Saturday, November 14, 2015

* Tourist Attractions of Brazil


* Statue of Christ the Redeemer


Statue of Christ the Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
   The world's fifth largest country has countless natural wonders and attractions to visit, so it becomes difficul to select them in order of importance. However I first chose the Statue of Christ the Redeemer, one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, for being the most representative postcard of Rio Janeiro. It is situated on the top of Corcovado Mountain,  (whose meaning is "The Hunchback", due to the mountain shape), 709 meters above sea level, with a total height of 38 meters and a weight of more than a thousand tons. Since the birth of the idea of its construction in 1859 until it began to be put in motion, it took more than sixty years. On April 4, 1922 the foundation stone was laid, four years later the works began being finally inaugurated on October 12, 1931. As a curious fact,  it is said that nobody died during the development of the huge construction, in spite of the work entailed great risks, something really unusual for those years. The statue was designed by Brazilian engineer Heitor da Silva Costa and sculpted by the French- Polish monument sculptor Paul Landowski, the face was created by Romanian Gheorghe Leonida.  For the day of the inauguration, it was planned that the lighting of the monument would be operated from the Italian city of Naples, from where the Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi would emit an electrical signal that would be received by an antenna located in the area, however, bad weather made the feat impossible and the lighting was finally turned on locally. 

     Brazil is a tropical country, and the periodic lightning storms have damaged the statue's surface. In recent years, storms have become more violent and lightnings have fallen directly on the sculpture, causing damage to its middle finger, base and burning the back of the head. This has forced to a rescheduling in the maintenance of the icon of Rio, as well as a periodic review of its lightning rod, consisting of a metallic conductor covering its head like a crown of thorns,  going through the arms and hands. At the chest height, there is a heart made of concrete where the architect Heitor Levy ordered to place inside a small glass bottle with his family tree. Levy had converted to Catholicism after escaping from death in a serious accident.  Another interesting fact is that the face of Christ, directed slightly downward and left, was strategically planned to give the appearance of being protecting the city.

     The Corcovado Mountain is part of the "Parque Nacional da Tijuca" which also features other famous tourist attractions of Rio de Janeiro. Annually, the statue of Christ the Redeemer is visited by over a million people. The most popular option to get to the statue is through the picturesque "Corcovado Train", which has made the trip without interruption since 1884 (originally steam- powered), when it was inaugurated by Emperor Dom Pedro II. This is an unforgettable journey that lasts 20 minutes, where the current electric train crosses a region of stunning scenery, the Floresta da Tijuca.  The "Trem do Corcovado" runs daily between 8:00 and 18:30, with departures every 30 minutes. Tickets can be purchased online.



* Iguazu Falls 


Iguazu Falls, Brazil.
    The Iguazu Falls  (Portuguese: Cataratas do Iguaçu) are a group of waterfalls on the homonymous river located on the border between the province of Misiones, Argentina and the Brazilian state of Parana.  The surrounding protected areas are Parque Nacional Iguazú in Argentina and Parque Nacional do Iguaçu, Brazil.  It is a system of 275 waterfalls in the middle of the Parana rainforest, 17 kilometers before the Iguazu flows into the Parana River.  At this point, there is an urban area, probably unique in the world where three cities belonging to different countries meet: Puerto Iguazu   on the Argentine side, Foz do Iguaçu in Brazil and Ciudad del Este, Paraguay. Puerto Iguazu has a large tourist infrastructure, connected through the International Bridge Tancredo Neves with Brazil and Ciudad del Este in Paraguay. Puerto Iguazú also has a wide range of services for the traveler including an International Airport, Hotels, Casino, Restaurants, Campgrounds, Cafes, Internet and services for motorists. According to the 2010 census, there was a population of 82,227 inhabitants.  On the Brazilian side, Foz do Iguaçu, with over 250,000 inhabitants is a beautiful place, one of the most cosmopolitan cities in Brazil and classified as an international tourist destination, besides its friendly people, ready to welcome visitors, also equipped with all the necessary tourist services and an International Airport. Apart from its great tourist attraction, here you can also visit amazing places like the Itaipu Hydroelectric Plant, the largest of its kind in the world. Meanwhile, another city near the Iguazu Falls is Ciudad del Este, with more than 500,000 inhabitants in its metropolitan area, the second largest city of Paraguay.

