At the beach in Koh Nang Yuan, Thailand

By Norbert Figueroa, an experienced architect, travel writer, long-term budget traveler, and photographer with over 13 years of travel experience in over 139 countries and counting. @globotreks

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Brazil is known for its vibrant culture, breathtaking landscapes, and diverse heritage. From the Amazon rainforest to the bustling streets of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil captivates one’s imagination with its unique blend of natural wonders, historical landmarks, and rich traditions.

This country and its history have some intriguing tidbits. So, grab your best backpack and get ready to delve into fascinating facts about Brazil, a nation that never fails to surprise and delight.

Tiradentes, Brazil

1. Brazil is the Largest Country in the Southern Hemisphere

This South American country is the fifth largest country in the world. It covers an extensive land area of approximately 8.5 million square kilometers (3.3 million square miles).

Its territorial size surpasses any other country in the Southern Hemisphere, making it a significant presence on the global map.

Brazil could engulf the EU twice and take 5% of the world’s land. Not only is Brazil the largest country in the southern hemisphere, but it is also larger than other South American countries, and it is often claimed to be the world’s longest country too.

In addition to its impressive land area, Brazil also boasts a substantial population with over 215 million inhabitants on the South American continent. Its population reflects Brazil’s melting pot of cultural vibrancy and ethnic diversity.

Brasilia Government Buildings

2. The Capital City of Brazil is Brasilia

Here’s one for a pub quiz evening: What is the capital city of Brazil? You would be wrong if you guessed Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo. The capital city of Brazil is actually Brasilia. It’s the third-largest city in Brazil and was built in the 1950s. Brasília was specifically built to serve as the capital of Brazil.

Brasília is a unique and purposefully designed city, distinct from Brazil’s previous capital, Rio de Janeiro.

The decision to create a new capital stemmed from a desire to promote development in the country’s interior and reduce the concentration of political power in coastal cities like Rio de Janeiro.

In recognition of its innovative urban planning and architectural significance, Brasília was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.

3. Brazil has had Three Capital Cities Throughout its History

Speaking of capital cities… Brazil has had three capital cities throughout its history. They are:

  1. Salvador (1549-1763): Salvador was the first capital of Brazil, chosen by the Portuguese colonial administration in 1549. It served as the capital for over two centuries during the colonial period. Salvador is located in the northeastern state of Bahia.
  2. Rio de Janeiro (1763-1960): In 1763, the capital of Brazil was moved from Salvador to Rio de Janeiro. Rio de Janeiro remained the capital through various historical periods, including the time of the Portuguese Empire, the Brazilian Empire, and the early years of the Republic. It continued as the capital even after Brazil gained independence from Portugal in 1822. Rio de Janeiro is located on the southeastern coast of Brazil.
  3. Brasília (1960-present): The capital was moved from Rio de Janeiro to Brasília on April 21, 1960. Brasília was purposefully built as the new capital city, designed by architect Oscar Niemeyer and urban planner Lúcio Costa. The decision to move the capital to a more central location was aimed at promoting development in the interior regions of Brazil. Brasília is located in the Federal District, in the central-western part of the country.
Portuguese Language in a book

4. Portuguese is the Official Language in Brazil

Contrary to what you may think, Brazil’s official language is Portuguese. Brazil is the only Portuguese-speaking country in South America. The majority of the other countries in South America speak Spanish.

The Portuguese language’s prominence in Brazil dates back to the colonial period. In 1500 Portuguese explorer Pedro Álvares Cabral arrived in Brazil, leading to the country becoming a Portuguese colony for more than three centuries.

The Portuguese language took root during this period and has persisted as the primary language in Brazil ever since. In fact, 99% of the population in Brazil speak Portuguese as their first language.

The Portuguese language has profoundly influenced Brazil’s culture, identity, and literature. Brazilian Portuguese has developed unique characteristics, including distinct accents, vocabulary, and idiomatic expressions.

5. Brazil Covers Four Time Zones

Another one of the great facts about Brazil is that it covers four time zones. This is no surprise given that it is the largest country in South America. This unique characteristic sets Brazil apart from many other countries worldwide and has various implications for its citizens, economy, and daily life.

