Tiny and Quaint

    Tiny and
    Quaint

    Not too much to see here. But you will still find some small
    historic towns, like São Cristóvão, Brazil’s fourth oldest town and the former capital
    of Sergipe.
    By

    Sergipe is Brazil’s smallest state. It has all three zones typical of the Northeast:
    litoral, zona da mata and sertão. The coastal zone is wide and sectioned with valleys,
    with many towns dotted along the rivers.

    What is there to see? There are a couple of interesting historical
    towns—Laranjeiras in particular is well worth a visit—and the towns along the
    Rio São Francisco have a unique, captivating culture—principally Propriá and
    Neópolis. The beaches, on the other hand, are not up to snuff, and the capital, Aracaju,
    is as memorable as last Monday’s newspaper.

    ESTÂNCIA

    Estância, 68 km south of Aracaju, is one of the oldest towns in the state. The city
    has a certain amount of character and a few historic buildings in the center, but there’s
    little reason to stop in Estância unless you want to head to the nearby beaches or want
    to avoid spending the night in Aracaju.

    Information

    Estância has most basic services, including a large supermarket. The São João
    festivals in June are the big event.

    Places to Stay & Eat

    The town has a couple of hotels facing the main square, Praça Barão do Rio Branco.
    The Hotel Turismo Estanciano (Tel.: 522-1404) is spotless and comfortable, and has
    a restaurant attached. Quartos with fan cost $8/15 for singles/doubles; apartamentos
    with fan go for $10/18, or $15/23 with aircon. Some of the cheaper rooms have high
    ceilings—so high the walls don’t reach it! Try to get a room away from the
    restaurant. The Hotel Bosco (Tel.: 5221887), 30 meters away, has quartos for
    $4.50 per person and apartamentos for $6 per person. The Hotel Continenti, behind
    the rodoviária, has reasonably clean quartos at $3/6 for singles/doubles. Pizzaria
    São Geraldo does excellent pizzas.

    Getting There & Away

    The town is actually a bit off the BR101, but most longdistance buses still stop in
    Estância. There are buses directly from Salvador, Aracaju, Propriá and Maceió to the
    north. If you are travelling south from Estância along the Linha Verde and want to visit
    the beach towns north of Salvador, the Bonfim bus company, which runs the AracajuSalvador
    route, makes you pay the full fare from Estância to Salvador ($8.50) no matter where you
    get off along the way. There are four buses a day from Estância to Salvador, but two of
    them leave around 1 am and are impractical if you want to stop before Salvador. Daytime
    buses leave at 8.30 am and 1.45 pm. For access to Mangue Seco in Bahia, a bus leaves the rodoviária
    in Estância daily at 4 pm for Pontal, where there are frequent boats across the river to
    Mangue Seco until 6.30 pm. The 42km trip to Pontal via Indiaroba takes about two hours.

    SÃO CRISTÓVÃO

    Founded in 1590, São Cristóvão is reputedly Brazil’s fourtholdest town, and was the
    capital of Sergipe until 1855. With the decline of the sugar industry, the town has long
    been in the economic doldrums and is trying to become a tourist attraction to bring in
    some cash.

    Things to See

    The old part of town, up a steep hill, has a surprising number of 17th and 18thcentury
    colonial buildings along its narrow stone roads. Of particular distinction are: the Igreja
    e Convento de São Francisco,
    which has a good sacredart museum (at Praça São
    Francisco); the Igreja do Senhor dos Passos (Praça Senhor dos Passos), the Antiga
    Assembléia Legislativa;
    and the Antigo Palácio do Governo.

    Festival

    Every year the town comes alive for a weekend with the Festival de Arte de São
    Cristóvão. The festival has both fine and popular arts, with lots of music and dance.
    The festival is held during the last 15 days of October.

    Places to Stay & Eat

    There is no real accommodation in São Cristóvão, although there is a campground
    about two km from town. If you like sweets, São Cristóvão is renowned for its sweet
    makers, who produce a wide variety of doces caseiros (tempting homemade sweets and
    cakes).

