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When you think of Brazil, you probably think of Rio de Janeiro  with its glamorous Copacabana Beach, vibrant Lapa, and the bohemian quarters of Santa Teresa. We loved our time in Rio, but it wasn’t until we traveled north visiting destinations in Northeast Brazil that we discovered a thriving beach scene, unspoiled nature, deep colonial heritage, and unique cuisine of this fascinating region. 

If you are thinking of visitng Brazil and are looking to explore beyond Rio and Iguazu Falls, these are the destinations we recommend you visit the vibrant region of Northeast Brazil.

1. Salvador

If you are coming to Salvador from Rio de Janeiro (like we did), you’ll find the city to be a shock to the system (but in a good way). For us, its appeal was far beyond the cobblestone streets and colourful buildings of the UNESCO Heritage Listed Old Town and the beautiful views of the sun setting over the ocean from the Santo Antônio da Barra Fort.

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It was here that we got a chance to sample some amazing Bahian cuisine (aracaje and moqueca are the best ), learned a bit about the history of the slave trade in Brazil, and got our first introduction to the capoeira dance. If you are looking for a city to delve into Brazilian culture, Salvador is one of the must-see places to visit in Brazil.

Here’s our video exploring Salvador, Olinda and Fernando de Noronha

2. Recife

At first glance, Recife didn’t strike us as anything special. Its gritty commercial center, full of highrise apartments and business buildings didn’t inspire us to stick around for too long. 

But the second we set our foot on Recife’s long sandy drag known as Praia Boa Viagem, we knew we hit a real hot spot. The beautiful stretch of the beach was full of locals and visitors enjoying sun, sand, fresh coconuts, and the fried fish

In our opinion, Recife is one of the most underrated places to visit in Brazil. If you come here, make sure to spend some time at the beach, catching some sun and taking in the views.

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3. Olinda

Just half an hour north of Recife sits a pretty little town of Olinda, that in our opinion had more charm and appeal than most other cities in the Northeast of Brazil.

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We fell in love with Olinda’s pastel-coloured buildings, winding streets, and beautiful views that emerged once we climbed to Alto da Se, the cathedral square at the top of the town.

Street food and souvenir stalls filled the square with buzz and excitement, making it that much harder to say goodbye to this bohemian town. We recommend adding Olinda in your itinerary of Northeast of Brazil, because it is yet another place that is under mass tourism’ radar (for now). Use the opportunity to visit this gem of Northeast Brazil before it gets affected by mass tourism.

4. Fernando de Noronha

The island of Fernando de Noronha is Northeast Brazil’s best kept secret. It’s exclusive (only 400 people are allowed to visit the island at a time) and it’s expensive (flights to the island, island fees, food, activities, and accommodation added up to be well over our budget). However, there is a good reason why this island located northeast of Brazil is so pricey.

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The untouched nature of the island and its surrounding shores is unlike anything else we have seen in Brazil. Fernando is a haven for active travelers offering a multitude of hikes, snorkeling and diving opportunities, and some of the most beautiful beaches in the country. It’s easily one of the best places to visit in Brazil.

5. Morro Branco

Similar to a number of other destinations in Northeast Brazil, the small inconspicuous beach of Morro Branco remains untouched by mass tourism. We say that because, during our visit, we were the only foreigners in the sea of local visitors. We knew that we hit a local hot spot when a tour guide taking a group of locals around the area laughed in our face when we asked if his tour was available in English.

Heres our video exploring Morro Branco, Jericoacoara and Lençóis

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Luckily, the topography of Morro Branco’s sandy cliffs radiating a variety of yellow, orange, and red shades told us everything we cared to know. We walked around the small canyon, running through the heart of the cliffs, completely mesmerised by the views, thrilled to have discovered a spot as unique as this. It’s definitely one of the top places to visit in Brazil.

6. Jericoacoara 

The further we traveled in Northeast Brazil, the more sand we encountered. Luckily, Jericoacoara, a small town in the heart of the sandy National Park by the same name, offered more than sand. The town was built completely on the sand, but walking down its Main Street lined with boutique shops, kite surfing schools, and amazing restaurants, it was easy to forget exactly how remote this place was.

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Jericoacoara sucked us in hard. A fishing village turned hippy backpacker town, Jeri had it all. Activities (kite-boarding, surfing, jeep tours, etc), beach, shopping, dining, and a happening nightlife make Jeri an easy place to get stuck in. We almost did.

