Geography of Brazil
Brazil is the largest and most populous country in Latin America, stretching from above the Equator Line on the north to below the Capricorn Tropic on the south, and between the longitudinal coordinates of 34º to 73º, from east to west. With an area of 8,515,767,049 km², it covers half of the South American territory. It shares borders with all countries of the subcontinent, except Chile and Ecuador. Brazil is the fifth largest country in the world, behind Russia, Canada, China and the United States.
The Brazilian population is around 207 million people, and its 500 years of cultural mix have formed one of the most diverse populations in the world. The population is unevenly distributed in the territory, resulting a low demographic density of 24 inhabitants/km².
Geography divides Brazil into two natural regions: the north-western half of the country, composed of the Amazon basin and covered by equatorial forest, and the southeast region, formed by plateaus and mountains, and covered with savannas and forests. To the east, the Atlantic Ocean borders a huge coastline, 7,491 km.
In most parts of the country, the hot and humid tropical climate predominates. The seasons are inverted in comparison to the northern hemisphere. The winter, which runs from July to September, is the dry season. Temperatures vary greatly from north to south. Sometimes it snows in the extreme south of Brazil, while the north registers temperatures above 40°. The summer, much warmer and humid, covers the months of December to February, and regularly registers temperatures above 40°.
The 5 regions of Brazil
Five political regions, subdivided into 26 administrative states and 01 Federal District, form the Federative Republic of Brazil. These regions are: NORTH, which corresponds to the Amazon and its fluvial cities of Manaus, Belém and Santarém; NORTHEAST, which includes all the small states and coastal cities like Recife, Fortaleza and Salvador; CENTER-WEST, associated to the Brazilian central plateau and its federal capital Brasília; SOUTHEAST, the most urbanized, witch economic engines are Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Belo Horizonte; and SOUTH, where it is found more defined stations and the cities of Porto Alegre, Curitiba and Florianópolis.
The main theme of this section is the presentation of each of the 05 regions that form Brazil. A continental giant that has a variety of climatic, geographical and lifestyles that multiply diverse historical, gastronomic and cultural traditions.
Click on the interactive map to learn more about each region.
- Official Name: Federative Republic of Brazil
- Official Language: Portuguese
- Official Currency: Real – R $ – BRL
- Capital: Brasilia
- National Dates: September 7 (Independence Day) / November 15 (Proclamation of the Republic)
- Surface: 8,515,767,049 Km²
- Population estimated in 2017: 207.7 million
- Demographic Density in 2015: 24.11 inhabitants/km²
- Number of municipalities: 5,570
- Average Longevity in 2015: 75.5 years
- Demographic Growth in 2016: 0.8%
- Human Development Index in 2015: 0.75
- GINI Index in 2015: 0.515
- Illiteracyrate in 2014: 8.30% of Brazilians aged 15 or over
- Religions: Roman Catholic (64.6%) – Evangelicals (22.2%) – Atheists (8.1%) – Spiritists (2%) – Others (3.1%)
- Population composition*: ‘Mestizos’ (43.1%) – ‘Whites’ (47.7%) «Blacks» (8.7%) – Indigenous people (0.4%) * This is how people officially define themselvesGross.
- Domestic Product 2016: R$ 6.266 trillion
- GDP per capita in 2016: BRL 30,407
- GDP growth in 2016: – 3.60%
- Domestic Debt to GDP in 2017: 76.2%
- Minimum Salary in 2018: BRL 965.00
- Inflation Rate in 2017: 3.1%
- Unemployment Rate in 2017: 12.2%
Brazil in the world
Largest producer of iron ore;
Owner of the largest freshwater reserve;
Owner of the largest tropical forest;
Forth wood producer;
For ornithologists: 1,772 species of birds known, and growing;
For naturalists: more than 100,000 species of invertebrates discovered;
Largest bovine population in the world
It is among the top 10 producers of: poultry, coffee, soy, sugar cane, orange, coal, aluminum, steel and ethanol.
