Touring the three states of the region—roughly the size of France—in a short time is a challenge, despite a relatively efficient transportation network. The South can be divided into two major areas: the coast and the interior. Coastal attractions, along a 700-km (450-mile) line from Curitiba south to Porto Alegre, include fantastic beaches, forested slopes, canyons, and the Serra do Mar mountains. In the interior, Foz do Iguaçu, far to the west, should not be missed.
The state of Paraná has a very short coastline of about 100 km (62 miles), with islands and historical cities. Curitiba, the capital, known internationally as a green city for its innovative urban planning and many parks, is about 90 km (56 miles) from the coast, on a plateau. West of Curitiba lies the vast interior, which incorporates Vila Velha State Park, with its ancient sandstone formations, and stretches all the way to the Paraguayan border and Foz do Iguaçu.
The grandeur of this vast sheet of white water cascading in constant cymbal-banging cacophony makes Niagra Falls and Victoria Falls seem sedate. Allow at least two full days to take in this magnificent sight, and be sure to see it from both the Argentine and Brazilian sides.
Geographically, Santa Catarina is the opposite of Paraná: a long coastline of about 500 km (310 miles) and narrow interior. Most of the attractions are on or near the coast. Santa Catarina has some of the best beaches in the South Atlantic. The capital, Florianópolis, an ideal hub for exploring the state's attractions, is on the Ilha de Santa Catarina (Santa Catarina Island).
Rio Grande do Sul
Most tourist attractions in this state, with equal parts coast and interior, are in the heavily populated northeastern corner, including the capital, Porto Alegre, about 100 km (62 miles) from the coast. One highlight in the west is the Jesuit mission ruins in São Miguel.