The Best Time to Visit Brazil: The Amazon, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo & More

June 5, 2017

Steve McClay breaks down Brazil's more popular regions by season so you know the best time of year to travel to Rio, The Amazon and more.

It's good to be in Brazil year round. Carnival hoopla starts building months before February, the gardens of Brasilia are in full bloom in May and jaguars line up along Pantanal riverbanks in June to August.

Brazil is a behemoth (it has a whopping 68 National Parks). Its northern reaches flex out over the equator and its southern tip nudges Uruguay to draw parallel to Cape Town across the South Atlantic. Don't plan an itinerary according to generalisations of summer (September to March) and winter (June to September). The climate varies significantly across the 26 states. There are some rules of thumb though; the Amazon is invariably wet and accommodation prices spike in the party cities during carnival season.

Read on to make sure the weather will be, 'lindo maravilhoso' on your Brazilian adventure.

1. Separating Brazil Into Sections

Man holding Brazilian flag

Brazil is a whopping 8,511,965 kilometres squared. That's more than twice the size of India, Asia's third largest country by area. We've dismembered the world's fifth largest country into three more traversed areas to provide a loose idea of the best time of year to be in each.

The Amazon: Earth's natural stronghold dominates Brazil's northwest.

Coastal Cities: includes Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo (the southeast) Salvador and the northeast Bahia region.

Brasilia and the Planatal Central: includes the side-kick capital Brasilia outshone by Rio and the surrounding interior of Brazil.

Below, you'll find the specifics on each of these regions/areas and assess the best time to visit each one.

2. Climate in Brazil: Three Seasons

Sunrise on Brazilian beach

Vast portions of Brazil lie within the tropics but the majority of the population reside in regions aerated by altitude, sea winds or polar fronts, which provide relief from the extreme weather conditions. We've characterised the climate in three seasons. 

Summer:
They can be blisteringly hot and dry (the northeast) or unbearably hot and humid (south). There is sanctuary to be found, São Paulo, only 270 miles from Rio, is relatively cool because of its higher altitude. Summer in the Amazon Rainforest is the wet/high water season.

Winter:
On average, Brazil winters are mild. However, take this advice with a pinch of salt as south of Rio mornings can be frosty and evenings downright cold. There is less rainfall in most areas of the country at this time of year. Winter in the Amazon Rainforest is the dry/low water season.

The Shoulder Seasons:
These transitional periods for Brazil makes the weather more uncertain. City prices are at their lowest due to the lull in festivities.

3. The Amazon Rainforest

Amazon River, Brazil

The Amazon is hot and wet year round and receives between 50 to 260 inches of rainfall per year, normally in the afternoons. Handy then that wildlife is up early. Temperatures hover about the 26 degrees Celsius mark. Run-off from the Central Highlands is the culprit for the Amazon River's tributaries swelling and overflowing to saturate the Amazon basin, not an incessant barrage of rain. The dry season is only dry by comparison.

High Water Season: December - May

  • Also called the 'flooded season'. Lakes and rivers rise by 20 - 25 feet, raising the forest floor significantly closer to the canopy and the fruit laden trees.
  • A good time to see large monkeys and tropical birds feeding in the canopy.
  • Floating silently through the forest is a successful way of getting close to wildlife but it's harder to find in the dense foliage.

Low Water Season: June - November

  • Water levels recede revealing submerged islands, beaches and trekking routes. You can still penetrate into the Amazon but it's harder going off the water systems.
  • Vegetation is not as verdant but large animals congregate at waterholes. Fish spawn in the shallows in the thousands which attracts tropical birds like spoonbills, storks and caiman crocodiles.
  • Amphibians and reptiles are easier to spot like pit vipers and salamanders, toads and... oh the list just goes on and on.

4. Coastal Cities: Rio, São Paulo and Salvador

Christ the Redeemer, Rio

Brazil's seaside cities share similar weather and celebrate festivities simultaneously too. Rio and São Paulo's climes follow similar patterns but since São Paulo is 700 metres above sea level, it's slightly cooler. Following the coast north up to Salvador and the Bahia Region, summer humidity is lower, as we're closer to the equator now but the sea is balmy year round (between 25 and 30 degrees Celsius).

Summer: December - March

  • February means Carnival in Rio. Samba schools and street performances work to generate a crescendo in the preceding weeks. Salvador is down to party too.
  • It rains often in the south, 98% humidity in Rio is not uncommon. It's dry, even arid, in northern Bahia.
  • The best time to swim in Rio but beaches are crowded.

Winter: June - September

  • Humidity is low in southerly Rio and São Paulo. It's the north's turn for high precipitation rates - Bahia's tropical beaches are a no-no. 
  • It's busy - schools out for the winter break and European and North American tourists arrive on their summer holidays.
  • The Green Coast's winters are 'mild' but evenings in São Paulo's can be 10 degrees Celsius.

Shoulder Season: April/May and October/November

  • The weather along the Costa Verde is variable and you can experience all four seasons in one day.
  • The beaches are quiet as are the touristic sites.
  • Look out for great hotel deals at this time of year before and after high season.

5. The Planalto Central and Brasília

Jaguar swimming

Deep in Brazil, over 700 miles from Rio, capital Brasília has little in the way of relief from the tropical savannah climate. Timing your journey here accurately is paramount. The surrounding Planalto Central is a great for spotting wildlife and trekking.

Dry Season: May - September

  • Brasilia is at its most beautiful in the first two months of the dry season, May and June, when it may not rain at all.
  • Avoid Brasilia in July, August and most of all September. Humidity is dead low and temperatures soar towards 30.
  • June to August is the best time to see Planet Earth II's caiman-hunting jaguars (and other mammals) that assemble around waterholes.

Wet Season: October- April

  • With the coming of the rains, Brasília is pleasant once again.
  • Rainfalls are long and heavy between November and February, mosquitoes are out in force.
  • Wildlife clusters in the cordillera at this time of year but dense vegetation makes spotting them a challenge.

Steve McClay Glasgow born, Steve has lived and worked in South Korea and Australia and backpacked the South East Asia trail with his fiddle and chessboard in tow. Most recent exploits include tracking puma in Costa Rica and beekeeping in the south of France.