Highlights of Southern Brazil

Great beaches, snow, waterfalls and Fenachopp!

View from the bottom of Iguazu Falls
Chris VR / TripSavvy

The states of Santa Catarina, Rio Grande do Sul, and Parana lie in the sub-tropical area of southern Brazil where snow sometimes falls on the higher elevations.

Europeans from Poland, Italy and Germany found this climate agreeable and settled here, bringing with them their customs, food preferences and languages. And their genes. Brazilians from this region often are blond and blue-eyed.


The state of Parana offers water, hills and more water in the form of splendid beaches and great waterfalls.

  • Iguazu Falls, or Foz do Iguaçú, seen here, are an international attraction. The Brazilian side of the falls has the better overview of the cataracts, and is somewhat cheaper, if rougher, than the Argentine side.
  • Curitiba is a pleasant, well-ordered city, with a cobblestoned historical section called Largo da Ordem
  • From Curitiba, take the train down the steep mountain to the port of Paranaguá. Ilha do Mel in the bay of Paranaguá has great beaches, scenic walks and is a summertime favorite.

Rio Grande do Sul

The southernmost state of Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, shares a cattle ranch tradition, along with the traditional gaucho tradition, with neighboring Argentina and Uruguay. You might visit cattle ranches, eat barbeque called churrasco] and drink chimarrão, a strong herbal tea, or wine from one of the local wineries. You can also practice your Italian in the mountain villages where many of the residents speak it full-time.

The capital, Porto Alegre, is a good jumping off spot for the state's attractions:

  • Serra Gaúcha mountains, popular with hikers, trekkers and bikers
  • Parque Estadual de Caracol has a splendid waterfall easily accesible. Parque Nacional de Aparados da Serra boasts great scenery in Itaimbézinho's narrow canyon and the Canyon da Fortaleza. The park also preserves one of the last forests of Auracária trees, something like a very tall pine tree.
  • Jesuit missions, particularly São Miguel das Missões, in the western part of the state

Santa Catarina

has some of the best beaches in Brazil, and is one of the most popular vacation destinations for Brazilians. It is one of the more affluent states, so amenities are plentiful. It's called the most "European" of Brazilian states.

  • The capital, Florianopolis, is located partly on the mainland, and partly on Ilha de Santa Catarina, where you'll find wonderful beaches, particularly Joaquina beach host to surfing championships.
  • Joinville hosts many festivals, including Fenachopp, an Octoberfest celebrating its Germanic heritage, Festa das Flores honoring the flowers grown locally, and a large Festival de Dança, where thousands of dancers participate in Blumenau and Pomerode retain their German traditions and language. Visitors enjoy visiting these towns for a taste of the Old Country.
  • The seaside resort of Balneário Camboriú is popular as the site for conventions and other large group events.
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