Latin America’s largest country, Brazil is one of the world’s most exciting and colourful holiday destinations. Fringed by the stunning sandy beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema, Rio is the ideal introduction to Brazil, and you can explore the highlights of this vast and varied country on our 14-day Colours of Brazil tour. And if you join us on our special festival departures, you’ll also experience the Winner’s Parade, which takes place a week after Rio’s Carnival and showcases the very best floats and dancers. It’s a wonderful time to visit, and the atmosphere is more relaxed than during the Carnival itself.
Christ the Redeemer
Rio’s most recognisable landmark, the 30m-high statue of Christ the Redeemer, has watched over the city from the top of Corcovado Mountain since 1931, and is a major tourist attraction, drawing an estimated 5,000 visitors every day. The figure, which has been named one of the ‘New Seven Wonders of the World’ was designed by Brazilian architect Heitor da Silva Costa, in the Art Deco style, and built by the French-Polish sculptor Paul Landowski. It was constructed with reinforced concrete faced with thousands of tiny mosaic tiles made from soapstone, which was both easy to carve and hard-wearing. The statue is hollow and contains a network of stairways and tunnels to allow access for maintenance workers – and eight decades of exposure to sun, wind, rain, pollution and lightning strikes means that maintaining this edifice is a full time job.
The Amazon Rainforest
Around 60% of the Amazon Rainforest lies within Brazil’s borders and this wild jungle environment is home to tens of thousands of plant species, 1,500 species of bird and hundreds of mammal species. The main centre of population here is Manaus, the capital of the state of Amazonas, which makes an ideal base for forays into the jungle. Known as the ‘Paris of the Tropics,’ Manaus is a bustling city of two million people and is home to a number of unexpected architectural treasures, such as the opulent Renaissance-style opera house, the Teatro Amazonas, which opened in 1896. Boat trips along the mighty River Amazon from Manaus will take you through lush jungle landscapes, with the chance of seeing a great variety of endemic wildlife including caimans, howler monkeys, giant river otters and scarlet macaws. At Santarem you will also witness the remarkable natural phenomenon of the ‘Meeting of the Waters’, where the Tapajos and Amazon rivers flow side-by-side without mixing, creating two distinct bands of different-coloured water.
Rio is a city suffused with the spirit of carnival, and its annual Mardi Gras celebrations are considered to be the biggest in the world, with half a million foreign visitors joining many more locals for the loud, brash and gaudy celebrations. The festival is spread over the five days running up to ‘Fat Tuesday’ and is a truly spectacular experience, as the air fills with pulsating samba rhythms, the sounds of drums, whistles and horns as hundreds of dancers in vibrant multi-coloured costumes of feathers, sequins and tassels appear alongside gigantic over-the-top floats decorated in a variety of imaginative themes. This main parade is a competition between the city’s numerous samba schools for the best display, which takes place inside the Sambadome, while there are plenty of free events taking place on the streets of Rio at the same time.
Straddling the border with Argentina, the spectacular Iguazu Falls – taller than Niagara and twice as wide – are a truly unforgettable sight, and have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Extending for almost 3km, Iguazu consists of a chain of 275 individual waterfalls and the most spectacular section is the horseshoe-shaped Devil’s Throat, which drops more than 80 metres. A wooden platform offers breathtaking views of the raging torrents, and for those who wish to get as close as possible to this incredible force of nature, boat trips are available on the river below. The falls are located within Iguazu National Park, which stretches over both sides of the border, and encompasses large areas of rainforest which is home to a variety of endangered native wildlife such as jaguars, tapirs and giant anteaters as well as hundreds of tropical bird species.