Brazil is the fifth-largest country in the world. It's known for its friendly people, vibrant culture and stunning scenery, so it's little wonder it's on many traveler's bucket lists. You can have any type of holiday you want here - you could hike through the Amazon, explore Brazil's many fascinating cities, or simply relax on the beach and drink cocktails. It really is up to you!
If Brazil sounds like your sort of destination and you want to start planning your trip, read on.
Brazil is so vast it's impossible to list every city and attraction that makes it great, but here are some of the destination's highlights.
See the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro
You can't go to Brazil without paying a visit to its capital, Rio. Later this year, it will host the Olympic and Paralympic Games, which take place between 5 - 21 August and 7 - 18 September respectively. A huge variety of sports will take place all across the city, and although you'll more than likely be able to watch the games live in local bars, it's well worth trying to get tickets to see at least one event in person.
If you're not a fan of sport, there are plenty of other things to see and do in Rio. We recommend taking the trip up Corcovado to see the world-famous Cristo Redentor up close. After all, don't you want to enjoy the incredible views he gets to experience every day?
Lovers of sand and sea will be pleased to know there are plenty of fantastic beaches in Rio. Copacabana is arguably the most famous, but Ipanema is cleaner and therefore more popular as a result. Be aware that it gets very crowded at the weekend, though.
Explore the 'New York' of Brazil, Sao Paulo
This huge, densely-populated city is not for the faint-hearted traveller, but Sao Paulo, or Sampa as it's affectionately known, offers more variety than any other Brazilian city. That's due to the various cultures and nationalities that live here - everyone from the very poor to the very rich resides in Sampa. There's also a huge Japanese community (the largest outside of Japan, in fact), and they are joined by large number of Italians, Arabs, Chinese, Greeks, Syrians, Africans...the list goes on!
To see this wonderful city in all its sprawling glory, travel up Banespa - Brazil's answer to the Empire State Building. It's a huge 161m-high skyscraper, which offer amazing panoramic views. It takes a while to travel to the top, and you'll need ID to do so, but entry is free.
Don't leave Sampa without heading to the Mercado Municipal at least once. This huge covered market is a great place to sample Brazil's most tasty treats. You can find everything from fresh fruit and veg, to sweets and spices here.
Experience the Amazon in Belém
If you're heading to Brazil just to see the beautiful Amazon rainforest in all its glory, staying in Belém is a good idea. From here, you can begin a riverboat voyage, which will take you through the rainforest. It's an incredibly peaceful and relaxing way to spend your holiday, as you can just kick back and enjoy nature. Expect to be woken up by howler monkeys every morning, and you might even see a Jaguar if you're lucky.
The Amazon is a great place to visit all year round, but if you want to experience the rainforest up close and personal and go hiking, it's best to plan your holiday for October, as it's least likely to rain during this month.
Learn about Brazil's past in Sao Luis
Although not many foreign tourists travel to the north-east of Brazil, Sao Luis is loved by the locals, and when you get here it's not hard to see why. The historic centre of this city is World Heritage-listed and consists of charming cobbled streets and pastel-coloured mansions. You'll find a good variety of museums, galleries and craft stores here too.
To see what Sao Luis might have looked like in the 19th century, visit the Museu Historéco e Artéstico do Estado de Maranhao. This restored 1836 mansion contains all the valuables and furniture you could expect to find in the home of an upper-class family at the time. It even boasts its own private theatre! Entry is just R$5 (around 88p).
In the evening, why not have a drink and dance at one of the many reggae bars in the city?
The beauty of Salvador
With dozens of historic sites and plenty of museums and markets, there's so much culture in Salvador. If you only have time to see one thing, make sure it's the Igreja e Convento de Sao Francisco church. It's one of the most impressive religious buildings in Brazil, and it has an incredibly interesting past.
The church was actually built by African slave artisans, who were not permitted to practice their own religion. To get their own back, they made changes to some of the artwork upon the building. Look closely and you'll see many of the cherubs' faces are distorted; some even appear to be pregnant, or have over-sized sex organs. The artist who created the statue of Sao Pedro da Alcéntara had tuberculosis and reflected that within his work. If you walk past the statue in a certain direction, you'll see it appears to become sicker. Entry to the church is just R$3 (53p).
Brazilian food and drink
Brazil's food and drink is just as varied as its culture - even the fussiest of eaters are bound to find something they enjoy. Here are some of the dishes, snacks and drinks you cannot leave Brazil without trying.
No one does a BBQ quite like Brazil - you simply must taste picanha (rump cap - the most popular premium cut in the country). It's seasoned with nothing but salt, and tastes amazing when cooked to perfection. To try a wide variety of skewered meats, from pork and wild boar to lamb, head to a churrascaréas (BBQ steak house).
Made from fermented sugarcane juice, Cachaça is Brazil's national cocktail. It has a real kick to it, so be careful not to drink too many at once! Amazingly, the origins of this drink date back to the 1500s.
Pé¢o de queijo
This simple but tasty snack can be enjoyed at any time of day. Quite simply, it's gluten-free cheese bread which is crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. If you want to be extra-indulgent, try the larger versions, which are filled with everything from even more cheese, to various meats.
The açai berry is a well-known superfood and one of the many fruits that grow in the Amazon. Native tribes have known about its useful properties for a while, as they eat them for energy. Now, the berry is used widely in Brazilian cooking - you'll see it everywhere, in various different forms. Drinking an açai smoothie will certainly prepare you for the day ahead. If you're feeling adventurous, why not try açai vodka or beer?
These chocolate truffles are simple yet oh-so moreish. They are made with a mix of condensed milk, butter and chocolate powder, and are rolled into small balls, which are then covered in chocolate sprinkles. No wonder they're the most popular dessert in Brazil.
Customs to follow
When going to a country you're not familiar with, it's important to understand the local customs. You don't want to upset someone or appear rude! Plus, it's always a good idea to know what to expect from your destination. With that in mind, here are some key customs to follow:
Brazil is a beautiful country, full of wonderful people, tasty food and lots to experience. There really is no other place quite like it. Before you go, remember to purchase the right travel insurance.
Alpha Travel Insurance and alphatravelinsurance.co.uk are trading names of Travel Insurance Facilities Plc, which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority FRN306537. tifgroup is trading name of Travel Insurance Facilities Plc registered in England No. 3220410. tifgroup; all rights reserved. Registered Office: 1 Tower View, Kings Hill, West Malling, ME19 4UY