2. 22 G E T T I N G S TA R T E D • • C o s t s & M o n e y lonelyplanet.com
the wetlands receive tremendous rainfall, washing out roads and making
traveling a nightmare.
HOW MUCH? The South has the most extreme temperature changes, and during the
Admission to samba club coldest winter months (June to August), Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina,
in Rio R$15 Paraná and São Paulo have temperatures between 13°C (55.4°F) and 18°C
Two-hour flight from Rio (64.4°F). In some towns, the occasional snowfall is even possible. As else-
to Salvador (one way) where along the coast, summer is quite hot, and you’ll have lots of company
R$220 on the beach.
Double room in a comfy
pousada in Arraial
COSTS & MONEY
Although still cheaper than North America and parts of Europe, Brazil, with
its booming economy and strong real, has become South America’s most
Eleven-hour bus ride expensive country.
from São Paulo to How much to budget depends on where you stay and how much ground
Florianopolis R$87 you plan to cover. Some cities, like Rio, have grown particularly pricey in
Four-day excursion in the the last few years. Rural and less-visited destinations are often significantly
Pantanal R$500 cheaper. Bus travel costs about R$8 (US$4) per hour of distance covered.
Flights, which sometimes run fare specials, might not cost much more for
For more price informa-
long hauls. Decent accommodations and particularly rental cars (which
tion, see the Lonely
cost about R$100 per day) can quickly eat up a budget.
Planet Index, inside front
If you’re frugal, you can travel on about R$100 (US$50) a day – paying
around R$40 for accommodations, R$30 for food and drink, plus bus
travel, admission to sights and the occasional entertainment activity. If
Since our inception in 1973, Lonely Planet has encouraged our readers to tread lightly, travel
responsibly and enjoy the serendipitous magic independent travel affords. International travel
is growing at a jaw-dropping rate, and we still firmly believe in the benefits it can bring – but,
as always, we encourage you to consider the impact your visit will have on both the global
environment and the local economies, cultures and ecosystems.
Sustainable travel is fairly easy within Brazil, but with the increasing use of ‘eco’ splashed about,
it can be hard to separate the green from the greedy (see p695 for tips on finding eco-friendly
hotels). With a little research – and a healthy sense of adventure – your trip can have a positive
impact on both the local economy and the environment.
For more detailed information on the wider environmental issues facing Brazil, and how these
are being tackled, see the Environment chapter (p95).
Getting There & Away
Unless you’re traveling from a neighboring South American country, it’s almost impossible to
avoid flying into Brazil. To combat the heavy environmental costs associated with air travel,
consider offsetting your carbon emissions (p716). Once in Brazil, flights will prove tempting if
you’re traveling great distances, but there are other options, including riverboats in the Amazon,
buses and even a few rare train lines.
Slow travel is getting back to basics. Skip the long plane journey in favor of traveling locally,
focusing your trip on a region in Brazil, like Bahia or Maranhão. You can always come back and
cover another part of the country. And once you get to where you are going, hike, bike and
paddle your way to that off-track destination. We’re not saying that you should never take busses
or planes, far from it. When necessary, take that bus or taxi ride. It directly benefits the Brazilian
economy, so you’ll know your carbon footprint is going directly toward putting dinner on the
plates of locals. You can also take an organized tour (p94) based on sustainable itineraries, or
you can volunteer your time (p713).
3. lonelyplanet.com G E T T I N G S TA R T E D • • T r a v e l L i t e r a t u re 23
you just stay in hostels and plan to lie on a beach, eating rice, beans and
fish every day, you can probably scrape by on R$70 a day.
If you stay in reasonably comfortable hotels, eat in nicer restaurants,
go out most nights and book the occasional flight or guided excursion,
you’ll probably spend upwards of R$250 a day. Those planning to stay
overnight at particularly comfortable guesthouses in resort areas, eat at
the best restaurants and not stint on excursions or nightlife can easily
spend R$500 a day or more.
Bear in mind that during the December-to-February holiday season,
accommodations costs generally increase by around 30%. During Carnaval
accommodations prices triple, but a week afterwards, the prices drop to
low-season rates. Another thing to remember: resort areas near major
cities are often packed on summer weekends. There will be fewer crowds –
and sometimes lower prices – if you visit during the week.
