Brazil vacations overview

Encompassing half of South America, almost half the world’s rainforests and still finding space for cosmopolitan cities, Brazil is more like a continent than a country. The Amazon envelops visitors entirely, as you trek or canoe through flooded forest, past twined lianas to a cacophony of screeching birds and insects. But the Pantanal is where the wildlife hangs out – this tremendous wetland is a playground for around 1,000 species of bird and over 200 mammals. The cities and beaches are the people’s playgrounds – Rio is the party capital in a fantasy setting, while Salvador is the Afro-Brazilian heartland. Our Brazil travel guide reveals all.

Our top Brazil vacations

Pantanal wildlife vacation in Brazil

From £3995
10 days ex flights
Wildlife Safari in Brazil's stunning Northern Pantanal.
Small group2022: 11 Jun, 7 Jul, 21 Jul, 4 Aug, 11 Aug, 18 Aug, 25 Aug, 1 Sep, 8 Sep, 15 Sep, 22 Sep, 29 Sep, 6 Oct, 13 Oct

Southern Brazil vacations

From £1725
13 days ex flights
Soak up the sights and spot wildlife in Southen Brazil.
Tailor made

Highlights of Brazil and Peru vacation

From £2695
14 days ex flights
14 Days: Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu, Iguazu, Rio

Best time to go to Brazil

While some of Brazil’s attractions can be visited year-round, others are more seasonal, the movements of wildlife and people halted by heat or floods. Brazil’s summer is December to March and winter is June to September – but heat and humidity rise the further north you go. Overall, September-October is the best time to visit Brazil, avoiding major vacation periods, the chilly southern winter and soggy season in the Pantanal, as well as enjoying cheaper prices. The Amazon is sweltering year-round; the January-May floods just mean you’ll travel by canoe rather than on foot. Read more about when to visit Brazil.
Brazil temperature and rainfall chart

Map & highlights

Many trips fly into Rio de Janeiro, where you can join Christ the Redeemer on his rock overlooking the city, mountains and ocean. Southern Brazil also houses the Iguazu Falls, which spouts over the Argentinian border, and the watery wildlife of the Southern Amazon and Pantanal. The rainforest is vast, so the Northern Amazon is usually explored from Manau – you can cruise down rivers with pink river dolphins and learn how to tell whether a flash of colour is a toucan’s beak or macaw’s plumage. Over on the east coast, Salvador de Bahia is the Afro-Brazilian heart of the country.
Iguaçu Falls

1. Iguaçu Falls

Straddling the Argentina-Brazil border, the mighty Iguaçu Falls stretch 3km and tower higher than Niagara. There are actually over 270 falls, and you’ll need to border-hop for the full experience. The Brazilian side has rainforest walks and catwalks above the cascades, while Argentina allows you to cruise upriver on a zodiac – navigating rapids to reach the Devil’s Throat Canyon.
Northern Amazon

2. Northern Amazon

The vast Amazonian city of Manaus is the leaping off point for tours into the northern region of this rainforest, including the waterfall, wildlife and pristine jungle environment of Jaú National Park. Take a cruise past tropical archipelagos, see the meeting of the waters and look out for pink river dolphins and giant otters. Bruce Parry wannabes can canoe out to Yanomami and Tukano villages.
The Pantanal

3. The Pantanal

The Pantanal is the world’s largest seasonal wetland, and Brazil’s wildlife capital. Almost 700 species of birds can be found here, along with 80 mammals – and the lack of jungle means they can be easily spotted. Take night treks, canoe rides and horseback hacks – and see capybaras, anacondas, monkeys and hyacinth macaws. Porto Jofre is also the best place in the world to see habituated jaguars.
Rio de Janeiro

4. Rio de Janeiro

Possibly the most dramatically-situated city on the planet, Rio offers pretty much everything you could want in one place – awesome views, white-sand bays, tropical islands, buzzing nightlife, dance and drumming classes – all to the intoxicating beat of samba and bossa nova, with the lilting melodies of Brazilian Portuguese. Aside from the famed sights, the Botanical Garden is also well worth a visit.
Salvador de Bahia

5. Salvador de Bahia

Brazil’s first capital is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in recognition of its European, African and indigenous influences. An energetic city even by Brazilian standards, Salvador is the Afro-Brazilian heartland, with capoeira rhythms and Candomblé ceremonies harking back to the region’s slave trade legacy. The nearby coastline is some of Brazil’s most beautiful.
Southern Amazon

6. Southern Amazon

While many of the Amazon’s thousands of species remain shyly concealed in the dense vegetation, a good guide will still be able to point out several of the 550 bird species and seven monkey species. Even if you don’t see the howler monkeys, you’re sure to hear them! Strange capybaras – giant rodents – graze on the riverbanks, and the crescendo of sounds of the world’s largest jungle is utterly captivating.

