Whereas elegant Rio de Janeiro and cosmopolitan São Paulo may be the best-known places in Brazil, the Northeast, or Nordeste is one of the liveliest - a land of sunny beaches, colonial towns, vibrating street parties, music and friendly people.
The Northeast is the sunniest of Brazilian regions. Although this may mean long periods of drought for the mainly agricultural inland of some states (and thus crop losses and widespread poverty), the climate also provides almost year-round opportunities for beach-going and other outdoor activities. Long favoured by Brazilian holiday makers, the Northeast has also become increasingly popular with European travellers, especially from Portugal, Spain and Italy due to language and cultural similarities.
The region was also the original site of European colonization in Brazil. The first Europeans landed in Bahia, set up the country's first capital in Salvador, and over the next centuries brought millions of slaves from Africa to the region. Added to the indigenous population, the result is a fascinating rich cultural mix that makes up some often unknown faces of Brazilian culture.
Regions of Eastern Brazil:
- Bahia - is the fourth most populous Brazilian state after São Paulo, Minas Gerais and Rio de Janeiro, and the fifth-largest in size. It is also one of the most important states in terms of history and culture in Brazil. Bahia's capital is the city of Salvador, or more properly, São Salvador da Bahia de Todos os Santos, and is located at the junction of the Atlantic Ocean and the Bay of All Saints. The name "bahia" is an archaic spelling of the Portuguese word baía, meaning "bay", and comes from All Saints' Bay, first seen by European sailors in 1501.
- Sergipe - is the smallest state of the Brazilian Federation, located on the northeastern Atlantic coast of the country. As with most of the states in northeastern Brazil, inland Sergipe is almost entirely savanna (caatinga), and its coastline is characterised by mangroves, swamps and sandy beaches. A small strip of tropical rainforest runs down the coast.
- Alagoas - from the lagoons came the name of the state, which, in the 16th century, was invaded by Portuguese and French searching for pau-Brazil (a type of wood). The Dutch first arrived in the neighboring state of Pernambuco and ended up conquering the territory. The capital, Maceió, which borders the Rio Mundaú, is famous for its beaches and seafood and is Alagoas' most popular tourist attraction.
- Pernambuco - besides having some of the most beautiful beaches in Brazil, Pernambuco also has a rich history (including Olinda, one of the oldest cities in Brazil, plus Portuguese, Dutch and Jewish heritage in Recife, etc.) and a strong popular culture found in its folklore, food and handicrafts.
- Paraíba - is the third most densely populated state of the Northeast; João Pessoa, the sea-bordered state capital, and Campina Grande, in the interior, rank among the fifteen-largest municipalities in the Northeast of Brazil. Paraíba is most populated along the Atlantic coast, which extends as far as Ponta do Seixas, the easternmost point of the Americas. The state is a touristic and industrial hotspot; it is known for its cultural heritage, amenable climate and geographical features, ranging from the seaside beaches to the Borborema Plateau. It is named after the Paraíba river.
- Rio Grande do Norte - because of its geographic position, Rio Grande do Norte has a strategic importance. The capital and largest city is Natal. According to NASA, it has the purest air in the Americas. Its 410 km (254 mi) of sand, much sun, coconut palms and lagoons are responsible for the fame of beaches. Rocas Atoll, the only such feature in the Atlantic Ocean, is part of the state. The main economic activity is tourism. The state is famous for having many popular attractions such as the Maior cajueiro do mundo (world's largest cashew tree), the dunes and the dromedaries of Genipabu, the famous beaches of Ponta Negra, Maracajaú and Pipa's paradise, the Carnatal the largest off-season carnival in Brazil, the Forte dos Reis Magos is a medieval fortress, the hills and mountains of Martins, the Dunas Park the second largest urban park in the country, and several other attractions. The state is also closest to the archipelago of Fernando de Noronha.
- Ceará - is a state in Northeast Brazil. Traditionally one of the poorest in the country, certain regions have developed almost beyond recognition over the last 20 years, mostly from tourism and light manufacturing. The population is closing in on 9 million, of which almost a third lives in the capital, Fortaleza. A highlight is Prea, a wide open beach (12km) the most reliable kitesurfing playground on earth between mid. july to mid. january. Or the Ubajara National Park with its caves and waterfalls in the interior of Ceara.
- Piauí - was settled from the interior by cowboys and bandits, and has the shortest coastline of any northeastern state. Piauí is one of the poorest states in Brazil, and the economy is largely agricultural. Piauí is home to three of Brazil's National Parks, including the oldest known inhabited site in the Americas: Serra da Capivara National Park. The state has the world's fourth largest river delta, which is especially a haven for birds. Piauí is for travellers rather than tourists. Culturally, perhaps the state is the most authentically northeastern. The extreme heat shapes the culture. Teresina hosts the three-day Micarana festival in July, attracting top artists and visitors from all over Brazil - and no tourists.
- Maranhao - is second only to Bahia in terms of Afro-Brazilian culture, although it has an air of the Caribbean mixed in. This is especially noticeable in the unique reggae played here.
Highlights of Eastern Brazil:
- Fernando de Noronha - A tropical island paradise in the middle of the Atlantic ocean. Is protected as a Marine National Park since 1997 and a World Heritage Site.
- Olinda - is a city in the north-eastern Brazilian state of Pernambuco. It hosts one of Brazil's most famous carnivals and is listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO due to its XVI and XVII-century buildings. Many bars, restaurants, artist and craftspeople studios add charm to the old-town setting.