Home to the world’s largest tropical rainforest and largest river, Brazil is a country of astounding scenery. From rippled, amber-hued sand dunes and crystalline rivers surrounded by flocks of bright-red macaws, its natural beauty has to be seen to be believed.
Here are the country’s most highly rated destinations for nature, according to global travellers.
Head to Soure, a river island in the Amazon estuary, to see exemplary beaches and water buffalo
Soure is the incredibly slow-paced capital of the island of Marajo, a 50,000-sq-km river island in the Amazon estuary that’s known for its exemplary beaches and buffalo population (local lore claims the water buffalo arrived on the island having swum ashore from an Indian shipwreck bound for French Guiana). The town provides access to nature and wildlife that feels remarkably remote given it’s only a 3-hour ferry ride from Belém. Spot caiman, toucans, cranes, herons, monkeys and piranhas, and visit deserted and palm-lined white sandy beaches, before feasting on mouthwatering local buffalo mozzarella. Stay in a bungalow surrounded by greenery at Hostel Tucupi.
Snorkelling or scuba diving in Bonito is a must
‘Bonito’ means pretty in Portuguese, and the town certainly lives up to the name. Considered the ecotourism capital of Brazil, it’s celebrated for its crystalline rivers, tropical waterfalls, lush vegetation, flocks of bright-red macaws, stalactite-filled caves and lakes populated with kaleidoscopic fish. Snorkelling here is a must, while you can also zipline through the jungle, hike, swim and scuba dive. After your jungle adventure, check into Pousada Gira Sol guesthouse to relax in the garden beside the infinity swimming pool.
Pedra Azul is a national park filled with mesmerising rocky peaks
This small town provides access to the eponymous State Park, a 12-km-sq natural wonderland within the mountainous state of Espírito Santo. The park is filled with forest-covered hills and rocky peaks, with the Pedra Azul in particular coated in moss that turns the whole monolith several mesmerising shades of blue in the sunlight. There’s also the Pedra do Lagarto, a peculiar 500-metre-high mound of curved stone with a rock formation on its face that that looks like a giant climbing lizard. Follow the walking trail to the top of the Pedra Azul for astounding views, and keep an eye out on the way for Brown Capuchin Monkeys, armadillos, Collared Anteaters and other interesting species. Enjoy views of the state park and a tropical garden from the hot tub at Pousada Rabo do Lagarto.
Explore Ponta Grossa's collection of strange sandstone formations in its 'stone city'
Visit the city of Ponta Grossa to see its Vila Velha State Park, aka the ‘stone city’. Here, you’ll find a collection of strange sandstone formations; pillars of red earth created over 300 million years and resembling animals, castles, sphinxes and other random objects like a goblet (let your imagination run free). Within the park there are also ‘furnas’, huge craters formed where sandstone collapsed and water accumulated, forming gloriously-beautiful mirror-like pools. Stop at one of the most spectacular, Lagoa Dourada, around which the park’s abundant birdlife often gathers. Stay at the central and highly rated Hotel Planalto Ponta Grossa.
Itaúnas State Park contains several different ecosystems – beach, river, swamp, mangroves, sand dunes and rainforest
Famous for its sand dunes and beaches, the old town of Itaúnas was buried underneath a sand storm in the 1960s. A new settlement formed on the other side of the Itaúnas River, and now most visitors come to admire the region’s magnificent natural beauty; namely the Itaúnas State Park, within which the village sits. This park has several different ecosystems – beach, river, swamp, mangroves, sand dunes and rainforest – home to reptiles, monkeys and even sloths. Kayak down the river and go hiking through the trees, before catching a sunset over the amber-hued dunes. Relax afterwards on the sun terrace of Pousada Casa da Praia Itaúnas, just a few minutes’ walk from the beach.