A natural wonder
- Amazon Rainforest – The Amazon basin is home to more than half of the world’s remaining rainforest, and more than 60 per cent of it is in northern Brazil – about one billion hectares of incredible biodiversity. The region is home to some 2.5 million species of insects, over 40,000 species of plants, 2,200 species of fish and over 2,000 species of birds and mammals. One in five bird species in the world lives in the Amazon rainforest, and one in five fish species live in the rivers and streams of the Amazon.
- Atlantic Forest (Mata Atlântica) – A region of tropical and subtropical forest that extends along the Atlantic coast of Brazil, from the state of Rio Grande do Norte in the northeast to the state of Rio Grande do Sul in the south. The Atlantic Forest has a great diversity of vegetation, including many species of trees, such as the iconic Araucaria in the south or the mangroves in the northeast, dozens of species of bromeliads and orchids, and unique animals such as the Capivara. The forest has also been designated a World Biosphere Reserve and is home to a large number of highly endangered species, including the famous marmosets, lion tamarins and woolly nosed monkeys. Unfortunately, it has been largely cleared since colonial times, mainly for sugar cane cultivation and urban settlements – what remains is estimated to be less than 10% of the original settlement, and it is often fragmented into hilly islands. Large portions are, however, protected by hundreds of parks, including 131 federal parks, 443 state parks and 14 municipal parks, most of which are open to visitors.
- Pantanal – A vast tropical wetland, one of the largest in the world, 80% of which is in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, but which also extends into Mato Grosso (as well as parts of Bolivia and Paraguay) and covers an estimated area of between 140,000 and 195,000 square kilometres. 80% of the Pantanal’s floodplains are inundated during the rainy season, which supports an amazing biodiversity of aquatic plants and helps sustain a multitude of animal species.
- Waterfalls (Cachoeiras) – Brazil has an amazing array of waterfalls of all shapes and sizes. The Iguaçu Falls in eastern Parana is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the world, a real treat for the eyes. The 353-metre-high Cachoeira da Fumaça in Bahia’s Chapada Diamantina National Park is the second highest waterfall in the country, after the almost inaccessible Cachoeira do Araca in the Amazon. Other famous waterfalls include Caracol Falls, in the Rio Grande do Sul State Park of the same name, near Canela; Itaquira Falls, an easily accessible 168-metre waterfall near Formosa, in the state of Goiás; and Parque da Cascata Gorge, near Sete Lagoas, in the state of Minas Gerais. In addition to the nationally known waterfalls, in many parts of the country, especially in the south, south-east and centre-west, one is rarely far from at least one locally known waterfall that is worth a short hike.
- Colonial architecture – Many cities are reminders of Brazil’s colonial past, with churches, convents, forts, barracks and other structures still intact. Some of the most concentrated and well-preserved colonial buildings are found in former gold mining towns such as Ouro Preto and Tiradentes, but many other cities such as Rio de Janeiro, Petrópolis, Salvador, Paraty and Goiânia also have sizeable colonial centres.
- The works of Oscar Niemeyer – Niemeyer, Brazil’s most famous architect, is a pioneer of modern architecture, exploring the aesthetic effects of reinforced concrete and using curves to create buildings with a unique sense of space. He is best known for designing many of the buildings for the construction of the new capital Brasilia in the 1950s, but his work is literally scattered throughout the country, with important works in Natal, João Pessoa, Belo Horizonte, Rio de Janeiro, Niterói, São Paulo, Londrina, etc.