Brazil Gap Year

This vibrant coutry, sporting miles of beaches and beautiful scenery, makes it an exciting destination for Gap year travellers!

Why spend a gap year in Brazil? 

Brazil is first – first at least in the acronym BRICS representing the coming economies; Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

Brazil is the world’s fifth largest country and, with a population of one hundred and ninety million people also ranks fifth in that hierarchy.

The seventh largest economy, it will overtake the United Kingdom in the near future and could surpass France within the next ten years to make a trio of fifths. A land of contrasts and natural beauty, in the midst of great change.

There are pluses and minuses for the visitor.

The tourist industry is not well developed; which is good in that you don’t feel part of a processed "tourist scrum", and the other hand things that you might want to see are not always accessible because they have not become part of the tourist industry.

What to see and do on your Brazil gap year

This is a huge country and one of the main issues hindering the growth of tourism is the transport infrastructure, so the best advice is to identify what you want to see; the distances are too great to see it all.

Rio de Janeiro, the city and its surrounding state is the most visited area of Brazil. One of the reasons for this is that, following Brasilia becoming the capital and Sao Paulo developing as the main commercial centre, Rio has sought to develop its tourist industry.

Rio’s icon landmark is the thirty nine metre high statue of ‘Christ the Redeemer’ atop Corcovado Mountain.

The mountain is situated in Tijuca National Park and the trip to the top via a cog railway is often combined with a tour of the botanical gardens.

Sugarloaf Mountain, sometimes confused with Corcovado, is accessed via a cable car in two stages; the first ascends Morro da Urca, the second from there to the summit.

Whilst you enjoy the panoramic views of Rio you can remember how James Bond and Holly Goodhead escape the clutches [should that be teeth?] of Jaws in Moonraker [1979] on their trip to Sugarloaf.

Two more things we need to mention here: Carnival – held annually in late February or early March.

Dating back to 1723 this is probably the world’s most famous carnival with around two million people hitting the streets in a riot of costume and dance.

Football - the national sport. The Maracana Stadium, built for the 1950 World Cup [which Brazil lost to Uruguay 2-1; but they have won five times since then, so all is forgiven] is the home of Brazilian Football.

This arena once held a crowd of nearly 200,000 spectators, but is now down to an all-seater of around 83,000. Well worth a visit; there are stadium tours, however, currently these only happen once a month.

In Rio, Sao Paulo [more a commercial centre than a tourist destination] and other cities there are organised tours of the Favelas [Shanty Towns].

Not sure that poverty is tourist destination, particularly if the operator is not putting anything back in to that community, but it’s a view of how the other half live in a very unequal society.

Manaus, the capital of the state of Amazonas is situated at the confluence of the Negro and Solimoes Rivers.

The very definition of remote it lies nine hundred miles from the coast at the heart of the Amazon Rain Forest and owes its importance to fact that the waters are navigable from here to the coast, and it operates as a port.

For those of you who enjoyed Werner Herzog’s 1982 film 'Fitzcarraldo'[not sure that Herzog’s film and enjoy should be in the same sentence] the Opera House in Manaus features in the film.

The renaissance architecture and interior fittings and fixtures imported from several European counties make it a sight worth seeing.

Within the Opera House is a painting of the ‘Meeting of the Waters’, a real life phenomenon worth taking a boat trip to see.

This is where the black waters of the Negro and the brown waters of the Solimoes meet but, due to temperature differences and current speed, do not intermix and follow side by side for nearly four miles.

Back on the coast, Recife was originally developed by the Dutch as Mauritsstad [Maurice Town] before being absorbed by the Portuguese.

For a Roman Catholic country it is unusual to find that Recife has the oldest Synagogue in the New World dating to the seventeenth century.

Recife derives from the Portuguese for reef, and one of the main attractions is wreck diving to visit some of the sunken ships off shore.

The other main attraction is the nearby town of Olinda which is designated an UNESCO World Heritage Site as a well preserved Portuguese colonial outpost.

Brasilia, the capital is a modern planned city, built inland to open up the interior of this vast country where most of the main population centres are on the coast.

It is probably fair to say that most modern planned cities are not generally well regarded.

It is also true that Brasilia is not, currently at least, a tourist city, however it does have some very good architecture and is an interesting example of urban planning.

Built mainly in the nineteen fifties it was designed in the shape of an airplane, although some now see it as bird shaped [clearly a greener image!].

The main architects: Oscar Niemeyer, Roberto Burle Marx, and Lucio Costa designed some interesting buildings.

In particular, the Cathedral which seems to have two hands reaching to heaven, and incidentally houses a reproduction of the Turin Shroud.

The Capitol Building [Palacio de Congresso] and the Palacio da Alvorada are also of note.

More tips for Brazil gap year travellers

Currently UK citizens do not require a visa to visit Brazil as a tourist. Information, of course, is subject to change therefore you should always check when you are in the planning stage.

The Brazilian currency is the Real, divided in to one hundred Centavos.

Credit cards are widely accepted though not, presumably in the Amazon Jungle! There is advice on several sites that tourists should buy and use a money belt to conceal and protect their cash and cards.

Brazil is an exotic country, and has some exotic diseases including, in some parts, malaria. You should take advice from your GP.

In some areas Yellow Fever exists and vaccination is recommended; see the Tourism Ministry website for details of affected areas (in the country, not on your body!).

Most of Brazil is in the southern hemisphere making summer from December to February.

Brazil is a huge country but in most areas in the summer temperatures are typically in the mid-thirties centigrade. In the winter the south tends to have a wider temperature range down to mid-teens in the winter- June through August.

Further information

For more tips and advice on planning a gap year in Brazil, please see: