Brazil's contrasts are everywhere. Take a look around when you land. Dense forests that are home to pint-sized monkeys and birds found nowhere else brush up against gleaming high-rises, which in turn border favelas (shantytowns). Juxtapositions of this sort can make any experience breathtaking and shocking at once.
It is known as the "lung of the world"because of the Amazon forest, it is also the biggest country in South America and the 5th largest in the world. People rarely realize the biodiversity and cultural diversity- there 4 time zones, rain forest, an Atlantic forest, drylands and wetlands, flatlands, high mountains, skyscrapers, busy urban centers and quite a few deserted beaches hidden away in the 4,655 miles (7,491km) of coastline.
A stroll through any Brazilian town will show you this is one of the most racially mixed populations anywhere. The country was shaped not only by the Portuguese, who brought their religion and language, but also by millions of enslaved Africans, the native indigenous, and waves of European, Arabic, and Japanese immigrants. Most Brazilians include elements from several of these backgrounds in their cultural and ethnic heritage.
When the Portuguese arrived in 1500, the Brazilian population consisted of over 5 million indigenous people divided into at least 1,000 communities. When their numbers began depleting due to the severity of slavery, the Portuguese started shipping slaves from Africa in the mid-16th century. Many of these slaves assimilated with the white and local population. Over the centuries, Brazil's peoples were diversified further by several waves of immigration from the Middle East, Asia and Europe. After over 500 years of immigration and integration, modern Brazil is a true ethnic mosaic, where diverse elements combine to create a vibrant nation renowned for its spirit.
Very little is known about the history of Brazil before 1500, when Europeans first traveled there. Archaeological remains, which consist mainly of pottery, suggest a complex society that was in existence long before the colonialists arrived. After more than 300 years of Portuguese colonization, Brazil became a republic in 1889. Long periods of totalitarian rule finally led to the return of democracy in 1989.
The Portuguese colonization that began in the 1500s combined with the influx of immigrants from a wide geographical and ethnic spectrum, has lent an eclectic character to the social fabric of the country.
The country's striking diversity is reflected in the major cities, each of which has its own distinctive character.
Wanting to visit historical sites:
-Salvador: Bahia's star attraction is packed with historic churches and Afro-Brazilian culture.
-Ouro Preto: One of Brazil's most alluring colonial towns, hilly Ouro Preto is packed with 18th century treasures.
-Olinda: remnants of lovely architecture left by the Portuguese as well as the Dutch.
-Alcantara: Fascinating town in Maranhao full of restored and abandoned mansions and churches.
-Paraty: Picturesque cobble stone village with beautifully preserved 18th century buildings.
-Museu Historico Nacional: One of the best places to learn about the presence of the Portuguese royals in Rio.
Wanting to visit scenery:
-Fernando de Noronha: cliffs, rock pinnacles, beautiful bays and beaches all packed into one 10km- long island.
-Iguacu Falls: Spread between Argentina and Brazil, these are some of the most spectacular waterfalls on earth.
-Parque Nacional da Chapada Diamantina: In the Bahian interior, you can hike across dramatic plateaus and swim in waterfalls.
-Lencois Maranhenses: An otherworldly landscape of windswept dunes and sparkling blue lagoons.
-Alter do Chao: Startling white-sand beaches surrounded by jungle deep in the Amazon.
Wanting to visit wildlife:
-The amazon: Manaus is still one of the top gateways for a journey into the mother of all rainforests.
-The Panthanal: You're likely to see a great many animal species in these wildlife-rich wetlands.
-Fernando de Noronha: World-class diving and snorkeling amid abundant marine life.
-Praia do Rosa: Watch southern right whales off the coast between June and October
-Parque Nacional de Monte Pascoal: Part of the bio-rich Atlantic rainforest, this park lies just south of Salvador.
On the border between Brazil and Argentina, the Iguacu Falls is one of Brazil's most magnificent sights and the region's main tourist attraction for domestic and international visitors.
The four states of Rio de Janeiro, Espirito Santo, Minas Gerais, and Sao Paulo constitute Brazil's economic heartland. The giant metropolises- Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte and Sao Paulo- burt with energetic cultural life. Rio de Janeiro holds the greatest attractions with its Carnaval and breathtaking mountains and beaches. Beyond the urban hubs, nature and rural life exist undisturbed. Wild islands lie a short boat ride away. Inland, in the folds of the rugged Minas hills, are colonial town whose cobbled streets, colorful Portuguese town houses and ornate Baroque churches remain little changed since imperial times.
RIO DE JANEIRO:
Until the government moved to Brasilia, this was the center of power, and plenty of impressive monuments, parks and colonial buildings remain. One of the world's most beautiful and vibrant cities and is the number one destination for visitors coming to Brazil.
Known as Cidade Maravilhosa, or the Marvelous City, as Rio is known in Brazil. Synonymous with the girl from Ipanema, the dramatic views from Christ the Redeemer atop Corcovado mountain, and fabulously flamboyant Carnival celebrations, Rio is a city of stunning architecture abundant museums, and marvelous food. Rio is also home to 23 beaches, an almost continuous 73km (45 mile) ribbon of sand.
Museu Nacional de Belas Artes: Works by Brazil's leading 19th and 20th century artists fill th space at the National Museum of Fine Arts.
Arcos da Lapa: Formerly the Aqueduto da Carioca (Carioca Aqueduct) this structure with 42 massive stone arches was built between 1744 and 1750 to carry water from the Cariaco River in the hillside neighborhood of Santa Teresa to Centro.
Pao de Acucar: (Sugarleaf Mountain) The indigenous Tupi people originally called the soaring 396 meter (1,300 foot) granite block at the mouth of Baia de Guanabara. Recommended to visit before climbing the considerably higher Corcovado.
Copacabana: It is the most famous tourist area and iconic neighborhood thanks to it's beach and grande-dame hotels such as the Copacabana Palace.
Paco Imperial: The former imperial palace was home to the royal family when they arrived from Portugal.
Jardim Botanico: Prince Regent Dom Joao VI ensured the city would have no shortage of green spaces, and ordered this verdant garden planted in 1808.
Over 50% of Brazil's people are in the state of Sao Paulo alone.
Sao Pauolo City: Areas worth exploring are Jardins, a fashionable dining and shopping district, lies close to the museums and historical buildings in the center, which include the state art gallery, Pinacoteca do Estado. Close by, upscale Avenida Paulista features the state gallery, MASP, which boasts the finest collection of European paintings in the Southern Hemisphere. The vast Parque do Ibirapuera has several museums, many of which have been designed by Oscar Niemeyer.
Also known as the Amazon region, the North region is mainly covered by rain forest and is sparsely populated. When you fly over, all you can see is an immense green carpet from horizon to horizon, which hardly sign of a human habitation.
Reservations have been set up for different tribes of Native Indians (over 520,000) and most of the larger groups live in these areas. Many maintain a lifestyle similar to the one they lived before the Europeans arrived. The indigenous territories cover 10% of the total area of Brazil. The Amazon is the world's largest river in volume and its annual outflow accounts for one-fifth of the world's fresh water entering the sea. It contains the largest single reserve of biological organisms in the world.
The region has powerful folklore traditions, mainly with indigenous origins, that are kept alive by the caboclos-mixed descendants of Portuguese and Native Indians.
Carnival is the biggest party of the year. Like Mardi Gras, Carnival has its origins in pagan festivals of spring.
It is well known for it's floats playing old-fashioned samba songs.
Perhaps the most well-known Brazilian staple in meat, especially those that come from churrascarias, sizzling cuts of meat.