Hip, Historical, Fun

    Hip,
      Historical,
      Fun

    Maceió, the capital of Alagoas, has a modern feeling, apart from a
    small historical area in the commercial center, and offers endless sun and sea. The place
    has experienced a tourist boom over recent years, and the city beaches are being developed
    at a fast pace though.
    By

    The small state of Alagoas is one of the pleasant surprises of the Northeast. The
    capital, Maceió, is a relaxed, modern city, and its beaches are enchanting, with calm,
    emerald waters. Penedo is the colonial masterpiece of the state, with a fascinating river
    culture on the Rio São Francisco.

    Along the coast, there are many fishing villages with fabulous beaches shaded by rows
    of coconut trees. Buses run along the coastal roads to the north and south of Maceió
    connecting the villages which are beginning to be discovered by tourists and property
    developers.

    History

    The mighty republic of runaway slaves—Palmares—was in presentday Alagoas.
    During the invasion by the Dutch in 1630, many slaves escaped to the forest in the
    mountains between Garanhuns and Palmares. Today, where the towns of Viçosa, Capela,
    Atalaia, Porto Calvo and União dos Palmares stand, there were once virgin forests with
    thick growth and plenty of animals. Alagoas today has the highest population density in
    the Northeast.

    MACEIÓ

    Maceió, the capital of Alagoas, is 292 km north of Aracaju and 259 km south of Recife.
    A manageable place for the visitor, the city has a modern feeling, apart from a small
    historical area in the commercial center, and offers endless sun and sea. Maceió has
    experienced a tourist boom over recent years, and the city beaches are being developed at
    a fast pace, particularly between Ponta Verde and Praia de Jatiúca.

    Orientation

    The rodoviária is about four km north of the city center, which has inexpensive
    hotels and the bustle of commerce. On the east side of the city are Praia de Pajuçara and
    Praia dos Sete Coqueiros, which are three km and four km respectively from the center.

    Information

    Tourist Office

    Maceió has welldeveloped tourist information facilities. The head office of Ematur
    (2219393), the state tourism organization, is at Avenida Duque de Caxias 2014. Emturma
    (2234016), the municipal tourism body, is at Rua Saldanha da Gama 71. There are combined
    Emturma information booths/Telasa phone offices along the beachfront at Praia Pajuçara,
    Ponte Verde and Praia Jatiúca. These booths have loads of information on hotels,
    restaurants and transport tucked away in folders including where to have your tarot read
    or your dog washed! There is also an information booth at the airport.

    Money

    There’s a branch of Banco do Brasil at Rua do Livramento 120. Aero Turismo, in the
    Iguatemi shopping center, also changes money at the same rate as the banks.

    Post & Telephone

    There is a post office at Rua João Pessoa 5, in the city center. Telasa, the state
    phone company, has offices in the center at Rua Conselheiro Lourenço de Albuquerque 369;
    along the beachfront at Praia Pajuçara, Ponta Verde and Praia Jatiúca; and at the
    airport and rodoviária.

    French Consulate

    There is a French consulate (= 2312555) at Lagoa da Anta 22, next to the Hotel
    Jatiúca.

    Museums

    In the center, Museu do Instituto Histórico (open Monday to Friday from 8 am to
    noon and 2 to 5 pm) has exhibits about regional history. Museu Theo Brandão is in
    an attractive colonial building on the seafront, but is closed for `renovations’—in
    fact, it seems to be being left to fall into decay.

    Beaches

    Just a short walk from the center, the beaches of Praia do Sobral and Avenida are
    polluted. Praia Pajuçara (Ala) (three km from the center) and Praia dos Sete Coqueiros
    (four km) are beginning to suffer from pollution as well. Your best bet is to head further
    north for some of the best beaches in the Northeast. Protected by a coral reef, the ocean
    is calm and a deepemerald color. On shore there are loads of barracas, jangadas (local
    sailboats) and plenty of beach action.

    The beaches to the north are Ponta Verde (five km), Jatiúca (six km),
    Jacarecica
    (nine km), Guaxuma (12 km), Garça Torta (14 km), Riacho
    Doce
    (16 km) and Pratagi (17 km).

