After 7 months traveling around Brazil, visiting 22 of the 26 states, this is my top 12 places I would recommend you to visit in Brazil.
- Vila Velha/Victoria
I had just one day to visit this city, but nevertheless, it stole my heart. Vila Velha is in Espírito Santo and has the nickname little Rio. When you are there you will understand. A smaller city with nice beaches, samba and big rocks in the city like Rio de Janeiro has. Nice places to go are Morro do Moreno, Praia de Itaparica, Prainha, Convento de Penha and Praia Secreta.
Brazils planned capital since 1960, developed by Lucio Costa and famous architect Oscar Niemeyer. Lots of amazing building. When you are walking around, you can’t imagine that it was more than 50 years ago it was already possible to create such modern architecture.
Unfortunately, the buildings are not well maintained at all. Not because of the money, but because a lack of organization. Good places to go are the center of the city where all the political department are settled like Congresso Nacional and Palacio do Planalto. A little bit outside the center are Templo da Boa Vontade and Santuario Dom Bosco, both worth a visit. Close to Brasilia you will find Pirenopolis, an old historical town 3 hours away by bus.
It might be a surprise but Cuiabá, located in Mato Grosso, was for me a very good place to visit. The city its self is quite normal, good nightlife, but besides that nothing special to offer. However close around are great places to visit. The Transpantaneira Highway to the Pantanal is great to see a lot of wildlife. You will actually see more than in the Amazonia because it’s an open area. Chapada dos Guimaraes is an awesome national park with beautiful views and great waterfalls and Nobres has a lake with very clear water where you can snorkel. Nobres is a good alternative to Bonita, which is similar but way more expensive.
Even though these two places are 6 hours away from each other, I put them together because of the transportation. You will not visit Jericoacoara without visiting Fortaleza . Fortaleza was a very popular city a few years ago for Germans, Dutch and Italian tourists. However, since the city became more dangerous and prostitution became bigger, tourism started to decrease. It’s getting better already, but unfortunately still exists. Why do I put this in my top 12? Because Fortaleza it’s still an awesome place to go. There is a lot of nightlife with different kind of genres, the beaches Praia de Iracema and Praia de Futuro are great and the weather is 98% of the time perfect to spend your holiday. I have spent there 1 month working in a hostel and it rained once. The pier ‘Espigao da Joao Cordeiro’ is the best place to go. Nice things to visit are Fortaleza de Nossa Sra, Passeio and Museu da Industria (very interesting).
After a few days Fortaleza, take the bus to Jericoacoara, a wonderful place where desert meets ocean and nice lagoons are around. Very popular for kitesurfers as well and a lot of backpackers around there.
An interesting city in the state Pernambuco in the North-East of Brazil. Compared to other North-East cities like Salvador, Natal and Fortaleza the historic center of Recife is well maintained. Maybe more interesting for Dutch people than for other people, because Recife was the capital of Dutch-Brazil in the past, but besides that still an interesting city. The good thing is that small historic city Olinda is next to Recife. Good places to visit are the center of Recife, Boa Viagem where you will find the beach (watch out for the sharks!) and a very good place to go if you are interested in Dutch-Brazilian history is Instituto Ricardo Brennand. There is not so much nightlife, however, if you are searching for a good place to go out, go to Bar Chef in Casa Forte.
Not far from Recife (1 hour) you will find Porto de Galinhas and by plane you can go to the wonderful but expensive island Fernando de Noroha, where I because of the money unfortunately couldn’t go.
7. Chapada Diamantina
Known as the Grand Canyon of Brazil, and it is. Amazing high and huge rocks with canyons in between. Also great lakes, waterfalls and caves. Good places to go are Cachoeira do Buracao, Panorama do Chapada Diamantina and Gruta de Partinha. Best way to go there is to go to the touristic village Lencois, 5 hours from Salvador da Bahia, where you can find multiple guided tours to all the places.
The most beautiful small place with nice surf beaches around. Touristic, with a lot of hostels and bars. Best moment for me was when I was swimming in the sea and I noticed there were some dolphins behind me, between me and the beach. Was an amazing moment. I recommend you definitely to go here and explore and try surfing if you like. Unfortunately forgot to take enough photo’s;).
