Why insist on playing with fire, which is precisely what this
government and its so-called allies are doing when so much time and effort are wasted on a
nearly pointless cabinet shuffle, while vital matters at hand go unresolved?
By Brazzil Magazine
Piauí, one of the largest states in the Northeast, is also one of the poorest states
in Brazil, due to the oppressively hot and arid climate in its eastern and southern
regions. The odd shape of the statebroad in the south, tapered at the coastis
due to a unique pattern of settlement, which started from the sertão in the south
and gradually moved towards the coast
The climate on the Litoral Piauiense (Piauí coast) is kept cool(er) by sea
breezes. If you’re heading into the interior of the state, the best time for festivals and
cool breezes is during July and August. The worst time, unless you want to be sunbaked to
a frazzle, is between September and December.
Although Piauí is usually bypassed by travelers, it offers superb beaches along its
short coast; interesting rock formations and hikes in the Parque Nacional de Sete Cidades;
prehistoric sites and rock paintings in the Parque Nacional da Serra da Capivara, which
ranks as one of the top prehistoric sites in South America; and the chance for rock hounds
to visit Pedro Segundo, the only place in South America where opals are mined.
Teresina, the capital of Piauí, is famed as the hottest city in Brazil. Promotional
literature stresses heat and yet more heat, with blurb bites such as `Even the Wind Here
Isn’t Cool’ or `TeresinaAs Hot As Its People.’
It’s an interesting, quirky place which seems addicted to giving a Middle Eastern slant
to the names of its streets, hotels and sights. The city itself is a Mesopotamia of sorts,
sandwiched between the Rio Poty and Rio Parnaíba. Teresina is untouristed and
unpretentious, and the inhabitants will stop you on the street to ask `Where are you
from?’. Like the British, residents of Teresina instantly warm to discussion of the
weather, and especially of their favorite topic: o calor (the heat).
We recommend a visit if you yearn for attention or would like to feel famous for a day
or so. And there’s got to be something good going for a city that hosts an annual festival
PIEMTUR (223-4417), the state tourism organization, at Rua Álvaro Mendes 1988,
has helpful staff who happily dole out literature and advice. It’s open from 9 am to 6 pm
Monday to Friday.
The IBAMA office (232-1652), at Avenida Homero Castelo Branco 2240 (Jockey Club
district), was one of the most active we encountered in Brazil. Leaflets about the
national parks in Piauí are available here. It’s open from 8 am to 5.45 pm Monday to
For tours to sights in Piauí, contact Servitur Turismo (223-2065), at Rua Eliseu
Martins 1136, or Espaço Turismo (223-3777), inside the shopping gallery of the Hotel
Museu Histórico do Piauí
This state museum is divided into a series of exhibition rooms devoted to the history
of the state; religious art; popular art; archaeology; fauna, flora and minerals; and an
eclectic assortment of antique radios, projectors and other ancient wonders. Hidden in the
corner of one room is a pathetic cabinet containing a flag, kerchief and some scribbled
notes from comunistas, a flexible term used here to describe a group of independent
thinkers, who were wiped out by the government in 1937.
Admission is free, and the museum is open Tuesday to Friday from 8 to 11 am and 3 to 6
pm, and on Saturday and Sunday from 8 am to noon.
Palácio de Karnak
This Greco-Roman structure once functioned as the governor’s residence and contained
valuable works of art and antiques. In the late ’80s, the outgoing governor made a quick
exit, together with many of the valuable contents.
This is a center for artesanato from all over Piauí and it is a pleasant spot
to come browse among the shops which sell: leather articles; furniture; extremely
intricate lacework, colorful hammocks; opals and soapstone (from Pedro Segundo); and
liqueurs and confectionery made from genipapo, caju and maracujá.
The Cooperativa de Rede Pedro Segundo, a producer of high-quality hammocks, sells
beautiful linen hammocks at prices ranging from $55 to $130. Cotton hammocks start at
In an attempt to perpetuate the old tradition of troca troca (barter), the
government made a permanent structure out of what was once an impromptu barter market.
Unless you are curious to see the river, it’s not worth a visit.
If you hanker after aquatic frolics and games as a respite from the searing heat, visit
the Potycabana, an aquatic entertainment center with water tobogganing and a surf pool,
close to the Rio Poty.
The main festivals, with typical dancing, music and cuisine of the Northeast are held
between June and August. The Salão Internacional de Humor do Piauí (Piauí Festival of
Humor) is held during the second half of November and features comedy shows, exhibitions
of cartoons, comedy routines and lots of live music
Places to Eat
If you feel like seafood, try Camarão do Elias, at Avenida Pedro Almeida 457,
or O Pesqueirinho, which is at Avenida Jorge Velho 6889, several km outside town on
the riverside. It serves crab and shrimp stew. For a splurge, visit the Forno e Fogão,
inside the Hotel Luxor, which charges $8 per person for a gigantic buffet lunch.
