Virtual Brazil: Travel

Whether your passion is nature or nightlife, sports or sunbathing, culture or cuisine, or all of the above, Brazil’s vast and varied terrain offers a range of incredible destinations. Ah… where to begin?

With 8000 kilometers of coastline and over 2000 breathtaking beaches, vast wildlife reserves, rustic farming regions, vibrant cities, myriad local cultural celebrations, historical treasures, and warm hospitality, making the decision of WHERE to travel may be the hardest part of your journey to Brazil.

Since the places where Excalibur Enterprise’s handcrafted, artisan cachaças are produced - Rio de Janeiro, Florianopolis, Minas Gerais, and São Paulo - also happen to be some of Brazil’s hottest travel destinations, we’ll start there. Of course, we can’t resist sharing some travel tips and pointing out a few more must-see regions.

Rio de Janeiro

Our Cachaça Rochinha is made on a picturesque farm about 60 kilometers beyond the city limits of Rio de Janeiro.

Of course, once you arrive in the “Marvelous City,” you may find it hard to leave. Ringed by soaring mountain peaks that descend into Guanabara Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, a blend of natural splendor, rich history, pulsing, music-driven nightlife, and unique culture make Rio a key destination for any world traveler. And then there’s Rio’s famed carnival, which begins months before the actual parade; samba schools, block party ensembles, and musicians begin practicing as early as October to prepare for February’s competition. But you haven’t really visited Rio until you’ve enjoyed a caipirinha or two on Copacabana and Ipanema Beaches. As the sunsets over the Two Brothers Mountain, it’s hard to decide whether to observe the majestic skyline or the bikini-clad beauties surrounding you!

A few hours outside of Rio, surfers, seafood lovers, and consummate vacationers will find even more dazzling beaches, great waves, and culinary delights in beach towns like Buzios, Ilha Grande, and Paraty.

Before you travel, be sure to check out this great English-language guide to Rio: http://www.ipanema.com

Florianopolis

For true cachaça connoisseurs, Armazem Vieira’s historic bar and cellar in Florianopolis is a destination in and of itself.

Located in the South of Brazil in the prosperous state of Santa Catarina, the island of Florianopolis is affectionately known as Floripa. Boasting 42 picturesque beaches, historical sites, and charming fishing villages, the island draws surfers, sun worshippers, and vacationers from all over Brazil and South America. The north end of the island offers a number of first class resorts at beaches like Cachoeira do Bom Jesus and Ponta das Canas. Surfer flock to the wild waves on the eastern side of the island at Praia Brava and Praia do Santinho. Some of the best seafood and historical sites can be found on the less-frequented northwest (Sambaqui) and south of the island (Solidão), where fresh oysters and just-caught fish and shrimp are served at waterfront eateries. Watch the fishing boats arrive as you dine!

Santa Catarina and other Southern states have produced some of Brazil’s most striking models like Ana Cláudia Michels, Ana Hickman, and many others. Keep your eyes pealed for the next Gisele Bundchen as you explore the exquisite beaches that stretch north and south on the coast of Santa Catarina. Inland, the influence of German, Italian, and Azorean immigrants is evident in the regional cuisine, architecture, and industry. The largest Oktoberfest outside of Germany is held in Blumenau, Santa Catarina; German beer, sausage, folkdance meets seafood and samba in a wild weeklong celebration.

You can also learn more about Floripa and practice your Portuguese at this site.

Surfers: check the surf in Floripa here.

Minas Gerais

GRM cachaça is produced on some of Brazil’s richest land for sugarcane, dairy, and coffee farming, which helps to earn the state of Minas Gerais its deserved reputation for the finest food and cachaça. In Portuguese, Minas Gerais means “The General Mines” recalling the regions prominence as one of the main sources of gold and precious stones during the 18th century. Nestled in picturesque mountain regions, the historical cities of Diamantina, Ouro Preto, and Tiradentes are home to elaborate cathedrals, colonial architecture, and artisans who work with a variety of semi-precious stones and local woods.

In addition to these charming historical cities, the mountainous countryside of Minas is dotted with farmhouse bed and breakfast inns, superb restaurants, and cachaça distilleries that offer tasting of the artesian products. Thermal baths, hikes to towering waterfalls, and other natural attractions make Minas Gerais a perfect place for the adventurous and sophisticated traveler.

Learn more about Minas Gerais.

