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Brazil Catedral Metropolitana
After King John VI returned to Portugal in 1821 and Brazil became independent in 1822, a new building boom began. By the end of that century the city had implemented the latest modern technology with a race track, railroad connection, street lighting, sewage system, radio telegraphy, and a telephone system. After the turn of the century many older colonial buildings made way for wider new roads and increasingly high rise buildings. Even as late as the 1960s colonial buildings were demolished to make way for the impressive avant-garde Catedral Metropolitana that was inaugurated in 1976. Yet some old alleys are hidden away on either side of the central pedestrian street of Avenida Rio Branca. Throngs of people pass hundreds of small stores here. There is not a space free in the numerous restaurants during lunch-time because it is less expensive to eat here, and often better than in the tourist restaurants of the southern zone.
ime stands still on the Ilha Fis-Zustoms Island). The greenish ling was constructed in 1880 eo-Gothic style. The expen-' and carefully restored palace loused the Museum Cultural arinha since 1999 in which the ing and items of practical use the royal family can be seen, he botanical gardens (Jardim lico)   in  the  Tijuca  National are an oasis in the midst of this : metropolis. It is one of the tropical botanical gardens and •etums of the world. John VI >lants of economic importance other tropical parts of the 1 planted here. Today there are id seven thousand species ing there
São Paulo
The view from the top of São Paulo’s tallest building, the Edificio Italiano reveals South America’s largest city (over 10 million inhabitants) and Brazil’s financial, commercial and industrial heartland. Famed throughout the continent for its abundant nightlife and shopping, São Paulo’s rapidly growing population resides in a sprawling urban maze characterized by perpetual traffic jams and a chronic lack of space. While São Paulo’s concrete jungle is a far cry from the color and charm of other Brazilian cities, there are some cultural attractions on offer, notably the MASP – Museu de Arte de São Paulo with an internationally renowned collection of impressionist paintings (with works by Van Gogh and Degas amongst many others).
The Brazilian Northeast
The Northeast of Brazil is famed for its beautiful beaches and distinct history and folklore. Known as the ‘Golden Coast’, this region contains the states of Alagoas, Bahia, Ceará, Maranhão, Paraíba, Pernambuco, Piauí, Rio Grande do Norte and Sergipe
.Salvador da Bahia
The state capital is split into upper and lower sections. Cidade Alta, the heart of the old city, is perched at the top of a 50m-high cliff, linked to Cidade Baixa by steep streets, a funicular railway and the marvelous Art-Deco Elevador Lacerdo. The majority of Salvador’s museums, palaces and churches are concentrated within Cidade Alta and thus the city is ideal for exploring on foot. This UNESCO World Heritage Site boasts a staggering number of churches, including the impressive Church of São Francisco and the fascinating Church of Bonfim, where middle-class matrons rub shoulders with the peasantry as they gather to worship. However, religion in Bahia is not limited to the established church. The state’s African legacy extends to candomble, a fusion of African and Catholic religions. Candomble followers dress in white and honor hundreds of native deities in terreiros (or cult houses) all over the city, it is possible to witness ceremonies as some terreiros accept visitors as long as they dress accordingly and are respectful. 
Salvador has some of the best museums in Brazil and next to the opulent Catedral Basilica is the Museu Afro-Brasileiro, a fascinating insight into afro-Brazilian culture, with sections on candomble, capoeira and Carnaval. Other interesting museums include the Casa de Jorge Amado, Bahia’s best-known novelist, the Museu da Cidade and the Museu de Arte Sacra, the latter housed in a 17th-century convent.
Avid shoppers should head for the Mercado Modelo for a wide variety of goods including many examples of local handicrafts. The local cuisine (comida bahiana) is among the best in Brazil, focusing on rich African flavors. 