Brazil is fair value for solo travelers, as long as you don’t mind staying
in hostels. Otherwise, a single room generally costs about 75% of the price
of a double room.
A Death in Brazil by Peter Robb is one of the most fascinating travelogues
published in recent years (2004). Robb, who spent 20 years in Brazil, ex-
plores four centuries of Brazilian history, while detailing his own modern-
day travels, creating a compelling portrait of the country.
Accommodations & Food
Your tourist dollar can go a long way to supporting the country if you choose your accommo-
dations carefully. Stay clear of chain hotels and all-inclusive resorts in Brazil’s larger cities and
beach towns. These chains are often owned by foreign investors who take all profit out of the
country. And the battered hotels in town are rarely a good investment – the staff are usually
underpaid, the buildings are a health inspector’s nightmare and profits are siphoned off to fund
You’re much better off staying in family-run pousadas (guesthouses). We’ve made sure to
include such recommendations throughout our coverage. By staying in smaller, family-run places,
you’re guaranteeing that your money will remain in the hands of the local people running the
In terms of food, Brazil requires some tough choices to be made. Although Brazilian beef is top
notch, the explosion of cattle farming continues to fuel the Amazon’s destruction, with old-growth
forests cleared to make way for pastures. There is a growing number of restaurants serving organic
and vegetarian fare, and we’ve indicated these options where available. Avoid major fast-food
chains, as these have played a significant role in fueling the country’s deforestation.
Responsible Travel Organizations
Brazil has no certification system to identify the ‘green-ness’ of accommodations and tour op-
erators. However, various organizations are working to establish sustainable-travel criteria, and
the situation may change. Environmentally responsible organizations working in Brazil include
Rainforest Alliance (www.rainforestalliance.org)
ResponsibleTravel.com features volunteer opportunities across the country (www.responsible
Rainforest Action Network (www.ran.org)
For a complete list of environmental organizations see p100.
4. 24 G E T T I N G S TA R T E D • • T r a v e l L i t e r a t u re lonelyplanet.com
TOP 10 BRAZ
BEST FESTIVALS & EVENTS
Some of Brazil’s liveliest festivals are in the Northeast, but no matter where you are, you’ll find
fantastic, wild and, at times, downright surreal celebrations.
1 Boi-Bumbá (p657), late June, Parintins 6 Festa da NS de Boa Morte (p464), mid-
2 Bumba Meu Boi (p593), late June to second August, Cachoeira
week of August, São Luís 7 Reveillon and Festa de Iemanjá (p164),
3 Carnaval, Shrove Tuesday and the days December 31, Rio de Janeiro
preceding it, February or March, Rio de Ja- 8 Folclore Nordestino (p535), late August,
neiro (p114), Salvador (p452) or Olinda (p535) Olinda
4 Cavalhadas (p390), 50 days after Easter, 9 Oktoberfest (p345), mid-October, Blumenau
Pirenópolis 10 Semana Santa (Holy Week), March or April,
5 Círio de Nazaré (p610), second Sunday in Ouro Prêto (p246) or Cidade de Goiás
October, Belém (p387)
It’s no easy task selecting just 10 albums from the scores of Brazil’s talented singers and songwriters.
Check out some of the great works below, most of which can be found in Brazil.
1 Africa Brasil, Jorge Ben 6 Getz/Gilberto, Stan Getz and João
2 Bossa Negra, Elza Soares Gilberto
3 Elis & Tom, Elis Reginas and Antonio 7 Os Afros Sambas, Baden Powell
Carlos Jobim 8 Refazenda, Gilberto Gil
4 Feijoada Completa, Chico Buarque 9 Samba Bossa Nova, Putumayo compilation
5 Gal Costa, Gal Costa 10 Tropicalia 2, Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil
BEST FILMS & DOCUMENTARIES
A quick and enjoyable way of getting beneath the surface is to explore the films starring Brazil.
1 Orfeu Negro (1959) 6 Central do Brasil (1998)
2 Pagador de Promessas (1962) 7 Madame Satã (2002)
3 Bye Bye Brasil (1980) 8 Bus 174 (2002)
4 Pixote (1981) 9 Cidade de Deus (2002)
5 The Mission (1986) 10 House of Sand (2006)
Travelers’ Tales Brazil, edited by Scott Doggett and Annette Haddad, is
a fine anthology of tales of travel and life in Brazil. The excellent 2nd ed-
ition (published 2004) includes contributions from writers such as Diane
Ackerman, Joe Kane, Petru Popescu and Alma Guillermoprieto.
