It's coming up to Christmas, its freezing cold, the rain seems to be unrelenting and its light seemingly for just 5 hours a day. So it's no wonder we all want to get away for a week or two and get some winter sun. And Brazil has got to be fairly high on the agenda for a memorable beach holiday. I previously talked about Fernando de Noronha as a great beach destination off the beaten track off the coast of Brazil. Natal is the capital of Rio Grande do Norte, a state in the North East of Brazil. The town was founded on Christmas day in 1599 and is named "Natal" as this is the Portuguese word for Christmas. It enjoys the benefit of having the best climate in the whole of Brazil - it sees only very minor seasonal vaiations as it is near the equator which means it is perfect for a Christmas holiday getaway.
Natal is growing in popularity as a top holiday destination - foreign tourism has increased by 134% between 2002 and 2005. Plans are underway to build the largest airport in South America and the 8th biggest in the world as a result of this tourism boom. This is for a variety of reasons - for example its climate, and its accessability - the area is the closest point of Latin America from Europe meaning it is quicker to reach by plane than other areas like Rio. Natal is also a gateway for the beaches around the region - some of the most popular include Ponta Negra which runs along the coast for much of the city, and Via Costeira, famed for its clear waters. The region as a whole is blessed with countless beautiful beaches, including Pipa, one of the most famous beaches in Brazil.
Natal is not just famed for its beaches - the city has also been named as the safest in the whole of Brazil. Also there is plenty to do aside from lying on the golden white sands soaking up the rays. For example, Natal celebrates a huge off-season carnival called Carnatal which is held in December - so book your flights now for a last minute deal to experience this unique party. Slightly different from the carnivals of Rio, the crowds follow round an array of trucks and floats playing music into the streets. There are also a range of your staple tourist attractions such as aquariums, shops, bars, restaurants and, uh, the largest Cashew tree in the world. For more information on Natal and where to stay, check out www.natal-brazil.com
Overall, Natal has so many qualities that make it one of the best beach holiday destinations in the World. It is still relatively unknown, however its rapid tourism growth should be enough to indicate Natal must have many things going for it. If you are looking for abit of an Easter or winter getaway Natal should be high on your list of destinations to jet off to.