#travel to brazil
There has never been a better time to visit Brazil, the world’s fifth-largest country. But where to start? Our expert Chris Moss provides a step-by-step guide.
Now is a good time to plan a trip to Brazil – and not just because the World Cup was help there this year and the Olympic Games two years later.
After decades of overselling a handful of tried and tested beach destinations, Brazil is now inviting travellers to explore further. Even the mildly adventurous tourist can get deep into the Pantanal, the immense wetlands of the south that rival the Amazon for biodiversity, or drive the coast roads of the north-east. Intrepid beach lovers can mingle with Brazilian travellers on the Costa Verde, in Fortaleza and in the resorts of Santa Catarina.
City-hoppers can go to Brasilia to see what futuristic architecture looked like in the Sixties, to São Paulo for some of South America’s finest food, to Salvador da Bahia for Afro-Brazilian culture, and to Olinda or Ouro Preto for colonial treasures – though perhaps not all in one go, as distances are enormous.
The enduring favourites are there too: Rio (still unmissable), the Iguaçu Falls, the Amazon river and rainforest. In and around all of these, hotels, restaurants and services are greatly improved. A fire that killed more than 200 at a nightclub in Santa Maria in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, in January was a reminder that safety in Brazil is never guaranteed.
In Rio de Janeiro, a special police squad is still kept busy by drug gangs, murderers and armed robbers. In general, however, increased security has helped revive not only Rio but other once crime-ridden cities; most observers agree there is a link between increased prosperity and falling crime.
Water lilies in the Brazilian rainforest, near Manaus.
It’s too early to say whether the boom will share out the wealth in a way that will transform Brazil for good. But this is a nation on the rise, and it will be interesting to see how economic and political power meld or compete with the national passions – for music and culture, for football and sports, for carnival and the carnal, for having a good time, come what may.
For travellers, it is unquestionably an exciting time to be visiting South America’s most diverse and most seductive country.
When to go
There’s no “best season” in a country that stretches from the Guianas to Uruguay and from the Atlantic to the sub-Andean foothills of Peru. Broadly speaking, the north is always warm, and the weather is humid or rainy, especially inland.
The Amazon basin dominates Brazil and the heaviest rains fall between December and May. If you go when the forests are flooded, you will see primates, plenty of bird life, caymans and river dolphins. If you go when the water level is lower you will see the same creatures adapting to less water and more competition.
The coast from Belém to Rio is generally sunny. On the northernmost beaches, it can be hot: in Fortaleza the average is 79-82F (26-28C). Rainfall is greatest in December and lowest in July. South of Rio, in the subtropics, there are seasons. The southern winter runs from July until September and temperatures in Florianópolis can fall as low as 50F (10C) in July.