How to Be a Carioca by Priscilla Ann Goslin is highly recommended for
anyone planning to spend time in Rio de Janeiro. Her tongue-in-cheek de-
scriptions of the Carioca (resident of Rio) lifestyle are spot on. Don’t miss
the hilarious ‘essential vocabulary’ section for mastering the local lingo.
5. lonelyplanet.com G E T T I N G S TA R T E D • • I n t e r n e t R e s o u r c e s 25
The Capital of Hope: Brasília and Its People by Alex Shoumatoff is an
engaging portrait of Brasília, informed by the author’s interviews with
government workers and the capital’s first settlers.
Peter Fleming’s Brazilian Adventure is about the young journalist’s ex-
pedition into Mato Grosso in the 1930s – a wild region then – in search of
vanished explorer Colonel Fawcett. What Fleming found is less important
than the telling, written with wry humor.
For a fascinating journey from the Andes through Brazilian Amazonia
and on to the Atlantic Ocean in the 19th century, read Exploration of the
Valley of the Amazon by William Lewis Herndon. This recently repub-
lished volume is a vivid account of the people and local cultures Herndon
encounters, along with observations of the plants, animals and geography
of the Brazilian landscape.
After serving as US president, winning the Nobel Peace Prize and sur-
viving an assassin’s bullet, Theodore Roosevelt explored parts of Brazil
and wrote Through the Brazilian Wilderness. It’s a great adventure story
well worth seeking out.
Although not specifically about Brazil, Redmond O’Hanlon’s hilarious
In Trouble Again: A Journey Between the Orinoco and the Amazon tells of
his fretful journey through Latin America.
Also not solely about Brazil is Peter Matthiessen’s The Cloud Forest, an
account of a 30,000km journey across the South American wilderness from
the Amazon to Tierra del Fuego. It’s well worth a read.
Moritz Thomsen’s The Saddest Pleasure: A Journey on Two Rivers is an
engaging book about the author’s experiences in South America, including
journeys through Brazil and along the Amazon.
Running the Amazon by Joe Kane is the story of the 10 men and one
woman who, in 1986, became the first expedition to cover the entire length
of the Rio Amazonas (Amazon River), from the Andes to the Atlantic, on
foot and in rafts and kayaks.
Brazilian Embassy in London (www.brazil.org.uk) Excellent country low-down, with links to
dozens of local tourism sites in Brazil.
Brazzil (www.brazzil.com) In-depth articles on the country’s politics, economy, literature, arts
Gringoes (www.gringoes.com) Articles written by Anglophones living in Brazil.
Hip Guide to Brazil (www.brazilmax.com) Excellent guide to Brazilian culture and society; good,
selective articles and links.
Lanic Brazil (http://lanic.utexas.edu/la/brazil) The University of Texas’ excellent collection of
Lonely Planet (www.lonelyplanet.com) Summaries on Brazil travel, the popular Thorn Tree
bulletin board, online accommodation booking and links to other web resources.
Terra Brasil (www.terra.com.br/turismo) Portuguese-language travel site with up-to-date
information on entertainment, nightlife and dining options in many cities around Brazil.
RIO & THE SOUTHEAST Three Weeks
Gorgeous beaches, rain forest–covered islands and colonial towns are just
some of the things you’ll experience on a trip around the Southeast.
Spend a few days discovering Rio (p121) and its beaches, restaurants and in-
credible music scene before heading to Ilha Grande (p189), an island blanketed by
rain forest and ringed by beaches. Next is Paraty (p193), a beautifully preserved
colonial town. Ilhabela (p305) is another car-free island of beaches, forests and
waterfalls. Stop in São Paulo (p275) for high culture, including the nation’s best
museums and restaurants. Then head to exquisite Ouro Prêto (p241), Diamantina
(p261) and Tiradentes (p257), some of Brazil’s finest colonial gems .
