Brazil


Brazil destinations

about 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.

Landscapes & Biodiversity

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. Add to that, 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 in Brazil where you can spot its iconic species, which Include toucans, scarlet macaws, howler monkeys, capybaras, pink dolphins, sea turtles and many more.

Days of Adventure

Brazil offers big adventures for travelers with budgets large and small. There's horseback riding and wildlife-watching in the Pantanal, kayaking flooded forests in the Amazon, ascending rocky cliff tops to panoramic views, whale-watching off the coast, surfing stellar breaks off palm-fringed beaches and snorkeling crystal-clear rivers or coastal reefs – all are part of the great Brazilian experience. No less entrancing is the prospect of doing nothing, aside from sinking toes into warm sands and soaking up a glorious stretch of beach, with a caipirinha – Brazil's national cocktail – in hand.

Joie de Vivre

Brazil's most famous celebration, Carnaval, storms through the country's cities and towns with hip-shaking samba and frevo, dazzling costumes and parties that last until sunup, but Brazilians hardly limit their revelry to a few weeks of the year. Festas (festivals) happen throughout the year, and provide a window into Brazil's incredible diversity. The streets are carpeted with flowers during Ouro Preto's Semana Santa (Holy Week), while in the north, Bumba Meu Boi blends indigenous, African and Portuguese folklore. For a taste of the old world, hit Blumenau's beer- and schnitzel-loving Oktoberfest, the largest outside of Germany. Several cities, such as Recife, Fortaleza and Natal even host Carnaval at other times of year.

The Rhythms of Brazil

Wherever there's music, that carefree lust for life tends to appear – whether dancing with cariocas at Rio's atmospheric samba clubs or following powerful drumbeats through the streets of Salvador. There's the dancehall forró of the Northeast, twirling carimbó of the Amazon, scratch-skilled DJs of São Paulo and an endless variety of regional sounds that extends from the twangy country music of the sunbaked sertanejo to the hard-edged reggae of Maranhão.

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Golden beaches and lush mountains, samba-fueled nightlife and spectacular football matches: welcome to the Cidade Maravilhosa (Marvelous City).

Sights

Rio has a wide variety of attractions, including cliff-top viewing platforms with panoramic views (at Pão de Açúcar and Cristo Redentor, among other places), gorgeous beaches, and museums that showcase the best of Brazilian art, culture and history.

Many attractions in Rio are found in the Zona Sul (south zone), made up of neighborhoods south of Centro. Rio's downtown (Centro) is home to the densest concentration of museums and cultural centers. The vast Zona Norte, which extends west and north of Centro, has only a few key sights, including Maracanã soccer stadium.

Sleeping

Rio has a wide range of lodging, including B&Bs, hostels and guesthouses; there are scores of luxury hotels, particularly in Copacabana. Prices are comparable to what you'd expect in a North American oceanside city such as Miami or LA; an abundance of options keeps rates from going sky high, except during Carnaval and other major events.

Book at least two or three months ahead during high season.

Hotels

Rio has a few appealing new boutique and luxury hotels, but apart from the upscale options the selection can be somewhat lackluster. Most hotels are in glass-and-steel high-rises, with marble- and chrome-filled lobbies, and comfortable but uninspiring rooms. The best features will be the view (if there is one) and the door by which to exit the room and explore this fascinating city. Amenities to look for include pools, wi-fi and beach service (towels, chairs and attendants).

Hostels

With more than 100 hostels scattered around the city, Rio does not lack for budget lodging. Hostels are great settings for meeting other travelers, and with more and more Brazilians traveling, your dorm mate is just as likely to be from Porto Alegre as Perth. Rio's hostels vary in price and style. The best options are in Copacabana and Ipanema, though you'll also find some decent crash pads in Botafogo and Lapa.

Apartment Rentals

There are numerous apartment-rental outfits in Ipanema and Copacabana, though you can also go through Airbnb (www.airbnb.com). This site allows you to rent a whole apartment or simply a room in a shared flat, making it a good way to meet cariocas (Rio residents).

If you book an apartment through an agency, nightly high-season rates start at around R$200 for a small studio apartment in Copacabana and R$350 for one in Ipanema. Typically, you'll need to pay 30% to 50% up front; some agencies accept credit cards, and others use PayPal. Make sure you ask whether utilities and cleaning fees are included in the price.

