Brazil draws a considerable number of foreigners each year and many of them go on to make the country their home. The many employment opportunities in the big cities, the cultural diversity and friendly nature of the Brazilians make living here a rich and enjoyable experience for many expats. There are many uniquely Brazilian experiences and activities that no expat should miss during their time in this vibrant land. Here are five things you really must do when in Brazil – and the one thing you’re better off not doing!Visit Olinda
Olinda, in the Brazilian state of Pernambuco, is considered to be one of Brazil’s most attractive cities. Famous for its carnival and declared a world heritage site by UNESCO, it is one of the oldest cities in the country. Cobbled streets lined with Baroque churches, mansions, fountains and homes are what you will find in this quaint city. Built on a hilltop in the early 16th century by Duarte Coelho Pereira, Olinda’s scenic beauty and architectural heritage will make your visit worthwhile. The carnival in Olinda is a unique experience and many visit Brazil only to experience this event. It is often considered to be the most authentic of Brazilian carnivals as it draws a smaller number of tourists and the party is open to all, and not just those with expensive tickets as is often the case in some Brazilian carnivals.
Go hiking at Chapada Diamantina National Park
Brazil’s Chapada Diamantina National Park was established in 1985 and comprises many different ecosystems and various plant and animal species. The mountain range extends through the state of Bahia and has an average altitude of over 3000 feet. Here you will be treated to some of the best scenery the country has to offer. The small town of Lençóis, which is about eight hours inland from Salvador, is the best access point to the park. There are short day hikes that take you to the some of the waterfalls in the mountain range. There are also some that require longer treks, ranging from two to seven days. There are numerous tour operators in Lençóis and you can pick the adventure of your choice. Apart from treks and hiking, there’s also mountain biking, ridge walking, rock climbing and even horseback riding at the park.
Discover the art of Lapa
The Escadaria Selarón (Selarón Stairs) in Lapa is an extraordinary site in Rio. The artist Jorge Selarón created the iconic staircase, using majolica either gathered from Rio or donated by visitors. The colorful and vibrant staircase, consisting of 215 steps, has over 2000 tiles, and was meant to be the artist’s tribute to the Brazilian people. Unfortunately, the artist was found dead on these very steps in January 2013. In the years preceding his untimely death, he could often be found still working on the staircase, happy to pose for photographs and sign autographs.
Watch Football at the Maracanã
Football fans must not miss an opportunity to watch some football at the Maracanã, which once held the title of the largest stadium in the world. This open-air stadium in Rio de Janeiro hosted the FIFA World Cup in 1950 and ever since has been the venue for matches between the big football clubs of Rio. Football is a passion in Brazil and matches are often noisy, lively affairs; and at the Maracanã (which can now seat 85,000 spectators) the ambience becomes almost like a carnival with music and dancing crowds. Matches are held throughout the year, usually on the weekends between 4 to 6pm or on Wednesdays and Thursdays at about 8.30pm. Recently, the Maracanã underwent an extensive upgrade in preparation for the 2014 World Cup.
Go on a Brigadeiro binge
Brigadeiro is a chocolate sweet made with cocoa and condensed milk. The wife of Brigadier Eduardo Gomes, a presidential candidate in the 1940s, created this Brazilian version of the chocolate bonbon and served at his fundraising events. Brazilians love their brigadeiro and it is almost always found at birthday parties.
Now for the one thing you shouldn’t do in Brazil. Whether it’s at the Maracanã or one of the many carnivals, avoid becoming a target for pickpockets, and leave all your jewelry, smartphones and other expensive devices at home.