Connect in Belo Horizonte (p233) for the picturesque train ride (p240) to the
coast, or catch a bus to Parque Nacional de Caparaó (p270), a hiker’s paradise. In
Vitória (p221), catch a coastal bus south, passing fishing villages and handsome
beaches, particularly around Guarapari (p226). Further south are equally stun-
ning beaches, from chic Búzios (p216), to surf-lovers’ Saquarema (p212).
On the way back to Rio, detour north to Petrópolis (p204), a cool mountain
retreat. Great hiking is nearby at the Parque Nacional da Serra dos Órgãos (p209).
You can also get a taste of Switzerland at Nova Friburgo (p210).
This 2300km trip
begins and ends
in Rio de Janeiro. Bahia
The circular route Diamantina
picturesque coastal Gerais Santo
lovers’ getaways, Belo Horizonte
idyllic islands, Ouro
magnificent gold- Tiradentes
de Caparaó Guarapani
mining towns and Parque
South America’s Serra dos Janeiro
with opportuni- São Petrópolis Friburgo
ties for boat rides
and a pretty train RIO DE
journey en route. PAULO Ilha
7. lonelyplanet.com CLASSIC ROUTES •• Best of Brazil 27
BEST OF BRAZIL Three Months
On this epic trip you’ll experience the rhythm-infused towns of the Northeast,
the jungles of the Amazon and the biodiversity of the Pantanal, with beaches,
tropical islands and historic towns thrown into the mix.
From São Paulo (p275), head east to Rio, stopping at glorious beaches such
as Ubatuba (p302), Trindade (p199) and Paraty-Mirim (p200) before reaching
From there head north, visiting the pretty mountain towns of Ouro Prêto
(p241) and Diamantina (p261). The architectural masterpiece that is Brasília
(p371) is next, and lies near the Parque Nacional da Chapada dos Veadeiros (p401),
a fantastic wilderness area.
On the way to Bahia, explore the Parque Nacional da Chapada Diamantina (p498)
before reaching Salvador (p439), the country’s Afro-Brazilian gem. Further up
the coast is Olinda (p533), one of Brazil’s prettiest towns. From historic Recife
(p523), fly out to the spectacular archipelago of Fernando de Noronha (p539).
Back on the mainland, travel north, stopping in the backpackers’ paradise of
Jericoacoara (p578) en route to the surreal dunes in the Parque Nacional dos Lençóis
Maranhenses (p597), a stark contrast to the colonial beauty of São Luís (p589).
West lies Belém (p605), a culturally rich city near the lush island of Ilha
de Marajó (p618). Catch a boat up the Amazon to Manaus (p641), where you
can arrange jungle treks.
From Manaus, head south to Bonito (p430), and experience the region’s
waterfalls, crystal-clear rivers, lush forests and subterranean caves. Go south
to the awe-inspiring Iguaçu Falls (p325), with waterfalls straddling three
countries. Before completing the circle, explore the secluded beaches and
charming Germanic towns around Florianópolis (p334).
This 12,500km (!)
trip shows you
Roraima Amapá Brazil’s many
charms from its
BELÉM LUÍS Maranhenses
Rio Grande nightlife to its
Fernando wildlife with a
Pará de Noronha
survey of pristine
Alagoas jungles and more.
Sergipe To really do the
Grosso Veadeiros SALVADOR
you’ll need six
BRASÍLIA Diamantina months or a year.
Mato Grosso São Prêto Rio de
do Sul Paulo Janeiro
PARAGUAY SÃO RIO DE JANEIRO
Catarina FLORIANÓPOLIS OCEAN
8. 28 CLASSIC ROUTES •• Bahia & the Nor theast lonelyplanet.com
BAHIA & THE NORTHEAST Six Weeks
Those looking for the soul of Brazil would do well to focus on the Northeast.
A confluence of music, history and culture amid spectacular natural scenery
makes for an unforgettable journey.
Begin in the pretty towns of Arraial d’Ajuda (p486) and Trancoso (p487), both
blessed with great guesthouses and restaurants, a laid-back nightlife and access
to endless walks on the beach. Contine north to Itacaré (p475), a lively town
with great surf. Then on to Salvador (p439), Bahia’s most vibrant and colorful
city, where drum corps march through the cobblestone streets by day, and
This 4500km trip nights are devoted to Candomblé, capoeira and dance parties about town.
takes you from Detour west to the Parque Nacional da Chapada Diamantina (p498) for crisp
gorgeous tropical mountain streams, panoramic views and an endless network of trails. Back
on the coast, Olinda (p533) is one of Brazil’s largest and best-preserved
beaches to cultur- colonial cities and it holds an outstanding Carnaval. From buzzing Recife
ally rich colonial (p523), Olinda’s sister city, fly out to Fernando de Noronha (p539), an exquisite
cities. Porto Seg- archipelago of rich marine life and splendid beaches.
uro, with its many Return to the mainland, visit the beautiful and laid-back Praia da Pipa
(p561), a global village on the coast. The coast from Natal (p554) to Fortaleza
flight connections, and Jericoacoara is one of the most spectacular and least developed in Brazil,
is a good gateway. with scores of spectacular dune-backed beaches ripe for beach-buggy adven-
Those with extra tures and perfect winds for kitesurfing and windsurfing.
time can easily Jericoacoara (p578) itself is a gorgeous beach village with fantastic nightlife.
spend three to six West of there, the Parque Nacional dos Lençóis Maranhenses (p597) has one of the
most striking landscapes in Brazil, a surreal combination of dunes, lagoons
months exploring and beaches. The final stop is São Luís (p589), a city of colonial beauty that is
this vibrant region. also Brazil’s unquestioned capital of reggae!
SÃO LUÍS Parque Jericoacoara
9. lonelyplanet.com R OA D S L E S S T R AV E L E D • • W a t e r w a y s o f t h e A m a z o n 29
ROADS LESS TRAVELED
WATERWAYS OF THE AMAZON Six Weeks
Few places ignite the imagination like the Amazon. The largest forest on the
planet has astounding plant and animal life. Surprising to many visitors, the
wetlands also contain historic cities, beautiful river beaches and one of the
most important archaeological sites in South America.
Begin in Belém (p605), a culturally rich city at the mouth of the great river.
From here explore the forest-covered island of Ilha de Marajó (p618) or head
northeast to Algodoal (p616), a rustic fishing hamlet in a splendid setting.
This 3900km trip
Get a hammock and travel by boat up the Rio Amazonas. Stop in Monte
Alegre (p627) to see ancient rock paintings, the oldest-known human creations begins in Belém,
in the Amazon. Upstream is Santarém (p621), a pleasant city with many nearby and travels mostly
attractions. Across the river, Alenquer (p627) is near beautiful, rarely visited coun- by boat along the
tryside. Also reachable is the virgin rain forest of the Floresta Nacional do Tapajós world’s mighti-
(p625) and Alter do Chão (p627), a picturesque lagoon with white-sand beaches.
Continue upriver to Manaus (p641), Amazonia’s largest city and its center for est river. Several
arranging jungle treks or visits to the Reserva Xixuaú-Xipariná (p655). You can also detours include
travel to Santa Elena de Uairén (p671), Venezuela, for treks up Mt Roraima (p665). Belém to Ilha
Northwest of Manaus lies the fairly unexplored Parque Nacional do Jaú (p656). de Marajó and
You’ll see incredible wildlife at the Mamirauá Reserve (p659), outside of Tefé
Manaus to Santa
(p657). From there, continue by river to Tabatinga (p660), and into Leticia (p662)
in Colombia for excursions into the Parque Nacional Natural Amacayacu (p664) or Elena de Uairén in
for stays at jungle lodges (p665) along the Rio Javari. Venezuela.
VENEZUELA Mt Roraima
de Uairén FRENCH OCEAN
Ilha de Algodoal
Xixuaú- Monte Marajó
Xipariná Alegre BELÉM
Nacional do Jaú MANAUS Alter do
Natural Chão Santarém
Leticia Tabatinga Nacional
10. 30 R OA D S L E S S T R AV E L E D • • S o u t h w a r d B o u n d lonelyplanet.com
SOUTHWARD BOUND Three Weeks
One of Brazil’s most overlooked regions has gorgeous islands and beaches, un-
explored national parks and fascinating towns with largely European roots.
