1. Take a hilltop recce over Rio
Start with a flight over the all-singing, all-dancing Rio de Janeiro. On day one take the rack-railway train to the summit of Corcavado, with the city unfurling like an enormous map. At the summit, under the 100 foot span of the outstretched arms of Christ the Redeemer, enjoy the stunning view of beaches and rainforest, city and sea, lagoons and mountains.
There’s lots to see although much of the city’s architectural heritage was razed in a frenzy of Sixties development. One notable exception is the Sao Bento Monastery, an oasis of calm in the midst of the general frenzy and, of course, the iconic Copacabana Palace Hotel overlooking the beach.
2. Get a taste of Brazil’s St Tropez
Brazilians do beaches, not to mention bikinis, like no other place in the world. Consider spending two or three nights in the resort town of Buzios.
This upmarket stretch of coast is billed as the St Tropez of Latin America. Home to charming cobbled streets and some fantastic bars and restaurants, it’s just two and a half hours’ drive from the city.
3. See the greatest flow on earth
And one final must see is arguably the southern hemisphere’s single most impressive natural wonder, the Iguacu Falls. The vast majority of the 275 individual cascades are in next-door Argentina but Brazil has the classic view of the grand two mile horseshoe and the opportunity to ride by inflatable through the frothy waters and right beneath the falls.
4. Go wild in rainforests and wetlands
From there you could go to Manaus, which sits in the middle of the tufted green carpet of the Amazonian jungle. You can do a trip on the river from here, perhaps with a night or two at a jungle lodge, and even go to the opera. Manaus has an incredible 19th-century jewel-box of an opera house, modelled on the one in Paris with chandeliers from Venice and tiles from Alsace.
Wildlife enthusiasts should definitely add a trip to the Pantanal to their itinerary. Half the size of France, this vast expanse of savannah and wetland is home to some 600 different species of birds, the elusive jaguar, caiman, monkey, anteater, capybara, anaconda, otter and river dolphin.
When to go: As a rule of thumb you will find good weather in Brazil from August to March, whilst June to October is the best time for the Pantanal.