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The Best Places in Brazil for Photography

I’m not sure why, but Brazil seems to be somewhat overlooked by photographers. It doesn’t quite add up for those who have extensively traveled the country. It’s such a beautiful nation. Hopefully, this guide to the best places in Brazil for photography will encourage a few photographers to give this wonderfully diverse country a chance.

In this guide, I’ll delve into some of the top spots to capture stunning photos in Brazil, while also addressing some of the logistical challenges of traveling within the country. Like all my guides, this is a work in progress. I’ll continue to update it as I explore more of the country and as circumstances evolve.

Travel Photography Logistics in Brazil

Brazil is the fifth-largest country in the world by landmass, so its sheer size can be overwhelming. Couple that with its not-so-flattering safety record, and it can seem a bit daunting to travel there. However, it’s not as complicated (or scary) as one might think.

Getting Around Brazil

Air Travel: Due to the sheer size of Brazil, you really have just two options for getting around the country: flights or buses.

Surprisingly, flights within Brazil aren’t that expensive. In fact, in many cases, you’ll find that traveling from one city to the next by air is actually cheaper than taking the bus. Of course, it’s a bit unfortunate to miss out on all the beautiful landscapes between destinations. And, of course, some of the best photo locations in Brazil aren’t near an airport.

Bus travel: In my opinion, the best way to get around Brazil is to fly between hubs and then use the bus system to get you to nearby locations. The buses are generally pretty comfortable and safe. However, some of the longer bus journeys can be targeted by theft, so be cautious.

Trains: There are a small number of tourist trains in Brazil. The train from Curitiba to Ilha do Mel in particular is quite nice.

Boat: On the Amazon, the best way to get around is by boat. I don’t recommend the wild local amazon passenger ferries like I took unless you’re ok with a little lack of comfort. However, the higher-end cruises up the Amazon are absolutely beautiful journeys to take.

From Santarem to Manaus
Hammock City on the boat up the amazon.

Local Transportation in Brazil

Car Rental: You can also opt to rent a car in certain destinations. Just be cautious of the driving as well as to theft from the cars. You might be better off hiring a driver for a day or two rather than renting – unless you’re out in a countryside location.

Public Transport: Probably the best way to get around locally in Brazil is to catch the public transportation. The public buses are pretty good in most towns, and the subway system in the major cities is very good and fairly efficient. If you’re in cities like Rio de Janeiro or Sao Paulo, you’re best off using public transport to get around.

Uber or Bolt: I know this goes against some claims, but I’d recommend avoiding taxis in Brazil where possible. There are countless stories of taxi drivers being complicit in crimes against tourists. Additionally, when you flag down a taxi, you don’t have a record of who was driving. If you use Uber, Bolt, or another taxi app, you’ll at least have a record of who was driving if something happens.

Jericoacoara, Brazil
4×4 driving in brazil

Safety for Photographers in Brazil

In the past, I’ve mentioned that the security situation in Brazil is often exaggerated. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t issues. It’s still one of those places in the world where you need to take extra precautions, especially as a photographer carrying camera gear.

The general rule is to avoid quiet places and limit nighttime outings with camera gear. During the day, remain aware of your surroundings and keep an eye on anyone who seems to be lingering without purpose. If possible, go on photo shoots with a friend so you’re not alone.

That being said, I’ve spent a lot of time in Brazil and was almost always alone. Just stay vigilant.

Accommodation

Similar to the wealth distribution among Brazilians, accommodation options in Brazil range from extreme budget to extreme luxury. You can find practically anything you’re looking for, from places where you can simply string up a hammock for 5-6 USD to 5-star hotels with infinity swimming pools.

Despite the stark wealth disparity in Brazil, it does mean that there is an accommodation option to suit all preferences.

Personally, I would recommend that photographers avoid hostels and hammocks unless they offer dedicated locked lockers. You can often find good deals at some of the 3 and 4-star hotels, which is where I typically spend my nights.

Olinda, Brazil
Palm trees and cathedrals.

Best Photography Locations in Brazil

Alright, enough with the boring logistics. Let’s dive into the part of this article you’ve all been waiting for: the locations. Below, you’ll find some of the best photography spots in Brazil. However, I should remind you that in these general country guides, I’m not providing specific locations, but rather destinations brimming with photo opportunities. In some instances, you may also find more detailed photography guides for the destinations listed below.

Florianopolis

When I first arrived in Florianópolis, I didn’t think I’d ever want to leave. It was the type of place I could envision myself living in: a beautiful beach city with a really cool vibe.

For photographers, you’ll likely want to head down to the area called Lagoa, where you’ll find lots of cool hidden beaches and some great photo opportunities.

Florianopolis dusk
Florianopolis dusk

Paraty

For years it felt like the city of Paraty was a secret kept from foreign tourists. However, the tourists have discovered this beautiful old town and all the photo opportunities it hosts. You have the waterfront – which makes for some really cool images. But you also have the cobbled streets and alleys of town itself. It’s utterly photogenic.

Paraty, Brazil

Ilha Grande

This might be my favourite place in Brazil to just explore. The island not far from Rio de Janeiro is paradise. Reachable only by ferry or private boat, Ilha Grande is turtle-shaped island that is primed for hiking, lounging on the beaches, or photography.

If you’re planning on spending time on Ilha Grande as a photographer, be prepared to spend a couple more days than you might expect. As there’s no roads, you’ll have to hike between photo spots and beaches. So exploring the island can take a little bit longer than you might expect.