98% of Niobio’s world reserves are in Brazil, indispensable metal in the construction of spacecraft, airplanes, missiles, hydroelectric power stations and “super-steels”;
The northern region is the largest region of Brazil. It represents 42% of the national territory. It is located in the geoeconomic region of the Amazon River between the Guyana Massif, the Andean Cordillera, the Central Plateau and the Northeast region of Brazil. It borders other 07 countries of the American continent. It is also home to the world’s largest rainforest, with one-third of the world’s terrestrial forest reserves, housing the largest and most complex ecosystem and the largest river basin in the world.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the isolated region lived mostly from the extraction of latex and other natural resources. The 1960s and the advent of the military regime coincide with the policies of development of cities, settlements and creation of roads. Objectives partially achieved, since rivers and their tributaries remain the best way to travel in the vast Amazon. After the decline of the Latex era, the economy reinvented itself with fiscal policies and the creation of a free zone. Manaus is the industrial engine of the regional economy, and includes 400 multinationals, generates $ 10 billion a year and created 350,000 indirect jobs.
The northern region is characterized by low relief. The Amazon basin covers most of the region in a huge labyrinth of covered forest and numerous rivers, tributaries and streams. Only the border with Venezuela changes the horizon. It is formed by several mountains that constitute the highest peaks of the country: Pico da Neblina, Pico do 31 de Março and Monte Roraima, which rise to about 3,000 meters of altitude. These immense natural wealth make the Amazon an eternal object of desire for predatory powers, for its geopolitical and commercial importance nowadays and for those to come. A challenge is thrown into the future of the Amazon region.
A true unknown in the face of the intrinsic contradictions of the global capitalist model and the fragile ecological balance of this region.
The North region is largely influenced by the tropical climate. It is characterized by high temperatures and humidity throughout the year. The climate forms 02 stations. In the first part of the year from December to May, rain is constant and sometimes violent. The dry season, which runs from June to November, is characterized by a drastic fall in river levels, radically altering the landscape.
Ecotourism activities dominate the scenery. Sport fishing is practiced in the Barcelos area. Cruises and jungle hotels in the Manaus region, ethnological tourism and adventure in the remotest corners of this “green hell”. Unique culture folklore, whose apotheosis takes place in June in the island of Parintins, with the carnival clash of “Bumba meu Boi”. A natural phenomenon also attracts the curious at the mouth of the giant river: the Pororoca. A continuous wave that forms with rising tide and can reach 5 meters in height.
The Northeast region is composed of 09 states, all bathed in the Atlantic Ocean. This region is a land of contrasts and diversities. It has a mestizo population. A legacy of colonial society, which, linked to the exploitation of sugar cane and triangular trade, ruled the economy during over 03 centuries. Slavery abolition, unfortunately, has not changed this economic status and the region remains the poorest in Brazil. However, government social plans, the massive construction of universities and the tourism industry have drastically reduced extreme precariousness. A challenge occurs in the countryside as coastal cities continue to be the centers of economic and political influence.
The regional relief is drawn to the interior by the Borborema Plateau, the canyons of the Parnaíba River Basin and depressions around the São Francisco River Basin. The coastal region is characterized by flatlands. The climate is tropical because of the proximity to the equator. There is, however, a difference between the humid tropical climate of the oceanic region and the semi-arid climate that dominates the central region.
Four sub-regions: “mata, agreste, sertão and meio-norte” constitute and define the geographical characteristics of this region.
The “Mata” region is a strip of land that extends the Atlantic Ocean. It is the most populous area of the northeast. The main economic activities are the exploitation of sugarcane and tourism. The climate is humid tropical, average temperatures are stable throughout the year around 25 degrees C; Precipitation is concentrated during the autumn and winter seasons. This broad strip of land is mostly covered by the Atlantic rainforest. Mangrove areas dominate the estuaries, palm trees and dunes are closer to the ocean.