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Entertainment

Rio has a celebrated music scene, with enchanting settings in which to catch live performances, from cutting-edge concert halls to intimate neighborhood venues. Dance, theater, classical concerts and opera also have their small but loyal local followings, while cinema is an even bigger deal – Rio is one of the leading film centers in Latin America.

Theater

Brazil has a long history of theater. Literary greats from the 19th century, including the highly imaginative carioca (Rio resident) Joaquim Machado de Assis, lent their vision to the stage. Talents from the 20th century, such as the great Nelson Rodrigues and more recently Gerald Thomas, have kept the flame alive, and you may be able to catch some of their work in Rio's theaters. There are more than two dozen venues in town. Unfortunately, if you don't speak Portuguese, you won't get a lot out of an evening at the theater.

Live Music

In addition to samba, Rio is a showcase for jazz, bossa nova, Música Popular Brasileira (MPB), rock, hip-hop and fusions of these styles. Brazil's many regional styles – forró (traditional Brazilian music from the Northeast), chorinho (romantic, intimate samba) and pagode (relaxed and rhythmic samba) – are also a part of the music scene.

Venues range from modern concert halls seating thousands to intimate samba clubs in edgy neighborhoods. Antiquated colonial mansions, parks overlooking the city, old-school bars, crumbling buildings at the edge of town and hypermodern lounges facing the ocean are all part of the mix. Rio has a few large concert halls that attract Brazilian stars such as Gilberto Gil and Milton Nascimento, and well-known international bands visiting Rio on world tours.

Major music festivals include the Rio Music Conference (www.riomusicconference.com.br), held in the Marina da Glória. In addition to established venues, during the summer months concerts sometimes take place on the beaches of Copacabana, Botafogo, Ipanema and Barra da Tijuca.

Dance

Rio has produced a number of successful dance troupes, including the contemporary Companhia de Dança Deborah Colker, which spends much of its time touring abroad. One homegrown talent you might catch in town is the Cia de Dança Dani Lima, an avant-garde troupe that weaves provocative pieces together through dance and aerial gymnastics. Also keep an eye out for the Lapa-based Intrépida Trupe, whose talented acrobat-dancers bring surreal works to the stage.

There is no space dedicated solely to dance; performances can take place at many venues around the city.

Rio's biggest dance festival, Festival Panorama de Dança (www.panoramafestival.com), is held in November. For classical dance, try to see a production by the Ballet do Theatro Municipal, which puts on highly professional performances at Rio's most venerable theater.

Eating

Despite top-notch chefs, ethnically diverse cuisine and a rich bounty from farm, forest and sea, Rio hasn't earned much of a culinary reputation abroad. Within Brazil, however, it's a different story, with cariocas (residents of Rio) convinced that there's no place quite like home for sitting down to a first-rate meal.

Drinking & Nightlife

Despite top-notch chefs, ethnically diverse cuisine and a rich bounty from farm, forest and sea, Rio hasn't earned much of a culinary reputation abroad. Within Brazil, however, it's a different story, with cariocas (residents of Rio) convinced that there's no place quite like home for sitting down to a first-rate meal.

The Scene

As in most places in the world, there are a few different subcultures (models and modelizers, surfers, hipsters and hippies) within the nightlife circuit, though there's plenty of crossover between groups. The well-heeled crowd from the Zona Sul tends to favor high-end bars in Gávea and Barra, while an alternative crowd heads to the drinking dens in Botafogo. Lapa's mix of bars and dance halls attracts a range of people from all backgrounds, who may have little in common aside from a love of samba.

Venues come and go – and the best parties are often one-off events in unique spots – so it helps if you can get the latest from a local source. If you can read a bit of Portuguese, pick up the 'Veja Rio' insert in Veja magazine, which comes out each Sunday. 'Rio Show,' the entertainment insert that comes in the Friday edition of O Globo, also has extensive listings.

Nightclubs

Rio has some great places to shake your bunda (booty). DJs pull from the latest house, drum and bass and hip-hop favorites, as well as uniquely Brazilian combinations such as electro-samba and bossa-jazz. In addition to local DJs, Rio attracts a handful of vinyl gurus from São Paulo, New York and London to spin at bigger affairs. Flyers advertising dance parties can be found in boutiques in Ipanema and Leblon, and in the surf shops in Galeria River by Praia Arpoador. You'll save money by getting on the guest list – this usually means adding your name to the club's event-listing page on Facebook.

