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Rio de Janeiro

Brazil, the sole Portuguese-speaking country of Latin America, achieved independence initially not through a republican movement but thanks to a prince who liked the beach.

In 1808, Rio de Janeiro became the imperial capital, with King John VI and his son Dom Pedro in residence. When the king returned to Lisbon the prince stayed put. Calls from Lisbon in 1821 were ignored, giving Brazilians a sense that they were no longer at the beck and call of Portugal, and in 1822, on the banks of the River Ipiranga near São Paulo, independence was proclaimed.

Top five attractions

  • Salvador’s carnival, which is far more of a people’s party than Rio’s commercial extravaganza.
  • Brasilia’s modernist architecture, conceived by Niemeyer.
  • The wildlife of the Pantanal wetlands, where jaguar can still be seen.
  • An Amazon riverboat cruise from Belém to Manaus, which is still epic and is about as cheap and authentic as cruising gets.
  • The long sandy beaches of the north-east, from Maceió to Natal, with the surreal dunes and lagoons of the Lençóis Maranhenses.

Best city
Rio de Janeiro, because it’s all things to all travellers: it has some of Salvador’s African culture, a hint of São Paulo’s sophistication and a uniquely democratic beach culture.

Souvenir to buy
Havaiana flip-flops are cheaper here than elsewhere, as are bikinis.

Quirky Brazil
Fifty-five million condoms were handed out by the government for the carnival last month.

Read
‘A Death in Brazil’ by Peter Robb. A study of Brazil’s dark side, covering slavery, corruption, and the importance of carnival and pop culture.

How to get there

British Airways fly direct to Rio non-stop from Heathrow starting from £705pp. Alternatively you can now combine Brazil with Peru by flying into Rio with British Airways and out of Lima via Madrid with Iberia starting from £675pp.

 

By Chris Moss, Telegraph Journalist.

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