Brazil is one of the most fascinating countries on the planet. The very mention of its name evokes iconic images of lively Carnaval celebrations, gorgeous beaches, teenie weenie bikinis, brilliant football teams, bossa nova, and samba performances. Virtually a continent unto itself, the largest country of South America is also one of the least understood. Brazil is socially, culturally, racially, economically immensely diverse, and rife with profound contradictions. Within its borders live indigenous people in near Stone Age conditions, impoverished people in the favelas, and wealthy entrepreneurs and business people. Here are some interesting facts about Brazil.
Facts about Brazil
1. Brazil is the fifth largest country in the world.
Brazil is massive! It has a total land area of 8,515,767 km² (3,287,956 sq mi), which makes it slightly smaller than the US.
2. Brazil occupies 47.3% of South America and borders all other countries except Ecuador and Chile.
Brazil shares a land border with a whopping nine countries. It is bordered by Uruguay (1050 km/652 mi) to the south; Argentina (1263 km/785 mi) and Paraguay (1371 km/852 mi) to the southwest; Bolivia (3403 km/2115 mi) and Peru (2659 km/1652 mi) to the west; Colombia (1790 km/1112 mi) to the northwest; and Venezuela (2137 km/1328 mi), Guyana (1308 km/813 mi), Suriname (515 km/320 mi), and the French overseas region of French Guiana (649 km/403 mi) to the north.
3. Brazil is one the longest north-south countries in the world.
One of the lesser-known facts about Brazil is that it is the longest country in the world (certainly the longest when considering continuous landmass only). Brazil stretches roughly 4,350 km (2,703 mi) from north to south. In comparison, Chile stretches only 4,270 km (2,653 mi) from north to south.
4. Brazil is the only country in the world that has the equator and the Tropic of Capricorn running through it.
Yup, that’s how big Brazil is!
5. Brazil hosts six major climatic subtypes.
The climate of Brazil comprises a wide range of weather conditions across a large area. The different climatic subtypes seen in Brazil are – desert, equatorial, tropical, semiarid, oceanic, and subtropical.
6. Brazil has the world’s 15th largest coastline.
All of Brazil’s 7,491 km (4,655 mi) long coastline runs along the Atlantic Ocean.
7. The highest peak in Brazil was climbed 12 years after the first ascent of Mount Everest.
Brazil’s tallest mountain and the highest point in the country is Pico da Neblina. It is 2,994 m (9,823 ft) above sea level and is located in the northwest of the country near the Venezuelan border. The name Pico da Neblina is Portuguese for “Mist Peak” and the mountain received that name because it is often covered in dense clouds.
Due to it being almost permanently shrouded in cloud, Pico da Neblina was not discovered until the 1950s and was first ascended in 1965. The first ascent of Mount Everest took place in 1953.
8. Brazil is grouped into five physiographic divisions.
Brazil’s physical features can be grouped into five main physiographic divisions: the Guiana Highlands in the North, the Amazon lowlands, the Pantanal in the Central-West, the Brazilian Highlands (including the extensive coastal ranges), and the coastal lowlands. Here there is practically every type of topography, including deserts, dunes, mountains, rainforests, plains, and canyonlands.
9. Brazil has four time zones.
Due to Brazil’s large geographical size, the country uses four standard time zones. From west to east UTC/GMT – 5 is observed in Acre and thirteen municipalities in western Amazonas. UTC/GMT – 4 is observed in five western states. UTC/GMT – 3 is used in twenty-one central and eastern states, including the capital of Brasilia, and UTC/GMT -2 is observed in several islands off the east coast of Brazil.
10. Brazil doesn’t observe daylight saving.
Having previously observed daylight saving in the past on numerous occasions, Brazil abolished daylight saving in 2019.
11. Brazil’s northernmost point is closer to every country in the Americas than to Brazil’s southernmost point.
This is one of the most fascinating Brazil facts. The northernmost point in Brazil is Monte Caburai, which is located in the state of Roraima. Brazil’s southernmost is Barra do Chui in the state of Rio Grande do Sul.
