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Brazil History

  • Historical cannon used to combat pirates at Paraty in Rio de Janeiro
  • Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Matosinhos a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Brazilian natives dancing

Before Europeans had even stepped foot in present-day Brazil, the territory it currently occupies had been inhabited for as long as 50,000 years. However, these first peoples, unlike other cultures in South America, left very little archaeological evidence behind and so there is not much known about them. When the Portuguese arrived at the beginning of the 16th century, it is estimated that there were approximately one thousand tribes spread across the country.

Portuguese conquistador Pedro Álvares Cabral and his fleet came to Brazil in April 1500. What they discovered was a land that was rich in natural resources. Unlike Africa and the East Indies which were famed for ivory and spices, Brazil offered a hard tree, brazilwood, that proved popular back in Europe. Colonisation began in 1531 and the settlers soon came across sugarcane which promised to provide a great deal of wealth.

Despite the arrival of the French and Spanish, the Portuguese were able to expand their territory in Brazil. The Treaty of San Ildefonso was signed in 1777 which set most of the borders that exist today. Coffee came to the nation in the 18th century and became very profitable, filling the void left by the decline in sugarcane. Brazil was a major player in the slave trade and by the time slavery was abolished in 1888, around 3.6 million slaves had come to the country from Africa, making up nearly 40% of the entire population of slaves who came to the New World.

At the beginning of the 19th century, the Portuguese royal family fled Europe during the Napoleonic wars and came to Brazil. The country became the base of the Portuguese empire.  When the Portuguese king returned home, his son, Pedro de Alcãntara stayed in the country supporting those who no longer wanted to be part of Portugal. As a result, he was named the first Emperor of Brazil in 1822. Towards the end of the century, the country witnessed another economic boom from rubber trees. The demand for rubber was caused by the automobile boom in the United States, however, once rubber plant seeds were planted in other parts of the world, Brazil no longer had the monopoly.

The end of the century also saw the monarchy overthrown and Brazil faced a period of instability characterised by rebellions, coups and various shifts in power. In 1937, Getúlio Vargas gained power and established a brutal military dictatorship during which political parties were banned and opponents were imprisoned. Following the Second World War, the military forced Vargas out and the country went on to enjoy economic growth before establishing a democratic government in 1985.

In 2002, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (Lula), a former shoeshine boy and the metal worker was elected. Lula focussed on economic growth and social reforms before Brazil’s new president, Dilma Rousseff came into power. Rousseff was a political ally of Lula and was the first woman to hold office in Brazil. Today Brazil is an incredibly popular tourist destination and its massive size provides a multitude of activities and attractions.



Brazil Travel Information

At Goway we believe that a well-informed traveller is a safer traveller. With this in mind, we have compiled an easy-to-navigate travel information section dedicated to Brazil.

Learn about the history and culture of Brazil, the must-try food and drink, and what to pack in your suitcase. Read about Brazil's nature and wildlife, weather and geography, along with 'Country Quickfacts' compiled by our travel experts. Our globetrotting tips, as well as our visa and health information, will help ensure you're properly prepared for a safe and enjoyable trip. The only way you could possibly learn more is by embarking on your journey and discovering Brazil for yourself. Start exploring… book one of our Brazil tours today!


Extend Your Trip

After your Brazil tours, why not consider another of Goway's Latin America tours? These include a large selection of other exciting countries in Central and South America. We offer Chile vacation packages and Easter Island toursEcuador vacation packages which include Galapagos cruises and Peru vacation packages which include Machu Picchu tours among many others. 



Book your Brazil tour with Goway! 

LATIN AMERICA by Goway is an exclusive division that specializes in planning and organizing Brazil tours, vacations and experiences. Choose from a simple city stopover, see the country highlights on one of our classic itineraries, enjoy a small group tour, a Holiday of a Lifetime and much more. We want to be your first choice when next you go globetrotting to Brazil.

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