A medium-sized city of about 600,000 people, built on the banks of the Rio Potengi, and founded sixty years later than planned, after the Potiguar Indians stifled the first Portuguese landing on the coast in 1538. They continued to hold the invaders off until 1598, when the Portuguese built the star-shaped fort at the mouth of the river - the city's most enduring landmark.
Natal is at the heart of one of the most spectacular strings of beaches in the Northeast: in fact, given that you could rent a beach buggy in Genipabu, just north of Natal, and drive along 250km of dunes uninterrupted until Areia Branca, practically on the border with Ceará, Natal is at one end of what amounts to a single enormous beach. For a city that was founded nearly four centuries ago there is surprisingly little of historical interest in Natal itself, apart from the distinctive, whitewashed star of the Forte dos Reis Magos (daily 8h00 16h45), dominating the river entrance. At Praça Albuquerque, the Catedral (daily 16h00 18h00), built in 1862, smaller, and rather more interesting, is the nearby Igreja de Santo Antonio (Mon-Fri 8h00 11h30 & 14h00 17h30, Sat 8h 11h30), also known as the Igreja do Galo, after the eighteenth-century bronze cock crowing on top of its Moorish tower.
The climate of Natal is warm and semi-humid tropical. The average annual temperature is about 26ºC (26ºF), with the maximum average of 32ºC (90ºF) and minimum average of 22ºC (71.5ºF).
How to get there
By air: the International Airport Augusto Severo is about 20km far from the city's downtown and receives daily flights from most of the Brazilian capital cities, besides several international flights.
By road: from south to the northeast, the main access to the city is the BR-101 highway. To those coming from the north, leaving from Fortaleza, the best way is the BR-304 highway until Natal.