The FIFA World Cup is coming to Brazil in 2014, which will be met with unbridled enthusiasm amongst many fans, bringing the biggest tournament of the ‘beautiful game’ to a country that is perhaps one of the most passionate in the world about the sport.
Brazil is buzzing with anticipation at the thought of this huge event next year, followed by the Olympics in Rio two years later and this vibrant country is sure to be under the spotlight between now and then. Whilst Rio’s iconic Maracana stadium might seem a great draw for many looking to get tickets to a match and combine it with a holiday, if it were me I would set my sights on heading to a game in one of the northern cities. With the tournament taking place mid June to mid July, this is Brazil’s winter season with milder temperatures in the south – perhaps not quite warm enough for some beach R&R although perfect from July onwards for spotting southern right whales or for humpback whales further up the Bahia coast where the temperatures are warmer and the rainy season is tailing off.
From Bahia to Pernambuco and Ceara states the temperatures are warm year round in these tropical zones, June brings drier weather to many parts, the atmosphere on the coast is laidback and there are plenty of small towns and resorts to escape to before or after watching a World Cup match from Natal to Fortaleza or Salvador. If you manage to get tickets for Belo Horizonte, as well as admiring dramatic modern architecture, you could drive out to the old diamond mining colonial towns to wander along their cobbled streets, as well as stopping at a unique private ecological reserve on the way back towards Rio and the coast, enjoying some pampering at an exclusive retreat. You could head into the Amazon and combine a match in Manaus with some exploration along the mighty river itself either by boat or by flying into a remote jungle lodge to explore the flora and fauna and visit the local communities of this dense rainforest region. It is also the dry season in the Pantanal. Head to Cuiaba for a game and then to a working ranch down the Transpantaneira highway to look out for mammals and birds such as capybara and hyacinth macaws. It is also the perfect time to go looking for sightings of the magnificent jaguar as the land is dry and the rivers brings these magnificent creatures to their shores at this time of year. This is one of the best places on the continent to see jaguar and, possibly with luck, even a puma. Whether you want to soak up the atmosphere around this exciting time or avoid it to miss the crowds, Brazil is a treasure trove of exciting places to discover.