Think Brazil, think the world-famous carnival in Rio de Janeiro, the Christ Redeemer Statue, Copacabana Beach, an abundance of coffee, and an insatiable passion for football. This vibrant country is alive with colour, festivals, music and dance. Breaking a few records in the landscape stakes, Brazil boasts the largest beach in the world - Praia do Cassino Beach (stretching over 150 miles or 240km), and is also the world’s longest country, spanning an impressive 2,800 miles (4,400km). In fact, Brazil is so colossal, it has three different time zones and shares borders with Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela.
A continent rich in natural wonders, historic cities and imposing monuments, you've made it to South America. With imposing mountain ranges, ethereal waters and an exotic wildness, it is little surprise this enchanting part of the world is also known as the 'land of poets', its sweeping landscapes having influenced the works of Pablo Neruda and Gabriela Mistral.
Andean peaks, Amazonian rainforests and Incan ruins treat you to a mystical world of natural beauty, vibrant civilizations, other-worldly relics and colonial towns. Savour the mouthwatering delights of local cuisines, including dinner at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Rio de Janeiro and a selection of Peruvian delicacies at the esteemed MAYTA in Lima.
Why not begin your South American adventure with a journey to the Galapagos Islands?
Hosting both the 20th World Cup in 2014 and the 2016 Olympics, reminded us of just how magnificent Brazil really is. Not surprisingly, many famous people call Brazil home, including retired football legend Ronaldo, the insightful novelist and lyricist Paulo Coelho, and the globally successful actress and model Gisele Bundchen.
The former capital city of Rio de Janeiro offers spectacular sightseeing opportunities. Sugarloaf Mountain is a great place to start a Brazilian adventure, and can be accessed via cable car. At a height of 220 metres above sea level, spectacular views of lush forests, majestic mountains and glorious beaches await you at the top. In contrast, deep within Rio's favelas, of which there are over 1,000 in total, a different side of Brazil can be experienced, amid its cascades of shanty towns that cover the city's hillsides. Observing the typical lifestyle of those living in a favela gives perspective on the Brazilian community and way of life. Music is so important to Brazilian culture that a visit to the iconic Maze jazz club, regularly frequented by celebrities, poses the possibility of brushing shoulders with the world’s super rich and will give you a flavour of this beloved sound. Fabulous views of Rio and Guanabara Bay are an added bonus while enjoying entertainment at Maze.
Outside of Rio, taking the train up Corcovado Hill, leads to the open arms of Christ the Redeemer – a 38-metre tall statue that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and stands at a mighty 710 metres above sea level. While exploring in Brazil, be sure to see a dance show at the electric Ginga Tropical, giving you a medley of different music and dance styles originating in Brazil, with everything from samba to forró.
Churrasco or barbecued meat reigns strong in Brazil, is served in generous portions, and can be eaten to celebrate almost any occasion. When savoured in a restaurant, barbecued pork, lamb, or even wild boar will likely be served on skewers. Hot clay pots of moqueca (fish stew with onions, tomatoes and coriander) are a firm favourite, as is feijoada (a filling stew comprised of sausages, pork and black beans). Farafo brings fried cassava flour to life with egg, bacon and all manner of extras, eaten with beans or rice. Fried savoury delights feature heavily in Brazil and include: acarajé, which is a patty of black-eyed peas and onions, deep-fried and stuffed with shrimps, bread, cashew nuts and other fillings; pastéis – crispy pastry parcels with melted cheese or beef inside; and mandioca frita – fried yucca sticks.
Desserts are just as divine, pleasing everyone from chocolate-lovers - with pavé (a cake layered with cookies and chocolate) and brigadeiro (condensed milk chocolate truffles) - to ice-cream fans, with créme de papaya (a papaya and vanilla ice-cream blend). Other delicious treats that are available all over Brazil are quindim (a yellow-coloured baked coconut dessert, containing eggs, sugar and often butter too), beijinho de coco (coconut truffles), and bolinho de chuva (fried dough balls covered in cinnamon and sugar). Tropical fruits such as açai berries, jabuticabas (similar to grapes), maracujá (passion fruit), guavas, caju apples, guaranas (very sweet berries), papayas, pineapples, carambola (star fruit) and cupuaçu (related to the cacoa fruit but tasting quite like a pear), find their way into desserts, sorbets, sauces and drinks.
Coconut water originated here and is served straight from the coconut itself. Ask for a vitamina de abacate and you can look forward to a delicious avocado, milk and sugar, green-coloured smoothie. Rather than mass-produced carbonated drinks that can be sipped all over the globe, opting for a Guaraná Antartica is a Brazilian soda that is flavoured with guarana berries and will bring a caffeine hit, should you need one. Drinking chimarrão is a communal activity, where this special tea is placed in a metal cup and shared with friends, as they take turns to sip it and then pass the cup around. Cachaça is not dissimilar from white rum and is made from fermented sugar cane juice. It forms the base of many cocktails and alcoholic drinks, including: batida (cachaça mixed with fruit juices and fruit, to form a type of alcoholic smoothie); caipirinha (cachaça mixed with sugar and lime); and porradinha (cachaça mixed with soda).
Numerous beers are available, with the craft beer Devassa’s Tropical Red Ale, Colorado’s Indica IPA, Skol, Antartica and Brahma being popular choices with locals and visitors. Açai berry not only features in desserts but is also used to make some beers and vodkas. Tap water is unfortunately not safe to drink in Brazil, so keep this in mind when asking for ice in your drinks.
Landscape and wildlife
A massive 60% of the Amazon Rainforest is located in the north of Brazil, which contrasts greatly from the swamp areas in the central-west, the coastal plains, and the campos (dry grasslands) in the south. These highly varied landscapes result in richly diverse wildlife. Brazil is inhabited by all sorts of creatures, including anteaters, armadillos, sloths, monkeys, otters, deer, caimans, snakes, foxes, wolves, raccoons, tapirs, jaguars and pumas.
With over 70 National Parks, Itatiaia, Pantanal Matogrossense, Lencois Maranhenses, Iguacu, and Chapada Diamantina National Parks are among the most beautiful. In terms of marine life, this stunning country has an enormous coral reef and beautiful mammals such as whales, dolphins, manatees, and five types of sea turtle all living around its coastline.