Brazil's big cities, such as Rio, the former capital, are all on or close to the coast. In order to shine a light on the potential of the country’s vast interior, in 1960 the capital was moved to a brand new, futuristic city, Brasilia. Built from scratch, designed as an organic whole with different sectors for residential, government and commercial use, it is very different from the older, relatively chaotic cities. The brutalist architecture, modernist Cathedral and wind-funnelled avenues are not to everyone’s taste, especially the Brazilians themselves, whose spontaneity goes against this kind of pre-conceived order. It’s no longer really space-agey, but it is unique, an important part of Brazil’s historic and social narrative, and well worth a look.
The city sits in relative isolation the country’s heartland, a vast region of savannah grasslands and dry forest which carpets remote plateaux and rugged outcrops, covering a full quarter of the Brazil's territory. This is the Cerrado – its lagoons, marshland and scrubby bush, albeit wildly beautiful, are at first sight inhospitable, but in fact home to a huge diversity of wildlife. Macaws, eagles, deer, anteaters, ocelots and the shy maned wolf may be spotted here among 13,000 species of flora. Brasilia itself is rapidly becoming a centre for ecotourism in the Cerrado, with its national parks offering, hiking and wildlife-spotting opportunities. A highlight is the canyon-riven National Park Chapada dos Veadeiros, a UNESCO-listed wildlife-rich territory 3.5hrs north of Brasilia.
Much of the area is being lost to development and cultivation but there are some robust and inspiring conservation projects aiming to turn the tide.