The distance between these two points is roughly 4,350 km (2,703 mi). Monte Caburai is closer to every country in the Americas than it is to Barra do Chui. The southernmost point of Nova Scotia, Canada (the country in the Americas which is furthest away from Monte Caburai, Brazil’s northernmost point), is only 4,272 km (2,655 mi) as the crow flies.
12. Brazil is home to about 60% of the Amazon rainforest.
The Amazon rainforest is the biggest tropical rainforest in the world, so it makes sense that a large part of it lies in the largest country in South America. Around 60% of the jungle’s surface area belongs to Brazil, a far greater percentage than the next two countries, Peru (13%) and Colombia (10%).
13. Brazil has more animal and plant species than any other country in the world.
Unsurprisingly, Brazil is the most biodiverse country on the planet. Brazil is home to two biodiversity hotspots (the Atlantic Forest and savanna, known as cerrado), six terrestrial biomes, and three large marine ecosystems.
Brazil leads the world in plant and amphibian species counts. It ranks second in mammals and amphibians, third in birds, reptiles, and fish.
14. The currency of Brazil is the Brazilian Real (BRL).
The present Brazilian Real was introduced in July 1994 and is denoted with the symbol “R$”.
15. Brazil has had three capitals in its history.
The coastal city of Salvador served as the first capital of Brazil from 1549 until 1763. The capital of Brazil was then relocated to the rapidly expanding and far more logical port city of Rio de Janeiro. Rio de Janeiro served as the second capital of Brazil from 1763 until 1960.
In 1956, it was decided to move the capital from Rio de Janeiro into Brazil’s heartland in order to have a more centrally located capital and to spur development in the region. Brasilia was born on April 21, 1960, 41 months after the toil of architects, engineers, and city planners. It has served as the capital of Brazil since.
16. The capital of Brazil looks like an airplane from above.
Brasília, Brazil’s capital city, was planned from scratch by urban planner Lúcio Costa and the world-famous architect Oscar Niemeyer in 1956. Viewed from above, the main portion of the city resembles an airplane or a butterfly.
17. Brazil is home to the 9th largest rail network in the world.
With 29,850 km (18,548 mi) of operating track, Brazil’s rail network is also the second-largest in South America, after Argentina.
18. Brazil is a former Portuguese colony.
On 23 April 1500, navigator Pedro Álvares Cabral landed in southern Bahia in what is now Brazil and claimed it in the name of King Manuel I of Portugal. Brazil declared independence from Portugal on 7 September 1822.
19. Brazil became a republic in 1889.
Brazil’s independence from Portugal in 1822 led to the founding of the Empire of Brazil. The Empire of Brazil lasted until disgruntled landowners united with the military to finish with monarchy altogether. On 15 November 1889 Brazil became a republic.
20. Football is the most popular sport in Brazil.
Brazilians are football-obsessed and fanaticism for the sport has grown to the point where it is like a religion. Football is by far the most popular sport in Brazil.
Brazil is the land of footballing excellence bar none. It is the only country that has competed in all editions of the FIFA World Cup since the first one in 1930. The Brazilian men’s national football team have won the FIFA World Cup a record five times – in 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, and 2002. The country has also hosted two editions of the FIFA World Cup, in 1950 and 2014.
Brazil has arguably produced more football legends than any other country. Pele, Garrincha, Didi, Roberto Rivelino, Zico, Socrates, Romario, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, and Kaka are just some of the great footballers to have come out of Brazil.
21. Portuguese is the official language of Brazil.
Portuguese is the official language of Brazil, which almost all of the population speaks. With over 210 million people living in the country, Brazil is by far the biggest Lusophone nation in the world. It is also the only country in South America that speaks Portuguese.
Brazilian Portuguese is a little different from that spoken in Europe, Africa, and Asia. It is possible to communicate in Brazilian Portuguese with other speakers of the language, but there is a striking difference in the accent and intonation, as well as certain important grammatical and orthographic differences.
