Backpacking in Brazil on a Gap Year

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Why go?

A Gap Year in Brazil

Backpacking in Brazil is growing in popularity, and rightly so. This South American country is a cultural, economic and wildlife powerhouse, and an amazing place to either base or kick-off your gap year in Brazil.

A rainbow over Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The cities

Brazil is famous for samba, beaches, football and bikinis; sometimes combined. It’s a humid, exotic and sexy country, full of colour, flavour and adventure. All of these things and more make up Rio de Janeiro, a mainstay on any gap year bucket list. Here you'll find Christ the Redeemer, Sugarloaf Mountain, the Copacabana, and the iconic Maracanã stadium. It's arguably the most vibrant city in the world; you might never want to leave. 

From there you can head along the coast to sprawling Sao Paulo, home to exquisite cuisine, countless cool hideaways. and a clubbing scene that never sleeps. You can also check out Salvador and Fortaleza to the north, sweltering Manaus at the mouth of the Amazon to the northwest, or head inland to capital city Brasilia. 

Don't miss out on Brazilian food. Sample a rodizio grill for a carnivorous fix, or try some traditional feijoada - a sort of meat and beans stew. Be sure to wash it all down with a local beer like Skol or Brahma. 

Sao Paulo, Brazil

The scenery

If you spend your whole Brazil gap year in cities you'll be seriously missing out. The most obvious natural attraction is the Amazon rainforest, which boasts the greatest biological diversity in the world. There are numerous tours and volunteering opportunities that take you under its canopy and give you a chance to see exotic animals like jaguars, sloths, monkeys, and a ridiculous amount more. It's also home to a number of indigenous tribes.

There's also the vast tropical savanna Cerrado, and you don't even have to be on the coast to find stunning beaches, as parts of rainforests offer up their alternatives to the Caribbean. Head out of the city and Brazil is still brilliantly untamed, offering endless chances for adventure.

What more do you want? Get started planning your gap year in Brazil, either as a complete gap year by itself or a jumping off point for the rest of South America. We promise that you won't regret it. 

Best experiences

Top Experiences in Brazil

Brazil is an incredible destination whether you're interested in partying on the beach, seeing some incredible wildlife, engaging in some extreme sports, or a whole host of other things. Here's a quick list of things you absolutely shouldn't miss.

Party hard at Rio Carnival

Rio Carnival, Brazil

Rio de Janeiro is party central all year round, but the whole place goes crazy for Carnival, a colourful, hedonistic, crazy celebration that sums up everything Brazil is about.

Marvel at Iguazu Falls

Iguazu Falls, Brazil

There are waterfalls, and then there's Iguazu. This massive waterfall pours between Brazil and Argentina, over a mile and a half wide and crashing down 269 feet. It's a sight, and sound, you'll never forget.

Absorb some culture in Sao Paulo

Sao Paulo, Brazil

Brazil's biggest city is full of famous landmarks like Metropolitan Se Cathedral, beautiful parks, and a bunch of museums, venues, galleries, and a whole host more. Fill your boots with Brazilian culture!

Relax on the Costa Verde Islands

Costa Verde Islands, Brazil

The Brazilian coast leaves you spoiled for choice when it comes to luxury islands, but these are arguably the most idyllic, with beautiful beaches, top surfing, and a huge range of birds and wildlife.

Explore the Amazon Rainforest

The Amazon Rainforest, Brazil

So the Amazon is big. Like, really big. There are numerous ways to see its incredible vistas and wildlife, including treks and Amazonian ferries. Most people base themselves in Manaus, a city crammed with history.

See Christ the Redeemer

Christ the Redeemer, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil

Rio de Janeiro deserves to feature at least twice, and this absolute icon of world travel deserves its own entry. You can take the trip to see it up close, or simply marvel at how it overlooks the entire city.

Salvador da Bahia

Salvador da Bahia, Brazil

This colourful city was Brazil's first capital and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site, and is home to a wealth of colonial buildings and beautiful churches, all tied together by quaint cobblestone streets.

Get drunk on Cachaca

Get drunk on Cachaca

There's no shortage of alcoholic beverages in Brazil, including great local beers and wines, but the country's speciality is Cachaca. Made from sugar cane, it goes down worryingly easily.

Get your samba on

Learn to Samba in Brazil

Samba dancing is a huge part of Brazilian culture. All over the country you'll find live shows, either in auditoriums or on the street, or you can pick up some lessons to share some moves with the locals.

See a football match

See a football match in Brazil

You might have heard that Brazilians like a kickabout now and again. Going to a football match in Brazil is like nowhere else in the world - the atmosphere is astounding, as levels of passion fly off the chart.



Visit the Heart of South America

Brazil was made for adventure and is one of the most popular countries in the world among backpackers. The enormous country boasts everything from unbelievably exciting cities, truly incredible scenery and an absolutely buzzing culture. However, the country can be a little daunting and stressful to navigate independently for first-timers, so booking yourself onto a tour is always a wise option. Apart from having everything taken care of for you, you'll be sharing your experiences with like-minded people, who will quickly become friends.

Although Brazil has come a very long way in the last few decades, however much of the population is still very poor and would benefit enormously from overseas volunteers. There are many opportunities to volunteer in Brazil: all you need is enthusiasm, a can-do attitude and an appetite for adventure.

Experience Brazil

Best of Brazil

Best of Brazil

Road to Rio

Road to Rio

World Explorer

World Explorer

Volunteer in a Rio Favela

Volunteer in a Rio Favela

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Advice & Tips on Backpacking in Brazil

We have lots of advice and information about Brazil on the site, covering everything from health tips to the best way to get around and a whole lot more. If you're looking for some inspiration, this is the place to find it.

Have a browse of the below for advice on travelling in Brazil.

Brazil travel articles

Iguazu Falls

A Complete Guide to Brazil

My Week At Rio Carnival

My Week At Rio Carnival

Best Ways to Get Around Brazil

The Best Ways to Get Around Brazil

Between Matches at Brazil World Cup

Between Matches at Brazil World Cup

View all Brazil articles