Getting Oriented

The states that make up the western part of Brazil cover an area larger than Alaska, extending from the heart of the country—where Brasília is located—to the borders of Paraguay and Bolivia. Brasília, Cuiabá, and Campo Grande (the latter two the capitals of Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul states), form a massive triangle with roughly equal sides of about 700 miles. These large distances through agricultural areas mean that the best way to explore this region is by air.


Brasília sits on the flat plateau known as the Planalto Central. The capital is actually part of the Distrito Federal (Federal District), a 55,000-square-km (21,000-square-mile) administrative region. Also within this district are the cidades-satélite (satellite cities), which originated as residential areas for Brasília workers but are now communities in their own right.

The Pantanal

Several rivers in the West of Brazil and from neighboring Bolivia and Paraguay run through the sprawling lowlands in the area known as the Pantanal. The region is a vast alluvial plain that covers most of the southwest of the state of Mato Grosso and northwest of Mato Grosso do Sul. The Paraguay River, which runs roughly north–south, is the backbone of the Pantanal, providing the one outlet to the enormous amounts of water that fall during the rainy season. The city of Corumbá, at its southern edge, is about 1,300 km (800 miles) from the Atlantic.

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