    Getting There & Away

    Bus

    São Cristóvão is 25 km south of Aracaju on a good paved road, and seven km off the
    BR101. The rodoviária is down the hill below the historic district, on Praça Dr
    Lauro de Freitas. Frequent buses running to São Cristóvão ($0.85, 45 minutes) leave
    from the rodoviária velha (old bus terminal) in Aracaju. If you are
    travelling south to Estância, note that buses do not run there from São Cristóvão. You
    can take a bus back to the junction of BR101 and try to flag down a bus to Estância, or
    return to the rodoviária nova in Aracaju and take one from there.

    LARANJEIRAS

    Nestled between three lush, green, church-topped hills, Laranjeiras is the colonial gem
    of Sergipe Filled with ruins of old sugar mills, terracotta roofs, colorful colonial
    façades and stone roads, the town is relatively unblemished by modern development. There
    are several churches and museums worth visiting and the surrounding hills offer
    picturesque walks with good views. It’s a charming little town, easy to get to and well
    worth a few hours sightseeing or a day or two exploring the town, the nearby sugar mill
    and the countryside. The town center has recently been renovated.

    History

    Laranjeiras was first settled in 1605. During the 18th and 19th centuries, it became
    the commercial center for the rich sugar and cotton region along the zona da mata
    west of Aracaju. At one point there were over 60 sugar mills in and around Laranjeiras.
    The processed sugar was sent down the Rio Cotinguiba about 20 km downstream to Aracaju and
    on to the ports of Europe. The large number of churches is a reminder of the past
    prosperity of the town.

    Information

    There is a city tourism office inside the Trapiche building in the Centro de
    Tradições, on Praça Samuel de Oliveira, where you can obtain brochures and information
    about guides for hire. It’s open Tuesday to Sunday from 8 am to 5 pm.

    Engenho

    This old, partlyrestored sugar mill a few km from town is in a lovely setting. It’s now
    privately owned, and not generally open to the public, but it may be possible to arrange a
    visit if you ask at the tourist office. You can walk, or hire a guide and a car to take
    you there.

    Igreja de Camandaroba

    Out at the Engenho Boa Sorte, two km from town along the river, is the baroque Igreja
    de Camandaroba, the second building that the Jesuits constructed back in 1731.

    Igreja do Bonfim

    This church is at the top of the hill called Alto do Bonfim and has recently been
    restored. If the door is closed, go around to the back and ask to be let in. The short
    walk is rewarded with a fine view, but keep an eye out for snakes.

    Trapiche

    The Trapiche houses the tourism office. It’s a large, impressive structure that was
    built in the 19th century to house the cargo waiting to be shipped downriver.

    Gruta da Pedra Furada

    This is a onekm tunnel built by the Jesuits to escape their persecutors. The tunnel has
    been closed due to caveins, but there are plans to restore it. Ask at the tourist office
    to make sure it’s open. The gruta is three km out of town on the road leading to
    the small village of Machado.

    Museums

    The small Museu AfroBrasileiro is on Rua José do Prado Franco s/n (no number).
    Laranjeiras is considered to be the stronghold of African culture in Sergipe. It’s open
    Tuesday to Sunday, from 8 am to 5 pm. Also recommended is the Museu de Arte Sacra (Sacred
    Art Museum) in Igreja Nossa Senhora da Conceição, Rua Dr Francisco Bragança s/n.

    Festival

    During the first week of January, the Encontro Cultural folklore festival is
    held in the town

    Places to Stay

    The only pousada in town is the Pousada Vale dos Outeiros (Tel.: 281
    1027), at Rua José do Prado Franco 124. There are good views of the surrounding hills
    from the back rooms. Quartos cost $15/20 for singles/doubles; double apartamentos
    with aircon cost $30.

    Getting There & Away

    Laranjeiras is 21 km from Aracaju and four km off the BR101. Buses leave from and
    return to the rodoviária velha in Aracaju about every halfhour. It’s a
    35minute ride ($0.70)—the first bus leaves for Laranjeiras at 5 am and the last one
    returns at 9 pm. Any bus travelling the BR101 can let you off at the turnoff for
    Laranjeiras. There’s a convenientlyplaced restaurant at the turn off, so you can have a
    drink and snack while you wait to flag down a bus from Aracaju. Otherwise, you can walk or
    hitch the four km to town.

