What happens when you match up two of the all-time great destinations for your holiday – Brazil v Australia? How does the Rio Carnival stack up to Sydney’s Mardi Gras? Who has the best beaches? We find out in this Australia vs Brazil holiday deathmatch. Seconds out…
Great Barrier Reef vs. Fernando de Noronha
This should be an easy round for Australia – the Great Barrier Reef is perhaps the world’s most famous location to go diving and snorkelling: a tough one to beat. The Reef lies off the North-East coast of Australia and is the biggest reef system in the world, made up of over 2,900 individual reefs and can be seen from space! The sheer size of the reef means the biodiversity is incredible and the warm, clear waters of this protected area entice millions of tourists every year to catch a glimpse of what is described as one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
Less well-known, the archipelago of Fernando de Noronha certainly isn’t one of the world’s most famous locations to go snorkelling or diving, but don’t let that cloud your judgement! The fact that Fernando de Noronha is not as well known is perhaps due to the fact that only 500 tourists are allowed on the island at any one time. If we’re being honest, the diving and snorkelling – although good – can’t really beat the Great Barrier Reef, but if you’re looking to enjoy an entire bay to yourself, just you and those clear blue waters, then it should certainly form part of any holiday in Brazil.
Winner: Great Barrier Reef
Iguazu Falls vs. Uluru/Ayers Rock
The next round is an elemental battle of the natural wonders, water vs. earth, seconds out as we stand awed by the power of nature…
Uluru, better-known as Ayers Rock, is one of Australia’s star attractions and one of the main reasons why many venture deep into Australia’s desolate outback. The iconic sandstone rock formation attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists every year, each travelling thousands of miles to see this mysterious giant which stands aloft above the desert. Not many countries can boast a rock that has that effect!
The Iguazu Falls are the complete antithesis of Uluru. Straddling the border between Argentina and Brazil, the Iguazu Falls are perhaps the least famous of the three great waterfalls of the world (Niagara and Victoria being the others) but are arguably more impressive than either. Wider than Niagara and taller than Victoria, every day sees thousands of tonnes of water crash over these falls from the upper Iguazu to the lower Iguazu river. Visiting the Iguazu Falls on your Brazil holidays is like coming across something out of the Lost World, emerging from the jungle. They are as beautiful and humbling as they are thrilling.
Winner: The Iguazu Falls
Rio Carnival vs. Sydney Mardi Gras
Time to shake things up a little as we head for Round 3 – the dance-off!
Sydney Mardi Gras began in the 70s, drawing inspiration from the Stonewall riots in New York to push for recognition of the LGBTIQ community in Australia. During its formative years, it faced many challenges, including violent opposition from police and society. Thankfully it has managed to overcome many hurdles to get to where it is today: a progressive, liberal and welcoming street party that attracts upwards of 70,000 people every year to enjoy the cabaret, comedy, music and theatre that it puts on.
Rio Carnival is perhaps the most famous party on earth and is the place to be for carnival in Brazil. During Carnival week, the whole of Brazil drops what they’re doing and parties the nights and days away in what was traditionally a chance to enjoy a last dose of vice before giving it up for lent. The biggest party of Carnival is found in Rio’s Sambadromo; a purpose built parade route lined with stadium style seating where each year the citiy’s samba schools compete to be crowned the winner. During the parades, thousands of people making up the different samba schools parade down the route with mass drumming, beating out the infectious rhythms of samba to music pumped out of PA speakers that line the route. In between these huge drum sections slowly roll the huge iconic floats, which are as tall as houses and are based on their samba schools chosen themes. The experience is a surreal one where you can expect to be sat four storeys up and come face to face with giant lions, tigers and dragons. Rio Carnival is one of those experiences in life you will never forget.
Winner: Rio Carnival
Bondi vs. Copacabana
Sydney and Rio de Janeiro have a couple of things in common; not only are they their country’s most famous city (although neither is the country’s capital) but they are also home to some fantastic beaches.
Bondi beach is the star of the show in Sydney. The 1km stretch of beach is located 7km from the city centre, providing a popular hang-out for Sydney’s inhabitants as well as tourists and offering a bit of respite from the city. The beach is great as an all-rounder and you’ll find families enjoying the gentler conditions of the Northern end while the surfers catch some waves down at the Southern end, where the famous rip current known as the ‘Backpacker’s Express’ is in effect. The beach is lined with bars and cafes, has something to offer everyone and is the perfect antidote to the city.
Copacabana is Rio’s most famous beach, partly thanks to 1970s pop sensation Barry Manilow but also due to its location. It is located in the Zona Sul area of the city and runs alongside the Avenue Atlantica where most of Rio’s hotels are located, meaning that if you’ve stayed in Rio on your holiday in Brazil, chances are you’ll have stayed next to Copacabana beach. While Bondi is close to Sydney, Copacabana is pretty much on top of Rio, meaning that you can simply hop off the metro and straight onto the beach. You won’t be able to grab any surf at Copacabana but you will be able to grab an ice-cold caipirinha knowing that when all that relaxation just gets too much, the city is right behind you.
Winner: Bondi beach
Itacare vs. Byron Bay
Beaches and nature; two things that both Australia and Brazil have bags of and it is in Byron Bay, Australia and Itacare, Brazil where these two things come together. But which is better?
Itacare is located south of Salvador along Brazil’s Bahian coast and is reached by road after flying to Ilheus airport. In short, Itacare is a paradise for adventure-seekers and wildlife lovers! The area has a plethora of beaches with good surf, rivers with good rapids and plenty of trails through the rainforest meaning it’s a playground for surfing, white-water rafting and mountain-biking, amongst other things. The Atlantic Rainforest here is protected, meaning you’ll have a good chance of see some exotic creatures if you venture in to it.
Byron Bay is like the Itacare of Australia, or is it the other way round? I’m not sure. What I am sure of is that it is packed with just as many beaches and activities as its Brazilian counterpart to satisfy the needs of any thrill seeker or nature enthusiast. There are plenty of beaches with good surf and sky-diving is a favourite activity for people around here. For those nature buffs, you can head out to sea for a bit of whale-watching and the Nightcap National Park is nearby and ready to be explored.
Dan Clarke works for Real Brazil Holidays, the UK specialist for tailormade holidays in Brazil and loves the cities, the beaches and, last but not least, the caipirinhas!