By Melanie Lieberman
February 09, 2015
Brazil (book)
Credit: © Brazil (Phaidon, 2014; $69.95)

Brazil, the country best known for soccer stars and the world’s most over-the-top Carnival is ready to prove that it’s more than just samba and swimsuits.

The South American country shines in the new, eponymous coffee table book from Phaidon: a richly-illustrated tome celebrating Brazil’s contemporary culture. From architecture and cuisine to street art and fashion, the country’s foremost experts reveal what it is that makes Brazil more exciting—and enticing—than ever.

Alcino Leite Neto, one of the contributing authors of Brazil, shared with Travel + Leisure his top, can’t-miss-sights that are setting Brazil on fire.

1. The country celebrates its artists.

Visit the contemporary arts center in Inhotim, one hour from Brumadinho in Southeast Brazil, Centro de Arte Contemporânea Inhotim.

“It’s worth spending two days or more,” said Alcino, “because this place brings together two rich experiences.” Many of the works are even on display in the center’s park. “It’s one of the largest and finest botanical gardens in the country.”

2. Rio de Janeiro is booming.

As the future host of the Olympic Games, this major metropolis is polishing its edges.

“Several new works are gradually changing the face of central Rio de Janeiro, [such as] Museu de Arte do Rio, a restored palace and bus station.

3. Belém is having a moment.

The capital of the state of Pará is a flourishing new destination.

“…Its racial and social miscegenation,” observed Alcino, “and its particular amalgam of tradition and modernity have produced exciting results in several areas, from music to gastronomy.”

4. Regional ingredients shine.

In São Paulo, the restaurant Maní is modernizing Brazilian cuisine.

“This restaurant—led by Helena Rizzo and Daniel Redondo—has been constantly haloed with the title of best in the country. They take into account the traditions of the country and the very different regional ingredients.”

For more reasons to put Brazil on your list of top destinations in 2015, take a peek inside Brazil.

Melanie Lieberman is a travel writer and a T+L contributor. You can follow her on Twitter at @LittleWordBites.