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, leading to a mass migration across the Atlantic Ocean as visitors flee the freezing temperatures of their hometowns. Plus, after New Year's Eve, the feeling across the country is festive, as Brazil gears up for Carnaval. 

Whether you're hitting the beaches of Rio or taking a cruise down the Amazon, Brazil in January makes for a perfect respite from cold-weather.

The weather is warm (albeit a little humid), but overall pleasant and not too rainy. 

Read on for more information about what to expect from Brazil in January, from the weather, to key events, and what to pack.

Brazil Weather in January

Brazil is a large country, with diverse climates throughout. Overall, January marks the start of summer in Brazil, making the country a popular destination with holiday-seekers from colder climates. During this season, the average temperature usually hovers around 78 F (27 C), with highs closer to 86 F (30 C). 

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

Although there's no such thing as a guaranteed dry summer anywhere on the Brazil coast, 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 where it usually averages 77 F (25 C).

Average January Temperatures in Brazil

  • Fortaleza: 87 F (31 C) / 76 F (24 C)
  • Belo Horizonte: 83 F (28 F) / 66 F (19 C)
  • São Paulo: 81 F (27 C) / 66 F (19 C)
  • Rio de Janeiro: 86 F (30 C) / 74 F (23 C)

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. The summertime is humid so make sure you're packing plenty of breathable fabrics that will keep you cool. Additionally, don't forget to pack a colorful swimsuit or bikini and sarong! Brazil is also a great place to purchase one if you don't already have one. 

In addition to beach gear, bring a poncho and umbrella or other rain gear. Depending on where in the country you're visiting, bug repellant is also a good idea. 

January Events in Brazil

  • January 1: Banks and many stores close on New Year's Day. Supermarkets usually open, and so do stores in touristic areas.
  • Dia de São Sebastião (January 20): In this 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.
  • Maritime Procession in Angra dos Reis (January 1): This procession is a secular event—an all-day micareta, or off-season Carnival, involving thousands of boats.
  • Dia de Reis or Three Kings' Day (January 6): The Folia de Reis, also called Reisado or Terno de Reis, is a folk celebration present in many cities all over Brazil. Groups play instruments, sing and visit houses announcing the arrival of the Messiah.
  • Lavagem do Bonfim (second Thursday in January): The Candomblé ritual washing of the steps to the Catholic Nosso Senhor do Bonfim Church.

January Travel Tips

  • Wear mosquito repellant. Mosquitoes are a common, unwanted pest throughout Brazil and carry viruses such as dengue, zika, and chikungunya. Apply repellant every day and every night before going to sleep to avoid bites.
  • Additionally, always carry and 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 upwards of 105 F (40 C), you should also make it a point to drink plenty of water.
  • If you're visiting the rainforest, check with your healthcare provider about necessary vaccinations and medications. Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Yellow Fever, and malaria pills are strongly recommended.