Written by Sebastien on 16 February 2013. Posted in Cities

Natal is the largest city and the capital of the northeastern Brazilian state Rio Grande do Norte. It has numerous tourist attractions ranging from beaches to museums and historical buildings. Even though it mainly received Brazilian tourists for numerous years, Natal is becoming a more and more popular tourist destination for foreigners also. Its proximity to Africa and Europe makes it possible for tourists to reach the city. Additionally, Natal is also going to host the 2014 FIFA World Cup along with other Brazilian cities.

The history of Natal can be traced back in 1599 when it was only a village established outside the Fort of the Holly Kings. The economy of the area was based on growing cattle for numerous years because the sandy soil made it impossible to cultivate sugarcane in the colonial period. In the last century the city started to benefit from salt and oil industry. Even more recently, tourism began to contribute significantly to the economy of Natal. Officials plan to invest in infrastructure, hotels, resorts and even in a new airport in order to support tourism and to attract more visitors. Thankfully, Natal is the Brazilian area receiving the most international investments and this is going to prove beneficially in the years to come.

The coastline of Natal provides numerous tourist attractions. Once the Via Costeira (Coastal Way) was built, all beaches are interconnected and easily available. Ponta Negra is one of the numerous beaches which can offer entertainment for tourists. It is filled with restaurants, bars, shops and night clubs and it is a great venue for those in search of an animated nightlife. Ponta Negra is bordered in the south by Morro de Careca, a large and impressive dune. In opposition with Ponta Negra, Pipa beach is located at 85 km away of Natal and it offers a refuge from urban activities. The gigantic dunes and the lagoon of fresh water on Genipabu beach also attract numerous tourists each year. Snorkeling and diving enthusiasts can take advantage of the crystalline waters and the coral reefs on Maracajau beach. A water park is also located here.

The Dunas State Ecological Park is the perfect destination for nature enthusiasts. They can admire the vegetation and animals from the Atlantic forest on over 1.000 hectares of land. The Natal City Park was opened in 2008 and it featured a restaurant, a monumental tower and a museum. Unfortunately, it was closed at the beginning of 2011 because of lack of money.

Tourists who want to know more about the history of Natal can visit the historical center where there are over 150 buildings in various styles. Some of them date back in the colonial era. Forte dos Reis Magos was the first milestone of the city and it dates back in 1599.

In order to see something absolutely unique in Natal tourists should definitely go to the largest cashew tree in the world. It entered the Guinness Book of Records in 1994 because it covers a surface of 8.400 square meters. The incredible size of the cashew tree even makes it possible for it to host a gazebo.
Since carnivals are a symbol of the Brazilian culture, Natal is also hosting several such events. The most famous one is Carnatal, an off-season carnival which takes place in November or December. Saint John Festival is also very famous and it is held during the tropical winter solstice. Festivities last for fifteen days and involve fireworks, bonfires and dancing in the streets.

At this time Natal is preparing to host the 2014 World Cup. A new stadium is being built and also a new airport which is supposed to be the largest one in Latin America.