With such expansive geography and diverse cultures, it’d take years to see the entirety of Brazil. But even though no trip will even begin to cover everything the country has to offer, many visitors never attempt to get out from the metropolises of Sao Paulo and Rio. Trust us, there’s plenty more to see – read on for our picks from the lesser-known side of Brazil, starting from South to North.
| Florianopolis – East & West |
Though it sounds like it belongs in the Greek Isles rather than Brazil, this little island off the coast of Santa Catarina has long since been a favorite getaway for Argentine and Brazilian tourists. European and North American tourists are just getting in on the island’s beauty. One of its sister cities is Ibiza – if that tells you anything about the atmosphere in Florianopolis.
The biggest sport in Floripa might be people watching, and Café de la Musique one of its main venues. And even though the island really comes alive in the summer months, there are still plenty of early evening parties at this beach club and café throughout the year.
Since you’re on an island you’ll probably find yourself hankering for some seafood. Make a reservation at East & West, an intimate restaurant beloved by locals for its fusion of Japanese and Mediterranean. For after dinner revelry, you have your pick of megaclubs like P12 and Pacha or elegant bars like La Cave.
| Minas Gerais – Ouro Preto |
No, it’s not on the beach, but Brazilians love the Minas Gerais region. Culturally and gastronomically it’s one of the most typically “Brazilian” states in the country. Many classic Brazilian products like pão de queijo and cachaça are produced in the region and some of the country’s most important cultural centers such as the Centro de Arte Contemporânea Inhotim and the Museu Mariano Procópio are found here. It’s also homed to famed (or now infamous) soccer stadium, the Mineirão – the site of Brazil’s devastating loss to Germany in the 2014 World Cup.
The city of Ouro Preto was once the capital of the region, is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its stunning Baroque architecture. Similar but perhaps even more quiet and romantic is Tiradentes, and while the present day capital of Belo Horizonte doesn’t have the colonial architecture, but its idyllic setting among the mountains and lively bar scene still makes it a favorite destination.
| Trancoso – Praia do Espelho |
Stylish but unpretentious, Trancoso and its white sand beach remain somewhat off the international radar. It was founded by Jesuits in the 16th century but, international travelers and wealthy paulistas and cariocas have given the coastal Bahia town its modern-day identity.
Much of the activity in Trancoso is concentrated around the Quadrado, including restaurants like O Cacau, which serves Bahian-style seafood and nightclubs like Pára-Raio.
If you don’t mind a somewhat rocky car drive, head about an hour south to find Praia do Espelho – “mirror beach.” See for yourself if the water is as reflectively clear as the name would suggest.
| Jericoacoara |
The word “paradise” gets thrown around a lot when describing beachside getaways, so forgive us for using it again in describing the isolated coastal village of Jericoacoara. And like many paradisiacal places, getting there isn’t exactly easy – most visitors fly into Fortaleza, then take a bus to the small town Jijoca and transfer to a 4×4 to cross the sand dunes that surround the village. The whole journey by land takes up to five hours. Or you can drop a few thousand reais on a helicopter and get there in under an hour.
Watching the sun set into the ocean is a rarity in Brazil, since almost the entirety of its coastline faces east – which is exactly why you should reserve one evening for climbing to the top of the Duna do Pôr do Sol. Jericoacoara’s jutting coast provides one of the rare places to watch the sun dip into the Atlantic Ocean, and this high sand dune is the perfect place to see it.
We wouldn’t blame you for spending your whole time in Jericoacoara going from beach to beach and finding new places to lie out on the sand, but more active travelers can take advantage of sports like kitesurfing, windsurfing and just plain old surfing. Try your hand at any of those sports and more from Xavi Surf School or Kite Nomad.