Tourism

Couples couldn’t pick a better destination than Brazil for their honeymoon. Many styles of music pulsate throughout this South American country. Some, such as bossa nova and samba, are well known outside Brazil, while others, including axe, choro, forro and frevo, are more localized. There’s music to celebrate Carnival, music inspired by martial arts, music that sounds like hyped-up marching bands and music that requires an accordion. Afro-Caribbean and Afro-Brazilian influences pervade many genres. And there are much more amazing things to enjoy in this wonderful and huge tropical country, which got independent from Portugal in 1822. Its people are vivacious, generous and very outward going.

Finally, Americans and Europeans are discovering one of the most incredible places in Brazil: Trancoso, which  is a former fishing village, located in the far south of Bahia´s state, in the sunny Northeast of the country. Its unspoiled beaches and amazing natural beauty  has turned it into a super-trendy getaway for Brazilians and fashionable jet-setters willing to pay St.-Tropez prices for rustic accommodations on an inspirational beach.

“In January, Rodrigo Hilbert and his wife, Fernanda Lima, both Brazilian television actors, were spotted dancing at the Pink Elephant beach club. Francesca Versace and Dimitri Mussard, an heir to the Hermès fortune, party-hopped in Trancoso over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. And the Brazilian singer Bebel Gilberto tied the knot here in February in an informal wedding with 50 guests” – writes ALEXEI BARRIONUEVO, in The NewYork Times.

In a move to attract more foreign visitors to the country, to give a boost to its tourism, Brazil´s Tourist Board – Embratur – has just made a partnership with Google. The aim is to produce a Google/YouTube brand channel, combining videos and Google maps, to provide an interactive online Brazilian tourism experience. Americans are the main target. That´s the first partnership of its kind in the world. The site – www.youtube.com/visitbrasil – currently features nearly a 100 videos from the most amazing places in Brazil. Though the country has an enormous touristic potential, the trend in the number of inbound tourists has been erratic, but unquestionably upwards. Arrivals have risen from 4.7million in 2001 to 7.2million in 2008. The decision by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to award the 2016 games to Rio de Janeiro is the latest positive development for the Brazilian tourism industry. Brazil is also going to host the 2014 World Cup. The country´s authorites expect that, by then, the number of tourists will have increased to around 10 million.

By MATTI ANTTILA/The New York Times

Photo: Lily Kesselman
Matti Anttila is president of a New York liquor company with a distillery in Brazil. He travels there often and has discovered there is a richness to the country that many tourists miss.

I’VE been flying since I was a child. I was only 8 years old when I had my first solo flight to Europe. I had to wear my passport around my neck, and I always got a lot of attention from the flight attendants. Many of them would put me in the business-class section, even though I belonged in economy.

I never really appreciated it then. Now I do. I’m a small-business owner, and flying is expensive. I try to stay loyal to one or two carriers so I can at least get upgraded out of coach. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t.

Occasionally, some cool things happen to me during a flight.

A few years ago, I struck up a conversation with a guy sitting next to me. He talked about his skydiving habit and kept me entertained during the entire flight. When we landed, my connecting flight was delayed, and he offered to let me stay at his home. I declined because there was a later flight I could take.

We kept in touch, and later that week I got a call from him inviting me to a party. It was at the Playboy Mansion.

Of course, I went. I was single, and it was a blast.

I’m married now. But I suppose I would still go. You could make a lot of business contacts, and I have a very understanding wife. But it’s doubtful I would ever have the opportunity to go again, so just how understanding my wife would be is rather moot.

I usually don’t talk to my seat mates a lot during flights. It’s the one time I get to catch up on reading or do some work that I just can’t get to during the week.

One thing that I always have to explain is my company name. Cachaça is a Brazilian liquor, made from fermented sugar cane. It’s one of the most popular liquors in Brazil, but people outside of the country don’t know a lot about it. People always have a lot of questions about Brazil, especially since Rio de Janeiro won the 2016 Olympics bid.

Our distillery is in Brazil, and when I started the company, I was there practically all the time. Now, I try to go at least once a quarter.

What I tell people is that Brazil is a huge country. And every state within it has a different feel. That’s why you have to give yourself enough time to try to connect with the locals, who can help you discover the specific culture of each place.

The biggest mistake I see is people going to Rio de Janeiro without a specific plan and then never leaving the tourist area around Copacabana. Brazil is a whole lot more than that.

A lot of people have a very poor perception of Brazil. Most Americans go there for business or Carnival and rarely get to experience some of the lesser-known areas of the country.

When Brazil is in the news, it’s rarely for anything good. There are issues, like the shanty towns around the bigger, metropolitan areas. But I figure there are places in New York I wouldn’t go after dark. The same is true in Brazil. Therefore, I’ve never had one minute of feeling less than safe. And I think that things will only improve the closer we get to the Olympics.

