When you hear the country of Brazil, you immediately imagine its beaches, the famous Ipanema and Copacabana, samba music in the background. Of course, there’s also the famous Amazon Rainforest for those interested in biodiversity and the environment. Looking for pink dolphins and the arapaima in the Amazon River wind up in many travelers’ itineraries. But beyond these, there is still so much that this country, the largest in Latin America, has to offer.
It’s more expensive to travel to Brazil than other countries in South America, so if you get the opportunity to go there, make sure to enjoy the rest of it.
The beautiful stones of Minas Gerais
Minas Gerais is heaven to gem enthusiasts. You can buy as many stones as you want and bring them to your jeweler for customized casts and settings.
Except for Ouro Preto, the state is not as touristy as the coastal areas of Brazil. But it is known worldwide for its high-quality precious gems. It even has a municipality named Turmalina. The state also has semi-precious stones. It’s no wonder you will find a jewelry shop everywhere, but there are also small places that sell just the stones for excellent prices.
Brazil is a haven for açai goodness. You can have it in your yogurt, ice cream, breakfast cereals, granolas, and the list is endless. The palm can be found in eight countries in South America, but Brazil has put a lot of research into it.
You might not find it common in the big cities like Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, where sophisticated restaurants offer international and fusion cuisines. But if you go to the smaller pretty towns like Ouro Preto, it’s difficult to miss the little dessert shops featuring the berry.
The largest waterfall in the world should not be missed. You can also cross to the Argentinian border into the Misiones Province and admire the entire grandeur of this immense border waterfall. Even if it’s the only thing you do in the state of Parana, it’s worth it. However, it’s also interesting to go around Foz and do Iguaçu because they have a different lifestyle than the corporate Sao Paulo and hustling Rio.
Flying from the usual tourist hubs like Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo can make a dent in your travel budget though. You can get on an overnight bus. It will still be pricy compared to the cheap transportation in other parts of Latin America, but it’s not as expensive as flying.
The favelas are informal settlements on the hillsides of Rio de Janeiro. Over the years, it became home to individuals and families who can’t afford the more expensive urban residences. The favelas also attracted people and had been terrorized by people involved in organized crime and drug dealing. The government had for years tried to control the situation using both peaceful programs and violence.
Today, some favelas are considered ‘pacified’ and have opened up to tourists who want to experience these communities’ unique lifestyles. Thanks to the movie Cidade de Deus, it has become somewhat of a tourist attraction, although only for the curious and courageous travelers.
If you were drawn into the mysticism of voodoo in Mississippi and New Orleans, immersing in candomblé will be a great experience for you. It’s not as commercialized as voodoo, so you will feel the spirituality of the communities. You have to up your Portuguese competency, though, because many of these communities outside the commercial districts don’t speak English and won’t sweat it for you.
Candomblé is a religion practiced across the country, but not very openly in urban hubs. For a long time, it was viewed as a cult of heretics, and association with it can socially ostracize practitioners. But even if temples dedicated to the Orishas, the spirits they worship, aren’t available to tourists. If you befriend local practitioners, they are accommodating enough to explain to you their religion. Many families have dedicated altars to great spirits.
Salvador de Bahia in northeastern Brazil is still very much connected to its African roots. You can explore religion better in this city. But as has already been mentioned, you need to know their language. While at it, if you talk to people in music shops, they can introduce you to Brazilian drum beats, which are influenced by the country’s African origins.
When you land in Rio for the first time, the vibe of the country is already intense. But when you go further, you experience so much more than when you think of Brazil. You can’t encapsulate the entire country in a single image of a beach.