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Only 50 km from Recife, Ilha do Itamaracá is a pleasant and popular weekend beach
scene. During the week it’s usually empty. There is a regular bus service to the island,
but getting to its many beaches takes time if you don’t have a car.
Itamaracá has a long history and a lot of beach. The better beaches are north and
south of Pilar, Itamaracá’s town beach. Two km north of town is Jaguaribe, a whitesand
beach with barracas and reclining chairs for weekend sun worshippers. For more
isolated beaches, hike five km further north along the coast to Praia Lance dos Cações
and Fortinho. Immediately south of town is Praia Baixa Verde, and every three km south are
more beaches: Praia Rio Ambo, Praia Forno de Cal, Praia de São Paulo and finally Praia de
Vila Velha, which also is a historic old port near Forte Orange.
This fort was built in 1630 by the Dutch and served as a base in a series of battles
against the Portuguese colonies in Recife and Olinda. It’s an impressive bastion, right on
the water. There’s now a fourstar hotel nearby and souvenir shops rearing their ugly
little heads, but during the week it’s still very quiet.
Just past the island’s agricultural penitentiary, Penitenciária Agrícola, is Engenho
Amparo, an 18thcentury sugar plantation. Further from town is Vila Velha (1526),
the first port in the Northeast, and its church, Nossa Senhora da Conceição (1526).
Take a VW bus to get to these and other distant points from the town of Itamaracá.
Things to Buy
At Engenho São João, about 10 km in the direction of Igarassu, inmates from the
agricultural penitentiary sell their products which include lithographs and carrancas
Getting There & Away
There are 12 buses a day to the center of Recife, also stopping at the Mercado Santo
Amaro between Recife and Olinda.
PONTAS DE PEDRA
Pontas de Pedra, the last beach in Pernambuco if you’re heading north, does its state
proud. The reef, two km offshore, provides for calm, shallow water, which is good for
bathing and snorkeling
Goiana, 22 km in from the coast, at the junction of BR101 and PE49, has a few
restaurants and bars, but no regular lodging.
If you like folk art and you wake up in Recife on a Wednesday or Saturday feeling like
a day trip, you’re in luck. Caruaru, South America’s capital for ceramicfigurine art, is
only a couple of hours away.
The Feira Livre (Grand Open Fair), held in the center of Caruaru on Wednesday and
Saturday, is a hot, noisy crush of Nordestinos: vendors, poets, singers, rural and
town folk, tourists, artisans and musicians. Zabumba (drum) bands are accompanied
by the music of pífanos (vertical flutes), and sulanqueiros (rag merchants)
hawk their scraps of clothing.
The market has become a popular tourist attraction, and many items on sale are produced
for tourists. Alongside pots, leather bags and straw baskets are representations of
strange beasts and mythical monsters crafted by artists as famous as Caruaru’s master,
Mestre Vitalino. To see the artists at work, visit Alto do Moura (described later in this
section). If you want to buy some figurines, wait until you see what is offered in Alto do
Moura before buying at the market.
In addition to ceramic artwork, you can hear singers and poets perform the literatura
de cordel (literally ‘string literature’): poetry by and for the people, sold in
little brochures which hang from the fair stands by string (hence the name). The poems
tell of political events (the death of Tancredo Neves is likened to a mother giving birth
to a nation and then expiring before she can suckle her infant), national figures
(Getúlio Vargas, José Sarney and Fernando Collor), miracles and festivals, as well as
traditional comedies and tragedies (for example, about a woman who lost her honor to
Satan). Although its role in diffusing popular culture is threatened by TV, literatura
de cordel is still written, sold and performed in public by Caruaru’s poets.
In a separate section of the main fair, there’s the Feira do Trocatroca (Barter
Market), where junk and treasure are traded.
Feira de Artesanato
This handicraft market on Parque 18 de Maio is open daily from 6 am to 5 pm.
Feira da Sulanca
This textile and clothing market, the largest in the Northeast, is set up on Parque 18
de Maio on Tuesday and Thursday.