Ilha Grande, Brazil

Iguassu Falls

While there’s obviously plenty of debate regarding which side of Iguassu Falls is better, there is no argument that both sides are incredibly photogenic. One argument that I would make, though, is that the Argentinean side offers more variety in the types of photos of the falls you can capture. However, the Brazilian side offers you a much better perspective of the entire falls and might make for a better singular photo.

I would recommend visiting Iguassu Falls from the Brazilian side. It is one of the best photography destinations in all of Brazil for a reason. I don’t think you’ll need more than one afternoon or morning on this side though, unless, of course, you’re also planning on trying to photograph the falls from above in a helicopter.

Iguassu Falls, Brazil
The boardwalk into the Devil’s Throat.

Brasilia

When I tell Brazilians that I love their capital city, I often get the response of, “really?”

Yeah, really.

The city of Brasilia is a great destination for photographers. The city has some of the coolest architecture on the planet, and it’s all really easily accessible. There are also some great street photography moments here as well.

So although the landscape around Brasilia is pretty flat and boring, the city is definitely worth at least a couple days of exploration.

Brasilia, Brazil

Rio de Janeiro

Not only is Rio de Janeiro one of the most beautiful photo destinations in Brazil, it might be one of the most photogenic cities in the world.

You basically have all types of photography at your disposal here. You can do street photography, landscape photography, travel photography, and even some sport and wildlife. It’s just so varied.

It also has one of the most iconic skylines of anywhere in the world.

If you’re planning on coming to Rio de Janeiro for photography, I’d highly recommend spending at least 3 nights here. There is just so much to get your lens on.

The Amazon

There are some photography locations that are fixed entities. The Amazon isn’t a fixed entity. The Amazon as a photography destination is a journey. There is no one place that can properly challenge, frustrate and wow photographers quite like The Amazon.

On the Brazilian side of the basin, most people focus their energy on the area around Manaus – as it’s the biggest city. Others fly all the way up to Tabatinga on the Colombian border. Others will go a bit closer to the mouth and base in Santarem.

Wherever you choose to try to photograph the Amazon from, be prepared for some frustrations, and some magic.

Parrot against a moonrise in the amazon

The Pantanal

One of the top 3 most biodiverse places on earth, The Pantanal is absolutely fantastic. In fact, most people would advise you to visit The Pantanal and not the Amazon if you’re into wildlife photography. The Pantanal is just special, and it is the best place on the planet to see jaguars in the wild.

Most photographers will start their adventures into The Pantanal at either Campo Grande to the south or Cuiaba to the north. I’ve done both. I would say that I definitely preferred the experience when I did it via Cuiaba. It just seemed more organized and like a more natural dive into this natural playground.

White-Necked Heron
White-Necked Heron

Olinda

This small colonial town next to the city of Recife is street photography heaven. Unlike many of these historic towns in Brazil, Olinda has actually been really well preserved. There’s also a strong artistic community here, so if you’re into the arts it’s a nice place to wander looking at galleries.

I should mention, though, that though Olinda feels very safe during the day it’s not so safe at night. A local friend of mine who grew up in Olinda basically told us that after dark we needed to stash our camera gear away.

Olinda, Brazil

Jericoacoara

What was a totally hidden secret for so many years, Jericoacoara is now a stable on the Brazilian backpacker’s travel diet. It is, to be fair, one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.

The town sits in the middle of a bunch of sand dunes and there aren’t actually any real roads in town, or to town. You’ll need to arrive here on 4×4 taxis and get around either on foot or dune buggy.

Jericoacoara, Brazil

And while the coast of Jericoacoara is beautiful, most people come here to float away in the lagoons that settle between the dunes just off the coast.

For photographers, there’s an arch rock nearby that’s very photogenic, as are the lagoons.

Jericoacoara, Brazil
Sunrise light at Pedra Furada.

Salvador de Bahia

There likely is no other place in Brazil that has as much history packed into it as Salvador de Bahia.

The center of Salvador de Bahia is known as Pelourinho. This area is extremely vibrant and photogenic. It’s also humbling and sad. The heart of this part of town was the center of a slave trade that brough hundreds of thousands of people to be bought and sold here.

The center of town is also a perfect place to do street photography. There are loads of street vendors and markets. There is a constant stream of characters rolling through.

And of course, Salvador is home to perhaps the best carnival celebration anywhere in Brazil.

Salvador de Bahia
Ignore the horrible quality of this photograph. It was taken before I know how to take photos.

Bonito, Mato Grosso do Sul

Full disclaimer, this is not a place I had the chance to visit. But, seeing how many incredible photographs my friends have been able to capture here makes me realize it is definitely one of the best places in Brazil for photography.

Bonita – the one in Mato Grosso do Sul province – is a natural playground full of waterfalls, canyons, caves, grottos, and spectacular photo opportunities.

Advice for Photographers Travelling Brazil

My biggest piece of advice for photographers going to Brazil is to try not to let the worries about theft ruin your trip, or stop you from making amazing photos. Brazil is a beautiful place, full of incredible people and sights. It is worthy of your photographs, not your worries.

Back up your photographs every time you get into your accommodation, back them up on the cloud, and the worst thing that can happen to you is you lose your camera gear – which you should have insured anyways.

Focus – pun intended – on the beauty of Brazil. Be conscious of the risks. And enjoy one of the most vibrant countries on the planet.

Brazil

Photography Tours and Workshops in Brazil

I do get asked a lot to run photography tours and workshops in Brazil. However, I just haven’t had the time to make it happen yet.

That being said, I am in the process of organizing a wildlife photography workshop that will go to both The Amazon and The Pantanal. That trip will likely be announced in the next 6 months.

If you want information about that workshop and other photography tours that I might be running in the future, please sign up for my newsletter below.