The “agreste” is a zone of transition between the coastal zone and the semiarid. The climate is approximately identical to the “mata” area. The local economy consists of small farms. They grow cassava, potatoes, beans and corn. Livestock breeds the production of cheese, milk and butter.
The sertão covers 70% of the regional territory. It is known as the drought polygon. Temperatures are between 23 and 27 degrees C throughout the year, with low precipitation: less than 800 millimeters per year. The vegetation is known as “caatinga”, a word of native origin that means: forest white or grey. Desertic vegetation composed of cacti and dry plants adapted to long arid periods. These long periods without rain shaped the landscape with cracked and rocky soils dominated by ancient flatlands, depressions, and sedimentary canyons.
Finally, the “meio-oeste” includes the states of Piauí and Maranhão. A space whose climate and vegetation are influenced by the semi-arid zone in the south and by the equatorial Amazonian zone in the north. The main activities are farming, planting and exploring the forests of coconut trees that cover the horizon.
The central-west region has only 04 political units: 03 states and the federal district, which houses Brazilian capital: Brasília. The region is on the border with 02 other countries, Bolivia and Paraguay.
The region flourished in the second half of the 20th century with the transfer of the administrative capital to Brasilia. An ancient dream that came true on April 21, 1960 with the inauguration of the country’s third capital. The positive effects of this transfer are fast with the influx of population and the proliferation of industries and roads into the Brazilian central plateau.
The economy has developed in these large areas around livestock and agriculture (soy, cotton and sugarcane). The subsoil is rich: diamond, gold, manganese, asbestos, copper and limestone are also important resources for the regional economy.
The relief of the central-west region is characterized by a gigantic plateau, known as the Brazilian Central Plateau, the canyons and the floodplain that constitute the Pantanal ecosystem. The tropical continental climate prevails in the region. It offers average temperatures between 18 and 25 degrees C and two distinct seasons: a rainy summer and a dry winter.
The vegetation that developed in these latitudes has the characteristics of the “cerrado”: small trees with hard leaves and deep roots mixed with grasses. It looks similar to the African savannah landscape.
The Pantanal region has a much more varied aspect with flood plains, dense forest areas and open flatlands, dedicated to the exploitation of livestock. Waters coming from the mountain ranges accumulate in this area of 100,000 km2 of many rivers. The exceptional biodiversity scenario makes the Pantanal a world-renowned destination for birdwatchers. In turn, Brasilia attracts enthusiasts of architecture and modernity. The Chapada dos Veadeiros is positioned as a place of attraction around its national park, its magnetism and its annual festival of regional cultures.
The Southeast macro-region is the most populous, most urbanized, most industrialized and most developed region in Brazil. Many indicators define it as the economic and technological center of the country. An actor who contributes with 55% of the national GDP through heavy industries. Automotive and industrial production in the state of São Paulo, mining of minerals in the state of Minas Gerais and extraction of oil in the state of Rio de Janeiro.
The reason for this first place is economic-historical. In this region, the gold was extracted, during the XVII century, in Minas Gerais. In this region, the coffee culture reached its peak in the 19th century. This region has hosted for almost 200 years the capital of Brazil: Rio de Janeiro. In this region, industrial activity appeared in the 20th century, accompanied by international financial flows and migratory flows.
The aforementioned elements make this region an essential actor in the political and economic life of Brazil since its foundation. An engine that builds relationships with the rest of the country and not only produces national economic, social and cultural reality, influencing internal migration flows, but also fuels regional inequalities and the dreams of Brazilian citizens.
The southeastern region is the source of many Brazilian rivers that, combined with the rich relief from several mountain chains, promotes its use by several hydroelectric plants. The mountains of the Serra da Mantiqueira, Serra do Mar and Serra do Espinhaço separate the countryside plateaus covered with pastures from the extensive coastal flatlands where lagoons, beaches and peninsulas are covered with tropical forest. Today, these ecosystems are home to the Atlantic rainforest, found on the inaccessible mountain slopes, and grasses. The others: “cerrado” and “caatinga”, it is difficult for them to resist agricultural economic interests and industrial and urban developments.
