North East Brazil is a historical region with many major cities
like Savador, Sao Luis and Olinda. It is made
up of a combination of forests, now reduced to pockets of
forest as the result of extensive de-forestation, the Sertao
backlands, a desert area, the Maranhao state transistional
between the desert and Amazon regions.
Salvador was founded by the Portuguese in 1501and remained
Brazil's most important city for the next 300 years. Sugar,
then tobacco, gold and diamonds provided Salvador with enormous
wealth and, after Lisbon, it became the most important city
in the Portuguese empire. But when the sugar industry collapsed,
it fell into decline and in 1763 the capital moved to Rio.
Salvador is called the African soul of Brazil. Nearly half
the population is black, descendants of three and a half million
The old town of Salvador is known as Pelourinho and
is a jumbled collection of narrow cobbled streets, plazas
and the largest site of Baroque architecture in Latin America.
A room in a hotel in Salvador's Pelourinho district will cost
you about 10 dollars a night, including breakfast. Pelourinho
actually means whipping post and it was the area where the
slaves were tortured and sold. It was colonial Brazil's slave
labour that worked the industries that made Salvador rich.
Here you can see Bahisan women selling traditional acaraje
and abara cuisine dressed in white Baianas costumes. It's
scattered throughout with a staggering 300 churches of Portuguese
and black slave origins and temple like the church of Sao
Francisco with a richly ornate interior.
Set against the churches is a modern city of sky scrapers,
offices blocks with great views of the Atlantic. Part of Salvador
is like a shanty town, inhabitant by "favela"
dwellers living in hillside hovels, who fortunately have improving
conditions and most now have electricity.
The dusty interior of the northeast is known as the Sertao,
or backlands. It is often hit by droughts which sometimes
last for years and it makes it impossible to farm crops. In
the Sertao the economy is based around cattle ranching which
was established to feed the workers on the giant sugar plantations.
Life in the Sertao is often characterised as bleak and sometimes
brutal with much poverty and farming relying on out-moded
manual methods. Although cattle ranching has become an important
industry, this is still one of the poorest parts of the northeast.
It's hard for the people of the Sertao to avoid starvation
and extreme poverty, and the people are tough and adept to
survival. But this is still Brazil, where festivals and celebrations
are a way of life and given the importance of cattle, it's
hardly surprising that they have their own festival.
Lencois is a colonial town founded in 1844 when diamonds were
discovered in the surrounding countryside. It's a lush escape
from the wilderness of the Sertao desert, a wooded and mountain
region now recognised as a National Park. It's popular
amongst travellers and offers great opportunities for hiking.
Itaparica is classic small town Brazil. At the bus you can
have your boots shined by at least 15 children. It is the
largest island in Baia de Todos and is popular with Brazilians
who go to swim in the calm bays and is something of a weekend
The Reconcavo region is a green land and home of the first
meeting between Portuguese, Indian and Africans. The small
town of Cachoeira is worth visiting, known as "the
jewel of the reconcavo" , full of colonial architecture
and the centre of the Candomble religion.
The capital of Alagoas, Macceio is a beautiful modern
city with fantastic beaches, and Penedo is a colonial
historic vision. There are many scenic fishing villages along
the eastern coast, and coconut fringed beaches.
Recife is Brazil's fourth largest city and the capital
of Pernambuco. In colonial times it was a port for the sugar
industry. It's still a major entry point to the country, but
now it's best known as a beach resort. Although the city beaches
like Boa Viagem can get polluted and overcrowded, the
coast north and south of Recife has some excellent beaches
which are protected by coral reefs ensuring calm seas. It's
a city steeped in tradition with some of Brazil's best visual
and folk arts.
Nearby Olinda is one of the best preserved colonial
cities in Brazil dating back to the 17th century, and Igarassu,
25 miles north of Recife city is the oldest settled city in
Brazil, founded in 1535.
The Fernando de Noronha collection of islands has beautiful
marine life, waters, and is popular for diving with tourists.
The city of Joaoa Pessoa is mentioned in all Brazilian history
books, named after the governor who said "I refuse"
to advancement by his enemies, and was later assassinated
sparking a revolution in 1930. It is the home of he Igreja
Sao Francisco, on of Brazil's finest churches.
Beautiful, glorious beaches epitomise Ceara, famed also for
its folk crafts, lacework and traditional food. The Caninde
is the site of a great religious Pilgrimage to O Santuario
de Sao Francisco das Chagas, a 250 year old pilgrims site
where for a whole month during September, some 250,000 Catholics
make the journey to the small town to worship Sao Francisco
de Assis (Francis of Assis - patron saint of animals).