     The 275 falls, of up to 82 meters high (of which 80% are located on the Argentine side) are distributed in the form of a half moon, offering undoubtedly one of the most beautiful landscapes on the planet, besides by the fact of being situated within a setting of subtropical vegetation, on the Argentine- Brazilian border. It is worth noting that in Iguazu, rides are mostly by the Argentine side, but from Brazil you have a fantastic panoramic view as well. From this fact comes the saying that "from Brazil the falls are seen, and from Argentina are lived". This is how from the the Argentine side, through the walkways visitors can virtually walk through the cascades, also take boat rides that allow get very close from the stunning falls, even approaching "The Devil's Throat", but the Iguaçu National Park (Brazilian side) is great in the same way, like the Argentine side. The largest and most impressive of all falls is Salto Union, which gives rise to the "Garganta del Diablo" (Devil's Throat), a group of waterfalls 80 meters high flowing into a narrow gorge, concentrating the largest volume of water of Iguazu.



* Sugarloaf Mountain 


Sugar Loaf Mountain, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil.
Photo: latercera.com
     One of the main attractions of Rio de Janeiro, Sugarloaf Mountain (Portuguese: Pão de Açúcar
) is located in the Bay of Guanabara, with 396 meters (1299 feet) above sea level. The hilltop is reached by means of a glass-walled cable car, popularly known as "bondinho", so named because of its similarity with the old trams that ran in the streets of Rio de Janeiro, known as "bondes". The cable car connects in two stretches, the Praia Vermelha (Red Beach), located in the neighborhood of Urca, southern zone of Rio de Janeiro with Sugarloaf Mountain, with previous stop in the Morro da Urca. This means of transport has already served more than 100 years of operations since the original cable car line was built in 1912 and it has carried to date more than 40 million passengers. From the top of the famous Pão de Açúcar Hill, visitors can enjoy a panoramic view of the most popular city in Brazil, also known in Portuguese language as " Cidade Maravilhosa" (Wonderful City). On a clear day you have a stunning panoramic in 360 degrees of the Guanabara Bay, Ipanema, Copacabana, Leblon, Leme, and Flamengo beaches, downtown Rio, Corcovado Mountain, the Floresta da Tijuca (Tijuca Forest).

     With respect to its peculiar name, it is likely that it refers to the "sugar loaves", traditional shape in which the sugar was produced until the late nineteenth century, consisting of long cones similar to the rounded peak, although others consider the name actually derives from "Pau-nh-acuqua" meaning "high hill" in the Tupi-Guarani language, used by the native Tamoios.  More information on cable car Ticket Office, timetable and online tickets sale at the official Website.

* Beaches of Rio de Janeiro


    Rio de Janeiro is a city that lives according to the sea, people's lives are closely related to the litoral. The kilometric beaches of Rio de Janeiro are of high quality, pleasant waters and great scenic attraction, whose image of men and women sunbathing or doing sports on its white sands have become popular worldwide.


Copacabana Beach, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
      Copacabana  is the best-known beach of Rio de Janeiro, and perhaps of the whole world.  It has a half-moon shape, with almost 4 km. long, situated in the southern part of the city, near almost all the points of interest of Rio. You can cross it walking or on a rented bike. Avenida Atlântica runs parallel to Copacabana in all its extension.  During the day the beach is rather familiar, with children running and playing on the warm sands, but at night the restaurants, clubs, and discos nearby are full of young people who come to have fun and enjoy life. A great time to visit Copacabana Beach is during the New Year holidays, when the beach gets crowded with more than 2 million visitors who gather to watch the fireworks and shows, famous throughout the world.   

