December 23, 2007
by findingDulcinea Staff
Brazil is the largest country in South America, fifth largest in the world, and the only Portuguese-speaking country in the Americas. It's home to famous natural wonders like the Amazon Rainforest in the north, a long coastline of beaches, and a mountainous region in the south. It's an ethnically diverse country of immigrants from several European countries, who have arrived intermittently since the Portuguese colonization in the 16th century, making Brazil one of the most vibrant tourist destinations. This week we're virtually touring the disparate climates and cultures of this enormous country, focusing on a uniquely Brazilian hotspot every day.

The Rundown

Rio Prefeitura is a site devoted to the city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil's capital city until 1960, still considered a superior cultural hub. (Sao Paolo is the largest city in Brazil and is given the technical role of the country's financial center.) This site provides introductions to several hotspots and landmarks in Rio, the must-go destination for many tourists in Brazil. Learn about the city's botanical gardens, the Modern Art Museum, the endless Copacabana Beach, and dozens more. Here, you'll get a good introduction to the city's most picturesque features.
For another great guide to Rio visit All About Rio, with lengthy "All About" sections on different areas of the city, and more specific guides like "Museum Going," "Church Hopping," and "The Beach Tour." The museum page will give you insight on the bigger establishments like MAM (the Museum of Modern Art) as well as more specialized venues like the H. Stern Gem Museum, the "world headquarters" of Brazil's jewelers.
World Hum is a blog led by several travel writers, including Rolf Potts, an expert on extended travel abroad. Potts is the author of “Vagabonding,” a book describing his international exploits, and his love of off-the-beaten-path travel experiences is pervasive on World Hum. This entry discusses the appeal of favela Tourism in Rio De Janeiro. Favelas are the Brazilian equivalent of slums, and can be dirty and dangerous; but to foreigners seeking a rougher, more authentic trek, favelas carry an edgy, yet romantic, appeal. This blog entry also links to an article in the Christian Science Monitor containing interviews with expatriates who’ve relocated to favelas in Rio.
We’ve also found the Favela Tourism Workshop, a company that leads sustainable tours through Rocinha, the biggest slum in South America and one of more than 800 in Rio alone. The company provides tourism workshops for favela residents, teaching them how to lead tours through their own intriguing neighborhoods, helping them to learn English, and taking them on trips around Brazil that they otherwise could not afford.
If you’re skeptical of the value of favela tourism, read this essay on Transitions Abroad, a site especially for people working, studying, and living abroad. The author describes playing a game of beach volleyball with a few resident tour guides of Rocinha.
Return tomorrow for a virtual guide to the Amazon.

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