Brazilians revel in an outdoor culture, as befits a tropical land, and they have world-class natural environments to play in.
Beaches, jungles, waterfalls -- it's here, often on an epic scale.
One of the largest wetlands in the world, the Pantanal, spans 70,000 square miles in southwestern Brazil. It's home to a thousand species of birds and 300 different mammals, from the South American tapir to jaguar.
For scale, it's hard to match the immensity of the Amazon rainforest, the largest in the world, or the power of Iguazu Falls, which is the second widest and in volume in the world.
There's an enormous gap between rich and poor
In world rankings for the gap between rich and poor, Brazil has the 11th biggest gulf, coming in after a group of impoverished African countries.
Even though living standards have risen over the last decade and a number of Brazilians have entered the middle class, there's still a huge chunk of the population living day to day.
Some 6% of Brazilians live in the favelas (slums), according to the 2010 census. These mountains of bricks, rising in intricate forms, border the country's largest cities like Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Hospitals, schools, security and an end to police abuse have been the principle demands of recent protestors from this social sector.
Combine this with drug problems and crime syndicates infamous in the favelas, and you have a massive crime problem.
Tourists aren't usually the targets, but it's smart to do what you would in any place where safety is a concern. Stay in a safe area, don't carry more money on you than you can afford to lose, keep your valuables in the hotel safe, use taxis vetted by your hotel, don't take van taxis and make sure you know what part of town you're in at night.
One of its biggest cities is in the middle of the Amazon
The seventh largest city in Brazil sits halfway up the Amazon River, where the Rio Negro intersects the great river.
An obscure outpost home to rubber barons in the 19th century, today it's an industrial titan of 2 million residents that produces goods from mobile phones to motorcycles to CDs.
Why make products as far away from the point of sale as you can get in Brazil? Tax incentives.
The Free Economic Zone of Manaus was created to spur economic growth in the isolated Amazon region.
It's cheaper to make some products in the Amazon than other parts of the country, where taxes are legendary.
Today, the city of Manaus has gleaming office buildings and modern factories and is growing faster than many other parts of the country. The docks of the Rio Negro still show vestiges of an older way of life -- double-decker ferryboats that carry people and products up and down the two behemoth rivers.
Parties are important
Brazilians produce two of the biggest bashes the world has known in Carnival and the New Year's Reveillon celebration.
But the festivities continue throughout the year, thanks to an abundance of regional celebrations, cities that promote the arts and a stockpile of religious holidays.
In Rio de Janeiro, the city puts on free music fests, with top bands performing on stages across the city, while in Recife, at the city's outdoor concert stage across the street from the beach, free concerts range from rock to forro to an event featuring every drummer with a drum kit in the city, more than 100 of them playing in unison.
The Northeast of Brazil has a lot of festivals. The Bumba Meu Boi festivals in Sao Luis, in the northeast state of Maranhao in July mix the folkloric traditions of Africa, indigenous Indian and Europe together into a party unlike any other in Brazil.
Rhythm is king
The Brazilian knack for improvising on any musical theme makes this country unrivaled in the quantity and quality of different musical rhythms and styles.
The outside world knows bossa nova, a slowed-down samba mixed with American jazz and French impressionism; and samba, a blend of African drum circles and European marches.