Rio de Janeiro City
At once both a cinematic cityscape and a grimy urban front line, Rio de Janeiro, known as the cidade maravilhosa (marvelous city), is nothing if not exhilarating. Flanked by gorgeous mountains, white-sand beaches and verdant rainforests fronting deep blue sea, Rio occupies one of the most spectacular settings of any metropolis in the world.
Named after female warriors of Greek mythology, the Amazon is itself a place of nearly mythical status. What traveler hasn't imagined a trip to the Amazon, not only to admire the towering trees and awesome river, but to enter, in a real sense, the very life spring of the planet, the source of so much of the air we breath, the water we drink and the weather we rely on.
Africa meets South America in the staggeringly beautiful northeastern state of Bahia. The heady blend of two seemingly disparate cultures – classic Portuguese architecture and African drum beats, Catholic churches and Candomblé (Afro-Brazilian religion) – is unique, and for most travelers, truly intoxicating.
Espírito Santo & Minas Gerais
For those seeking a tangible sense of Brazilian history, no state compares with Minas Gerais. The tortuous cobblestone streets and splendid baroque monuments of Minas’ colonial mining towns have seen it all, from the horrors of slavery to the fervor of Brazil's 18th-century independence movement. Minas’ natural wonders are equally alluring.
Ceará, Piauí & Maranhão
These three Northeastern states stretch along Brazil’s only north-facing coast and deep into the arid interior. The main draw for visitors, the beaches of Ceará, are arrayed for hundreds of glorious kilometers either side of Fortaleza, the fun-loving biggest city.
Mato Grosso & Mato Grosso do Sul
Mato Grosso was once Brazil’s wild west, a land known only to explorers, indigenous hunters, poachers, gold seekers and naturalists. Today, some of Brazil’s most cooperative wildlife and incredible scenery make it a prime destination for ecotourists and anglers.
Amazonas is Brazil’s largest state, spanning almost 1.6 million sq km. You could fit four Germanys within its borders with room left over for, say, Greece. It is here that the massive Solimões, Negro and Madeira rivers converge to form the Rio Amazonas, the granddaddy of them all.
Pará doesn’t have the name ‘Amazonas’ like the state next door, so it might be easy to think it’s not part of ‘the Amazon’ either. In fact, Pará has some terrific Amazonian destinations: The national forest along the Rio Tapajós has monster trees and a fascinating living history of rubber boom and bust, and is reachable via the laid-back beach town of Alter do Chão.
Salvador da Bahia has an energy and unadorned beauty that few cities can match. Once the magnificent capital of Portugal’s great New World colony, Salvador is the country’s Afro-Brazilian jewel. Its brilliantly hued center is a living museum of 17th- and 18th-century architecture and gold-laden churches. More importantly, Salvador is the nexus of an incredible arts movement.