    You won’t go wrong with any of these tropical paradises, but they do get busy on
    weekends and throughout the summer, when there are many local buses cruising the beaches.
    On Pajuçara, you’ll find jangadas which will take you out about one km to the
    reef, where you can swim in the piscina natural (natural swimming pool), and
    observe the marine life (best done at low tide). The fare is $4 per person.

    Boat Trips

    The schooner Lady Elvira departs daily from Pontal da Barra for a fivehour
    cruise to islands and beaches. The price per person is $30 with lunch, or $20 without
    lunch. For more information, contact Ematur (2219393), at Avenida Duque de Caxias 2014.
    Small motorboats such as the Turis Gomes (2210458) make similar cruises from Pontal
    da Barra for $10 per person, or $20 with lunch included.

    Flora & Fauna

    A reader writes the following:

    If you are seriously interested in fauna and flora in Alagoas, the person to speak to
    is the biologist Gininho Britzky, Rua Augusta 251, in the city center of Maceió
    (2211987). With his long hair and beard he looks more like Jesus than the respected
    ecologist that he is. He has been fighting for years to protect the environment in
    Alagoas, which is under constant attack, and he is well known locally. He speaks very
    little English, but will be happy to point you in the right direction, and may even be
    willing to go on trips with you to the few remaining pockets of forest and mangrove swamp.
    He won’t ask for anything in return, but I think it would be polite to offer a donation to
    the environmental group that he heads: Brigada Ecológica de Alagoas, one of the
    environmental organizations mentioned in the excellent, but high priced ($35)
    environmental guide book: Guia do Meio Ambiente—Litoral de Alagoas, which can
    be found in some Maceió bookshops and from the Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente
    (IBAMA) (2411600).

    W J (Bill) Hill, Northwich, Cheshire, England

    Festivals

    Maceió is reported to have a lively Carnaval, which is still considerably calmer and
    safer than Rio’s, and features active samba clubs. Locals reckon Barra de São Miguel has
    the best Carnaval in the area. Festa do Mar takes place in December.

    Places to Eat

    City Center

    If you want good seafood and feel like a splurge, visit Lagostão (221-6211), at
    Avenida Duque de Caxias 1384. A cheaper option, just one block to the east on the same
    road, is Como Antigamente, which does prato feito for $5 and has seating in
    a courtyard at the back of the restaurant, away from the street noise.

    Beaches

    Most of the beaches offer a wide choice of food, with barracas and snack bars
    serving seafood and local dishes along the beachfront.

    Local seafood specialties worth trying are sururu (a small mussel) and maçunim
    (shellfish) cooked in coconut sauce, served as dishes on their own, or in a caldinho
    (cup of sauce) which can be eaten or drunk. Other tasty local seafood dishes include peixe
    agulha (deepfried needle fish) and siri na casca com coral (crab in the shell
    with roe). Beachside food stalls serve some delicious snacks which should be tried: acarajé,
    a bean paste deep fried in dendê oil and filled with shrimp and potato; and
    tapioca pancakes filled with grated coconut or queijo coalhado, compressed bean
    curd.

    Other good places for seafood are Bem (2313316), at Rua João Canuto da Silva
    21, Praia de Cruz das Almas, and Restaurante Maré, on Avenida Alípio Barbosa,
    which is southwest of the center, in Pontal da Barra. Both of these restaurants are
    mediumpriced and open for lunch and dinner.

    At Praia Pajuçara, Paraíso is a casual little café with a great range of
    juices and snack foods. O Komilão is a friendly place with reasonably
    priced seafood, meat and chicken refeições, and Pizzaria Paju is a
    breezy restaurant along the beachfront serving good pizza and pasta.

    Entertainment

    For reviews and listings of the latest bars, dance spots and cultural events in
    Maceió, pick up a copy of Veja, which includes an assortment of these places in
    its weekly supplement entitled 28 Graus. A couple of places worth checking out are
    Trupi e Dance at Rua Jangadeiros Alagoanos 1125, in Pajuçara, for loud and sweaty dance
    action, or Middo, at Avenida Robert Kennedy 2167, Praia dos Sete Coqueiros, which has pagode,
    forró and dance music.

