Recife Regional Overview

Welcome to My Guide Recife, the long-awaited, multimedia-rich guide that will walk you through this proud historical city, Recife, and its beautiful State, Pernambuco.

Warm-water beaches as in the Caribbean, rivers and bridges resembling Venice, and streets paved with cobblestone and history much like Amsterdam. High rises, bustling traffic and sprawling construction sites scream "modernity!", while proud fortresses, Baroque churches (even a mock medieval castle outside town) talk of the past. The coast with its blazing sun is but a few miles away from the hilly countryside and its cool temperatures. A place for piety, with its larger-than-life religious celebrations, and for parties, with its even larger Carnival and many other festivals. All of that to the beat of rhythms and flavours that echo something from Europe, Africa and native Indians all at once. Pernambuco, you'll come to believe, is almost a nation in itself.

Since a compass is no good in a land where so many cultures meet, we'll be happy to guide you with our local knowledge on the most important things about Recife and Pernambuco.

Recife and Pernambuco

Recife (‘heh-see-fee’) is the capital of Pernambuco State and a main gateway to the tropical northeast of Brazil. Recife is at the eastern tip of the Americas and takes its name from the off-shore reefs (‘recifes’).

There is a staggering amount to see and do in the state, from the famous multicultural street Carnival in Recife and Olinda, with their charming historical old-towns, to the stunning archipelago of Fernando de Noronha not to mention some of the best beaches, cuisine, art and crafts and weather in Brazil.

 

Boa Viagem (Credit: Evaldo Parreira)

The most famous postcard of Recife, this is where skyscrapers meet a 7km long strip of sunny beach. This district has one of the cleanest urban beaches in Brazil, along with a traditional artcraft fair and a park, theatre and arts centre designed by the famous architect Oscar Niemeyer. Massive shopping centres, bars, restaurants and the city's top hotels are also to be found here.

Continuing on south from Boa Viagem are Piedade and Candeias beaches, in the municipality of Jaboatão dos Guararapes, which are also fairly well-developed for hotels, shopping and nightlife.
Old Town (Credit: Evaldo Parreira)

Located downtown, this is where it all began. Gracious rivers and canals run next to bridges, streets and churches built by the Dutch and the Portuguese in the city's early days. Visit it to see the city's Ground Zero and imprints of its multicultural history: the first synagogue built in the Americas and a centuries-old customs outpost turned into an elegant shopping mall. During Carnival, this is the epicentre of the party in Recife.

The old river-side warehouses are receiving a new lease of life, being turned into cultural and tourist attractions, alongside bars and restaurants, and a new modern cruise terminal.

Panoramic view over Olinda to Recife

Recife's elder sister, Olinda, is a charming city with its colourful houses and  historic churches, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its bohemian beauty.

It comes to life during Carnival, which is "the" most important event on the calendar, every February.

Carnival in Olinda (Credit: Evaldo Parreira)

Carnival in Pernambuco is not like any other in Brazil. Free and open to all, it is a street party to which everyone is invited to jump in. Recife's downtown gets packed for the "Galo da Madrugada", while the "Bonecos Gigantes" parade in the steep hills of Olinda along with hundreds of thousands of people in their outrageous costumes.

Other large scale festivals spread across the calendar ensure that the party goes on during the rest of the year in Pernambuco.

Instituto Brennand

Pernambuco has a rich and kaleidoscopic culture. If you want to look closer into it, visit one of the several museums and cultural venues spread across town: old fortresses, a jailhouse turned into artcraft mall and a medieval castle are some of the destinations in this discovery tour.

Fernando de Noronha - Surf championship (Credit: Evaldo Parreira)

Nature's haven and a gem off Pernambuco's coast, the Fernando de Noronha archipelago is a prime destination if you wish to witness breath-taking scenery, visit paradisiacal beaches, adventure in the wild, dive and practice other water sports.

Noronha is a UNESCO World natural heritage site and a national marine park, and great care is taken to protect the natural habitats, fauna and flora. Preservation charges are applicable for all visitors to the islands and marine park. After being here, you'll understand why it is a favourite among national and international celebrities. 

Porto de Galinhas (Credit: EMPETUR)

South of Recife you'll find the State's top beaches. Porto de Galinhas, nine times chosen as the best beach in Brazil, is an obligatory visit. Muro Alto and Maracaípe are also mandatory for surf and water sports enthusiasts, while well-hidden treasures Carneiros and Tamandaré are a place for the tranquil and relaxed getaways.

Goiana beach (Credit: Evaldo Parreira)

North of Recife, Itamaracá is an island you can drive to and enjoy the gentle tides, see a fortress built by the Dutch surrounded by ocean and palm trees, and see manatees up close. Maria Farinha and Goiana are also pleasant sites, while further North, Tambaba (in neighboring state Paraíba) is more for those who have nothing to hide, i.e. nudists.

Garanhuns flower clock (Credit: Evaldo Parreira)

With a hillier landscape, drier weather, cooler temperature and smaller towns, Pernambuco's hinterlands are a charming destination which attract more and more visitors. From Caruaru's gigantic São João to Bezerros' welcoming Carnival, passing through Garanhuns' winter festivals, spectacles in Fazenda Nova and ecotourism in Serra do Catimbau, you are sure to find one destination that suits your travelling taste.

Petrolina (Credit: Evaldo Parreira)

Wine tourism, natural reserves, pre-historic cave paintings, a cowboy Mass and museums for the outlaws. The Sertão holds quite a rich bouquet of surprises and unique attractions. Though access to the State's drylands is not as simple as to other areas, what it has in store is sure to leave an impression on you like no other destination nearby.

 

North-East Brazil

This region is where the Brazilians go (or wished they could go) on holiday. Like many countries, they try to keep what's best for themselves! But their secret has been out for several years.

However, it is worth noting that the months of January (summer) and July (winter in Recife) are the main school holidays and the locals and domestic tourists pack the hotels and beaches. Likewise during Christmas, New Year, Carnival and the Easter weeks, prices can go up and hotels may offer only fully-inclusive packages.

With the advent of budget airlines in Brazil/South America, more and more lower middle class Brazilians are getting to know their country and visiting friends and family.

The best times to visit during low season, for a combination of good weather and lower hotel prices, are after Carnival and before Easter (roughly mid-February 'til end March) and October and November. Note it is a tradition to take long Bank holiday weekends and Brazilians (like many Latin Americans) love it when a holiday falls on a Tuesday or Thursday, so the Monday or Friday gets squeezed ('imprensado').

Official Pernambuco State Tourism Agency EMPETUR video Pernambuco É So Chegar:

Credit: Empetur

* Photos by Evaldo Parreira and Flickr-CC