With its landscapes, nature and beautiful beaches with warm waters, the Northeastern region of Brazil is a compulsory destination for all who like to travel. There is plenty to see and do in the nine states that make up the region. And each one of them has enough attractions to entertain you through several days of vacation.
However, we propose here a tour through four states, with two days in each of their capitals, so you can find out some of what they have to offer. The paradise-like beaches of Alagoas, the urban beaches of Ceará, the sand dunes of Rio Grande do Norte and the cultural production of Pernambuco are all must-sees, of course. But there's so much more. However, to discover the richness of these destinations, the best way is to go there and check it out yourself.
You can go on this tour in a variety of ways: by plane, bus or car. Our suggestion is to go by land, because the distances are not very long, so you can admire the scenery of the region and stop at points of interest along the road.
Fortaleza is the first destination. We recommend saving a day to explore the city center and another for the beaches.
Start your tour with Theatro José de Alencar. Landmarked by Instituto do Patrimônio Histórico e Artístico Nacional (Iphan), its front has a beautiful art nouveau design that combines colorful stained-glass windows and an elaborate Scottish metal structure. It's worth it to check out the programming and try to watch a dance, theater or music presentation there.
Then, head to Catedral Metropolitana, which took 40 years to be completed. Its spear-shaped towers reach 75m in height and can be seen from afar. Inside, the high arched ceiling and the incredible stained-glass windows stand out.
Now it's time to visit Centro Dragão do Mar de Arte e Cultura, which, in its more than 30000 square meters, houses Memorial da Cultura Cearense, the Contemporary Art Museum, the planetarium, and several cinema and theater rooms. You can spend an entire afternoon there.
Today is a beach day! Start with the most famous beach of Fortaleza, Praia do Futuro. With 8 km of shoreline, it offers an excellent infrastructure for tourism, with tents and beach chairs, hot water showers and several stalls serving typical foods. The waves are strong, so attention when going into the sea!
Next is Iracema Beach, which has a promenade that attracts lots of people in the evening. The Sunset from there is especially pretty (try to watch it again from Ponte Metálica, a bridge which stands above the sea) and the place is great for walking and for cycling, rollerblading or skateboarding. Next to it is the Fair of Meireles, with bars, restaurants and local handicrafts.
Fortaleza and Natal are separated by more than 500 km, which is 7 hours of travel by car. So it is best to leave early to enjoy the afternoon at the new destination. Once there, go straight to Ponta Negra Beach, where Morro do Careca is located, which is a symbol of the city. The famous dune, which has 120m, is off-limits to visitors who, however, can admire it from the beach and from the many tents at the promenade. The place is also suitable for the practice of water sports which require calm waters, such as windsurfing, kitesurfing and SUP.
Parque das Dunas, the next stop, is the second largest urban park of Brazil, with an area equivalent to more than 1000 soccer fields! With lots of Atlantic Forest and numerous species of animals, like mammals, birds and reptiles, it offers visitors hiking trails, playgrounds and racetracks.
Start the day by visiting Fortaleza dos Reis Magos, which is the city’s zero mile marker. Built in the shape of a star in 1599, by Portuguese settlers, the fortress still preserves cannons and weapons of the time. Its strategic location, at the spot where the Potengi River flows into the ocean, did not stop it from being taken by the Dutch, in 1633, so a few years later, it would be recovered by the Portuguese.
After the visit, it is time to leave Natal, but not Rio Grande do Norte yet. On the way to Recife, make sure to stop by the "largest cashew tree in the world", which is how Cajueiro de Pirangi is known. The location is also a point of departure towards the natural pools of the state. And, if you continue on the road, you will arrive at the Village of Pipa, famous for its beaches, lakes and buggy rides. You can make a stop there, enjoy it a little and continue the journey the next day.
Today is a road day. And the recommendation still stands: wake up early and traverse the nearly 300 km between Natal and Recife. The capital of the State of Pernambuco has attractions for all tastes: beaches, culture, history, gastronomy. In two days, you can do a little of each and thus experience its multiple facets.
Start the walk at Old Recife and with Capela Dourada (Golden Chapel), the most beautiful church in the city. Its walls are lined with sacred paintings. And the side altars exhibit lots of gold. It’s hard not to be impressed. On the back of the chapel, the Santo Antônio Church and its panel of Portuguese tiles are worth a visit.
From there, head to Praça do Marco Zero, the city’s zero mile marker, near the pier. It is worth it to to spend a whole afternoon walking around the ancient streets of the neighborhood. There you will find, for example, Parque das Esculturas and the famous Coluna de Cristal, a work by artist Francisco Brennand. Also, Pernambuco’s Handicrafts Center, with the work of 350 artisans, and Museu Cais do Sertão Luiz Gonzaga, a museum which tells the history and the trajectory of the King of Baião.
The first stop is the Ricardo Brennand Institute. Founded by the collector and businessman after whom it is named, the place has the atmosphere of a medieval castle and brings together sculptures, tapestries, furniture, paintings, coins and maps related mainly to the period of the Dutch occupation in Pernambuco.
Then, it's time to rest body and mind at Praia do Pina, a beach with sands which are an invite to the practice of sports on its courts. At night, you can remain there and visit its bars and parties, which are always full, or go to the neighboring city of Olinda, and visit its historic center, declared as Cultural and Historic World Heritage by Unesco.
We are now headed towards our last destination, Maceió, capital of Alagoas, about 250 km from Recife. Before arriving, however, stop by Ipioca Beach, one of the most beautiful in the state, with its greenish blue waters and white and soft sands. The sand banks and calm sea form natural pools which are perfect for diving. As there is almost no infrastructure there, remember to take food and drinks.
When you get to Maceió, go to Pajuçara Beach, which is also great for diving amid fish. The place is highly sought after by families with children and, unlike Ipioca, it offers a wide variety of bars and restaurants, in addition to showers, a running track and a bike lane.
Despite gathering various architectural styles, due to the various reforms it was subjected to, the Cathedral of Maceió remains harmonious. It is worth it to visit the location and its interiors, which have characteristics ranging from the neoclassical (on the irregular pediment) to the modern (on the masonry altar) styles.
Then it's time to visit the most famous attraction of Alagoas, Praia do Francês. Located on the municipality of Marechal Deodoro, 33 km from Maceió, the beach enthralls its visitors for its sea of multiple colors, which range from light green to dark blue, and its natural pools, which are perfect for children. Surfers also have a place here, as the right corner of the beach has strong waves, which are perfect for the practice of the sport. Once on Praia do Francês, you can take the opportunity to go on a boat trip to Saco da Pedra, a haven of calm and tranquility.