The first time zone is the Brasília Time (BRT). This time zone covers most of Brazil’s territory, including major cities like São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Salvador.

The second time zone is Amazon Time (AMT). This time zone is one hour behind Brasília Time and is observed in the western parts of the Amazonas state and some portions of Rondônia and Roraima states.

The third time zone is Fernando de Noronha Time. Fernando de Noronha, an archipelago located off the coast of Brazil, follows this time zone, which is two hours ahead of Brasília Time. It’s used exclusively in this island paradise.

And the fourth time zone within Brazil is Brasília Time with Daylight Saving Time (BRST). 

Each time zone represents a different region with unique cultural, environmental, and socioeconomic characteristics. Embracing these time zone differences is a testament to Brazil’s multicultural identity and ability to thrive amidst its geographic diversity.

Brazil in South America

6. Brazil Shares a Border with Almost Every Other South American Country

Another extraordinary fact about Brazil is that it boasts an impressive geographical feature: it shares a border with nearly every South American nation.

Brazil’s unique position in South America grants it exceptional border connectivity that sets it apart from its neighboring countries.

It is bordered by ten countries, except for Ecuador and Chile. Brazil shares borders to the north with Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana, an overseas department of France.

To the south, it is bordered by Uruguay, Paraguay, and Argentina. In fact, Argentina and Brazil even share the Iguazu Falls

Brazil shares borders with Bolivia and Peru on its western side, while Colombia lies to the northwest.

Sharing a border with almost every single one of the South American countries gives Brazil a distinct strategic advantage. It facilitates trade, cultural exchanges, and cooperation on various fronts.

The border regions have become bustling hubs of economic activity, with a constant flow of goods, services, and people, fostering regional integration and cooperation.

Brazil’s extensive border also holds significant importance regarding regional security and cooperation. Brazil promotes stability and cooperation in South America by sharing borders with multiple countries.

7. Brazil is the Only Country in the World that Spans Both the Equator and the Tropics of Capricorn

Another one of the unique geographical facts about Brazil is that it is the only country in the world that has both the Equator and the Tropic of Capricorn crossing through it.

Across the eastern coast of South America, Brazil encompasses a wide range of latitudes and climatic zones. The Equator crosses the northern region of Brazil which makes it one of the few countries directly intersected by this significant geographic line.

To add to this distinction, Brazil extends southward beyond the Equator and encompasses portions of the Southern Hemisphere. The Tropic of Capricorn, another important imaginary line located approximately 23.5 degrees south of the equator, traverses the central-southern region of Brazil.

As the only country to span both the equator and the Tropic of Capricorn, Brazil occupies a unique position on the global map.

Brazil’s unique distinction as the only country spanning the Equator and the Tropic of Capricorn highlights its geographic diversity, climatic variations, and natural richness.

This exceptional positioning contributes to Brazil’s allure as a destination for exploration, adventure, and discovery, offering many experiences across its vast and captivating territory.

Exotic Bird in Brazil

8. Brazil has More Animal and Plant Species than Any Other Country in the World

Brazil is widely known for its incredible biodiversity. Another remarkable fact is that it boasts more animal and plant species than any other country. This vast flora and fauna is a testament to Brazil’s ecological richness and position as a global hotspot for biodiversity.

The country  is classified as a “megadiverse” country, a term used to describe nations with exceptionally high levels of biodiversity.

As the fifth largest country in the world, it is no surprise that it is home to around 15-20% of the world’s total biodiversity, making it a global leader in species richness. In fact, Brazil is home to 70% of the world’s cataloged animal and plant species, more than any other nation.

Amazon Rainforest in Brazil

9. Around 60% of the Amazon Rainforest is in Brazil

The Amazon Rainforest covers an enormous 6.7 million square kilometers. It spans eight countries and one overseas territory in South America. Brazil’s portion of the Amazon rainforest covers an extensive area, covering approximately 3.3 million square kilometers.

It represents the largest continuous stretch of tropical rainforest within the country’s borders. Something to keep in mind when trying to survive in the Amazon.

