The Sun Capital
Known as the sun capital, Natal is the gateway to some of Brazil's most beautiful beaches, such as those of the Fernando de Noronha archipelago, in the state of Pernambuco, and a succession of beaches that stretch north and south of the capital of the state of Rio Grande do Norte. But that is not all. Founded in 1599, the historical district of the city has preserved buildings that date from the time of its colonization. Washed by the River Potengi and the Atlantic Ocean, it formed a strategic bridge for the invasion of Brazil by the French, Portuguese and Dutch. More recently, during the Second World War, it served as a base for American troops and was also known as the "Trampoline of Victory". That aspect is also reflected in the city of Natal.
Before going out in search of the sun on the beaches, dunes and coconut groves that stretch the length of the coastline of Rio Grande do Norte, it is well worth visiting a few monuments in order to get a better understanding of this region that was so fiercely fought over by the Europeans. The point of departure could be the Fortaleza dos Reis Magos (Three Kings' Fortress) where the city had its origins. Surrounded by a star-shaped wall, it was built by the Portuguese between 1598 and 1628 to defend Natal from the Dutch invasion. Another construction dating from that period is the ancient Metropolitan Cathedral that was inaugurated in 1599 and recently restored. The Albert Maranhão Theatre built in 1898 and registered by the state Historical Heritage, is an example of architecture from the colonial era, together with the church of St. Anthony, built in the eighteenth century.
As well as historical tours, Natal offers the visitor walks along its beaches, some of which are extremely popular, especially amongst surfers. The main beaches are Forte, Meio, Artistas and Areia Preta. At the southern end of the Via Costeira, built to promote tourism in the state, is the beach of Ponta Negra from which may be glimpsed the hill of Careca, an enormous sand dune that rises almost vertically. Climbing it by digging ones feet into the soft sand, can be an enjoyable pastime.