The Amazon: Covering the northern and western portions of the country, the Amazon sprawls over nearly a third of the country. Most visitors start an Amazon trip in Manaus. Capital of Amazonas, Brazil's largest state, Manaus sits on the confluence of the brown Solimoes River and the black Rio Negro, which merge and travel side by side for many miles without mixing. This phenomena is called "The Meeting of the Waters" and is one of the area's main attractions. The city of Manaus stills displays the opulence of its rubber boom days. The dome of the Opera House with its roof consisting of 60,000 imported tiles can be seen from throughout the city. The Customs House was brought over stone by stone from Europe and reassembled. From Manaus excursions can be made into the depths of the surrounding rainforest. Services range from small riverboats to air-conditioned jungle hotels. Scheduled cruises are available from Manaus including trips on the two-deck riverboat "Tuna" and large catamarans. Expedition-style boats are available from Manaus for charter.
Belem: Founded in 1611, Belem is 87 miles up the Amazon from the sea. Here is the renown Emilio Goeldi Museum with its fine examples of Marajo Indian pottery. Also famous are the city's zoological and botanical gardens. The riverfront Ver-o-Peso Market dates from Portuguese colonial days. Excursions from Belem include: the large fluvial island of Marajo with ranch accommodations, good bird-watching and wildlife.
Brazil's northeast retains much of the cultural, artistic and historical heritage of its European colonizers, the Portuguese. Major cities are: Fortaleza: Capital of the State of Ceara, Fortaleza is a splendid coastal city of palm-studded, white sand beaches. Fortaleza has great resort hotels and restaurants, excellent handicrafts and shopping. Best buys include hand-embroidered textiles, hammocks, and handwoven lace. Must see: the "jangadas" (local fishing rafts) returning at sunset with the day's catch. These rafts are also used to take locals and visitors out to the offshore barrier reefs to spend the day relaxing in the clear, shallow waters.
Recife: This uniquely situated city spans the mainland, the peninsula, and a small island. Brazil's fourth largest city, Recife contains excellent examples of colonial art, architecture, museums and forts. Nearby the town of Olinda was founded in 1537 and still retains many 17th century houses, churches, monasteries and convents. Recife has a vibrant Carnival in addition to the more than 100 religious festivals it celebrates annually. From Recife one can visit Caruaru with its big weekend market of leather, pottery and straw goods. Nova Jerusalem, a replica of Old Jerusalem, has the world's largest open-air theater where, during Easter Week, the crucifixion is recreated with a cast of 500 people plus a walking audience of over 10,000. Salvador, Bahia: Located midway on Brazil's Atlantic coast, Salvador was the first city founded in Brazil and Brazil's first capital. Today it's the country's fifth largest city. As if in a postcard, black women in white lace costumes seem to decorate colonial doorways along cobblestone streets that wind among ornate Baroque and Rococo churches. Salvador is known for its rich African heritage - visitors can witness local "candomble" religious ceremonies. North and south of town are small fishing villages with beautiful beaches. Off the coast, visit the island of Itaparica. Excellent hotels, museums and unique gastronomic dishes found nowhere else in Brazil make Salvador a popular addition to a Brazilian trip.
Rio de Janeiro: Rio, "Cidade Maravilhosa" - the Marvelous City, is considered by many the world's most beautiful. Rio is woven between 20 miles of white sand beaches trimmed by green, rolling peaks. There are several beaches. The most famous are Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon. All boast hotels ranging from first class to world class! While the beaches and sidewalk cafes typify the city's day-to-day atmosphere, two main attractions should be visited. First is Sugar Loaf, the 1,230 feet high granite cone that rises from the bay and is reached by a spectacular two-stage cable car. From Sugar Loaf's summit there are unforgettable panoramic views of the city, beaches and Guanabara Bay. The second sightseeing "must" is an ascent of Corcovado Mountain, with its towering statue of Christ the Redeemer where Rio's beauty can again be appreciated with a 360° view. One can find any type of cuisine in the city but try a local "churrascaria," a typical barbecue restaurant. Samba shows are spectacular and rival the most flamboyant Las Vegas revues with samba rhythms, costumes and dance. Near Rio are several beach resorts: Angra dos Reis to the south and Buzios to the north. Popular day trips include Petropolis, the sumptuous summer home of Brazil's former Emperor Dom Pedro II.
Belo Horizonte: Capital of the mining state of Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte was Brazil's first pre-planned city and today is the country's third largest. Situated on a hilly site surrounded by mountains, Belo Horizonte has parks, museums, neoclassical to modern architecture, art galleries, and handicraft fairs. This is the place to find the country's best selection of semi-precious stones and jewelry at bargain prices. Near the city are over 400 caves and grottoes and several provincial towns of historic interest: Sabara, Mariana, Congonhas do Campo, Tiradentes, and the colonial masterpiece Ouro Preto. All can be reached from Belo Horizonte in a day. Ouro Preto: Founded in 1711 as the first capital of the state, Ouro Preto is an incredibly beautiful town of cobblestone streets winding up and down hills all crowned by churches and chapels. The first Brazilian town to ever be declared a national monument (1933), its history has been preserved in the architecture of the School of Mines founded in 1876, and the Governor's Palace (1742). Just 59 miles from Belo Horizonte, Ouro Preto is a recommended overnight trip.
Sao Paulo: The world's fastest growing city that's destined to become the planet's largest. It is the country's commercial and financial center. Sao Paulo's impressive skyline, abundance of hotels, and three jetports are evidence of the city's incredible growth. With its over 25,000 restaurants, grills, bars, nightclubs and cabarets, Sao Paulo has some of the world's liveliest nightlife. Sao Paulo is a city of many world records. Here the visitor will discover the world's largest exhibition hall, largest cathedral, largest Japanese colony outside of Japan, etc. There are excellent museums. An interesting side-trip is to the Butantan Snake Farm and Museum where snakes are milked for their poison to make antiserums distributed worldwide.
The Central West:
Vast and sparsely populated, Brazil's central west features two main travel attractions:
Brasilia: Designated to develop the interior, Brasilia was built as the country's pre-planned, futuristic, new capital city. Inaugurated in 1960, the "City of Tomorrow" is the epitome of modern architecture and engineering. Designed by renowned architect Oscar Niemeyer, public and private buildings are cleverly linked with easy access transportation systems.
Pantanal: Nestled between the torrid, thorny Gran Chaco and the wilderness Mato Grosso lies one of the world's largest wetlands full of birds, tropical mammals, and insects. The Pantanal offers the naturalist unparalleled opportunities. Equal to the size Holland, Switzerland and Belgium combined, transportation into the Pantanal's rugged back-country is by riverboat, canoe and/or jeep. Best months to visit May-September.
This is the land of Brazil's gauchos - who are often blonde, blue-eyed descendants of European immigrants. Here are vineyards, rolling hills, and mountains of impressive grandeur, plus seaports and fertile lands producing soybeans, grains and cattle.
Iguaçu Falls: "Mighty waters" in the Guaraní language, the falls of Iguaçu (or Iguassu, as it is written in Spanish) are awesome and impressive. Spanning three miles and containing 275 individual cataracts that fall into the 262 foot abyss of the Devil's Throat, the area is part of an multi-national park that protects thousands of species of butterflies and birds that fly through the rising mist of the falls. Here, too, are monkeys, otters, armadillos and jaguars. Hotel accommodations are good on both the Brazilian and Argentine sides. Popular half-day trips include travel to neighboring Itaipú Dam - the world's largest hydroelectric complex towering 55 stories high, running five miles long. The dam produces enough electricity to power all of Paraguay, northern Argentina and much of southern Brazil.