Brazil is the largest and most populated country in South America and Brazilians are well known to be friendly to foreigners, welcoming them as if they were their friends. Brazil is a paradise for visitors since the country has such a diverse offering. Incredible beaches, jungle, cold weather in the hills, adventure, desert landscapes and mega cities are just a few of the things awaiting visitors to Brazil. Even traveling from the south to the north is a different experience due to the unique cultures found in a country of its size. In fact, this diversity can even be a culture shock for Brazilians themselves traveling their own country. When it comes to finding LGBTQ+ friendly destinations in Brazil, the options are quite varied, but are primarily located along the east coast.
Diversity is a highlight in Brazil and with its size and different cultures, LGBTQ+ acceptance can vary from region to region. There are, however, plenty of different places for the LGBTQ+ community to explore safely, allowing you to create great memories that will last a lifetime. The capital cities of each state tend to have more LGBTQ+-welcoming spots, but overall, Brazil has experienced a big change toward increased LGBTQ+ acceptance throughout the country.
Why Visit & When to Go?
Deciding when to visit Brazil will depend on what are you looking for during your visit. If you want to visit during pride, May or June could be a good option so you can experience the celebration in São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro. The pride celebration in Florianópolis happens during Brazilian Independence Day in September. In August, you'll have an LGBTQ+ festival at the paradise island of Fernando de Noronha. If you're a surfer, in March, there's a championship at Praia do Rosa. New Year's Eve is a unique opportunity for fireworks and parties at Rio’s Copacabana Beach. Celebrate in the street during Carnival in Rio, São Paulo, Olinda, Salvador or Belo Horizonte. Given the diversity of the different events, regions, and the fact that much of Brazil is tropical and warm, it’s a destination with opportunities year-round.
Interesting Cities to Visit in Brazil
The largest city in Brazil and one of the most populated in the world (12 million people) can be defined in one word: diversity. The sprawling metropolis has people from every corner of the country and holds the biggest pride in the world with roughly 3 million people in attendance. Even the "paulistanos" (born in São Paulo) can’t possibly get to know the entire city. It’s a gastronomic and cultural capital and its foodie scene is well known worldwide. São Paulo is a city that never sleeps, has a huge LGBTQ+ nightlife scene and is the only South American city in the Rainbow Cities Network.
Rio is responsible for more than 30% of the foreign tourism in Brazil, was ranked the best LGBTQ+ destination in the world in 2009 and the sexist city in the world for LGBTQ+ people in 2010, according to the U.S. Logo channel and TripOutGayTravel. Ipanema beach has a large LGBTQ+ section, which is marked by a rainbow flag. The city offers good LGBTQ+ parties and many options for those seeking adventure and nature activities, including the nudist beach Abricó. Pride, Carnival and New Year's Eve are the busiest seasons for the LGBTQ+ community in the city.
In 2016, the Pampulha Modern Ensemble in the city of Belo Horizonte received recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The ensemble built around an artificial lake was the center of a visionary garden city project created in 1940. The culture of botecos (bars) and pão de queijo (cheese bread) is a big part of the city’s social make up. The local LGBTQ+ community gathers in the Savassi neighbourhood, which has a large offering of LGBTQ+ venues. Museum fans will want to visit The Inhotim (Inhotim Institute), which is a museum complex and contemporary art museum as well as a botanic garden located in Brumadinho, just outside of Belo Horizonte.
Florianópolis is known as the Island of Magic and it is not difficult to understand why. Aside from the stunning nature and astonishing views, the capital of the Southern state of Santa Catarina is also known for its beautiful people. The LGBTQ+ scene is prominent and extends beyond the city center, where the main bars and clubs are located. Praia Mole is the "rainbow beach," where there is a LGBTQ+ beach kiosk just before the trail leading to clothing-optional Galheta Beach.
