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.
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.
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 rainforest has a population density half that of Mongolia’s, but the journey there invariably begins in (or passes through) this bustling city. Don’t be surprised if you feel a little out of whack.
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.
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.
Goiás is a vast and wild state of green hills and deep valleys, dominated by the picturesque cerrado so typical of central Brazil. Agriculture is big business here, with soya, biodiesel and ethanol industries making this one of the wealthiest states in the country, albeit at the expense of the landscape.