Start your journey in Foz do Iguaçu (p325) to gaze at some of the most impres-
sive waterfalls on the planet. Take short day trips to Argentina and Paraguay
This 1600km trip before heading east (by overnight bus or quick flight) to Curitiba (p313), a
begins in Foz do cosmopolitan city with an environmentally responsible design. Next, take
the scenic train ride to Paranaguá (p319), a sleepy waterfront town that’s the
Iguaçu and travels jumping-off point to car-free Ilha do Mel (p321). The forest-covered island has
through Brazil’s lovely beaches, low-key guesthouses and is skirted by some pretty trails.
southernmost Next head to Blumenau (p344) and nearby Pomerode (p346), where the
states. Highlights Teutonic architecture, blond-haired residents and local brew are more Ba-
include forested is- varian than Brazilian. For island beauty, continue on to Ilha de Santa Cata-
rina (p333), a forest-covered gem of sand dunes, sparkling beaches, pretty
lands, mountainous lagoons and sleepy fishing villages.
national parks, South of Florianópolis is Praia do Rosa (p350), one of Brazil’s most glori-
Bavarian-style ous beaches – and a great spot for sighting whales off shore. On into Rio
towns, idyllic Grande do Sul, you’ll reach the dramatic canyon and waterfalls of the Parque
beaches and Nacional de Aparados da Serra (p364). Inland, it’s worth detouring to the Ital-
historic missions. ian-immigrant town of Bento Gonçalves (p359), gateway to the picturesque
vineyards of the Serra Gaucho.
At trip’s end, go to
Head east to Santo Ângelo (p366), which leads on to the Jesuit missions.
Porto Alegre for a From there you can visit São Miguel das Missões (p366), São João Batista (p368)
flight to Rio or São and numerous other holy sites; true grail-seekers can even cross the border
Paulo. into Paraguay or Argentina (p368).
CURITIBA Estadual Ilha do
Iguaçu Ilha do Mel
Praia da Rosa
São Miguel São João
das Missões Batista
Gonçalves da Serra
11. lonelyplanet.com TA I L O R E D T R I P S • • W a t c h i n g W i l d l i fe 31
WATCHING WILDLIFE Six Weeks
Brazil contains an astounding variety of fauna and flora with incompa-
rable settings for spying wildlife. Winter (June to September) is probably
the best time to go. Despite its urban façade, Rio boasts enticing natural
attractions like the Parque Nacional da Tijuca (p160) home to coatis, ocelots,
three-toed sloths and various species of monkeys. Yet more simians (in-
cluding howler monkeys) can be spotted on Ilha Grande (p189).
Sea turtles are making a comeback in Brazil, and you might see hatchlings
in places like Praia do Forte (p466) and Mangue Seco (p469). Whale-watching
is unrivalled in certain parts of Brazil, including the offshore reef of Parque
Nacional Marinho de Abrolhos (p492) and Praia do
Rosa (p350), though by far the best place to see Fernando de
aquatic life is Fernando de Noronha (p539). Bonito Manaus
(p430), with its crystal-clear rivers, makes for
some great snorkeling among river fish, includ-
ing meter-long catfish. Nearby canyons are Mangue Seco
home to numerous scarlet macaws. Praia do Forte
High on any naturalist’s list should be the
Pantanal (p415), where river otters, caimans, Parque Nacional
monkeys, jaguars, anacondas and capybara, Pantanal
plus numerous bird species are all part of the Bonito Parque Nacional
mix. The Amazon (p601), of course, has many
places to see Brazil’s wild side, from spot-
ting river dolphins around Santarém (p621) to Praia do Rosa
glimpsing toucans outside of Manaus (p641).
AROUND BRAZIL IN 80 MEALS Four Weeks
Brazil has a long history of immigration and cultural diversity across regions.
A way of experiencing this is through its cuisine. Food lovers should linger
in São Paulo (p294) and sample dishes like camarões à paulista (marinated
shrimp). Although Cariocas didn’t invent feijoada (bean-and-meat stew),
they serve it with finesse, making Rio (p169) an essential stop (hint, it’s served
on Saturdays). Churrascarias (barbecued-meat restaurants) are widespread
in Porto Alegre (p357) and other gaúcho cities; it’s also the place to try erva
mate, a tea-like beverage. Other southern delights are the vineyards near Bento
Gonçalves (p360) and the German restaurants
of Blumenau (p345). Minas Gerais (p104) has its
own cuisine, and Ouro Prêto (p246) is a good
place to try tutu á mineiro (mashed black beans Belém
and manioc), served with meat dishes. Tasty
fish is found in the Central West. Don’t miss
dourado, pacu or pintado – available in Bonito
(p433) among other places. The Northeast has
many addictive Afro-Brazilian dishes including Minas Gerais
moqueca (spicy fish stew) and acarajé (bean-
Bonito Ouro Prêto
and-shrimp fritters). Salvador (p454) is its cu-
Rio de Janeiro
linary capital. The Amazon’s diversity doesn’t São Paulo
end at the waterline. Wonderful dishes like Blumenau
tacacá (a spicy soup) and many delicious fish, Porto Alegre
including surubim, tambaquí, and the prized
tucunaré, warrant the trip to Belém (p611).
