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Exploring Brazil's Northeast

Beaches, carnaval, Candomble, music and mountains

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Map of Brazil

Map of Brazil

The World Factbook
Brazil is a land of contrasts, of vast isolated areas and densely populated cities. Brazil is mystery, music, food, tropical rainforests and fabulous beaches. It is the Amazon and the drought-ridden states of the Northeast, South America's easternmost region.

The Northeastern states of Alagoas, Bahia, Ceará, Maranhão, Paraíba, Pernambuco, Piaui, Rio Grande do Norte and Sergipe are different from the rest of Brazil. The population is more heavily African and mestizo, the cuisine is spicier, the weather hot and dry. The barren areas called sertão are more desert-like than tropical since they get rain for only a short time each year.

The states border the Atlantic and boast excellent beaches. They extend inland for varying distances, from a narrow coastal plain, where sugar cane once was the main crop, into semi-arid region which the Brazilian government is trying to reclaim much of the semiarid hinterland whose characteristic landscape is the caatinga, or thorny scrub forest. The chief occupation of the region is stock raising. The sertão area, in the “polygon of drought,” has suffered periodic droughts and caused large-scale migrations to the Amazon basin and to country's cities.

Official reclamation activities have spurred the construction of numerous dams and hydroelectric projects, especially on the São Francisco River. In the 1960s a successful extensive regional economic development program to address social unrest and counter-effect its harsh and picturesque history, peopled by leather-garbed cowboys, bandits (cangaceiros), and religious fanatics. Development of tourism is a concerted, on-going effort.

With the exception of Bahia, most of the northeastern states aren't as well known or visited as some other areas of Brazil, yet here the visitor will find splendid, uncrowded beaches, rest and relaxation, plus a wealth of things to do and see. You may travel inexpensively, eating cheaply and bargaining for room rates, or you may go upscale all the way.

Most of the northeast is not as developed as other parts of the country, so travel may be both an adventure and more than just a means of getting there. Cruise ships call in at several ports. Travel by air is common, but not inexpensive. In towns, if you are feeling very brave and don't mind getting lost, you can take a bus. Several cities have subway systems. You can also hop aboard a motorcycle taxi and experience something different. Along the beaches you can rent dune buggies or horses.

Visit the various states for a closer look at the attractions and travel opportunities:

Enjoy a relaxed and inviting stay in Brazil's northeastern region of great beaches, sun and sand.

Boa viagem!

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