From Ipanema Beach to the Amazon River to South American Swells—and Beyond

Inexpensive ways to make it to—and all around—Brazil
Brazil travel
Tropicalia Personified
Get in Tune
The sounds of Brazil—samba, bossa nova, daring new electronica—is as much a part of the country as Pele, Rio, and Iguazu Falls. To prime yourself for the aural experiences that await, turn to global music purveyors, Putumayo. Their four Brazil CDs ($15 each) cover the gamut, from acoustic to funk to the modern thumping beats. The tunes will also help soothe the impatient beast as you wait for your departure time to arrive. ( )

Carnival, capoeira, and capuchin monkeys. Rio, robust coffee, and bossa nova. Amazonia, Iguaçu Falls, and the Pantanal. The girls—and boys—of Ipanema... From its beaches to its rainforests, from its mountain peaks to its roiling rivers, Brazil floods the senses with a tidal wave of hedonistic outdoor realms that threaten to wash you—and your hard-earned vacation budget—away in a flurry of tropical flora, intoxicating fauna, and hip-shaking samba rhythms. We know that fact won't prevent you from hopping the next southbound fight to Rio, but follow our lead and penetrate this fabled land during its expansive shoulder season, and you'll find your real stretching further than you’d ever expected.

So what, exactly, does the shoulder season bring in Brazil? While the country is slightly larger than the United States and shares borders with nearly every other South American country, its largely tropical location ensures two basic types of weather: hot and rainy, or not-so-hot and not-so-rainy. Spring—autumn in the northern hemisphere—falls somewhere in between, making that time ripe for shoulder-season fun. There are a few places were the elevation reaches just shy of 10,000 feet, but plenty of locales where your altimeter will read zero. That makes beaches and crocodiles easy to find. Frost is more difficult.

Brazil is essentially made up of four climatic zones, but shoulder-season travelers need only be concerned with two: the jungle and the coast. It's impossible to talk about travel to Brazil without mentioning the mighty Amazon. This lowland basin composes a huge swath of the northern and central portions of the country, where as much as 80 inches of rain can fall each year. But contrary to popular belief, the Amazon doesn't get scorching hot like you might think, with average daily temperatures hovering in the 80- to 90-degree range. But of course, humidity can make the going rough. While rain is typically a daily occurrence, there are relatively dry periods during the antipodal winter months of June through September. During that time only about three inches of rain falls from the skies. Come summertime, December through April, however, you can expect more than eight inches of rain and two-thirds of your days marked by wet weather.

The Amazon River disgorges its load into the Atlantic near the equatorial city of Belém, and here you'll find the weather tends to be wet nearly every month, with the greatest concentration of rain falling from December to May; more than 14 inches of rain can fall in January and February alone. But come September through November, an average of only three inches comes down. Moving southeast around the coast toward Salvador, or Bahia, the rain lasts into August, but the rest of the antipodal spring can be dry. Farther south near Rio de Janeiro, expect the most rain between November and April, while sea breezes tend to keep daytime temps in the comfortable 80s. And lastly, the southern reaches of Brazil near Rio Grande do Sul are not tropical at all, but more like the temperate climes of Uruguay. The BBC maintains a thorough website detailing weather for Brazil's four climate zones, including information on daily temperatures and how many days a month you can expect it to rain.

And now that you know what's out there, it's time to decide where you’re gonna go...


Published: 26 Aug 2005 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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