One of the poorest states in Brazil, Piaui is a desert state
but it does offer great beaches and two amazing national parks,
in the Parque Nacional da Serra da Capivara you'll
find prehistoric sites and rock paintings - the top prehistoric
site in South America.
The Amazon in the North of Brazil is 4 million square miles
of river and jungle, fast flowing rivers totalling 50,000
miles. Although it's quickly being evaded to make way for
American ranchers, there's still much of the jungle left to
Sitting at the mouth of the world's largest river, Belem is
the main port for ships that ply the Amazon. From here you
can travel by boat all the way to Peru. It's one of the wettest
cities in the world and acts as a gateway to the people and
the ways of the rainforest. The vastness of the Amazon basin
means that biologists are able to identify only 70 per cent
of the fish sold in the famous Ver
O Peso market.
Also in Para, Salinopolis is a major Atlantic beach
resort with top mineral spas and deserted beaches.
Marajo sits right on the equator at the mouth of the Amazon
and is one of the world's largest fluvial islands, bigger
in size than Switzerland. Each wet season the Amazon floods
this area and whole towns are submerged. Marajo is the only
place in Brazil you'll find buffalo in large numbers.
Flooding gets so bad here that buffalo dive underwater for
food. They're used for their meat, milk and labour.
Roraima is the final frontier between the Venezuelan border
and the Amazon, and home to the Yanomami tribe, a threatened
tribe representing about a third of Brazil's remaining Indians.
This state has become rapidly developed and de-forested, and
is also a distribution centre for cocaine. The Nordestinos
Indians remain a small but fragmented group here. It's a depressing
site of history and nature fading into extinction.
Probably the least popular state in Brazil out-shadowed by
its stunning neighbours of Rio and Bahia, Espirito Santo is
probably best visited for its quaint fishing villages and
seafood. The town of Guarapari has 23 lovely beaches
set against a mountain backdrop.
Minas Gerais is the size of France, a vast interior plateau
with some of the highest mountain peaks in Brazil and vast
deep valleys. There are a number of interesting historic colonial
cities within the vast region like Sao Joaoa del Rei, Ouro
Preto, site of the largest deposits of gold in the western
hemisphere, and Mariana. It is the site of Brazil 3rd
biggest city, Belo Horizonte. In the south of the state
are 13 spa towns which are well developed health resorts with
natural springs. The town of Caxambu is famed for its
water and a great place to unwind after the Rio
Sao Paulo city is the economic and industrial heart of Brazil
and the richest state in South America. With a population
of 17 million, it is also home to 11% of all Brazilians. It
is an incredibly cosmopolitan city with people from Japan,
rural Brazil, Italians and many others making up the Paulistanos
populations. It's hot and smoggy in summer and cold in winter,
so it's not the ideal tourist haunt but there's much to discovery,
like the colourful Mercado Municipal market, the art
museum with the best collection of art in Latin America and
some of the best multi-ethnic cuisine in the country.
The Paulista Coast is home to stunning beaches like
Ubatuba, Ilhabela island and the port of Santos
which are great retreats from the furious city.
Curitiba is the capital of Parana, a thoroughly modern
city yet calm and civilized with a mainly European residents.
From here you can visit the "stone city" of Vila
Velha, a collection of ancient naturally formed sand stone
pillars. Nearby Parangua is one of Brazil's major ports,
and is a colourful town of colonial buildings and fantastic
market goods with the best of Brazil's exports. The state
is home to the stunning Iguacu Falls, on the border
of Paraguay and Argentina, with The Grand View of the
Mainly farm lands inherited from German and Italian settlers,
the relatively affluent and egalitarian state of Santa Catarina
is abounding with beautiful beaches, wide open bays and clear
blue shores. It's become a recent beach fashion centre, with
holidays resorts popular with Brazilians.
Rio Grande do Sul
Port Alegre is a modern city which many visitors will
pass through, it's worth stopping for a while and taking in
the neo-classical architecture and friendly locals. The Serra
Gaucha mountains are great for hiking and as a retreat.
The Central West part of Brazil is one of the last great unexplored
wildernesses on earth. The state of Matto Grosso do Sul
is the wildlife paradise of Pantanal Matogrossense,
one of the great secrets of Brazil, a wetlands containing
over 200 species of bird in an area the size of Great Britain.
The only way to discover it is by plane. The Mato Grosso is
depicted in Peter "007" Fleming's novel "Brazilian
Adventure", a search for a missing British Colonel.
The regions is bush land and home to many of Brazil's native
Indians- It's the wild west of Brazil.