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Ilha de Itamaracá has a variety of attractions to complement a trip to neighboring Igarassu.

The island is home to the restored Forte Orange, a four-bastioned fort built by the Dutch in 1631 and later captured by the Portuguese. It was the Portuguese who renamed it the Fortaleza de Santa Cruz de Itamaraca and built it up to its present, robust state.

The 16th century chapel and small museum on-site display weapons, cannon balls, and porcelain from the era of the fort’s initial construction (Sítio Histórico Forte Orange, Forte Orange).

The ocenarium at the Ecoparque Peixe Boi & Cia features nine manatees (Trichechus manatus), as well as lectures on the animal by local biology and oceanography students. Ibama (the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources) also hosts Projeto Peixe-Boi, a private manatee rehabilitation unit on-site that cares for beached manatee calves and releases them back into the wild.

The oceanarium also has a projection room screening documentaries, a gift shop, and a snack bar (Estrada do Forte Orange, Forte Orange).

To see Forte Orange from the vantage point of the original 16th century explorers, take a small motorboat to Coroa do Avião, a tiny island just off the coast that is also home to several bars (Praia do Forte Orange).

Itamaraca ’s cultural center is Estrela de Lia, founded by folk artist Lia de Itamaracá. Its main focus is preserving and celebrating the local ciranda music and circle dance traditions.

The center organizes occasional ciranda performances on a covered open-air stage on Jaguaribe beach.

The 16th century village of Vila Velha, once a colonial administrative headquarters, is now a collection of simple brick houses near the old Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Conceiҫão (Rua João Paulo II) and and Igreja de Nossa Senhora dos Pretos. The elevated site offers a view of the sea, the Canal de Santa Cruz, and Coroa do Avião island.

In colonial days, the site also provided a strategic lookout for enemy attacks, though it was no protection against Dutch troops who invaded in 1631, overtaking the city and christening it Cidade Schoppe (exit between km 9 and Km 10 on the Estrada Recife-Itamaracá road).

Ilha da Itamaracá is 50 kilometers (31 miles) north of Recife; take the BR-101 highway towards Paraiba, then go east on PE-35.

Map of Pernambuco Brazil

Map of Pernambuco Brazil

Detailed Map of the State of Pernambuco


Tiny Igarassu founded in 1535 is a National Heritage Site. The town boasts several well-preserved 18th – and 19th century buildings, among them the art museum Pinacoteca do Convento Franciscano Santo Antonio de Igarassu (Rua Barboso Lima).

One of the highlights of this collection is the set of 24 oil paintings on wood panels, dating from 17th – and 18th century, all of which depict religious figures and historical scenes from the region. One such panel shows a 1685 outbreak of yellow fever that devastated Recife and other nearby cities, supposedly passing over Igarassu thanks to the protection of its patron saints Cosmas and Damian.

Igarassu has had a church honoring its two patron saints since its founding in 1535. Though the original wattle and daub Igreja de São Cosme e São Damião was destroyed by the Dutch in 1634, it was rebuilt in 1654, and later altered to incorporate baroque architectural elements. Unfortunately, the striking painted murals are almost entirely gone from the interior today; thankfully the side of the church oilers a lovely view of the roof tops of Igarassu (Rua Frei Caneca, 56, Centro).

The stone Igreja de Santo Antonio, inside the Franciscan convent, is the best preserved of the town’s churches. Built in 1588, it was pillaged in the disputes between the Dutch and Portuguese, but subsequently renovated. The high altar is gold-painted cedar, done in a baroque style. Tiled murals on the side walls depict Saint Anthony’s many miracles and holy visions. The sacristy contains a solid wood chest from the 1700s, with a stone font. To reach Igarassu, follow BR-101 north from Recife for 30 kilometers (19 miles).


Goiana was a medium-sized town that gained prosperity in the sugar boom years.

The town was founded by the Portuguese in the mid-16th century and soon taken by the Dutch. It was the setting for a legendary battle that was the first ever fought entirely by women in Brazil; the female colonists in town took up arms against the Dutch invaders and succeeded in driving them back. The town was the first in the country to abolish slavery, which it did before the national abolition edict came into effect.

The Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Rosário dos Homens Pretos (Secretaria de Turismo, Rua do Rosário, Centro) is Goiana’s most important church. It houses the Museu de Arte Sacra, with its rich collection of 17th and 18th century statues.

The church was originally built in the 1500s, with baroque features added in the next century. The highlights of the museum’s holdings are the statues of the Virgin, Nossa Senhora do Amparo, and Nossa Senhora do Leite.

For years the Catholic Church refused to accept or display the statue of the Senhora do Leite (Lady of Milk), as it shows the Virgin Mary’s exposed breast.

Goiana is 60 kilometers (37 miles) northwest of Recife, along the BR-101.

North Coast of Recife travel guide and tourism information such as accommodation, festivals, transport, maps, activities and attractions in Pernambuco, Brazil – Brazil Travel Guide

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