Beaches with coconut trees, white sand, dunes, clear and warm waters... The Brazilian Northeast is the very vision of paradise. Nobody can resist its natural pools, its buggy rides, it's delicious seafood-based cuisine and, especially, the warm, friendly and extremely receptive local people. Formed by eight states (Maranhão, Piauí, Ceará, Rio Grande do Norte, Paraíba, Pernambuco, Alagoas, Sergipe and Bahia), it is an almost impossible task to list the best destinations in the Brazilian Northeast. Spend vacations there is the ultimate definition of leisure for many Brazilians, who usually repeat the trip many times in order to get to know it to the fullest.
Of course, beaches are one of the main attractions of the region, but the Brazilian Northeast has much more to offer. Holding a rich gastronomy, typical parties that are a true immersion in the local culture, with delicious rhythms like forró and axé, the Northeast is also home of important Brazilian artists, such as Caetano Veloso and Jorge Amado.
Due to its extensive size, the region has microclimates, but the tourist parts are usually hot and dry. With an almost perennial sun, temperatures are usually high all year round, making the beaches very popular destinations both in high and low season. In some places the wet season is more precise, but it is always good to consult the forecast to plan an itinerary without unforeseen events by the sea.
Since sun and heat are not a problem, the high season happens mainly during Carnival (late February or early March). But if your plans does not include this specific party, scheduling a trip for the month of July can be a good option. At this time of year the temperatures are milder, the tourist movement is lower and the prices of accommodation and services begin to decrease. The biggest attraction of this period, however, is to enjoy a typical Festa Junina!
Do you know Festa Junina?
It is indisputable that Carnival is the biggest popular party in Brazil, but not so many know how wonderful and magic is the second most popular festival in the country, as loved as the first one: the Festa Junina! This typical popular celebration also features customs, traditional music and dance, foods and beverages and a month's worth of festivities. The Festa Junina, or the June Festival, goes back to an old Catholic tradition based on the European Midsummer festivities, which celebrate the harvest and the saints.
As it is a harvest celebration, events take on a rural theme, as do the costumes, which resemble a typical countryside style and conjure images of farmers. Dancing is also an important part of it and is centered around the folkloric dance quadrilha. Although celebrated from north to south, it is a Brazilian Northeast that Festa Junina finds its most captive audience, and the highlights goes to Caruaru (state of Pernambuco) and Campina Grande (state of Paraíba).
The Biggest São João in the World
Known as the Biggest São João in the World, the Festa Junina celebration in the municipality of Campina Grande, Brazilian state of Paraíba, dates back to 1983. Through the month of Juna, Campina Grande is transformed in a huge village to host the event, full of attractions and shows with popular stars of Brazilian Northeast music.
During the 30 days of celebration, the carts parade through the streets carrying forró trios that spread joy wherever they go. The festivities take on a sporting side with the "Corrida da Fogueira" [bonfire run], a competition that brings together athletes from different places in honour of the São João [Saint John] icon. Countryside games are also a must, much like the funny Corrida do Jegue [donkey race], a lively contest for the title of "animal motorsport".
For those who want to dance a lot of forró, in addition to the shows that take place on the 6 stages, there are 5 Forró Islands distributed throughout Parque do Povo. It is an important event in Brazil's party calendar, attracting thousands of tourists from all the country and the world!
Three highlights of the Brazilian Northeast
- Rio Grande do Norte
Rio Grande do Norte is home to three of the most incredible beaches in Brazil. The popular Pipa, with the sea framed by cliffs and visited by dolphins; Touros, located on the corner of Brazil, at the most northeastern point of the country; and Genipabu, scenery for buggy rides through the dunes and two creative methods of falling into Lagoa de Jacumã (the esquibunda ["butt" skiing], descending sitting on a board, and the aerobunda ["the flying butt"], a type of zip line). The largest cashew tree in the world, in Pirangi, leaves travelers astonished with the immense profusion of branches, fruits and leaves. The capital, Natal, which also holds beautiful beaches and extremely receptive people, is the best starting point to discover all these wonders.
The state of Pernambuco has aspects that appeal to all types of travellers. The beaches provide incredible moments by the sea in paradisiacal destinations such as Porto de Galinhas , the island of Fernando de Noronha and Praia dos Carneiros. The local history shows incredible monuments in the colorful facades of the Recife Antigo [Recife's Old Historic Centre], in the heritage of Olinda and in the ruins of Cabo de Santo Agostinho.
Attracting around 3 million tourists a year, the capital of the state of Ceará, Fortaleza, is the third most sought after destination by Brazilians. With more than 20 beaches suitable for bathing, nightlife and favourable weather, it is not surprising that it is popular with tourists, including foreigners. Leaving the urban perimeter, there is much more to see in Ceará. About 30 km from Fortaleza, Praia de Cumbuco is a quiet village with excellent tourist infrastructure. The place is considered one of the best in Brazil for wind and kitesurfing. Enjoying a day at Beach Park, in Aquiraz, is also a fun and popular option to add to the list of things to do in Ceará. About 25 km from Fortaleza, it is one of the most fun water parks in Brazil and one of the largest in Latin America.
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