Brazil seems to have its own rhythm – and that rhythm is samba. Music and dancing are important parts of the Brazilian lifestyle, and even form the basis of the capoeira martial arts routines. Pulsating cities, epitomised by Rio de Janeiro, love their sea and sunshine, but head towards the jungle to get a feel of the real Brazil.
The Amazon region is still best explored by boat – spot caiman, jaguars and anacondas, among countless other species.
Carnaval is big in Brazil, especially in Salvador, São Paulo, Recife and Rio, but to get away from the crowds to more personal celebrations, opt to join the fun in Olinda with its eleven days of spontaneous parties all over the historic town.
Many national parks, like Chapada dos Veadeiros with its cave systems and waterfalls, offer hiking trails and activities galore.
Travel up the Amazon by boat from Belém to Manaus, then sling your hammock on one of the smaller boats plying the river’s many tributaries. The meeting of the waters – where the yellow Rio Solimões and the black Rio Negro form the Amazon – is worth a day trip.
While the deep south of Brazil does get winters from June to September, they are usually fairly mild. The coastal climate is warm and tropical, and the rainy season lasts from October to January. The northeast is semi-arid, and temperatures can soar to 40?C, while Amazônia has rainforests and savannas with a rainy season from January to May. The best travel time depends on the region you’re going to, but high season is usually December to March.
Rio de Janeiro (GIG) and São Paulo Guarulhos (GRU) are the two main international airports, and good hubs to connect to domestic flights. A shuttle service runs between them.
If you plan to fly a lot, get an air pass with your international ticket before you get to South America. Many Brazilian airlines operate flights throughout the country. The bus system is excellent, and some companies offer overnight travel between the major cities. The Rio-São Paulo shuttle leaves every 15 minutes. To get to more remote destinations, you might consider renting a car. Taxis operate in the cities and are generally cheap.
Camping is only advised on established campsites. Albergues da juventude are youth hostels offering dorms, while pousadas are family-run guesthouses which are run like B&Bs. Jungle lodges can be quite luxurious.
Brazil has five distinctive regional cuisines. Comida Mineira comes from Minas Gerais and largely consists of pork, vegetables and beans, while Comida Baiana from the Salvador coast uses an exotic mix of fish, shellfish, hot peppers, palm oil, coconuts and coriander. Comida do Sertão hails from the interior of the north-east and relies hugely on dried meat, fruit and beans, while and Comida Gaúcha is the most carnivorous – everything is chargrilled. Comida Amazônica is based on river fish and fruits. The national dish is feijoada, a pork stew with black beans and garlic.
A yellow fever vaccination is recommended if you’re heading to Amazônia, Goiás, Mato Grosso, Rio de Janeiro and many other areas in Brazil. There is a low risk of Malaria in Amazônia, and a very low risk in the rest of Brazil, so you may need to consult with your doctor on taking antimalarials. Water should always be bottled or purified and care should be taken when buying food from street vendors. Pick-pocketing is common – keep valuables hidden. Do not resist if you are involved in an mugging. Learn more about advised vaccinations here, and more on health and safety here.
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