The Amazon rainforest is the world’s largest biological reserve. It contains one-third of all living species on the earth and is crossed by 10 of the world’s 20 largest rivers, including the River Amazon (the largest river in the world). The usual base for trips to the Amazon is the city of Manaus, where numerous tour operators can arrange anything from standard day trips to month-long expeditions to more remote areas. It is best to hire a local guide (trips without guides are only allowed on certain trails). During the rainy season (February to April), the flooded rainforest can be explored by boat or canoe. Several jungle lodges and hotels offer ecotourism packages, though many of these tend to be expensive. River cruises to the so-called ‘wedding of the waters’, where the clear waters of the Rio Negro meet the muddy Amazon, are popular.
Hiking and climbing
The best time for hiking and climbing is from April to October. Rio de Janeiro is the center of Brazilian rock climbing: over 300 climbs can be reached within 40 minutes from the city center. There are many great hiking trails in the national parks and along the coastline. The Iguaçu Falls on the Parana River near the junction of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay is one of the world’s greatest waterfalls, with 275 cataracts. Boat trips to the falls from Rio are available and take two days. Good aerial views can be enjoyed from a helicopter tour of the falls that can be booked on location. Use your international cell phone rentals to book a helicopter tour.
Brazil is one of the world’s top surfing destinations. The best places to surf in Brazil include Joaquina Beach (near Florianópolis in Santa Catarina state, which hosts the annual Brazilian surfing championships); Saquarema (in Rio state); Búzios (a chic resort area on the Cabio Frio Peninsula); Itacoatiara; and a string of beaches near Rio de Janeiro. There are hundreds of beaches along the coastline suitable for many types of watersports, some of the best being at Buzios; Angra (on the Costa Verde, which is fairly uncrowded, with access to hundreds of offshore islands); Fortaleza; Niteroi (near Rio, with three good beaches); and Itamaraca Island (north of Recife). Diving can be practiced in Fernando de Noronha (a small archipelago off Brazil’s north eastern coast in Pernambuco state, where a strict environmental protection program allows a maximum of 420 visitors at a time); Angra dos Reis (a seaside village in Rio de Janeiro state, part of Ilha Grande Bay, with possible diving trips to 300 surrounding islands); Bonito (located in the fairly untouched and undeveloped Panatal region); Recife (the ‘birthplace’ of Brazil, offering excellent diving in the vicinity); and Parcel Manoel Luís. Diving clubs are located all along the coastline. For further information, contact the Brazilian Tourist Board.
Rio de Janeiro’s spectacular location makes for a number of dazzling golf courses. The Gávea Golf & Country Club, located beneath the massive Gávea rock and next to São Conrado beach, has an 18-hole course; non-members are not allowed at Itanhangá Golf Club has a 9- and an 18-hole course, located near Barra da Tijuca beach. By using your Brazil cellular phone rental you can make reservations at a golf course.
Carnaval and music
four days in the South, to two weeks in northern cities such as Salvador and Recife. Brazilians themselves remark that the Recife and Olinda celebrations are the most distinctive but it is cities like Rio or Salvador that receive the most foreign visitors. However in every town and village in Brazil, Carnaval is a time to celebrate and the visitor will see processions and blocos every region during Carnaval time.
Accommodation is traditionally prepaid in four- or five-day blocks and overland travel during Carnaval is notoriously difficult, although always entertaining!
Music: Brazil is the perfect place to sample the samba, bossa nova or lambada and the major cities, particularly Rio de Janeiro, are full of cafes with live music and dancing. Gefieiras are samba parlours where visitors can either watch or join in. In Rio, many gefieiras are located on the south side. The Copacabana beach, where parties are staged nearly 24 hours a day, is also a good location for sampling some Latin American entertainment. An exciting way to experience the genuine samba is by attending a rehearsal at the escolas de samba (samba schools), which open their doors to visitors a couple of months before the beginning of Rio de Janeiro’s carneval. Bandas, the non-professional equivalent of the samba schools, are also a good place to practice. Tickets for the carnival go on sale two weeks before the beginning. The best costumes and most spectacular samba parades can be seen at the Sambódromo (Sambadrome), a stadium on Rua Marquês de Sapucaí, where 14 samba schools parade on Carnival Sunday and Monday; the parades go on for 24 hours and tickets should be bought well in advance. It is possible for visitors to take part in a parade. One week of preparation should be allowed and hotels can often make all the necessary arrangements. During carnival, foreign visitors should be alert to pickpockets and not carry more money than needed.
A good way to experience the Brazilian Maracana Stadium, the largest in the world.