Salvador experiences warm weather the entire year, so its residents have the beach as a constant part of their lives. The Carnival in Salvador is one of Brazil's biggest and the nearby city Morro de São Paulo, hosts a weekend-long LGBTQ+ event called San Island Weekend. The event is promoted by a well-known club in Salvador and Ivete Sangalo, one of the most popular singers in Brazil.
JUIZ DE FORA
Located two hours north of Rio de Janeiro by car is the city of Juiz de Fora, which has hosted the Miss Gay Brazil contest for the past 35 years. The city is known for its history and financial significance and is a popular destination for gourmet beers. The city organizes an LGBTQ pride festival each year, which is held at the Federal University of Juiz de Fora.
Interesting Attractions to Visit in Brazil
Iguaçu Falls is one of the most well-known attractions in Brazil. The park was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. Reachable from the city of Foz do Iguaçu, this natural wonder of magnificent waterfalls sits on the border of Argentina and Brazil. When visiting from Brazil, you’ll arrive at the park by bus, which reduces the impact on the ecosystem. One of the most stunning places to stay near the falls is the Belmond Hotel das Cataratas, which offers views of the falls from the rooms.
LENÇÓIS MARANHENSES NATIONAL PARK
Lençóis Maranhenses National Park is a must-see destination in Brazil and was the location for the planet Vormir in the film Avengers: Infinity War. The flat desert with nearly no vegetation, low sand dunes and occasionally flooded land is accessible from Barreirinhas city. It became a national park in 1981 and this status serves to protect the region's ecosystems.
CURITIBA-MORRETES TRAIN RIDE
The Curitiba-Morretes Train Ride was elected one of the world's most beautiful train rides, according to The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian and the Belgian magazine Objectif Rail. You can choose from seven different classes, from the basic tourist fare up to luxury Litorina, which resembles a classic 1920s train cabin. The ride from Curitiba takes around three hours and travels across the stunning mountains of Serra do Mar (Brazil's coastal range) and through canyons with sharp turns that give the impression the train is floating. On Sundays, the ride goes further up to Paranaguá.
Jalapão offers nearly everything an adventure traveler is looking for including desert, mountains, adventure sports, waterfalls and natural springs, all only accessible by 4x4 vehicles. In fact, it was almost an unknown destination until become the set for a popular soap opera in Brazil. Jalapão is home to the Quilombola indigenous people, descendants of slaves that use capim dourado (golden grass) to produce handcrafts to sell to tourists as a way to preserve their culture and their communities.
The Amazon is one of the most well-known natural wonders of South America, with an ecosystem that is unique in both in size and diversity. The Amazon River is the largest river by volume in the world, responsible for one-fifth of all river water on the planet and has more water than the next seven largest rivers combined. Some must-do activities in the Amazon include hiking, canoe trips, visiting homes of local families and spending the night in the jungle. The closest big city to access the Amazon is Manaus, which well served by flights from most major cities in Brazil.
The "Diamond Plateau" in the center of Bahia state has huge canyons, rivers and many waterfalls. Lençóis is the most well-known city in the region, and from there it is possible to find ecotourism agencies and independent guides to explore the Chapada. The trails were once used for miners in their search for diamonds. Vale do Pati is considered one of the best trekking destinations in Brazil. Rock climbing is quickly becoming a popular activity in the region alongside natural attractions such as the rock formation Morro do Pai Inacio (with incredible views from the top) and the waterfalls Sossego, Mixila and Cachoreira da Fumaça.
Inhotim is a museum complex with a series of open-air pavilions and galleries for its art and sculptures. Landscape artist Roberto Burle Marx designed its on-site contemporary art museum and botanical garden. The institute is located in Brumadinho, near Belo Horizonte, and served as the set for Maralto in the second season of Netflix's series 3%.
FERNANDO DE NORONHA
Fernando de Noronha is known as one of the most beautiful and unique islands in Brazil. The volcanic island includes a nature and wildlife preserve and offers exclusive and unique beaches. The island is a one-hour flight from Recife and is a great destination for romance, diving and wildlife. The island is incredibly charming and you’ll find plenty of evening parties at bars with breath-taking views.
