Brazil has a territory of 3.286.470 square miles and is the fifth biggest country in the world. It is a tropical country, and the average temperatures are quite high: 25oC on the north/northeast and 21oC in the south. The Atlantic Ocean bathes the Brazilian coast, which is 4.578 miles long. Most of the 160 million inhabitants live in coastal cities. The economy is based on the exportation of grains like soya and coffee. Being such a huge country, it is divided in five regions, each one with its own physical, economic and cultural features:
* The North takes up most of the national territory, encompassing the states of Acre, Pará, Roraima, Amazonas, Amapá, Rondônia and Tocantins. It is the region in which the Amazon rainforest, the largest tropical forest in the world, is located. The Amazon has such a wide variety of animals and plants that scientists believe there are yet many species to be discovered.
* The Northeast was the first region to be discovered by the Europeans. It comprises the states of Maranhão, Bahia, Pernambuco, Ceará, Alagoas, Piauí, Paraíba, Rio Grande do Norte and Sergipe, plus a small portion of the Amazon rainforest. The major cities in the Northeast are remarkable for their colonial architecture, especially São Luís and Salvador. Another important characteristic of the region is its strong folkloric heritage.
* The Central-Western region comprises the states of Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, Goiás and the Federal District (in which Brasilia, the capital, is located). This region is the home of the Pantanal (swamp), an ecological sanctuary that is the second biggest biodiversity spot in Brazil.
* The South features a strong influence of European settlers. Because of its mild climate, many of them – specially Germans and Italians – made of this area their home. The states are Santa Catarina, Paraná and Rio Grande do Sul. In the South you’ll find extensive grape plantations aimed at the production of wine.
* The Southeast is the most industrialized and populous of all regions. Here you’ll find the biggest cities in the country – São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. São Paulo is the largest city and economic hub in Latin America. Rio de Janeiro is famous for its carnival and beautiful beaches, besides being home of the world’s largest soccer stadium, the Maracanã. There are four states in this region: Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Espirito Santo and Minas Gerais.