Natal

Praia do Forte with Ponte Newton Navarro (Ponte de Todos) in the background.

Natal, the capital of Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil, is a city on the Atlantic coast. Natal has some great beaches, historical sites, and nature areas, and it is a frequently used base for exploring the paradisiac beaches and nature of the Rio Grande do Norte state.

Districts

Understand

Natal was founded on 25 December 1599, hence its name (Natal means Christmas in Portuguese). Unlike other Northeastern capitals, it did not quite benefit from the economic boom resulting from the region's sugar cane production. Instead it grew moderately and more organizedly, burgeoning on the state's cattle-raising activities and salt and oil extraction.

Nowadays Natal is one of the 8 most visited cities of Brazil. Unlike other large cities of the Northeast of Brazil, like Recife or Salvador, Natal does not have a fascinating Historical Center or a vivid nightlife. In contrast, it is regarded as being significantly calmer and safer than other large cities in the region, and as having a superior quality of life. Many rich Brazilians and foreigners alike have summer houses in the city.

One of the primary reasons to visit Natal is to use it as a base to explore the wonderful state of Rio Grande do Norte, including beaches like Pipa, Baía Formosa, Barra do Cunhaú and Genipabu, and lakes like Carcará and Coca-Cola (See #Go next). The city has many lodging options and a couple of good and reasonably priced restaurants.

Get in

By plane

The region is served by Governador Aluízio Alves International Airport (Aeroporto Internacional Governador Aluízio Alves), 25 km from Natal's center, located at São Gonçalo do Amarante city. There are numerous direct flights from most important Brazilian capitals, including São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Recife, Fortaleza, Salvador, Belo Horizonte and Brasilia.

To get to the city, take the Natal bus at the doorstep of the terminal, R$ 2,60. To get to Ponta Negra, get off after abot 15 minutes at Natal Shopping, cross the pedestrian bridge and take any bus with Ponta Negra in its name, -another R$ 2.

A taxi to Ponta Negra is R$ 43 at fixed prices, possibly a few R$ cheaper on the meter. 20 minutes.

By bus

Natal's bus station is about 3 km southwest of the city center, and some 5 km northwest of the Ponta Negra beach. A taxi to the latter is about R$ 25. Bus No 66 does the same run in about 45 minutes.

Get around

By bus

Bus stop at Natal International Airport

A bus ticket in Natal (as of May 8th, 2015) is R$ 2,35. It's recommended doing a bus card if one plans really using the bus, since in addition to being more easy (no hassle with exchanges) it's possible to get a second bus without paying if this is done in less than one hour after the first one. The bus stops at the shopping centers Midway Mall, Via Direta and Natal Shopping cover most of the city. The "Line R" bus of Trampolim da Vitória company goes from Midway Mall to the International Airport for R$ 2.50 and is currently the only one going there.

Bus arriving at Natal International Airport

By car

Renting a car may be convenient if you, as many visitors, plan to use Natal as a base for day trips outside the city. Even the beaches at the neighboring municipalities of Parnamarim and Extremoz are complicated to reach using public transport.

By buggy

You may explore the coast on the beach rather than a road, by hiring the service of a dune Buggy driver. It costs typically R$ 320 per vehicle or R$ 80 per person if you join a group. You may find cheaper services, but be aware of unlicensed drivers; accidents caused by unskilled Buggy drivers sometimes occur.

By taxi or public transport

See

Forte dos Reis Magos (Fortress of the Magi).

Historic Center

Natal's Historic Center is located at the Cidade Alta e Ribeira neighborhoods, including also some buildings of Tirol e Petrópolis. It was declared a national heritage site in 2010. Although the city dates from 1599, most of the historical buildings were constructed in the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, in different styles including colonial, neoclassic, art-déco and modern.

Beaches

Ponta Negra beach.

As in the most of Brazil, in Natal's urban beaches you may use the chairs and tables provided by kiosks. It may be free as long as you consume, or you may be charge a small fee (like R$ 5). This can be negotiated up front.

Do

Buy

Eat

Plenty of seafood restaurants with outdoor seating can be found along the beaches.

Drink

Ponta Negra nightlife has concentrated along Rua Dr. Manoel Arauju, aso known as Rua da Salsa, a few blocks inland from the beach at kiosk 11. A significant amount of holiday prostitutes blend in. Near the city center is the Ribeira district with quite a few options. A nighttime cab to Ponta Negra runs close to R$ 50. Buses 46 and 54 do the stretch in about 45 minutes.

Sleep

Most tourist lodgings are in Ponta Negra, heaps and heaps of them. Posted prices are negotiable in low season.

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Stay safe

Natal was once the safest state capital of Brazil. Unfortunately, the security situation of the city has deteriorated in the recent years, with a sharp rise of armed violence. Most murders in the city are related to drug trafficking, but crime against tourists has also significantly increased. Tourists should be particularly careful in the beaches of the East Side and North Side - in particular, one should never walk along Praia do Forte to Forte dos Reis Magos - the area is not sufficiently policed. Go to Forte dos Reis Magos by taxi or by a guided tour.

Go next

Routes through Natal

Touros Extremoz  N  S  Parnamirim João Pessoa


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Wednesday, November 04, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.