Northeast Brazil itinerary
This route through the Brazilian Northeast is a delight. Both culturally (mix of native, African and colonial heritages) and nature level. You will go through spectacular beaches and very beautiful towns and cities (and mountains, waterfalls, dunes...). Obviously, there are too many places and I do not know them all... But the ones you will see in this itinerary are worth ALL..
This route can be done all along the coast, but I recommend some detours to enjoy a couple of magical places in the interior. These are some of the most interesting places you can stop on this route:
Salvador da Bahia
Recife & Olinda
Vale do Catimbau
João Pessoa & Jacumã
Parque Nacional de Sete Cidades
Barreirinhas & Parque Nacional dos Lençóis Maranhenses
São Luis & Alcántara
Wow, there is so much to do... This National Park in the interior of the state of Bahia is a paradise in the mountains, with waterfalls, rivers of colors (there are even red rivers!), interesting rock formations, caves, hippy villages... The best thing you can do is go and discover it by yourself. And the more days you stay the better. Some places you can visit are:
Cachoeira da Fumaça. It is the second highest waterfall in the country and, above all, it is in a beautiful environment. You can visit it at the top, after a walk of several hours, or from below, needing several days of trekking on a route between mountainous walls.
Morro do Pai Inácio. A small hill with a very curious vegetation and views of the valley and other sensational mountains (foto above).
Lençóis. A colonial town in the heart of the Chapada. Perfect location to visit different points of the Park.
Vale do Capão. A small hippie village in which even children wear dreadlocks. You will meet good people, eat delicious food and probably find an exciting event or festival.
SALVADOR DA BAHIA
Yes: smile, we are in Bahia! Well, there is little more to add. All are joys for the tourist who visits the warm lands of the capital of Bahia. Just seeing the Bahian woman on foot (considered as cultural heritage) has been worth the visit. These women with clothes rooted in African culture can also sell local handicrafts and/or prepare delicious Bahian food, one of the greatest gifts of the region (do not miss some of their specialties in the post "Brazilian Gastronomy").
But Salvador has many other attractions. Namely: its cobbled streets; the colonial architecture; its thousand churches; some symbolic and historical buildings and places (among them the Pelourinho); the Mercado (market) Modelo, full of smells, flavors and colors; wonderful beaches in the surroundings... It is worth coming to know this incredible and varied culture.
The capital of Alagoas is a monster of skyscrapers and a million inhabitants facing the most beautiful sea in the world. Its warm, transparent and calm waters are enough to come to see this great "Caribbean" metropolis.
Climbing 125 kilometers on the map, still in Alagoas, we arrive in Maragogi, a town near which very beautiful beaches extend. One is Ponta do Mangue: a beach of coconut trees that extends to infinity and beyond. Along, wide... And deep! There is an impressive tidal phenomenon in this magical point of Earth. At its peak, the tide goes down so much that you can walk hundreds of meters (I would say even one or two kilometers!) entering the sea. Up to natural pools surrounded by coral reefs. Snorkeling and diving are two perfectly matching activities with that calm sea full of fish (I even saw seahorses). You can spend the night on the beach, at the campground do Savio (Jesus). It is a bit expensive, but treat yourself because it is worth it.
RECIFE & OLINDA
From Recife (capital of Pernambuco) I met the rodoviária (bus station) and little else. It is a big city and there are sure to be things to do. Its neighbor Olinda is beautiful. So much so, that this colonial city with cobbled streets and beautiful houses facing the ocean is a Historical and Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Some of the buildings that deserve your visit are: Convent of São Francisco, Sé Cathedral, Igreja (church) do Carmo, Basilica and Mosteiro de São Bento. But, if there is something unique about Olinda, that is its artistic offer, present in every street, square and corner. Lovers of history and art will enjoy it here. Finally, Olinda is a good place to celebrate carnivals, less famous than in Rio but with a lot of tradition (or so my Brazilian friends told me.
PARQUE NACIONAL DO CATIMBAU
In the interior of the state of Pernambuco, in the sertão (a kind of desert) and among a few brave peasants-survivors, there is a Park far from everything and unexplored: The National Park of Catimbau, an area of inhospitable lands, mountains and geological formations that seem from another planet (“wind is an artist”). The biome, called caatinga, is unique to this region of Brazil. It is not found in any other corner of the planet. That should be more than enough reason to come, but there is more. Lovers of archeology have no forgiveness if they do not come here: we are talking about the second most important archaeological site in Brazil, with findings of cave paintings and prehistoric occupation dating back at least 6000 years. A visit to this incredible and dry place is worth gold. Despite the deviation and despite the heat. And it is very authentic, something that can be seen in the autochthonous population, which is not very used to receiving foreigners.
JOÃO PESSOA & JACUMÃ
João Pessoa, the capital of Paraíba, has beautiful buildings from the colonial period. But, once again, what is really interesting lies in the surroundings... In other words, the beaches.
Jacumã is about 25-30 km south of the capital and has sensational beaches. Examples are Coqueirinho and Tambaba (one of the few nudist beaches in the country). To the golden sand and the transparent waters we need to add some amazing cliffs as a backdrop.
This big city, capital of Rio Grande do Norte, offers alternative plans to the beach (which we like very much, but from time to time it is cool to do other things as well). Walk along the waterfront in the shadow of the skyscrapers; visit the Parque das Dunas (or Bosque dos Namorados, that is, the forest of lovers); visit the dunes of Genipabu (some agencies do tours on camels or buguis, but I do not support this); and, of course, eat. Regarding the latter, seafood stands out, in particular, the rodízios de camarão (this is like an all you can eat of prawns). That is to say, an all you can eat of prawns! You cannot imagine all the ways you can cook (and eat) prawns. Read more in "Brazilian Gastronomy".
PARQUE NACIONAL DE SETE CIDADES
A hidden gem off the beaten path. This Park in the state of Piauí, stands out for its incredible rock formations (many figures: turtle, elephant, Indian, etc) of about 190 million years of "life", as well as for its cave paintings. It is so named because there are seven separate rock groups. You can visit it by car, bicycle, or on foot. I recommend the bike, because it will give you time to do many excursions and it is a different way to visit a Park. In any case, a guide will accompany you when, which is good news because you will get very detailed information about the history of the site. At the entrance is the Hotel Fazenda Sete Cidades, with camping area for those who want to spend the night in this beautiful spot.
One of the most magical places in Brazil is in Ceará. Its beaches, its dunes, its lakes, its sunsets, its hippie atmosphere... Paradise, ladies and gentlemen. Wind surfers have another reason to come here. You can come to fight waves, I will wait for you lying in a hammock floating on warm and crystalline water.
BARREIRINHAS & PARQUE NACIONAL DOS LENÇÓIS MARANHENSES
Barreirinhas is a beautiful village in Maranhão, which has one of the greatest treasures nationwide (and internationally speaking, I would add): the Lençóis Maranhenses. Extensions and extensions of dunes that house natural pools of blue waters between the mounds of sand. A show that, if you get to see it in good time, this is in the rainy season (best is between March and October), you will enjoy and remember forever.
Another excursion that you can do around Barreirinhas is to Atins (waterway) and Tutóia (road). They are picturesque fishing villages that are also the gateway to two deltas: the Preguica River and the Parnaíba River, respectively. Atins, in particular, is a visit highly recommended for its isolated location, and because along the way you will see varied things: remote and deserted beaches, some cool lighthouse, an island full of cappuccinos... (introduced species)
SÃO LUIS & ALCÂNTARA
The capital of Maranhão deserves your visit without any doubt. What does it offer? Well, above all, colonial art/architecture and rhythms/musicality: long life the reggae! This was very surprising to me, because I had no idea when I got there that people dance reggae at full volume in nightclubs and on the streets. And improvised reggae “rodas” are organized everywhere instead of the “regular” (samba) ones!
Also, its surroundings are wonderful. It is not necessary to go far in fact. On the other side of San Marcos Bay lies Alcântara, a village that can only be reached by boat. It is a small and beautiful village where you can eat very well. Do not miss the opportunity in your visit to chat with the locals. These destinations are very authentic, where mass tourism has not yet arrived.