    ARACAJU

    Aracaju just may be the Cleveland of the Northeast. The city has little to offer the
    visitor—there is no colonial inheritance—and it is visually quite unattractive.
    Even beaches are below the prevailing high standard of the Brazilian Northeast.

    Aracaju, 367 km north of Salvador and 307 km south of Maceió, was Brazil’s first
    planned city. The modest requirements of the original plan called for a gridpattern
    intersected by two perpendicular roads less than two km long. The city outgrew the plan in
    no time, and the Brazilian norm of sprawl and chaotic development returned to the fore.

    History

    Some of its lack of appeal stems from the fact that Aracaju was not the most important
    city in the state during the colonial era. In fact, when it was chosen as the new capital
    in 1855, Santo Antônio de Aracaju was a small settlement with nothing but a good deep
    harbor—badly needed at the time to handle the ships transporting sugar to Europe.

    With residents of the old capital of São Cristóvão on the verge of armed revolt, the
    new capital was placed on a hill five km from the mouth of the Rio Sergipe. Within a year
    an epidemic broke out that decimated the city. All the residents of São Cristóvão
    naturally saw this as an omen that Aracaju was destined to be a poor capital.

    Information

    Tourist Office

    Emsetur, the state tourist organization in Sergipe, is trying hard to grab a slice of
    the rich tourist cake that its adjacent states, Bahia and Alagoas, have been enjoying in
    recent years. The Centro do Turismo in Aracaju was revamped in 1994, and houses the
    Emsetur tourist office (Tel.: 224-5168), which has loads of glossy brochures. It’s open
    from 8 am to 10 pm daily. The complex also houses an artesanato market, ‘Rua 24
    Horas’ (a shopping arcade), bars and cafés. There are other tourist information booths at
    the rodoviária and airport, both with erratic opening hours and limited
    information

    Money

    There is a branch of Banco do Brasil, at Praça General Valadão 341, in the center.

    Post Office

    The central post office is at Rua Laranjeiras 229.BeachesOn the sandy barrier
    island of Santa Luzia, at the mouth of the Rio Sergipe, is Praia Atalaia Nova (atalaia
    is Portuguese for watchtower), which is a popular weekend beach.

    Praia das Artistas, Atalaia Velha and Praia Aruana are the closest
    beaches to the city. They are crowded (with traffic jams on weekends) and heavily
    developed with hotels and motels, restaurants, bars and barracas—the latter
    are a source of inexpensive seafood.

    Further south on the road to Mosqueiro, Praia Refúgio is the prettiest and most
    secluded beach close to Aracaju. It’s 15 km from the city. There are a few bars and one pousada.

    Festivals

    The maritime procession of Bom Jesus dos Navegantes, held on 1 January, is probably the
    best event. Festa de Iemanjá is celebrated on 8 December at Praia Atalaia Velha.

    Train Trip

    On weekends, a tourist train makes the trip from Aracaju to São Cristóvão. The train
    leaves from the Estação do Bairro Siqueira Campos at 9 am. For more information, contact
    Emsetur in the Centro do Turismo.

    Places to Stay

    Most of the hotels are in the center or out at Praia Atalaia Velha on Avenida
    Atlântica. For a short stay, hotels in the center are much more convenient and generally
    less expensive. It’s worth asking for discounts at all the hotels, especially in low
    season (March to June, and August to November).

    Places to Eat

    Cacique Chá (closed on Sunday) is a garden restaurant on Praça Olímpio
    Campos, a central location which has made it a popular meeting place for the ‘in’ crowd. Artnatus
    at Rua Santo Amaro 282, is a wellstocked healthfood store which serves
    vegetarian lunch meals. The cafés in the Casa do Turismo are good for a snack and drinks.
    Recommended seafood restaurants at Atalaia Velha include: Taberna do Tropeiro (with
    live music in the evening), at Avenida Oceânica 6; Chapéu do Couro, at Avenida
    Oceânica 128; and the highly recommended O Miguel (closed on Monday) at Rua Antônio
    Alves 340. For good Italian food try Villa Vietri, at Avenida Francisco Porto 896,
    in Bairro Salgado Filho—midway between the center and Atalaia Velha.

