WHAT ARE THE BEST THINGS TO DO IN BRAZIL?
Welcome to Brazil! We come to discover this immense country (Fifth largest country in the world in surface area) for its beaches, for its warmth, for its music, for its inevitable carnival, for its tropical rainforests and the urban jungle of its cities… faces of Brazil that deserve a visit.
The extent of the country and the diversity of its climates allow you to visit it throughout the year provided you choose your region carefully. It is however the month of September which is globally the most favourable to the discovery of the country.
On this page, you will be able to discover in pictures the main experiences not to be missed in Brazil, its must-see tourist sites and the lesser known but worth a visit attractions (cities, national parks, beaches…).
A short description will give you the information you need to make the most of each experience.
Although it is impossible to see everything at once, this selection may be useful for you to plan a travel itinerary if you are going to visit Brazil for the first time by giving you a taste of the best things to do and places to visit.
The points are not in a precise order. Hoping that this selection is useful to you, do not hesitate to leave a comment if you think there are points to add.
Note: If you are planning a travel itinerary in Brazil, remember that the distances from one region to another are very long (long bus journeys to plan). Some national parks are also difficult to access, so it is up to you to choose what you want to see, depending on your budget and the time you spend there.
Here are 21 things to do and see during a trip to Brazil:
1. Rio de Janeiro
The arrival point in Brazil: do not miss a visit at the top of Corcovado to the statue of Christ to enjoy a superb 360° view, as well as at the top of the sugar loaf for another perspective of the city.
2. Iguazu Falls
Located on the border with Argentina and in two national parks belonging to each country, Iguazu Falls is a natural wonder. Allow at least two days to visit the sides of both countries.
3. The Pantanal
The largest marsh in the world, the Pantanal is a protected area that is home to a vast biodiversity: monkeys, anacondas, lizards and caimans live here as well as a large number of birds.
4. Lencois Maranhenses National Park
A unique place in the world located in the state of Maranhão, in northeast Brazil: white sand dunes punctuated at regular intervals by turquoise freshwater lakes.
5. The Aquario Natural
The most popular attraction in the Bonito region, the Aquario natural is located at the source of a clear water river where you can swim with a snorkel and mask among many fish, just like an aquarium in the middle of the forest. The ecological reserve is located 8 km from the city of Bonito. You can also visit caves, waterfalls and explore the forest via landscaped trails. For divers, don’t miss the Lagoa Misteriosa. The Aquário Encantado, in Nobres, is a similar place to the Aquario Natural but which is much less known.
6. Chapada Diamantina National Park
A gigantic national park accessible from the city of Lençóis where you can trek through a landscape of caves, canyons and low mountains. A great place for a amazing panorama is from Morro do Pai Inácio.
7. The city of Salvador
The capital of the State of Bahia is considered as the birthplace of Brazilian culture.
8. Chapada das Mesas National Park
A relatively new national park (since 2005) named after the table mountains it contains (‘mesas’). There are amazing rock formations, canyons and many waterfalls. It’s accessible from the town of Carolina, via the city of Imperatriz.
9. The colonial city of Paraty
Parati / Paraty is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located three hours drive from Rio: it’s a former Portuguese colony by the sea in a superb setting. It’s one of the best preserved colonial cities in Brazil, and a good base for exploring the surrounding Costa Verde.
10. The Fernando de Noronha Archipelago
An archipelago of 21 islands and marine natural park with magnificent beaches on the northeast coast of Brazil, off Natal. The main island of the archipelago is Fernando de Noronha, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is famous for its scuba diving spots. Many dolphins can be seen there. The archipelago is located 345 km off the northeast coast of Brazil (one hour flight from Recife). The number of tourists who can access it at the same time is limited to protect the ecosystem.
11. Pedra Azul State Park
A little off the beaten track, Pedra Azul State Park is accessible all year round and deserves to be visited for its unspoilt natural beauty. The main attraction is the 1900-metre-high granite peak, which takes its name from the blue colour reflected at certain times of the day. A natural sculpture that looks like a lizard seems to scale it according to the angle from which it is observed. A guide is required to visit the park.
12. Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park
Located in the state of Goiás, Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park is accessible from the city of Alto Paraíso. Its rock formations are among the oldest on the planet. It’s part of UNESCO’s world heritage because it shelters the Cerrado, one of the oldest and most diverse ecosystems in the tropical world. The park is closed during the rainy season (December to February). There are many waterfalls and natural swimming pools.
13. The Parque Estadual do Jalapão
Jalapão is a state park in the northeast of the State of Tocantins, about 250 km from Palmas. It’s a very isolated, mysterious place with many possibilities for exploration between plateaus, rock formations, rivers and waterfalls.
14. The Carnival
In February every year, the most popular national holiday in Brazil is the largest tourist event in Rio de Janeiro (it’s celebrated in all the cities of the country) where it offers a particularly memorable and spectacular show with the parade of samba schools.
15. Explore the Amazon
From the city of Manaus, the gateway to the Amazon region, you can take several-day excursions in the forest or by boat on the Rio Amazonas (remember to get vaccinated against yellow fever and protect yourself from mosquitoes!). The further away from Manaus, the more likely you are to see rare animals.
16. Chapada dos Guimarães National Park
Located in the heart of Brazil, you can see archaeological sites with rock paintings and many dinosaur fossils. The best time to visit it is from May to July, when you can see many wildflowers.
17. The National Park of Caparão
Located on the border of the states of Minas Gerais and Espírito Santo. The Pico da Bandeira (2890 m), one of the highest mountains in Brazil, is located here. The best time to visit this place is between April and October.
18. The canyons of the Geral and Aparados da Serra national parks
Accessible 17 km from the city of Cambará do Sul (northeast of Rio Grande do Sul State), these are two contiguous national parks where you can see spectacular canyons, especially those of Fortalez and Itaimbezinho (the largest in Brazil). The best season to trek there is from May to August (avoid September – poor visibility due to fog).
19. The beaches
If you like beaches, Brazil offers some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Some names to remember: Jericoacoara, Porto de galinhas, Praia dos carneiros near Tamandaré, Lopes Mendes in Ilha Grande, Praia do Toque in Alagoas, Taipus de Fora Beach in Marau, Farol and Forno Beach in Arraial do Cabo (2 hours drive from Rio), Dolphins Bay in praia de pipa (to see dolphins) and finally Gales in Maragogi.
20. The Serra da Capivara National Park
A national park located in the south-east of Piauí State, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its many rock paintings and prehistoric sites.