No stranger to the spotlight, Brazil has garnered much attention in the world
press in recent years – and for once it’s not all bad news. President Lula,
re-elected in 2006, continues to bask in the glow of Brazil’s huge economic
growth along with his administration’s effective antipoverty measures – a
coupling pleasing to both investors and Lula’s labor base.
Back in 2003, economists were calling Brazil the ‘next biggest thing’ after
China and India, with enormous potential for economic growth. Over the
FAST FACTS next few years, following surprisingly conservative fiscal management, Brazil
Population: 190 million saw a boom in exports, with Lula taking a US$8 billion deficit to a US$46
Annual growth: 1.01% billion surplus. The real is among the world’s strongest currencies, having
surpassed two-to-one parity with the dollar, its highest value since 2001. Fol-
Life expectancy at birth:
lowing years of stagnation and mounting public debt, Brazil had solid GDP
68 years (men), 76 years
growth, while paying down its debts – it even paid off its debt to the IMF.
Some believe Chinese demand for Brazilian products is fueling the growth,
GDP: R$3.13 trillion and Brazil and China’s strong trade relations have certainly brought benefits.
Number of people living China, however, isn’t the only one courting the Latin American giant. Spain,
below the poverty line: South Korea and Saudi Arabia were all planning new ventures with Brazil.
40 million Even the US has thrown a few admiring glances Lula’s way. President Bush
and Lula met in 2007 to promote international production of ethanol, the
Monthly minimum wage:
plant-based fuel that has helped Brazil transform its economy.
Rising oil prices and a growing acceptance of human-produced climate
Infant mortality per 1000 change has made biofuel an important topic in countries like the US. But
live births: 27 (US: 7) in Brazil, ethanol’s success is a result of three decades of effort and billions
Unemployment: 10% spent on incentives. Brazilian ethanol, made from energy-efficient sugar
Adult literacy: 86%
cane (eight times more efficient than fuel made from US corn), provides
40% of the country’s fuel. Brazil is the world’s largest exporter of it. Along
Number of political with expanding oil reserves, it’s one of the reasons why Brazil is expected to
candidates charged with become energy self-sufficient within the year.
fraud: 1535 Other good news stems from Lula’s progressive social policies. Campaign-
ing years earlier on promises to end hunger in Brazil, Lula delivered the goods
with his Bolsa Familia (family grant), a program touted by some (including
the World Bank) as a global model for effective social policy. Indeed, it’s done
much to alleviate the suffering for Brazil’s worst off by giving low-income
families (those earning less than R$120 a month) a stipend, provided the
children stay in school and receive their vaccinations. To date, Bolsa Familia
has benefited over 11 million families (44 million people, or 20% of the popu-
lation). Although it’s too early to measure the program’s success, a survey of
beneficiaries found that more than 80% reported eating better. Critics of the
program fear it will leave people addicted to government handouts.
Brazil continues to have notable success at combating AIDS. For over a
decade, Brazil has provided free antiretroviral medicine to citizens unable
to pay for it, and has become one of the leaders among developing coun-
tries in treating its AIDS victims. One of the biggest threats to the program,
though, is the rising cost of new drugs (essential for patients resistant to
old antiretroviral treatments). In 2007, following a breakdown in negotia-
tions with the large pharmaceutical company Merck, Brazil announced it
would bypass Merck’s patent and reproduce the drugs inexpensively – a
move that even the WTO accepts in the event of national emergencies. It
has also had a great deal of success with prevention schemes, educating
youth about the dangers of unprotected sex, and distributing free condoms
on a massive scale (25 million are distributed nationwide over Carnaval).