Casa da Cultura José Condé
This cultural center on Parque 18 de Maio contains a couple of museums. The most
interesting is Museu do Forró, containing exhibits about forró, including records
and musical instruments. It’s open Tuesday to Friday from 9 am to noon and 2 to 5 pm, and
on Saturday from 9 am to 1 pm.
Museu do Barro
This museum, containing displays of pottery produced by famous local artists, is inside
the Espaço Cultural Tancredo Neves, at Praça José Vasconcelos 100. It’s open from 9 am
to noon and 2 to 5 pm Monday to Friday, and from 9 am to 1 pm on Saturday.
Alto de Moura
Alto de Moura, six km from Caruaru, is a small community of potters which specializes
in producing figurinhas (figurines). Many of the potters are descendants of Mestre
Vitalino, the most famous artist, who brought fame to Alto de Moura. Other noted artists
are Zé Caboclo, Manuel Eudócio and Cunhado de Zé Caboclo. Museu Mestre Vitalino (Master
Vitalino Museum), housed in the simple home of the master, contains his tools and personal
effects. It’s open from 9 am to noon and from 2 to 5 pm Monday to Saturday.
You can wander the streets and browse through dozens of workshops and galleries. If you
want to buy figurines, you’re better off buying here than in Caruaru.
Places to Eat
Fortunately, there’s plenty of cachaça and sugarcane broth to quench your
thirst, and local foods like dobradinhas (tripe stew) chambaril and sarapatel
(a bloody goulash of pork guts) to appease your appetite. Spartan, inexpensive places for
this type of food are Bar do Biu, at Rua Sanharó 8, and Bar da Linguiça,
at Rua Nunes Machado 278.
If the appeal of these local foods fades, try Barrilândia, at Rua Silva Jardim
71. It’s a good pizzeria with the feel of a Wild West saloon. On the flip side, for
excellent regional cuisine in a tasteful setting, pull into Estação Central, at
Avenida Magalhães 398.
Getting There & Away
Caruaru is linked by shuttle buses to Recife every halfhour. The trip takes two hours
and costs $4.50.
There is a daily bus service ($1 hour) to Fazenda Nova.
If you’ve missed the fair at Caruaru, the next best thing, some say better, is to be in
Tracunhaém for the Sunday fair. The village of Tracunhaém, 40 km from Recife in the
direction of Carpina, is Pernambuco’s numbertwo craft center. Look for the ceramic work of
master artisans Zezinho de Tracunhaém, Severina Batista and Antônio Leão.
FAZENDA NOVA & NOVA JERUSALÉM
The small town of Fazenda Nova, 50 km from Caruaru, is famous for its theater-city
reconstruction of Jerusalem, known as Nova Jerusalém. Surrounded by a threemeter-high
wall with seven gateways, 70 towers and 12 granite stages, the reconstruction occupies an
area equivalent to a third of the walled city of Jerusalem as it stood in the time of
The time to visit is during Semana Santa (Holy Week, held in March or Aprildates
vary), when several hundred of the inhabitants of Fazenda Nova perform the Paixão de
Cristo (Passion Play).
Places to Stay
There’s a campground, Camping Fazenda Nova, at Nova Jerusalém. In the center of
Fazenda Nova, you can stay at the Grande Hotel (732 1137), at Avenida Poeta Carlos
Pena Filho, s/n (no number), which has apartamentos costing $18/20 for singles/
Getting There & Away
During Holy Week, there are frequent bus services direct from Recife, and travel
agencies sell package tours to see the spectacle. During the rest of the year, there are
daily bus connections between Fazenda Nova and Caruaru.
Garanhuns, 100 km from Caruaru and 241 km from Recife, is popular as a holiday resort
because of its relatively high altitude (900 meters). It’s not exactly the ‘Suíça
Pernambucana’ (Switzerland of Pernambuco) as touted in the tourist brochures, but it does
have pleasant parks and gardens, and cool airall of which are a respite from the
oppressive heat of the interior of the state.
This small town 448 km west of Recife lies at an altitude of 1000 meters. The cool
climate and abundant vegetation have earned it the nickname ‘cidade jardim’ (garden city).
