When to Travel to Brazil

When considering when to go to Brazil, it's first of all important to remember the massive size, varied geography, terrain, and ecology, and eclectic cultural diversity of the nation.
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Crowded Ipanema Beach
Your planning is likely to hinge on two primary factors: the weather, and holidays and festivals. In consideration of the weather it's wise to remember that while Brazil has territory on both sides of the equator, the bulk of Brazil lies to the south.
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Thus when we discuss "the Brazilian summer" it is much more likely to refer to the Brazilian summer for those in the major population centers of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, which are located significantly south of the equator.
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Again, the terms high season and low season are much more likely to refer to southern Brazil. For all intents and purposes the high season in Brazil is typically defined as the week before Christmas (mid-December) until Carnival (late February or early March). New Year's and Carnaval are the pinnacles of the Brazilian tourism world, and as such expect to pay significant premiums for transportation and accommodation during these times. They also coincide with the Brazilian summer for the south, meaning that most Brazilians take their vacations during this time, adding to the overcrowding, congestion, and high demand, particularly in the southern beach resorts.

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An additional smaller "high season" takes place in July, when Brazilian schools and universities take a scholastic holiday, and in August when most European and American tourists avail themselves of their summer vacations to visit. This is perhaps the worst time to visit Brazil, both because of higher prices, and because of cold and possibly quite rainy weather. The southern spring (September, October, November) is arguably the best time to visit Brazil. Weather is typically good, prices are more affordable, and you won't find much congestion at the beach resorts.
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As the bulk of Brazil lies in the southern hemisphere, but also near the equator, expect very hot summers (December to February) and mild and somewhat rainy winters (June to August). The major destinations of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo are characterized by generally pleasant weather year round, although winters may have occasional dips into lower temperatures as low as 16 or 18 degrees celsius. It's important to note as well that because Sao Paulo is located on a plateau about 700m above sea level, temperatures are slightly cooler there. As a general rule of thumb, foreign visitors will likely only encounter truly cold climates south of Rio and in the winter.

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New Year's Eve and Carnival are obviously the mainstays of tourism in Brazil. If you are planning on being in Brazil for New Year's the Rio de Janeiro, one of the world's finest, is not to be missed. It features fireworks and live music on Copacabana Beach, with a healthy dose of the famed Brazilian all-night revelry. Carnaval takes place between late February and early March. While the most renowned Carnival is also in Rio de Janeiro, those of Salvador and the twin northeastern cities of Recife and Olinda are spectacular in their own right as well. Christmas is more of a family occasion in Brazil, and is not highly recommended, although Easter is worth checking out, especially in Minas Gerais.

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Bumba-meu-boiSalvador's Celebration of Yemanja, the Goddess of the Sea, which features fabulous music and food, the Bumba-meu-boipeasant folklore festival in Sao Luis, which takes place in June, and the FLIP (Paraty International Literary Festival) which takes place in July and draws a characteristically high-brow crowd. For music lovers, Rio's Free Jazz Festival in October, and June's Rio das Ostras Jazz and Blues Festival are not to be missed.
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