After spending the last 5 months exploring destinations in every corner of Brazil, and ringing in the New Year in Rio de Janeiro, I thought it was the perfect time to reflect on my all time favourite places across South America’s largest country. Here are 5 places you NEED to visit in Brazil – and this is just the tip of the iceberg!
Tucked away in the north east of Brazil, Jericoacoara is a hidden paradise, just waiting to be explored by romantics, adventure lovers, sun seekers and everyone in between. When I say hidden, I mean it! It is a 5 hour drive from the nearest major airport, or in my case, a 10 hour commute by bus and dune buggy. This beach side town is located beyond the dessert sand dunes, but the distance is worth it when you step foot in the sandy streets and set your sights on the freshwater lagoons.
One of the main attractions in Jericoacoara is the famous giant sand dune that sits on the edge of the village and provides the perfect viewing spot to watch the ‘por do sol’ – the most magnificent sunset you will ever see in your life. Every evening, locals and visitors alike, make the short trek to the top of the dune to catch a glimpse and to celebrate another beautiful day in Brazil’s hidden paradise.
This mountain top town will make you question if you are really in Brazil anymore…
Located in Brazil’s southernmost state, Rio Grande do Sul, Gramado was heavily influenced by German settlers in the 19th century, making it look like a European wonderland – while still holding on to the Brazilian charm and chilled-out lifestyle. Some say they make the best chocolate in the country (and that alone, is a fantastic reason to visit!) but the highlight of this majestic town has got to be their Christmas festivities.
From the end of October until January, Gramado transforms its streets into a Christmas dreamland, like you have never seen before! Every single day, you can find free concerts, parades, light shows and more. Why not hop on a city sightseeing tour to soak in all of the festive vibes, or take a trip to Santa’s Village! My personal favourite Christmas experience was the Reencontros de Natal (Christmas Reunions) show, which takes place on a lake – but tickets sell out fast, so make sure you get in their quickly.
RIO DE JANEIRO
How could I write a blog post about the best places to visit in Brazil without mentioning one of my favourite cities in the world?
Rio de Janeiro is special. Like really frikin special. There is no where else like it on planet earth, and if you are making the trip down to South America, you would be mad not to spend a few days soaking up the sun on Ipanema beach, sipping on Caipirinhas in some of the best samba clubs the world has to offer, and trekking around the spectacular scenery that calls the city home.
I also have some advice on where to stay when you arrive. This hostel is the best I have ever stayed in. Do yourself a favour and book it (the breakfast alone is reason enough to stay, not to mention the stunning rooftop views over Leme and Copacabana).
MORRO DE SAO PAULO
After hearing rave reviews from locals all over Brazil, I knew that I needed to put Morro de Sao Paulo on my bucket list.
A 2 hour boat ride outside of Salvador (another wonderful city that you should spend 1 or 2 days exploring) will take you to a small island with every kind of beach you could ever desire. First beach has been known to have strong surf, while second beach is the perfect place to go when hunger strikes. Third beach is for those who are looking for some relaxation, and the list goes on and on!
Words cannot describe how beautiful this little gem is, but I am hoping the photo below will give you a rough idea – just look at that cyrstal clear water! One thing to note is that this island is popular with the locals, so try to get there during the low season (April to September is best) and if you want to have some time and space for yourself, make sure you don’t book it during one of the many Brazilian holidays! (very different vibes when thousands of people arrive all at once!)
TIRADENTES (OR OURO PRETO) – BOTH ARE RIDICULOUSLY BEAUTIFUL
Brazil is rich in history and culture, and the Estrada Real (Royal Road) is the perfect place to begin to dig into the many stories of the countries past. Covering over 1600km, the trails lead to some of the most beautiful historical cities, dating back to the colonial era.
These cities are known for their stunning architecture, colourful streets and perfectly-kept churches, so park up, check in to one of their many pousadas for the night and get ready to walk in the footsteps of Brazils deep and often dark history.
If you are looking for a challenge along the way, pick up your own Estrada Real Passport and fill it up with unique stamps on every step of your roadtrip. If you can complete one of the 4 trails, you will receive a certificate to remember your experience for many years to come.