Things to See & Do
The Museu do Cangaço (Bandit Museum) displays a collection of weaponry and
assorted personal items used by cangaceiros, or brigands, whose most famous and
fearsome leader was Lampião. Opening hours are 8 to 11 am and 2 to 4 pm Monday to Friday.
The town also has some fine examples of architecture: Cine Teatro Guarany (1922),
on Praça Carolina Campos, is a stunning neoclassical piece. It’s open daily from 8 am to
For excursions in the region around the town, you could visit: Pico do Papagaio, which
is a peak (1230 meters) with a great view, 10 km from town; Cachoeira do Grito, with
a waterfall and swimming hole six km from town on the road to Flores, then one km on foot;
or the pictographs at Sítio Santo Antônio, three km from town.
FERNANDO DE NORONHA
The archipelago of Fernando de Noronha, with a population of 1500, lies 145 km from
Atol das Rocas, 525 km from Recife and 350 km from Natal. The 21 islands of the
archipelago cover a total area of only 26 sq km. In 1989, Fernando de Noronha was
incorporated into the state of Pernambuco.
With its crystalclear water (average water temperature 24º C) and rich marine life,
the archipelago is a heavenly retreat for underwater pleasures. The main island is
sparsely populated and tourism has become the main source of income for locals. It’s now
easier for independent travelers to visit, but it is possible that organized tours will be
made compulsory again if numbers of visitors prove detrimental to the environment of the
archipelago. Although Fernando de Noronha is now protected as a national marine park, the
effects of tourism on its fragile ecosystem need to be monitored carefully.
Before You Go
The rainy season is from February to July and the islands’ timezone is one hour ahead
of eastern Brazil. Bring everything you’ll need for your stay (e.g. suntan lotion, insect
repellent, magazines and snorkeling gear) as prices are very high due to the cost of
transporting goods from the mainland. Definitely take sufficient Brazilian money with you.
Don’t rely on changing money on Fernando de Noronha, where the exchange facilities are
virtually nil and the exchange rates are low.
Several hundred km off the coast from Natal, the archipelago was discovered by Spanish
adventurer and cartographer Juan de la Cosa. The islands first appeared on the maps by the
name of Quaresma (which means Lent). A Portuguese expedition under the command of Fernando
de Noronha sighted the islands once again in 1504. He was awarded the islands by his
friend King Dom Manoel. It was the first inherited captaincy of the Brazilian colonies.
The islands, with their strategic position between Europe and the New World, were
coveted by the English, the French and the Dutch who came to occupy the archipelago But by
1557 the Portuguese managed to reclaim Fernando de Noronha and build a fortress. All that
remains today of the European battles is the ruins of the fortress of Nossa Senhora dos
Remédios and a few sunken shipwrecks.
Over the years, the islands were used as a military base by the USA during WW II, a
prison, a weather station, an air base and, most recently, a tourist resort. There has
already been some misguided tampering with the island ecology. The teju, a
blackandwhite lizard, was introduced to eat the island rats, which had come ashore with
the Europeans in colonial days. Unfortunately, the teju prefers small birds and
crab to rat.
A struggle between developers and environmentalists over the future of the island was
resolved in 1988 when most of the archipelago was declared a Parque Nacional Marinho
(Marine National Park) to protect the island’s natural treasures. These include: 24
different species of marine birds; two species of marine tortoiseone, tartaruga-depente
(Ereonochelys imbricata), that are in danger of extinction; sharks; stingrays;
dolphins; whales; and a vast number of fish species.
Tourism has proved a blessing for the local economy and a bane for the ecosystem of the
archipelago. Rapidly growing numbers of visitors have prompted locals to convert mangrove
swamps into plots for the cultivation of more food, thereby depriving marine life of
important breeding grounds and food sources It has also been noted that fish have become
accustomed to being fed by tourists and have taken to biting them.
