If you are looking for a huge, diverse and colorful country and a vacation that will bask in your memory for years to come, look no more. Because here it is the ultimate travel guide to the biggest country in South America (and Latin America!): Brazil!
Lush beaches, wonderful forests and a truly unique culture are waiting for you to experience them. All the essential information you need to plan your dream trip to Brazil is here: tips, links, cities and things to do.
Dive into our (free) travel guides below!
The Key Info
Brazil is not big, it’s huge! It spans over 8.5 million km², giving it the title of the 5th largest country in the world. Not only that, but 210 million people live in Brazil, also making it the 5th most populated country worldwide. That means 1 in 3 people in South America are Brazilian!
As is fitting for a country of large proportions, its cities are huge too. While the capital, Brasilia, was built relatively recently, and “barely” hosts three million people, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are among the biggest cities on the planet.
Being so big, it shares borders with pretty much every other country in South America except for Chile and Ecuador. To the east of the country lies the Atlantic Ocean.
The national language is Portuguese, and perhaps because it’s the only country in America with this as its first language, it it’s a huge part of the culture and identity. There are also minority languages spoken by the different indigenous groups that live in the country.
Brazil in numbers
- Population: 210 million inhabitants
- Total size of the country: 8,515,767 km²
- Capital city: Brasilia
- Currency: Real
- Language: Portuguese
- Religion: Roman Catholic (64%), Protestants (22%), non-religious and others (14%)
The 5 largest cities in Brazil
The largest cities in Brazil are São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, Recife and the capital, Brasilia.
# 1 São Paulo
São Paulo is Brazil’s most populous city. Its metropolitan area is home to more than 21 million people, making it one of the most populated urban agglomerations on Earth.
Sao Paulo’s best-known avenue is Avenida Paulista, where you can wander around for hours and find places like Sao Paulo’s Art Museum, on of the most important museums in South America, or Liberdade neighborhood, the Japanese quarter.
Sao Paulo is known as Brazil’s cultural capital. There is street art everywhere, museums, theaters and a lot of street festivals where one can enjoy this city’s vibrant cultural scene.
There are two neighborhoods well known for being the cool spots in the city: Villa Magdalena, where you can find places like “Beco do Batman”, a alley covered with graffiti, and Pinheiros, where you can enjoy a couple of beers and meet the locals in one of its many bars.
And if you are feeling you need some nature after a few days surrounded by concrete (and graffiti), don’t forget to check out Ibirapuera Park, and enjoy a fresh coconut while wondering around this massive park.
# 2 Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro is Brazil’s crown jewel. It’s sexy, it’s vibrant, it bursts with color and music and has, arguably, the most famous beaches on the planet.
Of course a must do in Rio is checking out the different urban beaches available: the iconic Copacabana and Ipanema, Barra da Tijuca and so on.
The famous statue of Cristo Redentor sits atop of one of the “morros”, the iconic hills that surround the city where you get a fantastic view of the city.
The neighborhood known as Lapa is also Rio’s historical city center, where you can enjoy Rio’s nightlife and also check out the Theatro Municipal (Rio’s most known theater), Aqueduto da Carioca (Carioca Aqueduct), built in the mid-18th century and the Escadaria Selarón, those colorful stairs that you’ve probably seen already on pictures.
Parque Lage, a public park and Tijuca National Park are also a must see. In the latter you can hike all the way up to the highest point in Rio for a breathtaking panoramic view of the city.
# 3 Belo Horizonte
Surrounded by mountains, Belo Horizonte is an exciting city to visit: its people spend their time outside, on the thousands of bars and restaurants scattered through the city. And it is very easy to access lots of different locations on day trips: Ouro Preto or Inhotim are some of those.
# 4 Recife
Refice is the biggest city in the Northeastern part of the country. This region is known for its amazing beaches, lush nature, diving spots and for being home of the most welcoming Brazilians.
# 5 Brasilia
Brasilia is a city that was built from scratch in the 50’s and planned to be brazil’s capital. The whole city was design by the famous architect Oscar Niemeyer and it is known for its unique and modern architecture, such as the cathedral and all the government buildings.
TOP Tourist Attractions
# 1 Rio’s Carnival
Carnival is big in Brazil, but nowhere gets bigger than in Rio de Janeiro. Music, color and dancing in virtually every street of the city. This general party vibe attracts over two million people per day. And this four-day celebration ends with the spectacular Samba Parade at the Sambadrome.
# 2 Amazon rainforest
One of the most ecologically complex regions in the world, the Amazon rainforest is an extraordinary natural wonder. From Manaus, which is a city located in the heart of the rainforest you can visit it and have a once in a lifetime experience hiking through the biggest rainforest on Earth and trying to spot the elusive pink river dolphins.
# 3 Iguazu falls
At the border where Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina meet, the Iguaçu river drops spectacularly in a semicircle of waterfalls, some of them reaching more than 100 meters high. The falls are protected by the UNESCO-acclaimed Iguaçu National Park, where subtropical rain forests are the home to more than 1,000 species of birds and mammals, including deer, otters, ocelots, and capybaras.
