Not too much to see here. But you will still find some small historic towns, like São Cristóvão, Brazil's fourth oldest town and the former capital of Sergipe.
Sergipe is Brazil's smallest state. It has all three zones typical of the Northeast: litoral, zona da mata and sertão. The coastal zone is wide and sectioned with valleys, with many towns dotted along the rivers.
What is there to see? There are a couple of interesting historical townsLaranjeiras in particular is well worth a visitand the towns along the Rio São Francisco have a unique, captivating cultureprincipally Propriá and Neópolis. The beaches, on the other hand, are not up to snuff, and the capital, Aracaju, is as memorable as last Monday's newspaper.
Estância, 68 km south of Aracaju, is one of the oldest towns in the state. The city has a certain amount of character and a few historic buildings in the center, but there's little reason to stop in Estância unless you want to head to the nearby beaches or want to avoid spending the night in Aracaju.
Estância has most basic services, including a large supermarket. The São João festivals in June are the big event.
Places to Stay & Eat
The town has a couple of hotels facing the main square, Praça Barão do Rio Branco. The Hotel Turismo Estanciano (Tel.: 522-1404) is spotless and comfortable, and has a restaurant attached. Quartos with fan cost $8/15 for singles/doubles; apartamentos with fan go for $10/18, or $15/23 with aircon. Some of the cheaper rooms have high ceilingsso high the walls don't reach it! Try to get a room away from the restaurant. The Hotel Bosco (Tel.: 5221887), 30 meters away, has quartos for $4.50 per person and apartamentos for $6 per person. The Hotel Continenti, behind the rodoviária, has reasonably clean quartos at $3/6 for singles/doubles. Pizzaria São Geraldo does excellent pizzas.
Getting There & Away
The town is actually a bit off the BR101, but most longdistance buses still stop in Estância. There are buses directly from Salvador, Aracaju, Propriá and Maceió to the north. If you are travelling south from Estância along the Linha Verde and want to visit the beach towns north of Salvador, the Bonfim bus company, which runs the AracajuSalvador route, makes you pay the full fare from Estância to Salvador ($8.50) no matter where you get off along the way. There are four buses a day from Estância to Salvador, but two of them leave around 1 am and are impractical if you want to stop before Salvador. Daytime buses leave at 8.30 am and 1.45 pm. For access to Mangue Seco in Bahia, a bus leaves the rodoviária in Estância daily at 4 pm for Pontal, where there are frequent boats across the river to Mangue Seco until 6.30 pm. The 42km trip to Pontal via Indiaroba takes about two hours.
Founded in 1590, São Cristóvão is reputedly Brazil's fourtholdest town, and was the capital of Sergipe until 1855. With the decline of the sugar industry, the town has long been in the economic doldrums and is trying to become a tourist attraction to bring in some cash.
Things to See
The old part of town, up a steep hill, has a surprising number of 17th and 18thcentury colonial buildings along its narrow stone roads. Of particular distinction are: the Igreja e Convento de São Francisco, which has a good sacredart museum (at Praça São Francisco); the Igreja do Senhor dos Passos (Praça Senhor dos Passos), the Antiga Assembléia Legislativa; and the Antigo Palácio do Governo.
Every year the town comes alive for a weekend with the Festival de Arte de São Cristóvão. The festival has both fine and popular arts, with lots of music and dance. The festival is held during the last 15 days of October.
Places to Stay & Eat
There is no real accommodation in São Cristóvão, although there is a campground about two km from town. If you like sweets, São Cristóvão is renowned for its sweet makers, who produce a wide variety of doces caseiros (tempting homemade sweets and cakes).
Getting There & Away
São Cristóvão is 25 km south of Aracaju on a good paved road, and seven km off the BR101. The rodoviária is down the hill below the historic district, on Praça Dr Lauro de Freitas. Frequent buses running to São Cristóvão ($0.85, 45 minutes) leave from the rodoviária velha (old bus terminal) in Aracaju. If you are travelling south to Estância, note that buses do not run there from São Cristóvão. You can take a bus back to the junction of BR101 and try to flag down a bus to Estância, or return to the rodoviária nova in Aracaju and take one from there.
Nestled between three lush, green, church-topped hills, Laranjeiras is the colonial gem of Sergipe Filled with ruins of old sugar mills, terracotta roofs, colorful colonial façades and stone roads, the town is relatively unblemished by modern development. There are several churches and museums worth visiting and the surrounding hills offer picturesque walks with good views. It's a charming little town, easy to get to and well worth a few hours sightseeing or a day or two exploring the town, the nearby sugar mill and the countryside. The town center has recently been renovated.
Laranjeiras was first settled in 1605. During the 18th and 19th centuries, it became the commercial center for the rich sugar and cotton region along the zona da mata west of Aracaju. At one point there were over 60 sugar mills in and around Laranjeiras. The processed sugar was sent down the Rio Cotinguiba about 20 km downstream to Aracaju and on to the ports of Europe. The large number of churches is a reminder of the past prosperity of the town.