    Things to Buy

    There is an artesanato market on Praia Pajuçara with dozens of stalls selling
    figurines, lacework, hammocks and jewelry. Directly across the road, Pajuçara Artesanato
    is a large shop selling similar goods. Beautifully embroidered hammocks cost around
    $60—another good purchase is a rede-cadeira (hammock chair) for $32.

    The fishing village of Pontal da Barra, around 10 km from the center, is also an artesanato
    center. The streets are lined with shops selling lacework and embroidery, and prices are
    generally lower than in the city. You can often see women weaving outside the shops. The
    Mercado do Artesanato, next to the food market in the city center, is also a good place to
    shop for hammocks—a double hammock goes for around $20.

    Getting There & Away

    Air

    Maceió is connected by air with Rio, São Paulo, Brasília and all the major centers
    of the Northeast. There are plans to open an international terminal in Maceió—at the
    moment, there are charter services to Maceió from Rome, Madrid and Amsterdam

    The major airline offices are in the center. Varig (0800) 997000; airport (322-1160) is
    at Rua Comendador Palmeira 129; VASP (0800) 998227; airport (322-1414) is at Rua do
    Comércio 56; and Transbrasil (2218344; airport 322-1333) is at Rua Barão de Penedo 213.

    Bus

    There are frequent daily departures to Recife ($6.50, four hours) and Aracaju ($7, five
    hours). Services operate five times daily to Salvador ($15.50, 10 hours). Some buses to
    Salvador take the inland route; others go via the new Linha Verde road along the coast. If
    you want to make a 2256km bus trip to Rio ($52, 36 hours), there’s a daily departure at 7
    pm.

    Buses leave for Penedo five times daily—the route via AL101 along the coast is
    much quicker ($5, around 2½ hours). São Domingos bus company services the coastal towns
    north of Maceió, with regular buses to Barra do Camarajibe, Barra de Santo Antônio,
    Japaratinga and Porto de Pedras.

    Getting Around

    To/From the Airport

    Aeroporto dos Palmares (3221300) is 20 km from the center. Buses to the airport can be
    picked up at Praça Sinibu, on Rua Imperador. A taxi to the airport costs around $15.

    To/From the Rodoviária

    The rodoviária (223-4105) is about four km from the center. To reach the
    center, take the bus marked `Ouro Preto’. A taxi to the center costs around $4, and $2
    more to Pajuçara.

    To/From the Beaches

    Buses marked `Santuário, `Jardim Vaticano’ or `Ponta Verde’, run from the center to
    Pajuçara. The `Jatiúca’ bus runs from the center to Praia Jatiúca. If you want to
    travel further away from the center, the bus marked `Jardineira’ runs along the beaches
    north of town as far as Riacho Doce (recommended).

    Buses run to Pontal da Barra from the bus stop on Rua Pedro Montero, near Praça dos
    Palamares.

    SOUTH OF MACEIÓ

    Praia do Francês

    Only 22 km from Maceió, this is a popular weekend beach, which is being rapidly
    developed and beginning to suffer from the ravages of tourism. The beach is lined with barracas
    and the ocean is lined with reefs. The water is calm and better for wading in than
    swimming. It’s a very social beach on weekends, with plenty of drinking, seafood-scoffing,
    football and music.

    There is a small Ematur information booth on the roadside as you come into town, which
    has some brochures and can give directions to accommodation.

    Getting There & Away

    From Maceió, either take the bus from the stop opposite the ferroviária (hourly
    departure), or use the more frequent minibus service, which departs about from 50 meters
    down the street. The same minibuses run between Praia do Francês and Marechal Deodoro.

    Marechal Deodoro

    Beside Lagoa Manguaba, a lagoon 21 km southwest of Maceió, is Marechal Deodoro, which
    was the capital of Alagoas between 1823 and 1839. Small and quiet, the town is worth a
    visit, perhaps combined with Praia do Francês as a day trip from Maceió.

