Forget the cocktail joints of Ipanema and Copacabana, because we've put together this list of the top natural landmarks to see in Brazil. That means craggy peaks and dense rainforests, gushing waterfalls and sparkling sands, all topped off with primeval plant life, endless rivers and stalking jaguars to make you jump. Grab yourself a Caipirinha for this one, it's about to get beautiful…
The Sugarloaf Mountain
Sorry guys, this one isn't a sweet pastry or a finger-licking loaf from the baker's, but one of the most iconic natural landmarks to see in Brazil full stop! And just as you were lamenting the loss of that cinnamon-doused Danish you thought you'd been promised, you take a moment to see just how awesome this colossal mound of rock and jungle really is – and everything's forgotten. Soaring a whopping 396 meters above the sparkling blue harbours of Rio de Janeiro, the peak is famed for its glass-fronted teleférico cable car, which transports eager-eyed visitors across the skyline from Morro da Urca, another mountain opposite the Sugarloaf. Once up top, you'll be able to spot rock climbers conquering the great granite faces, and see across the shimmering sands of Copacabana Beach in the distance.
No trip to South America could possibly be complete without at least a glimpse of the bucket-list-busting cataracts of the Iguazu Falls (which is why this wonder has been added to LBW's Brazil itinerary for 2017!). Straddling the borders of Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina, these colossal waterfalls are amongst the highest and widest on the planet. They are washed over by millions of gallons of water a day, and crash and tumble through the jungle in a way that's sure to take the breath away! On the Brazilian side, the UNESCO-attested Iguaçu National Park spreads out to offer some top views into the waters below. This jungle-dressed swathe of hinterland is also home to stalking ocelots, jaguars, rare giant anteaters, multi-colored topical birds and more – so be sure to keep your eyes peeled!
The second of the mighty granite peaks that rise against Rio to make this list is the famous Corcovado. This sculpted mountain that gets to more than 720 meters above sea level between the enchanting neighbourhood of Santa Teresa and party-mad Copacabana comes blanketed in green jungles and woods. And while its curious shape has led to less-flattering nicknames, like The Hunchback', there's no denying the breathtaking profile of the mountain against the backdrop of bustling de Janeiro. Oh yea, and it’s the perch for that most recognizable of manmade Brazilian landmarks: the statue of Christ the Redeemer!
Fernando de Noronha
You could be forgiven for skipping the island of Fernando de Noronha on that LBW itinerary to Brazil, because this picture-perfect isle sits more than 350 kilometers from the mainland shore of Rio Grande do Norte, the closest province. However, if you opt to linger a little longer in the country after your guides and new travel buddies have departed, and want to catch a glimpse of paradise on Earth, then this one might just be worth the trek! Voted time and time again to the top spot on lists of the world's best beaches, it's fringed with cliff-backed sands of perfect white, washed over by aquamarine seas and beset by chiseled granite peaks that look like something out of Lost. Awesome.
The Amazon River
Forever vying with the Nile for the title of the longest river on the globe (experts disagree heavily on that one!), the Amazon is the great snake of water that carves through the heart of Brazil and South America as a whole. A wild and meandering beast, it covers a whole kaleidoscope of different habitats after crashing down from its sources in the high Andes of Ecuador and Peru. There are misty rainforests where red-hued tree frogs hide in the undergrowth, reflective bayous where gators wallow in the mud, river dolphins that majestically stream through the shallows, and floodplains where manatees meet giant otters in the wet season. Get on a purring canoe and explore this mighty treasure and you won't be disappointed!
Serra da Bocaina
Encircling the old Portuguese-style churches and shimmering beaches of Paraty (one of the top stopovers on LBW's Beautiful Brazil tour), the craggy rises of the Serra da Bocaina are an adventurer's dream-come-true. One of the lesser-known natural landmarks to see in Brazil, they peak and trough for over 260,000 acres of land along the south-eastern coast of the country. The mountains are home to some of the last remaining tracts of primeval Atlantic rainforest, which has been called one of the most endangered natural habitats on the planet. You can join the intrepid paths of the Trilha do Ouro (the Gold Trail) and delve deep into the wildernesses, spying out ocelots, sloths and spotted big cats as you go!
The Pantanal might just be the most awesome and biodiverse place you've never heard of. Located to the south of the Amazon basin, it represents a vast area of more than 190,000 square kilometers (that's huge, just in case you were wondering!). Within, it contains endless plains of bog and wetland, occasionally rising to dry islands where cerrado savannahs cover the ground and rollinia blooms erupt in bursts of green. Today, thousands of visitors come here each year on a safari, eager to encounter the mind-boggling array of creatures that make the Pantanal their home. We're talking South American tapirs, galumphing giant anteaters, macaws, wolves, jaguars, crocodiles, caimans, iguanas – the list goes on!
The Tijuca Forest is entirely encompassed by the urban sprawl of Rio de Janeiro, and it's a candidate for the largest area of woodland to be found within city limits anywhere on the globe. It's also truly wonderful to explore, as light and motes of forest dust dance in the sunbeams and flick off the waxy orchids and ferns. Thanks to its proximity to the city, Tijuca is relatively built-up, meaning travellers can enjoy picnic areas, old governors' residences, sculpture gardens and more. There are also oodles of marked trails that wind deeper into the woods, eventually revealing the rugged top of Mirim Peak.
Of course, there are oodles more natural landmarks to see in Brazil – no single list could possibly sum up all the backcountry treats of this nation ranging from the Caribbean to the tropics! If you can think of any, we'd love to hear about them in the comments below! Or, if you think it's time you went to explore Brazil, why not check out LBW's offering of trips there?
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