22. Brazil has received a lot of foreigners.
Before Europeans arrived in Brazil, it was settled by the native Brazilians who are thought to descend from the first wave of migrants. Nobody exactly knows when the first wave of migrants arrived in Brazil, but it is speculated to be 10,000-20,000 years ago.
The first wave of European immigration to Brazil started in the 16th century, with the vast majority of them coming from Portugal. Africans were first imported to Brazil as slaves in the 16th century and by the time slavery was finally abolished in Brazil in the late-19th century, as many as five million slaves had been brought to Brazil from West Africa.
The second wave of European immigration to Brazil began in the mid-19th century and continued to the mid-20th century. Around 5 million Europeans immigrated to Brazil in this period. European immigrants to Brazil were mainly Germans, Italians, Portuguese, Austrians, Poles, Ukrainians, Dutch, Lithuanians, Spaniards, French, Hungarians, and Russians.
The first half of the 20th century also saw a large influx of Japanese and Arab Christians from Lebanon and Syria. Chinese, Koreans, and Taiwanese moved to Brazil after the 1950s. Brazil has seen an influx of people from other South American nations, most notably Bolivia, Venezuela, Paraguay, and Peru.
23. Brazil is very multiethnic.
One of the remarkable facts about Brazil is how ethnically diverse its population is. There is such a generalized mixing of races over time that it is difficult to define exact parameters for any individual.
In general, just over 47% of the population declare themselves as “white” or Caucasian. Just over 43% of the population declare themselves as “pardo” or multiracial. Only about 7.5% declare themselves to be “black” or Afro-descended. A little over 1% of Brazil’s population claims to be Asian while only 0.5% of the population claims to be indigenous.
24. Brazil is home to more uncontacted tribes than anywhere in the world.
Brazil is home to more uncontacted tribes than anywhere in the world. According to the Brazilian government’s Indian affairs department FUNAI, there are thought to be at 70-100 isolated groups in the Amazon rainforest.
25. The largest city of Brazil is São Paulo.
Located in the southeast of Brazil, São Paulo is also one of the largest cities on the planet, with around 22 million people living in its metropolitan area. São Paulo is Brazil’s economic hub and boasts the largest economy by GDP in Latin America and the Southern Hemisphere.
26. The largest Japanese community outside of Japan can be found in Brazil.
There are an estimated 1.5 million Brazilians of Japanese descent. Most Japanese Brazilians are descendants of Japanese who migrated to Brazil in the early-20th century. About half of these migrants were from the island of Okinawa.
27. The Brazilian national flag has 27 stars.
The national flag of Brazil consists of a green field with a large yellow rhombus in the center. Inside the rhombus is a blue celestial globe with 27 white five-pointed stars.
The globe has a curved white equatorial band with their national slogan motto “Ordem e Progresso” (English for “order and progress” ) inscribed across it. The design of the national flag was adopted when Brazil became a republic in 1889.
The green field represents the royal house of Braganza that once ruled Brazil and provided the first emperor (Emperor Pedro I), and the gold rhombus represents the house of Hapsburg which provided the country’s first empress (Empress Maria Leopoldina).
The flag’s stars represent the 26 states that constitute Brazil and the capital, Brasília, They are arranged so that they represent the starry night in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil’s capital at the time) on the night of November 15, 1889, when Brazil became a republic. At the time the flag was first adopted in 1889, it held 21 stars. As more new Brazilian states were formed, the number of stars rose to 27.
28. Brazil has the second-highest number of airports in the world, after the U.S.
Brazil has more than 4,000 airports – more than any other country other than the US (which has over 13,500).
29. Brazil accounts for nearly a third of the world’s coffee.
Brazil is by far the largest coffee producer in the world and has been so for well over a century. It’s estimated that nearly one of every three cups of coffee consumed in the world is Brazilian.
About 80% of the coffee produced in Brazil is arabica. Brazil’s coffee plantations are mainly located in the southeastern states of Minas Gerais, São Paulo, and Paraná where the environment and climate provide ideal growing conditions.
