SIZZLING SOUTH AMERICA Part II

The next country to visit is Brazil, one of the world’s most captivating places. Brazil is South America’s giant, a dazzling country of powdery white-sand beaches, pristine rain forests and wild, rhythm-filled metropolises. Brazil’s attractions extend from enchanting, frozen-in-time colonial towns to dramatic landscapes of red-rock canyons, thundering waterfalls and idyllic tropical islands. Add to that, Brazil’s biodiversity: legendary in scope, its diverse ecosystems boast the greatest collection of plant and animal species found anywhere on earth.

Brazil offers many adventures for travellers with budgets large and small. There’s horseback riding in the Pantanal, kayaking flooded forests in the Amazon, ascending rocky cliff tops to breathtaking views, whale-watching off the coast, surfing stellar breaks off palm-fringed beaches and snorkelling crystal-clear rivers or coastal reefs. Brazil’s coastline is almost one uninterrupted line of surfing nirvana. The Panatal wetlands in the west of Brazil teem with puma, anacondas, giant river otters and a myriad of other exotic creatures. No less entrancing is the prospect of doing nothing, aside from sinking into warm sands and soaking up a glorious stretch of beach, a caipirinha (Brazil’s national cocktail) in hand.

Brazil’s most famous celebration, Carnaval, storms though the country’s cities and towns with hip-shaking samba and frevo, dazzling costumes and carefree joie de vivre, but Brazilians hardly regulate their passion for revelry to a few weeks of the year. Wherever there’s music, that carefree lust for life tends to appear – whether dancing with Cariocas at Rio’s atmospheric samba clubs or following powerful drumbeats through the streets of Salvador. There’s the dancehall forró of the Northeast, twirling carimbó of the Amazon, scratch-skilled DJs of São Paulo and an endless variety of regional sounds that extends from the back-country sertanejo to reggae-loving Maranhão.

Brazil’s high season runs from December to March. This is when the country fills with both foreign visitors and vacationing Brazilian families (school holidays run from mid-December to Carnaval, usually in February). Prices rise during this time and you’ll face more crowds, though this is also the most festive time in Brazil. Brazil’s low season runs from May to September. With the exception of July, which is also a school-holiday month, this is the cheapest and least-crowded time to visit the country – though it can be ­utterly vacant in some resort areas and cold in the south. Owing to generally temperate weather year-round, there’s no bad time to visit Brazil. But unless you have your heart set on attending Carnaval, you may want to avoid the summer crowds (and heat), and visit from April to November. Treks into the Amazon and the Pantanal are best then – especially from June to August, when it’s drier.

Rio de Janeiro, known as the cidade maravilhosa (marvelous city), is nothing if not exhilarating. Having some of the sexiest population, sultry Rio is one of the most attractive cities on the planet. Flanked by gorgeous mountains, white-sand beaches and verdant rainforests fronting deep blue sea, Rio occupies one of the most spectacular settings of any metropolis in the world. There are a range of things to do in Rio de Janeiro. You can surf great breaks off Prainha, hike through Tijuca’s rainforests, sail across Guanabára, dance the night away in Lapa, learn Samba – the seductive dance of Rio, people watch & relax at the world-famous beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema.

Start your visit to this beautiful city with Cristo Redentor. Atop Corcovado (which means ‘hunchback’), Cristo Redentor gazes out over Rio, a placid expression on his well-crafted face. The mountain rises straight up from the city to 710m. At night the brightly lit, 38m-high statue is visible from nearly every part of the city – all 1145 tons of the open-armed redeemer. Take the cog train up Corcovado for stunning views beneath the open-armed Cristo Redentor.

Move on to the famous Copacabana and Leme beaches. The long, scalloped beach runs for 4 km. There is always a flurry of activities stretching along its length. There are kids showing off their soccer skills, locals & tourists lining up for cocktails at kiosks and of course the beautiful tanned people. . Leme is a mix of older residents and favela kids, while the area between the Copacabana Palace Hotel and Rua Fernando Mendes is the gay and transvestite section – easily recognized by the rainbow flag. Young soccer and futevôlei (soccer volleyball) players hold court near Rua Santa Clara. The beach next to the Forte de Copacabana is the fishermen’s community beach. In the morning, you can buy the fresh catch of the day.