Beach of Leme,  immediately East of Copacabana is located the neighborhood of Leme, there is no physical division between Copacabana and Leme beaches, one could say it's the same beach, Avenida Princesa Isabel being the natural separation. The beach starts at the foot of "Morro do Leme", it is said that  this hill seen from above resembles a rudder (although I don't share that opinion), hence its name (Portuguese "leme" = rudder). On the hill you can visit the old military fort "Forte Duque de Caxias", which has a privileged view of the entire coastline from Leme to Leblon and Guanabara Bay. During the ascent you enjoy an incredible flora and fauna, especially small monkeys, used to the human presence which approach without fear. Leme beach is quite wide, less crowded and more familiar than the bustling Copacabana.


Ipanema,   with a length of approximately two kilometers is another iconic beach of Rio de Janeiro, its limits are Pedra do Arpoador on the East, and the Jardim de Alah Canal to the West, which separates it from Leblon. Ipanema is one of the favorite beaches for surfers, not in vain its name means "dangerous waters, river without fish" in the Tupi-Guarani dialect. Along the beach there are lifeguard towers called "postos" (nrs. 8, 9 and 10) as well as sanitary facilities, these "postos", apart from signaling the safety zones, have also become indicators that define the type of people of each area. Thus, each "posto" has its particular "style" of people. Posto 8 is a gay meeting point, but also preferred by many for having a calmer sea, while posto 9 is generally preferred place for youth. This area (posto 9) is known for the influx of good-looking people, and was voted one of the sexiest beaches in the world. From posto 10 onwards, the public are mostly families. Although Ipanema is one of the most luxurious and expensive neighborhoods in Brazil, at night, when the fun continues, the bars, discos, clubs and cafes of Ipanema are full of public. At the junction of Ipanema and Copacabana beaches, is located a rock formation known as Pedra do Arpoador (Arpoador Rock), fascinating place where you can get one of the most beautiful sunset views in Rio de Janeiro. Arpoador Beach, (posto 7), is the place where surf lovers gather. The name recalls ancient times when the whales came here and were hunted with harpoons (arpoador= harpooner).


Beach of Leblon, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
 Leblon Beach - Photo: emol.com
Leblon, is a 1,300 meters long beach, extending from the Jardim de Alah Canal that separates it from Ipanema to the twin hills known as "Dois Irmãos" (Two Brothers).  Avenida Delfim Moreira, one of the most important avenues of Rio de Janeiro, runs parallel to the beach of Leblon. The beach includes Postos (watchtowers) 11 and 12. Leblon has a beautiful and above all quiet coastal area, suitable for families and children. For the security it offers, it is also recommendable for female tourists traveling alone. You can stroll through the interior streets of the well-to-do Leblon neighborhood, and for those who like shopping, can visit the large mall with more than two hundred shops and entertainment sites. Another of the recommended places to visit nearby, at the beginning of Avenida Niemeyer and where you can enjoy spectacular scenic views of the whole area, is the Mirante do Leblon, a viewpoint from where you can get beautiful sights of the coast, the beaches of Leblon, Ipanema, Pedra do Arpoador and the small archipelago just off the beach. 

Botafogo,  it is not only the name of one of the most popular football teams in Brazil, but also a small (800 mts. long) very nice beach of Rio de Janeiro, situated in Guanabara Bay, South of the city, in a middle class neighborhoodIt is surrounded by a panoramic bike path and Av. das Nações Unidas (United Nations Avenue).  Although its waters are not suitable for swimming, the beach is used by visitors to practice various sports, football tournaments are held during the weekend. Besides, the place is charming, overlooking the Pão de Açúcar (Sugar Loaf Mountain), you can see a lot of sport and commercial boats in the bay, the view and tranquility of the place make it unique and to complete the tour, there are several first class restaurants you can visit.

Barra da Tijuca Beach, with 18 km. long, it is the longest beach in Rio de Janeiro, from the Morro do Joá on the eastern end to the neighborhood Recreio dos Bandeirantes. Lucio Costa Avenue runs parallel to the coastline. Barra da Tijuca is in an upscale neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro, away from the downtown area, on the opposite side to the traditional face of the city, not for that less touristic, with restaurants, large shopping malls and condominiums. Its beach of green waters and clean sands boasts a formation of waves that make it ideal for water sports such as sport fishing, surfing, windsurfing, bodyboarding, etc.  


