Brazil Main Facts
“It is the fifth largest country by geographical area, occupying nearly half of South America, the fifth most populous country, and the fourth most populous democracy in the world.”
Brazil’s total area is 8,514,876.599 km2 (3,287,612 sq mi). Bounded by the Atlantic Ocean on the east, Brazil has a coastline of over 7,491 kilometers (4,655 mi).
It is bordered on the north by Venezuela, Suriname, Guyana and the overseas department of French Guiana; on the northwest by Colombia; on the west by Bolivia and Peru; on the southwest by Argentina and Paraguay and on the south by Uruguay.
Numerous archipelagos are part of the Brazilian territory, such as Fernando de Noronha, Rocas Atoll, Saint Peter and Paul Rocks, and Trindade and Martim Vaz.
The Brazilian regions are not political or administrative divisions. Although defined by law, Brazilian regions are useful mainly for statistical purposes and, sometimes, to define the application of federal funds in development projects.
The national territory was divided in 1969 by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), for demographic and statistical purposes, into five main regions: North, Northeast, Central-West, Southeast and South.
This region covers 45.27% of the land area of Brazil and has the lowest number of inhabitants. With the exception of Manaus, which hosts a tax-free industrial zone, and Belém, the biggest metropolitan area of the region, it is fairly unindustrialized and undeveloped. It accommodates most of the rainforest vegetation of the world and many indigenous tribes.
This region is inhabited by about 30% of Brazil’s population. It is culturally diverse, with roots set in the Portuguese colonial period and in Amerindian and Afro-Brazilian elements. It is also the poorest region of Brazil, and suffers from long periods of dry climate. The largest cities are Salvador, Recife, and Fortaleza.
The Central-West region
This region has low demographic density when compared to the other regions, mostly because a part of its territory is covered by the world’s largest marshlands area, the Pantanal as well as a small part of the Amazon Rainforest in the northwest. Much of the region is covered by Cerrado, the largest savanna in the world. The central-west region contributes significantly towards agriculture.
The Southeast region
The Southeast region is the richest and most densely populated. It has more inhabitants than any other South American country and hosts one of the largest megalopolises of the world, and has the country’s two largest cities; São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. The region is very diverse, including the major business center of São Paulo, the historical cities of Minas Gerais and its capital Belo Horizonte, the third-largest metropolitan area in Brazil, the beaches of Rio de Janeiro, and the coast of Espírito Santo.
The South region
The South region is the wealthiest by GDP per capita and has the highest standard of living in the country. It is also the coldest region of Brazil, with occasional occurrences of frost and snow in some of the higher altitude areas. It has been settled mainly by European immigrants, mostly of Italian, German and Portuguese ancestry, being clearly influenced by these cultures.
Brazil is one of 17 megadiverse countries, home to a variety of wildlife, natural environments, and extensive natural resources in a variety of protected habitats.
Brazil’s large territory comprises different ecosystems, such as the Amazon rainforest, recognized as having the greatest biological diversity in the world, with the Atlantic Forest and the Cerrado, also sustaining a great biodiversity. In the south, the Araucaria pine forest grows under temperate conditions. The rich wildlife of Brazil reflects its variety of natural habitats. Scientists estimate that the total number of plant and animal species in Brazil could approach four million.
Brazil’s carnivores include Puma, Jaguar, Ocelot, Bush Dog, and several fox species. Other large mammals include peccaries, Tapir, Giant Anteater, sloths, opossums, and armadillos. Deer are plentiful in the south, and many species of New World monkeys are found in the northern rain forests. Concern for the environment has grown in response to global interest in environmental issues.
Brazil has 1833 species of birds, 257 of which are endemics.
Brazil’s Amazon Basin is home to an extremely diverse array of fish species, including the Red-bellied Piranha. Despite its reputation as a ferocious freshwater fish, the Red-bellied Piranha is actually a generally timid scavenger.
The natural heritage of Brazil is severely threatened by cattle ranching and agriculture, logging, mining, resettlement, oil and gas extraction, over-fishing, wildlife trade, dams and infrastructure, water pollution, climate change, fire, and invasive species. In many areas of the country, the natural environment is threatened by development. Construction of highways has opened up previously remote areas for agriculture and settlement; dams have flooded valleys and inundated wildlife habitats; and mines have scarred and polluted the landscape. At least 70 dams are being planned for the Amazon region, including the controversial Belo Monte hydroelectric dam.
The climate of Brazil comprises a wide range of weather conditions across a large area and varied topography, but most of the country is tropical. According to the Köppen system, Brazil hosts five major climatic subtypes: equatorial, tropical, semiarid, highland tropical, temperate, and subtropical. The different climatic conditions produce environments ranging from equatorial rainforests in the north and semiarid deserts in the northeast, to temperate coniferous forests in the south and tropical savannas in central Brazil. Many regions have starkly different microclimates.
An equatorial climate characterizes much of northern Brazil. There is no real dry season, but there are some variations in the period of the year when most rain falls. Temperatures average 25 °C (77 °F), with more significant temperature variation between night and day than between seasons.
Over central Brazil rainfall is more seasonal, characteristic of a savanna climate. This region is as extensive as the Amazon basin but has a very different climate as it lies farther south at a higher altitude. In the interior northeast, seasonal rainfall is even more extreme. The semiarid climatic region generally receives less than 800 millimeters (31.5 in) of rain, most of which generally falls in a period of three to five months of the year and occasionally less than this, creating long periods of drought. Brazil’s 1877–78 Grande Seca (Great Drought), the most severe ever-recorded in Brazil, caused approximately half a million deaths. The one from 1915 was devastating too.
South of Bahia, near the coasts, and more southerly most of the state of São Paulo, the distribution of rainfall changes, with rain falling throughout the year. The south enjoys subtropical conditions, with cool winters and average annual temperatures not exceeding 18 °C (64.4 °F); winter frosts and snowfall are not rare in the highest areas.
Suggested tours for Brazil
These tours give you a starting point for what your trip to Brazil could entail. They cover routes we’ve found work particularly well and feature some of our favourite places to stay. Treat them as inspiration, as each trip is created uniquely for you.