The Amazon rainforest is considered to be a global ecological treasure. It serves as a critical carbon sink, absorbing vast amounts of carbon dioxide and playing a crucial role in mitigating climate change. More than that, about two-thirds of the Amazon River’s main stream is in Brazil.

With more than 200 indigenous peoples and 170 languages, Brazil can be considered a “megadiverse” country from a cultural perspective as well.

The Brazilian Amazon is also home to numerous indigenous communities and ethnic groups, some of which have inhabited the region for centuries.

These communities possess valuable traditional knowledge about the rainforest, its resources, and sustainable practices. Preserving their ancestral lands is crucial for maintaining cultural diversity and promoting sustainable development.

10. Jaú National Park is One of the Largest Forest Reserves

This national park is a fascinating and biodiverse wonder that captivates the imagination of nature enthusiasts and scientists alike. As one of the largest national parks in Brazil, it is also the largest tropical rainforest reserve in the world.

Jaú National Park was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000 due to its exceptional biodiversity and ecological importance. It serves as a crucial stronghold for the conservation of the Amazon rainforest.

This national park is home to several indigenous tribes, including the “Okampha”, who have inhabited the region for centuries.

Like most of the national parks in Brazil, it boasts unparalleled biodiversity, housing an astonishing array of plant and animal species and 1,000 bird species.

Drying Coffee Beans

11. Brazil is the Largest Producer of Coffee

If you are a coffee drinker, then you will know that Brazil holds the prestigious title of being the world’s largest producer of coffee. 

The origins of coffee cultivation in Brazil date back to the early 18th century when Portuguese colonizers brought coffee plants into Brazil. Since then, coffee production has become deeply ingrained in Brazil’s agricultural landscape and has played a vital role in its economic growth.

According to the International Coffee Organization, Brazil has regularly produced over 40 million bags of coffee annually, making it the world’s leading coffee powerhouse.

Brazil’s status as the world’s largest coffee producer is a testament to its agricultural prowess, commitment to quality, and dedication to its coffee farmers. This accolade brings economic prosperity to the country and creates livelihoods for thousands of farmers and workers.

With its rich coffee heritage and ongoing innovations, Brazil continues to shape and define the global coffee landscape, ensuring that aromatic brew remains an integral part of our daily lives.

Snake's head

12. Brazil is Home to One of the Most Dangerous Islands in the World

Brazil, a country known for its stunning beaches, vibrant culture, and breathtaking landscapes, is also home to an island that has gained a reputation for being one of the most dangerous in the country: Ilha de Queimada Grande, also known as Snake Island.

Located approximately 20.5 miles (33 kilometers) off the coast of São Paulo state, this island is a small, isolated landmass covering an area of around 17 acres (43 hectares).

Despite its relatively small size, the island has become notorious due to its astonishingly high concentration of venomous snakes, particularly the Golden Lancehead (Bothrops insularis), a highly venomous pit viper endemic.

The golden lancehead is considered one of the most venomous snakes in the world. Their venom is capable of causing severe tissue damage, clotting disorders, and even death if not treated promptly.

Between 2,000 and 4,000 golden lanceheads are estimated to live on the island, roughly one snake per square meter. This extraordinarily high snake-to-area ratio has earned the island its fearsome reputation.

Due to the significant threat posed by the snakes, the local authorities have strictly limited access to this notorious island.

13. A Brazilian Physician Discovered Chagas Disease

Chagas is a significant tropical disease that affects millions of people in Latin America. This debilitating illness was first discovered and described by a remarkable Brazilian physician named Carlos Ribeiro Justiniano Chagas.

His groundbreaking work in the early 20th century paved the way for understanding and combating this devastating disease.

In 1909, while working as part of a team led by Oswaldo Cruz, Carlos Chagas made the groundbreaking discovery that would define his career and profoundly impact global health.

He encountered a novel parasitic infection affecting humans in the rural areas of Brazil, primarily in the region known as the Triângulo Mineiro.

Carlos Chagas’ discovery of the disease was a groundbreaking achievement in the field of tropical medicine. His work shed light on a previously unknown and complex disease, which helped establish the field of parasitology in Brazil and contributed to the global understanding of tropical diseases.