Botecos

For an insight into Rio's drinking culture, familiarize yourself with one of the great sociocultural icons of the city: the boteco. These casual, open-sided bars are found all over town, and draw in a broad cross-section of society. Young and old, upper class and working class, men and women, black and white mix over ice-cold chope (draft beer) or caipirinhas (cocktails made from lime, sugar and sugarcane alcohol), flirting and swapping the latest gossip as bow-tied waiters move deftly among the crowd.

Just as most cariocas (Rio residents) have a favorite team, nearly every local has a favorite boteco. These range from hole-in-the-wall joints where canned beer is handed out to drinkers slouched over plastic tables to classic, wood-paneled bar rooms with murals on the walls, expertly mixed drinks and a history dating back several generations. Wherever you go in the city, you'll find that food is an important part of the experience, as cariocas rate bars not just on the drinks and the vibe but on the menu as well.

Lately the beer scene has improved immensely thanks to the rise of the craft-brewing industry across Brazil. New bars featuring top microbrews from within the state and beyond have opened all across Rio, and cariocas are discovering their inner beer nerd.

Gay Rio

Rio has been a major destination for gay travelers since the 1950s. Back then the action was near the Copacabana Palace, which is still popular with a slightly older crowd (look for the rainbow-hued flag). Today, however, the party has mostly moved on, with the focal point of the LGBT scene, especially for visitors, being in Ipanema. The gay beach at the end of Rua Farme de Amoedo (again, look for the rainbow flag) is the stomping ground of some of Rio's buffest men, sometimes known as 'barbies' in carioca slang. The bars and cafes of nearby streets – Rua Teixeira de Melo and Rua Farme – attract a mixed crowd and are a good spot to explore if you're not quite ready to jump into the beach scene.

Rio also hosts an enormously popular Gay Pride festival. For more info on the gay scene in Rio, including recommendations on nightclubs, bars, cafes and guesthouses, visit Rio Gay Guide (www.riogayguide.com).

Shopping

Unsurprisingly, beach and casual wear are a big part of the shopping scene in Rio. Less well known is the great variety of stores selling antiques, custom-made handicrafts, wine and spirits, handmade jewelry, records and CDs, coffee-table books and one-of-a-kind goods found only in Rio.

Markets of Rio

Rio's many markets are ideal places to explore the subcultures beneath the city's surface, whether that means you're brushing elbows with antique-lovers, recent migrants from the Northeast or youthful flocks of fashionistas from the Zona Sul. Several markets, such as the Feira Nordestina and the monthly Feira do Rio Antigo, are as much about food and music as they are about shopping.

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São Paulo is home to 20 million fiercely proud Paulistanos (as residents are known), all of whom will happily rant and rave to you how they'd never live elsewhere. Spend time with them and the reasons will soon unfold. Maybe they will introduce you to the city’s innumerable art-house cinemas and experimental theaters. If they’re gourmands, they’ll focus on the smart bistros and gourmet restaurants that make the city a world-renowned foodie haven. If they’re scenesters, follow them on a raucous tour of underground bars and the 24/7 clubbing scene. Whatever pleasures you might covet, Sampa (the city's affectionate nickname) probably has them in spades.

Of course, it's also enormous, intimidating and, at first glance at least, no great beauty (to say nothing of the smog, the traffic, the crumbling sidewalks and the gaping divide between poor and rich).

A beautiful mess, if you will? And Brazil's city of dreams.

Sights

Escape to the Beach

There's a lot more beach on São Paulo's coast than we could possible cover. In addition to the beach towns we feature, consider escaping the city and digging your toes into these alternative sands, several of which won't be quite so crowded.

Santos

Though it never receives a star for cleanliness, Santos is the closest beach to the city of São Paulo, just over an hour away on a good traffic day. Due to oil money, it's a fun town in its own right, with lots of great bars and restaurants. Locals consider Boqueirão, between canals 3 and 4, to be the city's best beach. Santos' beachfront garden, clocking in at 5335m, is in the record books for the largest in the world.

Guarujá

With its fine beaches along the stretch of coast closest to São Paulo, once-glamorous Guarujá has suffered from overdevelopment. Still, if you can’t get further afield, it retains some charm as a quick getaway – even if concrete towers line the beaches, which get packed with weekend day-trippers. Surfers should note that there are good waves along Praia do Tombo and Praia do Éden (reached by a downhill trail from the road to Pernambuco or Iporanga beaches) that are a good bet for beating the crowds.

Boiçucanga & Around

The laid-back surfer town of Boiçucanga makes a good base to explore the stretch of coast that runs almost due west from São Sebastião. The variety of beaches, many backed by the steeply rising Serra do Mar, is remarkable, and there’s good surf at nearby Camburi and Maresias, which have also developed into major party towns. Juqueí is popular with families.