13. lonelyplanet.com S N A P S H OT 33
Despite predictions by the World Bank that more than one million Brazil-
ians would carry HIV by 2000, today the infection rate stands at half that
number. Health officials have even developed a working partnership with
Brazil’s prostitutes, a move that has angered church officials.
Speaking of the church, Brazil received its first visit from Pope Benedict
XVI in 2007. He arrived to canonize the first Brazilian-born saint, Antonio de
Sant’Anna Galvão, an 18th-century monk credited with some 5000 miracles.
Although the numbers of Catholics are declining in Brazil (down from 89%
of the population in 1980 to around 73% today), Brazil still has the world’s
largest Catholic population – and Benedict has clearly made a focal point
of Brazil and Latin America (which he described as ‘a continent of hope’).
Some 1.2 million people gathered outside of São Paulo to hear the pope say
Mass. The pope also used his visit to distance himself from the teachings
of Liberation Theology, a clerical movement promoting social justice for
the poor through activism, which still has many followers in Brazil. Before
departing, Benedict denounced the legalization of abortion in Mexico City –
a warning to Brazil (which still outlaws abortion) not to follow suit.
As in many places, abortion is a hot topic in Brazil. On the eve of the
pope’s visit, Lula called abortion a public-health issue that can no longer be
ignored. Brazil’s newest health minister echoed that statement, calling for
wide-ranging debates, and suggested it may be time for a referendum.
On other fronts, grievous social problems still plague Brazil. Crime con-
tinues to skyrocket, with the homicide rate doubling in the last two decades.
Lula even used the word ‘terrorism’ to describe one particularly heinous bus
attack, perhaps signaling a shift in thinking about the country’s relentless
Corruption is another never-ending scourge of Brazil, impacting nearly
every layer of public life. Lula, who promised a new era of clean government
in 2002, has presided over several notorious episodes. The most recent scan-
dal erupted after the arrest of several of Lula’s operatives, who were caught
with nearly US$800,000 en route to purchase a dossier believed damaging
to Alckmin, Lula’s presidential rival.
Although some suspected the scandal would cost him the election, ulti-
mately Lula prevailed. Given the progress his administration has made in
many fields, it’s not difficult to see why. After all, corruption may never
disappear from politics. Brazilians only hope the present economic and
social gains don’t either.
On the Road
REGIS ST. LOUIS
If I had to pick just one totem animal for this trip, it would be my four-legged friend, the horse. They
seemed to appear in the most unlikely places. After exploring the cobblestone streets of Laranjeiras
(p506), I walked up the hillside outside of town and met this handsome fellow.
GREGOR CLARK After weeks inland in
Minas Gerais, I headed for the beach in
GARY CHANDLER That’s me on a jungle trip in Mamirauá Búzios, where it promptly started raining
(p659), showing the piranha who’s boss. (Bait of choice: cats and dogs. When the sun finally came
beef sirloin.) Our guide said most piranha are harmless, out five days later, I celebrated with a
preferring smaller prey. But the red guys are an excep- stroll to see the fishermen statues along
tion, known to munch on the occasional toe if the river beachfront Orla Bardot (p216). Sunset
is low and food scarce. never felt sweeter!
JOHN NOBLE You could call the Lençóis Maranhenses (p597)
a desert if the endless dunes didn’t have a freshwater lake
in every hollow. It’s hot work climbing over them, and this
was only the second dune. The best view’s from a plane,
KEVIN RAUB I hadn’t
planned on renting a car in
Brasília until a friend said it
was obligatory. I conceded.
I drove into the city and im-
ROBERT LANDON As an unofficial mediately got confused and
Carioca (Rio native), I’ve always felt lost. I drove straight back to
keenly São Paulo’s lack of beachfront. the car rental place but they
Then I discovered Guarujá (p307), an wouldn’t take the car back
hour’s ride away (when traffic co- without charging me full
operates). Its miles-long beaches are price. So I kept it, learned
fine, but I felt a particular affection the city by driving and got
for the 70s-style high-rises that line this amazing photo of the
them – melancholic reminders of the Congresso (p377) reflecting
city’s heyday. off its hood!
MARA VORHEES It was my first day ‘on the road’ and I was still having trouble communicating in Portu-
guese. But that didn’t diminish my awe at the ancient ‘stone city’ at Vila Velha (p317).
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