January in Brazil: Weather, What to Pack, and What to See

The jungles of Brazil during the January rainy season.
Flavia Morlachetti / Getty Images

January marks the start of summertime in Brazil and the beginning of a mass migration of tourists fleeing from the freezing temperatures of their hometowns. Even after New Year's Eve, the vibe remains festive as the country gears up for the Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro the following month. 

Brazil Weather in January

Brazil is a large country with diverse climates. During January, the country's average temperature usually hovers around 78 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius), with highs averaging closer to 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius).

  • Fortaleza: Highs of 87 degrees Fahrenheit (31 degrees Celsius); lows of 76 degrees Fahrenheit (24 degrees Celsius)
  • Belo Horizonte: Highs of 83 degrees Fahrenheit (28 degrees Celsius); lows of 66 degrees Fahrenheit (19 degrees Celsius)
  • São Paulo: Highs of 81 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius); lows of 66 degrees Fahrenheit (19 degrees Celsius)
  • Rio de Janeiro: Highs of 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius); lows of 74 degrees Fahrenheit (23 degrees Celsius)

January isn't as wet as other times of the year, but the country does see a fair amount of rainfall. In Rio de Janeiro, there is usually around 4.4 inches of rain, spread out over 13 days in January. 

There's no such thing as a guaranteed dry summer anywhere on the Brazil coast, but you can divide the shore very roughly into two major zones, with higher January rainfall indexes in the Southeast and the South as compared to winter, and a less rainy January in the Northeast when compared to mid-year.

Brazil holds the world record for the incidence of lightning, a major component of summer storms. You can keep up with lightning activity in Brazil on ELAT, the Atmospheric Electricity Group of the National Space Research Institute (INPE).

Due to the country's overall tropical climate, the sea is warm enough for swimming year-round, especially in January, when it averages 77 degrees Fahrenheit (25 degrees Celsius).

What to Pack

If you're visiting Brazil in January, pack your summertime best. Think sundresses, tank tops, and other garments made from light, flowy fabrics. Summers are humid, so make sure you're packing plenty of breathable fabrics that will keep you cool. If you forget your swimwear, Brazil is a great place to purchase some. 

Ponchos and umbrellas are useful and depending on where in the country you're visiting, bug repellant is also a good idea. 

January Events in Brazil

Brazil is so much more than parties and beaches (though those are both great, too). With a diverse population exhibiting many different cultures and religions, there's plenty of holidays and events to last the whole year.

  • January 1: Banks and many stores close on New Year's Day. Supermarkets and shops in touristy areas generally stay usually open.
  • Maritime Procession in Angra dos Reis: This New Year's Day procession is a secular event—an all-day micareta, or off-season carnival, involving thousands of boats.
  • Dia de São Sebastião: In this January 20 celebration, the patron saint of Rio is commemorated with a procession from Igreja de São Sebastião dos Capuchinos in Tijuca to the Catedral Metropolitana in Lapa.
  • Dia de Reis or Three Kings' Day: The Folia de Reis, also called Reisado or Terno de Reis, is a folk celebration that takes place in many cities all over Brazil on January 6. Groups play instruments, sing, and visit houses announcing the arrival of the Messiah.
  • Lavagem do Bonfim: The Candomblé ritual washing of the Catholic Nosso Senhor do Bonfim Church steps takes place on the second Thursday in January.

January Travel Tips

  • Wear bug repellant. Mosquitoes are a common, unwanted pest throughout Brazil in January and they carry viruses such as dengue, zika, and chikungunya. Apply repellant every day and every night before going to sleep to avoid bites.
  • Always wear sunscreen. The summer sun in Brazil is especially strong and a sunburn is not a souvenir you'll want to take home. With temperatures in Rio de Janeiro sometimes climbing to 105 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) in January, you should also make it a point to drink plenty of water.
  • If you're visiting the rainforest, check with your health care provider about necessary vaccinations and medications. Hepatitis A, Typhoid, and Yellow Fever vaccinations, as well as malaria pills, are strongly recommended. 
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