30. Voting is mandatory in Brazil.
In Brazil, every citizen between 18 and 70 years old is obliged to vote. Those who fail to vote in an election (without proper justification, or having appointed a proxy) are subject to a small fine. Proof of voting is required for some transactions such as obtaining a passport, admission to a public university, government employment, and loans from a government-owned bank.
31. The national dish of Brazil is feijoada.
Feijoada is a hearty stew made with black beans and various types of meats and served with sautéed collard greens or kale, a slice of orange, rice, and farofa, a typical Brazilian starch made from toasted manioc flour. Feijoada was influenced by African slaves, who were forced to make a meal with the animal leftovers from their masters’ tables.
Authentic feijoada contains salted ears, feet, tails, tongues, and snouts of pigs. Normally, though, it contains dried beef, salted pork, sausages, and bacon, and is
served with a caipirinha.
32. Christianity is the most popular religion in Brazil.
Almost 90% of Brazilians are Christians. A predominantly Catholic country, about 64% of the population is Catholic, making Brazil the biggest Catholic country on the planet.
In recent decades, Protestantism, particularly in forms of Evangelicalism and Pentecostalism has grown in Brazil, and about 22% of the population is Protestant. The remainder of Brazil’s population belongs to other religions or are irreligious.
33. Brazil was the world’s first country to ban tanning beds.
Brazil’s National Health Surveillance Agency banned the use of tanning beds in 2009, with the only exception if doctors prescribed their use for health reasons.
34. Brazil distributes women’s breast milk around the country to babies whose mothers can’t provide it for them.
One of the unique facts about Brazil is that it has a world-leading system that collects donated breast milk from mothers and provides it to babies in need.
35. Brazil was the only country in South America to be directly involved in World War I.
Brazil initially adopted a neutral position in World War I in order to maintain the markets for its export products. However, following the repeated sinking of Brazilian merchant ships by German submarines, President Venceslau Brás declared war against the Central Powers on 26 October 1917, thus supporting the Allied Powers. The other South American nations either severed diplomatic relations with the Central Powers or remained neutral.
36. Brazil is home to 22 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Given its colorful history and amazing natural beauty, it’s no surprise that Brazil is home to so many UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Some of the most notable UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Brazil are the city of Brasilia, the Historic Center of Salvador de Bahia, Rio de Janeiro, Iguaçu National Park, and the Pantanal Conservation Area.
37. Brazil is home to the world’s deadliest island.
Queimada Grande Island, also known as “Snake Island”, is a small island located about 33 km (20 mi) off the coast of Brazil in the Atlantic Ocean. Home to no humans, Snake Island is crawling with golden lancehead vipers, one of the deadliest snakes in the entire world. It’s been estimated that 2,000-4,000 golden lancehead vipers call this island home.
Golden lancehead vipers grow over half a meter in length and they possess a powerful fast-acting venom that has a mortality rate of 7% without treatment and 0.5 to 3% with treatment. The snake’s venom can cause nausea, vomiting, bruising, blood in urine, intestinal bleeding, kidney failure, cerebral hemorrhage, and severe necrosis of muscle tissue. Yikes!
The Brazilian government has forbidden visiting Snake Island for the general population. Stepping into the island requires legal permission from the Brazilian Navy and a doctor needs to be present at all times. Generally, only scientists are allowed onto the island.
38. Brazilian prisoners can reduce their sentence by 4 days for every book they read and write a report on.
This is one of the wackiest facts about Brazil. The Brazilian government launched a new program, “Redemption through Reading”, that allows inmates to shave four days off their sentence for every book they read, with a maximum of 48 days off their sentence per year.
The books available to inmates will include literary classics as well as books about science and philosophy. The law specifies that reports must be written neatly and must not stray from the topic of the book.
