Brazil is one of the most enchanting and exotic travel destinations in the world. The country is full of magnificent natural splendors such as palm strewn beaches, mountains that are covered with tropical rainforests, national parks full of exotic flora and fauna and deserted tropical islands. Brazil boasts the Amazon Region (which has the world’s largest concentration of biodiversity), the Pantanal (the biggest wetlands in the world), the Amazon River (the biggest river in the world in terms of volume of water), Iguassu Falls (which has the greatest average annual flow of any waterfall in the world) and the most famous week-long dance party in the world, Carnival. It is the only country in the American Hemisphere to have one of the seven Modern Wonders of the World, the Christ the Redeemer Statue in Rio de Janeiro. Besides these incredible sights, Brazil also has numerous offerings for the traveler interested in culture, ecotourism, sports, adventure or business. So come visit amazing Brazil, there’s so much for you to see and experience now!
Territory and Population
Brazil is the biggest country in Latin America in terms of both land mass and population which currently numbers 190 million inhabitants. It is South America’s leading economic power and a regional leader. Brazil is the only Latin American country that speaks Portuguese. It borders most of the countries in the region except Chile and Ecuador.
Brazil is divided into five geographic regions: the North, Northeast, Central West, Southeast and South. Each of these regions has a different ethnic population and a rich variety of regional cuisines and distinct musical traditions such as samba, axe, forro, frevo, sertaneja and choro.
One of the biggest treasures of Brazil is certainly its friendly, smiling and hospitable people. The exotic Brazilians are a product of a unique mixture of races and ethnicities from the native Amerindian people, the Portuguese settlers and African slaves who both landed in Brazil in the 16th Century as well as other immigrants who arrived later. The first German settlers came in the 18th century. In the 19th century, they were joined by immigrants from Spain, Italy, Lebanon and Syria who came to settle the vast unpopulated country. The Japanese, Polish and Ukrainians arrived in the 20th century. Today the descendants of all of these people proudly call themselves Brazilian.
Brazil possesses one of the world’s ten largest economic markets. BRIC is a term which unites Brazil, Russia, India and China, the fastest growing nations of the developing world. It is believed that by 2050, the economies of these four nations could eclipse those of the combined economies of today’s richest countries. Brazil exports manufactured goods, services and a large number of agricultural products. It is rich in natural resources such as oil, gas, minerals, metals and timber. The country possesses high technological knowhow and has the world’s biggest hydroelectric dam. Brazil manufactures and exports autos, airplanes, machinery, electronics, computers, steel, cement, petrochemicals and textiles. It is one of the world’s biggest producers of rice, wheat, cocoa, sugar cane, coffee, soy beans, corn, orange juice, beef, chicken and cellulose. The service, tourism and hospitality industries are highly developed.
Brazil’s cuisine is differentiated by regional products and tastes which have been influenced by the various ethnic groups who settled in the country. The native inhabitants used manioc flour (mandioca) which has become a national staple. The Northeastern state of Bahia is heavily influenced by slaves who brought the spices and flavors of Africa with them. This can be tasted in delectable Bahian dishes such as acaraje, vatapa and moqueca.
Brazil’s national dish is undoubtedly the feijoada, a meat and bean stew that was made by slaves who worked on the sugar plantations and is now enjoyed as a special meal across the country.
The Portuguese popularized bacalhau (codfish) dishes and all kinds of salgadinhos (salty snacks).
The Italians brought pasta, tomato sauce, pizza, Italian bread, mozzarella and mortadella.
The Lebanese and Syrians have made esfiha and kibe a part of the Brazilian culinary heritage.
The art of the churrasco (meat barbeque) originally came from the cowboy traditions of the South and is now a beloved staple everywhere.
The North of Brazil uses the tropical fruit found in the Amazon region such as acai, cupuacu, caju, acerola, maracuja as well as the many varieties of river fish found in abundance in the region.
An important ingredient in many dishes and desserts is the coconut, which was originally brought by the Portuguese from their colonies in India. There are many varieties of bananas in Brazil with everyone having a favorite. Bananas were brought to Brazil by the Portuguese from Western Africa.
