and natural pools. The city is an important port of entry into the Amazon where less than a day away lays the rich rainforest and its abundant biodiversity. In addition to spending time in the booming city of Manaus, be sure to venture into the wild, meet the locals, and experience the impressive wildlife to be seen outside of the busy urban center.The principal landmark of the city’s center is the Jesuit Cathedral, as well as a nearby shopping center and pedestrian only area. The famous Teatro Amazonas is located close by, and was erected in 1896 during a rubber boom of the late 1800s. The theater has since been rebuilt and is open to both performances and tours of the landmark. Another historic building is the Mercado Adolfo Lisboa whose wrought ironwork was imported from Europe. Other impressive structures are the harbor installations which were designed to handle 14m rise and fall of water level of the Rio Negro. The large floating dock connects to the street by an extensive floating ramp and is a popular sight for visiting tourists.In addition to these remarkable historic sights, Manaus is home to dozens of other important stopping points. For example, the city is filled with museums showcasing both local and national culture. The Museu do Indio keeps a collection of handicrafts, clothing, ceramics, and various ritual objects from tribes along the Rio Negro. Other museums include the Homem do Norte, Porto de Manaus, Tiradentes, and Minerais e Rochas which all house extensive collections of historic and natural artifacts that make the culture of Brazil so rich.One very popular excursion from Manaus is a trip to the meeting of the waters where the yellow-brown Amazon River meets the blue-black Rio Negro. The two rivers run alongside each other without touching for nearly a dozen miles making the confluence of the two an impressive sight to see. Another popular adventure is a trip up river to see the Arquipélago de Anavilhanas, the largest river archipelago in the world made up of hundreds of islands all covered with lush rainforest vegetation. During the dry season the river is low enough to see the white sand river bed and the roots and trunk of the riverbank flora.
Founded in 1612 by the French, Sao Luis was named after the French St. Louis and is located in a very tropical region with heavy rains. Because the city was once a slaving port, it is home to a large black population and retains a great deal of African culture. The old part of the city maintains a purely colonial feel which has been well restored. Because of the wet climate many of the structures in Sao Luis are sided with unique ceramic tiles.A popular stop for visitors is the seventeenth century commercial sector well known for its shopping. Tourists also enjoy the Palácio dos Leoes with its dark wood floors and gorgeous views from the terrace. Also, the Fábrica Canhamo, a renovated factory, plays host to an impressive arts and crafts factory. One popular hangout is the Centro da Creatividade Odylo Costa Filho, an art and theater center with music, art, cinema, a bar, and a café. Finally, like any colonial city, Sao Luis is home to many colonial churches built between the 1600s and 1800s. Some include the Cathedral, Carmo, Sao Joao Batista, and Nossa Senhora do Rosario to name a few surely worth visiting. Because of the annual Bumba-Meu-Boi music and dance festival, the last week of June would be a memorable time to visit Sao Luis. The festival includes street bands, parades, dances every night throughout the city.
Home many high-rise buildings, a population of over 2 million people, delicious cuisine, and an exciting nightlife is the city of Fortaleza. The city’s main commercial center, Praca do Ferreira, is a popular hangout for any serious shopper while the Passeio Publico is an eighteenth century park great for a little relaxation. Another sight to see is the Teatro José de Alencar whose stunning ironwork was imported from Scotland. The theater was opened in 1910 and is also home a library and art gallery. Four interesting museums in Fortaleza, Arte e Cultura Populares, Minerais, dasSecas, and Maracatu, showcase both Brazilian and African rituals and culture.Also, Fortaleza is home to 25 kilometers of scenic beaches, an important part of the city’s energetic nightlife. The most popular bating beach is the Praia do Futuro, making up 8 kilometers of the town’s stretch of beach. The Praia Porto das Dunas is popular for water sports like surfing and hosts a massive water park known as Beach Park. Further to the west is the Praia Barra do Ceará where the Rio Ceará flows into the sea. This is also the location of the first Portuguese settlement in the area established in 1603. Many of the Fortaleza beaches have dunes which provide such fun as sliding into the water on boards.Fortaleza prides itself for having the most exciting Monday night party scene in the whole of Brazil. The liveliest bars will not be hard to find, and many have live music, dancing, great food and drink, and even art galleries.Popular sports in Fortaleza include diving, surfing, trekking, and windsurfing. There are a number of beaches throughout Fortaleza great for each of the sports with classes and equipment readily available.