Experiencing Brazilian Food
Like many countries, eating is a social activity and a very important part of Brazilian culture. Eating at a Brazilian steakhouse is a common group activity with skewers of varieties of meat served with a selection of sides for sharing. Being such a large country, the typical food of Brazil varies from region to region. The most popular dish is rice, beans and meat with many variations, including the famous feijoada, with black beans, rice and pork.
São Paulo is the gastronomic capital of the country and offers a huge variety of top-quality international cuisine, including famous restaurants such as DOM and Figueira Rubaiyat. It also offers some places the local LGBTQ+ community frequents, such as Spot or Castro Burger. When in the city, one should try the pastel (fried stuffed pie) at the street fairs and the mortadela (Italian sausage) sandwich at the Municipal Market. Other not to miss treats: pão de queijo (cheese bread) from Minas Gerais state; coxinha (a "fried drop" with chicken); tapioca (fried dough with various fillings); and dishes from the northeast, such as acarajé (deep friend black-eyed peas) and vatapá (shrimp stew). You also can’t miss the world-famous caipirinha (the national cocktail made from Cachaça, lime juice and sugar), as well as having fresh coconut water on the beach—helpful in recovering from caipirinha consumption.
Safety Considerations for LGBTQ+ visitors to Brazil
According to ILGA, Brazil is among the 45+ countries that recognize LGBTQ rights in the world. Same-sex marriage was introduced in the country in 2013 as well as joint adoption. Some regions in the country also have expanded laws that protect LGBTQ+ people, such as Juiz de Fora city and São Paulo state, which introduced anti-homophobia laws in 2000 and 2001. In 2010, São Paulo allowed transgender people to use their chosen name and gender identity for legal purposes which was expanded to the entire country in 2016. There's a hotline in Brazil for complaints regarding human rights (call 100). Overall, LGBTQ+ people are well protected in Brazil, however, in some places, cultural acceptance is far behind, especially for transgender people. Inland and in small towns, visitors must be aware and careful and should avoid public displays of affection.
LGBTQ+ Travel Tips for Brazil
São Paulo Pride takes place in either May or June and is certainly the biggest LGBTQ+ event in Brazil, but is not the only one. In fact, Brazil hosts more than 150 pride events around the country.
Carnival celebrations have become more LGBTQ+-friendly each year and many festivals are gaining attention in the international scene. Since 2009, the annual Hell & Heaven LGBTQ+ event has drawn attendees from all over the world to themed parties in the State of Bahia and Pernambuco featuring international DJs and electronic dance music. it began at a small resort and is now held in a 700-room resort in Porto de Galinhas, one hour from Recife. In 2018 the Festival had more than 4,500 visitors.
Additional LGBTQ+ parties and festivals include San Island Weekend, located in Morro de São Paulo (Bahia) in May, and Joy Festival in Rio de Janeiro. Gay Surf Brazil, organized by Brazil Ecojourneys, is the only LGBTQ+ surf camp in South America and takes place in March. Miss Brazil Gay and the Rainbow Fest Brasil take over the city of Juiz de Fora city in August. Mix Brasil Festival is a traditional arts and cultural event that takes place in São Paulo every November. Visitors can enjoy many other destinations with LGBTQ+ events in places like Recife, Salvador, Curitiba, Belo Horizonte and Santo Antônio do Pinhal.
Rafael Leick is the creator of Viaja Bi!, the first and main LGBTQ+ travel blog in Brazil. He has lived in São Paulo and London and has been writing about traveling and tourism since 2009 as well as speaking at international conferences, seminars and universities in Brazil and Peru. He has worked with companies such AccorHotels and Valle Nevado Ski Resort and destinations such as Argentina, Curaçao, Spain and Great Britain. Viaja Bi! can be found on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Spotify.
Image credit: Rio Convention & Visitors Bureau