* Brasilia


Brasilia, Brazil.
     Capital city and seat of government of Brazil, located in the State of Goiás, central part of the country. Here are located the Planalto Presidential Palace, the National Congress, the Supreme Federal Tribunal of Brazil and many other governmental and justice departments, but apart from its political importance and of being the capital of a huge country, Brasilia attracts great interest among architecture and landscaping lovers.  Besides the city, which is close to 3,000,000 inhabitants, is surrounded by a beautiful natural setting. A great feature of Brasilia is that, as few capitals in the world, it was not born "naturally", through decades or centuries, only the idea of its construcction was old, but the city was planned in detail and constructed between 1956 and 1960 by a team of professionals, Lucio Costa being the main urban planner and Oscar Niemeyer the main architect, Roberto Burle Marx was the landscape designer. 

     Almost an obligatory visit in Brasilia is to the Television Tower, which with its 224 meters is the highest point of the city, its panoramic hall situated at 75 meters high offers a unique view of the capital of Brazil. Onto a lower deck, at 25 mts. height you can also visit the Museu das Gemas (Museum of Gemstones), with a permanent exhibition of Brazilian stones and crystals, this gallery can be visited from Monday to Friday between 10:00 and 18:00 and Saturdays from 10:00 to 16:00 hours. There are two other tourist attractions located near its base, a traditional crafts fair and the Water Fountains Square. Opposite is the bronze sculpture A Era Espacial (The Space Era), by Alexandre Wakenwith.   Other museums in Brasilia are the 
Museu da Cidade (City Museum), the most ancient of this capital, small but interesting, which externally gives the appearance as it was only a monument; the JK Memorial, dedicated to the life and work of Juscelino Kubitschek, former president of Brazil, who carried out the old project to move  the capital to the heartland of the country; Museu Nacional Honestino Guimarães, featuring a ultra-modern exterior design; Museu da Imprensa (Museum of the Press); O Memorial dos Povos Indígenas (Memorial of Indigenous Peoples); Espaço Lúcio Costa (to honor the city planner); the Banco do Brasil Cultural Center; the Museu de Valores do Banco Central (Museum of the Central Bank Securities); Museu Vivo da Memória Candanga, to understand the history of the construction of Brasilia, it is a complex of wooden huts that housed the hospital doctors who took care of the workers who built the city;  O Catetinho, first official residence of the President Juscelino Kubitschek in Brasilia.  


Cathedral of Brasilia, Brazil.
Cathedral of Brasilia
     Other important tourist attractions are: the Cathedral of Brasilia (Catedral Metropolitana Nossa Senhora Aparecida), one of the emblematic monuments of the city, designed by architect Oscar Niemeyer, considered a masterpiece of modern architecture and urbanism. The cathedral consists of a structure designed with hyperbolic geometry, with sixteen concrete columns aiming toward the sky, each weighing ninety tons, that support the impressive glass ceiling. It is shaped like an inverted chalice, with many incredible stained glass panels which form a single unit.  Don Bosco Sanctuary, in a country where the majority of the population professes the Catholic faith, in downtown Brasilia stands this magnificent temple in honor of the Italian priest "Saint John Bosco", which in 1883 had a premonitory dream about this city, that only 77 years later would be founded. The Sanctuary was designed by Claudio Naves, fusing modern Gothic style, the best view is seen in the interior, as beautiful as mystical. "Don Bosco" had also many other prophetic dreams, related to places as distant as Patagonia in Chile and Argentina, where it is highly revered.  Another place to visit in Brasilia is the Praça dos Três Poderes (Square of the Three Branches of the State), which brings together the main government buildings in the city and therefore the country: Planalto Palace (the Executive Branch), National Congress (Legislative) and  Federal Supreme Court (Judicial). Besides this square houses three impressive sculptures: O Pombal by Oscar Niemeyer, Os Candangos by Bruno Giorgi, and A Justiça (The Justice) by Alfredo Ceschiatti.  Esplanada dos Ministérios (Ministries Esplanade), here are harmoniously concentrated the 17 offices of the Ministries of the Executive Branch.  The best in Brasilia is not only its modern architecture, but also the large green spaces. Parque da Cidade (City Park, officially called "Sarah Kubitschek Park"), with 42 million square meters is the largest urban park in the world, located near the southern hotel area, easily accessible, with entertainment and attractions for all ages. Inside there is  a lake, the park is ideal for jogging, bike riding or other outdoor activities during your stay in Brasilia.



