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From the wetland ecosystems of the Pantanal to the white dunes and blue lagoons of Lençóis Maranhenses, Brazil boasts some incredible natural beauty. Alongside its natural beauty, Brazil plays host to some of the greatest biodiversity of any country on the planet. As the largest country in South America, Brazil is home to 71 national parks, each devoted to preserving the flora and fauna that makes them unique. In 1937, the Brazil National Park system began with the founding of Itatiaia National Park in the southeastern Mantiqueira Mountains. Today, the BNP system covers more than 96,000 square miles, across six diverse biomes including the Amazon, Marine, Pantanal, Cerrado, Atlantic Rainforest, and Caatinga.

Today, we are going to cover some of the top national parks Brazil has to offer! Starting with…

#1. Iguazú National Park

Iguazu Falls, Brazil

Iguazú National Park sits on the border of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay. This sprawling waterfall system covers a width of 1.7 miles and includes 275 waterfalls ranging in heights from 197 to 269 feet. Iguazú was declared a national park in 1939 and became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1986. The Brazilian side (Iguaçu) is known for its panoramic vistas, so don’t forget your camera! If you would like to combine Argentina and Brazil into one trip, Iguazú is a fantastic opportunity to do just that. There are convenient routes to the two countries’ major cities from airports on both sides of the falls. All this makes Iguazú a national park that just cannot be missed.

#2. 
Chapada Diamantina National Park

Chapada Diamantina National Park, Brazil

Chapada Diamantina’s unique landscape and history of diamonds and gold have caught the attention of travelers for centuries. Chapada Diamantina National Park was founded in 1985, in the northeastern region of Brazil. Although Iguazú may be the most famous waterfall in the country, Chapada Diamantina is home to Brazil’s tallest waterfall, the Cachoeira da Fumaca (Fumaça Waterfall). The Cachoeira da Fumaca drops from a height of 1,250 feet, four times as tall as Iguazú! In addition to the stunning waterfalls and views, travelers can visit the base of the mesas to discover a series of pools, rivers, and caves. Chapada Diamantina National Park is a must-see.

#3. Lençóis Maranhenses National Park

Lencois National Park - Top National Parks

The image of vibrant lagoons surrounded by barren dunes may sound like a mirage in the desert, but the beauty of Lençóis Maranhenses is no hallucination. Though the area does not support vegetation, steady rainfall exists in the winter months due to its proximity to the Amazon basin. The impermeable rock underneath the sand sneakily traps water. Then, this water forms pools straight out of a parched explorer’s dream. Lençóis Maranhenses covers an area of 580 square miles in the northeastern state of Maranhao. In 1981, it was declared a national park. The best time to visit is between July and September when raindrops fill the pools. Rent 4×4’s, explore by horseback or take a plane tour to see the pools from high above.

#4. Fernando de Noronha National Park

Fernando National Park - Top National Parks

The archipelago of Fernando de Noronha is located 220 miles off the coast of northeastern Brazil. The series of 21 islands and islets was formed by a submarine volcanic range. About 70% of the archipelago was set aside to create a national park in 1988. In 2001, the national park was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its important feeding grounds and protection of endangered species. Exceptional marine wildlife is found here due to the runoff of the Amazon and Orinoco Rivers blocking the South Atlantic from the Caribbean Sea. This confined area of the Atlantic, combined with the warm currents from Africa, create an oasis for wildlife.

Enjoy snorkeling and diving opportunities off the coasts of the archipelago and nearby coral reefs. On land, the island’s beaches Praia do Leao and Baio do Sancho are among the best in Brazil. To protect the animals and freshwater resources, only 460 visitors can visit the island each day so make sure you plan your trip in advance!

#5. Pantanal Matogrossense National Park

Pantanal Wetlands - Top National Parks

If you are a nature enthusiast, you have undoubtedly heard of the mighty Amazon Rainforest. However, is the Pantanal on your radar for must-see destinations in Brazil? The Pantanal is the world’s largest tropical wetland ecosystem and sits on Brazil’s western border with Paraguay and Bolivia. The whole Pantanal biome covers almost 75,000 square miles. Pantanal Matogrossense National Park is part of the Pantanal Conservation area which protects 1.3% of the total wetlands. The Pantanal sits at the confluence of the Cuiaba and Paraguay rivers which makes the area extremely fertile and an excellent home for flora and fauna. The Pantanal hosts over 3,500 plant species, 1000 bird species, and 300 mammal species. Due to sparse tree coverage in the Pantanal, the likelihood of seeing birds and other species like the elusive jaguar is often higher than in the Amazon.

#6. Tijuca National Forest

Tijuca National Forest - Top National Parks

Overlooking the city of Rio de Janeiro stands Christ the Redeemer surrounded by the lush Tijuca National Forest. The 124-foot statue is surrounded by 12 square miles of the national park making the Tijuca Forest one of the largest urban forests in the world. However, the Tijuca Forest was also man made as reclamation efforts started in the 19th century. Today, plants have overtaken the mountainside, and hundreds of animal species are found within city limits. If you’re looking for a nearby, serene escape from the hustle and bustle of Rio de Janeiro, Tijuca National Forest is a must.

Are you ready to book a trip to Brazil? Incorporate any of these national parks into your itinerary with the help of our Expert Travel Consultants. Make your trip to Brazil an unforgettable one!

Martin Kaleta

Martin was born and raised in Chicago, IL before relocating to Seattle, WA. As a student of urban geography, he was captivated by the liveliness, hospitality and diversity of South American cities while studying abroad in Buenos Aires and traveling across the continent. This exposure, combined with his passion for guiding and motivating others, inspired him to help others explore South America's landscapes and cultures. Some of his favorite experiences in South America include visiting the abandoned resort town of Villa Epecuen, Argentina, discovering local music venues and bands in Buenos Aires and completing the Salkantay trek in Peru.
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