Walking and trekking
Brazil may not seem the first choice for mountain walkers. But it is the spiritual home of everything wild, home to the jungle uplands and downlands of the Amazon. And it is utterly colossal in scale, so don’t for a minute think it isn’t a worthwhile destination for walking.
Brazil's most mountainous regions are the central states of Minas Gerais and the southern state of Santa Catarina. The former is home to the national parks of Ibitipoca and Aiuruoca, both of which are well worth a visit. Ibitipoca particularly is home to some extraordinary caverns and waterfalls, table-top mountains and thickly vegetated jungle.
The highest mountain however is in the far north, on the border with Venezuela, in the province of Amazonas. Pico da Neblina, a whisker under 3,000m, is a stunning mountain, rising to a sharp point and is quite incongruous in its surroundings. It was first climbed in 1965 and lies within the Yonamami territory, so permits are required for access, obtainable from the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA), and they in turn require you to be accompanied by a guide. This is a serious expedition into tough jungle terrain, and is a magnificent all-in-one experience that will test you: from the town of São Gabriel da Cachoeira you have to go to Iazinho river by truck, then by boat along four rivers, then on a jungle trail with three camps before the ascent, which takes you over steep and difficult terrain but isn’t technical. The mountain is intermittently closed, so take advice from the IBAMA before planning your itinerary.
For something a little easier to access, Pantanal – located in the Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso du Sol regions of Southwest Brazil – is 140,000km2 of amazing wetland, bordering Bolivia and Paraguay. The terrain is varied, and the basin provides a variety of altitudes, as well as variable ground conditions. Travelling just after wet season will entail some wading for the more adventurous.
For more accessible hill-walking, Chapada Diamantina National Park holds the north-eastern province of Bahia's highpoint, Pico das Almas (Souls Peak) at 1980m. This is a truly breathtaking region, filled with caves, azure rock pools, and the famous tepuis – the cliff-rimmed plateaus rising from the rainforest made iconic by Conan Doyle’s the Lost World. The Chapada is also home to the famous Glass Falls, also known as Cachoeira da Fumaca (smoke Waterfall) whose free-falling water drops more than 415 meters in to Poco Encantado (Enchanted Well). Also in the north east, the Visconde de Mavá to Ilha Grande is an advanced-level trek through three protected areas of the Mata Atlântica (Atlantic Forest) Biosphere Reserve. The trek descends from the mountains to sea level, crossing the Mantiqueria and Bocaina mountain range and circling the island of Ilha Grande, giving a tantalising experience of the different altitudinal zones and ecosystems of the Atlantic Rainforest.
Besides a considerable amount of partying and lying on a beach, there is much in the way of other outdoor activities in Brazil. Scuba diving and snorkelling is very popular, especially in the waters of Fernando de Noronha, a small archipelago made up of a large volcanic landmass and twenty smaller islands, where you can view spinner dolphins, nurse sharks, lemon sharks and barracuda.
Iguacu Falls are located in the region of Parana in the Iguacu National Park, and consist of some 275 falls across a distance of 2.7km. Some falls measure up to 82m and there are opportunities for water sports and rock climbing in the park.
Brazil is legendary for its beaches, and there is a new wave of sports becoming popular which mean that you don’t just have to lie supine to appreciate them. You can take a buggy trip on the North Coast from Natal, travelling over the beaches of Jenipabu, Pitangui. And Jacuma, or you can simply find a serene spot to take a swim and enjoy the spectacular views.
Then of course, there is the jungle. The best place to snare an operator to take you into the Amazon Rainforest is Manaus, a sprawling city which sits close to the Amazon River. Try and book with a reputable operator in the UK before you go, or exercise considerable caution. While Brazil is overall a safe place to travel, the Amazon Rainforest is not a place you want things to go wrong.
Brazil is one of the most populated countries in the world. TRUE. With 183 million people, it is the sixth most populated. But it isn’t one of the densest populated. Put it this way, it is 35 times bigger than the UK, yet only has two and a half times its population.
The Amazon is the world’s largest river: TRUE and FALSE. The Nile is longer, but the Amazon carries more water.
Must see and do
- Rio - Rijuca Rainforest, Sugarloaf Mountain, the breathtaking summit up to Christ the Redeemer on Corvacado Mountain, Copacobana beach – you have to experience Rio once in your life. http://www.riodejaneiro-turismo.com.br/en/
- The Amazon - Take a jungle boat trip from Manaus down the Amazon river, and you can expect to see river dolphins, exotic animals and birds, alligators, snakes and a few species of monkeys. There is also the option of staying a few nights in a jungle lodge.
- Praia do Forte located in the lusted-after Bahia area, famous for its beautiful beaches, is Praia do Forte. Combining this exquisite beach life with the experience of provincial Brazil. There are coconut groves, lagoons and mangroves as well as beautiful coral reefs and natural pools, home to some incredible wildlife
- Chapada Diamantina – meaning ‘steep cliffs of diamond,’ this magnificent national park lies in the Bahia region and is covered in outdoor winders such as tepuis, caves, waterfalls and gorges.