American travelers, rejoice: As of June 17th, you no longer need to apply for a tourist visa to visit the largest country in South America. Home to both the vast, untouched wilderness of the Rio Negro and the legendarily lively nightlife of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil is overdue for its moment as a must-visit destination for its northern neighbors.
Argentina has long established itself as a globally-renowned destination for sophisticates eager to indulge in the Malbec-fueled, tango-infused nightlife of Buenos Aires. Colombia has also been drawing a fashionable crowd as of late—thanks in no small part to Cartagena, the Walled City overlooking the Caribbean is a must-visit for romance and culture alike.
Peru, meanwhile, continues to maintain its exalted status as a trophy destination for the outdoorsy traveler. Its mountainous treks—replete with llamas and Rainbow Mountains and Incan Citadels—have become so popular that you now need a permit to embark upon specific Andean trails. And Chile, with its picture-perfect equestrian outings in the Patagonia countryside, is quickly following suit (or should we say fleece?)
But what about Brazil? The nation contains among the wildest rainforests, the most pristine beaches, and the most hedonistic festivals to be found throughout the world. When Brazil first relaxed its visa policy in 2018, the Ministry of Tourism reported an immediate increase in US travelers. This uptick is sure to repeat itself in 2019, since the government has eliminated the visa requirement entirely for tourists in the US, Canada, Australia, and Japan.
Smart travelers should capitalize on this moment to visit Brazil—and particularly the parts of the country that are more remote—before the influx of tourism will influence travel fees and, eventually, accessibility to these wild places.
There’s also never been a better time to book your flight—just be sure to capitalize on the airline deals that have been popping up around the internet. But where to celebrate once you’ve booked that flight? From the heart of the Amazon jungle to the luxurious beaches of Bahia, we’ve got you covered.
The Amazon Rainforest: Voyage Into The Heart Of The Greatest Wilderness On Earth
When it comes to bucket-list adventures and landscapes that capture the imagination, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more awe-inspiring destination than the Amazon Rainforest. And rightfully so: the most magnificent wilderness on earth is notoriously inhospitable, and unknowable. An Amazonian tribe was only just discovered in 2018, untouched by the circumstances of modern life. The Amazon is a world unto itself.
Therefore, an expedition into the Amazon Rainforest is not only the premier adventure activity to pursue within the entire country, but across the whole continent as well. Due to visa restrictions, tourism along the Brazilian Amazon has not exploded to the level of Peru, and travelers are all the luckier for it. Though Peru’s status as the premier bastion of photogenic wilderness in South American is not entirely undeserved, many would be surprised to learn that this title is threatened by the most populous nation on the continent.
Yes, Brazil, home to the biggest city in South America (São Paulo) is also home to the most unspoiled wilderness on the continent—and its landscape contains the highest biodiversity of any country on earth. Brazil is also one of the earth’s largest countries, and 60% of its land is dominated by the Amazon River Basin—resulting in the abundant wildlife and rich ecological diversity of the Amazon Rainforest.
In fact, Brazil is home to a third of the world’s rainforests—it’s not uncommon to hear the sound of fruit falling from the trees above, into the dark waters of the flooded forest.
When it comes to exploring the Amazon Rainforest, the best way to explore its depths is by boat—and the best river for said exploration isn’t the Amazon, but rather the Rio Negro, the least inhabited river in the Amazon basin.
For travelers looking to journey “deep into the heart of the greatest wilderness on earth,” there is no outfitter that goes deeper into the rainforest than Amazon Nature Tours. While most Brazilian lines only run day trips, Amazon Nature Tours is the only company, offering multi-day excursions.
In honor of the discontinued visa requirements, the company also launched a new “Into the Wild” four-day sailing tour to accompany the 6-night “Voyage to the Heart of the Amazon.” These Tucano Motor Yacht expeditions venture further into the rainforest than any other vessel in the Amazon—including those in Peru. The trips depart year-round from Manaus (more on that destination below), and there’s no wrong time to book your flight—though we’d argue the sooner, the better.
The Gilded City In The Heart Of The Jungle: Manaus, ‘The Paris Of The Amazon’
The opulent architecture in the heart of the jungle serves to make the city of Manaus its own living history. The town was built at the height of the Rubber Boom when builders and architects would import materials from Europe to construct gilded institutions in the heart of the Amazon rainforest.
The lavish architecture of Manaus derives from the turn of the century, during the city’s ‘Golden Age.’ Manaus was built to become the Paris of the Amazon, a bastion of elegance and sophistication in the heart of the jungle. To visit the city today is to walk through chapters of living history in a single block. The discordant architecture tells a story all its own.
From the floating homes along the Amazon to the meticulous decadence of the city’s opera house, Manaus feels at once frozen in time (the time when it was a boomtown to be exact), while also, entirely of the moment (with its bustling markets and juxtaposing architecture on every city block). Manaus is still an authentically unique city capital in the world that is left to be discovered by many travelers who perhaps only built in a day or two layover before their Amazonian trek.
We recommend staying for longer. You don’t have to be a design-lover to appreciate the uniqueness of a bustling city in the middle of a jungle, or a history buff to appreciate the fact that everything in Manaus—from accommodations to dinners to street-side Açai bowls—is astoundingly affordable.
