Brazil is a land of extremes, from exotic wildernesses to bustling, modern mega-cities. The fifth largest country in the world in terms of land mass, Brazil boasts an unparalleled range of natural treasures, including islands, beaches, the Amazon River, the rain forest, untouched archipelagos, and stunning mountains ranges, each supporting a rich variety of unique wildlife and flora. The food, architecture, art and culture of Brazil are rich in tradition, and have many exciting surprises in store for visitors. When you next visit this South American country here are eight of the most famous landmarks in Brazil to consider visiting, in order to make sure your visit will be unforgettable.
1. Teatro Amazonas
In the center of the Brazilian rain forest, near the banks of the Amazon, stands one of the most beautiful, and most unlikely opera houses ever built. The Teatro Amazonas was built in the city of Manaus by the wealthy barons of the rubber industry. It was designed and built by Europe’s finest architects and craftsmen, and contains the best building materials Europe had to offer. Opened in 1896, its first performance was by the great singer Enrico Caruso. A dozen years later, when synthetic rubber changed the fortunes of Manaus, the theater closed down. It remained closed for seventy years, until used in a Werner Herzog film in 1982. In 2001, it was finally reopened and became the home of the Amazonas Philharmonic Orchestra.
2. Iguazu Falls
This spectacular series of waterfalls is the highlight of a visit to the south of Brazil. This spot in the river defines the meeting point between the borders of Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina. Iguazu Falls consist of 275 separate drops, some of which reach heights of nearly 300 feet. Visitors to the falls have their choice of either walking on the specially constructed walkways for an up close look of the falls, or taking a helicopter trip over the falls for a bird’s eye view.
3. Copacabana Beach
With a population of more than 12 million residents, Rio de Janeiro is one of Brazil’s most popular and most famous cities. And the most famous beach in this oceanside paradise is Copacabana Beach. This three-mile stretch of white sand is popular for its excellent surfing, and is a vacation hot spot surrounded by more than 60 hotels. The Copacabana Beach New Years celebrations rival Carnival for their attendance. They feature spectacular fireworks displays and a concert. When Rod Stewart played the New Years concert at Copacabana Beach, 3.5 million people were in attendance, making it the most highly attended concert in history.
4. Itaimbezinho Canyon
Eco-tourism is one of Brazil’s main industries, and few places offer more rewarding experiences than Aparados da Serra National Park, in the south of the country. Itaimbezinho Canyon is the most famous, and breathtaking site in the park. The translation of the word Itaimbe is cut rock; a humble name for what is actually the biggest and deepest canyon in all of Brazil. A trip to this amazing gorge provides an opportunity to interact with rare and endangered flora and exotic birds and animals. Ideally, you should plan your visit here in the dry season, as heavy rains can make the bottom of the canyon impossible to visit.
Samba is a style of Afro-Brazilian dance. Samba Schools operate throughout Brazil, and their shows are highlighted each year during competitive dance parades held during Carnival. The Sambadrome is a special facility created solely for the celebration of Samba school competitions during Rio’s famous Carnival. The spectacle of a Sambadrome during this time nearly defies description. It consists of a tremendously long alley lined on both sides with multi-tiered viewing platforms. Thousands of spectators fill the stands and watch as the immensely colorful and vibrant Samba schools parade down the alley with their breathtaking and colorful performances. To witness this truly unique experience yourself, visit Rio de Janeiro during Carnival, which is held each year between lent, beginning the previous Friday and running until Ash Wednesday.
6. Niterói Contemporary Art Museum
This museum is not only the most important place for art lovers to visit while in Rio. It’s also one of the most important landmarks in South America for fans of modern architecture. The building was designed by Oscar Niemeyer. Its iconic appearance resembles a massive flying saucer that seems to have landed on the side of a cliff overlooking a beach. From the museum, which is built directly across the bay from downtown Rio de Janeiro, an unparalleled panoramic view of the city and its natural surroundings is available. Together with breathtaking Cathedral of Brasília, the building is one of two must-see Niemeyer structures in Brazil.
7. Cathedral of Brasília
The city of Brasília, Brazil, is located inland, in the center of the country. In the heart of the city is one of the most famous works by Brazil’s greatest architect, Oscar Niemeyer. The eye-catching structure consists of 16 stark white concrete columns, which are curved inward resembling outstretched hands reaching up toward heaven. The inside of the structure features a glass ceiling that floods the space with daylight, and also features hanging sculptures of angels. As the seat of the Archdiocese of Brasília, the Cathedral of Brasília is not only an important historic landmark; it’s also a functioning house of Roman Catholic worship.
8. Christ the Redeemer
Perhaps the most iconic and memorable site in all of Brazil is the massive art deco statue of Christ, which sits atop the peaks of Mount Corcovado, high above the city of Rio de Janeiro. In the daytime, you can see the entire city and bay from the feet of Christ the Redeemer. At night, the statue glows bright, lit from below, and is visible all around the city as it shines up to the heavens. The trip to access Christ the Redeemer is almost as lovely as the view from the top, as you ride in the Corcovado Train, which takes visitors to the mountain’s peak.