Planning a trip to Brazil can be overwhelming—after all, this South American country is larger in size than the entire European continent! How on earth are you supposed to sift through all of the options of things to do in Brazil? In this expansive and somewhat mysterious country that is most famous for hosting both the World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, it’s easy to stick to the on-the-beaten-path activities, like visiting the towering Christ the Redeemer monument in Rio de Janeiro or trekking into the famous Amazon rainforest. And while such ventures are certainly worthwhile (Christ the Redeemer is a World Wonder after all), if you want to get to know the true soul of Brazil, then you can’t be afraid to explore some off-the-beaten path destinations! Journey to some of the lesser-known places listed below for some of the best of Brazil and a truly unforgettable adventure!
1. Fernando de Noronha
Looking for an epic beach vacation away from the crowds of tourists? Then look no further than Fernando de Noronha, an archipelago of 21 islands off the coast of Brazil. This tropical paradise is listed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site and lays claim to some of the best diving in the world and some of the best beaches in Brazil. The region’s unrivaled beaches, crystal blue waters, rugged natural landscapes, and abundant marine wildlife (including dolphins, tropical fish, sea turtles, and reef sharks) make it an enviable vacation, and, while tourists are restricted due to the delicate ecosystem, the lucky few will get to enjoy this paradise away from the rest of the world.
2. Canyon Itaimbezinho
Is hiking and climbing more your style? Then head to the National Park Aparados do Serra, where you will find the largest canyon in Brazil: Itaimbezinho. Nestled between the southern states of Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina, this canyon offers tourists unparallelled hiking experiences with incredible vistas and countless waterfalls. Grab your backpack and some bug spray and enjoy the natural surroundings, towering cliffs, and and spectacular views.
3. Lencois Maranhenses
Located near the North Atlantic Coast of the country, Lencois Maranhenses is a place unlike any other. Stepping foot into this National Park will have you feeling like you’ve entered into a romantic African desert: wavy, powdery white dunes will surround you as far as the eye can see, towering over calm, crystal-blue lagoons. This vast, almost surreal landscape will take your breath away. For a truly unforgettable experience, walk along the paths with the ever shifting sand beneath your feet and pack a picnic and a few blankets and enjoy a sunset in the park: the sky’s vibrantly changing colors as the sun dips beneath the dunes will have you awe-struck.
While the widely-recognized Amazon rainforest attracts most of Brazil’s visitors, the sprawling tropical wetlands of Pantanal actually offer travelers superior wildlife viewing and spectacular adventure. Pantanal, located in central Brazil, expands over 70,000 square miles, roughly the size of Washington State, and boasts the highest concentration of wildlife on the South American continent. Pantanal is home to jaguars, giant anteaters, piranha, monkeys, and countless tropical birds. (But watch out for those green anacondas!). And, unlike the densely thick Amazon jungle, Pantanal provides much more open space, which allows for easier viewing of the incredible biodiversity that this wetland paradise has to offer.
Looking for culture and city life? Escape the muggy heat of Rio de Janeiro for Petropolis, a mountain retreat in southeastern Brazil with a distinctly European flair. Known as the Imperial City, Petropolis is likely most famous for being the summer holiday spot for past Brazilian Emperors. In fact, 19th century emperor, Dom Pedro II, was so struck by the city’s gorgeous views and pleasant climate that he built a summer palace in the heart of the city, which has now been turned into a museum for visitors to explore. Today, Petropolis remains a popular summer holiday spot for Brazilians seeking refuge from the summer heat in nearby bustling cities. So, get away from the crowded Rio and spend a few days enjoying the European architecture, winding canals and arching bridges, delightful parks, and the surrounding mountain trails and waterfalls.
6. Monte Roraima
In Northern Brazil near the border of Venezuela and Guyana lies another of Brazil’s spectacular landmarks: Monte Roraima. Estimated to be about two billion years old, Monte Roraima is one of the older geological formations on earth. The imposing tabletop-shaped mountain towers above the surrounding landscape, and, during the rainy season, forms several cascading waterfalls that are some of the largest in the world. This sprawling national park is full of incredible hiking trails, climbing routes, and stunning views that you’ll simply treasure.
Picture a wide span of turquoise seas, where lush, dense forest slowly thins into palm trees and golden sands. This is Itcare, a stretch of several beaches connected through a well-trodden forest path. Located on the Cocoa Coast of eastern Brazil, Itcare is a well-kept secret among Brazilians, who are hesitant to share this paradise with outsiders. So, grab your surfboard and some sunscreen, and enjoy the lovely weather in a crowdless paradise.
Brazil is chock-full of hidden gems. From the ancient rock formations in the North, to the lush jungles and wetlands in its center, to beautiful tropical beaches on the coast, there are endless corners to explore. Don’t be afraid to jump off the beaten path and find your little slice of paradise!