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8 BEST Places to Visit in Northeast Brazil and Travel Guide

8 BEST Places to Visit in Northeast Brazil and Travel Guide

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This is our complete Northeast Brazil travel guide complete with the 8 BEST places to visit and a day-by-day travel itinerary! It includes all of the best things to do in Northeast Brazil as well as a well-planned route to help plan your Northeast Brazil itinerary!

We heard so many great things about Brazil’s northeastern region that we just had to go – and now we are so glad that we did! Northeast Brazil is amazing and offers so many unique and interesting things to do and see that other parts of Brazil don’t.

As a more “off-the-beaten-path” area of Brazil, Northeast Brazil offers unique experiences to those who make the journey here. Northeast Brazil is like a different world to Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, but that’s what made our time there so spectacular!

From secluded beaches to mountainous national pakrs to wildlife, Northeast Brazil was amazing to explore. So, if you’re thinking about visiting Northeast Brazil for yourself, don’t hestiate, you’re going to love it!

The only problem we had with traveling Northeast Brazil was the lack of information available for planning. Where are the best places to visit? What are the best things to do? What route should we travel? What are the safety conrerns? These are all questions we had before we traveled the region.

So, that’s why we’ve written this blog! To help others plan their trip in Northeast Brazil! We’ve included the 8 best places to visit along with a detailed itinerary and other important tidbits of info so you can feel prepared before you go!

A Little Bit About Northeast Brazil

Bailey sitting in a natural pool in Chapada Diamantina National Park, in the Northeast Brazil region
Just enjoying the gorgeous nature in Northeast Brazil!

Northeast Brazil is an area of Brazil typically ranging from Salvador to Fortaleza. It isn’t as far north as the Amazon and isn’t as far south as Rio. This area is most usually traveled along the coast although there are some points of interest inland as well.

Northeast Brazil is different from southern areas of Brazil for one big reason, the culture is different. In some ways, it feels like an entirely different country – which is what makes traveling here so great! The people look different, talk different, and dance differently.

But that’s not all.

There are fewer tourists, and while this can create somewhat of a safety concern, it also makes traveling in this area of Brazil much more affordable!

For anyone looking for a bit of adventure and wanting to get to know a side of Brazil that most don’t see, then going to Northeast Brazil is a must!

Getting to Northeast Brazil

On a sand buggy tour near Pipa, Brazil
A dune buggy tour is definitely one of the best things to do in Northeast Brazil!

You can either get to Northeast Brazil by bus or airplane. Depending on where you want to start and end your trip, an airplane is probably the best choice (especially if you’re following our reccommended itinerary below!)

We booked a flight for about $120 USD from Rio de Janeiro to Fortaleza. The flight was three hours long and saved us well-over 50 hours on a bus. The bus is usually the cheaper option in Brazil, but in this case, the price was very similar and a flight saved us a lot of time (and sore backs and necks!)

If you prefer to take the bus, we found that is great for seeing all of the options available and knowing the prices and how long each route takes. A bus ride from Rio to Salvador is about 24 hours long and is a good starting point for exploring Northeast Brazil. However, cheap flights are also available from Rio to Salvador and vice versa too.

*Hot tip: Go directly onto the Brazilian airline websites to book your flight. Often the best deals are only offered there and in Portuguese. Using Skyscanner or other online flight search engines will not always give you the best deals on flights in Brazil. Try the airline Avianca here.

Related Read:   Budget-Saving Tips for Carnival in Rio in 2020

8 BEST Places to Visit in Northeast Brazil

There are so many places that you can check out, but for my Northeast Brazil Travel Guide, I am going to focus on my favorites as well as the most popular tourist spots. All of the places I’ve listed are also included in the day-by-day itinerary I’ve included further below in this blog.

1. Salvador, Bahia

dancers in salvador, bahia
Dancing capoeira in Salvador. It is a typical kind of dance in Brazil that mimics fighting.