Florianopolis, also called Floripa, the party island of Brazil, located in the state Santa Catarina. According to some Brazilians the best places to be in Brazil with the most beautiful people. I was there a little bit more than one month when I worked at a hostel. The Island has a lot of different things to do: beaches, hiking, boat trips, sandboarding and of course parties. Big disadvantage for me was the transportation in the summer. It can take you 3 hours to go from the center to Barra de Lagoa that are just 15 km apart. (apart from that, best place to stay). Best places to go are Lagoinha do Leste, Praia and Ilha do Campeche, Mole Beach, Praia Joaquina, Jururê Internacional and Praia do Matadeiro. Best clubs to go are P12 (poolparty, different styles), Milk (house), Terraza (techno), 1007 (different styles and all the smaller clubs around Lagoa da Conheição.
4. Sao Paulo
Some people say, Sao Paulo is just is a big city. No it’s not. With more than 12 million people in the city and 23 people in the metropolitan there is always something to do. The city has more than 20.000 buildings higher than 15 levels! Also, more than 30.000 clubs/restaurants, if you visited one a day, every day, you would be 83 years old until you have visited them all! Nightlife is very big in Sao Paulo. ‘Work hard, play hard’ is the motto. What you will miss in Rio de Janeiro, will you find in Sao Paulo. Good areas to go are Vila Madelena, Vila Olympia, Rua Augusta and Paulista Avanue. Best club to go is D-Edge. Also big festivals such as Tomorrowland, Experience and Lollapalooza are around Sao Paulo.
- IIha Grande
Even though I am more into big cities, this small island is really a paradise. For me the most beautiful place in Brazil. It’s an island with no more than 2.000 habitants and no cars, only the police and some transport cars between main city Vila do Abraao and Dois Rios. The Island has multiple trails to beaches or mountains. A very good one is the trail to Praia Lopos Mendes or the night trail to Topo Pico do Papagaio.
- Rio de Janeiro
It was a hard choose which city, São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro, I would put in a higher position on my list. However, in my 4th and last stay in Rio I decided to choose Rio. Even though the public transport sucks and there are not that many bars or nightlife Rio has a lot of different beautiful places. If you visit this city, one week is not enough to explore all the great things. Not only because there are a lot, but also because you need to take some time to enjoy those places. It’s not like a museum or an old theater where you walk in and out in about an hour. You need some time, an afternoon or night, to enjoy the place. Places like Pão de Açúcar, favela Vigidal, Pedra do Arpoador, Gloria and Mureta de Urca. Rio has also very beautiful trails to Pedra Bonita, Pedra de Gavea, Morro da Urca, Cachoeira do Horto and the trail from Parque Lage to the famous Cristo Redentor statue, which is not only nice to do, but also saves you R$50 for the bus ticket to go there.
- Balneário Camboriú
This place has just everything: beaches, trails, outdoor sports, tourist attractions, bars, beautiful people, good transportation and electronic music parties. Mostly the last two things it what you will miss in Rio. Balneário Camboriú isn’t that big, so everything is close by. Even though the city hasn’t more than 150.000 citizens, it’s the city with the highest buildings in Brazil. During spring and summer (October – March) it gets crowded on the weekends and holidays with people from mostly Sao Paulo and Curitiba.
Absolutely number 1 club for house music is Green Valley, which was voted a few times as number 1 club in the world by DJmag. There is also a very known techno Walhalla called Warung at Praia Brava, with a great sunrise in the morning. Great beaches around are Taquara, Praia do Pinho, Praia do Estaleiro and Itapema (unfortunately I don’t have photo’s of those). Great spots to visit are Morro do Careca, where you have a view of both sides of the city, and the teleferico (cable car) is also a nice place to go.
So far my top 12 of places I have visited during my 7 months Brazil depending on my experiences. Places which are also worth it to go in Brazil but not on the list are Ilha do Mel, Fernando de Noronha, Morro de Sao Paulo, Cabo Frio, Buzios and many more. I did not have the chance to go to those places, however, Brazil is a beautifull country and I will come back ones for sure!