Off the Beaten Track in Brazil

Brazil is getting more and more popular as a holiday destination, but most tourists tend to stick very much to the ‘classic’ destinations of Rio de Janeiro, the Iguazu Falls and the Amazon. Not that there’s anything wrong with any of those places, of course, but Brazil is a bigcountry, and if you have a little more time to spare on your Brazilian holiday, there’s a huge amount to see and places to go where you’ll hardly see any other tourists at all…


Florianopolis and Santa Catarina
Rio might be the city which captures everyone’s imagination, but several of Brazil’s other coastal cities are well worth a look. For example, the city of Florianopolis, in the southern state of Santa Catarina regularly wins awards for its quality of life, and even a quick visit is enough to see why. Situated on an island (although connected by bridge to the mainland) it has dozens of beaches within a few minutes’ drive, from quiet coves facing the mainland where you can relax in the clear, warm water, to the wilder surf beaches facing out into the Atlantic. In fact, the surfing is so good here that Florianopolis is the only South American stop on the PSA World Tour. The interior of the island is characterised by dry Atlantic rainforest, so you can wander for hours on beautiful trails through the forest, or enjoy a cable-car ride up to the hills in the centre, for some amazing views across the island… Heaven!
The Pantanal Wetlands
One of Brazil’s best-kept secrets, the Pantanal wetlands are a must-see if you’re at all interested in wildlife. Although most people think of the Amazon rainforest as being the best place to see animals and birds in Brazil. However the Pantanal has more varieties of wildlife, as well as a much greater variety of scenery, even on a short trip, you can explore thick forest, African-style Savannah, and a range of waterways from broad rivers to small streams. This mix of environments is what gives the Pantanal its amazing bio-diversity and also means that it can be easier to spot wildlife of all types – in the Amazon, you could be just a few yards away from an animal and not see it through the thick undergrowth, while in the Pantanal this is much less of a problem, making it the perfect destination for a wildlife holiday in Brazil.
If you’re interested in the colonial history of Brazil, or would just like a little culture on your Brazil holiday, then it’s traditional to head up to the north-east of the country and visit the city of Salvador. As well as being the centre of Afro-Brazilian culture, Salvador also has a nicely-preserved colonial centre, and it’s a great place to spend a couple of days. However… just down the coast, there is another beautiful colonial town which many feel is even nicer than Salvador, and certainly is much more off the beaten track. This is Olinda, which has largely been swallowed-up by its modern neighbour, Recife, but which still manages to preserve a time-warp atmosphere of its own. There’s very little traffic and almost no modern buildings, just winding cobbled streets, colonial mansions, and picture-perfect churches. It’s absolutely gorgeous but almost no foreign tourists visit: all the better for you!
Chapada Diamantina
Brazil doesn’t have much of a reputation as a trekking destination, but staying in the north-east, the vast range of the Chapada Diamantina is slowly but surely changing all that. Formerly a mining area – particularly for diamonds – the Chapada has re-invented itself as a destination for people looking for a wilder side to Brazil, away from the style and sophistication of Rio or Sao Paulo. It’s still quite hard to reach, although there are a few flights a week to the regional capital of Lencois, but the epic geography of the area makes it all worthwhile. Even a short 2 or 3-day trek will take you into an environment of enormous mesas, with cliffs cut by bright waterfalls, dropping into natural swimming pools and sparkling mountain rivers. It’s a truly beautiful environment, and one made all the better by the fact that you can trek all day and not see a soul!


Author Bio: Dan Clarke works for The Real Brazilian and spends as much time as possible in Brazil. The cities are great, but given the choice he’d rather be out walking in the Chapada Diamantina or relaxing on a riverboat somewhere in the Pantanal!

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