It’s not surprising that at the turn of the last century, Brazil was sometimes referred to as “the Brazils”—after all, how could “Brazil” in its singular form possibly contain the vastly diverse worlds that coexist in South America’s largest nation?

Brazil is lulling, but it’s also intense. Its landscapes are invariably dramatic, often secluded, and mind-numbingly beautiful.Most people hear Brazil and imagine themselves stretched out on a sugary beach lapped by warm turquoise waters, sipping lime caipirinhas. Indeed, Brazil’s continent-size coastline is sheer bliss for surfers and divers, dog paddlers and sun worshippers. Yet it’s also home to the desertlike Sertão, lush coastal mountain-scapes, the dense Amazon rain forest, and the Pantanal, a wetland ecosystem teeming with giant otters, jaguars, and a symphony of bird calls.

Rowboats float in the clear green waters off a busy beach.

Buzios beach in Rio de Janeiro. Photo © Elder Salles.

Brazil has something for all travelers. If you want to kick back and zone out, its casual vibe and mesmerizing scenery will have you in a state of Zen. But if you’re in search of challenges and thrills, the endless opportunities range from hang gliding over Rio’s Guanabara Bay and rafting beneath Iguaçu Falls to dune-buggying across the beaches of Ceará and swimming with pink river dolphins in the Rio Negro.

Brazil is lulling, but it’s also intense. Its landscapes are invariably dramatic, often secluded, and mind-numbingly beautiful. Its cities thrum with overlapping rhythms and unexpected contrasts. Cutting-edge cultural centers sit next to 18th-century baroque churches. Surfer boys in flip-flops parade their dripping boards past gleaming skyscrapers. And when it’s time to eat, drink, and be merry, there are botecos (bars) that host samba jams and serve feijoada, the succulent national stew of beans and salted meat, as well as sophisticated clubs that throb to tecno bossa and restaurants where your mango might be topped by seared foie gras.

As varied as their country are Brazilians themselves—a mixture of indigenous, African, and European peoples, all of whom have left profound marks on Brazil’s unique culture. Despite difficult economic and social circumstances, you’ll find Brazilians to be warm, good-humored, and champions at the art of enjoying themselves. Carnaval is merely one example of the many celebrations that allow Brazilians to let loose with contagious alegria (joyfulness). No matter which of the many “Brazils” you visit, you won’t leave without some of it rubbing off on you.

Excerpted from the Fourth Edition of Moon Brazil.