    Things to See

    Marechal Deodoro has several churches, the most famous of which are the Igreja e
    Convento São Francisco
    which was begun in the 17th century, and the Igreja de
    Nossa Senhora da Conceição.

    Inside Igreja e Convento São Francisco is the Museu de Arte Sacra (Museum of
    Sacred Art). It’s open daily from 9 am to 1 pm, except on Sunday, when it’s closed.

    Brazilian history buffs may want to see the old governor’s palace and the house where
    Marechal Deodoro was born. The latter has been turned into the Museu Deodoro, which
    is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm, except on Sunday, when it’s closed. The exhibits give a
    `deodorized’ view of Manuel Deodoro da Fonseca, emphasizing his role as a mill hero and
    the first president of Brazil, omitting to mention that he achieved this position with a
    military putsch in 1889, and later proved to be a poor politician. The artesanato
    shop next door sells the lace and homemade sweets for which the town is renowned. The
    weekend market, held along the waterfront, is a lively, colorful event,

    Getting There & Away

    Buses to Marechal Deodoro depart hourly from the bus stop outside the old ferroviária
    in Maceió. It’s quicker to go by one of the VW vans ($1, half an hour)—they leave
    every 15 minutes or so from the BR petrol station on Praça dos Palmares. Yes, the VW van
    is definitely quicker: the demon drivers keep their accelerator foot down to the board,
    and your heart pressed to the roof of your mouth!

    An alternative route from Maceió is to take the boat from Trapiche across Lagoa
    Manguaba.

    Barra de São Miguel

    Barra is 35 km south of Maceió, at the mouth of the Rio São Miguel. The fine beach is
    protected by a huge reef and there are kayaks for rent. Barra is not too crowded midweek,
    but it is being built up with summer homes for Maceió’s wealthy. Praia do Gunga is a
    popular beach across the river with some expensive bars. You can rent jetskis here, or go
    para sailing.

    There are several options for boat trips up the river. The Samadhi is a large
    sailboat that makes a 4 ½-hour trip around the beaches, mangrove forests and islands for
    $25 per person. The cost includes transport from Maceió, drinks and fruit on board, and a
    stop off for a swim at Praia do Francês on the return trip. For information and
    reservations, contact Raúl or Nídia (272 1523) who speak Spanish and English.

    Getting There & Away

    Buses run four times daily to Barra, at 7.20 and 11.30 am, and 3.20 and 7.20 pm, from
    the bus stop at the Estação Ferroviária. The last bus leaves Barra for the return trip
    at 5.30 pm.

    South of Barra de São Miguel

    The recent upgrading of AL101 along the Litoral Sul has made access to the beaches and
    villages south of Barra de São Miguel much easier. The road runs about one km from the
    coast, and regular buses run along it from Maceió to Penedo on the Rio São Francisco.
    Poxim is a small town with coconuttreelined beaches and several lagoons nearby.

    Around 25 km south, Coruripe is a fishing village with a couple of restaurants and pousadas.
    South of Coruripe are stretches of deserted beaches until Pontal do Peba—but Praia do
    Peba is disappointing, well below the quality of those to the north. After Pontal do Peba,
    the road cuts inland to Piaçabuçu, on the north bank of the Rio São Francisco. There
    are a few hotels here, and boat trips can be organized upriver to Penedo or along the
    coast to Coruripe.

    PENEDO

    Penedo is best known as the capital do baixo São Francisco (capital of the
    lower São Francisco). The city has also been called cidade dos sobrados (city of
    twostory homes) by the famous Brazilian sociologist Gilberto Freyre.

    Among the attractions of the city, 42 km off the BR101, are its many baroque churches
    and colonial buildings, and the opportunity to travel on the Rio São Francisco. Penedo
    bustles with people from the smaller villages up and down the river who come to buy and
    sell goods.

    History

    Penedo was founded in either 1535 or 1560 (opinions differ) by Duarte Coelho Pereira
    who descended the Rio São Francisco in pursuit of Caeté Indians responsible for the
    killing of bishop Pedro Fernandes Sardinha. Penedo is claimed to be the river’s first
    colonial settlement.