* Salvador, Bahia


Salvador, capital city of Bahia State, Brazil.
    Salvador, capital of the Estado da Bahia (State of Bahia), with its more than 3 million inhabitants is one of the main cities of Brazil, with great historical and tourist attractions that make it one of the most famous and captivating destinations of the country. Salvador was the first colonial capital of Brazil, today is a multicultural city, point of convergence of South American, European and African cultures.   Salvador is divided into Upper Town and Lower Town, in the old neighborhood there are buildings from its founding in the sixteenth century.

     One of the most recognizable symbols and tourist attractions of Salvador is "Elevador Lacerda",  public elevator linking the upper and lower parts of the city. It is situated at Praça Cayru, in the neighborhood of Comércio. But Lacerda is not an ordinary lift, it was the first urban elevator in the world, whose construction began in 1869, being inaugurated in December 1873. It is a common elevator, it does not have windows, but reaching the top of the 72 meters high towers, the panoramic view of Salvador is magnificent. Elevador Lacerda carries almost 900,000 passengers per month, on average 28,000 people a day, on a trip lasting thirty seconds.


The "Pelourinho" Quarter.
The "Pelourinho"
      The old quarter of Salvador, known as the "Pelourinho"  was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, a visit to this part of the city is a must. Along the narrow streets paved with cobblestones are visited historic and religious buildings like São Francisco Church and Convent, at the entrance to Pelourinho, Praça 15 de Novembro, historic square also known as Terreiro de Jesus.  The current church was built between 1708 and 1723, after Dutch invasions destroyed the original temple built by the Franciscan Order, the temple is of great beauty and impresses for the gold works that enhance the walls and altars. It is estimated that nearly a ton of gold in these details. It is well known the saying that in Bahia, with more than 300 temples, there is a church for every day of the year. Another emblematic, very ancient catholic temple is the Igreja de Nosso Senhor do Bonfim,  founded in 1745, located far from Pelourinho, in the Lower City. Nosso Senhor do Bonfim is the most renowned Church and of greatest devotion in Bahia, masses of the last Monday and Friday of the year are the most crowded. All around the temple are sold the famous "Fitas do Senhor do Bonfim" (Ribbons of Lord of Bomfin), which are a souvenir of Salvador and also serve as an amulet. The belief is that if the ribbon is tied to the arm with three knots, making a good wish for each of them and letting the tape wear and tear, these wishes will be fulfilled, also you can find hundreds of these ribbons tied to the railings of the temple. Another iconic place to visit in Salvador is the Mercado Modelo, with more than 250 stands is the biggest selling point of handicrafts in Brazil. It is a replica of the old Customs of the city, on the other side of the street where is located the Lacerda Public Elevator. It is a must stop on the route to Pelourinho when you take the Lacerda Lift, Mercado Modelo has everything the traveler needs to take souvenirs or gifts for the return, with a varied and wide range of local handicrafts at very good prices. In the restaurants, you can enjoy assorted and economical dishes. Beaches of Salvador, the second tourist destination in Brazil has also magnificent and extensive beaches, which extend for over 50 km. Because it is located on a peninsula, the beaches of the Lower City of Salvador are bathed by the Baía de Todos-os-Santos (All Saints' Bay), while the Upper City beaches are situated along the Atlantic Ocean. Some of the main beaches of Salvador are Itapuã, one of the most renowned in the city and one of the last before leaving Salvador; Stella Maris, next to Itapuã, possessing a natural landscape of palm trees and corals, this beach is named after a hotel that was never built; Flamengo, North of Stella Maris, last beach before reaching the municipality of Lauro de Freitas, one of the preferred by surfers because of its waves; Farol da Barra, formed by reefs dividing the sea into natural pools making the water temperature very pleasant, the emblematic lighthouse from which it takes its name is situated in the Fortaleza do Santo Antonio, of the seventeenth century. It has calm waters, but near Morro do Cristo surfing waves  are formed; beach of Ondina, a very prestigious beach, next to Farol da Barra, preferred by families, surrounded by good restaurants and luxury hotels; Porto da Barra, one of the most beautiful urban beaches in Brazil, also famous by its wonderful sunsets, located on Baía de Todos-os-Santos, this place was the first point of settlement of European colonizersAmaralina beach in the South end of Salvador, it has an extensive seafront promenade, ideal for jogging or walking. The beach has coral reefs and is bathed by intense waves; Pituba, located in the neighborhood of the same name, this is one of the largest beaches in the North of Salvador, preferred by surfers due to large waves that form here, so it is known as the Hawaii of Salvador. 