There’s also a good restaurant inside the Teresina Palace Hotel serving regional food. Chez
Matrinchan, at Avenida Nossa Senhora de Fátima 671 (Jockey Club district), is divided
into three elements: a restaurant serving French cuisine, a pizzeria and a nightclub.
There’s live music here on Friday and Saturday nights.
Getting There & Away
The airport is on Avenida Centenário, six km north of the center. There are flights
between Teresina and Rio, São Paulo, and the major cities in the Northeast and North.
Varig (223-4427) has an office at Rua Desembargador Freitas 1177, and VASP (223-3222)
is at Rua Frei Serafim 1826.
Teresina has regular bus connections with: Sobral ($9.50, seven hours); Fortaleza ($15,
or $23 for leito, ten hours); São Luís ($10 for frequent daily service, seven
hours); and Belém ($19, 15 hours, five times a day).
To Parnaíba there are two executive buses ($10, four hours) and several standard buses
($9, six hours) daily. There are bus connections twice daily to São Raimundo Nonato ($14,
10 hours). To Piracuruca ($7, 3½ hours), there are several departures daily, and buses
run hourly between 5.45 am and 7 pm for Piripiri ($4.50, three hours). There’s one direct
bus daily with the Empresa Barroso bus company to Pedro Segundo, at 4.15 pm, or you can
take one of several connections daily from Piripiri.
If you’re driving to São Luís, the Pousada Buriti Corrente (521-1668) (between
Codó and Caxias) on BR-316 at Km 513, is a beautiful hotel with apartamentos at $
19/25 for singles/doubles, and a small zoo. It’s 14 km from an alcohol factory. For tours,
ask for Sérgio or Marcos.
To/From the Rodoviária
The cheapest option is to take the bus from the stop outside the rodoviáriait’s
OK if you arrive at night, when it’s cooler, but during the day it’s a frying pan on
Although the rodoviária has a bilheteria with a mandatory price table
posted on the window, the ticket price for a taxi ride to the city center is calculated at
$9almost twice what you pay if you walk out to the road and hail one there. Clearly
Parnaíba, once a major port at the mouth of the Rio Parnaíba, is a charming town,
which is being developed as a beach resort, along with the town of Luís Correia, which is
18 km away. It’s well worth a trip from Teresina, and onward travel to Maranhão state is
possible for adventurous travelers. Porto das Barcas, the old warehouse section along the
riverfront, has been carefully restored, and contains a maritime museum, an artesanato
center, art galleries, bars and restaurants.
The Piemtur office (no phone) is in Porto das Barcas. They have some brochures, and can
provide information about the boat trip around the Delta do Parnaíba and buses to local
The Banco do Brasil on Praça da Graça changes money.
The main post office is on Praça da Graça, next to the Banco do Brasil. The telephone
office is at Avenida Presidente Vargas 390.
Beaches & Lagoons
Praia Pedra do Sal, 15 km north-east of the center, on Ilha Grande Santa Isabel, is a
good beach divided by rocks into a calm section suitable for swimming, and a rough section
preferred by surfers. Lagoa do Portinho is a lagoon surrounded by dunes about 14 km east
of Parnaíba on the road to Luís Correia. It’s a popular spot for swimming, boating,
sailing and fishing.
The prime beaches closer to Luis Correia are Praia do Coqueiro and Praia de Atalaia.
The latter is very popular at weekends and has plenty of barracas selling drinks
and seafood. The nearby lagoon, Lagoa do Sobradinho, is renowned for its shifting sands
which bury surrounding trees.
Delta do Parnaíba
The Delta do Parnaíba is a 2700sqkm expanse of islands, beaches, lagoons, sand dunes
and mangrove forest, with abundant wildlife, which straddles the border of Piauí and
Maranhão. One photographer recently described the amount of wildlife as `comparable to
what I saw on good days in the Pantanal’. Sixtyfive per cent of its area is in Maranhão
state, but the easiest access is from Parnaíba. Day trips by boat around the delta run
from Porto das Barcas on weekends, with a stop on Ilha do Cajuthe cost is around
$30. Ilha do Caju has been owned for several generations by a family who are now trying to
establish an ecological reserve there. There is one pousada on the island. For more
details, contact the Piemtur office in Porto das Barcas.
Places to Stay
The Pousada Porto das Barcas (no phone) is a friendly hostel in a restored
warehouse right in Porto das Barcas. Dorm rooms cost $3 per person, with a good breakfast
included. There’s a campground at Lagoa do Portinho, where the Centro Recreativo Lagoa
do Portinho (3221982) also provides apartamentos at $10 per person and chalets
at $14 per person. The Hotel Cívico ( 3222470) at Avenida Governor Chagas
Rodrigues 474, in the center of town, has a swimming pool and apartamentos starting
at $16/23 for singles/doubles.
At Luís Correira, there’s the threestar Rio Poty Hotel (3671277), on the beach,
or the Hotel Central, a cheaper, familyrun place. On the beach at Pedra do Sol, the
Pousada do Sol has been recommended by readers.