Ilha do Cardoso

As wild as it gets in São Paulo state, this ecological reserve near the state's southern border with Paraná offers gorgeous natural pools, waterfalls and untouched beaches, and is home to only 400 residents and no cars. Dark sands and brownish-gray sea don't sway the nouveau hippies, who love these beaches due to their isolation.

Sleeping

Vila Madelena is the most traveller-friendly neighborhood for leisure visitors and is home to the majority of hostels (there's also a solid concentration around the residential neighborhoods of Paraíso and Vila Mariana off the southeastern end of Av Paulista). The city's top boutique hotels sit in the leafy, upscale district of Jardins, while many top-end business hotels line Av Paulista, Av Faria Lima, Av das Nações Unidas and Parque Ibirapuera.

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Entertainment

São Paulo is home to the world-class theater at Theatro Municipal and classical music at Sala São Paulo; in addition to live samba, which is prevalent across a wide range of bars, botecos and other venues around town. Futebol (football/soccer) is predictably huge, with Corinthians hogging the majority of fans. The city is also home to numerous cultural centers that boast indie and arthouse cinemas.

Eating

São Paulo’s dining scene is one of the best in the southern hemisphere. Famous fawned-over chefs such as Alex Atala from D.O.M., Helena Rizzo of Maní and Ivan Ralston from Tuju have given contemporary Brazilian cuisine a world stage. Must-eats around town include regional standouts (especially comida Nordestino; Northeastern cuisine) and an incredible bounty of ethnic eats such as Japanese, Middle Eastern (many Syrian refugees have opened restaurants) and Italian.

Drinking & Nightlife

Traditional bar neighborhoods include boteco-filled Vila Madalena (mainstream); along Rua Mario Ferraz in Itaim Bibi (rich, bold and beautiful); and Baixo Augusta, where the GLS scene (Portuguese slang for Gay, Lesbian and Sympathetics) mingles with artsy hipsters in the city's edgiest-nightlife district. Artists, journalists and upper middle-class bohemians have claimed Pinheiros, immediately southeast of Vila Madalena. Current rage: rooftop bars!

Clubbing

Partying in Sampa isn't cheap: clubbing prices here rival those of New York or Moscow. Nightclubs don’t open until midnight, don’t really get going until after 1am, and keep pumping until 5am or later. Then there are the after-hours places. The hottest districts are Vila Olímpia (flashy, expensive, electronica) and Barra Funda/Baixo Augusta (rock, alternative, down-to-earth). Some clubs offer a choice between a cover charge or a pricier consumação option, recoupable in drinks. Most clubs offer a discount for emailing or calling ahead to be on the list. Keep the card they give you on the way in – bartenders record your drinks on it, then you pay on the way out.

Coffee & Cafés

Coffee in São Paulo is generally excellent by Brazilian standards, thanks largely to the city’s Italian heritage. Santo Grão, Coffee Lab and Futuro Refeitório serve some of Brazil’s best beans – mountain-grown arabicas, mostly from Minas Gerais.

Shopping

Coffee in São Paulo is generally excellent by Brazilian standards, thanks largely to the city’s Italian heritage. Santo Grão, Coffee Lab and Futuro Refeitório serve some of Brazil’s best beans – mountain-grown arabicas, mostly from Minas Gerais.

Travel with Children

It would be daft to remotely suggest São Paulo is a stroller-friendly city; the pavements and sidewalks are often uneven, unmatching, broken up or in otherwise unfriendly conditions even without the added navigational challenge of a baby on wheels. Expect to do a lot of lifting over ruts and obstacles.

A new law passed in 2017 requires shopping malls, and other buildings in the city with a large influx of people, to install both male- and female-accessible diaper-changing rooms (fraldários) or face a R$10,000 fine. GRU Airport has 56 diaper-changing rooms.

LGBT Travellers

Latin America’s largest and most visible gay community supports a dizzying array of options, day and night. There are not only gay bars and discos but also restaurants, cafes and even a shopping center – Shopping Frei Caneca, known as ‘Shopping Gay Caneca,’ which has a largely gay clientele.

Rio is often touted as Brazil’s gay capital, yet you almost never see overt displays of affection in the streets. In São Paulo, PDA (public display of affection) is rather commonplace, at least in certain neighborhoods. These include the area just north of Praça da República, which tends to be more working class; Rua Frei Caneca just north of Av Paulista, which attracts an alternative crowd; and Rua da Consolaçao in Jardins, largely the domain of Sampa’s upscale LGBT community.

