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Travel in Latin America

How to Backpack Through Southern Brazil

Rio de Janeiro generally gets most of the attention, but Brazil's southern region has its own unique culture and traditions that is vastly different from the frenzied carnivalesque atmosphere of Rio. In fact, Southern Brazilians often think of themselves as separate from the rest of Brazil. Perhaps this is because it was settled mostly by German and Italian immigrants, giving it a distinctly European flavor. Also, there are excellent beaches, sophisticated, modern cities and gaucho ranches in Southern Brazil, and it is home to the famous Iguacu Falls, one of the largest waterfalls in the world. All this makes Southern Brazil worth visiting.

Plan your trip around the Brazilian winter which is June to August. Southern Brazil gets surprisingly cold in the winter months so you will want to avoid this time of year. The rest of the year is warm.

Fly into Porto Alegre. This is the southernmost Brazilian capital and a good place to begin your journey. Spend a couple days exploring the town before heading out, or you could allow time to explore it at the end, just before flying home.

Visit the Aparados da Serra National Park, a popular mountain area great for hiking and filled with spectacular waterfalls, canyons, forests and amazing vistas. Charter buses are available and are surprisingly affordable. It is 190 km from Porto Alegre, so travel time takes 2 to 3 hours.

Move on to Florianopolis where you can go to some of the best beaches in Brazil. Florianopolis is a beautiful city surrounded by dozens of small islands. Be sure to explore the islands as they have some of the best and most private beaches.

Continue north up the coast from Florianopolis towards Parana. Stop in Blumenau or Joinville. Both cities have distinct European flavors and offer unique attractions and festivals. Then make your way to Curitiba.

Stop in Paranagua for more beaches before you arrive in Curitiba. Once in Curitiba take a couple days to explore this sophisticated city. Tauted as Brazil's most progressive, cleanest and wealthiest city, Curitiba has a lot to offer.

Take a charter bus to Iguacu Falls. These spectacular cataracts are massive and should not be missed. You can hike around the area, observe birds at the aviary reserve and feel the mist from the falls on your face.

Head back. From here you can take a charter bus back to Porto Alegre. You may want to consider stopping at a guacho ranch somewhere along the way. The countryside is dotted by them and some of them are open to tourists. Check with a tourist agency for more details.

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