9 hidden gems near Brazil’s World Cup host cities

Date Posted: 05/06/2014

Fernando de Noronha, copyright Antonio Melcop. Ministerio das Relacoes.

Pictured: Fernando de Noronha. (Photo credit: Antonio Melcop. Ministerio das Relacoes Exteriores).

As nations across the globe gear up for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, we take a look at some of the lesser-known destinations and attractions in the country’s host cities.

1. Recife: Island of Fernando de Noronha

Fernando de Noronha, a tropical archipelago just an hour's flight from Recife boasts a picturesque necklace of coves and white-sand beaches. Here you can find incredible marine life and some of the best beaches in the country.

2. Rio de Janeiro: CADEG market

This authentic indoor market sells everything from food to fire alarms. A choice of excellent yet unpretentious restaurants adorn the aisles, where you can stop by for a bite to eat. Open daily, CADEG is located in Benfica - a 45-minute drive from Copacabana - and promises a real insight into how the Cariocas (people from Rio) live and shop.

3. São Paulo: Picinguaba beach

You could escape to this isolated fishing village on the Emerald Coast, about a four hour drive from São Paulo. Picinguaba is reportedly the only guesthouse within a three-kilometre radius, and from here you can explore the surrounding subtropical rainforest, overlooking sweeping bays and hidden coves.

4. Curitiba: Praia do Rosa beach, Santa Catarina

Located close to the island of Florianópolis, Praia do Rosa is backed by mountains covered in coastal rainforest. Attracting sunbathers, swimmers and surfers alike, this beach is also popular with whales, and from July to October each year there’s the chance to spot Southern Right Whales.

5. Porto Alegre: Bento Gonçalvez wine growing region

The picturesque Vale dos Vinhedos is located 120-kilometres north-west of Porto Alegre. Some of the best wines in Brazil are produced in this valley, especially those produced by the micro wineries that never reach the supermarkets.

OuroPreto, photo credit Werner Zotz. Ministerio da Relacoes Exteriores

Pictured: Colonial town of Ouro Preto. (Photo credit: Werner Zotz. Ministerio da Relacoes Exteriores).

6. Cuiabá and Campo Grande: Pantanal wetlands

The vast Pantanal is an area of swampy grassland. It is a paradise for wildlife enthusiasts providing rare opportunities to spot jaguars, caimans and giant river otters.

7. Fortaleza: Dunes and lagoons of Lençóis Maranhenses

Explore the surreal dunes and crystalline pools of the Lençóis Maranhenses National Park, still undeveloped and only just being discovered by tourists. A traditional way of life survives in the region's sleepy, riverine fishing communities and small coastal towns.

8. Salvador: Waterfalls and mountains of the Chapada Diamantina

The colonial town of Lençóis is set in the heart of the Chapada Diamantina, 420-kilometres inland from Salvador de Bahia. It’s located in a picturesque setting, with a mix of forests and crystal pools. The national park's most distinctive feature is arguably the table-like mountains that define its topography.

9. Belo Horizonte: Colonial town of Ouro Preto

The pretty colonial town of Ouro Preto is tucked into the steep winding hills so typical of the region and many of the streets have cobbled steps rather than pavements. Rich in colonial history, it has no less than 13 churches. There are good hiking opportunities and it's a great place to buy gems.

These group travel ideas were provided by specialist tour operator Journey Latin America. Visit the website to see its full range of holidays to Brazil.

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