During Pride week, the city’s gay and lesbian venues are packed to the gills in the lead-up to the big parade, which traditionally takes place on a Sunday, usually in mid-June. There are also political meetings, street fairs, concerts and other special events.

For nights out, don’t miss the bars surrounding Feira Benedito Calixto in Pinheiros on Saturday afternoons after the street fair; the corner of Frei Caneca and Peixoto Gomide in Baixo Augusta, where the early-evening pre-party at the otherwise nondescript lanchonete (snack bar) Bar da Lôca spills into the streets; and Bella Paulista, the 24-hour restaurant where everyone ends up after the clubs close. Hot bars and clubs include Club Jerome, Barouche and the perennial mixed superclub, D-Edge. For roaming parties, try Lunatica (www.facebook.com/festalunatica).

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Salvador da Bahia has an energy and unadorned beauty that few cities can match. Once the magnificent capital of Portugal’s New World colony, today Salvador is the pulsating heart of the country’s Afro-Brazilian community. Its brilliantly hued center is a living museum of 17th- and 18th-century architecture and gold-laden churches. Wild festivals happen frequently, with drum corps pounding out rhythms against the backdrop of colonial buildings almost daily. Elsewhere in town, a different spirit flows as crowds of religious adherents celebrate and reconnect with African gods at Candomblé ceremonies. In fact, there’s no other place in the world where the culture of those brought as slaves from Africa has been preserved as it has been in Salvador – from music and religion to food, dance and martial-arts traditions. Aside from the many attractions within Salvador, a gorgeous coastline lies right outside the city – a suitable introduction to the tropical splendor of Bahia.

Sights

Pelourinho

Regardless of what the tourist information offices tell you – or even what's posted outside – Pelourinho's churches keep sporadic opening hours. It's best not to build your itinerary around visiting them.

Cidade Baixa (Lower City)

Interspersed between the Comércio’s modern skyscrapers is some fantastic 19th century architecture in various stages of decay.

Vitória

The main artery of this leafy suburb is a well-traveled boulevard between Barra and the Pelourinho. You'll find several museums and a few restaurants to enjoy.

Sleeping

Staying in the Pelourinho means being close to the action, but the beach suburbs are mellower (and just a short bus or taxi ride away). Santo Antônio is a peaceful neighborhood with classy pousadas (guesthouses) in renovated old buildings just a short walk from the Pelourinho. Reservations during Carnaval are essential.

Carmo & Santo Antônio

Many of the city's most charming (and best-value) pousadas (guesthouses) are located in this neighborhood. It pays to look around online before booking a room.

Barra & Coastal Suburbs

Of all the beachside suburbs, happening Barra attracts the majority of visitors due to its proximity to the Pelourinho.

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Eating

Dining out is a delight in Salvador. Traditional Bahian cuisine has a heavy African influence, featuring ingredients like coconut cream, tomato, seafood, bell pepper and spices of ginger, hot peppers and coriander. You'll also find cuisines from many other nationalities well represented.

Drinking & Nightlife

The Pelourinho is Salvador’s nightlife capital: bars with outdoor tables and live music spill onto the cobbled streets.

In Barra, find relaxed ambience and music along Av Almirante Marques de Leão and the waterfront around the Farol da Barra. Bohemian Rio Vermelho has one of the more interesting nightlife scenes in the region.

Entertainment

Bars and clubs tend to come and go in Salvador, so ask around to see what’s hot at the moment, or log onto the agenda of parties, concerts and performances at Festa da Semana (www.festadasemana.com.br/salvador).

LGBT Venues

Salvador’s LGBTIQ+ nightlife scene may be subdued compared to those of other Brazilian capitals, but these off-the-beaten-path venues are worth seeking out.

A young, queer-friendly crowd flocks to Beco dos Artistas, a lively alley with several bars popular for pre-clubbing drinks. Take a taxi and enter from Rua Leovigildo Filgueira. After midnight in Rio Vermelho, good-looking San Sebastian draws the LGBTIQ+ crowd with three floors, four bars and two dance floors.

Check www.guiagaysalvador.com.br for the latest listings and events.

Folkloric Shows & Capoeira

The chance to see a folkloric performance that showcases the unique range of Bahian music and dance – including live percussion and vocals, the dances of the orixás, maculêlê (stick dance), samba and capoeira – shouldn't be missed. You can also catch some authentic capoeira in the Pelourinho, where studios charge a few reais for watching a class (often called a ‘show’) and for taking pictures.

