Indigenous cultures, history and city life in Belem, Pará

Before finishing our chronicle of Pará we want to introduce the state capital Belem for you. Belem is among the most important cities of northern Brazil and is a excellent gateway for this huge region with numerous eco-tourism destinations.  The region of Belem has been home for indigenous tribes and controlled by portuguese conquerors, but today it is an interesting mixture of culture, history and present.

Ver-O-Peso Market

Ver-O-Peso Market

When travelling to Belem, make sure you get accommodated in the city center close to the old port called Estacão das Docas, which has been reformed to serve both locals and tourists with numerous restaurants, bars and shops. This elegant riverside destination is among the most visited parts of Belem and has an excellent access to other nearby attractions. Right next to Estacão das Docas you will find a famouss market place called Ver-o-Peso. Here you will find basically anything from local herbs to souvenirs and be able to taste the famous Açai of the Amazon. Ver-o-Peso is an excellent place to buy souveniers as you will find a large variety of resonably prised handcrafts. Right next to the market place stands a museum introducing the indigenous cultures and their traditions to you, it’s also a good place to shop some handcrafts done by the local tribes.

Cathedral of Sé

Cathedral of Sé

While you walk along the riverside you will come to the oldest part of Belem, which is filled with colonial style buildings reminding us of the era, when Belem was controlled by the portuguese conquerors. These colourful buildings are worth admiring and today many of them serve either as museums or as restaurants. In the hearth of the old town, right at the square of Frei Caetano Brandão you will find a number of attractions, like the impressive Cathedral of Sé, the Palacete of 11 windows (Casa das 11 Janelas) and the old fort of Belem. The Cathedral of Sé is considered as one of the most beautiful churches in Brasil and the former mansion, Palacete of 11 windows on the other hand is a well conserved historical building, which today hosts a museum and a stylish restaurant with same name. The fort of Belem takes you all the way back to the days when the portugueses landed here in 1616, and built the fort with an intention to start controlling these distant lands. Today the fort includes also a very interesting museum taking you to the history of the indian tribes and showing a large number of historical items found in the archelogical excavations.

Colonial houses

Colonial houses

Today Belem is a culinary capital of Amazon region with many stylish restaurants offering tasty meals prepared with local specilities. Try out lunch at the restaurant of Mangal das Gracas, an ambiental park that in addition to the culinary experiences introduces you also to the nature of these ecuatorial regions. For a romantic dinner at candle light, try out the fancy restaurant of Casa das 11 Janelas (the Palacete of 11 windows), where you will feel the presence of history while you enjoy your meal.

Every October the largest catholic festival the Cirio de Nazaré is celebrated in the streets of Belem as homage for the virgin of Nazaré. Once you are familiar with Belem, check out the other attractions (Ilha do Algodoal, Ilha do Marajó and Alter do Chão) of this state where all the events are accompanied by local music Carimbo.

Brasil Diversity recommends:

  • Hotel Espresso XXI Nazaré – If you search for a centrally located accommodation suitable both for business and leisure, try out Espresso XXI Nazaré  a modern hotel in the hearth of Belem.
Estacão das Docas

Estacão das Docas

Eco-tourism and desert beaches at Ilha de Marajó, Pará

On the way to Ilha do Marajó

On the way to Ilha do Marajó

Ilha de Marajó is in fact a huge group of island slocated in the coast of Pará, not far away from state capital Belem. Marajó is a temptating mixture of eco-tourism and beaches. Thanks to the fact of being a very big and wide area there is plenty of space for everybody and you will rarely feel like being in a growded tourism destination. The access to Ilha de Marajó is done from Belem with daily ferry connections, generally departing very early in the morning and in the afternoon (check daily schedules). Reaching Marajó takes about 3-3½ hours depending on the winds and yes you will be crossing the river, not a sea, even if it may not look like it. An another, quicker option to reach Marajó is to take a catamaran, which also operates on daily basis excluding Wednesdays. A catamaran trip takes aproximately 2 hours. If you have flexibility with schedules, opt for the early morning departures both ways, even if you had to wake up before the sunrise. Later on the afternoon the winds tend to be stronger and a heavily swinging boat is not something rare at all.

Water buffalo eating

Water buffalo eating

The ferry boats arrive to the port of Camará from where you have to take a transfer (bus, van or taxi) to your final destination. Where to stay then? Most of the tourists stay either in Souré or in Salvaterra, which of these two is better then? The answer is simple, make sure that you will stay in the side of Souré where all the principal tourist attractions and the best accommodation options of the island are located. Salvaterra and Souré are separated by a river, just like all the other islands of the group. Crossing the river is easy as a motorized boat takes you to the other side of the river at any time needed and with a nominal cost.

Tropical birds

Tropical birds

The speciality of Ilha de Marajó are the water buffalos that long time ago where transported from Africa and adapted easily in the climate starting to reproduce on the island. Don’t forget to visit one of the “fazendas” (farms, like Fazenda São Jerónimo, Fazenda Sanjo, Fazenda Araruna or Fazenda Bom Jesus) of the island, which are excellent points to observe wildlife, especially birds and taking boat excursions along the narrow rivers/streams surrounded by mangrove vegetation. Most of the fazendas also offer options for light trekking and horseback riding, if you are an adventure minded traveller you can also try out riding a buffalo. A visit to Marajó takes you very close to the nature, as it’s present basically anywhere you go and luckily until now the human life has not destroyed this fantastic eco-system.

