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There’s no doubt that holidays in Brazil are becoming more and more popular. The annual Rio Carnival, the Amazon rainforest and the stupendous Iguazu Falls are all big draws, and that’s without the impact of the upcoming World Cup in 2014 or the Rio Olympics in 2016. But most tourists tend to stick to pretty well-trodden paths, despite the fact that some of Brazil’s most attractive destinations lie away from the long, golden Atlantic coast and the more famous cities like Rio and Salvador. Brazil is a huge country, so here’s a look at some of the lesser-known places you could enjoy on your holiday…
The state of Minas Gerais is one of the powerhouses of Brazil’s economy, and its major city of Belo Horizonte is one of the few to provide any sort of economic or cultural counterweight to Rio and Sao Paulo. However, Belo (as it’s known locally) is a fairly recent creation, founded in 1890, and isn’t exactly a tourist magnet. Just to the south-west, however, the original state capital, Ouro Preto, is one of Brazil’s best-kept secrets. This small town (home to around 70,000 people) was once one of the wealthiest places on earth as the minerals and precious gems found in the surrounding mountains made its inhabitants rich beyond their wildest dreams. Much of the money was invested in stunning baroque architecture, such as the many churches whose interiors are literally covered in gold and jewels. As well as architecture, poets, musicians and philosophers were attracted by wealthy patrons and Ouro Preto also became the largest intellectual centre in Brazil – reflected today in its large and prestigious university. The large student population means that although the buildings may be old, the town feels very much alive and it’s a great place to spend a few days of your Brazil holiday.
In complete contrast to Ouro Preto, the national capital of Brasilia could not be more modern, or at any rate modernist. Purpose built as a new capital in the 1950s, the swooping curves of architect Oscar Niemeyer’s buildings are still distinctive more than half a century later, and still delight and infuriate in equal measure. A trip to Brasilia might not be for everyone, but if you have any interest at all in modernism or architecture in general, then it’s well worth the short flight in from the coast. It’s also one of Brazil’s fastest-growing cities and the nightlife and restaurant scene in Brasilia is starting to make a real name for itself.
If you ask most people where they would go to see some wildlife on a holiday in Brazil, they’d automatically answer “the Amazon rainforest” but if you ask any Brazilian they’ll tell you that the Pantanal is the place to go. These enormous wetlands (they cover an area roughly the size of Florida) are the most bio-diverse place in South America and the single best place to see a huge range of wildlife from monkeys to macaws, and including the elusive jaguar… The nature of the terrain in the Pantanal also means a better wildlife-watching experience, as in contrast to the dense vegetation of the Amazon, the scenery is much more open in the Pantanal, so you stand a better chance of actually seeing the wildlife.
So whether you’re interested in exploring some of the country’s history, enjoying modern city comforts or searching for wildlife on your Brazil holidays, it’s well worth your while travelling away from the busy coast and away from the usual tourist hotspots to take in some of Brazil’s less well-known attractions. You never know, they just might surprise you!
Real Brazil (www.therealbrazil.com) offer specialist advice on travel and holidays in Brazil so if you’re looking to get off the beaten track in South America’s largest country then you’ll be in good hands…