By Diana Gerstacker
TheActiveTimes.com

As the 2016 Summer Olympic Games draw closer, world-wide attention is shifting to Brazil. From planning updates to controversies, the country is on the world stage and frequently in the news.

The games, which are less than a year away, will surely draw in scores of tourists, but that’s far from the only reason you should visit. In fact, if you're hoping to avoid the crowds and experience some of the other amazing parts of Brazil, there's plenty to see and do.

We turned to avid travelers and natives of Brazil to highlight some of their favorite things about the country. From specific cities like Florianopolis to more grand cultural customs and even specific adventures, these are the top reasons you should visit Brazil that have nothing to do with the Olympics.

Non-Olympic Reasons To Visit Brazil

Belo Horizonte
 

Belo Horizonte

"Belo Horizonte (beautiful horizon) is a city that is surrounded by mountains and nature," said Ricardo Trigueiro, a Brazilian native, avid traveler and author. It's also one of the best spots in the country to enjoy a drink. Home to thousands of bars and traditional food and drink, Belo Horizonte is arguably the best place to enjoy Brazil’s national cocktail, Caipirinha.

Belo Horizonte
 

Belo Horizonte

"But for those that are adventurous, Belo Horizonte is located near a few great tourist destinations such as historical sites, waterfalls, preserved parks and caverns, which will truly make the visitor’s eye shine."

Florianopolis, Brazil
 

Florianopolis, Brazil

Regularly praised for its party atmosphere, local recreation and overall charm, Florianopolis has been gaining popularity among locals and travelers alike. With more than 40 beaches and an eccentric culture all its own, this town is a particularly great spot for surfers.

Florianopolis, Brazil
 

Florianopolis, Brazil

Florianopolis hosts competitions for some of the best surfers in the world and it’s definitely worth a trip if you want to try your luck on some Brazilian waves.

Adventure on the Amazon River
 

Adventure on the Amazon River

"I highly recommend going upriver in a small boat on the Amazon," said Elizabeth Avery, founder of Solo Trekker 4 U, who spent Christmas exploring the area.

Adventure on the Amazon River
 

Adventure on the Amazon River

She recommends taking the trip in a boat and making it a point to see the unique wildlife -- especially "the lovable Capybara, the world's biggest rodents at up to 150 pounds."

Incredible Celebrations
 

Incredible Celebrations

"Travelers seeking excitement and adventure in South America need look no further than the greatest party in the world: Rio Carnival," said Matt Barker, publisher of the free e-book, Guide to Rio Carnival. "Every year Rio de Janeiro, already a hard partying city, erupts into a samba-fueled celebration of hedonism that occupies the streets for weeks on end. Although the Sambadrome's samba school parades are the best-known ...

Incredible Celebrations
 

Incredible Celebrations

... attraction there's much more to Carnival than makes the TV screens back home, with each neighborhood throwing its own local festival, all adding to the local flavor and authenticity of the Carnival experience." Even outside of Carnival, though, travelers can easily find incredible nightlife in cities across the country, big and small.

Iguazu Falls
 

Iguazu Falls

"One place which is worth visiting is the Brazilian side of Iguazu Falls," said Anthony of The Travel Tart blog. You can see the falls from either Argentina or Brazil, but he says "the Brazilian side is best for a panoramic view of the falls, whilst the Argentina side is best for close up."

Iguazu Falls
 

Iguazu Falls

On top of viewing one of the wildest waterfalls in the world, he said visitors should check out the hikes around the falls. “[It’s] one of those 'wow' places for me!"

Curitiba
 

Curitiba

A city way ahead of its time, Curitiba is known around the world as a model for urban planning and one of the best places to live in Brazil.

Curitiba
 

Curitiba

Visit this easy-to-navigate city and see some of the 15 parks, the botanical garden and the infamous Oscar Niemeyer Museum.

The Lesser-Known Communities
 

The Lesser-Known Communities

"I spoke at a sports conference in Brazil regarding the topic of Risk Management and the Rio Olympics. I hoped to visit Olympic venues, but instead went to the largest favela, Rocinha Favela," said Katharine Nohr of Nohr Sports Risk Management. " read that tourists should not venture into favelas alone, but must use a guide, [so] I signed up for a favela tour, which took 2 tourists from Puerto Rico and myself to the Rocinha ...

The Lesser-Known Communities
 

The Lesser-Known Communities

... favela ... To my surprise and delight, I was impressed." Nohr said the favela that overlooks Rio de Janeiro was like a small, thriving city and that she was glad she went to see it.

Lençóis Maranhenses National Park
 

Lençóis Maranhenses National Park

Giant white rolling dunes as far as the eye can see might lead you to believe that the Lençóis Maranhenses National Park is just a desert, but a closer look during the rainy months reveals something that looks more like a mirage than reality.

Lençóis Maranhenses National Park
 

Lençóis Maranhenses National Park

During the wet season, the low lying areas between the dunes flood with rain water, providing a home for fish and a mind-blowing sight for all who visit.

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For complete list of Non-Olympic Reasons You Should Visit Brazil, go to TheActiveTimes.com.

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