Salvador is a city right on the coast and the capital of the state of Bahia. It’s popular for bright colonial buildings and amazing beaches right in Salvador city! There is also a massive marketplace called Mercado Modelo which is well worth checking out!

We were in Salvador for the pre-carnival celebrations and it was so much fun! There was a massive parade all along the boardwalk next to the water leading into town.

Salvador is Northeast Brazil’s most vibrant city, and also likely one of the most popular tourist destinations in the region. In fact, many tourists visit only Salvador and skip the other destinations I mention below. While I don’t necessarily recommend this, if you’re short on time, it is definitely an option.

*Tour recommendations: While in Salvador, you can visit all of the city’s best attractions in just one day on a guided city tour. You can also go on a day trip to some amazing nearby beaches which was really a highlight for us!

2. Chapada Diamantina National Park

Only a five-hour bus ride from Salvador heading inland is an incredible national park, Chapada Diamantina! Since it’s a bit of a distance, you will likely want to spend a few nights in the town closest to the park called Lencois. From Lencois you can go on several different day trips in the Chapada Diamantina National Park or go even on a multi-day hike.

Chapada Diamantina National Park features caves, turquoise blue swimming holes, waterfalls, and beautiful viewpoints. It is often missed by international visitors but the town of Lenois is still a tourist town, but mostly filled with Brazilians!

Chapada Diamantina is a really unique destination in Northeast Brazil, and one that nature-lovers will truly enjoy!

3. Olinda

Dancers in Olinda
Street dancers putting on a show in Olinda, Northeast Brazil.

Olinda is a small city that sits only a few minutes away from the city of Recife. Now, you can choose to stay in Recife and just make a day trip to Olinda or you can stay in Olinda itself.

Olinda has a charm to it that makes it a great place to wander around for a day or two. They often have live music and dancers performing on the streets and markets set up. The houses and buildings around Olinda are painted vibrant colors making it a photographer’s dream location.

For me personally, Olinda was one of my favorite places in Northeast Brazil, and one I highly recommend checking out for at least one day!

4. Recife

Boa Viagem boardwalk in Recife, Brazil
Walking along the boadwalk in Boa Viagem is one of the best things to do in Recife!

Recife is the larger metropolitan city that neighbors Olinda. It is less of a tourist destination and more of a real Northeast Brazilian city – but that doesn’t make it any less special to visit.

Recife offers lots of historic buildings, shopping, and delicious food and drinks. You can simply wander the streets on your own, or jump on a guided tour (like this one that includes cachaça tastings!)

There are also some great beach day trips available from Recife. One in particular that we did and loved, was a visit to the beach called Porto de Galinhas! Here, the reef creates a natural swimming pool that is full of fishy! While it can be very busy during the holidays in Brazil, it is still worth visiting for a vibrant Brazil beach experience!

For more information, check out our complete blog about the best things to do in Olinda and Recife!

5. Pipa

Just enjoying a quiet beach in Pipa, Brazil!

If you want to relax, this little (and I mean little) beach town is the place to do so. It’s quaint, right on the ocean, and safe!

The hostel called Lagarto Na Banana is known for being one of the best hostels in Brazil for the amazing vibe, location in the middle of the jungle, free yoga, and tasty cocktails. Pipa is the type of place backpackers just love. For me, I spent two nights there and then had to keep moving but I would have loved to base myself there for a few months!

The beach near Pipa also is known for having wild dolphins. If you’re lucky, they might even swim right up to you! I didn’t see any when I was there, but the people I met did!

The truth is, for such a small town, there is a huge range of exciting things to do in Pipa, Brazil! It is the perfect place to relax on your Northeast Brazil holiday!

6. Natal

The view of Natal city from the fort.

Natal is the city closest to Pipa. It is only an hour and a half away and for that reason, many choose to stay in Natal and make a day trip to Pipa.

It is actually quite a large city that sits along the coast. The beach near the city is nice and there is even an old fort that is really worth checking out. Expect to find lots of cheap food and drinks, as well as some great local markets too!

