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10 Things you didn't know about Brazil

Written by
Terri Jansen

People from all over the world flock there for Carnival, they produce some of the best football players and it's known for its beautiful beaches and vibrant culture - but there's a lot more to discover about Brazil. We've rounded up 10 things you might not have known about this South American country.

Largest waterfall
Monkeys galore
Longest river

Coffee leader

There’s a very good chance your favourite cuppa has its roots in Brazil, since the country has been the largest exporter of coffee for over 150 years. With coffee plantations blanketing over 27000 square kilometres, Brazil produces about 2,595,000 metric tons of coffee beans. You’ll find many of the plantations down in the south east where the climate is great for growing healthy coffee berries. The first coffee plant put down roots in Brazil back in the 18th century when it was introduced by French settlers.

Gridlock

When it comes to horrendous traffic jams, Brazil ranks among the worst countries in the world. Residents of cities like Rio de Janeiro reportedly spend hundreds of hours stuck in traffic every year, with tailbacks that have been known to extend up to 295km. São Paulo doesn’t fare much better. But as with many things, there’s not much you can do about traffic once you’re stuck in it, so you may as well take a deep breath and enjoy some people watching.

Amazing Amazon

While there has been some heated debate about whether the Amazon or the Nile should claim the title of longest river in the world, recent studies have concluded that the Amazon should take the top spot taking into account its estuaries and tidal canals. If you take into account the volume of water it discharges (about 209,000 cubic metres per second), then there’s no question it’s the largest.

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Take flight

Brazil comes in second place with its impressive number of over 4000 airports. So, no matter which region you’re planning on visiting, you’re bound to find an airport fairly nearby. The top two busiest airports are Guarulhos International Airport and Congonhas Airport, both of which are in São Paulo. So, which country claims the accolade of most airports? The United States with its staggering 13,513.

Heritage sites

If you’re keen on visiting UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Brazil will have you spoilt for choice. They have over 20, including the beautiful Iguacu National Park. In the park you’ll discover a variety of rare species like giant otters and anteaters, and one of the world’s largest waterfalls, Iguazu Falls, which stretches 1.7 miles across with 275 drops.

Iguazu Waterfalls with rainbow

African roots

There may be a huge expanse of ocean between the two continents, but the link between Brazil and Africa is strong. With over 80% of the population of Salvador able to trace their ancestry back to Africa due to its history of slavery, the city is sometimes referred to as the largest African city outside of Africa. Spend some time in and around Salvador and you’ll discover food, religion, culture and art all inspired by the African roots of its people.

Fordlândia

American industrialist Henry Ford set up shop in the middle of the Amazon forest in 1928. On the banks of the Tapajós River, he established Fordlândia, where he planned to create rubber plantations and open factories. His intention was for the town to house around 10 000 people, but the endeavour failed, and it was abandoned within six years. In the early 2000s there were only about 90 people calling it home, but those numbers have slowly increased to about 3000.

Image credit: Amit Evron

European capital

It’s not unusual for there to be debate over which city is the “deserving” capital of a country, but Portugal took it to a whole new level back in 1808. When the Portuguese royal family and a number of nobles fled to Rio de Janeiro to escape Napoleon’s invasion of Portugal, the Brazilian city became recognised as the official Portuguese capital. It remained the only European capital outside of Europe until 1821 when the royal family moved back to Lisbon.

Monkey paradise

Rainforests are packed full of wildlife and the Amazon is certainly no different. In addition to the varied plants, insects, birdlife and mammals – there are over 80 species of primate that call the dense forest home, more than you’ll find anywhere else in the world. Keep an eye out for howler monkeys, capuchins, squirrel monkeys, marmosets and tamarins. Apart from their sheer numbers, another thing setting Brazil’s primates apart from those found elsewhere in the world, is the fact that they have prehensile tails which they can use to help them get around in the trees.

Ecuador Amazon Squirrel Monkey

Brasilia in hurry

Even though Rio de Janeiro was the capital city for a while (from 1763 to 1960), the current capital is Brasilia. Construction was started in 1956 and the city was completed in an incredibly short four years. Today it is the fourth largest city in the country and is home to some 2.5 million people.  And if you have the chance to see the city from the air, you’ll notice it’s shaped like an aeroplane.

Feeling inspired? Speak to one of our expert travel designers today and start planning your trip of a lifetime to Brazil.

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