Actually, the worst thing that ever happened to me regarding Brazil was that the airline lost my bags. I was in Rio, so it wasn’t tough to find clothes. And better yet: I just passed the time drinking some cachaça until my bags eventually found me.

Q. and A. With Matti Anttila

Q. How often do you fly?

A. Practically every week, both domestic and international.

Q. What’s your least favorite airport?

A. Heathrow. It’s massive and constantly congested, and they have very strict rules regarding carry-on luggage.

Q. Of all the places you’ve been, what’s the best?

A. Santa Barbara. It’s beautiful, and it’s my home.

Q. What’s your secret airport vice?

A. Buying paperback spy novels. They are a great release on long flights.

By Matti Anttila, as told to Joan Raymond. E-mail: joan.raymond@nytimes.com.

By Rhiannon Batten, from The Observer

With its colonial towns, spectacular landscape and New Age scene, the landlocked state of Goiás could be Brazil’s best-kept secret

A dip into one of the many waterfalls in Goiás is a highlight of a visit to the state. Photograph: Alamy

On a languid summer evening, the pavements of Rua do Rosário are packed with people drinking cold beer and caipirinhas. Music throbs from bar to bar and outside the street’s most expensive-looking house two armed guards stand solemnly looking on. From nowhere, a firework pops overhead.

Soon the carousing is interrupted again when three men on horseback appear, incongruously, at the top of the street. One of them, all manly thighs and black Stetson, draws catcalls from the intoxicated crowds as he fights to keep his skittish horse under control. It’s a battle between man and beast all the way downhill as the horse bucks and lurches but the rider wins, just – and then races back up for a victory lap. Welcome to a regular Saturday night in Pirenópolis.

With a name like something from a graphic novel and a claim to fame as home to more VW Beetles per capita than any other town in Brazil, you might think Pirenópolis would be better known. Yet, in a country as big as this one it is easy for places to go undiscovered, or whole states in the case of Goiás, where Pirenópolis is located. Without the beaches of Bahia, or the showy wildlife of the Amazon, Goiás doesn’t often feature on the tourist circuit. It should, though. With its vast inland plains and big skies spreading east from Brasilia, the region is characterised by pretty, cobbled colonial towns, hot springs, forests, waterfalls and wild, scented cerrado (tropical savannah). All of which have played a part in drawing the state’s other big signature feature: hippies.

Although the region is home to such counter-culture hubs as the Vale do Amanhecer (Sunrise Valley), a religious community started by a clairvoyant truck driver, and the Casa de Dom Inácio de Loyola, where a self-styled ‘psychic surgeon’ calling himself John of God claims to heal cancer, Aids, blindness, asthma, drug addiction, alcohol abuse and ‘spiritual desperation’ with invisible operations, a less extreme alternative scene can be found around the town of Alto Paraiso, in the far north of the state.

With its 40-odd mystical, philosophical and religious groups, locals like to call Alto Paraiso the Brazilian capital of the third millennium. Rumour also has it that latitude 14, which crosses Machu Picchu in Peru and zips through the town, is to blame for the high number of UFO sightings in the area. But travelling there by bus from Brasilia felt less like a mission to Mars than a journey to the centre of the earth. The 225km route carves a path through endless fields and red earth deep into the Brazilian interior, passing lonely farms, puddles the colour of sweet potato soup, and termite mounds as big as Stonehenge. That Alto Paraiso isn’t your average hilltop hangout quickly became clear when I got off the bus to be met by a man in dreadlocks playing a flute.

To his regret, though, I wasn’t there to buy beads or bongs but to visit the nearby Parque Nacional da Chapada dos Veadeiros. Created in 1961, this 65,000 hectare park (only a small part of which is open to the public) was listed as a Unesco world heritage site in 2001, in the hope of protecting the unique cerrado ecosystem from encroaching cattle, soy, and now biofuel farming; the rate of habitat loss here is said to be even greater than that in Amazonia.

What remains is an impressively rich biodiversity. Of the 10,000 plant species found here – including 25 different orchids, purple trumpet-bushes, copa trees, pepper trees, prickly ash, murity palms and babaçu palms – 44 per cent exist only in the cerrado. Though rarely spotted in the areas tourists are allowed into, the park also attracts some of Brazil’s most unusual – and in some cases endangered – animals. Pampa and swamp deers, jaguars, wolves, rheas, armadillos, anteaters, capybaras, tapirs, toucans and vultures all survive here.

The catch is that you can’t enter Chapada dos Veadeiros without an accredited guide. So the next day I met Marcelo from Travessia Tourism and what appeared to be the only two other tourists in town – Yaz from Australia and Maggie from Switzerland – for the drive to the park.

Access is via one of two trails – either ‘canyons and rocks’ or ‘waterfalls’ – and we opted for the waterfalls. Setting off for a five-hour hike past towering waterfalls, jagged canyons and natural swimming pools, it wasn’t long before the scrubby vegetation opened out and we were confronted by a spectacular view across a vast, ancient plateau.

From here, we picked our way down into a lush valley, criss-crossing a stream over natural stepping-stones. From feathery grasses to colour-splattered bushes, flowers that looked like exotic sweet peas, bright lichen-mottled driftwood and the region’s signature chuveirinho, or ‘shower flower’ (imagine a football-sized dandelion), the plants were so beautifully bizarre that it was like walking through a children’s storybook.

Eventually we came out at the largest waterfall, a 120m-high cascade that thundered so hard into the bottom of the adjacent canyon that it seemed to be falling in slow motion. Just as mesmerising was the multi-coloured quartz crystal in the park’s rocky ground. Once exported widely, it is now left to provide a glimmering carpet. ‘Look at this,’ said Yaz, crouching down to stroke the ground as we came to a particularly sparkly spot. ‘This is paradise, man.’

He didn’t feel quite as enthralled after lunch when, having nonchalantly stripped and dived into the nearest pool, Marcelo suddenly shouted across to him that he should get out of the water unless he wanted an athletic-sounding organism to swim up his penis.

I thought back to Yaz a few days later when I headed back south to Pirenópolis and went for a swim at Cachoeiras Bonsucesso, a series of waterfalls just outside town. Judging by the number of people taking a dip, I don’t think there could have been any underwater nasties there, though the family crowds might not have appreciated his casual approach to swimwear.

Near the falls is Fazenda Vagafogo, a farm surrounded by rolling green meadows and grazing horses that look so English that if it weren’t for the odd termite mound or palm tree you might think you were tramping through the grounds of a stately home. The forest trail that spools out from the back of the farm is more exotic. Full of giant jatobá trees, overgrown lianas and the sound of monkeys, if you’re lucky you may catch a glimpse of a morpho butterfly whose huge, electric-blue wings shimmer against the muddy background.

The Vagafogo brunch is an institution among tourists from Brasilia, an extravagant array of local fruits, cheeses, breads, chutneys, jams and meats. I spent an hour working my way through mangaba juice, starfruit chutney and sanclish (a tasty mix of curd cheese, onions, oil and tomatoes). I seemed to be the only non-Brazilian visitor.

But then Goiás has always been off the map. I was told the history of the Kalungas, a group of 4,000 people who live around 100km from Alto Paraiso. Until the 1960s, when the construction of Brasilia started opening up this region, the Kalungas had lived hidden from the outside world ever since their ancestors had run away from their colonial slave owners hundreds of years earlier. Apparently they stayed undetected only because this part of Goiás was so neglected. The lost world endures.

iguazu002

Straddling the Brazilian-Argentine Border, you can find some of the world’s most dramatic waterfalls: the Iguaçu Falls. Surrounded by two National Parks of subtropical forests, filled with exotic birds, plants and animals, the falls are a must-see on any backpacking tour around South America. But a trip to the falls requires some forward planning. The site Gringoes.com prepared a guide to backpacking through the Iguaçu Falls. Check it out:

When to Go

The falls have a different appeal year-round – March to November is probably the most pleasant time to visit, as temperatures are not too high, but if you can face it, the falls are more spectacular during the rainy season from May-July. During the hot summer months, the blue skies and intense heat can make the falls even more mesmerizing.

Begin in Brazil

Although most of the falls lie on the Argentine side of the border, the views from the Brazilian side are equally impressive, and promise even better photo opportunities. For overnight accommodation, stay in Foz de Iguacu, a sprawling metropolis close to the Brazilian side of the park.

After viewing the falls from the Brazilian side, you‘ll need to cross the border and take the bus to the Parque National Iguacu, in Argentina. Remember to take the appropriate visas and get stamped as you enter the country.

Exploring the Park

The extensive network of trails and catwalks on the Argentine side offer a better experience of the falls – with views from above and below, and the chance to see the Garganta del Diablo.

Exploring the park is easy – as soon as you arrive, head to the visitor center and pick up a map. Then follow the two trails past the falls – the Paseo Superior (a shorter, easier walk along the top) and the Paseo Inferior (a winding trail through the forest that ends up close with some of the smaller falls).

To see the Garganta del Diablo, take the Cataratas bus from the visitor center to Puerto Canoas, where a small viewing platform takes you within meters of these staggering falls.

On From the Falls
After exploring the park, the rest of Northern Argentina is within easy reach. The best option is to stay in a Puerto Iguacu after visiting the Argentine side – this tranquil town of tropical vegetation and quiet streets is a peaceful place to crash after a hard days hiking. 94fbwpaxjm