Olinda is one of the best preserved colonial cities in Brazil. With an
enviable elevated location overlooking Recifeand the Atlantic, the
historical district is concentrated on its winding upper streets. However,
this is no still life. Olindais very much a living city, with a cultural
scene which is alive and kicking, and its beautiful enclave of preserved
colonialbuildings is populated by artists, students and bohemians.
Churches, museums, art galleries and convents vie with outdoor restaurants
and craft markets, attracting locals and tourists alike. Carnaval in
Olinda is a mega affair,the historic setting and party-animal residents
providing an intimacy and sense of security that other Carnavals lack.
Olinda was the first capital of Pernambuco.
It was burned down by the Dutch and later rebuilt, and is considered oneof
the cradles of Brazilian culture. This fact and its architecture, so
typical of the colonial period, led Unesco to list it in 1982 as a World
Heritage Site. Its imposing churches and monasteries show the modern
onlooker something ofthe rich and dynamic cultural life of the period. The
old city is built on seven hills and a walk through its steeply inclined
streets is an enchanting experience. Olinda always was and still is
synonymous with the avant garde, irreverence and bohemianism. The bars and
restaurants, where one can try regional dishes, give the old capital a
lively night life and harmonise with the Gregorian chant of the convents,
the moonlight serenades and the animation of one of the most enjoyable
Carnival celebrations in Brazil.
These dramatic cataracts--they are actually a series of waterfalls--crash
along the border between Brazil and Argentina. Broken into 275 inlets and
drops, they form a horseshoe-shaped rim. The most violent drop is the
Garganta do Diablo ("Devil's Throat"), which marks the border
between the two countries. The best overall view is from the Brazilian
side, where trails cut into the side of the riverbank offer a grand
panorama of the main section of falls. Argentina, however, offers the
ultimate close-up experience: there one can walk out on pasarelas,
catwalks built a few feet above the river at the very edge of the falls.
The roar of the water, the sudden dramatic drop, and the shakiness of the
catwalk will quicken the pulse of even the most jaded traveler. Boats take
visitors to the crashing waters at the bottom of the falls and to more
tranquil nearby pools for swimming.
Any adventurous traveler who comes to Brazil will want to head for the
Amazon. Most travel in the Amazon region is by boat (the smaller the
better). The trip from Benjamin Constant, on the border with Colombia, to
Manaus, the bustling center of the region, takes four days. In this
narrowest stretch of the Amazon, boats pass houses built on stilts along
the river and passengers can hear the screeches of monkeys and birds in
the forest. At Manaus is the famous "meeting of the two rivers,"
where the dark Negro and the yellowish Solimoes, both tributaries of the
Amazon, run side by side without mixing waters.
Camping in the forest offers a whole different perspective on the region.
Since many of the area's most fascinating animals are nocturnal, the best
way to view wildlife here is on a night walk. Armed with a strong
flashlight or headlamp, visitors can get up-close looks at tarantulas,
tree frogs, bats, spiny rats and snakes (most of which are non-poisonous).
This island off the southern coast offers the best of tropical Brazil in
one compact area (300 km sq). Ilha Grande offers more than a hundred
pristine beaches, a extensive network of hiking trails through its lush
interior rainforest, and rumors of buried pirate treasure. Especially
recommended is the trek to the ghost townof Praia da Parnaioca, once a
fishing village. Its residents were scared away a few years ago after a
string of escapes from a now-closed prison that was located nearby.
Itatiaia National Park
Just north of the Rio-Sao Paulo highway, Itatiaia is the site of Brazil's
third-highest mountain, the Pico das Agulhas Negras (2,878 meters, 9,144
feet). The park is also home to over 250 species of birds, which attract
birdwatchers from around the world. The terrain varies from tropical to
temperate according to elevation. At the highest elevation, where
temperatures sometimes drop below freezing, the desolate landscape is
dotted with bizarre rock formations, the result of temperature extremes
and heavy rainfall. Some of the most famous are the Pedra (da Tartaruga)
(the Turtle) and the Pedra (da Maç¦) (the Apple).
This enormous marshy plain, which spreads out along Brazil's western
border with Paraguay and Bolivia, is famous for its abundant wildlife. Its
flat, open vistas are perfect for spotting alligators, jaguars, anacondas,
spider monkeys and gibbons--not to mention flocks of tropical birds
(toucans, parrots and macaws, among others). There are outlying bases for
exploring the Pantanal, the most serviceable being the towns of Cuiaba,
Campo Grande, and Corumba on the Bolivian border. Visitors should allow at
least two nights at lodges or camping grounds further inside the park.
Canoe trips down the Pantanal's small rivers are the best way to see
animals up close. Rides in small planes and hot-air balloons give views of
the wildlife from above. Among the activities not to be missed: