Southeast Brazil is the cultural and economic hub of the country, and contains three of the four largest cities: São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Belo Horizonte.
Since the 18th century, Brazil’s Southeast has been the heart of the country’s economy. Firstly, with the intense gold and diamond mining in the state of Minas Gerais, which gave birth to several colonial towns - many of them still well-preserved, as well as the transfer of the country’s capital from Salvador to Rio de Janeiro in 1763. When the mining activities declined, the coffee produced in the region took its place as the country’s main export, followed by Brazil’s industrialization, which helped develop the region from the 1930s on. Today, the Southeast is still the most populous and economically powerful of the country’s regions, besides being the epicenter of the Brazil’s cultural industries. Nevertheless, it is still to overcome problems that plague the rest of the country, such as the extreme contrast between the rich and the poor, and the lack of security in the metropolises. In spite of that, São Paulo and Rio are the main gateways to Brazil, both for business and leisure travelers, and the region offers countless attractions to all its visitors.
The diverse landscapes of the southeast can have very different climates altogether – check the state articles for details. As a general rule, areas along the coastline can be hot and humid year-round – less so in winter. Northern Minas Gerais is also hot, but drier. In higher altitude areas (such as São Paulo (city), southern Minas Gerais and the mountains of Rio state) winters are usually cool. Summer is the wettest season whereas winters are generally drier.
English is normally spoken only at the tourism businesses (hotels and a few more tourist-oriented restaurants), and by the well-educated upper classes. Do not assume everyone speaks Spanish. Brazilians do not like to be mistaken for Spanish-speakers and some can find it rude to be approached in Spanish. Portuguese is spoken with variations in accent and a few tweaks in vocabulary. Some of them may be interesting for the traveller to know:
São Paulo has the country's largest number of international links. Note that some connections to domestic flights may require a change between airports, from Guarulhos International (GRU) to Congonhas (CGH), which is a busy national hub.
Rio de Janeiro (GIG) also receives international flights, including the only direct flight to Angola. Rio's other airport (SDU) serves only domestic destinations.
Other cities with international connections are Belo Horizonte (from Portugal) and Cabo Frio, in the Buzios region, with flights to and from Buenos Aires.
One may enjoy a delicious caipirinha. This drink is Brazil's national cocktail, made with cachaça (pronounced [kaˈʃasɐ]), sugar and lemon. Cachaça is Brazil's most common distilled alcoholic beverage. While both rum and cachaça are made from sugarcane-derived products, most rum is made from molasses. Specifically with cachaça, the alcohol results from the fermentation of sugarcane juice that is afterwards distilled.