Brasilia Travel Guide

Brasilia Cathedral © Jose Eduardo Deboni

Situated on top of the Brazilian highlands is the city of Brasilia, the purpose-built capital of Brazil and now the country's fourth-largest city. Most visitors pass through Brasilia International Airport, a major transport hub for the continent, without bothering to view the city, which, as primarily the seat of government, has little to compete with the allure and hedonism of Brazil's more mainstream destinations.

Nevertheless, Brasilia is a major draw card for devotees of architecture who come to marvel at the monumental modernist buildings and city layout, collectively declared a World Heritage Site and the only city built in the 20th century to achieve this. 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. And against a backdrop of perpetually blue sky, their striking lines in bleached white granite and concrete are wonderfully photogenic.

Among the most famous of Brasilia's modernist structures are the Cathedral of Santuario Dom Bosco, with 7,400 pieces of illuminated Murano glass; the monolithic Palácio do Itamaraty; and the TV tower, which at 240 feet (72m) is home to the best views in town.

Viewed from above, the central city resembles an aeroplane, thanks to the intersecting Highway Axis, reaching from the north to the southwest to link the key residential neighbourhoods; and the straight Monumental Axis, which connects the main governmental buildings. All the buildings of the original city were designed by famed Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, while the urban planning was completed by Lucio Costa. 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. It is quite literally in the middle of nowhere, the only major inland city in the vast country. There are some worthwhile excursions from Brasilia, although the long distances 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.

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