The traditional alcoholic drink is called caipirinha. It is made from cachaca (a sugar cane liquor) lime and sugar and poured over ice. Batidas are refreshing tropical drinks made with alcohol, tropical fruit (such as mango or passion fruit) and condensed milk which is blended with ice for a sweet and smooth combination.
Brazil was inhabited by 2,000 tribes for 8,000 years before the arrival of the Portuguese explorer Pedro Alvares Cabral on April 22, 1500. The country’s indigenous population is estimated to have been from 1 to 3 million at this time. These semi-nomadic tribes never developed written records or permanent monumental architecture like the inhabitants of the Inca, Maya, Aztec or Toltec civilizations.
The country received its name from brazilwood, the trunk of which yielded a prized red dye used for tinting textiles. When Brazil was first discovered, it was not very interesting to the Portuguese crown which was conducting profitable trade with India, China and Africa. The country was sparsely populated which led to attempts by the Dutch and the French to set up their own colonies. The Portuguese established 13 captaincies to govern the colony and eventually drove off the other European invaders. After a period of consolidation, a central government was set up in the city of Salvador. After the depletion of brazilwood, the Portuguese set up sugar plantations and this became the principal product of the colony. To work on these plantations, the colonists enslaved the local Indians and then imported African slaves. At the end of the 17th century, gold was found in the interior of the country, a place that would eventually become the state of Minas Gerais. In 1729, diamond deposits were also found in this region. In 1763, the capital was transferred from Salvador to the port city of Rio de Janeiro. This port was the principal point for the gold and diamond shipments to be sent to Europe, since Minas Gerais is landlocked.
THE UNITED KINGDOM
In 1808 as Napoleon’s troops were about to enter the Portuguese capital of Lisbon, the Royal Family and most of the aristocracy (which numbered 15,000 people) fled by ship to Rio de Janeiro. In an unprecedented historical move, the capital of the Portuguese Empire moved from Europe to Latin America. Brazil was allowed for the first time to trade with all friendly nations and manufacture its own products as well as print magazines, newspapers and books. The Royal family transformed the once tropical sleepy colony with the founding of the Bank of Brazil, Royal Mail, National School of Fine Arts, Botanical Garden, military schools, medical schools, a gun powder factory and an opera theatre. In 1815, during the Congress of Vienna, Prince João created the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarve, elevating Brazil to the rank of Portugal and increasing the administrative independence of the former colony.
When King João VI went back to Portugal in 1821, he left his son Prince Pedro as the regent in Brazil. In 1822, Pedro proclaimed Brazil’s independence from Portugal, establishing the Empire of Brazil and naming himself Emperor Pedro I. After his abdication in 1831 for political incompatibilities with Brazilian politicians he left for Portugal, leaving behind his five year old son as Emperor Pedro II. In 1888, Pedro II abolished slavery in Brazil. This move was quite unpopular amongst the landowning class and led to his ousting as emperor and the establishment of a Republic in 1889.
OLD REPUBLIC (1889-1930)
Pedro II was deposed by a Republican military coup led by General Deodoro da Fonseca who became the country's first de facto President through military ascension. The country's name became the Republic of the United States of Brazil. From 1889 to 1930, the government was a constitutional democracy, with the presidency alternating between the dominant states of Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais. This period known as the "Old Republic" ended in 1930 with a military coup that placed Getulio Vargas, a civilian, in the presidency. Populism and Development (1930-1964)Getulio Vargas became a dictatorial ruler with a brief period of democratically elected rule. During this time, Brazil’s industrialization expanded and the interior of the country was developed for agricultural projects. Brazil was the only Latin American country to participate in World War II and took part in the invasion of north of Italy with American troops. Juscelino Kubitschek, a democratically elected President created a new capital in Brasilia in order to develop the vast interior of the country. In 1960, the government moved from Rio de Janeiro to the new modern capital located in the geographic center of Brazil. Military Dictatorship (1965-1985) and Redemocratization (1985-Present)A military dictatorship seized power in the country in 1964. It was a time when thousands who opposed the regime were exiled abroad, tortured or killed. Since 1985, Brazil has democratically elected its government. In the 21st century, Brazil has become a regional leader in Latin America and a strong voice for the world’s developing nations. The country is a founding member of Mercosul (Southern Common Market), an economic bloc that facilitates the free flow of trade and unites Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay and has Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru as associate members.