Word to the wise: as the gateway to the Amazon, this city is not a total fit for the luxury traveler, though our fourth recommendation should certainly accommodate any and all high maintenance needs. But we recommend all visitors to sign up for a walking tour.
Amazon Nature Tours also offers historic city tours of the Amazonas capital in the days before, and after, your expedition. As the largest country in South America, there are endless cities in Brazil still remaining to be explored. We recommend starting here.
Attend A Festival, Any Festival, In Rio de Janeiro
From the capital of Amazonas to the former capital of all of Brazil: Book your trip around a festival in Rio–and, no, it doesn’t have to be Carnival. Check out additional celebrations in Rio, as well, that are held year-round, including Brazil Independence Day, Of course, you can always hit the beach too. Now is the time to visit some of these beaches, and learn how to hopefully hang ten, before they become more popular with tourists.
Whether you decide to spend your Rio vacation dancing in the streets or meditating on the beach, the historic (and iconic) Brazilian city never, ever disappoints. And remember: There’s no better way to appreciate and understand the palette of another culture than through the preferences of a social cocktail hour. A caipirinha is just the drink to toast your Brazilian adventure—whether out on the streets of Rio or from the comfort of your own home once you’ve boarded your return flight. Viva Brazil, indeed.
The Pristine Bahia Beaches Of Trancoso: Brazil’s Best-Kept Secret
Nestled upon an unspoiled stretch of the Bahia shoreline, Trancoso is one of the most undiscovered towns in all of Brazil—though it may not remain so under-the-radar for long. Though tucked away along the (ironically named) ‘Discovery Coast’ in Northeast Brazil, this sleepy beach town has quietly drawn the attention of the international jet-set for years.
Despite drawing the likes of Naomi Campbell, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Beyoncé (a trio united by a shared passion for luxury), the atmosphere of this resort town is deceptively laid-back. Yet, how laid-back can a community be when it serves as the backdrop for Solange Knowles’s honeymoon and Anderson Cooper’s vacation home in South America?
This low-key atmosphere is part of what makes the scene irresistibly alluring: You, too, can live like an international celebrity, it promises. Well, at least when you’re spending time along the Bahia coast and can book a room in the Uxua Casa Hotel & Spa, an immersive bohemian oasis that takes you right off the grid.
Trancoso was once a fishing town, and that mellow energy still exists amongst the locals. Unlike in Montauk (another former fisherman’s village), the natives are unruffled by supermodels on holiday, much less by fedora-wearing weekend hipsters. This dichotomy of low-key and ultra-sophisticated is reflected in the landscape as well, in the vivid juxtaposition of dense jungle and immaculate sandy beaches.
Of course, Trancoso is not the first hippie-chic hideaway to boast a pristine shoreline surrounded by acres of a tropical jungle. With its combination of beach and forest, bohemian and jet-set, Trancoso is reminiscent of another celebrity-beloved resort town: Tulum. Not present-day Tulum, however, but the Tulum of the 1990s—before the first upscale hotel was built in 2001 before it became the trendiest beach town on the planet (if not according to room reservations, at the very least according to Instagram).
Though Trancoso can appear like a nascent iteration of the Riviera Maya hotspot, the Brazilian resort town may be saved from a Tulum-like fate of ambient house music and overexposure. Unlike Tulum, the town’s shoreline is UNESCO-protected, which may detract over-eager investors. Either way, we don’t recommend waiting to visit this hidden gem along the Brazilian coast. Book your flight now, and thank us later.
The Cosmopolitan City Of São Paulo, The Foodie Capital of Brazil
The culinary scene in São Paulo is both vastly underrated and world-renowned—a dichotomy made possible by the ingenuity and freshness of the cosmopolitan city’s local cuisine. By eating your way through São Paulo, you will be indulging taste-buds you never even knew existed. Similarly, the surprising (and surprisingly tasty) flavors of Brazilian cuisine are not so soon forgotten.
Exhibit A: the favorite fruits of Brazil—so commonplace in every region throughout this sprawling South American nation—are nevertheless exotic to many visitors, especially visitors of the American ilk.
We posit that Brazilian fruit should belong to another category of sustenance altogether than the tired, bruised bananas spotted at your local Trader Joe’s. And you don’t need to spend a lot of money to enjoy the very best. We recommend doing as the locals do by perusing the offerings of the city’s street vendors. (Eternally relevant traveler’s tip? Act like you’ve been there before.)
You definitely haven’t, however. And you likely aren’t very familiar with many of the fruits on display—the colorful baskets of soursop, Carambola, melon pomelo, and raw Açai (often unrecognizable in berry form). They all, however, are unerringly fresh. And, yes, the Brazilian barbecue tastes just as good in a paper plate on the sidewalk as it does at your favorite Brazilian restaurant back home—even better, in actually.
In fact, this cosmopolitan capital offers a truly premium dining experience—delectable food readily available right outside your door. Unlike the questionable kebabs, you shudder at imbibing the morning after a late-night in New York, this cosmopolitan capital offers a genuinely premium urban dining experience: Delectable food, readily available, right outside your door.
So, go ahead: Treat yourself to the legendarily delicious street meat and (exceedingly on-trend) Açai bowls that permeate the world-class foodie scene of São Paulo. And come home with a renewed appreciation, not only for the colorful sights and sounds that define the vibrant way of life in Brazil but for the country’s flavors as well.