Fernando de Noronha
Declared a marine national park in 1988, Fernando de Noronha is a small archipelago located 345 kilometers off the coast of Brazil. The islands were first discovered in 1503 and were for some time a pirate hideout. Much later, in 1738, the Portuguese built the Forte dos Remedios which was later used a prison. Today the ruined fort may still be visited. Of all of the islands only one is actually inhabited.Because of the islands’ protected status, very strict guidelines heavily limit food production forcing inhabitants to bring food in from the mainland. Though the archipelago relies heavily on tourism as an income, only 100 tourists are admitted to the island per day because of short energy and water supplies, while a maximum of 420 tourists are allowed on the island at one time. Officials have also instituted a taxation system to limit visitor stays to roughly a week.The island is commonly sunny with constant sun during the dry season from August to March and rains from February to July. The three restaurants on the island specialize in shark, which is also served in bars and at the port. Of the handful of bars found on the island, the Mirante Bar is exceptional for its view of the Boldró Beach and its nighttime open-air disco.It is also important to mention that this archipelago is a favorite among Brazilian divers with a diverse collection sites and underwater wildlife. Also, boat tours through and around the islands are available as well as guided mountain biking excursions.
Recife, the capital of the state of Pernambuco, is made up of three different sections, Recife proper, Santo Antonio and Sao Jose, and Bao Vista and Santo Amaro. The most impressive sights in Recife are surely the stunning churches. One example is the Santo Antonio do Convento de Sao Francisco with its Portuguese tiles. The most breathtaking of all, however, is the Capela Dourada or the Golden Chapel, built in the late 1600s. The Sao Pedro dos Clérigos is well known for its wooden façade and striking ceiling. The town is home several other eighteenth century churches that are surely worth a visit.The Forte do Brum, built in 1629 by the Dutch, has since been turned in to an army museum. Likewise, the Forte das Cinco Pontas has also been transformed into a museum and both provide visitors with an interesting look into the Dutch and Portuguese histories of Brazil.The art and intellectual sector of the city located in the square around the Sao Pedro dos Clérigos church known as the Pátio de Sao Pedro. Surrounded by various enjoyable restaurants and cafes, the square is home to various folk music and poetry shows as well as great shopping for northeastern handicrafts like clay figurines. In addition, you may enjoy a visit to the secondhand book market located two blocks from Recife’s central post office. A very interesting sight is the former municipal prison which has since been converted into the Casa de Cultura whose cells are now quaint souvenir and art shops with exhibitions, public shows, and local dances. Recife’s three traditional theaters are also an important part of the city’s cultural flavor. The Isabel, Parque, and Apolo theaters are all in beautiful shape and surely worth a visit.If you are interested in spending some time on the beach then be sure to head south of Recife to the quiet Gaibu beach services by frequent buses passing every twenty minutes. Another beach where you will surely have the chance to enjoy some peace and quiet is Itapuama also reachable by bus. Further south yet is the popular Porto de Galinhas, a stunning beach with cool, clean waters. Accommodations are not far from any of these beaches if you are looking to stay over for some extended beach enjoyment.
Salvador da Bahia
The capital of the Brazilian state of Bahia, Salvador, is the third largest city in the country and definitely one worth experiencing during your trip to Brazil. Salvador is famous for its stunning colonial buildings, relaxing beaches, and rich culture. Situated in the massive bay, Bahia de Todos os Santos, Salvador offers visitors everything from historical museums to lively entertainment.The 1,100 square kilometer bay was first discovered by Europeans in 1501, but Salvador was not founded until 1549 when the Portuguese felt the need to build a fortification to protect their Brazilian interests. Salvador remained the capital of Brazil until 1763 and was considered the most important city in Brazil with its ideal geography in a protected bay along the trade routes of the Americas. The city experienced its initial wealth as cultivators of sugar cane and tobacco made possible by the thriving slave trade. This slave trade existed in Salvador for some three hundred years and has made Salvador today the most African city in the Western Hemisphere; the streets are filled with authentic African cuisine, musical rhythms, and even an Afro-Brazilian religion.The historic center of Salvador is widely visited by tourists from all over the world. One of the most popular attractions is surely is the historic center, or Centro Histórico, which is now a protected monument as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Upper part of the city is the site of the original Portuguese fortresses and a plethora of colonial buildings. The old historic homes have been painted in pastel colors, and patios have been transformed into open-air cafes and bars creating a very pleasant ambience.Another popular part of historic Salvador is of course the many plazas surrounded by such as buildings as the Palácio Rio Branco, built in the early 1900s, which was once the Governor’s Palace. Famous plazas include the Praça Municipal, the Praça da Sé, and the Terreiro de Jesus. Another popular landmark is the 1692 Jesuit church whose façade is one of Brazil’s earliest Baroque churches. Also, the Praça Anchieta houses the impressive Sao Francisco church with its lavish painted, wooden ceilings from the late 1700s. Finally, one of the most popular attractions is the Largo do Pelourinho, a narrow, cobblestone street lined with renovated, colonial houses. The street has recently been the hotspot for galleries, boutiques, and delicious restaurants.If you are looking for beaches there are many city beaches in the area of Porto da Barra, which is also home to the city’s best bars, restaurants, and nightlife. Follow the Av Oceanica and you will run into Salvador’s string of beach suburbs of Ondina, Amaralina, and Pituba. Nearby beaches include Jaguaripe, Piata, Itapoa and are all serviced by buses from Salvador’s Praça da Sé.
