Brazil is the mammoth of South America!
Dominating nearly 50% of the South America continent and the fifth largest country in the world in terms of both land area and population (over 200 million people call Brazil home) it’s easy to understand how this incredible country encompasses such a diverse range of natural and man-made wonders.
Comprised of 26 autonomous states and crossing 3 different time zones Brazil’s culture is hugely varied and, in spite of being unified by a single language, states are often vastly different. Lucky enough to have some 7,500 kilometres of sun-drenched coastline and several tropical islands, Brazil’s beaches and water activities are a drawcard for visitors and locals alike. Much of the coastline South of Salvador city is comprised of the Great Escarpment, rising as high as 2,700 metres in places and dividing the interior highland plateau from the coast.
In the North lies the enormous Amazon basin (covering a staggering 40% of Brazil’s total land area) and the mighty Amazon River which holds around 20% of all the world’s fresh water. The Amazon Rainforest lies in this basin and has been labelled as ‘megadiverse’ in terms of ecological significance, owing to the huge range of plant and animal life contained within.
The Brazilian Highlands cover the Central and South-Eastern regions and include the states of Sao Paulo, Minas Gerais, Goias and Mato Grosso. The Southern states border neighbouring Uruguay, Argentina and Paraguay and include the fertile plains of Rio Grande do Sul with its vineyards and the astounding Iguacu Falls which have to be seen to be believed.
Unlike all other Latin American countries, the official language in Brazil is Portuguese (spoken by 99% of the population). While most of South America was colonised by Spanish conquistadors, Brazil owes its history to Portuguese settlers who began to arrive in the 1500s and retained governance until independence in 1822. Many of the colonial villages have been perfectly preserved to this day.
Rio de Janeiro (commonly referred to as ‘Rio’) lies on the South Eastern Coastline and was the capital up until 1960 when governance was moved to centrally located Brasilia. Rio was even named the capital of Portugal for a time in a very rare case of a colonising country moving its capital to a colony. Rio is Brazil’s second most populous city after Sao Paulo and symbolised by the iconic statue of Christ the Redeemer on Sugarloaf Mountain. World renowned for its eponymous carnival, Copacabana and Ipanema beaches and the legendary football team – and of course the 2016 Olympics.
Rio enjoys a tropical climate making it a year-round destination. Even in winter (June, July, August) the temperature averages a pleasant 18ºC (70ºF). Summers (December, January, February) are hot and humid with temperatures frequently reaching 40ºC (104ºF). Rainfall is common year-round.