Initially, we were very hesitant with making a stop here but we were tempted by Olinda, said to be one of the jewels of Brazil! No suspense here, we felt that we could have skipped this detour to Olinda since we found Paraty or the Pelourinho to be nicer to walk around. In any case, Olinda was still a charming place. Here are more details:
Recife, the sharks territory!
What with this title? Well the first thing you need to know about Recife is that despite having beautiful beaches it is not recommended to swim… unless you want to meet some sharks!
We didn’t truly take the time to visit Recife to be honest. We stayed in Boa Viagem and mainly stayed around that neighborhood. The walk by the sea-side was very nice; as often in Brazil we saw many sports equipment and playgrounds. Very impressive since it seemed like the whole town was out for jogging. The district itself reminded us of the USA in its architecture.
Olinda, the lost city
Olinda and the surroundings was first inhabited by indigenous tribes until the arrival of the Portuguese. In the 15th, using the discord between the tribes, the Portuguese managed to settle a stronghold. Despite the harbor being in Recife, the hill of Olinda was offering better ground for economical expansion and defense positions. Like in Salvador, Olinda benefited grandly from slavery, in particular to develop the sugarcane industry.
In the 17th century the region was taken over by the Dutch who opted for Recife as their stronghold. Even after being regained by the Portuguese, Olinda lost its importance and today it is part of the suburb of the Grand Recife area.
In 1982, UNESCO added it to the list of Historical and Cultural Patrimony of Humanity. The reason being that some historical monuments have been luckily preserved in Olinda, such as:
- the Convent of San Francisco, the oldest Franciscan convent in Brazil;
- the Metropolitan Cathedral of Holy Saviour of the World, who remains the primary seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Olinda e Recife, with a co-cathedral in Recife;
- the Basilica and Monastery of St. Benedict, built in the 17th c. and elevated to the rank of Minor Basilica by Pope John Paul II.
Note: it seems like the churches are closing between 12 and 2pm so plan your visit accordingly!
Olinda, the Carnival city
Today, Olinda is also famous among tourists for its colorful houses… but Brazilians know it better as a great Carnival city! Indeed Olinda is famous for its celebration of this important festivities because, unlike Rio and Salvador, its access is free for all! Hundreds of musicians fill up the streets, with afro-latino beats, and Olinda becomes even more colorful.
How to get to Olinda?
Olinda, being part of Recife suburb you can be easily accesed by car/ taxi or, the cheapest, by public bus. From Boa Viagem there is a direct bus bringing you in about 40 minutes to Olinda. Ask your hotel where to take the bus. The stop in Olinda is Carmo Square. Of course, nothing will indicate you the name of the stop so either ask the bus cashier to warn you or check your position on MapsMe!