If only people’s fantasies about Brazil was anywhere near the truth..
Brazil is just huge, larger than the USA if you don’t count Alaska. A good chunk of it is inaccessible Amazon rainforest but with 7000km of beaches to choose from it’s hard to feel short-changed. As a rough guide, most of the top half of the country is pretty much third world with widespread poverty and illiteracy, whilst in the south of the country there are some of the largest metropolises in the world – although there’s just as much poverty alongside the skyscrapers.
In many ways Brazil offers the traveler the best of the Latin Dream. It’s tropical and stunning with happy, spontaneous people. It’s sexy and upbeat and is stuffed with physical culture of dance and music . Behind the clichés of sex, football and beaches though there are horrendous social realities with the worst distribution of wealth in the world. Some of the cities can be thoroughly dangerous and the social divides are gaping.
Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo are the two biggest cities with the latter home to around 23 million people. The money is in Sao Paolo but the glamour will always belong to Rio. This is where you’ll find the most educated, English speaking people who set the beach fashion worldwide.
The southern states get really European with whiter skin and blonde hair, legacy of the German and Dutch genes. It gets cold here in winter and isn’t the Brazil of the picture postcards. There are cool towns though like Curitiba and Floreanopolis.
Mina Gerais is about as near as you’re going to get to mountains with some nice hills in the historic mining district. The people here are smart and lively but speak so fast it’s hard to understand much.
Once you hit Bahia going north then the second half of Brazil really begins. This is a laid back state that is being devoured by tourism. The population is heavily African, especially in the capital, Salvador. This is a claustrophobic city where they prey on tourists. Good place for capoeira studies though.
North East Brazil is poor as shit but has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Little fishing hamlets get transformed into vibrant beach scenes in the space of a few years with Brazilian tourists in force at weekends and holidays. You can get rooms at guesthouses and flirt in the bars. In places like Pipa there are beaches with surf and dolphins, whilst nearby Olinda is the bohemian music centre – the beach is too filthy and shark-infested to swim here though.
The Amazon is a big favourite with tourists though if you want to see anything interesting you have to get off the main track of the big river. Traveling by boat from Belem to Manaus is not really to be recommended as it’s something of a hell trip . Take a flight straight to Manaus and try your luck on small boat excursions into the jungle from there.