1/9 Rio carnival
Why go? It’s the world’s greatest party – and you’re invited.
What’s on? Join thousands of Cariocas (Rio residents) and up to 80,000 spectators in a six-day frenzy of dancing, music and celebration and you’ll be guaranteed the experience of a lifetime.
The whole city erupts in impromptu and organised booty–shaking, climaxing in the Sambadrome parade, where scantily-clad beauty queens from the nation’s elite Samba schools compete for the prestigious crown of ‘Carnival Champion’. Probably the most famous – and most fun – reason to visit Brazil.
Why go? It seems only right that the country that produced one of the world’s best ever footballers, Pelé, and where the game itself isn’t just a national pastime but obsession, should be hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2014.
What’s on? If you don’t end up scoring family tickets for the final, don’t worry. As welcome visitors, you’ll be asked to join a game almost anywhere in the country, whether it’s being held on a street corner, dusty field or a local stadium.
Why go? Think of a species, any species, and Brazil is the place to find it.
What’s on? There’s more birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles here than anywhere else on the planet. Standout attractions where you’re guaranteed up-close-and-personal wildlife encounters are the Pantanal, the world’s largest freshwater wetland, for big cats, anacondas, caimans and ocelots; the Amazon, toucans, piranhas, frogs to name but a few and the Atlantic Forest, for monkeys and more.
Why go? A waterfall with WOW factor and straddling the Argentine and Brazillian borders, Iguazu (or Iguassu) Falls are as majestic as they are mighty, second only to Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls for water volume and height.
What’s on? About half of the river’s water channels in to a chasm called the ‘Devils Throat’, a name that’s bound to intrigue and fascinate younger members of the family. In 2011, Iguazu Falls was announced as one of the seven winners of the New Seven Wonders of Nature. Older children will love taking the boat ride under the falls and getting soaked.
5/9 Beaches in Brazil
Why go? Building in some R&R is essential for all but the most intrepid families. Luckily, Brazil has no shortage of pristine sandy beaches to make the most of your down time.
What’s on? Watch the beautiful people at Copacabana, hang out with the hippies and surfers at Jericoacoara, surf the waves at Florianapolis, or swing in the hammock along secluded stretches of the North Atlantic. Whichever you choose, Brazil’s beaches rank amongst the world’s best. Don’t forget the bucket and spade.
Why go? As the most bio-diverse country on the planet, Brazil’s making sure it stays that way.
What’s on? Eco-tourism hotspots include Bonito, where you and your family can snorkel the crystal-clear rivers, go horseback riding, bungee jump (gulp) or abseil.
The Tamar Turtle Project in Praia de Forte is a real success story in conservation and by visiting, you’ll help support their ongoing work. Whale watchers can catch a glimpse of these giants of the ocean between June and November at Praia do Rosa.
7/9 Food in Brazil
Why go? Brazil is well set up for even the fussiest of eaters. All over the country, in homes, restaurants and cafes you’ll see the traditional churrascarias – barbecues loaded with every meat imaginable.
What’s on? Street food is also big, which is great for rumbly tummies while sightseeing; you can’t go wrong with coxinha, which are basically Brazilian chicken nuggets, and pao de queijo (cheesy bread) not to mention churros (thin doughnuts) with chocolate sauce.
8/9 Brazil’s architecture
Why go? OK, we know. Architecture might not top every families’ wish list but the country’s capital city, Brasilia, gained its UNESCO World Heritage Listing largely due to its futuristic architecture courtesy of the country’s most famous architect Oscar Niemeyer.
What’s on? If unspoiled, atmospheric colonial architecture is more your thing, then head to Salvador de Bahia or Ouro Preto, which was founded in the eighteenth century and Brazil’s first town to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
9/9 The music of Brazil
What’s on? Brazil’s colonial and indigenous influences have combined to produce world-famous sounds of Samba, Bossa Nova, Caipira and Choro. You’ll hear versions of it all over the country but why not learn from the masters and enrol in a samba school while you visit?
Getting there: British Airways flies from London Heathrow to Rio de Janeiro International; from £813 return and to Sao Paulo; from £863.