For hundreds of years, Brazil has symbolised the great escape into a primordial, tropical paradise, igniting Western imagination like no other South American country. From the mad passion of Carnaval to the immensity of the dark Amazon, it is a country of mythic proportions. Perhaps it's not quite the Eden of popular imagination, but it's still a land of staggering beauty. There are stretches of unexplored rainforest, islands with pristine tropical beaches, and endless rivers. And there are the people themselves, who delight the visitor with their energy and joy. São Paulo is the world's second most populous city.