Described as the sexiest people on earth, Brazilians are seduced by the sounds of their music and the lure of the beach. Along its 7,250km coastline, there is a stretch of sand for every volleyball player, capoeira dancer, surfer, dune-buggy driver, and the national sport could as easily be flirtation as football.
But Brazilians have a spiritual side to match their hedonistic streak. Many exotic religions flourish, most notable Candomblé, based on African traditions, which exist alongside Catholicism. Artistically Brazil also has a rich vein that goes back to the 16th century when, prosperous from gold and diamonds, the Portuguese colonialists invested in what are some of the most beautifully preserved baroque buildings found anywhere.
As the world’s fifth largest nation, Brazil has a wide diversity of attractions and sights. Brazilians say that God created the world in six days, and on the seventh, he created Rio de Janeiro. Few who have been to Rio would argue, given the city’s spectacular mix of mountains, rainforest and beaches, and its eclectic mix of cosmopolitan city and tropical resort. Corcovado, Sugar Loaf, Copacabana, Ipanema and Maracanã are all names and images that make Rio special. As does the spectacular Carnaval.
Brazil is much more than Rio. The north-east is growing in popularity as a destination led by the state of Bahia, often dubbed ‘Africa in exile’. This was the heart of colonial Brazil and the architecture of the period is best found in the state capital of Salvador where over 800 buildings dating from the 17th and 18th centuries can be found in an area considered a world heritage site by UNESCO.
The north-east offers a heady blend of cultures, cuisine, ethnic groups, as well as many natural wonders such as the national park of Chapada Diamantina or the stunning beaches. Other popular destinations in the north-east include the states of Alagoas, Ceará, Paraíba, Pernambuco, Rio Grande do Norte and Sergipe.
Brazil is also home to the Amazon river that flows through northern Brazil to the Atlantic Ocean, feeding along the way the biggest expanse of rainforest in the world. Visitors can explore and experience the astonishing natural variety of the Amazon’s flora and fauna through gateways such as Belém or Manaus, both cities famous for their opera houses.
Offering a more visible display of flora and fauna is the Pantanal, a collection of ecosystems that is the largest wetlands in the Americas and in which can be found an immense diversity of bird and wildlife.
Brazil’s southern states of Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina and Paraná are equally full of contrasts and surprises that include outstanding beaches for surfing, dolphin and whale-watching around Florianópolis; towns such as Blumenau with its distinct Bavarian architecture; the Itaimbezinho canyon, the largest in Latin America; and the falls at Iguaçu that stretch almost three kilometres across the mighty Iguaçu river that borders Brazil and Argentina. One of the falls, the Devil’s Throat, is the largest waterfall in the world in terms of volume of water per second.
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