Natal is the Enchanting City of the Sun
A Host City of World Cup Brazil 2014
Natal’s nickname is Cidade do Sol, City of the Sun. I bet you already have a guess why: the sun shines in Natal for more than 300 days a year and the average temperature is 30°C. Even when it rains, the sun comes out right after the rain, if not during it, always illuminating this wonderful place.
Natal is the capital of the state of Rio Grande do Norte and one of Brazil’s oldest cities, founded on December 25, 1599. Yes, Christmas Day. Natal means Christmas, in Portuguese. According to IPEA (Institute for Applied Economic Research), Natal is one of the safest capitals in Brazil. Great to know that because it is one the cities hosting the soccer World Cup to be held in Brazil in 2014.
According to NASA, the second purest air in the world is found in Natal. And talking about NASA, the City of the Sun is home to the first rocket base in South America. It was also an important military base during the Second World War due to its geographical position: the easternmost point in South America.
Blessed by nature, Natal has a great variety of natural beauties such as lagoons, dunes, hills and amazingly green ocean. It is a tropical Shangri-la and a top Brazil travel destination for sports lovers.
That said, let’s get down to business: the attractions.
To enjoy the Dunes of Genipabu, you have to hire a professional driver with a dune buggy. The area is protected, hence only authorized drivers are allowed there. There are dozens of bugueiros (buggy drivers) in Natal. Make sure you hire somebody with credentials and licensed with the City.
This tour takes you to Lagoa de Pitangui. It is a lagoon but completely surrounded by sand. There is a restaurant where you can order appetizers and drinks while you sit at one to the tables in the water. That’s the beauty of it: the table and chairs are placed in a shallow creek fed by a short waterfall. You sip your drink comfortably sitting on a chair soaking in glorious water. This really is the good life!
After that you go the Dunes of Genipabu. The bugueiro is going to ask you if you want to see the dunes com emoção (with emotion) or sem emoção (without emotion). With emotion you go fast, the buggy flies on the big dunes and it’s certainly fun if you don’t have small kids and aren’t afraid of speed. Otherwise, go without emotion and enjoy the beautiful views at a slower pace.
At Genipabu, in the middle of all that sand, you can ride a dromedary. You kind of feel that you are on the other side of the world, since dromedaries are not native to Brazil. But they sure go well with the landscape.
After that there is the “esquibunda”.
But the “aerobunda” is the THING.
With your bugueiro friend, by this time he is already your friend, you will also see Barra do Rio, Jacuma, Pitangui and Muriu.
There are five beaches in the city: Areia Preta, Praia dos Artistas, do Meio, do Forte and Ponta Negra beach where the action is. This is the place to see and be seen.
Praia de Ponta Negra is the point in Natal. There is an array of choices in bars, pousadas, hotels and restaurants such as Barraca do Caranguejo (The Crab Place). If you eat there, you can enjoy a good folklore floor show for free. Ask at your hotel desk about the shows schedule.
But besides all the night action, Ponta Negra is a beautiful beach. One of Natal’s postcards, Morro do Careca, is in Ponta Negra.
Shopping in Natal: Just Do It
Handcraft in Natal is beautiful and inexpensive. The best place to find a large variety is in Centro de Turismo (Rua Aderbaldo Figueredo 980, Petropolis), which used to be a prison. The stores are in the old cells and carry everything from statues to bikinis. On the second floor, there is an art gallery with old and contemporary pieces.
On Thursday evenings, Centro de Turismo also hosts a dance called Forro com Turista, which is really fun. From there, you have a panoramic view of the city and of the Rio Potengui. Centro de Turismo has a nice restaurant, so if hunger strikes, you are all set.
There is a lot to see and do in Natal. As we always say, it’s all up to you. It depends on your time and likes. Below is a list of the main attractions. Check it out and off you go.
Forte dos Reis Magos (Wise Man Fortress) – is an old fortress, one of the first built by the Portuguese to protect they new land from invasion. It was founded in 1599 and is part of Brazil’s Historical Heritage.
The Largest Cashew Tree in the World – in Pirangi Beach. The roots of the tree are unbelievably huge. All the Cashews are given to the visitors or donated to local small business. After that go to…
Praia de Pitangui (Pirangi Beach)– Beautiful palm trees frame this beach. They also have a boat tour there. Check with the restaurants on the beach, for details.
Parque das Dunas (Dunes Park) – the second largest urban Park in Brazil. Perfect for hiking, it is a treat for adults and children. It ‘s well organized with an environmental education school, museums, restaurants and leisure areas.
Maracajaú – 60 km away from Natal, this beautiful beach boasts natural swimming pools with stunning coral reefs 7 km off the beach. There is a boat service that will take you there. They have a representative at the restaurants on the beach, and that is where you pay for the tour and get your life vest, snorkel, fins and mask. They also have scuba tanks to rent.
In case you want to spend the day in Maracajaú, the restaurants have showers available to customers and an excellent meat and seafood menu, like everywhere on the Rio Grande do Norte coast.
If you don’t want to drive from Natal, the local travel agencies in Natal offer tours to Maracajau. Just ask at your hotel desk.
Praia da Pipa (Pipa Beach) – 86 km away from Natal, Pipa will take your breath away. Some years ago, it was just a small fishing village. But people discovered this natural beauty and Pipa is growing into a charming beach resort.
João Pessoa 186 km, Recife 299 km, Fortaleza 538 km, Maceió 570, Salvador 1126 km.