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Photo Courtesy of Embratur

“Belo Horizonte” means beautiful horizon in Portuguese, which is fitting for its magnificent landscape. When the city was first built, it was planned to house only a few hundreds of residents. No one ever expected that it would grow to have more than 5 million inhabitants. Unlike São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Brasília, tourists often overlook Belo Horizonte as a travel destination. That means those who venture out to Belo Horizonte gain unique experiences that most visitors don’t know exist.

Belo Horizonte, Brazil’s “Bar Capital.”
Belo Horizonte is the capital of Minas Gerais state, but it is also known as Brazil’s “bar capital.” The city has more than 14,000 bars for locals and tourists to choose from, which makes Belo Horizonte’s nightlife extremely animated. This is the ideal setting for people who don’t necessarily have tickets to the World Cup games in the Mineirão Stadium (Estádio do Mineirão), but want to celebrate with some of the world’s most spirited fans.
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Cuiaba (Photo Courtesy of Embratur)

Cuiabá is a host city not to be overlooked by visitors when traveling to Brazil for the World Cup. In the 20th century, this gold-mining city drastically grew from 57,000 to 544,737 residents in 30 years. Today, the city’s 3 ecosystems (the wetlands of the Pantanal; the savannas of the Cerrado; and the Amazon), are treasured by locals and tourists. The city offers visitors magnificent opportunities to immerse themselves in nature, whether it be waterfalls, rivers, plateaus, or miles and miles of beautiful green landscape.

Cuiabá, The City of Picturesque Countryside
One of the many spots to hike and explore in Cuiabá is the Chapada dos Guimarães National Park (Parque Nacional Chapada dos Guimarães), a UNESCO World Heritage site located a few miles outside of the city. This enormous natural park gives people a place to go and explore the large orange and red-rock formations via guided hikes with varying levels of difficulty. Along the hike, visitors to the park see caves, canyons and beautiful outlooks.
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(Photo Courtesy of Embratur)

Recife will set the scene for the much-anticipated USA vs. Germany World Cup game, scheduled for June 26. In addition to being an entertaining host for the big game, Recife is also an ideal destination for a relaxing vacation full of adventure, culture and beaches just waiting to be explored. Recife is a popular city that is no stranger to grand celebrations and festivals. In the upcoming months, travelers can experience various events with the locals.

Recife, the City of Many Bridges
Recife is referred to as the “Brazilian Venice” because of its 50 bridges, which cross over various waterways and rivers similar to the ones in Venice, Italy. These bridges serve the purpose of connecting the city’s smaller surrounding islands like Santo Antonio, Sao Jose and Bairro do Recife. Nestled in Recife’s modern metropolitan style, the city also has an “Old Recife,” known as Recife Antigo, which is the oldest, most traditional district in the state of Pernambuco. Visitors can appreciate the city’s cultural and historical landmarks, all while enjoying its modern attractions, like the dozens of restaurants and craft fairs that are attended by locals and visitors alike.

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Photography by Andre Maceira – Photo Courtesy of Embratur

Of all the 12 cities hosting the 2014 World Cup, Porto Alegre is the southernmost city in Brazil. Travelers heading down to the state of Rio Grande do Sul are recommended to pack warm coats and extra layers because unlike northern Brazil, the winter weather in Porto Alegre is usually  between 44° and 55°F. Undoubtedly, the weather will not take away from the countless activities Porto Alegre has to offer both soccer fans and world travelers alike. Visitors should know that the citys offers  great urban parks, wine tasting tours, cultural centers, delicious food and exhibits that feature some of the most important pieces of art in Brazil.

Porto Alegre, The City with Multiculturalism.
In the 19th century, Porto Alegre had a large influx of immigrants; the majority of which came from Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain, Africa and Lebanon. The immigrants that settled helped the city flourish as a melting pot of cultures. As a result, Porto Alegre has grown to become a diverse cosmopolitan city with over 1.5 million inhabitants known as Porto-Alegrenses. The city’s gastronomy and architecture is a mixture of Brazilian traditions infused with influences from different countries.
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The Amazon (Photo Courtesy of Embratur)

If there is something that should be well-known about Brazil, it is that ecotourism is taken just as seriously as soccer. Just ask Fuleco, the 2014 FIFA World Cup mascot whose name originates from “ful” for futbol and “eco” for ecology. This personable armadillo is native to Brazil, and symbolizes the importance of preserving the ecosystem, as well as a passion for soccer that is present in Brazil. The city of Manaus is a perfect marriage of the 2: the practice of street soccer and efforts to preserve the Amazon rainforest.

Manaus, the City of the Amazonas
In the 19th century, Manaus was known as the “Heart of the Amazon and City of the Forest,”  when the natural resources of the Amazon rainforest were used in creating rubber as an international export. The city instantly began to flourish, and with wealth exponentially growing, extravagant buildings were being constructed like the Amazon Theater (Teatro Amazonas). For a while, there was a strong European presence in the tropics, but the city’s economic success suffered when the Asian market discovered a way to create artificial rubber. Since then, Manaus has made a comeback.  Locals have continued to work hard to offer excellent tourism services and educational programs  to travelers interested in exploring the Amazon rainforest.
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Photography by Image Source / Aurora Photos

Like Sydney and San Francisco, Cape Town is one of those cities by the sea that leaves its visitors forever plotting to return.
Daily Escapes!

Often times there’s rarely a real connection between an athlete and a specific sports travel destination. More than any other player on the US Women’s National team competing at the 2011 FIFA World Cup, Ali Krieger feels quite at home in Germany, the host country for the tournament.

Krieger for three of the past four seasons has played for a German professional club, FFC Frankfurt. The World Cup championship match on Sunday between the US and Japan will be played in Commerzbank-Arena in Frankfurt. FFC Frankfurt, with Krieger on the roster, plays their home matches at the stadium and won the women’s European club tournament there in 2008.

Krieger admits she endured a challenging transitional period adjusting to the German culture when she first joined FFC Frankfurt in 2007. In a recent USA Today story, she lamented the Germans’ blatant honesty.

“In the U.S.,” she says, “if you make a mistake, we say, ‘Nice try.’ In Germany, they’re like, ‘Oh my God, you (stink).’”

She elaborated on that thought at a teleconference from Frankfurt on Thursday.  “They tell it like it is,” she says. “I would take things too personally, but I’ve grown used to it and I like it. I had to find a happy medium and grow some thick skin.”

Krieger hopes to show her US teammates around Frankfurt before the game on Sunday. And she hopes her familiarity of the country and its culture will improve her comfort level as the Americans try to win the tournament for the first time since 1999.

Krieger famously converted the penalty kick that clinched a shootout win for the Americans over Brazil last weekend in a quarterfinal match. It will tough for her to match those heroics in the final on Sunday.

Krieger can certainly claim one triumph off the soccer field. She has grown comfortable with the German culture and has learned things about the Germans that can help any traveler who plans a trip to the country. “The people in general are nice, punctual people,” she says. “They know what they want and how to achieve it. They’re very competitive. That’s similar to our culture.  If they can’t do one thing perfectly, they won’t do it at all. They’ve very organized, and I like that.”

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