Things to Do in South Brazil
One of Florianopolis’ coolest towns is located just over the hill from the downtown area. Conceicao Lagoon (Lagoa da Conceição) is the Island of Magic’s hip district, and boasts a collection of trendy bars and restaurants nestled around the large lagoon. The area is also known for its jungle trekking, sand dunes, and many nearby beaches.
Iguaçu Falls (Cataratas do Iguaçu), the largest waterfalls system in the world, are truly awe-inspiring to behold. Though Argentina boasts better trails around the falls, Brazil is blessed with the best views of this natural marvel’s 275 separate cascades, which span the border between the two countries. Take in full-frontal views of Devil’s Throat (Garganta del Diablo), San Martin Island, and more from the short-but-sweet catwalks that wind their way around the Brazilian side of Iguaçu Falls.
The Botanical Garden of Curitiba (Jardim Botânico de Curitiba), in the middle of the city, provides a tranquil respite for locals and visitors alike. Designed in the style of French royal gardens, the park’s crown jewel is the 4,844-square-foot (450-square-meter) art nouveau, metal and glass greenhouse that sits against the Curitiba skyline.
This historic city on the Cost of Brazil’s Parana state is home to fewer than 20,000 people. Still, its charming old world streets, hillside views and traditional restaurants make it a destination for travelers in search of a true taste of Brazil.
Intrepid travelers can make the epic climb to the top of Marumbi Peak, where picturesque landscapes stretch as far as the eye can see. Historic monuments like the Matriz de Nossa Senhora do Porto Church, Casa Rocha Pombo and the Estrada do Central offer visitors the opportunity to venture back into the past. And after exploring the town, travelers can tuck into a plate of traditional barreado—a slow-cooked meat stew made famous by this town.
Established in 1953, the diverse landscapes of Vila Velha State Park (Parque Estadual de Vila Velha) have attracted travelers in search of a quiet, picturesque respite from urban Rio since its inception. Towering sandstone formations that have been carved away by volcanic eruptions, wind and glaciers over the course of some 6,000 years, are just part of what gives this State Heritage site its unique appeal.
Travelers can wander scenic trails through some of the park’s most iconic sandstones like the camel, sphinx and the well-known goblet. Popular Furnas—deep turquoise water holes formed by collapsed sandstone, are another popular feature of Vila Velha. Hell’s Cauldrons, home to two of these Furnas—is one of the park’s main attractions. Nearby Golden Pond, known for casting a yellow hue when hit by the sun, is another popular stop for visitors to the park.
One of Curitiba’s most recognizable landmarks is the Oscar Niemeyer Museum (Museu Oscar Niemeyer), built by and for the famous architect. It highlights his modern designs that are prominent in many of his buildings around Brazil. The museum’s rotating exhibits showcase both national and international artists from the 20th and 21st centuries.
The Wire Opera House (Ópera de Arame) is one of Curitiba’s most recognizable buildings and an excellent example of modern architecture. Built entirely of glass and steel pipes, the theater is nestled in a lush green space surrounded by a lake. It can seat up to 2,400 spectators and hosts performances ranging from classical to popular.
In the middle of bustling Curitiba sits the expansive, green Tanguá Park (Parque Tanguá). It is built around two rock quarries joined by a 150-foot (46-meter) tunnel as well as lakes and an artificial waterfall. Stroll around the park on foot, pedal around the quarries by bike, or simply relax and catch a beautiful sunset over the city.
Arguably the most important square in Curitiba, Tiradentes Square (Praça Tiradentes) is home to many of the city’s well-known sites, including the Metropolitan Cathedral and Basilica Minor of Our Lady of Light. Among the trees and statues in the square, visitors can walk over a glass-protected piece of the square’s original pavement, constructed in the first half of the 19th century. Thanks to the special lighting within the glass flooring, the spot is especially beautiful come nightfall.
The Cross of Christ and a historic monolith can also be found in the center of Praca Tiradentes. The former was a symbol of the Military Order of the Christ, instituted by King Denis of Portugal in the 14th century, and represented the legal power of Portugal over the land and the settlement of Curitiba in 1693. According to legend the spot also marks the place where Indigenous Chief Tindiquera of the Tingui Tribe once chose to settle his people.
Surrounded by the bustling city of Curitiba and set deep in Zaninelli Park sits Free University of the Environment (UNILIVRE), a higher learning institution that offers courses related to the environment and a sustainable world. The school is often visited and admired on walking tours.
Located in what was once an old granite quarry, the area that houses Unilivre has been totally reforested with native vegetation. Strolling along the park’s many paths, visitors will observe various types of native and regional birds that share the area with students.
With a main building that has a 49‐foot‐tall (15‐meter‐tall) wooden tower, the structure’s architecture blends well with the surrounding nature. The huge spiraling stairs that lead to the tower wrap around the entire building and provide views overlooking the natural landscape. There is also an open‐air auditorium on campus and a 24‐foot‐deep (8‐meter‐deep) lake, home to swans, ducks and various types of fish.
