Places to visit in Brazil
Brazil is such an amazing country, and there are so many places to visit in Brazil, with so many different and beautiful places. It almost has it all!
From the Amazon to the sandy beaches, waterfalls, to wonderful cities, it seems that all travelers should find something they enjoy. Sadly enough, Brazil is not that popular among European travelers. Safety has probably left it`s footprint on the less European / North American tourists.
But is Brazil unsafe? And is it worth travelling there considering safety concerns? Should a middle way Caribbean destination be chosen instead?
The short answer is no, safety should not put you off from visiting Brazil. You will need to do some research and follow some (most of the time) common sense safety travel rules but as long as you do, Brazil is safe to travel. Read more below about safety in Brazil.
As Brazil has so many things to offer, is not quite easy to choose what to visit from this beautiful country. Our beach favorite was Fernando de Noronha and the city, needless to say, Rio de Janeiro is just as impressive as you might expect. But there is so much more to discover.
Read everything about our experiences in Brazil.
Places to visit in Brazil - where to start?
Location is everything!
Choosing the right place can make or break you vacation. At least this happened to us.
We`ve travelled first to Brazil to the city of Fortaleza. This was a long (12 years) time ago and our first time to Brazil. We were so excited but just didn’t pick the right location. Fortaleza, as many other cities of Brazil, are very big cities, crowded and busy. Besides the main cities, the smaller ones don’t have the magic and beauty of Rio de Janeiro. Our hotel was just outside the busy city on a nice but rather regular beach. Our vacation was fine, but not super exciting as we wished for.
The first visit to a county is crucial, right? You might want to never want to come back again or just go over and over to the same place for the next 10 years.
Back to Brazil after so many years was very different. Luckily, we`ve got direct great advice from locals about some of their best kept secrets. We planned to visit amazing places and we were trilled to have such a different experience.
After extensive visits and semi-permanent living, we can say we absolutely love Brazil.
Most of travel agencies will sell you a flight and hotel package that might keep you in one place. Try not to do that and combine a few destinations to see while in Brazil.
Fortaleza - Our first visit to Brazil
But not the best place in Brazil.
If it`s your first time traveling to Brazil, try to fit a few days in your itinerary to for Rio de Janeiro. It`s for good reason considered one o the most amazing cities in the world (article here). If you would like to add a beach destination to the city trip there are many places to visit in Brazil, check out here our impressions on Fernando de Noronha, Praya de Pipa, Porto de Gallinas.
- The better beach destinations, both in terms of safety and serenity are located outside the big cities, most of the time between 70 – 120 kilometers. Most of the time you have plenty of options to get there, by bus, renting a car, taxi or Uber.
- The best destinations in Brazil are not advertised by travel agencies in Holland or Germany, so you need to be a bit adventurous and build your own trip. However, this is not too difficult as Brazil has an excellent network with low cost carriers. Their main airlines include Gol, Azul
- We rented a car, which is fine, but it is better to avoid driving in the dark. Roads in the north are not always the best, and the beach destinations are often not to be reached by highway.
- If Fernando de Noronha has captured you and you`d like to visit, it’s a choice you`ll not regret. This is truly one of he most beautiful places on earth. But tourism is controlled in this area so you`ll need to plan with while in advance. Don’t be put off by th 1 year in advance term other sites or locals state – if you don’t have that much time, you might still find options to go. In our opinion this should be one of the places to visit in Brazil.
Rio de Janeiro - An amazing city
Accommodation. The big hotel chains are not well represented in Brazil. This along with safety might be the reason behind Brazil not being on top of vacation destinations. The well-known hotel chains as Marriott, Hilton or Sheraton have only a few hotels in Brazil. And even those are mainly focused on business travel, big part being in Sao Paulo.
Outside the main cities you will not find the well-known hotel chains. Overall quality of the hotels is not that great and especially beach destinations offer more basic hotel accommodations in majority. As everywhere, you will always find some luxurious hotels in almost all destinations. Some breath-taking hotels and a lot of times a high budget is needed. With the many places to visit in Brazil, you will always find a good hotel for a reasonable price.
Safety is one of the first things that come up to mind when people talk about Brazil. But is not that bad. Brazil has taken safety measures in the last period of time that are paying off. You`ll need to be careful as in any other big city. Also stay away from favelas if you are not on an organized tour. Keep to the main areas while in big cities and use official taxi drivers or uber. The smaller beach destinations are safer than big cities as Rio de Janeiro or Sao Paulo. There are even places to visit in Brazil, which will be much safer than any other country.