There is a city tourism office inside the Trapiche building in the Centro de Tradições, on Praça Samuel de Oliveira, where you can obtain brochures and information about guides for hire. It's open Tuesday to Sunday from 8 am to 5 pm.
This old, partlyrestored sugar mill a few km from town is in a lovely setting. It's now privately owned, and not generally open to the public, but it may be possible to arrange a visit if you ask at the tourist office. You can walk, or hire a guide and a car to take you there.
Igreja de Camandaroba
Out at the Engenho Boa Sorte, two km from town along the river, is the baroque Igreja de Camandaroba, the second building that the Jesuits constructed back in 1731.
Igreja do Bonfim
This church is at the top of the hill called Alto do Bonfim and has recently been restored. If the door is closed, go around to the back and ask to be let in. The short walk is rewarded with a fine view, but keep an eye out for snakes.
The Trapiche houses the tourism office. It's a large, impressive structure that was built in the 19th century to house the cargo waiting to be shipped downriver.
Gruta da Pedra Furada
This is a onekm tunnel built by the Jesuits to escape their persecutors. The tunnel has been closed due to caveins, but there are plans to restore it. Ask at the tourist office to make sure it's open. The gruta is three km out of town on the road leading to the small village of Machado.
The small Museu AfroBrasileiro is on Rua José do Prado Franco s/n (no number). Laranjeiras is considered to be the stronghold of African culture in Sergipe. It's open Tuesday to Sunday, from 8 am to 5 pm. Also recommended is the Museu de Arte Sacra (Sacred Art Museum) in Igreja Nossa Senhora da Conceição, Rua Dr Francisco Bragança s/n.
During the first week of January, the Encontro Cultural folklore festival is held in the town
Places to Stay
The only pousada in town is the Pousada Vale dos Outeiros (Tel.: 281 1027), at Rua José do Prado Franco 124. There are good views of the surrounding hills from the back rooms. Quartos cost $15/20 for singles/doubles; double apartamentos with aircon cost $30.
Getting There & Away
Laranjeiras is 21 km from Aracaju and four km off the BR101. Buses leave from and return to the rodoviária velha in Aracaju about every halfhour. It's a 35minute ride ($0.70)the first bus leaves for Laranjeiras at 5 am and the last one returns at 9 pm. Any bus travelling the BR101 can let you off at the turnoff for Laranjeiras. There's a convenientlyplaced restaurant at the turn off, so you can have a drink and snack while you wait to flag down a bus from Aracaju. Otherwise, you can walk or hitch the four km to town.
Aracaju just may be the Cleveland of the Northeast. The city has little to offer the visitorthere is no colonial inheritanceand it is visually quite unattractive. Even beaches are below the prevailing high standard of the Brazilian Northeast.
Aracaju, 367 km north of Salvador and 307 km south of Maceió, was Brazil's first planned city. The modest requirements of the original plan called for a gridpattern intersected by two perpendicular roads less than two km long. The city outgrew the plan in no time, and the Brazilian norm of sprawl and chaotic development returned to the fore.
Some of its lack of appeal stems from the fact that Aracaju was not the most important city in the state during the colonial era. In fact, when it was chosen as the new capital in 1855, Santo Antônio de Aracaju was a small settlement with nothing but a good deep harborbadly needed at the time to handle the ships transporting sugar to Europe.
With residents of the old capital of São Cristóvão on the verge of armed revolt, the new capital was placed on a hill five km from the mouth of the Rio Sergipe. Within a year an epidemic broke out that decimated the city. All the residents of São Cristóvão naturally saw this as an omen that Aracaju was destined to be a poor capital.
Emsetur, the state tourist organization in Sergipe, is trying hard to grab a slice of the rich tourist cake that its adjacent states, Bahia and Alagoas, have been enjoying in recent years. The Centro do Turismo in Aracaju was revamped in 1994, and houses the Emsetur tourist office (Tel.: 224-5168), which has loads of glossy brochures. It's open from 8 am to 10 pm daily. The complex also houses an artesanato market, 'Rua 24 Horas' (a shopping arcade), bars and cafés. There are other tourist information booths at the rodoviária and airport, both with erratic opening hours and limited information
There is a branch of Banco do Brasil, at Praça General Valadão 341, in the center.
The central post office is at Rua Laranjeiras 229.BeachesOn the sandy barrier island of Santa Luzia, at the mouth of the Rio Sergipe, is Praia Atalaia Nova (atalaia is Portuguese for watchtower), which is a popular weekend beach.
Praia das Artistas, Atalaia Velha and Praia Aruana are the closest beaches to the city. They are crowded (with traffic jams on weekends) and heavily developed with hotels and motels, restaurants, bars and barracasthe latter are a source of inexpensive seafood.
Further south on the road to Mosqueiro, Praia Refúgio is the prettiest and most secluded beach close to Aracaju. It's 15 km from the city. There are a few bars and one pousada.
The maritime procession of Bom Jesus dos Navegantes, held on 1 January, is probably the best event. Festa de Iemanjá is celebrated on 8 December at Praia Atalaia Velha.
On weekends, a tourist train makes the trip from Aracaju to São Cristóvão. The train leaves from the Estação do Bairro Siqueira Campos at 9 am. For more information, contact Emsetur in the Centro do Turismo.