More Things to Do in South Brazil
Walking through the middle of Curitiba’s historic center, there’s no chance of missing the city’s cathedral, Catedral Basílica Menor Nossa Senhora,which dominates Praça Tiradentes. Built in 1876 in the Neo-Gothic style, the church features several stained-glass windows and paintings by artists such as Italian brothers Carlos and Anacleto Garbaccio within. The structure was designed by a French architect who is said to have been inspired by Barcelona’s Metropolitan Cathedral, another large, Gothic place of worship. Curitiba’s Metropolitan Cathedral sits on the very spot where the city’s first Catholic church was constructed back in 1693.
At the right-side entrance, visitors have a chance to see the chair where Pope John Paul II sat when he visited the city in 1980. Near the altar is a 30-foot (nine-meter) deep well, which is believed by historians to be the only remaining piece of the original structure. The cathedral is most easily spotted on a stroll through the park and is included in many walking and bus tours.
Escape the tropical sunshine of northern Brazil and plunge into the icy climate of Captain Frosty World (Parque Tematico Mundo Gelado)—an ice museum and bar where everything is sculpted from ice. Here, temperatures plummet as low as -4ºF (-20ºC) in order to prevent ice sculptures of world-famous landmarks from melting.
A fantastical land of animatronic dinosaurs, indigenous villages, and magical forests await you at Florybal Magic Park Land (Parque Terra Magica Florybal). A fun family day out, especially for those with younger kids, the theme park offers amusement rides, play areas, a 7D cinema, and live shows.
Once Curitiba’s City Hall, the Palace of Liberty is today a multi-functional cultural center hosting conferences, lectures and exhibitions with its movie theater, sound studio and electronic art lab. Built in the beginning of the 20th century to house the local government, it has an eclectic construction style. After the city’s government was transferred in 1969, the building was used as a museum, and later, restored as the cultural center it is today.
Visitors can wander through the site, passing between the two statues of Hercules holding up the archway to explore the building’s four stories. Wooden art nouveau carvings can be seen throughout the building, and large windows open up out onto the square. On the third floor, elaborate painted ceilings have many visitors looking up. The building is said to have been the first in Curitiba to hold an elevator, brought directly from Europe. The elevator is no longer in operation but has been preserved for people to see.
With its thrilling zip-lines, cable cars and amusement rides soaring over the coast of Camboriú, Unipraias Park Camboriú (Parque Unipraias Camboriú) is one of Brazil’s most celebrated amusement parks and a prime destination for visitors to the southeast. Part adventure park, part wildlife reserve, the 6-hectare park is best known for its spectacular hilltop location looking out over the beaches of the Atlantic coast and surrounded by thick forest.
Along with 500m of walking trails, the park is split into four adventure areas: Bondinho, Fantastic Forest, Zip-rider and Yoohooo! Head to the Bondinho for a 3.2km, 30-minute cable
car ride over the Atlantic rainforest; meet with fairies, goblins and elves in the Fantastic Forest; ride the 240m high zip-line or zoom down the Yoohooo! mountain sled at speeds of up to 60 km/h.
Located on the eastern side of Brazil’s Santa Catarina Island, Projeto Tamar Florianópolis is conservation center dedicated to protecting the region’s different species of sea turtles from the destructive effects of commercial fishing. Guided tours show visitors how the project protects sea turtles in Brazil.
The Dreamland Wax Museum (aka Dreamland Foz), the largest of its kind in Brazil, houses more than 70 life-size wax figures. Get up close and personal with representations of Pope John Paul II, Madonna, Charlie Chaplin, Neymar Jr., Whoopi Goldberg, and many more.
Hollywood Dream Cars museum, in Gramado, Brazil, offers visitors the chance to step back in time. This unique and quirky attraction explores the golden age of both the automobile and the movie industry by showcasing vintage cars in a setting that evokes the glamour of the first half of the 20th century.
A cultural park and interactive museum, Parque Epopéia Italiana follows the story of Lázaro and Rosa—an Italian couple that immigrated to Brazil in the early 20th century—through audio-visual displays that offer insight into the difficulties faced by Brazil’s early immigrants.
Located in the mountain resort of Gramado—a German settlement famous for its Bavarian architecture—World of Chocolate (Mundo de Chocolate) showcases more than 200 sculptures made entirely from chocolate. You’ll see replicas of the Eiffel Tower and the Leaning Tower of Pisa and enjoy samples of the building material as you go.
Santa Claus might be far from his traditional home in the North Pole, but there’s no shortage of Christmas spirit in the Brazilian mountain resort of Gramado. Fashioned like a Bavarian village with half-timbered chalets and (artificial) snow-covered streets, Santa's Village (Aldeia do Papai Noel) is the only one of its kind in South America.
Set near the convergence of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay, Itaipu Dam (Barragem de Itaipu) is considered one of the World’s Seven Modern Wonders, clocking in at 4.5-miles (7.2-kilometers) long and 65 stories high. With a maximum flow up to 40 times more powerful than nearby Iguassu (Iguaçu) Falls, the dam’s hydroelectric power plant produces roughly 20 percent of Brazil’s electricity.
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