# 4 Pantanal
The Pantanal is the world’s largest wetland, and although it lies mainly in Western Brazil, it extends to Bolivia and Paraguay as well. It is famous for its wildlife and it is one of Brazil’s major tourist attractions because it is guaranteed to actually see wildlife, among them, Jaguars.
# 5 Bonito
Bonito is one of the hottest ecotourism spots in Latin America. It is popular for having extremely clear rivers and streams running across the land, where tourists can dive and snorkel. To top it off, there are also many waterfalls and caves in the region, so it won’t disappoint those seeking for adventure.
Best time to travel
Summer in Brazil extends from December to March and winter June to September. Keep in mind heat and humidity rise the further north you go. Overall, September and October are the best months to visit Brazil: you will avoid major holiday periods, the chilly southern winter and soggy season in the Pantanal. Oh, and you will also be able to find cheaper prices.
Holidays in Brazil
- January 1: New Year
- February-March: Carnival (Held between Friday afternoon before Ash Wednesday and Ash Wednesday at noon)
- March-April: Easter. Ash Wednesday, Good Friday
- April 21: Tiradentes Day (Tiradentes was a revolutionary leader of the XVIII century who fought for the independence from the Portuguese empire.)
- May 1: Labor Day
- May 12: Mother’s Day
- June 20: Corpus Christi
- July 9: State Rebellion Day (Only in Sao Paulo)
- September 7: Independence Day (The day Brazil obtained its independence from the Portuguese empire.)
- October 12: Lady of Aparecida
- November 2: All Souls’ Day
- November 15: Republic Day (Fall of the Empire of Brazil and creation of the Republic)
- November 20: Zumbi dos Palmares (Celebrated in some of the states as a Afro-Brazilian consciousness day)
- December 25: Navidad (Christmas, bank holiday)
Do I Need a Visa?
Europeans Union citizens are exempted from getting a tourist visa and just need a valid passport.
Since June 2019, US, Australian, Japanese and Canadian citizens do not need a visa to get into Brazil either.
The national currency is the Real (R$). 1 Real is divided into 100 cents. Banknotes are available at 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100, and coins at 5, 10, 25, 50 cents, and a 1 Real coin.
Money / Credit Cards: Credit cards are of common use in the main cities, so there should be no problem paying with them. Although when travelling outside of major cities, it is a good idea to pack enough cash.
Dos and Don’ts in Brazil
Brazil, as any other country has its rules and practices that you need to know when travelling there to avoid feeling uncomfortable or even being disrespectful.
|If you need to draw money, choose an ATM inside a mall or bank rather than one on the street.||Be scared of making eye contact with those around you. This is considered to be normal and polite.|
|Brazilian locals are generally very helpful and often quite friendly. Accept their help if they offer it to you.||Get drunk. Brazilians are not often drunk and do not respect others that indulge in far too much alcohol.|
|Wear walking shoes (not hiking boots), shorts and a plain T-shirt to fit in with the locals.In places that aren’t safe always have a small amount of money to hand over in the event of a robbery.||Do drugs. It is illegal to use or be in possession of drugs in Brazil.|
Walk around at night.
|Be ready to eat a lot of barbeque Brazilian style and black beans in their traditional stew “feijoada”.||Leave the big cities without cash (withdrawing money is difficult here)|
|Eat copious amounts of Açaí. This superfood is originally from the Amazon Rainforest.||Wear ostentatious jewelry or have your valuables visibly.|
|Join dancing crowds whenever you see one.|
Must-Haves for Your Brazil Packing List!
Brazil is so big it has many different landscapes and weather conditions, a general packing list is difficult. But what cannot be missing under any circumstances is:
- Rainwear or waterproof clothing (especially if you go to Iguazu waterfalls).
- If you are travelling through Brazil you will need both warm clothes (especially in the south during the winter) and thinner and more breathable clothes.
- At least one set of fancy clothes.
- A wearable wallet.
- The correct travel adapter, in Brazil the supply voltage is 127/220V and the plugs are type C and type N.
- For the beach, don’t forget suncream. You can purchase the sandals for the beach there at a fraction of that they cost in your home country.
Secret tips from bloggers worldwide
- Fernando de Noronha: A set of Islands 800 km off the coast of Northest Brazil. A scuba diving paradise. – Lala Rebelo
- Lençois Maranhenses National Park: Surreal lakes among the dunes and by the ocean. – Our Life Our Travel
- Ilha Grande: One island, no roads, more than 20 beaches to explore… Paradise. – Explore with Lora
TOP Instagrammable Places in Brasil
- #cristoredentor (124k posts)
- #sugarloaf (331k posts)
- #ipanema (2.2M posts)
- #becodobatman (309k posts)
- #iguazu (318k posts)
- #riodejaneiro (27,3M posts)
- #barradatijuca (2.1M posts)
Fun Facts About Brasil
Did you know..?
Brasilia, the country’s capital, took just 41 months to build, from 1956 to 1960 (Rio had been the capital for the previous 197 years).
Brazil has been the world’s largest exporter of coffee for more than 150 years. It supplied around 80 per cent of the world’s coffee in the 1920s; that figure has fallen to around a third.
In 2007, it was reported that there were 67 tribes who have never had contact with modern society.