Wildlife

The wildlife in Brazil is carnivalesque. Pale pink dolphins and anacondas smooth through the rivers, macaws flash their red and blue plumage, capybaras and giant otters bring spades of character, monkeys dance across the rainforest canopy, and jaguars wear speckled camo jackets. Grab your pipoca; it’s quite a show. Brazil is a giant, and so are wildlife haunts like the Pantanal and Amazon, so you’ll need to travel with a vacation company that’ll match you up with expert guides to get the best out of a wildlife vacation in Brazil.

Pantanal

The Pantanal is almost 17 million hectares of wild wetlands, rivers, lakes and forest that sink under floods every wet season. You’ll follow in the footsteps of the wildlife and rise above the waters on canoe and boat trips skippered by a local guide. You’ll need their expertise to seek out the crocs, tapirs, anacondas, capybaras and giant anteaters that hide away – and you’ve got a better chance of seeing wildlife here compared to the tangled Amazon Rainforest. It’s not all sunken waterways, either. The dusty Transpantaneira Highway bumps through the northern Pantanal, where you’re most likely to see jaguars.

Amazon Rainforest

The Amazon Rainforest is one of the most precious ecosystems on the planet. Its biodiversity is astounding, and includes over 16,000 tree species and two million insect species. However, seeing wildlife can be a challenge; the Amazon River is too wide and the rainforests too tangled for instant gratification. Instead, sail with a local skipper to explore skinnier tributaries and hike on the heels of a guide who can take you for dinner with indigenous communities, and count any wildlife sightings as a bonus. Read our Amazon guide to find out how your vacation can help the region’s communities and wildlife.

More vacation ideas

Small group tour in Brazil

From US $5880 to US $6030
15 days ex flights
An in depth discovery tour of Brazil including the Amazon
Small group2021: 18 Sep, 9 Oct, 2022: 23 Apr, 9 Jul, 17 Sep, 8 Oct

Rio to Iguazu Falls tour in Brazil

From £2963
12 days ex flights
Fully escorted group journey of natural southern Brazil
Small group2021: 25 Sep, 20 Nov

Tailor made vacation in Brazil

From US $6450
15 days ex flights
Green Coast, the Pantanal, and Iguaçu Falls

Brazil wildlife vacation, Amazon and Pantanal

From £5575
11 days ex flights
Thrilling wildlife safari combining Pantanal and the Amazon
Tailor made

Brazil walking vacation, tailormade

From £3650
15 days ex flights
Hand-picked highlights of Brazil
Tailor made

Wildlife vacations in Brazil, tailormade

From £5200
13 days ex flights
From macaws to jaguars in the Pantanal and Amazon, plus Rio
Quote. The secret to a great holiday is that it's great for everyone - you, local communities and nature.
Tourist and Masai

More about Brazil

Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro is hard to pin down: it’s a city where favelas wobble down hillsides overlooking million-dollar yachts and beaches. Even outside Carnival, a medley of samba, hip-hop, bossa nova and Carioca funk drifts out of houses and cafés. Gawp at the spectacular views from Christ the Redeemer, play volleyball and eat barbecue on the beach, explore Rio Botanical Garden, but also join a city tour by a resident who can reveal some of the truths of living in a city with such an astonishing gulf between the rich and poor.

Iguazu Falls

As if the Amazon, Pantanal and Rio weren’t dramatic enough, most vacations to Brazil also include a detour to Iguazu Falls. Don’t listen to those who say it’s South America’s Niagara Falls – it’s far bigger than that. Over 250 cascades tip over the Brazil-Argentina border in a rush of white noise and mushrooming water vapour. Some tours take you to the Argentinian side so you can hop on a boat and crane your neck at the 25 storey-high falls. Back in Brazil, you can hike into Devil’s Throat, the most deafening part of Iguazu Falls. You’ll be so close that you can taste the perpetual rainbow.

Family vacations

Traveling in Brazil with kids is easy when you go with a vacation company that knows how to source just the right accommodation and activities, and tweak journey times to your brood’s ability to sit still. Brazil doesn’t have a boring bone in its body, so you might zipline through rainforests, track jaguars, monkeys and toucans by boat, stare wide-eyed at waterfalls, and join Brazilian families as they pile onto beaches made for barbecuing and snorkelling. Even cities are an adventure playground, with a cable car hoisting you up Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro and interactive science museums like the Museu Catavento in Sao Paulo.
[Wildlife: Bart van Dorp] [Pantanal: sabino-jose] [Amazon Rainforest: Jaime Dantas] [Rio de Janeiro: Mike Swigunski] [Iguazu Falls: Christhian Gruhn] [Family vacations: LEONARDO DASILVA]
Photo credits: [Page banner: Tambako The Jaguar] [Wildlife: Bart van Dorp] [Pantanal: sabino-jose] [Amazon Rainforest: Jaime Dantas] [Rio de Janeiro: Mike Swigunski] [Iguazu Falls: Christhian Gruhn] [Family vacations: LEONARDO DASILVA]