A guide to Northern Brazil
Northern Brazil is the more of an untouched beauty in Brazil. It has some incredible natural wonders, some rich Afro-Brazilian history and a relaxing desert oasis to disconnect and chill in the many hammocks found this side of Brazil. Why on Earth would you miss out?!
Read on to get a taste of the few places we visited, and share your recommendations of places we missed!
We only spent the day in Fortaleza so it was a very quick stop for us but around 2/3 days could be spent here to visit other sights, such as Praia de Morro Branco. During our time there, we visited the Beach Park water park, which houses one of the tallest water slides in the world. For the more lazy river type of people, it is also very family friendly.
Our evening in Fortaleza was certainly unforgettable! We discovered a restaurant called Coco Bambu, which we highly recommend visiting as the food is very tasty and for those on the look-out, it is vegetarian/vegan friendly. However, please take our advice and choose just one item to share between 2 people as the portions are huge (unless you're super hungry)! They also do lovely Caipirinhas in many different flavours (coconut being our favourite), with 50% off during Happy Hour.
Our final stop was ‘The Reggae Club’. Northern Brazilians have developed a unique reggae culture where couples dance in ballroom style fashion to roots reggae. It’s very different to any other reggae dancing and a definite must see! If you can’t catch it here, you can also visit Bar do Nelson in São Luis too.
Jericoacoara, correctly pronounced Jeri-kwa-kwa-rah, has been dubbed the Maldives of Brazil and for good reason. The one hour 4x4 journey along dirt road terrains and over huge sand dunes made this all the more evident as we arrived into this little paradise.
All the roads are just sand, there are hammocks in almost every doorway and the shops and restaurants all have such a cute and quaint look about them; just taking a walk around feels like you’re on a movie set and we could have stayed here forever!
The aim here is to completely relax, much like the Maldives. You have the option of various excursions in jeeps, buggy’s and quads too and we would particularly recommend checking out the East or the West of Jeri, where you’ll be able to take trips through the sand dunes and see beautiful lagoons and even zip line into one for just £3! You can also learn how to kite surf, or do some surfing if that floats your boat too. We personally did our tour through Trilha do Jerico, who were very professional and provided us with some great drone and GoPro footage of our day.
We felt Jeri deserved a full blog post, you can read more about this beauty here!
If you’ve made it to Brazil, Lençois Maranhenses should be locked into your travel plans!
Similar to Jeri, it requires another 4x4 journey to visit the Lençois National Park. It has natural lagoons between brilliant white sand dunes, something we're not sure you’d find anywhere else in the world.
We chose to do a full day excursion from the nearby town, Barreirinhas, costing us 100 Reals (£20) each but there are many options depending on what you like, including homestays with the locals in the park and 1-2 days hikes across the sand dunes too.
Our tour included a stop on two beaches, a swim in the beautiful lagoons and a delicious meal (not included in the price but still less than 100 Reals for 2 people). Even out of season (Dec-Apr), you may be told that the park won’t be as good as the lagoons are not as full but having visited during this time ourselves (February) we can vouch that it is still possible at this time of year and the lagoons we had were still very full. Either way, you will have a magical experience!
Similar to Salvador, São Luis has a rich African culture embedded into its history. It is also known as the Jamaica of Brazil.
São Luis has many interesting museums to check out; most of which, are free to visit. We chose to visit the Reggae Museum, which is the only one in the world other than Jamaica's. It explains how reggae became part of the Maranhão culture. Unfortunately it is only explained in Portuguese, but if you don’t manage to get to a reggae club, you’ll see videos of the unique dancing we mentioned in here too.
Another interesting museum was ‘Popular Culture Center Domingos Vieira Filhoe’. This shared some of the more religious and cultural festivals São Luis and Maranhão celebrate; the costumes in here were really cool and we had a very sweet guide who spoke enough English to explain what we were looking at on each floor.
We also visited Convento das Mercês, a small museum about the history of Brazilian Politicians. Unfortnately, Cafua dos Mercês, which is a museum about the history of Slavery in Brazil and particularly São Luis, was closed during our visit. However, situated inside an old slave trade market, it holds a replica whipping station and many other items from that time. If you manage to visit, please let us know how it is!
As a side note, take care in São Luis. We felt very safe in Brazil but admittedly, in the Historic Centre of São Luis, we didn't feel entirely comfortable. Although we were fine, we would just advise that some caution is taken in this area.
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