Situated on top of the Brazilian highlands, Brasilia is the country's purpose-built capital, its seat of government and fourth-largest city. Most visitors pass through Brasilia International Airport, one of the continent's major transport hubs, without bothering to view the city. Indeed, they'll find little to rival the allure of Brazil's more mainstream destinations.
Nevertheless, Brasilia is a major drawcard for architecture aficionados, who come to marvel at its artistic layout and monumental modernist buildings. The city is recognised as a World Heritage Site.
Designed in an attempt at a utopian city, Brasilia has been nicknamed 'ilha da fantasia' or 'Fantasy Island'. As such, the buildings serve as monuments to progress, technology, and the promise of the future. Against a backdrop of perpetually blue sky, their striking, bleached-white granite and concrete lines are wonderfully photogenic.
Among the most famous of Brasilia's modernist structures are the Cathedral of Santuario Dom Bosco, the monolithic Palácio do Itamaraty, and the TV tower, which, at 240 feet (72m), offers the best views in town.
The famous Brazilian architect, Oscar Niemeyer, designed all of the original city's buildings, while the urban planner, Lucio Costa, did the layout. The central city's intersecting Highway Axis makes it resemble an aeroplane when viewed from above. Getting around the city is easy and convenient, as there is excellent public transport. However, walking is not usually an option given the vast distances between the picturesque landmarks.
Brasilia is located 720 miles (1,160km) from Rio de Janeiro and 626 miles (1,007km) from Sao Paulo. As the only major inland city in this vast country, it is quite literally in the middle of nowhere. Still, visitors will find some worthwhile excursions outside the capital. The long distances involved make these overnight trips. Itiquira Falls is a 550 foot-high (168m) waterfall 60 miles (100km) from the city, and Caldas Novas - the world's largest natural hot springs resort - can be found 220 miles (360km) southeast of Brasilia.
Brasilia has a tropical savannah climate, with fairly constant temperatures year-round. The average temperatures range between 63°F (17°C) and 81°F (27°C) most of the year, with slightly lower averages between May and September. There are fairly distinct wet and dry seasons, with rainfall far more plentiful between October and early April, and the cooler months between May and September markedly drier and a bit less humid.
Brasilia is not a pedestrian-friendly city and walking is only recommended for very short distances. Hiring a car is a good and popular option, as the city's easy to navigate by car and traffic congestion is minimal compared to most of Brazil's big cities. The subway is not particularly useful for tourists as it's designed for commuters and mainly services outlying suburbs. But, it can be used to get to some hotels and shopping malls. The subway operates between 6am and 11.30pm on weekdays, and 7am and 7pm on weekends and holidays.
Most travellers prefer to make use of the buses and taxis in Brasilia. Minibuses are particularly useful as they link the central, commercial area to most main avenues and the airport. Buses must be flagged down as they usually won't stop unless signalled. Taxis are relatively expensive, but are metered and reliable. They're difficult to hail on the street, but can easily be called from hotels or found at taxi stands.
No direct flights from Heathrow to this Destination