SUN & FUN
The entire length of the country stretches along the warm Atlantic coast that is filled with crystal clear aquamarine waters, coral reefs and white powder beaches that are shaded by tall coconut palms. There are special destinations for world class scuba diving and surfing as well as deserted beaches that are perfect for relaxation and frolicking in the warm water. Some beaches have natural formed pools with crystal clear water and a variety of fish. Brazil offers a multitude of splendid beach destinations for every taste, from the famous beaches of Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon in Rio de Janeiro to exotic resorts such as Buzios, Paraty, Angra dos Reis, Fernando de Noronha, Porto de Galinhas, Fortaleza, Salvador, Recife and Florianopolis. These cities also offer unforgettable nightlife choices such as bars, dance clubs, restaurants, musical performances, samba shows, samba school rehearsals, outdoor film festivals, concerts and parties on the beach and street Carnival parades.
Brazil has incredible ecotourism destinations such as the Amazon, Pantanal, Iguassu Falls and hundreds of national parks located throughout the country. There are breathtaking vistas and magnificent sunsets set against the backdrop of mountains, valleys, rivers, waterfalls, deserts, sand dunes and forests. The Pantanal is the biggest wetlands in the world and is teeming with a variety of animals such as the jaguar, fox, hyacinth macaw, giant stork, ostrich, tapir, anteater, caiman, anaconda and piranha. There are indigenous parks and territories where the tribal way of life is still preserved. A variety of exciting activities such as hiking, fishing, canoeing, animal and bird watching is available for the ecologically minded visitor.
ADVENTURE & SPORTS
For the adventure warriors, Brazil offers unparallel activities such as trekking, rafting, bungee jumping, paragliding, scuba diving, kite surfing, and dune adventures by jeep and buggy in spectacular natural settings. Walking along the beaches in cities such as Rio de Janeiro, Fortaleza or Salvador, one can see the locals riding bikes, jogging, skateboarding and swimming as well as playing beach volleyball, futvolei (foot volleyball) paddle ball and many other sports. Outdoor sports are a local favorite to unwind after a hard day’s work.
Brazil is also the unrequited capital of football (soccer) where playing and watching the game is a beloved national pastime. This is not surprising, since Brazil is the only country to have won the World Cup Championship five times and has been chosen to host the World Cup in 2014. Brazil has modern sports venues and hosts a variety of sporting events. Rio de Janeiro played host to the 2007 Pan American Games and is also a finalist for the 2016 Summer Olympics. Florianopolis hosts the annual Iron Man triathlon while a part of the Formula 1 Race takes place in Sao Paulo.
For lovers of cultural attractions, there are a myriad of destinations to choose from. History and architecture buffs can see beautiful examples of Brazilian Baroque in Paraty, Olinda and Ouro Preto (both UNESCO World Heritage Sites) and Tiradentes. Brazil’s first capital Salvador, has a charming historical center full of baroque churches and other stately buildings painted in bright pastel colors. Brazilian modernist architecture can be seen in one of the world’s modern planned cities, Brasilia. The city was designed in the shape of an airplane by Lucio Costa with most of the government buildings designed by Oscar Niemeyer. Niemeyer who is still working prodigiously today, is over 100 years old. Niemeyer’s buildings can also be seen in Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Pampulha and Belo Horizonte. Brazil’s museums and art galleries provide world class venues for art lovers. There is a rich tradition of music, dance and folkloric culture as well as numerous festivals and celebrations that occur throughout the year. Carnival is the biggest dance party in the world and takes place in every town and city in Brazil.
BUSINESS MEETINGS AND CONFERENCES
Brazil is the ideal location for conferences, meetings, trainings and corporate incentive programs. There are modern conference facilities in Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Brasilia, Belo Horizonte, Manaus, Florianopolis, Campinas and other large cities. All Brazilian cities have convenient airplane access and high quality business hotels with modern facilities.
Slavian Tours is a full service travel company that can help you experience the excitement of Brazil whatever your interests may be – ecotourism, adventure, sports, nature, culture, architecture, nightlife, fun, relaxation, gastronomy, music or business. Contact Slavian Tours today and let your personal enchantment with Brazil begin!