The ‘pequeno’ of them all, Cuiabá, the capital of the state of Mato Grasso, is the smallest host city of the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

The city’s history dates back to 1719 when it was founded during the gold rush. Today, Cuiabá is shedding its Wild West roots and offers visitors an inviting urban fix before they springboard to the region’s natural wonders.

Nestled in the centre of Brazil’s cattle country, Cuiabá is a prime location to tackle a churrasco – a traditional Brazilian barbecue. Beef as well as pork and chicken are skewered and traditionally cooked over burning embers. 

Away from the city charge, the Chapada dos Guimarães National Park is one of the region’s most accessible natural attractions. In Brazil, chapada itself means a plateau surrounded by cliffs hence the dramatic panoramas.

Cuiabá also makes an excellent gateway for the Pantanal, one of the planet’s largest tropical wetlands. The area, although somewhat overshadowed by the blockbuster allure of the Amazon, homes an ecosystem bursting with fauna.

The Pantanal is home to the world’s largest population of the jaguar, one of wildlife’s most allusive denizens. The big cats are best spotted in the drier months of June and July when they stalk out water sources to ambush unsuspecting prey.

Cuiabá hosts Chile vs Australia on Friday 13 June, Russia vs Korean Republic on Tuesday 17 June, Nigeria vs Bosnia-Herzegovina on Saturday 21 June and Japan vs Colombia on Tuesday 24 June.

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