There are 22 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Brazil. There are 14 cultural sites and 7 natural sites, and 1 mixed property that is on the list.
Brazil UNESCO Sites
Table of Contents
Brasilia is an important landmark in the country’s town planning history. Its overall design was created by urban planner Lucio Costa with the help of architect Oscar Niemeyer. Both of them studied every element of the city’s town planning from the layout of the residential areas to that of the administrative districts. Even the building itself showcases a unique symmetry. It was the urban planner and architect’s plan to achieve harmony in the overall design of the city.
For this reason, the federal district of Brasilia was named as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Brazil. It was inscribed in the list in 1987 and covers more than 11,000 hectares of land area.
Historic Centre of Salvador de Bahia (1985)
The Historic Centre of Salvador de Bahia was the first capital of Brazil. Since it was named capital in 1549, it retained its status until 1763. This city witnessed and featured a blend of various cultures including European, Amerindian and African cultures. During the mid-16th century, city served as the first slave market of the New World. This is where the slaves arrived and made to work in sugar plantations. Since its time as a capital in the 16th century, the city has managed to preserve the Renaissance buildings that were established during the height of its status as a capital. The old town and its brightly colored houses and buildings that showcase fine stucco work are the highlight of the city.
Historic Centre of São Luís (1997)
The historic town of Sao Luis was developed by the French and occupied by the Dutch by the end of the 17th century. After that, it came under the rule of the Portuguese. Despite the fact that several centuries have passed, the original rectangular street plan of the historic town has remain intact until today. It also suffered economic stagnation by the 20th century that contributed to the fact that these historic buildings have been preserved. Since it provides an important glimpse to the history of the town, this is listed as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Brazil for its cultural significance.
Historic Centre of the Town of Diamantina (1999)
The colonial village of Diamantina is located amidst the arid and rocky mountains in Minas Gerais. It is listed as an important cultural site in Brazil and recognized by UNESCO. It serves as the jewel of the inhospitable mountains and provides a glimpse of the diamond prospectors during the 18th century. This village is proof as to how the human and cultural endeavors managed to succeed and excel in such a harsh environment. There are many Baroque architectural structures, houses, churches and civic buildings in the most interior regions of Brazil.
Historic Centre of the Town of Goiás (2001)
In 2001, the historic town of Goiás was inscribed as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Brazil. This town is living proof and witness of how central Brazil was occupied and colonized during the 18th and 19th centuries. This was a former mining town and developed following an urban layout. Hence, this shows organic development using the conditions of the site. Although the architectural details are modest, both the public and private architecture signify harmony in design and the type of materials used.
Historic Centre of the Town of Olinda (1982)
This 120-hectare historic center of Olinda, a town in Brazil, is one of the cultural sites listed under the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Brazil. It was founded by the Portuguese during the 16th century and has ties with the sugar cane industry in the country. The town underwent several re-building process but the urban history can be traced back to the 18th century. Today, you will find Baroque churches, convents, gardens, chapels and other buildings that are in harmony with each other and exhibit the unique charm of the town.
Historic Town of Ouro Preto (1980)
Th name Ouro Preto literally translates to Black Gold. From this name alone, you will be able to determine the history of this town. In the golden age of Brazil in the 18th century, the gold mines were a huge industry in this town. By 19th century, the gold mines saw a decline and so did the city’s wealth. But all of the structures and buildings that remind of the city’s history of prosperity have remained. Many of the structures and buildings were the work of Baroque sculptor Aleijadinho.
Jesuit Missions of the Guaranis: San Ignacio Mini, Santa Ana, Nuestra Señora de Loreto and Santa Maria Mayor (Argentina), Ruins of Sao Miguel das Missoes (Brazil) (1983)
This is the first transnational property in this list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Brazil. It is composed of the ruins of five missions from the Jesuit Mission settlements within the land of Guarani. These missions were constructed sometime in the 17th and 18th centuries, which were the same land where the original Guarani indigenous settlements were in. The Sao Miguel Arcanjo church is the most intact and well-preserved structure among the ruins. Hence, it was recognized of cultural importance by UNESCO due to its ability to integrate the productive land and the religious mission in the area. The other ruins are located in Argentina.
Pampulha Modern Ensemble (2016)
The Pampulha Modern Ensemble is the central feature of the visionary garden project that was established at Belo Horizonte in the early 20th century. This garden project is built around an artificial lake that served its purpose as a cultural and leisure center. This center also features a casino, ballroom, a church and a yacht club. The buildings that were part of this structure were a work of architect Oscar Niemeyer with the help of other artists in Brazil. The Pampulha Modern Ensemble utilizes bold forms, landscape architecture, sculpture and painting into one in a harmonious balance with each other. Despite being modern in its design approach, it also features major influence from the local tradition.
Rio de Janeiro: Carioca Landscapes between the Mountain and the Sea (2012)
Rio de Janeiro is the most popular city of Brazil. This city and its surrounding landscapes were recognized as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Brazil. The exceptional blend of the urban landscape and the fusion of the natural elements from the mountains to the sea have earned its nod from UNESCO. The highest point of the Tijuca National Park down to the mountains and the sea are all encompassed within this property.
There are also several other distinctive features that were included in the UNESCO property listing such as the Corcovado Mountain with the statue of Christ the Redeemer, the 19th century Botanical Gardens, the Copacabana Bay, and the Guanabara Bay, to name a few.
Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Congonhas (1985)
This cultural site is a haven of Baroque art in Brazil. In fact, it holds the country’s largest collection of artistic heritage: 12 prophets in soapstone and 66 cedar figures. These artistic works are creatios of Aleijadinho, which is also recognized as the greatest artist of Minas Gerais.