Shopping

For most visitors, shopping opportunities in Salvador fall into one of two camps: the artisan crafts and traditional Bahian souvenirs of the Pelourinho and the Mercado Modelo, and large shopping centers like Shopping Barra and Shopping da Bahia (which is across from the bus station, and previously known as Shopping Iguatemi). Both shopping centers are busy with Brazilian fashionistas and bustling food courts.

Travel with Children

Long distances in Brazil can make family travel challenging, but the rewards are considerable: endless fun on sun-kissed beaches, walks in rainforests, boat and train rides, and abundant wildlife-watching opportunities. Best of all is the warm reception from Brazilians themselves – who go out of their way to make kids feel welcome.

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Brasília, conceived as a workable, utopic answer to urban chaos, replaced Rio as capital in 1960 and remains an impressive monument to national initiative. The purpose-built city is lauded by many for its futuristic architecture and avant-garde design, but also criticized for the impracticality of the uber organized, themed city blocks. The original design (plano piloto) was inspired by the crucifix but is often referred to as an airplane, with each of its architectural marvels strategically laid out along the Eixo Monumental (which forms the fuselage), and its residential and commercial blocks along its two outspread wings (asas).

With long distances and harrowing six-lane highways connected by spaghetti junctions, Brasília presents challenges for walkers; consider renting a car or ride shares.

You'll find a lively city hidden behind the futuristic facade. It's not only a pilgrimage for architecture buffs but also foodies, night owls and those seeking a unique travel experience.

Sights

Although the sprawl of rapidly growing Brasília now extends far beyond the original design, with mushrooming satellite cities all around, it is worth taking the time to investigate the two wings of the plano piloto to gain an appreciation of life in the superquadras.

These ordered rows and blocks of apartments encapsulate the optimism and democratic ideals of the era. Each superquadra consists of a square block roughly 300m long with various apartment buildings, typically supported on columns. You’ll see no power lines or fences but plenty of parkland and trees. Each superquadra shares a street of shops and restaurants with its neighbor, preserving a strong community feel. These little hubs are what Brasília life is all about, and it’s worth visiting a few of them, for it’s here that the city’s best bars, cafes and restaurants are located.

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Sleeping

Bank on spending more than you'd like to in Brasília, especially during the business week. Characterless high-rise chain hotels, crammed into the central Setor Hoteleiro, are the norm. Those in the SHN (Setor Hoteleiro Norte) are more conveniently located for shopping centers, but those in the SHS (Setor Hoteleiro Sul) are better value.

Eating

Brazilians may say that Brasília is boring, but foodies flock here with abandon – the capital has one of the highest concentrations of starred restaurants in the country. Rather than there being a concentrated central food strip, restaurants are found out in the superquadras, in the commercial streets between blocks. Shopping centers are other eating hubs.

Drinking & Nightlife

Bars are found scattered around on the commercial streets between superquadra blocks. In general, the Asa Sul has more options than the Asa Norte, but there are good bars in both. Most nightclubs are on the edges of town.

Shopping

The crafts fair at the base of the TV Tower is a good place to pick up leather goods, ceramics and art.

You should be able to satisfy your other shopping needs in one of Brasília’s many shopping malls.

Saraiva bookstore (www.saraiva.com.br) has branches in Conjunto Nacional and Brasília Shopping, with a good selection of English books and magazines.

Travel with Children

Brasília is child-friendly as far as facilities go, but it's not easy to navigate with small children. Gazing at modern architecture might not be up most kids' streets either.

Brasília's major shopping centers are havens for frazzled parents, with all-hours food courts, play areas, change facilities and sometimes even entertainment laid on for children.

The Na Praia complex, open winter only, has play areas and a dedicated children's beach.

Gay & Lesbian Travellers

Brasília is one of the most LGBT+-friendly cities in Brazil, though public affection is still a rare sight. There's quite an active nightlife scene: check out www.guiagaybrasilia.com.br or www.visitay.com for listings. Victoria Haus is a key focal point.

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Manaus is the Amazon’s largest city, an incongruous urban metropolis in the middle of the jungle and a major port for seafaring vessels that’s 1500km from the ocean. The Amazonian rainforest has a population density half that of Mongolia’s, but the journey there invariably begins in (or passes through) this gritty, bustling city. Don’t be surprised if you feel a little out of whack.