* Tourism in the Amazon Region



Amazon River, Brazil.
    With an area of 1,570,745 km², Amazonas is the largest State of Brazil, occupying the northwestern part of the country, bordering Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, and other Brazilian states. It has a tropical and humid climate, its average temperature is 31 C °., housing the largest tropical rainforest in the world and the largest number of indigenous groups in Brazil. The capital is Manaus, a city of nearly a million and a half inhabitants, Amazonas is the state of greatest tourist potential in Brazil, especially adventure and eco- tourism.

      To discover the mysteries and charms of the Amazon jungle, nothing better than through its rivers. From Manaus, one of the musts is to visit the confluence of the Rio Negro (Black River) of dark waters with Solimões of muddy water, resulting in a phenomenon popularly known as the Meeting of Waters. The rivers meet but for long kilometers the waters of different colors do not mix. The reason why the waters never mix is due to the great differences in temperature, speed and density between the two water courses. This confluence gives rise to the lower basin of Amazon River.  Another unmissable tour is to the Anavilhanas Archipelago, situated about 70 km from Manaus, Anavilhanas is the world´s largest freshwater archipelago, consisting of about four hundred islands extending for more than 90 kilometers within Rio Negro (Black River), tributary of the Amazon. During the high water season, half of the islets are submerged, forming the floating forest. The thick tropical vegetation is home to a rich wildlife, consisting of nearly a thousand kinds of birds, butterflies (it is estimated that a 25% of butterflies of the world lives here), iguanas, rodents, monkeys, snakes (among five hundred and fifty kinds of reptiles). Aquatic life is also extremely rich with various species of fish, like the famous Pirarucú, the Tucunare, Piranhas, Alligators, Dolphins and Manatees. For the most daring, there are expeditions on small boats that cross the "igarapés" (small streams) of the Amazon region, also the night safaris, to watch different animals that appear in the Amazonian night, in charge of specialized guides using lanterns showing the nocturnal wildlife, consisting mostly of Yacare Caimans, for temporary capture, observation and later return to their natural habitat.  You can make a reservation at one of the many jungle hotels, which offer complete packages including accommodation and tours accompanied by specialist guides. Some of these are the Tropical Manaus EcoResort, Amazon EcoPark Jungle Lodge, Amazon Jungle Palace, Amazon Eco Lodge, Amazonia Golf Resort, Ariaú Amazon Towers, Mirante do Gaviao Lodge, Tariri Amazon Lodge, Amazon Tupana Lodge,  Anavilhanas Jungle Lodge, and many others.

     Other places of tourist attraction in Brazil, apart from the aforementioned are: São Paulo Museum of Art, considered the most important museum of western art in Latin America; city and beaches of Recife; city of Olinda, near Recife, the second oldest city in Brazil and selected by UNESCO as a World Heritage; Ecotourism in Bonito, State of Mato Grosso do Sul; Jardim Botânico de Curitiba (Curitiba Botanical Gardens); Praça Tiradentes (Tiradentes Square in Ouro Preto); Buzios, one of the most popular tourist destinations in the South of Brazil, famous for its 8 kilometers of coastline, with more than 20 beaches; Jesuit Ruins of São Miguel das Missões in the state of Rio Grande do Sul;countless other beaches besides those mentioned above, highlighting Bahía do Sancho, in Fernando de Noronha Archipelago, chosen as the best beach in the world by TripAdvisor.