Next, visit Centro, Rio’s bustling commercial district. It is a blend of high – rise buildings with the remnants of its grand past in the baroque churches, wide plazas and cobblestone streets. Visit the Jardim Botânico, an exotic botanical garden, which houses over 8000 plant species. It is quiet & serene during weekdays & blossoms with families & music on weekends. There is a pleasant outdoor café that overlooks the garden. The Centro Cultural do Banco do Brasil, housed in a beautifully restored building, is one of Brazil’s best cultural centers. It has a cinema, two theaters and some of the city’s best (and free) exhibitions. There is always something going on here. These are just some of the things you can do here. There are a myriad of different places to see & things to do here in Rio.

Next visit the Sao Paolo, one of the world’s biggest metropolises. Even though the city lacks the natural beauty of Rio, it has much going for it. It is the cultural capital of Brazil, with a dizzying array of attractions including first-rate museums, nightly concerts, experimental theater and dance. The nightclubs, bars and restaurants are among the best on the continent.

Start your visit with the Museu de Arte de São Paulo. The museum possesses Latin America’s most comprehensive collection of Western art. The museum hovers above a concrete plaza that turns into an antiques fair on Sundays. The museum is considered a classic of modernism by many and an abomination by a vocal few. The collection, though, is unimpeachable, and ranges from Goya to El Greco to Manet. The museum hosts temporary exhibits, and there is a bright, pleasant cafeteria on the lower level. Next visit Parque do Ibirapuera, the biggest green space in central São Paulo. It makes for a fine escape from the city’s seemingly infinite stretches of concrete. In addition, the leafy 2-sq-km park serves as a thriving center of the city’s cultural life, with a series of museums, performance spaces and the grounds for São Paulo’s renowned Bienal. The park was inaugurated in 1954 to commemorate the city’s 400th anniversary.

Next, head to the top of the Banespa skyscraper, Brazil’s version of the Empire State Building, Banespa Skyscraper, for one of Sao Paolo’ s best panoramas. Ride free to the observation deck on the top floor for views of the city. You can also visit the Mercado Municipal, a delightful market specializing in fresh produce and dried goods. This covered market is a beautiful confection of stained glass and a series of vast domes. It’s also a great place to sample a couple of classic Sao Paolo delights like mortadella sandwiches and pasteis, pockets of dough stuffed with meat, cheese or fish and then fried. Many Sundays there is also live music.

While you are visiting Argentina & Brazil, other must visits are: the region of Patagonia, The great Amazon & also the Iguazu Falls. Patagonia is a region located at the southern end of South America, territory shared by Argentina and Chile, boasting some of the most dramatic landscapes on Earth. The region comprises the southern section of the Andes Mountains to the southwest towards the Pacific Ocean and from the east of the mountain range to the valleys it follows the Colorado River south towards Carmen de Patagones in the Atlantic Ocean. To the west, it includes the territory of Valdivia through Tierra del Fuego archipelago. The Argentine portion of Patagonia includes the provinces of Neuquén, Río Negro, Chubut and Santa Cruz, as well as the eastern portion of Tierra del Fuego archipelago and the southernmost department of Buenos Aires province: Patagones. The Argentine politico-economic Patagonic Region includes the Province of La Pampa. You can trek, ski, fish, whale watch, etc. in many regions of Patagonia. One of the most famous sights is the Perito Moreno Glacier where you can even take a mini trek.

Another must visit are the magnificent Iguazú Falls, the waterfalls of the Iguazú River. The falls are located on the border of Brazilian State Paraná and Argentine Province Misiones. The falls divide the river into the upper and lower Iguazu. The Iguazu River rises near the city of Curitiba. It flows through Brazil for most of its course. Below its confluence with the San Antonio River, the Iguazu River forms the boundary between Argentina and Brazil. . There are points in the cities of Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil, Puerto Iguazú, Argentina, and Ciudad del Este, Paraguay, which have access to the Iguazu River, where the borders of all three nations can be seen, a popular tourist attraction for visitors to the three cities.

Of course, you can’t visit South America & not visit the Amazing Amazon. The Amazon rainforest is almost like a continent in itself, with a whole network of mini routes within its borders. The region is home to about 2.5 million insect species, tens of thousands of plants, and some 2,000 birds and mammals. To date, at least 40,000 plant species, 2,200 fishes, 1,294 birds, 427 mammals, 428 amphibians, and 378 reptiles have been scientifically classified in the region. . One of the best ways to tackle this huge landscape is by taking an unforgettable river trip from the jungle city Manaus in Brazil to Leticia in Columbia.

This is just a start to the diverse continent that is South America. The next post will be a continuation of more a few more amazing countries to visit when in South America