    Information

    There’s a helpful tourist information office (open daily from 8 am to noon and 2 to 5
    pm) and small city museum in the Casa da Aposentadoria, just up from the fort on Praça
    Barão de Penedo.

    Market

    The street market is held daily in Penedo, but Friday and Saturday are the big days
    when the City is transformed into a busy port of call for farmers, fisherfolk and
    artisans. The waterfront becomes a pageant as families disembark—old people with
    finely carved features topped by strange hats, many grasping chickens by the neck in one
    hand and boisterous children by the neck in the other. On the river bank, traditional
    musicians play accordions. The market is filled with ceramics, baskets and shrimp traps
    made of reeds.

    Churches

    Penedo has a rich collection of 17th and 18thcentury colonial buildings, including many
    churches. The Convento de São Francisco e Igreja Nossa Senhora dos Anaw6kx, on
    Praça Ruy Barbosa, is considered the finest church in the state. Even Dom Pedro II
    (Brazil’s second and last emperor) paid a visit to this church. Construction was begun in
    1660 and completed in 1759. The rococo altar is made of gold. The church is open Tuesday
    to Sunday from 8 to 11 am and 2 to 5 pm.

    Igreja da Senhora das Correntes was completed in 1764. It has some fine work
    done with azuleaw6kx (glazed blue tiles), and a rococo altar. The church is open
    daily from 8 am to noon and 2 to 5 pm. You’ll find it at Praça 12 de Abril.

    The Igreja Nossa Senhora do Rosário dos Pretos, also known as the Catedral do
    Penedo, was built by slaves. It’s on Praça Marechal Deodoro and is open every day from 8
    am to 5 pm. Igreja de São Gonçalo Garcia was built at the end of the 18th century
    and has some of the city’s finest sacredart pieces. It’s on Avenida Floriano Peixoto, but
    is currently closed for restoration.

    Boat Trips

    Saturday (the major market day) is the easiest day to find a boat up or down the São
    Francisco, but it’s difficult now to find boats, going upriver as far as Propriá.

    The ferry between Penedo and Passagem, on the opposite side of the river, crosses every
    half an hour, but is only of interest if you’re driving. From Passagem there’s a road to
    Neópolis, which is linked by another road to BR101. A better excursion is one of the
    motorboat crossings direct to Neópolis, a few km downriver. The 15minute trip costs $0.50
    and boats depart every half an hour between 5.30 am and 10 pm. Neópolis is an old
    colonial town on a hill overlooking the river, with some interesting buildings and good
    crafts for sale. For other short boat excursions, take one of the frequent boats
    (operating between 6 am and 6 pm) to Carrapicho, a small town four km upriver noted for
    its ceramics.

    A large motorboat for up to 30 people cruises to Carrapicho, Neópolis and river
    islands, with stops for swimming. The cost is $30 per hour per boatload. A sailboat makes
    a similar trip, depending on the wind and tides, for $20 per hour. Ask at the tourist
    office for departure times.

    Festivals

    The Festa do Senhor Bom Jesus dos Navegantes, held over four days from the second
    Sunday of January, features an elaborate procession of boats. Penedo also hosts a large
    annual Brazilian film festival.

    Getting There & Away

    Bus

    The rodoviária is on Avenida Duque de Caxias. There are six daily buses to
    Maceió ($5). Buses leaving at 6 am and 5 pm take the coastal route along AL101, which is
    much quicker than the inland route (around 2½ hours). There is one bus, at 6 am, to
    Propriá ($2, two hours), which continues on to Aracaju ($4, three hours). A quicker and
    more convenient way to get to Aracaju is to take the ferry across the river to Neópolis,
    where there are frequent buses to Aracaju.

    Car

    If you are driving to Penedo, there is a 41km paved road from BR101 in Sergipe to
    Neópolis, on the Sergipe side of the river, and then a short drive from Neópolis to
    Passagem, where a ferry boat makes the 10minute river crossing to Penedo every half an
    hour ($0.75 for a car).

