Founded in 1537 by Duarte Coelho Pereira, Olinda became the cradle of Brazilian culture in the 16th century and the first capital of the province of Pernambuco. Later the town became one of the most important cultural centers of Brazil, the home of artists, sculpturers, and writers and the founding place of Brazil's first law school.
Led by Maurits van Nassau the town was conquered by the Dutch in 1630 and held it for about 25 years. Although many of the buildings in Olinda were originally constructed in the 16th century, the Dutch burnt virtually everything in 1631. Consequently, most of what you now see has been reconstructed at a later date. Maurits van Nassau intensively promoted the fine arts of the region. The strong Dutch influence of those days can still be traced today.
Due to its exciting past, its beautiful and important architectural and cultural heritage as well as its outstanding natural beauty and its unique topography the town became a National Monument of Brazil in 1980 and 2 years later was declared World Cultural Heritage by UNESCO.
While Recife plays the role of an administrative and economic center, Olinda is recognized as its cultural counterpart: a living city with bohemian quarters, art galleries, museums, music in the streets and always some kind of celebration in the works. The best beaches in the region are located south of Recife.
Today, Olinda is one of Brazil's most popular tourist sights visited by people from all over the world. They love its natural and cultural beauties, its grand festivals, above all its Carnival with its outsize puppets which are as famous as their Venice and Rio de Janeiro counterparts.
Located 65 km from Recife, Igarassu with its wonderful collection of colonial buildings and charming squares was Brazil's first Portuguese settlement and is now the country's oldest city. Set along the banks of the Igarassu River, it was originally a trading post that was established on the site in 1535.
The centerpiece of historic Igarassu is the cathedral church of Saints Cosma and Damian. On the day the first Portuguese set foot ashore, they fought off the local Indians and some French pirates. Since it happened to be the name day of both saints, they named the settlement after Cosma and Damian, but it eventually came to be known by its location, Igarassu. It is the oldest church in Brazil. Nearby is the Island of Itamaracá. Its name has Indian origin and means "the stone that sings"; linked to the continent by a bridge, coconut tree forests cover the island, with beautiful tepid water beaches. The main attraction here is Forte Orange, built by the Dutch in 1630. This impressive bastion was used as a base of operations for the Dutch assaults on Recife and Olinda. It has a much more pleasant incarnation today as a research center for the preservation of manatees.
Maria Farinha beach:
Maria Farinha is located 25 km north of Recife in the city of Paulista. The name means "Mary Flour". The beach is shallow, waves are small; one can walk several meters into the sea and have the water by the waist; good for children. Filled with restaurants and piers, Maria Farinha is an excellent place for nautical sports. Also in Maria Farinha, adults and children can have fun at Veneza Water Park, one of the largest water parks in Brazil.
Caruaru is a town where nearly everyone is an artist. According to UNESCO, Caruaru is the largest center of folk art in the Americas. Its streets are filled with markets and bazaars offering creative works in leather, ceramic, wood, straw and metal as well as the famous "Mestre Vitalino" statuettes and figures made with red clay.
Each year during Easter Week, dozens of actors and literally hundreds of extras take part in an open-air theatrical performance depicting the Passion of Christ. The Passion play takes place in nearby Fazenda Nova in the area known as Nova Jerusalem (a scale replica of Jerusalem at the time of Christ). Also in Fazenda Nova is the Monumental Stone Sculpture Park, the largest outdoor museum in the world.
João Pessoa is the first city to receive the sun rays on the American Continent, precisely at the beach of Ponta do Seixas. It is the state capital of Paraiba and is situated in the northeast of Brazil, 150 km from Recife.
The city was founded in 1585 and is Brazil's 3rd oldest town. There are many preserved buildings, the most impressive among all, might be the baroque park formed by the Santo Antonio Convent and the church of São Francisco (1608), including the colossal Cross. There are km of warm water beaches and refreshing breezes.
According to a United Nations survey, João Pessoa is considered to be the world's 2nd most tree-covered city, with many parks. Close by it Picãozinho, you can visit a reef which has formed natural swimming pools. In the municipality of Conde, very close to the city, there is Tambauba beach, the only nudist camp in the region.
Natal is the beach capital of the northeast of Brazil. It has a few sights, like the Forte dos Ries Magos and the Museu da Camara Cascudo, but the main reason to come here is to relax, tan and swim. The beaches stretch well over 9 km, from the fort to the light house.