The South: Places to Explore

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Ilha de Santa Catarina

Its nickname is "Magic Island," which is an appropriate moniker for this island with breathtaking shoreline, easy-to-reach beaches—some with warm waters—and seemingly endless vacation activities. Every summer (December–March), thousands of Argentines arrive here, adding to the constant influx of Brazilians, making this one of the country's top tourist destinations. The island's northern praias (beaches) are considered the best—because of their warm waters—and are therefore the busiest. Impressive seascapes dominate the Atlantic beaches, and southern beaches have fewer sun worshippers and a more laid-back atmosphere. Scuba diving, surfing, sailing, and parasailing are among the many water sports. You can also go for nature walks along trails with the ocean as backdrop.

The city of Florianópolis played an important part in the history of the island of Santa Catarina. Settled by colonists from the Azore Islands, it was the southernmost post of the Portuguese empire for some time, and it was the site of several skirmishes with the Spanish before the border disputes were settled. You might be lured by the beaches—which rank among the most beautiful in Brazil—but downtown Florianópolis also has worthwhile attractions.

Note that Brazilians tend to refer to all of Santa Catarina island as "Florianópolis," and all the beaches and forts on the island are under the city's jurisdiction.

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