São Paulo

São Paulo, South America’s largest city, is much more than Brazil’s business center. The cosmopolitan city boasts a thriving arts and cultural scene, some of the country’s best restaurants, shopping, and pulsing, non-stop nightlife. Ethnic diversity contributes to the city’s phenomenal gastronomy. The Italian neighborhood of Bixiga offers some of the best family run eateries, while world-class contemporary cuisine is served at the fine restaurants such as Gero, D.O.M., and Carlota in the sophisticated Jardim Paulista and Cerqueira César neighborhoods. Did you know that São Paulo is home to the largest Japanese population outside of Tokyo? With more than 3 million Japanese-Brazilians, the neighborhood of Liberdade is teaming with restaurants that offer the best sushi available outside of Asia.

After you’ve strolled down the bustling Avenida Paulista and visited the impressive collection at the Museum of Art of São Paulo (MASP) and shopped till you drop around Rua Oscar Freire and Rua Augusta, get ready for a wild night at some of the city’s hottest bars and clubs. Join the beautiful people at the bars in Vila Olimpia and make your way to Lov.E Club and Lounge to dance the night away. Or check in on the scene around Vila Magdalena’s Rua Fradique Coutinho, a gathering point for the local bohemia.

A comprehensive guide to the city’s current art exhibitions is available (in Portuguese only) at: http://www.mapadasartes.com.br

For a weekly guide to São Paulo nightlife, visit: http://www.guiasp.com.br

Find great tips for living, visiting, and exploring the city of São Paulo (in English) at: http://www.gringoes.com

More Destinations

With bio-diversity that is unrivaled on the planet - forests inhabited by tens of thousands of species of plants, fish, birds, and mammals - Brazil is a paradise for wildlife adventure. Each year, thousands of intrepid travelers embark on eco-tours through the Amazon Rainforest and the Pantanal, a dazzling wildlife reserve on Brazil’s eastern border with Bolivia. Ecological tourism not only allows visitors the unique opportunity to see wild orchids, pink river dolphins, Tamarin monkeys and toucans, it provides economic alternatives to deforestation, helping to protect one of the world’s most precious resources.

And there is more. The beaches and cultural richness of Brazil’s northeast beckon those in search of rest and relaxation at luxury resorts, extreme sports enthusiasts, and adventurous bargain travelers. North of Salvador in the state of Bahia, Praia do Forte offers pristine beaches, a nearby turtle preserve, and some of the country’s best luxury hotels. Further north near Natal and Fortaleza, snorkelers, deep sea divers, kite surfers, and sun-seekers will find long stretches of white sand beaches and crystal waters. Nearby, small, inexpensive beachfront restaurants grill fresh-caught lobster and shrimp and serve incredible caipirinhas to better enjoy a sensational sunset. Without a doubt, you’ll hear plenty of regional forró and baião music throughout your trip to the northeast, just head for the plazas and beach promenades in Fortaleza for informal, live performances!

Travel Tips

It’s obvious, but don’t forget that Brazil is located in the southern hemisphere, which means the seasons are reversed. While the temperature in Brazil’s northern cities is somewhat constant throughout the year, regions in the south can get as cold as Connecticut in winter!

Pousadas are small, family run inns that often offer charming accommodations and a wonderful breakfast (café de manhá). This site (Portuguese only) can help you to locate great pousadas throughout the country.If you are planning to visit several destinations in Brazil, consider purchasing a Brazil Air pass. Several airlines offer tickets that allow travelers to make five trips to different cities during 21 days for around 500 USD. Click here to learn more.

Carnival is definitely the most exciting time to visit Brazil. It’s also the most expensive; airline prices soar, and hotels in Rio and Salvador charge as much as 3 times their usual rate, and are still sold out. Budget conscious travelers may consider visiting Brazil a week or two before carnival; you’ll catch a lot of the street celebration and spirit without draining your bank account.

Like many developing nations, Brazil’s economic inequality makes crime a major problem in urban centers. If you are traveling without a planned tour, be sure to consult a reputable guidebook or talk to your hotel proprietor before exploring unknown regions in big cities.

When planning your trip to Brazil make sure to contact the Brazilian consulate nearest you. American travelers need to obtain a visa to enter Brazil.

A few more useful resources on travel to Brazil:

Consulate General of Brazil in NY (learn about visa requirements)

Embratur, Brazil’s Ministry of Tourism

Check out great travel tips and articles in The Hip Gringo’s guide to Brazil

The Lonely Planet guide to Brazil