Rio de Janeiro
Golden beaches and lush mountains, samba-fueled nightlife and spectacular football matches: welcome to the Cidade Maravilhosa (Marvelous City). Captivating Beaches Rio's beaches have long seduced visitors. Copacabana Beach became a symbol of Rio during the 1940s, when international starlets would jet in for the weekend.
Brazil's African heritage comes alive in the staggeringly beautiful Northeastern state of Bahia. The heady blend of two seemingly disparate cultures – classic Portuguese architecture and African drumbeats, Catholic churches and Candomblé (Afro-Brazilian religion) – is unique and, for most travelers, truly intoxicating.
São Paulo is home to 20 million fiercely proud Paulistanos (as residents are known), all of whom will happily rant and rave to you how they'd never live elsewhere. Spend time with them and the reasons will soon unfold. Maybe they will introduce you to the city’s innumerable art-house cinemas and experimental theaters.
For those seeking a tangible sense of Brazilian history, no state compares with Minas Gerais. The tortuous cobblestone streets and baroque monuments of colonial mining towns like Ouro Preto, Tiradentes and Diamantina have seen it all, from the horrors of slavery to the fervor of Brazil's 18th-century independence movement. Minas is also a place of magnificent natural wonders.
Welcome to the heart of the Amazon. 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.
Rio Grande do Sul
From the 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 emerging New World wines, Rio Grande do Sul defies stereotypical notions of Brazil.
Salvador da Bahia has an energy and unadorned beauty that few cities can match. Once the magnificent capital of Portugal’s New World colony, today Salvador is the pulsating heart of the country’s Afro-Brazilian community. Its brilliantly hued center is a living museum of 17th- and 18th-century architecture and gold-laden churches.
Goiás is Brazil’s ‘road less traveled,’ though not for good reason: fiery red sunsets over the lush, rolling hills of the dramatic cerrado landscape set the stage for unparalleled views. 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 in some parts.