Brazil is, right now, one of the world's most exciting travel destinations. This vast and diverse country is often described as the sexiest nation on earth and Brazilians certainly know how to have a good time - whether they're playing volleyball on the beach or dancing to the samba beat during the exhilarating Rio Carnival. [See Brazil itinerary ideas]
And the parties are sure to be even bigger and more intoxicating than ever when sports-mad Brazil hosts the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016. A tailor made Brazil holiday is therefore the perfect chance to soak up the atmosphere and explore the country's wonderful attractions at this most exciting of times for the country.
Brazil is a big country, with big attractions to match. This is South America's most influential country, one of the world's biggest democracies and a rising economy on the global stage thanks, in a large part, to its abundant natural resources. The Amazon rainforest is its most precious resource and one of the most interesting places to travel to in Brazil, best seen on an expedition river cruise or by staying at a luxury ecolodge deep in the jungle. The spectacular Pantanal wetlands are another Brazil travel highlight, regarded as the country's top destination for watching wildlife, while thundering Iguazu Falls is a third natural attraction not to be missed.
But there's plenty more to discover in this country that covers half a continent and spans both the Equator and the Tropic of Capricorn. Historic colonial cities such as Ouro Preto in Minas Gerais, Olinda in Pernambuco and Salvador in Bahia are other great tailor made travel options. Bahia is Brazil's African soul, the heartland of capoeira and Carnaval. Here, too, can be visited some of the country's best beaches - parts long and languorous, others featuring the top resorts in Brazil. As you'll see there's a tremendous wealth of activities and so much to see throughout the country - but also no better time to visit Brazil than now.
When to go
Brazil is split into four distinct climatic regions. The coldest part, and the only part that ever gets actually 'cold', is the south and southeast, an area that extends from central Minas Gerais to Rio Grande do Sui. Here there's a distinct winter between June and September that's chilly but mild compared to European or North American winters. Only in Santa Catarina's central highlands does it actually snow.
The coastal climate is very good and so supports the majority of the population, who revel in a warm, tropical climate. 'Winter' is characterised by cloudy days and temperatures that dip below 25C and a rainy season sees tropical downpours occasionally result in flooding and landslides; in Rio and south of here, the rains last from October to January but come much earlier in the north east, when they last from April to July. However, even during these periods the weather will often be sunny, with the wet conditions restricted to short intense bursts.
The north east is too warm to have a winter, with temperatures consistently above 25C; in the interior this often soars to as much as 40C. Rain is irregular but heavy when it does fall.
In contrast, Amazonia is a steamy, humid jungle. Rainfall is regular although there is a clear dry season, with the heaviest downpours from January to May.
Given the generally temperate conditions, there is no bad time to visit Brazil. Perhaps avoid the highest temperatures and massed crowds around Carnival; high season runs from December to March and instead travel from April to November.
Capital - Brasilia
Size - 8,515,767 sq km
Language - the official language is Portuguese, with different regional accents characteristic of each state. Spanish, English, Italian, French and German are also spoken, especially in tourist areas. Four linguistic roots remain in the indigenous areas: Gê, Tupi-guarani, Aruak and Karib.
Population - 201 million
Religion - There is no official religion; approximately 75% of the population are Roman Catholic with a number of diverse evangelical cults and animist beliefs, especially the Afro-Brazilian religion of candomblé, making up the remainder.
Currency - Real (R$)
Time zone - There are three time zones in Brazil: Brasilia (Standard) Time, Amazon (Standard) Time and Fernando de Noronha Archipelago Time. Most tourists visiting Brazil will be on Brasilia Time, which is three hours behind GMT. If you spend time in Amazonas, Acre or Mato Grosso though, you'll be four hours behind GMT.
Flight time from the UK - A flight from London to Rio de Janeiro takes approximately 11 hours. Travel time may be more or less depending on which part of Brazil you are going to though.
Carnival is king of the Brazilian festival calendar, and rightly so, but there are plenty of other events and festivities to enjoy on a trip to Brazil; look out too for a dia de festa in towns and rural areas, which is a day of celebration devoted to the local patron saint. Simple processions are accompanied by bands and firecrackers before a thanksgiving mass is held and everyone turns to the secular pleasures of local fairs, markets and inevitably alcohol.
January - Festa de Lemanjá (Festival of Lemanjá), celebrated in Rio on 01 January and in Salvador on 02 February.
Procissão do Senhor Bom Jesus dos Navegantes (Procession of the lord Jesus of Boatmen), celebrated in Salvador, Bahia on 01 January.
Lavagem do Bonfim (Washing of Bonfim Church), a Candomblé festival culminating in the ritual cleaning of the Bonfim Church in Salvador, Bahia on the second Thursday in January.
Carnival, officially runs from Friday to Tuesday before Ash Wednesday but typically celebrations start much earlier.
Semana Santa (Holy Week), takes place during the week before Easter, with particular festivities celebrated in Congonhas, Ouro Prêto and Golás Velho.
Dia do Indio (Indian Day), on April 19
Festas Juninas (June Festivals), celebrated throughout Rio state and much of the country during the whole of June, with a focus on the third week of the month.
Boi-Bumbá, celebrated in Parintins, Amazonas from June 28-30.
Bumba Meu Boi, celebrated in São Luis during late June and the first two weeks of August.
Fortal, an out-of-season carnival that takes place during the last week of July in Fortaleza.
Jubileu do Senhor Bom Jesus do Matosinhos (Jubille of the Saviour of Matosinhos), celebrated in Congonhas from 7-14 September.
Cirio de Nazaré (Festival of the Virgin of Nazaré), celebrated in Belém on the second Sunday in October.
Carnatal, an out-of-season carnival held in Natal during the first week of December.
Please note that entry requirements and visa regulations can change often and at short notice. We can provide general information about the passport and visa requirements for your trip and this information may be included after the itinerary section of your quotation. Your specific passport and visa requirements and other immigration requirements are your responsibility and you should confirm these with the relevant Embassies and/or Consulates. Neither we nor the principal(s) or supplier(s) accept any responsibility if you cannot travel because you have not complied with any passport, visa or immigration requirements. Please call your WEXAS specialist if you wish to discuss entry requirements.
To enter Brazil, most nationalities, including citizens of the UK, Australia, Canada, other EU countries and the USA, require a passport valid for at least six months from date of entry. There must be two blank pages in the passport.
The official unit of currency is the Real, pronounced Ray-all. The plural is Reals, pronounced ray-eyes. 1 real is made up of 100 centavos. Bank notes are easy to distinguish as they come in different colours with a different animal featured on each one.
The best way to get cash at a reasonable rate is to withdraw money from an ATM. Brazil's financial infrastructure is sophisticated and ATMs are common, even in the smallest towns. Cirrus and PLUS are the two most popular networks. To further increase your options, bring two cards from different banks. For safety reasons some ATMs close after 10pm so plan ahead. Late night withdrawals can be made at airports, malls and gas stations though. Take care when using ATMs though as there have been a number of scams where criminals have managed to obtain card details and subsequently drain the accounts.
Credit cards are widely accepted at Brazilian shops, hotels and restaurants. The most commonly accepted are Visa and MasterCard. Many banks now levy a transaction fee when you use your card abroad and you may get a better rate when negotiating with cash.
It's also worth carrying a small amount of dollars in cash.