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Gareth Leonard

The Best of Northeastern Brazil

As I sit here gazing out the floor-to-ceiling windows watching the planes come and go, I smile while reflecting on the past few weeks.

After an amazing Amazon encounter, I flew over to the Atlantic Coast for a taste of Northeastern Brazil. Traveling through Fortaleza, Natal, Recife and Salvador, I got to experience a completely different side of Brazil.

It’s at this moment while waiting for my flight to Rio, that I finally have the chance to think back on the rich culture, beautiful beaches and thrilling adventures of the past 20 days.

Here are a few of my favorite escapades from the gritty and gorgeous adventure…

Reliving my childhood in Fortaleza

Latin America’s largest waterpark had me feeling like a kid again as I spent the day bouncing from one slide to the next.

Positioned right on the Atlantic coast, Beach Park was the perfect escape from the hot Northeastern sun and bustling city of Fortaleza.

Getting Sandy in Natal


Between exploring the incredible coastline and racing around the sand dunes, Natal was equal parts relaxing and thrilling.

Highlights from the endless supply of incredible beaches included Ponte Negra, just outside the city center, and Praia do Amor (love beach) in Pipa. While they each had their own charm and attraction, both spots were definitely honeymoon-worthy.

From lying in the sand to flying across it, the dune buggy excursion on the giant sand dunes north of Natal was an adventure I won’t soon forget.

I’m still finding sand in weird places after my time in and around the city.

Discovering History in Olinda

Just a short trip from central Recife lies one of the most well preserved colonial cities in Brazil.

Fought over by the Portuguese and Dutch for many years, Olinda is now home to bright-colored buildings and one of the most beloved carnival celebrations in the country.

I spent the day wandering through the cobblestone streets and through the historical churches, admiring the architecture and swooning at the views.

My goal is to get back here next year to witness all the festivities and hysterical Bonecos Gigantes.

Being a Culture Vulture in Salvador

The colorful buildings, spicy food and incredible history, Salvador de Bahia was a wonderfully eye-opening experience.

I spent a week soaking up all the sights, sounds and flavors of the city from the devouring street food to learning Capoeira.

Like something out of a postcard, women dressed in traditional clothing and ribbons hung from balconies. Traditional music echoed through the narrow streets and Afro-Brazilian culture was deeply rooted in all aspects of life.

My daydreaming is interrupted by the intercom voice announcing my flight’s boarding.

I grab my bag and move towards the back of the line all while trying to summarize my memories.

The contrast between Northern and Southern Brazil is remarkable, and I’m thankful to taste a slice of life from both sides.

I think about the food, culture, architecture and people.

Just then, I look up and notice the women scanning tickets and hand her my boarding pass.

As I turn and head down the corridor, my smile returns uncontrollably.

This time it’s not the past, but the thought and curiosity of what lies ahead that makes me happy.

Have you ever had interesting experiences traveling around Brazil? Share your stories

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