The best of Brazil

From its beautiful beaches to its vibrant cities that come alive after dark, Brazil is most definitely one for the bucketlist. With the Rio 2016 Olympics round the corner, what are you waiting for?

Brazil is huge. Bordered with ten South American countries, it takes up most of the continent. The majority of Brazilian escapades begin by flying to Rio de Janeiro…

Rio

Brazil's former capital is where rainforests, beaches and colossal mountains meet to form breathtaking views in every direction.

Stay in the bohemian hillside neighbourhood of Santa Teresa. Up in the hills, Santa Teresa feels village-like, yet is only a short tram ride into the city centre, and full of stunning colonial architecture and cobblestone streets. Santa Teresa is only a ten minute walk from Lapa, famous for its Friday night live music street parties and Stairs of Selarón (think Snoop Dogg and Pharrell Williams’ ‘Beautiful’ music video).

A trip to Rio is not complete without a visit to one of the hundreds of botecos, local restaurant bars with a few stools serving a mixture of empadinhas (baked or deep-fried pastries stuffed with spiced beef, pork, ham and/or chicken); feijoada (a hearty stew of black beans, sausages and cuts of pork) and beer.

Check out the buffet-style per kilo restaurants offering economical yet delicious tasting menus, also popular with Cariocas (as Rio residents are known).

Lounge on the famous Copacabana's sands – remember to refuel at the barzhinhos de praia (beach bars) with a fresh água de côco, sipped with a straw from the freshly severed coconut.

Get your urban hike on by paying a visit to Christ the Redeemer, Sugar Loaf mountain and the Tijuca forest. Funiculars and minibuses offer excursions, however it’s a two-hour climb to Christ the Redeemer from Santa Teresa – with the hard route comes the spectacular mountainous jungle views of the city.

Few people realise that Rio is also a state covering over 43,000km square, some argue this is where the real beauty lies…

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Paraty

Feel the tropical paradise vibe in Paraty, an enchanting seaside town halfway between Rio and Sau Paulo and home to hundreds of islands in the bay where the rainforest runs into the ocean.

Get stuck into surfing, hiking, swimming in natural pools, visiting waterfalls or just relaxing on one of the beaches in the village of Trinidade; splash about with turtles at Jurumirim beach; head for the hills and visit one of only six distilleries still making cachaca (a spirit made from sugarcane juice) by traditional methods; and take in the historic architecture and low-rise buildings that saw Brazil’s hidden gem awarded UNESCO World Heritage status.

Iguazu Falls

On the boundaries of Brazil and Argentina are the magnificent Iguazu Falls. Featuring 275 drops, the waterfalls stretch in width for 2,700m and vary in height between 60m and 82m, making them taller than Niagara Falls and twice as wide – you’re sure to be amazed here.

Walkways that rise from the base give the sensation that you are walking on the edge of the waterfalls. At the end of the route, you’ll find yourself in the heart of the Falls’ climactic moment of power, hearing the thundery water roaring at Devil’s Throat with water spraying in all directions.

A ten minute taxi ride from the Iguazu Falls and well worth a visit, is Parque das Aves, a bird park that’s home to more than 200 species of birds native to Brazil, including the Macaw, Toucan and Jay.

With access points to the Iguazu Falls from both the Brazilian side (Foz do Iguaçu) and the Argentinian side (Cataratas de Iguazu), be sure to check your visa requirements if planning to visit both.

Madeleine Stewart

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