Northeast Brazil Travel Guide – Get Off the Beaten Path
July 11, 2018
Northeast Brazil Travel Guide
We heard so many great things about Brazil’s northeastern region that we just had to go – and now we are so glad 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. This is our complete Northeast Brazil Travel Guide to help inspire you to go there as well as plan your trip!
A Little Bit About 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. 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 the side of Brazil that we most often don’t see, then going to Northeast Brazil is a must!
How to Get There
We booked a flight for $170 Australian dollars from Rio to Fortaleza. The flight was about three hours and saved us about 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.)
Go directly onto the Brazilian airline websites to book your flight. Often the best deals are only offered there and in Portuguese. Using Skyscanner will not always give you the best deals on flights in Brazil. Try the airline Avianca here.
If you prefer to take the bus, we found that busbud.com is great for seeing all of the options available and knowing the prices and how long each route takes.
Where to go 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. The order of the places listed is also a great route for traveling Northeast Brazil.
Salvador is a city right on the coast and the capital of the state of Bahia. Salvador is popular for bright colonial buildings and amazing beaches right in the 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.
Chapada Diamantina National Park
Only a five-hour bus ride from Salvador heading inland is the incredible national park,. Chapada Diamantina! Since it is 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 on a mulit-day hike.
The 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!
[/caption]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 great charm to it that makes it a great place to wander around for a day. They often have live music and dancers performing on the streets and markets set up.
From Olinda, a day trip to the beach called Porto de Galinhas is also awesome. While it can be very busy during the holidays in Brazil, it is still worth visiting for the reef which makes natural swimming pools full of fish!
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 backpacker 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 are lucky, they might even swim right up to you! I didn’t see any when was there, but people I met did.
Natal is the city closes 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 worth checking out.
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!
[/caption]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 obrigrada” (no thank you) and they continue on.
What Things Cost
[/caption]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.
Safety in Northeast Brazil
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.
In addition to what we heard, a big headline in the news when we were there was about the large gang violence in prisons in the Northeast. 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, tons of prostitutes in their underwear, 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 any 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) 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!
[/caption]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 holidays 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!
Do you think Northeast Brazil sounds like a neat place to go? Tell us in the comments!