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Gareth Leonard

Discovering the Best of Southern Brazil

Ask me six months ago about Southern Brazil and my understanding extended to a Christ statue in Rio and a giant city called Sao Paulo.

Ask me six months ago what was south of Sao Paulo and I would have reluctantly responded “Uruguay?”

Fast forward a few flights and extended bus rides later and my knowledge of the region has grown tremendously.

Often overlooked by outsiders because of their seductive neighbors to the north, the southern states of Brazil proved that there is much more culture and diversity to this country than I ever considered.

It was a wonderfully eye-opening experience traveling through the states of Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina and Parana. With something for every type of traveler, here are my favorite aspects from each stop along the month-long journey…

Porto Alegre’s Culture


Along with the gaucho influence that bursts through the city seams, Porto Alegre has one of the best collections of museums and art galleries around the country.

In Porto Alegre, culture also comes in the form of local food, and tasting my way around the municipal market downtown gave my taste buds some much needed perspective as well.

Spending a few days in Porto Alegre allowed me to develop a deeper understanding of the historical and artist side of a country that I failed to notice before.

Gramado’s Escape


The best city escape in the region was definitely the day-trip I took to the beautiful colonial town of Gramado. Just a few hours by bus from Porto Alegre, Gramado makes you feel like you’re in Germany, Switzerland or Italy.

If you need more convincing, the air was crisp, the architecture was unique and everyone seemed to be stuck on smile mode.

The beer and chocolate alone were reason enough for me to make the trip!

 Floripa’s Beaches


While Rio may hold the title for most famous beaches in Brazil, any one of Florianopolis’ 42 sandy sweet spots could give Copacabana or Ipanema a run for their money.

I spent a week exploring the island of Santa Catarina and was fortunate to only come across a handle of surfers and locals utilizing the paradise.

Apparently if you come during the high season, there are more parties than Lindsay Lohan could handle, but if you’re here any other time, you virtually have the whole place to yourself.

In my book, that means Floripa is worth a visit anytime of the year for one reason or another!

Curitiba’s Fresh Air


Voted as one of the best places to live in Latin America, Curitiba has developed into a city that has made others green with envy.

Boasting a well-oiled transit system and more parks than 101 Dalmatians could cover, the city is as efficient as it is refreshing.

Five days in Curitiba and it lifted and shifted my perception of Brazilian cities completely.

 Iguazu’s Awesomeness


Major tourist attractions and I don’t always see eye to eye. I generally stay away from big crowds of travelers and places people visit just for a photo or to say they’ve been. I can do without that.

Iguazu Falls however was different. They’re popular and touristy, and rightfully so – they’re awesome!

Growing up with the Niagara Falls in my backyard, I was skeptical about visiting Iguazu because I’ve seen how tourism has ravished the area around Niagara.

When I arrived however, the scene was completely different. There were no bright lights, haunted houses or any other generic tourist traps – It was small walkways, wild animals and loud, thunderous falls. It was forest and nature and amazing!

It’s time for me to move on up the coast to begin exploring the big city of Sao Paulo and beyond, but before I did, I wanted to share how Southern Brazil has developed my appreciation for just how diverse this country is.

Ask me six months from now about Southern Brazil and I might just tell you that I’m here again.

Have you ever had interesting experiences traveling around Brazil? Share your stories

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