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.
Pernambuco is one of the most exhilarating and varied destinations in the Northeast. Among the earliest centers of Portuguese settlement in Brazil, it has had five centuries to develop rich cultural traditions melding European, African and indigenous influences, especially in music and dance.
Rio Grande do Sul
From the jaw-dropping forest-covered canyons of the national parks near Cambará do Sul, and cascading river valleys near cozy Brazilian alpine villages like Gramado, to the stunning Vale dos Vinhedos, where Italian-descended vintners produce wines to rival those of Chile and Argentina, the Rio Grande do Sul defies notions of typical Brazil.
Manaus is the Amazon’s largest city, an incongruous pocket of urbanity in the middle of the jungle, a major port for ocean vessels that’s 1500km from the ocean. The Amazonian rainforest has a population density half that of Mongolia’s, but the journey there invariably begins in (or passes through) this gritty bustling metropolis.
Sergipe & Alagoas
Overshadowed by big Bahia to the south, the tiny states of Sergipe and Alagoas have long been overlooked by travelers. But it's a tendency that's changing – in the past few years, the thoroughly likable coastal city of Maceió has emerged as a buzzing vacation destination for Brazilian tourists.
The atmosphere-laden colonial city of São Luís, its tranquil but gorgeous neighbor Alcântara, and the wild natural beauty of the Parque Nacional dos Lençóis Maranhenses have put the Northeast’s furthest-flung state firmly on the travel map. The coastal route from Jericoacoara (Ceará) to the Lençóis Maranhenses is an adventure in itself.
Mato Grosso do Sul
Mato Grosso do Sul was created in 1977 when the military government decided it would be the best way to administer and develop such a large region (cynics claimed it was to provide more high-paying bureaucratic jobs for cronies). But even before the split, the area had a different economic and social makeup from the northern Mato Grosso.
West of Rio city is the Costa Verde (Green Coast), a captivating stretch of coastline where jungled mountainsides dotted with flowering trees dive precipitously into a blue-green sea. The sinuous shoreline here presents visitors with an ever-changing panorama of bays, islands, peaks and waterfalls.
Rio Grande do Norte
Pure air, sun, fine beaches and sand dunes symbolize this small state in Brazil's northeast corner. Rio Grande do Norte has one of the country's most spectacular coastlines, some 500km of beautiful beach after beautiful beach, many of them fronted by reefs with natural pools and backed by tall dunes or cliffs.
East of Rio De Janeiro
East of Rio, the mountains recede and the coastal strip becomes flatter, punctuated by the sparkling lagoons of the Região dos Lagos (Lakes Region) and the dazzling white sands of the Costa do Sol (Sunshine Coast). Some of Rio state’s most beautiful beaches are found here.
North and south of Florianópolis, fine sand and big surf attract beachcombers, sunbathers and surfers. Inland, the Serra Geral runs parallel to the coast, protecting some of southern Brazil’s most remote destinations. This is where Santa Catarina’s German and Italian heritage endures most tenaciously.
Well into middle age, Brazil’s once futuristic capital remains an impressive monument to national initiative. Brasília replaced Rio de Janeiro as Brazil’s center of government in 1960, under the visionary leadership of President Juscelino Kubitschek, architect Oscar Niemeyer, urban planner Lucio Costa and landscape architect Burle Marx.