    Getting There & Away

    Air

    The major airlines fly to Rio, São Paulo, Salvador, Recife, Maceió, Brasília,
    Goiânia and Curitiba.

    You will find a Varig office (Tel.: 211-1890) at Rua João Pessoa 71; VASP (Tel.:
    2241792) is at Avenida Barão de Maruim 67; and Transbrasil (Tel.: 2111090) is at Rua São
    Cristóvão 14.

    Bus

    Longdistance buses leave from the rodoviária nova (new bus terminal),
    which is about four km from the center. There are nine buses a day to Salvador ($8, or
    $17.50) for a leito). Five of these buses take the new Linha Verde route along the
    coast (4½ hours), and the rest go inland via Entre Rios (six hours). There are four daily
    departures for the fivehour trip ($7) to Maceió—some sections of the road are
    heavily potholed, so it can be slow going. Two daily departures to Recife take nearly nine
    hours and cost $12. There’s one direct bus daily to Penedo ($3.50, three hours), and seven
    buses daily to Neópolis, where there is access to Penedo by a short ferry ride across the
    Rio São Francisco.

    Getting Around

    To/From the Airport

    The airport (Tel.: 243-2721) is 11 km south of town, just past Atalaia Velha. From the rodoviária
    velha, take the bus marked ‘Aeroporto’.

    Bus

    The rodoviária nova (new bus terminal, four km from the town center) is
    connected with the rodoviária velha (old bus terminal, in the center) by a
    frequent shuttle service ($0.30, 25 minutes). The requisite bus stop is a separate
    entity—look for a large shelter with a series of triangular roofs about 100 meters to
    your right as you exit the rodoviária nova. A taxi from the rodoviária
    nova to the center costs around $4.

    The rodoviária velha is in the center of town on Avenida Divina Pastora.
    This is the bus terminal to use for local trips, including visits to São Cristóvão and
    Laranjeiras. To reach Atalaia Velha, take a bus marked ‘Caroa Domeio/Santa Tereza’ from
    the rodoviária velha.

    Boat

    From the Terminal Hidroviário (Ferry Terminal), there are frequent ferries ($0.40) to
    Barra dos Coqueiros on Ilha de Santa Luzia until 11 pm. The ferry terminal on Praia
    Atalaia Nova has begun to sink into the river, so the ferry now docks a short bus ride
    away from the main beach.

    PROPRlÁ

    Propriá is 81 km north of Aracaju, where BR-101 crosses the mighty Rio São Francisco.
    While the town is less interesting than the downriver cities of Penedo and Neópolis, it
    has the same combination of colonial charm and river culture. Thursday and Friday are the
    weekly market days in Propriá, when goods are traded from communities up and down the
    São Francisco.

    Boat Trips

    In recent years there has been a steady decline in longdistance boat travel on the Rio
    São Francisco. You should still be able to find boats going upriver as far as Pão de
    Açúcar, about a sevenhour ride by motorboat, with stops at all the towns along the way.
    One scheduled boat departure is the Oriente, which leaves Propriá at 7 am on
    Saturday and returns from Pão de Açúcar on Monday. The Vaza Baris also makes
    occasional trips to Pão de Açúcar and Penedo.

    There are also smaller boats which leave irregularly—for example, downstream to
    Penedo and Neópolis. You can bargain a ride on any of them, including the beautiful avelas
    with their long, curved masts and striking yellow or red sails. The trip downriver to
    Penedo takes about four or five hours by avela or rowboat and should cost around
    $4.

    Festival

    Bom Jesus dos Navegantes, on the last Sunday in January, is a colorful affair with a
    maritime procession and reisado—a dramatic dance that celebrates the epiphany.
    It is highly recommended.

    Getting There & Away

    Propriá is about one km off BR101. The rodoviária is about two km from
    town—a local bus meets most longdistance buses and will drop you in the center. There
    are bus connections with Neópolis, Penedo, Aracaju and Maceió.

    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
    Amazon.com

    Lonely Planet
    Brazil – A Travel Survival Kit

    by Andrew Draffen, Chris McAsey,
    Leonardo Pinheiro, Robyn Jones,
    704 pp

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