Top 10 Places You Have to Visit in Brazil

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Michael Wynands
South America's largest country has more to offer than you could ever imagine. Welcome to MojoTravels, and today we're counting down our picks for the Top 10 Places You Have to Visit in Brazil. For this list, we're looking at various incredible and diverse destinations in Brazil that you should seriously consider next time you feel a case of wanderlust coming on.
Top 10 Places You Have to Visit in Brazil

South America’s largest country has more to offer than you could ever imagine. Welcome to MojoTravels, and today we're counting down our picks for the Top 10 Places You Have to Visit in Brazil.

For this list, we’re looking at various incredible and diverse destinations in Brazil that you should seriously consider next time you feel a case of wanderlust coming on.

#10: Lençóis Maranhenses National Park

It’s like something out of a dream or a sci-fi movie. Picturesque sandy dunes cover the landscape, separated by massive freshwater lagoons of crystal clear blue and green water (filtered by the surrounding sand), just waiting for you to wade in. It’s the sort of natural work of art that only time came paint. The result of hundreds of years of erosion, this awe-inspiring phenomenon makes Lençóis Maranhenses National Park, located on the eastern coast of the country, a must visit destination for anyone interested in nature, escaping civilization and of course… photographers. The best time to visit is between June and September when there’s plenty of water but the sun isn’t so oppressive.

#9: São Luís

The capital city of the state of Maranhão on the northeastern coast of Brazil, São Luís doesn’t usually appear on your average trip itinerary, but that’s a big mistake. With a population of just over a million people, it’s modest compared to the likes of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, but it’s a historically and culturally rich city (often referred to as the “Brazilian Jamaica”), overflowing with poetry and reggae music. São Luís boasts a historic city center that earned UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 1997. Walk the cobblestones streets and soak in the beauty of the historic colorful buildings. Bonus point? It makes a great home base for your visit to Lençóis Maranhenses National Park.

#8: Chapada Diamantina National Park

Forgive us for including two national parks, but in a country as rich and diverse as Brazil, we just had to. Despite being neighbors, these two parks could not be more different. Chapada Diamantina is a densely packed, ever-changing landscape rich in both flora and fauna, characterized by mammoth plateaus soaring up to 3,300 feet. The park covers almost 600 square miles, and contains many notable, almost otherworldly, sights to experience. Cachoeira da Fumaça is a waterfall over 1000 feet tall, known for the magical, smoky movement of the falling water and vapor. Chapada Diamantina is also home to world famous caves like Poço Encantado (the enchanted pool) and Poço Azul (the blue pool), which you can actually swim in.

#7: The Amazon & Amazon River

The Amazon rainforest: it’s a bucket list item for many world travellers, and though it does reach into a number of different countries, including Peru and Colombia, Brazil is home to roughly 60% of its total area. Here you will find unrivaled beauty and variety; its ecosystem is one of the most diverse in the world. But how should you explore the Amazon? You can get there by boat or plane, but a guide or tour company is a must. Jungle lodges offer a comfortable, well-organized Amazon experience, as do cruises that take you along the mighty Amazon river. However you approach it… you’re sure to be awestruck.

#6: Olinda

If you’re more into the marvels of human history than natural beauty, or just looking to take a well-balanced trip that exposes you to both, Olinda is a must-see. Located in the state of Pernambuco in the Northeast, Olinda is home to just under 400,000 people, and is considered to be one of the most remarkable, culturally-rich and well-preserved colonial cities in the country. Like in São Luís, its historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Olinda stands out from many other popular destinations in that its Carnival is free - and resplendent in its African influence. Stunning architecture, beautiful beaches, a booming art scene and a world-class annual party… what’s not to like?

#5: Bonito

Already hailed as Brazil’s best kept secret, Bonito is quickly going from overlooked gem to a trendy destination on the rise; so it’s probably worth bumping Bonito up your list of priorities. The municipality of Bonito is quaint and charming, but it’s really just a launchpad for you to explore the surrounding area. A must-visit for adventure seekers and nature lovers, Bonito is… in a word: stunning. At Abismo Anhumas, you’ll repel into an underground lake the size of a football field populated by massive stalagmites. Rio da Prata offers world class freshwater snorkeling. But we’re only just scratching the surface . . . this is an ecotourism dream.

#4: Parati

Located on the southeast coast of the country, in the Rio de Janeiro state, Parati is a colonial town with the ocean on one side and mountains on the other. It’s enchanting. Here, horse-drawn carriages are still a thing, and they don’t feel like a cash grab. Walk amongst the whitewashed homes along cobblestone streets where cars aren’t allowed. Try Brazil’s famous drink, Cachaça, a sugar cane liquor that was once often referred to simply as “paraty”. You’re likely to spend some time in one or more of Brazil’s bustling cities on your trip, so consider Parati your vacation within vacation. You’ll only need to spend a few days there, but a party in Parati is not to be missed.

#3: São Paulo

Speaking of big cities… how about the country’s largest ? As soon as you head into a city in Brazil, it’s important to turn on your “conscientious traveller” mode; Brazil’s reputation for a high crime rate precedes it, but that’s not a reason to avoid it - just do your research, avoid unnecessary risk and be mindful of your surroundings. Because really… São Paulo simply has too much to offer. It’s a booming city with a phenomenal culinary scene. Diverse ethnic groups all bring their own flavor to the food and culture of this city, which is roughly 12 million people strong. Sampa, as it’s known to the locals, has something for everyone, from art and architecture to a vibrant nightlife.

#2: Rio de Janeiro

This city requires little introduction. Though world-renowned for its Carnival celebrations, which are truly unlike anything you’ve ever seen before, Rio de Janeiro is vibrant hub year round. It’s known as the Cidade Maravilhosa (Marvelous City), and the name fits. The beautiful seaside is surpassed in terms of its ability to inspire awe only by the towering mountains with which the roughly 6.45 million residents share the city. The former Olympic host city might be a party destination, but its sense of fun and love of music extends well beyond special occasions; there is an infectious and persistent rhythm to this city day and night - but you’ve got to visit to truly understand it.

Before we reveal the identity of our top pick, here are some honorable mentions:

Fernando de Noronha


#1: Foz do Iguaçu

Rio de Janeiro honestly could have claimed our top spot, and nearly did. While Foz do Iguaçu is a perfectly nice city, it can’t compare to Rio de Janeiro. What it does hold however, is a geographic trump card; it is home to the world famous Iguaçu Falls, which, to put it bluntly, makes for just about one of the most staggering sights that a human being can lay eyes upon. These iconic falls are made up of 275 individual waterfalls, which spread as far as the eye can see, across over one-and-a-half miles. It is the largest waterfall system in the world, and makes Niagara Falls look modest by comparison. Happy travels!