Getting there. Unfortunately, from Europe there are not many direct flights. And main hubs are Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo. From Germany you have more options to cities like Recife and Salvador. Our advice is to take a flight to a city in the North Eastern part of Brazil and start from there. The internal flights network is quite good and also budget friendly. The low-cost carriers not only seem to be very punctual, staff is also not overreacting about an extra kilogram on your luggage, like some of the European low-cost airlines.
Weather. Brazil is a huge country and the climate varies a lot from north to south The North is all year long warm beach weather. While cities in the southern part of Brazil have different seasons. If you plan a beach holiday in the South keep in mind that season is the opposite from Europe. The same applies to Rio de Janeiro, the warm beach season is November to February. Of course, great weather can be outside this period also but planning to enjoy a few sunny days on the Copacabana or Ipanema? Then choose their summer period. And if you live in Europe or North America, it’s our winter time, and a good excuse to escape the coldness.
Culture and people
Brazilians are probably one of the friendliest people on earth. And their friendliness is genuine. Most Brazilians would be happy to see tourists as they are very proud to share their beautiful country. English not that widely spoken in Brazil. It also varies by area, the business cities such as Sao Paulo having of course more people speaking good English. However even with the language barrier, Brazilians would try to help you. Few words of Spanish would help also in trying to have a conversation as most of Brazilians speak Spanish also. Even better, learning a few words in Portuguese is appreciated by the locals.
Besides friendliness of the people, we enjoyed the relaxed and laid-back culture. Brazilians are very social and enjoy handing out with family and friends over good food, drinks and live samba music. To enjoy this, we would recommend getting some caipirinhas (traditional alcoholic drink with fresh fruits) and coxinha (traditional snack with different filling – coxinha de frango (chicken filling) is probably one of most popular choice) in a samba bar. Do look for a not-touristy place and join the locals to their favorite places.
Very important part of the culture is football (soccer for our American readers). Even if you are not a fan of the game, is highly recommended you`d join a game. Doesn’t even matter if it`s famous team playing or one you`ve never heard of. The passion and love for football and intensity is just great at any game. Of course, do not (ever) cheer for the opposite team f you are sitting between the fans.
Food & drinks are great in Brazil and in all the places to visit in Brazil. Meat is very popular ad if you like it, you`ll find a lot of good meat. Their most famous cut is picanha. But there are so many wonderful dishes. Highly recommended is a visit to a good Churrascaria as you`ll get the chance to enjoy a lot of the typical Brazilian dishes. Churrascaria is a typical Brazilian steakhouse, all you can eat model.
The starters are in buffet form and you`ll find many salads, cold cuts, palm hearts (another local delicacy), cheese, olives, veggies and lots of other great foods. The main are grilled meats and sides. The waiters walk with the grilled meat Ï want more” button on. They would come and cut it directly into your plate. You can find a wide variety of meat, steak, chicken, ribs, but also grilled pineapple or grilled bread cheese. One of the more famous churrascaria is Fogo de Chao.
However, there are so many good ones, is always good to ask a local what his favorite is and go there. The popular churrascaria with the locals are the better ones and will keep you away from the touristic places.
Rice and beans (arroz com feijao) is the usual side and also the base of the Brazilian kitchen, very popular. Also, Brazilians love cheese. Some dishes can be loaded with LOTS of cheese. You might find lots of dishes containing “catupiry” which is a type of creamy cheese. You`ll find this as an ingredient on pizza, pastas, sandwiches or even meats. And one of the most famous snacks is “pao de queijo” – absolutely delicious (calorie bomb) of bread and cheese served warm.
For desert one of the most popular is brigadeiro, very sweet chocolate and condensed milk mix. Fresh fruits are a healthier option and just as good as they are so ripe and full of flavor.
Drinks are delicious as well. Made with fresh ripe fruits, the caipinha is the king of the drinks. The alcohol is cachaça a local strong drink. The classic version is limes caipirinha. This is mixed with sugar, fresh limes, cachaça and ice. The drinks are served strong and cold. The variation of fruits can be of your choice: mango, pineapple, kiwi, strawberry, they are all delicious.
If you don’t like cachaça, you can have a Caipiroska (vodka instead of cachaça) or Caipisake (sake instead of cachaça). .
As there so many places to visit in Brazil, we will for sure go back to Brazil.