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Travels for Engineers in Brazil

Travels for Engineers in Brazil

By David H. Allen


I’ve traveled to Brazil thirteen times over the preceding twenty-five years, and I taught 4 study abroad programs therein. My travels to Brazil were initiated by a close professional relationship that I developed with one of my former Ph.D. students. That led to more than fifty students from Brazil coming to the United States to study under my direction. It was therefore natural that these relationships led to quite a bit of travel in the opposite direction. As a result, I have traveled to almost every region in Brazil, with the exception of Minas Gerais.

Brazil was discovered by Portuguese explorer Pedro Cabral in 1500, leading to Brazil’s emergence as a Portuguese-speaking colony of Portugal. Indeed, during the Napoleonic Wars the King and Queen of Portugal moved to Brazil, thereby transferring the capital of Portugal to Brazil. Thus, although Brazil gained its independence from Portugal in 1889 (when the royal family moved back to Portugal), it continues to maintain strong ties with Portugal. Interestingly, Brazil has not always remained a democracy, with the most recent democratic government having been formed in 1988.

Regions of Brazil

The land mass that comprises Brazil is fairly inhospitable, being somewhat hot, dry and possessed of poor farming conditions. As a result, most of the populace lives within a hundred miles of Brazil’s lengthy Atlantic Coastline. Indeed, Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro are the two of the three largest cities in South America (Buenos Aires, Argentina is the second largest).

With a total population of 210 million people, Brazil is the most populace country in South America. There are twenty-six states in Brazil, and they are all quite ethnically diverse. My favorite Brazilian states are (in descending order) as follows: Rio de Janeiro; Ceara; Rio Grande do Norte; Amaznonas; Pernambuco; Rio Grande do Sul; Santa Catarina; and Sao Paulo. There are no faultlines in the Eastern half of South America, thus Brazil is relatively flat, except of course for Rio, which boasts some magnificent orography. The interior of Brazil is also rather arid, and the soil is in many places too poor to support farming. Thus, the coastal regions offer the most interesting destinations for travelers. Furthermore, the entire country of Brazil is relatively close to the equator, making the climate relatively hospitable year-round. The exceptions are the Amazon, which is a tropical jungle dominated by excessive rainfall, and Rio Grande do Sul, where it sometimes snows in winter (June-September).

Traveling in Brazil

I’ve driven in Brazil, but only one time, when I drove from Florianopolis to Porto Allegre. Since most of the touristic sites in Brazil are along the Atlantic coastline, a vehicle is not necessary much of the time. Furthermore, when you are in the large cities such as Rio and Sao Paolo, a taxi is preferrable because driving can be hazardous, especially since the roadways in these cities are oftentimes congested.

On the other hand, traveling by air is convenient, safe, and relatively inexpensive on GOL Airlines. Brazil is a large country, about the size of the United States, thus you will find that traveling by air is the only reasonable way to get around.

Touring in Brazil

Fig. 1 Ipanema Beach in Rio de Janeiro

From my perspective, there are essentially four different travel scenarios that should be considered by engineers on travel. My favorite area is around Rio de Janeiro. Ipanema and Copacabana beaches are in my personal opinion the most spectacular urban beaches I’ve ever seen (Fig. 1). Rio is also blessed with plenty of nightlife, my personal preference being the area called LeBlon, in the southern part of the city. There are in addition several must-see sites in Rio, the most spectacular being the Corcovado, crested by the enormous and world-famous statue of Christ the Redeemer (Fig. 2). You can reach the pinnacle of this mountain via a train within the city. Also, not to be missed is the double cable car ride up to the top of Sugar Loaf (Fig. 3), where you will be treated to perhaps the most impressive view in all of Brazil (Fig. 4). One of my favorite things to do in Rio is to take a sailboat cruise out into the bay, and if time permits, along the coast to the north of Rio. One other must-see is a day trip to Petropolis, where the King and Queen of Portugal resided for many years during the Napoleonic era.

My second favorite part of Brazil is he Northeast Coast, accessible from the city of Fortaleza. From there you can enjoy year-round summer weather as you explore pristine beaches in such rustic towns as Cumbucu, Canoa Cabrada, Port do Galinho, and Jeriquaquara. This area is like Florida, but without the crowds.

My third favorite part of Brazil is the Amazon (Fig. 5). Sadly, my favorite lodge in the Amazon, Ariau, has now closed permanently, but there are several new lodges reachable from Manaus that are way out in the jungle, along the Amazon and Negro Rivers (Fig. 6). I’ve been in the Amazon a half dozen times, and I consider it to be one of the most thrilling things I’ve ever done. Read up on it, and you will see why I recommend this area for engineers. Fig. 2 Christ the Redeemer

The last area that I consider a must-see for engineers in Brazil is Iguacu, and trust me on this one – it is a MUST-SEE! (Fig. 7). Perched on the borders of both Argentina and Paraguay, the Iguacu River spills over a series of waterfalls that are unmatched anywhere that I am aware of on Earth. In addition, you will also find the Itaipu Dam to be a wonder of modern engineering, supplying at times the largest hydroelectric power source on Earth.

I hope these tidbits are of use to you in your trip planning for your once-in-a-lifetime visit to Brazil, one of my favorite places on Earth. In future blogs I will give more detailed reviews of some of the cities mentioned above. Until then, please feel free to contact me if you have questions (

Fig. 3 Sugar Loaf

Fig. 4 The View From Atop Sugar Loaf

Fig. 5 In the Amazon

Fig. 6. On the Negro River

Fig. 7 Iguacu Falls

Note: All photos included in this blog were taken by me.

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