Natal is also famous for the nearby sand dunes which you can hire a buggy and driver to take you around. This was the highlight of my trip to Natal and such a fun adventurous day speeding around over the sand dunes!

Also not too far from the city of Natal is the world’s largest cashew tree. Although this sounds like an odd attraction, it is truly a lot of fun and really impressive to see!

Honestly, before I visited Natal I had no idea what to expect, but as it turns out, there is a huge range of awesome things to do and see in Natal to keep tourists busy!

7. Fortaleza

fortaleza, brazil skyline
Fortaleza is a big city in Northeat Brazil.

Fortaleza is a great starting or ending point on any trip to Northeast Brazil as the airport offers flights to many other places.

We started in Fortaleza and found it a very “local city” with only one street really for tourists.

As we were still nervous about safety at this stage, we spent most of our time exploring the tourist street which was a boardwalk along the ocean. Although nobody spoke English, we managed to find a nice restaurant that sold cheap beers (R$4 or like $1.75 for 600ml and they serve them so nice and cold!)

It was interesting just sitting there watching all the hustle and bustle of the beach and restaurant. Dozens of vendors scurried around from table to table trying to sell all sorts of things, and it isn’t annoying such as vendors in some other countries that don’t take ‘no’ for an answer, all you say is “no Obrigado” (no thank you) and they continue on.

8. Jericoacoara Beach

jericoacoara brazil sand dunes
The incredible sand dunes of Jericoacoara!

Jericoacoara Beach is an incredible place to visit in Northeast Brazil. Here, the beach stretches as far as the eye can see and it meets mountains of pure sand! That’s right, sand dunes and an amazing beach all in one place!

Most people visit Jericoacoara from Fortaleza, first taking a bus to the small town of  Jijoca. Here, you can stay for a night or two and then go on a day trip to Jericoacoara where you can ride a buggy through the dunes, go horseback riding, or even just enjoy the beach! Alternatively, it is possible to visit Jericoacoara on an organized tour from Fortaleza too.

No matter how you decide to explore Jericoacoara, you’re going to love it! To me, it is the most unique and impressive destination in Northeast Brazil!

Northeast Brazil Itinerary

Fly to Fortaleza

Fortaleza is where we started our Northeast Brazil journey, and to me, it was the perfect place to start. The large airport frequents both international and domestic flights. In fact, we were able to snag flights for just over $100 USD from Rio de Janerio!

2-4 Days in Jericoacoara

Don’t spend too much time in Fortaleza and immediately head to Jijoca by bus. Here you can spend a night or two and visit Jericoacoara Beach easily!

1-2 Days in Fortaleza

Once you’ve finished exploring Jericoacoara, take a bus back to fortaleza to spend a day or two expxlrong. Be sure to walk the oceanfront malecon and take advantage or cheap beer and seafood!

2-4 Days in Natal

Jump on a bus (approximately 8 hours) from Fortaleza to Natal. Plan on spending at least a couple of nights in Natal to enjoy the beach, visit the fort, and go to the world’s largest cashew tree!

2-7 Days in Pipa

From Natal, Pipa is just a short 2-hour drive away. Take the local bus or organize a proivate transfer.

Once in Pipa, you can relax at the beach, join yoga classes, explore trendy restaurants and cafes, and even swim with wild dolphins (if you’re lucky!) If you have time to spare, consider spending a few days in Pipa, it is really a gorgeous and relaxing destination that everybody seems to love!

1-3 Days in Recife and Olinda

Recife and Olinda are located about 4 hours south of Pipa. Once you get here, book a hotel in either Recife or Olinda, but be sure to explore both as they are very different and only about 20 minutes away from each other.

Be sure to visit one of the pristine nearby beaches too such as Porto de Gallinhas – they are truelyu magical!

2-5 Days in Salvador

Recife is about 1 12 hours bus ride from Recife, which makes it the perfect journey to do by night. Book a VIP bus so you can have a comfortable night’s sleep on this longer journy.