The hilly city of Belo Horizonte is the fourth largest Brazilian city and a beautiful one indeed. Located in the heart of downtown is the massive Parque Municipal, a lush green park home to the Palácio de Artes. This attraction provides an exhibition of paintings as well as three theaters. Outside of the Parque Municipal is an open-air market selling a wide variety of well-priced, local handicrafts. Another popular stop is the Praça da Liberdade, surrounded by impressive public buildings and the Palácio de Liberdade.As the home to some two million people, Belo Horizonte is host to many impressive museums as well. One, the Museu Mineiro, maintains a collection of religious art in the old Senate building, while the Museu Histórico Abílio Barreto houses a number of historical and cultural exhibits. In addition, Belo Horizonte is home to many other museums and also a variety of botanical gardens and parks.The delicious cuisine of Belo Horizonte is in itself a popular tourist destination. The local cuisine is known as comida mineira in which the delicious dishes are served out of big black pots. Of course thanks to the city’s large size, international cuisine is also easy to find including Italian, Asian, Germand, French, and more. Belo Horizonte is also great for entertainment with at least a dozen different theaters all providing performances by various theater and dance companies.
Founded in 1711, Ouro Preto is one of the most charming small towns in Brazil with its mansions, fountains, churches, gardens, and ruins. The climate is quite pleasant all year round with the wettest months from October to February, the hottest climate during February, and the coldest temperatures from June to August. The central plaza, Praça Tiradentes is surrounded by various historic buildings such as the famous School of Mining, the Palácio dos Governadores, and the Museu de Mineralogia e das Pedras, a required stop. Other popular museums include Museu de Inconfidencia, showcasing historic art and culture, Casa das Contas, a museum of money and finance. Ouro Preto is also home to the oldest functioning Latin American theater built in 1769.One thing Ouro Preto is not short if churches with thirteen stunning sctructures scattered throughout the town. The Sao de Assis, built in the late 1700s, is widely considered a masterpiece of Brazilian baroque architecture with an impressive façade and painted ceiling. The Nossa Senhora da Conceiçao is the location of the tomb of Aleijadinho and a museum in his honor. The Nossa Senhora do Pilar was built in 1733 and hosts a religious art museum as well.Holy Week in Ouro Preto is its most famous celebration with lavish precessions such as those on Good Friday. The famous Brazilian Carnival is also a memorable celebration in Ouro Preto.
Established in the mid 1900s as the federal capital of Brazil, Brasilia is surely one of the country’s most interesting cities. Regardless of its young age Brasilia has earned a spot on UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. One reason is the city’s intense planning which led to its street layout being shaped like a massive aeroplane in flight. Only light industry has been allowed in the city whose original population was once limited to only 500,000 inhabitants. The reason is because the city was built as part of a constitutional requirement as the capital to follow Rio de Janeiro.The city is full of interesting sights surely worth visiting. One such stop is the Praça dos Tres Poderes, home to the Congress buildings, the President’s office, and the Palace of Justice. Nearby are the famous 19 Ministry buildings reaching up 28 storeys, the city’s legal limit in building code.Visitors can get a great view of the city from the top of the television tower which has a free observation tower 75 meters high. There are also various tour companies that offer different trips around the city introducing you to all of the unique architecture which gives Brasilia so much character. In addition to the official buildings are a number of memorials and military buildings as well. Visitors can stop by the house where President Kubitschek stayed during his visits in the 1950s to the unfinished city. Another memorial houses the tomb of the same former president. Another characteristic feature of Brasilia is the abundance of fresh sculpture. Some famous examples include the Cultura, Meteoro, and Os Candangos, the latter a tribute to those involved with the massive project of creating the federal capital. Also, a scultpture accompanies the aforementioned monument of President Kubitschek.If you are looking to get out of the city a little bit, be sure to visit the Parque Nacional de Brasília established in 1961 to preserve the rich vegetation and wildlife of the area surrounding the federal capital. Though some of park is open to those without a permit, there are various trails and beautiful landscapes to enjoy of the surrounding forests and grasslands.
Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro was founded in 1555 by the French but was attacked and taken over by the Portuguese roughly a decade later. By the 1700s Rio de Janeiro was becoming a very powerful Brazilian city as an important importer and exporter of various commodities such as agricultural products and gold.Generally speaking, the city is today split into a northern and southern zone with the historic center located between the two. The most visited spots by tourists are the central and southern zones which are home to Flamengo, Copacabana, Ipanema, and many other popular points of interest. The city of Rio is also home to a few major streets, one of which is the Avenida Rio Branco. One building located on this street is the Teatro Municipal, a brilliant, eclectic building completed in 1909 as an imitation of the famous Paris Opéra. The theater is of course still use and hosts various operas and orchestral performances. Visitors can also join a tour of the lavishly decorated auditorium and even take a trip backstage.Along the same famous avenue is the National Library also dating back to the early 1900s and maintaining some three million different works. Also worth a visit is the Museu Nacional de Belas Artes, completed in 1908 with some 800 original paintings and structures as well as a thousand reproductions of other famous works. Located to the west of central Rio is the Maracana Stadium, one of the world’s largest sports stadiums with a maximum capacity of roughly 200,000 patrons. Always enjoyable are the samba bands scattered throughout the crowd during sporting events. In addition to these mentioned attractions, Rio is covered with impressive places worth a visit including many more museums, galleries, delicious cuisine, nightlife, and much more.During your visit to Rio de Janeiro you will not want to miss a trip to the famous beaches like Copacabana or Ipanema. Copa was built on a narrow strip of land between the mountains and the sea and is home to not only beautiful beach but also high rise apartments and hundreds of thousands of people. Copacabana is truly a city within a city with all of the fantastic amenities a person could ever want. Past Copa is the famous suburb of Ipanema, known for its famous sunsets and incredible relaxing beaches. Some beaches are even illuminated at night, so the enjoyment will not end with the onset of darkness. Carnival in Rio de Janeiro is simply incredible. On the Friday before Shrove Tuesday, the mayor of the city hands over the keys to Rei Momo marking the start of the famous five day party. The streets are filled with people, music, dance, food, drink, and endless fun. After months of preparation, thousands participate in the celebrated parades with bands, dancing, and lavishly decorated floats. If you have the chance to visit Rio de Janeiro during Carnival, you will surely not regret it!
With over 20 million inhabitants in the entire metropolitan area, Sao Paulo is the largest city in all of South America and carries with it all of the essential characteristics: skyscrapers, long avenues, and bustling crowds. However, until the late 1800s, the city was little most that a small town which exploded with the rich investments and rapid construction.The city center is mostly pedestrian-only, so exploring on foot should be no problem at all. A central point downtown is surely the Parque Anhangabaú, an open space joining the Triangulo and the roads leading to the Praça da República, one of the city’s many plazas and neighbor to the city’s tallest building. Others include the Praça Antonio Prado, Praça Padre Manuel da Nóbrega, Praça da Sé, and various others. Another downtown sight is the Catedral Metropolitana which took over 40 years to build during the first half of the twentieth century. Also, a visit to the Teatro Municipal is a treat as it is one of the few historic buildings that remain in Sao Paulo.North of downtown is the Parque da Luz, a former botanical garden, today the neighbor of two museums showcasing the country’s art and culture. Other parks include the massive Parque do Ibirapuera and the famous Parque da Independencia home to the Monumento a Independencia, containing the tombs of the first Emperor and Empress. Another park, the Parque do Estado, contains the Jardim Botanica and its lakes, trees, orchids, and relaxing picnic areas. Of course a visit to Sao Paulo would not be complete without experience the cuisine, shopping, and nightlife. The size of the city adds a lot of diversity to the different available cuisine, showcasing flavors from all over the world. The nightclubs are a plenty covering just about every theme and genre of music. As for shopping, there is surely no shortage with various markets to take advantage of the inexpensive local handicrafts. Sao Paulo is home to many open air markets, bookshops, antique stores, and all of the luxurious boutique stores.
Widely known as the most stunning waterfalls in South America, the Iguaçu Falls make up the Brazilian National Park, founded in 1939. The park has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is made up of some 275 falls that stretch over a distance of several kilometers. But the waterfalls are only part of the incredible views experienced in the park. The sky is constantly filled with a misty haze creating radiating rainbows while the landscape is covered with begonias, orchids, ferns, palms and rich wildlife like toucans, parrots, cacique birds, and 500 species of colorful butterflies.The Brazilian side of the park is best visited in the morning with perfect light for photographs. Though the park’s main attraction is of course the breathtaking falls, the reserve is made up of 67,620 hectares and such fauna as jaguars, tapirs, monkeys, anteaters, and much more. There are various optional tours that provide visitors with views of the best viewpoints. For the truly ambitious visitors helicopter rides are also available.