Praia do Pesquiero

Praia do Pesquiero

If you want to enjoy the wide beaches of Ilha do Marajó try to place you travel between July and December, this is the dry and hot season on the island and naturally also the best time to enjoy these marvellous beaches of freshwater. The most popular beaches are Praia do Pesquiero and Barra Velha, both of them located in the island of Souré. Praia do Pesquiero is a 3 km long beach, where a number of natural swimming pools can be found during the tide water. Barra Velha is minor, but it definitely is hard to say which of these two is more picturesque,  it’s all up to your personal taste. What makes Barra Velha attracting is the mixture of  magrove trees, streams and the tide water that forms a sort of sand island in the middle of the river. Both of these beaches are located further away from the heart of the village so that you will need to take some sort of transportation (taxi, mototaxi, bicycle) to reach them. Mototaxi is probably the simplest way to get moved from one place to another while you stay in Marajó. On your way to Barra Velha, you will cross a place called “Landing field of Guarás”, where a large number of these beautiful red birds, “Guarás”, can be seen. Like most of the brazilian beaches both these also have rustic beaches bars serving ice-cold drinks, snacks and meals, so that you can easily spend an entire day enjoying the sun, the tranquility and the smooth waves of the river.

Praia do Joanes

Praia do Joanes

Barra Velha

Barra Velha

Beside of these two most popular beaches, a distant beach of Praia do Araruna, wellknown of its’ extend mangrove vegetation is located at the side of Souré, but can only be reached via fluvial access. On the side of Salvaterra the most interesting beach is Praia de Joanes, located in the village of Joanes. This is where the old ruins, first signs of inhabitations on the island can be found as well. Compared to the beaches of Souré, Joanes has generally stronger waves and more green vegetation. It’s worth visiting, even though on our opinion is not comparable to Praia do Pesquiero or Barra Velha.

As a conclusion we would like to point out that Marajó is worth visiting even if the access from Belem is long and tiring. Ilha do Marajó is a destination for an open minded traveller, who will not be disturbed even if the highest class and the widest option of services may not be available. When travelling to Ilha do Marajó the motive of your trip should be the nature, if so you will not be dissappointed, Marajó is still an authentic paradise on the earth!

Boats at the beachside

Boats at the beachside

Brazil Diversity recommends:

  • Pousada Casarão da Amazônia – A lovely colonial style pousada in the hearth of Souré with excellent price-quality relation. One of the best options to stay in, if not the best!
  • Pousada O Canto do Francês – A good quality rustic pousada just a step away from the center of Souré.

Average distances and flight times between the major cities

Sugar Loaf Mountain

Sugar Loaf Mountain

Often we hear people wondering how far one city is from another. In a map many of them look like to be quite close to each other, but the reality might be something different. That’s why we wanted to give you a clearer idea of the dimensions listing below examples of distances and average flight times between the major tourism destinations of Brazil. Please not that the numbers mentioned are air distances and driving from one place to another means, with no exception, many more kilometers on the road. The flight times, on the other hand are average times based on direct connections with domestic airlines. During rush hours more time might have been reserved for flying in between the cities mentioned.

Hope you will find this simple information useful when planning your trip in Brazil.

From São Paulo to:

  • Rio de Janeiro –  distance 350 km, average flight time 50 min
  • Florianopolis – distance 490 km, average flight time 1h
  • Iguacu – distance 837 km, average flight time 1h 40min
  • Belo Horizonte – distance 490 km, average flight time 1h
  • Brasilia – distance 870 km, average flight time 1h 40min
  • Salvador – distance 1450 km, average flight time 2h 40min
  • Recife – distance 2120 km, average flight time 3h
  • Natal – distance 2315 km, average flight time 3h 30min
  • Fortaleza – distance 2370 km, average flight time 3h 40min
  • Belem – distance 2450 km, average flight time 3h 45min
  • Manaus – distance 2680 km, average flight time 3h 45 min

From Rio de Janeiro to:

  • Florianopolis – distance 750 km, average flight time 1h 20min
  • Belo Horizonte – distance 340 km, average flight time 55 min
  • Iguacu – distance 1190 km, average flight time 2h
  • Brasilia – distance 930 km, average flight time 1h 30min
  • Salvador – distance 1205 km, average flight time 2h
  • Recife –  distance 1870 km, average flight time 3h
  • Natal – distance 2080 km, average flight time 3h 15min
  • Fortaleza – distance 2180 km, average flight time 3h 30min
  • Belem – distance 2440 km, average flight time 3h 40min
  • Manaus – distance 2840 km, average flight time 4 h

From Brasilia to:

  • Salvador – distance 1060 km, average flight time 2h
  • Recife – distance 1655 km, average flight time 2h 40min
  • Fortaleza – distance 2200 km, average flight time 2h 40min
  • Manaus – distance 1930 km, average flight time 2h 50min

From Salvador to:

  • Recife – distance 675 km, average flight time 1h 15min
  • Natal – distance 875 km, average flight time 1h 30min
  • Fortaleza – distance 1020 km, average flight time 1h 40min
  • Manaus – distance 1410 km, average flight time 3-4h (with stop but no change of aircraft)

From Recife to:

  • Natal – distance 255 km, average flight time 55 min
  • Fortaleza – distance 630 km, average flight time 1h 10min

From Fortaleza to:

  • São Luis – distance 645 km, average flight time 1h 15min
  • Belem – distance 1130 km, average flight time 1h 40min

From Belem to:

  • Santarem – distance 1370 km, average flight time 1h 20min
  • Manaus – distance 1720 km, average flight time 2h

For distances between any other city use the distance calculator.

Brazil Diversity wishes you Happy Travelling!


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