Be sure to spoend a few days in Salvadoir as there is lots to do and see. Historic buildings, markets, cobblestoned streets, vibrant culutre, and beautiful beaches are what you can expect in Salvador!

4-7 Days in Lencois/Chapada Diamantina National Park

It is about a 5 hour drive from Salvador to the town of Lencois in Chapada Diamantina National Park. Once there, book day trips to visit waterfalls, hike to vewpoints, and swim in crystal clear swimming holes! It is the perfect place in Noretheast Brazil for the outdoor adventurer.

Bus Back to Salvador and Fly/Bus Back to Rio

From Lencois, you can either book a domestic (typically expensive) flight to your next destination in Brazil. Altnerantively, you can do what we did and bus back to Salvador before taking a flight back to Rio. If you have the time, continue down the coast all the way to Rio de Janeiro enjoying the many beach towns!

What Things Cost in Northeast Brazil

the northeast of brazil is much more affordable than the south
Yes, that is R$1 for a fresh coconut water, so equivalent to about $0.25 USD!

Northeast Brazil is much cheaper to travel than the south of Brazil. There aren’t inflated prices for tourism and even most of the hostels are priced for Brazilians to stay at on a holiday.

Here are some general prices of things in Northeast Brazil:

  • 600ml beer at an average priced restaurant: R$6-10
  • Meal of the day at an average priced restaurant: R$10-15
  • Dorm bed in a hostel: R$25-40
  • Bus for 8 hours: R$95

*Note: At the time of writing R$1 equals $0.25 USD.

Related Read:   13 Things You Need to Know Before Backpacking in Brazil

Safety in Northeast Brazil

> Getting into the culture and getting my hair braided in Salvador!

Although we heard great things about the Northeast, we also heard bad things too. It is much poorer than anywhere we had been yet which can lead to crime. So naturally, safety is a topic I must cover in this Northeast Brazil travel guide.

I did some research about Fortaleza (where we landed) before we arrived and apparently, there are many parts of the city that are absolutely unsafe for us “gringos” and even the tourist area is common for petty crimes such as robberies. I was a bit nervous and unsure of what to expect from the city.

Our flight arrived in the middle of the night and we had to get a taxi (no Ubers were available) to our hostel. On the drive, I saw streets very worn down, shacks for houses, a few shady characters around, and garbage everywhere lining the streets. To say the least, I was even more nervous about what we had gotten ourselves into.

After exploring the touristy street called Avenida Beira Mar the following day our opinions were changed. Sure, the majority of Fortaleza may not be beautiful or safe for a couple of gringos, but the one area of street lining the beach was very nice. We never brought our valuables with us so I don’t have many pictures, but there were many restaurants and bars and street food available for kilometers along the beach.

Like in Fortaleza, it is important to exercise caution in all cities in Brazil. Research in advance the best neighborhoods to stay in, learn some basic Portuguese, don’t show off your valuable possessions, and be cautious walking around after dark. It is also important to note that out of everywhere we went in Northeast Brazil, Fortaleza felt the most unsafe, other places (especially small towns like Pipa) felt completely safe!

Don’t be scared of traveling in Northeast Brazil, we loved every minute of it and felt safe most of the time

For our best safety tips for traveling in South America, check out our blog. 

Related Read:   Robbed in Brazil at Gunpoint - Our Story

Before you go…

We loved traveling in Northeast Brazil! But it wasn’t just about the culture and the scenery, we actually met so many Brazilians during our travels! Brazilians love to travel their own country, so we met many people from the south that were on holiday in the north. Some of these friends even hosted us later on during our travels in the South!

We hope you found our Northeast Brazil Travel Guide helpful and inspiring! Be sure to check out the rest of our Brazil blogs including some of our personal favorites:

Brazil to Bolivia by Land – Border Crossing Guide

Complete Guide to Ilha Grande, Brazil

15 Best Brazil Travel Highlights

Do you think Northeast Brazil sounds like a neat place to go? Tell us in the comments!


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