The capital of the state of Rio Grande do Norte, Natal owes its name to the date of its foundation, 25 December 1599, by the Portuguese. Between 1630 and 1650, the occupying Dutch favoured the trade of salt and sugar cane. Due to its geographical location at the far east of the South American continent, Natal was the second largest American foreign naval base during World War II. It had more than 8,000 American pilots, and several military operations to Africa were launched from here.
What is known as "the city of sun" is today renowned for its wide beaches that stretch for over 60 miles. There are all different types of them to be found: with dunes, vast, family-friendly, and deserted. Why not try crossing the dunes in a sand buggy? An original and fun option!Built on hills, Natal is a city of contrasts: a historic centre home to various colonial buildings, a modern part without any particular charm but ideal for night owls, and Ponta Negra. You will find restaurants, bars, and hotels of all different categories. The Via Costeira, a strip lining nearly 6 miles of the seafront in the protected area of the Sand Dunes Park which stretches up to Ponta Negra, is where Natal's main resorts are found. In total, the city has more than 380 hotels.
Travelling along the northern coastline by buggy remains a classic way to discover the region's charms. Take the Genipabu dunes for example, some 16 miles from Natal. The trip will take you past the beach of Redinha and various tourist attractions, like the freshwater lagoon of Pitangui. The buggy generally comes to pick you up from the hotel early in the morning. Plan on being gone the whole day though, as this will allow you go at your own pace and take full advantage of the excursion. You can take a break for a swim or for a bite to eat near to the beach. What's more, the driver will ask how quickly you want to go in order to determine the type of experience you are looking for.For fans of water sports, Natal is the ideal place to practice kite-surfing or sailing thanks its location in the far east of Brazil, where the wind blows year round. You can claim a section of beach on one of the many beaches in the area, notably in Praia dos Artistas, the centre of Natal, Praia do Meio, and Ponta Negra. Another interesting excursion leaves from Maracajaú, a paradise for diving enthusiasts. You will be able to observe dozens of species of fish and other marine animals in the natural pools created by the coral formations. However, be sure to get more information before planning this outing, as everything depends on the tides.
The historical centre is packed with very beautiful colonial buildings. We recommend you take an hour to discover this part of the city. Start with Chili Street, which will immediately take you back to another time. This street's oldest building dates back to 1731. In the 18th century, this was a popular and trendy place to be. Next you will discover the Classical Alberto Maranhao Theatre, which has also retained some traces of the Art Nouveau style. The Felipe Camarao Palace stands out for its eclectic architecture, which includes a baroque pediment, Classical columns and Gothic pinnacles. André Albuquerque Square is mainly of historical interest, as this is where construction on the city began in 1599.Inaugurated in November 2007, the 55-metre high Newton Navarro bridge is a symbol of the modernity of the state of Rio Grande do Norte. In addition to its elegant appearance and the beautiful views it has over Ponta Negra and the Via Costeira, this bridge has helped to significantly reduce journeys to the cities of the north coast, previously only accessible by boat. Built in 1598 at the mouth of the Potengi river to defend the city from invasion by the French, the Fort of the Three Kings is shaped like a star. This 2,800 m² fortress is a good example of 16th century architecture.
Surface area : 3,287,612 sq mi km2
Population : 190,732,694 inhabitants
If you are staying in Natal, you absolutely must visit Pipa, if even for just a day. Admire the dolphins while standing on the beach, visit Chapadao, and go for stroll in the centre.You can also rent a car during your stay to take full advantage of the landscapes and attractions in the region.
The rainy season generally lasts from May to June. Outside of this period there isn't anything weather-wise to hold you back, as temperatures are more mild during the rest of the year.Although the area is not dangerous, try not to carry around too many valuable objects.
The cuisine in the north-east mainly consists of fish and seafood. You absolutely must try 'muquequa of peixe', a fish-based dish made with peppers, tomatoes, onions, and coconut milk. It is impossible to count the number of shrimp-based recipes, cooked in all types of sauces. A leader in shrimp farming, the city even organises its own yearly shrimp festival.We recommend you try the 'Camaroes' restaurant, which has two branches in Ponta Negra; it is the perfect place to sample some of the region's diverse specialities. Beware, the portions are huge, so ask how many people they are meant to serve when you order! Various meat dishes are available, on the condition that you like your meat well done. If not, go to a rodizio, a restaurant which offers only grilled meat and where you will have more choice. Finally, the fruit juices are delicious and freshly squeezed on request. Another option is to dilute them with water, a common practice here.
Located in a former prison, the tourist centre is home to more than 36 shops distributed among... the former cells! You will find everything here: cotton hammocks, tablecloths made with natural fibres, and traditional wooden objects. Musicians can take the opportunity to purchase a 'berimbau', a traditional local instrument.Try the delicious cashew nuts that you will find in speciality shops and supermarkets, and even at Natal's main market held on Saturdays. Furthermore, as a souvenir of Brazil, you will be able to choose from the traditional cachaca, to make a caipirinha, or the famous havaianas, the flip flops that have become all the rage in Spain and throughout Europe in general, and which are much cheaper here.
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