Manaus is no architectural gem, but does have some genuinely rewarding sights, including a leafy zoo and a rewarding beach-and-museum combo. It’s a place to stock up on anything you forgot to pack, make reservations and begin your journey out into the jungle, or refill your tank with beer and internet after a week in the forest.

Another bit of advice: don't get stuck here! Manaus is best enjoyed as a starting point for your Amazon adventure, not the end of your road into the Amazon.

Sights

Without a doubt, Cartagena's old city is its principal attraction, particularly the inner walled town consisting of the historical districts of El Centro and San Diego. El Centro in the west was traditionally home to the upper classes, and San Diego in the northeast was previously occupied by the middle classes. Both sections of the Old Town are packed with perfectly preserved colonial churches, monasteries, plazas, palaces and mansions, with balconies and shady patios that overflow with bright flowers.

With its modest architecture, the outer walled town of Getsemaní is less obviously impressive, but as it's far more residential and less sanitized, it offers plenty of atmosphere and is well worth exploring. In recent years it has become a backpacker hub, and gentrification has come astonishingly quickly – the area is full of trendy restaurants, packed cocktail bars and salsa clubs, and almost as many boutique hotels as the inner walled town. A beautiful walkway alongside the Muelle Turístico de los Pegasos links Getsemaní with the Old Town.

Activities

Activities in Manaus are all about the river and the jungle. Trips into the jungle have always been popular here, but the number of guides and boats has exploded in recent years. Everything's possible, from half-day jaunts to multi day expeditions. To truly experience the wild Amazon, do at least one of the latter.

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Sleeping

Manaus has ample accommodation options although few places of real quality stand out. There are plenty of budget and midrange accommodation choices, but there's next-to-nothing at the top end. Reservations are recommended, but a few days in advance of your visit is usually early enough.

Eating

Manaus has ample accommodation options although few places of real quality stand out. There are plenty of budget and midrange accommodation choices, but there's next-to-nothing at the top end. Reservations are recommended, but a few days in advance of your visit is usually early enough.

Drinking & Nightlife

There are a few quiet bars and performances to be enjoyed in the historic center, while a night spent clubbing will require a taxi ride.

Travel with Children

Long distances in Brazil can make family travel challenging, but the rewards are considerable: endless fun on sun-kissed beaches, walks in rainforests, boat and train rides, and abundant wildlife-watching opportunities. Best of all is the warm reception from Brazilians themselves – who go out of their way to make kids feel welcome.

Best Regions for Kids

Rio de Janeiro state

Funicular rides and scenic views in Rio city, island-exploring on vehicle-free Ilha Grande, wandering cobblestone streets and taking schooner cruises off Paraty. You can even get a taste of mountain scenery in Parque Nacional do Itatiaia, and visit imperial sites in Petrópolis.

Minas Gerais

Time-travel to the 18th century in the colonial mountain town of Ouro Preto, which is near an old gold mine you can visit. You can also ride an old steam train from São João del Rei to Tiradentes. Don't miss the Santuário do Caraça to swims in waterfalls and see the maned wolf come in at night.

Bahia

Lots of great food, music and street entertainment in Salvador. Catch the hydrofoil to car-free Morro de São Paulo for pretty beaches, a zip line and panoramic views from a hilltop lighthouse. Head inland for the canyons, waterfalls and swimming holes of Parque Nacional da Chapada Diamantina.

Gay & Lesbian Travellers

Brazilians are pretty laid-back when it comes to most sexual issues, and homosexuality is more accepted here than in any other part of Latin America. That said, the degree to which you can be out in Brazil varies greatly by region, and in some smaller towns discrimination is prevalent.

Rio is the gay capital of Latin America, though São Paulo and to a lesser extent Salvador also have lively scenes. Gay and lesbian bars are disappearing (blame it on dating/hooking-up apps like Grindr). Those still around are all-welcome affairs attended by GLS (Gays, Lesbians e Simpatizantes), a mixed heterosexual and homosexual crowd far more concerned with dancing and having a good time than anything else.

There is no law against homosexuality in Brazil, and the age of consent is 18, the same as for heterosexuals.

Useful resources include the following:

Mix Brasil (www.mixbrasil.org.br) The largest Brazilian LGBT site.