7. Lençóis Maranhenses

If there was a place worth leaving Jeri for, it was the sprawling sand dune park of Lençóis Maranhenses. Lencois is an incredible natural phenomenon, a place where sand dominates all, where the horizon is filled with dunes and more dunes, where sheep and goats farm on the tiniest patches of grass, and where beautiful green freshwater lagoons create an incredible landscape. But besides the pristine landscapes, this place in Northeast Brazil offers a much-needed refreshing swim after a long hike up and down the dunes.

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WHY NORTHEAST BRAZIL TOPS OUR LIST OF PLACES TO VISIT IN THE COUNTRY

Brazil boasts unparalleled nature and biodiversity, vibrant cities and friendly locals. And while many destinations in Brazil were interesting to visit, it was Northeast Brazil that really got us. 

This part of the country has a serene nature and environment and so many undiscovered places. If you are wondering what places to visit in Brazil, we definitely recommend adding some Northern Brazil destinations to your list.

BEFORE YOU GO: DON’T FORGET TRAVEL INSURANCE 

We can’t stress enough the importance of travel insurance, especially in a country like Brazil. Whether you just plan to explore the cities, do a little bit of hiking, or go extreme (think surfing or scuba diving) being protected on your travels is an irreplaceable peace of mind. We learned about the importance of travel insurance the hard way and now we never travel without coverage.

  • From the US? Get a quote through Allianz Travel Insurance, our recommended travel insurance provider for US citizens/residents.
  • Live elsewhere?  Check out World Nomads, a great travel insurance provider for those based outside of the US. 

Have you ever been to the Northeastern part of Brazil? What did you think? Did we miss anything?

7 thoughts on “7 Destinations You Have to Visit in Northeast Brazil”

  1. Hi Oksana and Max,

    You’re absolutely right, when it comes the name of Brazil in our mind, the Rio de Janerio comes first which is the incredible place in the world. I have a wish to visit this place, see when it comes true.

    Thanks a lot for suggesting the wonderful places of Brazil, I really unknown about the places which you have mentioned here. Sounds like each one is famous and perfect place to make the Brazil trip full of fun and relief. This is really interesting to know these places of Brazil, each one looks quite beautiful and suitable for make our Brazil trip awesome.

    The island of Fernando De Noronha is amazing in looks and I got impressed to see the beauty of this place. Also, Lencois Maranhenses, Recife, Salvador is perfect find for trip.
    Thanks for highlighting the amazing destination of Brazil. I would like to visit Brazil soon.
    Have a great week ahead.
    – Ravi.

  2. Hey there Oksana and Max,

    I am currently living in Belo Horizonte, Brazil for a year. I am planning though on visiting Northeastern side of Brazil on September but I was a little bit distracted and hazy by the route to be taken in order to reach such places. Also bare in mind that i am on very tight budget around 2K Reais. So I would prefer if i would take a flight from Belo Horizonte to a place and then from the last destination to Belo Horizonte once again and the rest to be done by buses. So if you would mind helping me out finding the way and give me some tips regarding this matter!

    Thank you so much guys <3

    1. Hi Yarah, it is possible to get around Brazil by bus. It’s a cheaper and much more sustainable way to travel around the country. Bus rides between main cities can be long, so we recommend planning lots of stopovers in smaller towns along the way to break up your journey and see lesser visited destinations along the coast.

  3. Isadora Martinez

    Wow, this Morro Branco looks amazing!! I have never heard of it, wish I could visit it sometime *-* And congrats on the post, it is really good and with great tips! Another tip for traveler is to get around Brazil by bus… sometimes it a long trip, but I think the buses are good at comfort and, most important, cheaper 🙂 I get my tickets online.

  4. Hello guys!!
    We are planning a visit to the northeast of Brazil and would like a recommendation for a calm, beautiful and relaxed beach to rent a house….. It also should be possible to do a bit of kite surfing there….. any suggestions?? Yhanks so much, Marisa

  5. Oh, I know the NE Region, I live here! Hahahaha. I’m very happy to see our beautiful region being noticed. I just felt I needed to add a few places from my own state, Alagoas, because it tends to go unnoticed. Alagoas is the second smallest state in the northeast (and the country), but it’s definetely one of the most beautiful. The beaches of Maragogi, Japaratinga, Patacho (in the city of Porto de Pedras), Mirante do Gunga and Barra de São Miguel are just a few examples. The historic cities of Penedo and Piranhas. The canyons of the São Francisco river. Google these places and you’ll Want to come back here right away, I guarantee you hahahahaha. Regards and safe travels!

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