Even though the site was named into the UNESCO list in Brazil in 1985, it was built during the late 18th century. It quickly captured the attention of the public for its rich art collection. It also includes a church that has an external set of staircase that features 12 sculptures.
São Francisco Square in the Town of São Cristóvão (2010)
This square in the town of Sao Cristovao is an open space surrounded by various architectural ensemble. The square features a few prominent monuments such as the Sao Francisco Church and convent, Church and Santa Casa de Misericordia, and the Provincial Palace. These monuments feature a Spanish colonial architectural style. This cultural site was named into the UNESCO list in 2010.
Serra da Capivara National Park (1991)
This national park is located in Brazil’s northeast region. It is known as an important cultural site because of the prehistoric paintings that were discovered in the area. Measuring at nearly 1,300 square kilometers in size, it was protected by naming it as a UNESCO site in an effort to preserve the prehistoric paintings and artifacts within the national park. The archaeological site is also popularly known as Pedra Furada.
The head archaeologist at the site is Niede Guidon. It is believed to be the densest collection of prehistoric site in the Americas. In fact, there were evidences gathered that confirm it was inhabited during the pre-Columbian era.
Atlantic Forest South-East Reserves (1999)
The Atlantic Forest is a forest in the South American continent that spans from the Brazilian Atlantic coast, specifically from the north to the south. There are several eco-regions within the Atlantic Forest that are divided into different categories: seasonal moist and dry tropical forests, savannas, tropical and subtropical grasslands, shrublands and mangrove forests. This area of the Atlantic forest is characterized for having high level of endemism and biodiversity among its inhabitants.
Brazilian Atlantic Islands: Fernando de Noronha and Atol das Rocas Reserves (2001)
Another entry into the list of natural sites under UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Brazil is the Brazilian Atlantic Islands. The approximate area covered by this site measures at around 432 square kilometers. Fernando de Noronha is an archipelago and the Atol das Rocas is part of the neighboring islands in the region. The former has a small human population and some level of tourism. Meanwhile, Atol das Rocas is a biological reserve and is only accessible to researchers. Both of these islands serve as natural habitat for migratory seabirds and an important nesting site for marine turtles.
Central Amazon Conservation Complex (2000)
As one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Brazil, Central Amazon Conservation Complex comprises the largest protected area in the Amazon Basin. It is also very rich in terms of biodiversity. Among the important natural features of the region are the lakes, channels, igapo forests and the varzea ecosystems. The bodies of water in the area are also home to the highest concentration of electric fish in the world. Hence, the site is protected in order to preserve these species.
Cerrado Protected Areas: Chapada dos Veadeiros and Emas National Parks (2001)
This natural site is the oldest, largest and most biologically rich savanna in the world. For hundreds of years, the wide altitude of the area around Chapada dos Veadeiros and Emas National Park has enabled the survival of rare species despite the rapid climactic change. Hence, the sites are protected by declaring them as UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Brazil in order to maintain its biodiversity.
Discovery Coast Atlantic Forest Reserves (1999)
This natural site was named as a UNESCO site for its unique natural features consisting of tropical and subtropical forests, savannas, mangrove forests, and tropical dry forest. It is a remote area that is difficult to get to. It consists of several Atlantic Rainforest reserves, which is located close to the vibrant city of Porto Seguro. Despite being remote, several tourists travel to the Discovery Coast as it offers plenty of tourist activities such as bird watching, waterfalls, and trekking trails.
Iguaçu National Park (1986)
This national park is located in Brazil’s Parana State. It was established in 1939 and designated as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Brazil. The park was named after the Iguazu River, of which an important part of the river makes up a huge portion of the park. This park is considered as the most important protected area in the Prata Basin due to the number of flora and fauna species found within the area. It is also recognized as the first park in Brazil to receive a Management Plan. The naming of the property as a park and as a UNESCO site aims to preserve and protect the ecological and scenic natural ecosystems in the area.
Pantanal Conservation Area (2000)
This conservation area is an immersive conservation complex consisting of four protected areas covering the vast wetlands of South America. Even though it is not as isolated as the Amazon Jungle, it is historically uninhabited and is home to the most diverse range of animal species in the Americas. It was named as a UNESCO site because it represents the Great Pantanal region. It also exemplifies an ongoing biological and ecological process in the region, while also being responsible for dispersing nutrients to the entire basin in Pantanal.
Valongo Wharf Archaeological Site (2017)
The Valongo Wharf is an important archaeological and cultural site in Brazil, which was recently named into the list of UNESCO sites in the country. It is an old dock in Rio de Janeiro that is now located in the middle of two streets: Sacadura Cabral and Coelho e Castro streets. This dock was built in 1811 to serve as the landing for African slaves involved in transatlantic trade. However, this activity was banned in 1831. But before the transatlantic slave trade was banned, about 500,000 to 1 million slaves had already been traded via the Valongo Wharf.
Paraty and Ilha Grande – Culture and Biodiversity (2019)
Located between the Serra da Bocaina mountain range and the Atlantic Ocean, this cultural landscape includes the historic center of Paraty, one of Brazil’s best-preserved coastal towns, as well as four protected natural areas of the Brazilian Atlantic Forest, one of the world’s five key biodiversity hotspots. Paraty is home to an impressive diversity of species, some of which are threatened, such as the jaguar, the white-lipped peccary and several primate species, including the woolly spider monkey, which is emblematic of the site. In the late 17thcentury, Paraty was the end-point of the Caminho do Ouro (Gold Route), along which gold was shipped to Europe. Its port also served as an entry point for tools and African slaves, sent to work in the mines. A defense system was built to protect the wealth of the port and the town. The historic center of Paraty has retained its 18th-century plan and much of its colonial architecture dating from the 18th and early 19th centuries.