By Carolyn Dean
The largest country in South America, Brazil beholds a nourishing tropical climate, powerful economy, and most importantly a robust, intimate culture that will ruffle your feathers and entice your senses. While visiting this pearl there are some must see places that will fulfill your appetite and intrigue your mind.
Rio de Janeiro
or more commonly Rio, has been a travelers hub for such places and events as Carnaval, Copacabana beach, Tijuca’s rainforests, Corcovado’s Cristo Redentor, Samba music and dance, and so so much more. If you have never been to Rio before it is recommended that you go for at least a week and if possible during Carnaval. Carnaval is an extravagant 4-day event that happens every year 40 days before Easter. Carnaval encompasses all amazing aspects of Brazilian culture from the must see samba parade, to colorful masquerades and electrifying energy on every corner. It is said that everyone should experience Carnaval in Rio at least once in their life.
Called a “culture within a culture” the favelas are where the true essence of Rio lies. Cariocas (the people of Rio) are indifferent to the variance in their social classes. Both upper and working class share the beaches of Ipanema and Cococabana under the same sun. While once one of the most dangerous favelas, Rochina has made a major comeback with an installment of Pacifying Police Units in 2008 that have cracked down on drug dealing and created safety for travelers and favelados alike. Being the largest favela in Brazil, Rochina has also economically developed with drug stores, bus stops, banks, and even at one time a McDonalds. For a small fee travelers can pay a local guide to take them through the winding maze of hallways and stairs that are the streets of Rochina. There is almost always people playing music and dancing to samba throughout the night. While most of the favelados are considered extremely impoverished as far as money goes, their cultural felicity is often much richer than their affluent neighbors of wealthier zones of Rio.
considered one of the most sustainable cities in the world Curitiba has created around 30 parks and forests for recreation and for solving environmental issues such as flooding. While in 1970 each city resident had less than1 m² of green area, the cities green efforts have increased that number to 52 m² today and that number is still growing. Even people living in the favelas are encouraged to be green and the city has created a program where they can bring their rubbish in exchange for food or bus tickets. Corporations are given tax breaks if their settlements include green areas. The city recycles up to 70% of their every day waste and has planted over 1.5 million trees. While the city is not considered the most beautiful, it offers a few must see places such as Jardim Botânico (botanical Gardens), Oscar Niemeyer Museum, the largest museum of Latin America, and Torre Panoramica which gives 360 views of the city below.
Being one of the world’s largest wetlands, the Pantanal is a perfect place for viewing wildlife as it is one of the most biologically rich locations on earth. Home to over 400 fish, 1000 birds, 300 mammals and over 400 reptiles, the Pantanal is the perfect place to visit for wildlife animal lovers. Although the Amazon generates more fame, viewing wildlife in the Pantanal is easier since it is not all encompassed by dense rainforest. The famed Hyacinth Macaw is one of the major beauties to be witnessed throughout this remote region. Accessible from Cuiabá in the north from the Trans-Pantaneria highway, this dirt road road cuts through the Pantanal and is often impassible during the wet season where most visits will have to be accessed by boat or small planes.
While more off the beaten track, Santarém attracts travelers for its merging rivers in the Amazon. The Rio Tapajós and the Rio Amazonas meet and yet do not mix, but float side by side next to each other. It is a spectacular force of nature to watch as the light brown water of the Amazon moves side by side against the dark deep waters of the Rio Tapajós. Called “Meeting of the Waters” Santarém gains much acknowledgement from this spectacular display and is often a stopping place for travelers going to the Amazon city of Manaus.
São Paulo is Brazil’s largest city and has the biggest economy out of any city in Latin America. While less touristy than Rio, it offers a metropolis of Brazilian culture, politics, and history. Also known as Sampa locally, São Paulo is known for its global economy, colonial architecture, as well as modern day skyscrapers such as Mirante do Vale, or Banespa Skyscraper. The city is a major hub for the best museums, live music, theater, nightclubs, restaurants and bars throughout all of South America. While many consider the city too congested and not “tourist friendly”, others believe the city to be a mixture of American cities such as New York and European cities such as Milan. Other attractions around the area are the Petar Caves, Avenida Paulista (a financial and cultural district), and hundreds of markets with miles of street art.