Salvador is also renowned for being the hub of Brazilian music and Salvador’s central district of Pelourinho is home to numerous bars and clubs showcasing live music and afoxé (Salvador’s carnival bands).
Also in Bahia state, the Diamantina National Park is also well worth a visit; it contains several underground lakes (such as Lago Azul) and spectacular waterfalls (such as Veu da Noiva). The towns of Ilhéus and Aracaju with their ornate churches and colonial architecture are also worth a visit. 
Piauí State contains the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Serra da Capivara National Park, which contains ancient cave paintings estimated to be over 25,000 years old. 
Alagoas state capital, Maceiô, is deservedly proud of its fantastic beaches, reputedly the finest in all of Brazil. 
Pernambuco state capital, Recife, has been the beneficiary of sizeable investment to promote tourism. However despite being one of the most visited cities in the Brazilian Northeast, it still suffers from a poor infrastructure and the influx of rich, foreign tourists has made begging and street crime a real problem in the city. A world away is the nearby historical town of Olinda, infamous for its Carnaval celebrations and one of Brazil’s eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites. 
Rio Grande do Norte’s state capital, Natal, is divided between the commercial section of the city and its beach suburbs – clean, safe and good for surfing. Natal has several large markets and is famous for its cotton and leather handicrafts. 
Ceara’s capital, Fortaleza, sprawls lazily along a spectacular coastline. Blessed with excellent restaurants and an abundance of attractions for the visitor, the city is also a great place to organize a trip to Jericocoara. Just four hours by car, this heavenly village is nestled between a dazzling white sand-dune desert and a balmy turquoise sea.
The Interior
Few tourists venture far from Brazil’s spectacular beaches but a trip into the interior reveals a different Brazil, one with a great deal to offer the visitor.
Minas Gerais
As its name suggests, this was so called after the abundant gold and diamond mines that transformed the state into a treasure trove of gold and also of baroque art. During the 18th century, the stream of riches from this region was so relentless that the Portuguese lacked sufficient ships to transport it to Europe. Almost all the gold that gilded altars in cathedrals and churches from as far north as Olinda came from Minas. In towns such as Ouro Preto, Tiradentes, Sabará and Mariana, this tidal wave of wealth resulted in the construction of hundreds of churches and civic buildings in lavish baroque style. All of the cidades históricas are immaculately preserved examples of Brazil’s colonial heritage and are accessible by road from the state capital Belo Horizonte. This region’s highlight for art-lovers is Aleijadinho’s interpretation of ‘The Passion’ at the Basilica de Bom Jesus de Matosinhos. Set in gardens that gently slope towards Matosinhos town, the work is positioned in six small domed chapels filled with life-size statues that dramatize the scenes. All of the figures, including the 12 magnificent soapstone statues of prophets from the Old Testament, are more poignant for being sculpted by an artist almost completely disabled by the advanced stages of leprosy and who, therefore, knew it to be his final work.
Brasília, the country’s capital, was built on land originally covered by cerrado (sub-tropical forest) and is renowned for its futuristic architecture, most notable in the Praça dos Três Poderes, Palácio do Planalto and the National Congress. Attracting far fewer visitors than the huge cities of Rio and São Paulo or the tropical paradise of the Northeast, Brasília has little to offer the visitor interested in Brazilian history and culture. However, it is Brazil’s future and it is up to the individual to decide whether it is as attractive as Brazil’s colorful past. 
Mato Grosso is the gateway to the Pantanal, a vast area of wetlands approximately half the size of France and Brazil’s largest ecological reserve. Flooded by the Rio Paraguai during the wet season (October to March), this region is the best place in Brazil to see wildlife. However, the region is sparsely populated, with few towns or villages and only one major road (the ‘Transpantaneira’). Therefore, in order to get the most out of the area, wildlife enthusiasts should choose an organized tour with experienced guides.