Places to Stay
Most of the hotels are in the center or out at Praia Atalaia Velha on Avenida Atlântica. For a short stay, hotels in the center are much more convenient and generally less expensive. It's worth asking for discounts at all the hotels, especially in low season (March to June, and August to November).
Places to Eat
Cacique Chá (closed on Sunday) is a garden restaurant on Praça Olímpio Campos, a central location which has made it a popular meeting place for the 'in' crowd. Artnatus at Rua Santo Amaro 282, is a wellstocked healthfood store which serves vegetarian lunch meals. The cafés in the Casa do Turismo are good for a snack and drinks. Recommended seafood restaurants at Atalaia Velha include: Taberna do Tropeiro (with live music in the evening), at Avenida Oceânica 6; Chapéu do Couro, at Avenida Oceânica 128; and the highly recommended O Miguel (closed on Monday) at Rua Antônio Alves 340. For good Italian food try Villa Vietri, at Avenida Francisco Porto 896, in Bairro Salgado Filhomidway between the center and Atalaia Velha.
Getting There & Away
The major airlines fly to Rio, São Paulo, Salvador, Recife, Maceió, Brasília, Goiânia and Curitiba.
You will find a Varig office (Tel.: 211-1890) at Rua João Pessoa 71; VASP (Tel.: 2241792) is at Avenida Barão de Maruim 67; and Transbrasil (Tel.: 2111090) is at Rua São Cristóvão 14.
Longdistance buses leave from the rodoviária nova (new bus terminal), which is about four km from the center. There are nine buses a day to Salvador ($8, or $17.50) for a leito). Five of these buses take the new Linha Verde route along the coast (4½ hours), and the rest go inland via Entre Rios (six hours). There are four daily departures for the fivehour trip ($7) to Maceiósome sections of the road are heavily potholed, so it can be slow going. Two daily departures to Recife take nearly nine hours and cost $12. There's one direct bus daily to Penedo ($3.50, three hours), and seven buses daily to Neópolis, where there is access to Penedo by a short ferry ride across the Rio São Francisco.
To/From the Airport
The airport (Tel.: 243-2721) is 11 km south of town, just past Atalaia Velha. From the rodoviária velha, take the bus marked 'Aeroporto'.
The rodoviária nova (new bus terminal, four km from the town center) is connected with the rodoviária velha (old bus terminal, in the center) by a frequent shuttle service ($0.30, 25 minutes). The requisite bus stop is a separate entitylook for a large shelter with a series of triangular roofs about 100 meters to your right as you exit the rodoviária nova. A taxi from the rodoviária nova to the center costs around $4.
The rodoviária velha is in the center of town on Avenida Divina Pastora. This is the bus terminal to use for local trips, including visits to São Cristóvão and Laranjeiras. To reach Atalaia Velha, take a bus marked 'Caroa Domeio/Santa Tereza' from the rodoviária velha.
From the Terminal Hidroviário (Ferry Terminal), there are frequent ferries ($0.40) to Barra dos Coqueiros on Ilha de Santa Luzia until 11 pm. The ferry terminal on Praia Atalaia Nova has begun to sink into the river, so the ferry now docks a short bus ride away from the main beach.
Propriá is 81 km north of Aracaju, where BR-101 crosses the mighty Rio São Francisco. While the town is less interesting than the downriver cities of Penedo and Neópolis, it has the same combination of colonial charm and river culture. Thursday and Friday are the weekly market days in Propriá, when goods are traded from communities up and down the São Francisco.
In recent years there has been a steady decline in longdistance boat travel on the Rio São Francisco. You should still be able to find boats going upriver as far as Pão de Açúcar, about a sevenhour ride by motorboat, with stops at all the towns along the way. One scheduled boat departure is the Oriente, which leaves Propriá at 7 am on Saturday and returns from Pão de Açúcar on Monday. The Vaza Baris also makes occasional trips to Pão de Açúcar and Penedo.
There are also smaller boats which leave irregularlyfor example, downstream to Penedo and Neópolis. You can bargain a ride on any of them, including the beautiful avelas with their long, curved masts and striking yellow or red sails. The trip downriver to Penedo takes about four or five hours by avela or rowboat and should cost around $4.
Bom Jesus dos Navegantes, on the last Sunday in January, is a colorful affair with a maritime procession and reisadoa dramatic dance that celebrates the epiphany. It is highly recommended.
Getting There & Away
Propriá is about one km off BR101. The rodoviária is about two km from towna local bus meets most longdistance buses and will drop you in the center. There are bus connections with Neópolis, Penedo, Aracaju and Maceió.
Excerpts from Brazil - A Travel Survival Kit, 3rd edition, by Andrew Draffen, Chris McAsey, Leonardo Pinheiro, and Robyn Jones. For more information call Lonely Planet: (800) 275-8555. Copyright 1996 Lonely Planet Publications. Used by permission.
Brazil - A Travel Survival Kit
by Andrew Draffen, Chris McAsey,
Leonardo Pinheiro, Robyn Jones,