Once a frontier region that was the preserve of gold explorers and colonial adventurers, the Center-West has been home to the country’s political nerve center, the futuristic national capital Brasília, since 1960. This masterpiece of modernist architecture glows in the endless sunshine of the cerrado, Brazil’s vast savanna region, where wolves and deer still roam among the waterfalls.
From Brasília, the cerrado extends hundreds of miles to the west until it meets the waters of the Pantanal, the world’s largest wetland and the habitat for an astonishing variety of wildlife, from jaguars to giant otters, from anacondas to toucans.
For many visitors, the Pantanal is the high point of the West, a floodplain the size of Great Britain with ever-present possibilities for spotting wild animals. The cities of Cuiabá and Campo Grande are the gateways to the northern and southern Pantanal respectively. From Campo Grande many visitors also head to swim, snorkel and even scuba dive in the crystal clear rivers around Bonito.
Lúcio Costa, who planned Brasília with architect Oscar Niemeyer, famously said that Brasília’s sea is the unending blue sky that stretches all above and around the capital. Here, in Brazil’s most affluent and controversial city, modernist structures crawl along the flat landscape and then shoot up in shafts of concrete and glass that capture the sun's rays. Initially the preserve of uprooted bureaucrats, Brasília is now home to a new generation who have grown up in the city and are making it a more lively and interesting place to live and visit.