November destination of the month: Brazil
Posted by: Rebecca @ Insight At: 10:37 on 01 Nov 2012
First it was gold, then rubber and coffee, and more recently, the exotic sights and sounds of the nation have been drawing curious visitors to Brazil.
Brazilians and foreigners alike have been gradually occupying the enormous empty spaces of this continent-sized country ever since the 16th century. The diverse population lives amid modern splendor in sprawling cities and in squalid deprivation in rural backwaters. They work in high-tech industries and push wooden plows behind laboring beasts.
Perhaps nowhere on earth is the process of development as tangible as in Brazil. The dynamism of the country is its greatest achievement. Even in periods of stagnation, Brazilians continue to get on with the process of nation-building, and can now look forward to the responsibility of hosting the world at the FIFA World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2016.
Brazil's cities and landscape
Brazil is a giant package with a multitude of gifts. Travelers looking for warm water, white sand, and tropical beauty will be overwhelmed by the Brazilian coastline – the longest, and one of the most beautiful, in the world. The options range from isolated, palm-fringed inlets to vast stretches backed by sand dunes. Brazilians argue eternally over which of the beaches is the best, but reach no consensus.
In the north and northeast, colonial monuments dot the state capitals, most of which are beside the sea. Salvador and Recife offer the best combination of beach and history. In addition, Salvador has a particularly rich culture from its special mix of African and Portuguese influences. The succession of beautiful beaches continues south, reaching its zenith in the all-time leading beach city of the Americas, Rio de Janeiro. But Rio is more than the sum of its beaches. It is spectacular scenery, samba, Carnival, and a relaxed, carefree existence. By contrast, in São Paulo, Brazil stops playing and gets down to the serious stuff. The center of the developing world’s largest industrial park, São Paulo is the most dynamic city in South America, its hodgepodge of nationalities making it a wonderful Brazilian version of New York.
The further south you travel, the more European are the influences, culminating in the states of Paraná, Santa Catarina, and Rio Grande do Sul, where Italian, German, and Polish settlers have left their mark. Here, too, the accent is on sand and water, but not all of Brazil is on the coast. Inland travelers will discover some of the world’s most remarkable natural wonders. Occupying one-third of the nation’s territory is the Amazon rainforest, and below the Amazon region, in an area drained by its rivers, is the Pantanal, a natural sanctuary for fish, birds, and mammals. In the south, the wildly beautiful Iguaçu Falls are considered by many to be the greatest natural attraction of Brazil.
Throughout November, we will be posting fascinating features and facts about Brazil in our blog, so come back soon for more on this astonishing and colourful country.
Where to start
Visitors have always been slightly dazed by the sheer size of the country and its hidden riches. Amazing beaches, a vast array of wildlife and historical colonial towns are only a sample of the best that Brazil has to offer.
If you want to experience a South American metropolis, visit Rio de Janeiro...
Although no longer Brazil's capital, Rio de Janeiro is the country's most iconic and beautiful city. Everything from its spectacular natural landmarks to its busy, glitzy beaches must be seen to be believed. For the beautiful people of a beautiful city, hedonism coexists harmoniously with urban chaos, and there are few visitors who do not respond to Rio's vibrant appeal. The city's residents can look forward to hosting the World Cup in 2014, including the final, and the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2016.
Undoubtedly the most famous landmark on Guanabara Bay is Pão de Açúcar, the granite prominence that rises 396 meters (1,300ft) high at the bay’s entrance, and is known to the world as Sugar Loaf. The Amerindians called this singularly shaped monolith Pau-na-Acuqua, meaning high, pointed, isolated peak. To the Portuguese, this sounded like pão de açúcar (sugar loaf), and its shape reminded them of the clay molds used to refine sugar into a conical lump. In 1912, the first cable-car line was installed from Praia Vermelha, at the base of Sugar Loaf, to its top in two stages, the first stopping at the rounded Morro da Urca (Urca Mountain), which stands 218 meters (705ft) high. From both the Morro da Urca and Sugar Loaf, visitors have excellent views on all sides, with paths leading to viewpoints.
If you want to see colonial history, visit Salvador...
The capital of African-influenced Bahia, in northeastern Brazil, has a festive atmosphere and much to admire, from beautiful and ornate colonial churches to events like Carnival afoxé dance groups and numerous processions and rituals. Salvador is the third largest city in Brazil and, since word got around about the food, the music and the colonial architecture, it has become one of the most favoured destinations in the country.
Largo do Pelourinho (Pillory Square) is the site of Salvador’s best-preserved colonial buildings, considered by Unesco to be the most important grouping of 17th- and 18th-century colonial architecture in the Americas. Many of the buildings have been renovated in recent years and converted into pousadas or restaurants.