The regional climate varies based on 03 main factors: latitude, topography and circulation of atmospheric disturbances. It is tropical in the ocean region and in the “capixaba” and “fluminense” basins. Average and high temperatures throughout the year and 02 distinct seasons: rainy summer and dry winter illustrate the traditional symptoms of the tropical climate. The climates: tropical altitude, subtropical and semi-arid are also present in the region. The first, in the plateaus of low and medium altitudes inside the 04 states that compose the region. It is distinguished by a low thermal amplitude and abundant rainfall. The second, near the border between the state of São Paulo and Paraná, with a uniform annual precipitation distribution and a large thermal amplitude. The latter, in the north of the state of Minas Gerais.
Tourism is very developed in this region under the aegis of Rio, wonderful city, de Janeiro. In the state of the same name, the destinations of adventure and relaxation are numerous: Arraial do Cabo, Búzios, Paraty, Ilha Grande, … For adventurers, trekkers and extreme sports enthusiasts, National Parks of Itatiaia and Serra dos Órgãos are areas of appreciation. To these destinations are added those of Minas Gerais, with the colonial cities of Tiradentes, Ouro Preto, Diamantina, the Serra do Cipó and Caraça parks, and the mountain chains of Mantiqueira and Canastra.
The southern region is the smallest region of Brazil in area. It is in the extreme south of the country and has a land border with 03 countries of the continent: Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay. The common borders with these Mercosur members give to the ports of Itajaí, Paranaguá and Rio Grande great relevance in the international maritime trade. This is not the only indicator that makes the southern region the second Brazilian macro-region.
The Brazilian monarchs sought to attract European populations to these lands as early as the 19th century. Germans and Italians responded widely to the call to become small producers. The waves that followed for a century left indelible marks in contemporary society, evidenced by the customs, architecture and regional gastronomy. The Oktoberfest in Blumenau, in the state of Santa Catarina, is the largest beer festival in the world after its cousin of Munich.
The agricultural and livestock industries, current engines of the regional economy, are closely linked to the origins of the population. Since its establishment, the population has survived through traditional agricultural production, such as beans, maize and cassava. Before distinguishing itself in the production of wheat and fruit by jams and jellies, the production of wines and raising pigs for the production of sausages, traditional agricultural activities in Italy and Germany, were already strong. Added to these industries is energy production through large hydroelectric plants, including Itaipu, which was once the most important in the world.
The relief of the southern region is varied. It is composed of plateaus, flatlands and depressions. The highest point of the region is the Paraná Peak, which rises to 1,922 meters of altitude.
02 plateaus draw the regional topography. The crystalline or Atlantic plateau, which reaches high altitudes in its eastern part, is largely covered by pine forests. The eroded western part forms a series of elevated lows known as “sea of hills”: mainly in the states of Paraná and Santa Catarina.
The southern plateau occupies a large part of the state of Rio Grande do Sul. It is formed by sedimentary and volcanic rocks, and the hills hide the “pampas”. These vast grassy lands favor livestock breeding and it is where gauchos, local cowboys, live. Coastal depression is rich in huge beaches, dune peninsulas and mangroves covered with grasses.
The southern region of Brazil is the only one to be in the temperate climatic zone. The region is windy, and rainfall is distributed evenly throughout the year. South of the Tropic of Capricorn, the climate is considered subtropical. The thermal amplitude is strong. On the coast, temperatures are above 30 degrees C, which during the winter it falls by around 20 degrees C. In the mountains, negative temperatures are regularly recorded, but the snowfall is exceptional. This last observation makes the southern region of Brazil the national tourist destination of excellence to know the “cold”.