    NORTH OF MACEIÓ

    The Alagoas coast north of Maceió is ideal for independent travelers. The beaches are
    mostly undisturbed and tropically perfect, and the sea is calm and warm. There are several
    fishing villages with no tourism apart from a simple hotel or two—although the state
    government’s `Costa Dourada’ (Golden Coast) development plans could bring about rapid
    changes.

    The coastal road, which is unpaved and slow going along the most secluded stretches,
    runs within a few hundred meters of the ocean, a rare occurrence along the Brazilian litoral.
    If you want to follow it, head down to Barra de Santo Antônio. The road from here to
    Barra do Camarajibe is often in disarray and you have to cross some small rivers on local
    ferries, so check road conditions before departing.

    Alternatively, from Maceió, AL101 heads north and then divides outside Barra de Santo
    Antônio. The main road and most throughtraffic heads inland on AL413. It’s a stunning
    drive (try to stop at Porto Calvo) through rolling hills covered in sugar cane, though
    there’s the odd hill topped with virgin forest that escaped land clearing. A good road
    runs off AL413 hitting the coast at Barra de Camarajibe. From Barra do Camarajibe, the
    coast road is paved as far as Porto de Pedras, about 16 km before Japaratinga.

    The AL413 passes a large sugarcane plant that processes the sugarcane alcohol that
    fuels Brazil’s cars. The Empresa de Santo Antônio employs about 800 workers in the
    factory and 4000 in the fields. Tours are possible and worthwhile, but hard to arrange.

    A few buses from Maceió go all the way along the coast, but they are less frequent
    than those that run via AL-413. Ask for a bus that goes to Porto de Pedras or São Miguel
    dos Milagres.

    Barra de Santo Antônio & Ilha da Croa

    Barra is along the mouth of the Rio Jirituba, below a small bluff. This is a relaxed
    fishing village only 40 km from Maceió and is now attracting tourists and people
    constructing beach homes—it can get busy on weekends and in summer.

    The best beaches are out on the Ilha da Croa (narrow peninsula), on the other side of
    Rio Jirituba. You can catch a small boat across the river ($0.50) and walk around two km
    across the peninsula to the beaches, or take a motorboat all the way ($2). Balsas take
    cars across the river for $3.

    Tabuba beach is a quiet, pretty beach with a few bars three km south of Barra de Santo
    Antônio. There is a piscina natural off the beach—ask at the bars about a
    ride there by jangada.

    Getting There & Away

    Direct buses and VW vans to Maceió ($1, one hour) operate from 4.30 am to 10.30 pm.
    You can also walk for 20 minutes or hire a local cab to the main road, where you can flag
    down those buses, which bypass the town.

    Barra do Camarajibe

    This idyllic fishing village, 33 km further up the coast, offers fish, beer and a
    beautiful beach. Tourism is just about to hit the village—the Pousada Brisa Mar and
    a large restaurant on the beachfront should both be in operation by the time this book is
    published. Buses run to Barra do Camarajibe from Maceió via São Luís do Quintude.

    São Miguel dos Milagres

    A bit bigger than its neighbors, São Miguel’s soft beaches are protected by offshore
    reefs and the sea is warm and shallow. There’s one pousada and a petrol station in
    town.

    Porto de Pedras

    You’ve got to catch the local ferry to cross the river here. Porto de Pedras is a
    lively little fishing village with a road that connects to AL413 at Porto Calvo. In the
    village there are bars, restaurants and the cheap and dingy Hotel São Geraldo.

    Japaratinga

    Japaratinga’s shallow waters are protected by coral reefs and the beaches are backed by
    coconut trees and fishing huts. Under the moonlight you can walk a couple of km into the
    sea. The town has a petrol station and telephone.

    Getting There & Away

    There are regular buses from Japaratinga to Maceió and Recite (137 km).

    Maragoji

    Slightly more developed, Maragoji has some weekend homes for Pernambucanos and a
    couple of cheap hotels—try the Pousada da Glória or the Pousada São
    Francisco. The sea is protected by reefs and it’s ideal for swimming.

    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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