Brasilian Football in a field

14. Brazilians Love Soccer and Have Won the Soccer World Cup Five times

Brazil and soccer (football for non-Americans) have an inseparable bond, with the sport deeply ingrained in the country’s culture and history.

The Brazilian national soccer team is the most successful l team in the history of the FIFA World Cup. They have won the tournament a record-breaking five times, in 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, and 2002. Brazil’s style of play, often characterized by skill, creativity, and flair, has captivated fans around the globe.

The Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro is one of the most famous  stadiums in the world and holds significant historical value for Brazilian soccer.

It hosted the final match of the 1950 FIFA World Cup, known as the “Maracanazo,” in which Brazil suffered a heartbreaking defeat against Uruguay. The stadium has witnessed countless memorable matches and has become an emblematic symbol of the sport.

Small Brazilian Flag

15. The Stars on the Brazilian Flag Depict a Specific Starry Night

The starry night on the Brazilian flag holds significant symbolism and represents particular aspects of the country’s history and aspirations.

The stars on the Brazilian flag represent the night sky as observed from Rio de Janeiro on November 15, 1889. This date is of great historical importance as it marks the proclamation of the Brazilian Republic, which led to the establishment of a new political regime in the country.

The starry configuration represents the exact moment when the Republic was declared and symbolizes the aspirations and ideals of the new era.

The constellation depicted on the Brazilian flag is the “Matarazzo.” This particular constellation, named after the influential Matarazzo family of São Paulo, consists of 27 stars, each representing one of Brazil’s federative units: the 26 states and the Federal District.

The stars are arranged in their respective positions as they appeared in the night sky on that historic night.

Rio de Janeiro City View

16. Rio de Janeiro was Once the Capital of the Entire Portuguese Empire

Rio de Janeiro became the capital of the Portuguese Empire on March 7, 1808. This move was prompted by the Napoleonic Wars and the threat posed by the French army to the Portuguese royal family.

The Portuguese court, led by Queen Maria I and Prince Regent John (later King John VI), fled from Lisbon to Rio de Janeiro, making it the capital of the empire.

Rio de Janeiro remained the capital of the Portuguese Empire until 1821 when King John VI returned to Lisbon, following the end of the Napoleonic Wars and the establishment of constitutional reforms in Portugal.

After the Portuguese royal family sought refuge in Rio de Janeiro in 1808, the city’s status as the capital of the Portuguese Empire marked a significant shift in the colonial power dynamics.

The presence of the royal court in Rio de Janeiro brought about substantial changes, such as the opening of Brazil’s ports to foreign trade, the establishment of cultural and educational institutions, and the development of infrastructure projects.

These developments contributed to the growth and transformation of Rio de Janeiro, solidifying its position as an important city within the Portuguese Empire during that time.

Cristo Redentor Statue in Rio de Janeiro

17. The iconic statue of Christ the Redeemer, located in Rio de Janeiro, is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.

Christ the Redeemer is an awe-inspiring statue that stands tall atop the Corcovado Mountain in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

This iconic monument, reaching a height of approximately 98 feet, depicts Jesus Christ with outstretched arms, embodying a message of love, peace, and acceptance.

Its imposing presence and breathtaking location provide visitors with magnificent views of the city’s vibrant landscapes, including the picturesque coastline and the lush Tijuca Forest.

Lencois Maranhenses Sand Dunes

18. Brazil has a Desert Next to the Amazon that’s Not Quite a Desert

Located just outside the Amazon Basin, you’ll find the Lençóis Maranhenses National Park, with about 1,500 km2 (580 sq. mi) of sand dunes. While at first impression it looks like a desert due to its lack of vegetation, it is, in fact, not one, as it receives abundant rain during the rainy season.

During these rainy months, fresh water collects in the valleys between sand dunes, creating a series of surreal blue, green and black lagoons in the vast desert-like landscape. The water is prevented from sinking down by a layer of rock underneath the sand.

Today this is a popular touristic site, so if you’re planning on visiting, the lagoons are at their fullest between July and September.

