São Paulo is the natural entry point to Brazil for many visitors arriving by air, and though most continue straight through to Rio, other cities or coastal areas, it’s worth having a few days here to explore. The country’s biggest city and the cultural capital of Brazil has an array of museums, restaurants and bars to rival any in the country, as well as shopping which outstrips anywhere in South America.
To the south of São Paulo is the state of Santa Catarina, which has a more European feel than other parts of Brazil due to its history of settlers from Germany, Italy and Switzerland - which accounts for the Tyrolian architecture nestling amid its subtropical jungle. Its beautiful coastline is still largely undeveloped and is one of the best areas for surfing, windsurfing and whale-watching - southern rights can be spotted mating, calving or nursing their young from July to November. Florianópolis, the state capital, is on an island (though it’s connected to the mainland by 3 bridges so you may not realise it), with a relaxed, more manageable feel than the big city bustle of São Paulo or Rio. It's also an easy hop from Argentina, so works well as part of a longer trip exploring other countries in South America.