BRAZIL  |  Brazil Travel Guide
Wednesday, March 3, 2021



Brazil is the largest country in South America and the fifth-largest in the world. It covers half the land mass of the continent and touches every country in South America except Ecuador and Chile. It can be divided into five regions – South, Southeast, Central-West, North and Northeast. Each region comprises several states and has a distinct landscape, almost as if it were a separate country.

Brazilian government is based on the American model and since 1985 it has been ruled by a civilian president. For the previous 20 years it had been ruled by military leaders.

Brazil is a fascinating mix of three distinctive cultures, European, African and Indian. Founded and colonized by the Portuguese in the early 1500s, the earliest settlers mixed with the indigenous Indians, who are believed to have numbered one million souls. Gradually, much of the Indian culture was lost (except in the midst of the vast Amazon Basin) as it was absorbed into that of the Portuguese. Then, in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, large numbers of slaves were brought to Brazil to work on the sugar plantations. They brought with them the culture, religious practices and mores of Northwest Africa. Rather than being absorbed by the Portuguese, their culture blended with it and so the culture of Brazil is a hybrid one. The slaves also gave the country its distinctive hue and beat. Modern immigration, starting in the mid-19th century, has brought Italians, Germans and Japanese in large numbers, and many Jews fled to Brazil from Europe as Hitler came to power.

Officially, Brazil is a Catholic country with the largest Catholic community in the world. While Catholics continue to practice their traditional faith, millions of them also take part in ceremonies and rites of another faith. Macumba is the general term that Cariocas use to describe two types of African spirit worship: Candomblé (practiced in the state of Bahia) and Umbanda (a newer form that originated in Rio).

Portuguese is the national language since it was Portugal that colonized the country in 1532 and ruled it till independence was declared in 1822. Surprisingly, English rather than Spanish, is Brazil’s second language, even though all of Brazil’s neighbors are Spanish-speaking. Only in southern Brazil is Spanish the second language. English is taught in secondary schools and most educated Brazilians speak it. At the better hotels, restaurants and shops, the staff will include some English speakers, and it is not too difficult to navigate Rio and Brazil’s other urban centers using only English.


Destinations in Brazil (8)

  • Brasília, Brazil

    Brasília is Brazil’s capital, created out of the wilderness and inaugurated in 1960. It is a city laid out in the shape of an airplane, with striking architecture and a totally planned environment. Brasília is fascinating because...

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  • Iguaçu Falls, Brazil

    Iguaçu Falls are the world’s greatest waterfalls, higher than Niagara Falls and twice as wide as Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. Where Niagara has two massive falls, Iguaçu has 275 separate falls, a number that swells to over 350 in...

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  • Manaus, Brazil

    Manaus, an unusual city, is your window into the Amazon – both the river and the jungle. Its fortunes have risen and fallen with the river’s tides, and what was once a languid jungle village has become an international city with...

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  • Recife and Olinda, Brazil

    Recife, a picturesque city where canals form the major thoroughfares, is often compared to Venice. It has grown from a tiny fishing village into a hot resort town. Its sister city, Olinda, is a preserved colonial town with myriad...

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  • Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

    Rio de Janeiro is Cidade Maravilhosa (Marvelous City)! It is an apt description, for Rio is both a great metropolis and a great resort. Its beaches such as Copacabana and Ipanema are legendary. Its landmarks,...

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  • Salvador, Brazil

    Salvador, located in the state of Bahia, is where you can see and experience Brazilian culture most intensely. A traditional and beautiful multilevel city, it has myriad fascinating churches, scores of Candomblé ...

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  • São Paulo, Brazil

    São Paulo: It's hard to overlook South America's largest city, with a population fast approaching 20 million people, many of them of Japanese descent. São Paulo is Brazil's commercial center and, because it attracts so many...

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  • The Pantanal, Brazil

    The Pantanal is one of Brazil's, if not the world's, most spectacular regions. This long flood plain covers about 140,000 square miles, extending between two rivers in the Paraguay River Basin. Formed by the remains of an ancient...

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