39. Various sports and martial arts have their origins in Brazil.
Beach football, futsal (indoor football), and football all emerged in Brazil as variations of football. In martial arts, Brazilians have developed Capoeira, Vale Tudo, and Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
40. Brazil has never produced a Nobel Prize Winner.
Now that’s a fun fact about Brazil!
41. Brazil was the first South American country to host the Olympics.
The 2016 Summer Olympics were held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil making it the first South American nation to host the Olympics. The host nation was quite successful at the 2016 Rio Olympics winning 19 medals, seven of which were gold.
42. Brazil has never won a medal at the Winter Olympics.
Despite having competed regularly at the Winter Olympics since 1992, Brazil has never won a medal. It kind of makes sense given that Brazil is mostly a tropical nation.
43. Brazil is one of the leading countries in the world in the mining sector.
Rich in mineral resources, Brazil is one of the five largest producers in the world of copper, gold, bauxite, manganese, tin, and niobium. In terms of precious stones, Brazil is the world’s largest producer of amethyst, topaz, agate and one of the main producers of tourmaline, emerald, aquamarine, and garnet.
44. Brazil is one of the major bread-baskets of the world.
Brazil is the world’s largest producer of sugarcane, soy, orange, guaraná, açaí, and Brazil nuts. It is one of the top ten producers of maize, papaya, tobacco, pineapple, cocoa, cashew, avocado, tangerine, persimmon, mango, banana, cotton, beans, coconut, watermelon and lemon, guava, rice, sorghum, and tomato. The country is also one of the world’s top five producers of chicken, beef, pork, and milk.
45. Brazil is the world’s third-largest hydroelectricity producer.
Behind China and Canada, Brazil is the world’s third-largest hydroelectricity producer.
46. Brazil is home to the world’s third-largest prison population.
With around 800,000 inmates, Brazil is home to the world’s third-largest prison population, only behind the US and China.
47. Samba has its origins in Brazil.
Samba is a Brazilian musical genre and dance style that originated in the early 20th century. Samba began when the tones of the former slaves and African religious traditions met the stylized European sound of Rio de Janeiro.
With its layering syncopated rhythms and voluptuous dance moves, samba has circled the globe as one of the most infectious and popular styles from South America. Over time, samba has become one of the most symbols of Brazilian identity and has permeated virtually every other Brazilian musical form that followed it.
48. Bossa Nova originated in Brazil.
Bossa nova is a style of popular Brazilian music that originated in the late 1950s and early 1960s in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Bossa nova derived from the samba but is more melodic and harmonious and has less emphasis on percussion.
Bossa nova’s signature song was “The Girl from Ipanema”, one of the most played and recorded songs in popular music history. The woman who inspired the song is Heloísa Pinheiro.
49. The national liquor of Brazil is cachaça.
Cachaça is a distilled spirit made from fermented sugarcane. It is similar to rum but is more tart and sharp in taste. Cachaça is the key ingredient in the country’s national cocktail, the caipirinha.
50. Brazil is the only country named after a tree.
One of the coolest facts about Brazil is that it is the only country to be named after a tree. Brazil most likely gets its name from the indigenous brazilwood tree. The early Portuguese explorers found a tree that yielded a valuable red dye and called it “pau-brasil”. A stick is called “pau” in Portuguese and the ‘Brazil’ is said to come from the Portuguese word for ember which is ” brasa”.
51. Brazil plays host to the largest carnival in the world.
The daddy of all carnivals, Rio de Janeiro’s carnival is second to none. Falling in February or early March just before Lent, the carnival is linked to the calendar of the Catholic Church. It was traditionally a food festival and the last chance for a big blow out before an austere month of fasting.
First held in 1723, the Rio de Janeiro Carnival is famous for its parade, complete with elaborate costumes, wheeled floats, and appropriate musical accompaniment. The epicenter of the party is the Sambadrome, where dancers in sumptuous nothings march and cavort among allegorical floats that each tell
a story. There is a very long tradition of this and there is intense competition among competing “samba schools”.
52. Brazil drives on the right.
Vehicles in Brazil observe right-hand traffic laws.