Manaus Skyline

19. Brazil has a 2-million-inhabitant city not connected by roads.

The Brazilian city of Manaus, located in the remote heart of the Amazon rainforest, has a population of over two million people, making it the most populous city in the Brazilian Amazon.

Due to its location deep in the Amazon rainforest, the city is completely surrounded by dense jungle and is not accessible by road. Despite being a major urban center, Manaus is only reachable by boat or plane.

The absence of road connections makes it a unique city with a distinct sense of isolation and adventure, and it serves as a gateway to explore the vast wilderness and natural wonders of the Amazon rainforest.

Brasilian Flag in Brasilia

20. Brasilia has the world’s largest permanently hoisted flag

The largest flag in the world to be flown regularly (continuously) is located at the Praça dos Três Poderes in the capital city of Brasilia.

The Brazilian flag weighs about 600 kilograms (1,300 pounds) and has never been taken down (not counting monthly replacements) since the capital was inaugurated on 21 April 1960.

The flag measures 70 by 100 meters (230′ x 328′), and because it is so large, it rips and needs to be replaced almost once a month! The flagpole’s design represents all the states of Brazil and every month when the flag rips, a different state has to pay for its replacement.

View of Iguazu Falls from Brazil

21. It has the largest waterfall system in the world

Iguazu Falls is often referred to as the “largest waterfall system” in the world. While it may not have the tallest single drop like some other waterfalls, it impresses with its sheer volume of water cascading down its numerous falls and creating a spectacle of power and beauty.

With its 275 individual falls stretching across nearly 2 miles (3 kilometers), Iguazu Falls showcases nature’s grandeur on a grand scale, making it a truly awe-inspiring sight to behold.

The most iconic and awe-inspiring part of Iguazu Falls is the “Garganta del Diablo” or “Devil’s Throat.” This U-shaped waterfall spans approximately 490 feet (150 meters) and creates a thunderous roar as the water plunges into the abyss below.

Another fun fact about this UNESCO World Heritage Site is that the falls are situated at a triple border; the meeting point of three countries: Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay.

Visitors have the opportunity to admire the falls from different perspectives, with two national parks, Iguazu National Park in Argentina and Iguaçu National Park in Brazil, offering various viewpoints and trails.

If you’re curious about which side offers the best views, I wrote this post detailing which side of Iguazu Falls is better.

22. You can see a Lunar Rainbow at Iguazu Falls

During certain periods, especially during full moon nights, visitors may witness the mesmerizing phenomenon of a lunar rainbow, also known as a moonbow, arching over the falls. This enchanting natural spectacle adds an extra touch of magic to the already extraordinary setting.

Sambodromo Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
At the Sambodromo in Rio de Janeiro during Carnival.

23. It holds the Guinness World Record for the Largest Carnival in the World

Brazil’s Carnival holds the Guinness World Record for the largest carnival celebration in the world. The Carnival in Rio de Janeiro attracts millions of visitors each year, with people from all over the globe joining in the festivities.

The extravagant parades, vibrant costumes, samba music, and energetic street parties create an atmosphere of joy and excitement that is unparalleled. The sheer size and scale of Brazil’s Carnival make it a truly remarkable and unforgettable experience for both locals and tourists alike.

In Rio de Janeiro and other Brazilian cities they even have the Sambadrome, also known as Sambódromo, which is like a linear stadium on both sides of an avenue, specifically designed for the famous Carnival parade.

Each year, this is where samba schools showcase their elaborate floats, costumes, and performances during the Carnival festivities, in hope of earning the coveted title of Carnival champion.

While Rio de Janeiro’s Sambadrome stretches for about 700 meters and has a capacity of 90,000 spectators, the largest in the world is Sao Paulo’s Sambadrome, with a capacity of 103,200 people.

Crazy, huh?

These fun facts provide just a glimpse into the fascinating and diverse culture, natural wonders, and achievements of Brazil. There is so much more to Brazil that can only be witnessed and experienced by visiting its diverse destinations and meeting its people. Time to plan a trip to Brazil!

Found this post interesting? Why not check out these posts on interesting facts about Argentina or Bolivia?

23 Facts about Brazil | Fun and Interesting Things to Know
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