If there’s one place in the world that exceeds expectations it’s Brazil. It’s bigger than you ever imagined, more colourful and more lively. Impenetrable swathes of rainforest. Infinite varieties of wildlife. Bustling 24-hour cities that never sleep. And people who seem capable of creating a carnival atmosphere whatever the occasion. Brazil seems almost hard-wired for fun.

A vast, beautiful, constantly-changing country, Brazil offers an experience you won't find anywhere else. If Brazil’s size places it firmly on the world map, events like the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the Rio 2016 Olympic Games are putting it on the world’s travel hit list. If there was ever a time to visit, it’s now.

A few highlights:

The beaches

Brazil’s coastline is immense and so are its beaches. Rio has the most famous – Copacabana and Ipanema - where cariocas go to show off and sip beach bar cocktails. Ilha Grande (off the coast of Angra dos Reis) has Lopes Mendes, three kilometres of white sand beach accessed only by boat or forest trail. Salvador has Porto da Barra, a rare west-facing beach on Brazil’s easterly coastline. Florianopolis (lodged between Sao Paul and Porto Alegre) has a whole island of lagoons and beaches to choose from.

Corcovado

Rio’s Corcovado mountain is inseparable from the towering statue of Christ the Redeemer at its peak but it’s the view of the city from the summit that’s really interesting. And the fact that mists can sometimes obscure that view completely, depending on how the weather’s feeling that day. Standing at the top you wonder how a city ever came to be there, amongst the granite peaks and rainforest. You’ll also ask yourself why anyone would want to put one anywhere else.

Iguaçu Falls

In a country as large as Brazil, it’s easy to forget anywhere else exists. A visit to the Iguaçu Falls is a good reminder. The Falls lie at the point where Brazil meets Argentina and Paraguay, two of Brazil’s 10 international borders. To see the Falls, and the infamous “Devil’s Throat” in their full glory, a little border hopping is required. Even the spelling changes as you cross the boundaries. Some say the Argentinean side offers the best up-close experience. Others say Brazil has the best view. You be the judge.

A few things to consider:

Health check

Websites like nathnac.org and fitfortravel.nhs.uk are a great help when it comes to finding out what immunisations you need for travelling to Brazil. And it’s worth reading up in advance because the last thing you want to do is end up needing treatment in a busy hospital. Some areas will be at higher risk than others so what you’ll need will depend on where you go. So get to your local travel clinic. It’ll be worth it for a stress-free trip.

What to wear

The weather in Brazil can be hot, hot, hot and it’s pretty tempting to dress for it. If you’re on the beach, particularly in Rio, pretty much anything goes but away from the surf it’s a good idea to cover up a bit. It’s a Catholic country after all. And then there are the mosquitoes, which can be a real pest when you’re travelling to the Amazon basin. So make sure they don’t get the best of you by going for long sleeves, full length trousers, and an insect repellent packing plenty of DEET.