Frenetic street festivals, incredible rainforests, mindboggling soccer matches and magnificent beaches. Brazil is the beating heart of South America.
First stop, the seaside city of Rio de Janeiro. According to the experts you have to leave Copacabana Beach behind and get out into a favela – one of the city’s sprawling shanty towns – to see the real Rio.
Rio’s favelas are perhaps Brazil’s most famous, and beautiful, with old, paved streets and colourful, ramshackle houses bursting with Brazilian culture and food.
A safe way to see this authentic slice of Rio is to hire a guide and take a walking tour from the top of the largest favela, Rocinha, to the bottom.
Along the way you’ll see how most of the city goes about its daily life and maybe stop for a drink at a local ‘buteco’.
What many don’t know is that the most breathtaking views of Rio are to be had from one of Rocinha’s many terraces.
Considered the biggest street party in the world (it’s estimated that two million people per day take to the streets of the Brazilian capital during the festivities), Carnival takes place in Rio each year before Lent (February), during which time the city erupts into four days of colour and dancing and music and revelry.
Parties and celebrations are held on the streets, in neighbourhood squares, in bars and restaurant, all culminating in the iconic Carnival Parade, traditionally known as the Samba Parade, with its enormous, over-the-top floats and riot of feathers, sequins and skin.
And with hundreds of thousands of visitors flooding into the city to take part in all the fun, those in the know advise to book accommodation well in advance to make sure you have somewhere to lay your head when you have danced yourself to a standstill.
Sao Paulo – the biggest city in Brazil – rising above its reputation for urban sprawl and developing a cool personality led by restaurateurs and artists.
Mani has been ranked as one of the best restaurants in the world with its indoor/outdoor vibe and innovative menu. The city’s art scene is booming, with myriad minimalist whitewashed galleries dotted throughout.
For an expansive take on Brazilian modern art head to Museu de Arte de São Paulo or for something completely new visit Galeria Choque Cultural for ‘pop, outsider and young art’.
Then there is the majesty of The Amazon Rainforest, covering much of northwestern Brazil and extending into Colombia, Peru and other South American countries. It’s the world’s largest tropical rainforest, famed for its biodiversity.
One of the most beautiful places to stay in Brazil is the Botanique Hotel & Spa, Campos do Jordao. Botanique takes the whole ‘concept hotel’ notion up a notch (or three). The hotel melds the best of boutique with the precision of five-star (though there’s nothing as démodé as a front desk here – a personal curator caters to every need).
High in the Mantiqueira Mountains about 400 kilometres from São Paolo, it’s exclusive and eco-savvy – massive reclaimed timber beams and slabs of natural stone backdrop bespoke furnishings and original art.
You’re surrounded by space, yet coddled with comfort. The spa is alpha-plus, based on Afro-Brazilian and Native Indian biodiversity.
Feast on the contemporary Brazilian farm-to-fork cuisine, with artisanal local wines and a stellar cigar selection.