Brazil is a vibrant country full of color and authenticity. I spent three weeks exploring the food, landscapes and culture. Below are my favorite things to do in Brazil – with a few tips thrown in!
Brazil is rich with local cuisine and fresh ingredients. I miss cool minas cheese drenched in dulce de leche and pão de queijo enjoyed over a morning cup of coffee. Feijoada was also a treat; stewed beans and pork topped with crunchy skin and farofa. And don’t forget churrasco, the ever-popular Brazilian meats.
I wouldn’t have found these dishes without the guidance and knowledge of others. Strangers and friends alike love to share their recommendations, particularly if you express interest in local cuisine. Avoid the traps and ask for something non-touristy, but be prepared to walk as they’re usually outside the city center. Also avoid hotel/resort recommendations as they’re often partnered for traffic and free meals. You’ll have better luck hitting the streets and trusting the local taste buds.
Incredible Views of Ibitipoca
Ibitipoca is a small town of 300 people located just north of Lima Duarte. Here you’ll find Parque Estadual do Ibitipoca, over 3,600 acres rich in caves and waterfalls. You’ll encounter a variety of environments on your trip; bare plains one moment and the Atlantic rainforest the next. Check the weather as many trails are miles in length. And if you can, wake early to beat the crowds to Janela do Céu (“Sky Window” waterfall).
Beauty is also found at Reserva de Ibitipoca, a comfort inn among mountaintops. They offer luxury accommodations, first-class service and a commendable mission toward sustainability and ecotourism. My group was accompanied by our friend (and local expert) through the hills and forests of the Reserva. We passed olive trees, farmland and a sugar press before arriving at the peak. The sky opened, and in front of us were five sculptures of salvaged steel weighing up to 7 tons each. “Crude Awakening”, originally produced by Karen Cusolito for Nevada’s 2007 Burning Man, rests in its new home and enjoys the sunrises and sunsets of Ibitipoca.
The Warmth of Others
Let’s be honest – tourists are treated differently in different countries. Some help when you stumble your words while others are annoyed for wasting their time. I’m happy to report that Brazil was the former and one of the most welcoming countries I’ve visited so far. The people opened their homes, hearts and culture to me without question. Not once was I frowned upon for not speaking the language. Never did I feel rushed as I tried to communicate through my translator. Each person was happy I’d at least an effort.
It can feel embarrassing to struggle with a local language, particularly when you travel multiple countries. By the time you’ve picked up one language, you’re already moving to the next. There are options to make these transitions easier though. Google Translate is a savior and allows you to download full languages offline. Learn a few common phrases to start, and leverage apps like Duolingo if you’re looking for something more. Unit converters are also helpful for currencies, distances and weights. For everything else, a laugh and smile are universal!
Christ the Redeemer
A must-see in Brazil is Christ the Redeemer, a 120 ft. statue of soapstone and reinforced concrete. The sight was truly spectacular. You can walk the base where the towering construction is even more profound. The platform is packed though, so prepare for hoards of tourists and selfie-sticks. Grab a mango juice on the way out and head east to Mirante Dona Marta, a lesser-trafficked viewpoint with panoramas of downtown, Sugar Loaf and the statue.