One of the world’s most captivating places, Brazil is a country of powdery white-sand beaches, verdant rainforests and wild, rhythm-filled metropolises.
Brazil’s attractions extend from frozen-in-time colonial towns to otherworldly landscapes of red-rock canyons, thundering waterfalls and coral-fringed tropical islands.
Then there’s Brazil’s biodiversity: legendary in scope, its diverse ecosystems boast the greatest collection of plant and animal species found anywhere on earth. There are countless places where you can spot iconic species in Brazil, including toucans, scarlet macaws, howler monkeys, capybara, pink dolphins, sea turtles and thousands of other living species.
If you’re planning a fabulous trip to Brazil, here are the 8 natural wonders you don’t want to miss:
FERNANDO DE NORONHA
Comprised of 21 islands and islets, the archipelago of Fernando de Noronha is a paradise of indescribable beauty, and was declared a Natural World Heritage Site by Unesco. For the islands to continue to preserve their nature, the number of visitors is limited and you have to pay an environmental preservation fee to enter the island.With crystal-clear waters, rich marine life – including the highest known concentration of resident dolphins in the world – and spectacular tropical landscapes, it’s in a Brazilian class all of its own. The country’s “beach bible”, Guia Quatro Rodas Praias, awards five stars to just five beaches in the whole country – and three are right here.
The very life spring of the planet; larger than the next eight largest rivers combined, responsible for the air we breathe, the water we drink, the Amazon River is truly a natural wonder.
Named after female warriors of Greek mythology, the Amazon is itself a place of near-mythical status. Its quintessential experiences are more sublime than superlative: canoeing through a flooded forest, dozing in a hammock on a boat chugging upriver, waking to the otherworldly cry of howler monkeys. On a river whose size is legendary, it’s actually the little things that make it special. The Amazon is all this and more.
Whether you visit it in the rainy season and silently glide through the flooded forests in a canoe or you visit in the dry season with sunny skies and the opportunity to take long hikes; there really is no bad time to come. The Amazon offers experiences such as tree climbing, piranha fishing, caiman spotting and experiences with local rubber-tapper communities. Jungle lodges offer visitors a chance to sleep in the jungle and explore the area on survival trips where river boat excursions offer the chance to chug along the waters and experience the river from a different point of view. However you choose to experience The Amazon it will be an unforgettable experience.
RIO DE JANEIRO
Golden beaches and lush mountains, samba-fueled nightlife and spectacular football matches: looking out from the 710m peak of Corcovado, you will see why Rio is called the Cidade Maravilhosa.
Lushly forested mountains fringe the city, shimmering beaches trace the shoreline and a string of tiny islands lie scattered along the seafront. Far from being mere cinematic backdrop, this seaside beauty hosts outstanding outdoor adventures: hiking in the Tijuca rainforest, cycling alongside the lake and beaches, sailing across Baía de Guanabara (Guanabara Bay), and surfing, rock climbing and hang gliding amid one of the world’s most stunning urban landscapes.
Rio’s beaches have long seduced visitors. Copacabana Beach became a symbol of Rio during the 1940s, when international starlets would jet in for the weekend. Hogging the spotlight these days is Ipanema Beach, its fame and beauty unabated since bossa nova stars Tom Jobim and Vinícius de Moraes introduced the world to its allure in the 1960s. For cariocas (residents of Rio), the beach is Rio’s backyard – a playground that’s free and open to all, offering endless enjoyment in the form of football, volleyball, surfing, snacking, drinking or simply relaxing amid the passing parade of people.
Located in the heart of South America, the world’s largest wetland covers some 210,000 sq km. The majority is in Brazil, split between the states of Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul. These open marshes are home to an immense variety of life – if you like to see animals in their natural environment, the Pantanal is an unmissable destination.
The Pantanal has few people and no towns. Distances are so great and ground transport so poor that people get around in small airplanes and motorboats; car travel is restricted by the seasons.
You can either penetrate the Pantanal from the north, where the Transpantaneira runs deep into the region, or from the south, where Estrada Parque cuts across the wetlands. The much-mooted road right across the Pantanal has long been shelved due to concerns about the general absurdity of having a road that’s underwater for half the year.
FOZ DO IGUAÇU
One of the planet’s most awe-inspiring sights, the Iguaçu Falls are simply astounding. A visit is a jaw-dropping, visceral experience, and the power and noise of the cascades – a chain of hundreds of waterfalls nearly 3km in extension – live forever in the memory. An added benefit is the setting: the falls lie split between Brazil and Argentina in a large expanse of national park, much of it rainforest teeming with unique flora and fauna.
The Brazilian city of Foz do Iguaçu is the perfect base for exploring Iguaçu Falls in both Brazil and Argentina as well other attractions in the area such as Itaipu Binacional and Parque das Aves.
The name of this 15 sq km national park refers to its immense expanses of dunes, which look like lençóis (bedsheets) strewn across the landscape; they stretch 70km along the coast and up to 50km inland. Located halfway between São Luís and the Piauí border, it’s a spectacular place, especially from about May to September when rain filtered through the sand forms thousands of crystal-clear pools and lakes between the dunes. The lagoons are at their best in June, July and August. The park also includes beaches, mangroves and some interesting fauna, especially turtles and migratory birds.
The main base for visiting the park is the not particularly charming town of Barreirinhas on the picturesque Rio Preguiças near the southeast corner of the park. Other access points – well worth the effort of getting to if you have at least two nights to spend in the area – are the remote villages of Atins and Santo Amaro.
POCO ENCANTADO AND POCO AZUL
Poco Encantado aka the Enchanted Well is a sunken pool nestled in a cave with crystal clear water and visibility unlike any other. From April to September the sun is at the perfect angle to shine through the natural window and hit the water; create a stunning blue effect. The unbelievably clear water allows visitors to view the ancient rocks and tree trunks that line the bottom. Visiting this fragile eco-system is a favorite experience amongst visitors to the Chapada Diamantina National Park region.
Poco Azul is very similar to the Enchanted Well with one defining difference. Poco Azul offers visitors the chance to swim in its startling blue waters amongst ancient trees that have sunken into the pool. The contrast of golden rocks with the crystal blue waters will delight you. Swimmers are required to take a shower and wear a life preserver when they go in. Home to some of the country’s most impressive caves; The Chapada Diamantina National Park is set amongst table mountains, gorges, ravines, canyons and semi-deserts. This regions offers two of Brazil’s most spectacular caves and these natural wonders are a must visit.
ENCONTRO DAS AGUAS
The “Meeting of Waters” is one of the main tourist attractions in Manaus, Brazil. For a total of six kilometers the Rio Negro and the Solimoes River run side by side without mixing. The Rio Negro boasts dark black colored water that runs at 2km an hour with a temperature of 28 degrees Celsius. Whereas the Solimoes River is a lighter sandy color and flows between 4-6km an hour and has a temperature of 22 degrees Celsius. The difference in speed, temperature and water density is how this unbelievable phenomenon is explained.
You will have to travel almost four miles downstream to see where these two rivers actually meet to form the Amazon River. A full day cruise down the Rio Negro will take you to where the rivers meet and provide you with the most spectacular views as well as a fun-filled day on the river
Just beyond Manaus, the warm dark Rio Negro pours into the cool creamy Rio Solimões, but because of differences in temperature, speed and density, their waters don’t mix, instead flowing side by side for several kilometers. The bi-color phenomenon occurs throughout the Amazon, but nowhere as dramatically as here. Day trips always include a stop here, and many tour operators at least pass by en route to their lodges. Never disappoints.