ABGLT (Associação Brasileira de Lésbicas, Gays, Bissexuais, Travestis, Transexuais e Intersexos; www.abglt.org)

ACAPA (Associação Brasileira de Gays, Lésbicas, Bissexuais, Travestis e Transexuais; www.disponivel.uol.com.br/acapa)

What to do in Manaus

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Known to locals as Beagá (pronounced 'bay-ah-gah', Portuguese for BH), Belo Horizonte was named for its beautiful view of nearby mountains. Urban sprawl may make it a little more challenging to appreciate the natural setting nowadays, but Brazil’s third-largest city still has considerable charm.

Walk down the buzzing cosmopolitan streets of the Savassi neighborhood on a Saturday evening, eat at one of the fine restaurants in Lourdes, stroll through the densely packed stalls at Mercado Central, attend the exuberant weekend street fair alongside leafy Parque Central, take in a concert at the Palácio das Artes, or visit the Inhotim art museum west of the city, and you’ll see that Belo Horizonte has countless dimensions. Add to all this the friendly, welcoming nature of Beagá’s people and you’ve got a winning combination. Stick around a few days – you might grow fond of the place.

Sights

For a quintessential taste of the city, seek out at least one or two of the following during your visit.

Stroll through the cheerful chaos of market stalls and restaurants at Mercado Central.

Spend a Sunday morning at the open-air Hippie Fair.

Explore the 23 art galleries and magnificent grounds at the Instituto de Arte Contemporânea Inhotim.

Take a stadium tour and visit the football museum at Mineirão.

Attend a performance or stop in for an evening drink at Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil.

Entertainment

Belo Horizonte is a cosmopolitan town with a vibrant arts scene and plenty of nightlife. Online entertainment listings are available at www.soubh.com.br, guiabh.com.br and www.uai.com.br/entretenimento.

Sports

Three football teams call Belo Horizonte home: América, Atlético Mineiro and Cruzeiro. The last of these plays regularly in the city's legendary Mineirão stadium, whose fame attained international proportions when it was selected as a venue for the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Olympics. Buy tickets online (http://ingresso.cruzeiro.com.br) or in person at the stadium's ticket windows. Even if you don't get a chance to see a match, it's well worth touring the stadium and the attached football museum.

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Sleeping

Large chain hotels, especially those aimed at business travelers, dominate Belo Horizonte's accommodations scene. Most drop their rates significantly on weekends. The city also has a decent lineup of hostels. For easier walking access to the city's main attractions, stay near Praça da Liberdade or elsewhere within the central zone delineated by the Av do Contorno ring road.

Eating

Belo Horizonte is teeming with good food for every budget. The area between Praça Sete and Praça da Liberdade is best for cheap eats, with countless lanchonetes (snack bars), self-serve por kilo restaurants and fast-food places. Further south, the Lourdes and Savassi neighborhoods constitute the epicenter of the city’s fine-dining scene.

The lion’s share of the city’s non-mineira restaurants specialize in Italian food, although you can also find a world of other flavors if you look around.

Drinking & Nightlife

Belo Horizonte is Brazil's self-proclaimed drinking capital, with thousands of botecos (neighborhood bars) sprinkled throughout the city. If you’re visiting between mid-April and mid-May, don't miss the Comida di Buteco festival, in which dozens of places compete to see who makes the best bar food. Originating right here in 1999, it has since expanded to over a dozen other Brazilian cities.

Downtown, the 2nd floor of the indie-intellectual Maletta building is home to several bars with great views from the consistently packed open-air balcony. Savassi and Sion are other prime late-night destinations, packed with sidewalk pubs and trendy dance clubs.

Shopping

Don't leave Belo Horizonte without visiting its two iconic markets: the daily Mercado Central and the Sunday Feira Hippie. Locals also favor the many high-rise shopping centers downtown and Savassi's high-end boutiques.

Gay & Lesbian Travellers

Brazilians are pretty laid-back when it comes to most sexual issues, and homosexuality is more accepted here than in any other part of Latin America. That said, the degree to which you can be out in Brazil varies greatly by region, and in some smaller towns discrimination is prevalent.

Rio is the gay capital of Latin America, though São Paulo and to a lesser extent Salvador also have lively scenes. Gay and lesbian bars are disappearing (blame it on dating/hooking-up apps like Grindr). Those still around are all-welcome affairs attended by GLS (Gays, Lesbians e Simpatizantes), a mixed heterosexual and homosexual crowd far more concerned with dancing and having a good time than anything else.

There is no law against homosexuality in Brazil, and the age of consent is 18, the same as for heterosexuals.

What to do in Belo Horizonte

Best attractions, Tours & Excursions for you, check it out!

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