The South
Porto Alegre
In the rich southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, this city caters for thousands of tourists each year, the majority of whom come from nearby Argentina. The capital has excellent museums, art galleries and restaurants to entertain the visitor, as well as delightful surrounding countryside. To the west, travelers can visit the ruins of the 300-year-old Jesuit missions, abandoned when the Jesuits were expelled from Spain. One of the most fascinating is Saõ Miguel das Missões, yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site, located 58km (36 miles) from the town of Santo Angelo (a good starting point for visiting the missions). The most popular beaches in this area are the Tramandai and Torres, respectively 126km (78 miles) and 209km (130 miles) from Pôrto Alegre. In addition, the region’s Gramado and Canela Mountains provide ample opportunities for walking and trekking.

Brazil Rads
The state of Santa Catarina, with its island capital of Florianópolis, has superb beaches at Laguna, Itapena and Camburiu. The island is famous for its excellent surfing and watersports facilities are particularly good in the area. Further inland Blumenau and Joinville are both living testaments to the last century’s massive influx of German immigration with both towns constructed in predominantly German architecture. Germanic culture is still vibrant in small towns like Pomerode (near Blumenau) where German remains the lingua franca with Portuguese only used in government offices. Blumenau’s annual three-week Oktoberfest is not to be missed. 
Paraná is a prime coffee-producing state with a bright modern capital, Curitiba, whose public transport system could be the envy of European capitals like London or Paris. Efficient trams run throughout the city and travelers are encased in glass tunnels that protect them from the elements as they wait for the next tram. However, Curitiba is relatively compact and (weather permitting) easy to explore on foot with most areas of interest found in the historic center. Curitiba is famous for its parks, two of which are worth seeking out; visitors will be fascinated by the riot of vivid plumage in the aviaries of the Passeio Público, where several species of local birds are kept. A fascinating insight into frontier life and the endeavours of countless European immigrants, who moved here during the last 150 years, is the Museu de Imigração Polenesa in the center of Bosque João Paulo. The museum’s best exhibits are the log cabins, built by Polish immigrants in the 1880s and relocated here over 100 years later. 
The train journey between Curitiba and Paranaguá is a spectacular journey through dense jungle, its route strewn with memorials for the many workers who perished from tropical diseases as they constructed the tracks. Accessible by road or air from Curitiba are the world-famous Iguazu Falls, a spectacular set of 70m waterfalls, including the impressive Garganta del Diablo (Devil’s Throat). Standing near the waterfalls is a humbling experience. 
The deafening roar of 5000 cubic meters of water cascading down each second accompanies a perpetual (and in summer temperatures, welcoming) mist that envelopes visitors. The area encompasses two national parks, each boasting hundreds of species of plant and animal life, and spans the borders of two countries, Argentina and Brazil, divided by the River Paraná. For a good view of the entire set of falls, visit the Brazilian side of the Park in Foz de Iguazu and photograph the spectacle. To get close enough to stare into the watery abyss, visit the Argentine side. Unfortunately, there is no access to Brazil from the Argentine Park or vice versa, so visitors wishing to see both parks must travel overland to the border crossing, about 10km south. Due to Foz de Iguazu’s proximity to both the Argentine and Paraguayan borders, it is possible to visit both countries in a day trip from Foz.

The Northern Interior and Amazon
Almost entirely covered with dense rainforest, Brazil’s northern interior is split into the vast regions of Amazonas, Pará, Acre and Rondônia. These massive federal states easily outstrip the land resources of many European countries and, combined, cover over 3,400,000 sq km (1,300,000 sq miles) of endless jungle filled with countless species of life.

Rondônia and Acre
Created in 1991 Rondônia has suffered extensive deforestation. There are still natural wonders hidden away such as the stunning Teotonio and Santo Antônio Falls, accessible from capital Porto Velho. Other attractions include river trips to the Forte Principe de Beira or to Bolivia, where air taxis operate to La Paz from Guayaramerin. 
Territorially annexed from Bolivia in the early 20th century, Acre is a state of contrasts with a funky capital in Rio Branco, a thriving market and university town on the river. Because of its student population, Rio Branco has good nightlife and its geographical position as a trading post has made the town an important handicrafts center.
The state capital, Manaus, was transformed by the 19th-century rubber boom and nowhere is this more evident than in the Teatro Amazonas, built in 1896 in the elaborate style of the Italian Renaissance. In front of the theater, a marble square is designed to reflect the four continents represented by four great ships. Along Avenida Sete de Setembro are numerous museums worth a visit; the Museo do Indio, Museo de Amazonas and the marvelous colonial mansion that houses the Centro Cultural de Palacio Rio Negro, an extensive archive of naturalist Alexandre Ferreira. The city is easy to navigate and offers the visitor both fine restaurants and tax-free bargains in the free trade zone. As a major port for river-traffic with arrivals and departures to Colombia, Peru and Venezuela, Manaus is an excellent starting point for river trips and guided tours into the rainforest. 25 million years ago, the volcanic activity that created the Andes blocked the Amazon’s path to the Pacific, sending it on the 6400km journey to the Atlantic and thus creating the vast Amazon basin. Upriver from Manaus, the rivers Amazon and Negro meet but their waters (yellow and black respectively) run parallel for many miles in different-colored channels.

Para and Amapa
The Eastern Amazon region is split between the states of Para and Amapa. Para’s state capital Belem was founded in 1616. Situated at the Atlantic end of the Amazon estuary at the mouth of the Rio Tocantins, Belem is a thriving port city with an exquisite historical center, dotted with splendid churches and elegant parks. The Goeldi Museum boasts the largest collection of tropical plants in the world. The docks are the location of the early-morning Ver O Peso (See the Weight) market, which was originally a slave market but still exists these days although the stalls now mostly sell fruit and produce

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Few tourists venture far from Brazil’s spectacular beaches but a trip into the interior reveals a different Brazil, one with a great deal to offer the visitor.Minas Gerais
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