Places to Eat
Sabor e Arte, on Rua Almirante Gervásio Sampaio, is a relaxed little place with
cheap home-cooked meals and interesting original art on the walls. In Porto das Barcas, Restaurant
Portas das Barcas has a great riverfront patio and local seafood dishes. Across the
street, Comilão has good pizzas
Getting There & Away
Agência Empresa São Francisco runs two buses daily from Praça Santa Cruz to Tutóia
(Maranhão state), at noon and 5 pm. The trip takes about four hours over a brain-rattling
dirt road. From Tutóia there are trucks running to Barreirinhas, for access to the Parque
Nacional dos Lençóis Maranhenses.
A small wooden boat plies a route daily through the Delta do Parnaíba to Tutóia ($4,
about six hours). This is a good way to check out some of the Delta do Parnaíbaif
you have a hammock, you can sling it on the top deck, relax back and enjoy the voyage. The
boat leaves from Porto Salgado, on the riverfront close to Porto das Barcas, between 10 am
and nooncheck at the port in the morning for departure times.
PARQUE NACIONAL DE SETE CIDADES
Sete Cidades is a small national park with interesting rock formations, estimated to be
at least 190 million years old, which resemble sete cidades (seven cities). Various
researchers have analyzed nearby rock inscriptions and deduced that the formations are
ruined cities from the past. The Austrian historian Ludwig Schwennhagen visited the area
in 1928 and thought he’d found the ruins of a Phoenician city. The French researcher
Jacques de Mabieu considered Sete Cidades as proof that the Vikings had found a more
agreeable climate in South America. And Erich van Daniken, the Swiss ufologist, theorized
that extraterrestrials were responsible for the cities which were ruined by a great fire
some 15,000 years ago. There’s clearly lots of scope here for imaginative theories. See
what you think!
The road around the park’s geological monuments starts one km further down from the
Abrigo do IBAMA (IBAMA office and hostel). The loop is a leisurely couple of hours’
stroll. It’s best to start your hike early in the morning and bring water because it gets
hot; watch out for the cascavéispoisonous black-and-yellow rattlesnakes. The
park is open from 6 am to 6 pm. Ask at the IBAMA office for information; guides are
available at a small cost.
Sexta Cidade (Sixth City) and Pedra do Elefante, the first sites on the loop, are lumps
of rock with strange scaly surfaces. The Pedra do Inscrição (Rock of Inscription) at
Quinta Cidade (Fifth City) has red markings which some say are cryptic Indian runes. The
highlight of Quarta Cidade (Fourth City) is the Mapa do Brasil (Map of Brazil), a negative
image in a rock wall. The Biblioteca (Library), Arco de Triunfo (Triumphal Arch) and
Cabeça do Cachorro (Dog’s Head) are promontories with good views.
Places to Stay & Eat
Abrigo do IBAMA is a good-value hostel at the park entrancerooms
with fan cost US $6 per person. There’s a restaurant attached to l the hostel. Designated
campsites are also available here.
The Hotel Fazenda Sete Cidades (276-2222), a two-star resort hotel six km from
the park entrance, has attractive apartamentos for $24/38 for singles/doubles. Even
if you don’t stay overnight, it’s good for lunch and a quick dip in the pool.
Getting There & Away
The park is 180 km from Teresina and 141 km from Ubajara (Ceará state) on a fine paved
road. Buses depart Teresina hourly between 5.45 am and 6 pm for Piripiri ($4.50, three
hours). There are several daily bus departures from Piripiri to Fortaleza ($11, nine
hours) and Parnaíba ($4.50, three hours).
IBAMA courtesy bus transport for the 26-km trip to the park leaves from Piripiri daily
at 7 am. There is usually some transport returning from Abrigo do IBAMA to Piripiri in the
morning between 9 and 10 am, and a bus at 5 pm. A taxi from Piripiri costs around $15.
Hitchhiking is also effective. In the park itself, you can drive on the roads or follow
the trails on foot.
The town of Pedro Segundo lies in the hills of the Serra dos Matões, around 50 km
south of Piripiri. Close to the town are several mines, which are the only source of opals
in South America.
The only accommodation in town is the Hotel Rimo Pedro Segundo (271-1543), on
PARQUE NACIONAL SERRA DA CAPIVARA
The Parque Nacional Serra da Capivara, in the southwest of the state, was established
in 1979 to protect the many prehistoric sites and examples of rock paintings in the
There are over 300 excavated sites which are opened to the public depending on the
research schedule. If the staff have time, you may be lucky enough to receive a lift and
be shown around. For details about access and archaeological sites, contact Doutora Niede
Guidon at FUMDHAM (Fundação Museu do Homem Americano) (582-1612), at Rua Abdias Neves
551, São Raimundo Nonato. There are plans to open a museum and conduct guided tours of
some of the sites.
Getting There & Away
For bus services between São Raimundo Nonato and Teresina, see the Getting There &
Away section for Teresina.
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,