On the largest and only inhabited island, the population is concentrated in Vila dos
Remédios Although Pico hill, the highest Point on the island is only 321 meters above sea
level, it is well over 4300 meters above the Ocean floor, as the island is an extinct
Volcanic cone. The islandmountain is part of the midAtlantic ridge, an underwater mountain
chain which is over 15,000 km long.
Tourist Office Information is available from the Departamento de Meio Ambiente e
Turismo (6191311), in the Palácio São Miguel in Vila dos Remédios. The PARNAMAR/IBAMA
(6191210) office is on Alameda do Boldró.
The island’s one and only bank is Banco Real in Vila dos Remédios.
Post & Telephone
The post office is in Vila dos Remédios. The TELPE office is in the Hotel Esmeralda do
Atlântico, on Alameda do Boldró.
The Hospital São Lucas (6191207), at Parque Flamboyant, looks after medical
emergencies. The Polícia Civil (6191432) has its headquarters at Vila do Trinta.
Visitors are expected to obey the following rules:
· Don’t dump rubbish or food on the ground, in the sea or on the beach.
· Don’t take away or break off pieces of coral, shells or marine creatures.
· Don’t use spearguns or traps. I
· Don’t bring any plants or animals to or from the archipelago.
· Respect areas set aside for ecological protection.
· Don’t swim with the dolphins.
· Don’t hunt under the water.
As mentioned in the introduction to this archipelago, tourism has already had some
effect on the ecosystem, and it is hoped that observation of these rules will help redress
Inside the boundaries of the park, IBAMA allows bathing at certain beaches, but
restricts access to others to protect marine life.
The island beaches are clean, beautiful and almost deserted. The beaches of Caiera,
Praia da Atalaia and Ponta das Caracas have rougher waters than Praia da Conceição. Cacimba
do Padre beach is the only one with fresh water.
Baía dos Golfinhos (Dolphin Bay) is strictly off limits to swimmers, but access is
permitted to Mirante dos Golfinhos, a viewpoint where you can watch hundreds of
dolphins cavorting in the water every morning.
You can get to Baía do Sancho either by boat or by following a trail which
leads through bramble and bush, past almond trees and over sharp rocks. Once at Baía do
Sancho, you may be lucky enough to witness an odd meteorological phenomenon: without a
cloud in sight, rain falls mysteriously on a spot of land 10 meters wide.
The Águas Claras company (6191225) organizes scubadiving excursions with instructors
(of variable quality) and will rent diving equipment. You can ask if diving is still
permitted in Baía de Santo Antônio, where the Paquistão and Ana Maria wrecks
lie seven meters under water. A Spanish corvette lies beneath 60 meters of water at Ponta
da Sapata, the southwest tip of the island, but this area is now strictly out of bounds.
Getting There & Away
Nordeste flies three times daily between Recife and Fernando de Noronha. The flight
takes 1½ hours and a return ticket costs around $290. Other options include flying from
Recife to Fernando de Noronha, then on to Natal for around $260. A return flight from
Natal to Fernando de Noronha costs around $230.
Nordeste (6191144) is on Alameda Boldró. The airport (6191188) is a couple of km from
the center of Vila dos Remédios.
Organized tours sold by travel agencies in Recife usually include airfare to and from
Fernando de Noronha, lodging (apartamento, including full board) and guided tours
of the island by land and sea. The prices per person for four/five/eight-day packages from
Recife start at around $630/710/869. Higher prices apply during high season and for apartamentos
with aircon (which isn’t really necessary).
Independent travelers can buy air ticket directly from Nordeste, and should have little
difficulty negotiating lower price for lodging and board on the island. This independent
approach also allows travelers to pick and choose their accommodation. The accommodation
included in most of package tours is overpriced.
Buggies, cars and small motorbikes are available from several operators, including
Eduardo Galvão de Brito Lira (6191355), at Esmeralda do Atlântico hotel, on Alameda do
Boats are available from Associação Noronhense de Pescadores Anpesca (619-1449), at
Vila Porto de Santo Antônio.
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.
Buy it at
Brazil – A Travel Survival Kit
by Andrew Draffen, Chris McAsey,
Leonardo Pinheiro, Robyn Jones,