Isn’t it almost ironic that US Men’s Soccer National Team should kick-start the World Cup in a city called “Christmas” when the draw for group G (Ghana, Portugal, Germany) was anything but a gift? There is no doubt that the Yanks will feel the heat in the “city of the Sun”. Fans, on their side, will fall in love with the “Bride of the Sun”. Apart from its many monikers, here are 5 fun facts every traveler should know about Natal.
Natal, built for tourism
Natal means “Nativity” (Christmas) in Portuguese. The city is located in the northeastern tip of Brazil. It is the metropolitan capital of the state of Rio Grande do Norte. Natal is also the 5th tourist destination in the country, only behind Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Fortaleza and Salvador. Adventurers will be amazed by its warm and inviting atmosphere just as much as the astounding landscape: the beaches, the dunes, the bay, etc.
Locals see tourism as an opportunity of economic growth. Restaurants, hotels and other tourism related businesses and infrastructures are plentiful and will make new comers feel at home.
Natal’s love affair with the sun
The city’s significant exposure to the sun is at the origin of many of its names:“city of the sun” , “sun’s bride”. Guests enjoy the longest days in Brazil. hot temperatures are constant throughout the year, fluctuating between 70°F and 80°F. The best time of year to plan a trip is during the local summer between October and January when tropical rainfalls are at their lows. Beach-goers will fall in love with some of Brazil’s most gorgeous waterfronts such as the Ponta Negra and Pipa beaches.
City of dunes
Natal is renowned for its splendid dunes as well. In fact, the stadium where the Stars and Stripes will play is called “Estádio das Dunas” (Stadium of Dunes). Travelers post the most positive reviews of the scenic landmarks such as the exotic dune of Morro do Careca which overhangs Ponta Negra beach. The more adventurous ones wander Jenipabu: its beach, its dunes and its lagoon, exploring its wonders on dromedary‘s back or in sand buggies or board surfing down the high dunes. All is perfectly set as if the tropical Brazilian beaches have been somehow transported into the African Sahara desert.
City of culture
Natal is the Latin American city that is the closest to both Africa and Europe. It has been culturally enriched through time by European sailors as well as American military (especially during and after WW2). The city has museums dedicated to history and geography, pop culture, classic art, and marine biology among others.
Still today, it is a haven for cultural exchange. Furthermore, a 2005 national survey identified Natal as the safest capital city in Brazil, making it a perfect destination of beauty and tranquility in a Brazil torn between World Cup festivities and uprising.
City of Wonders
Believe it not, Natal is home to a remarkable cashew tree, said to be almost 70 times larger than normal, 546 yards of circumference spreading on nearly 1.8 acres. Needless to say Natalienses are very proud of their world largest cashew tree, as crowned by the Guinness Book of Records in 1994.
Other breath-taking tourist attractions around Natal include the crystalline waters of the “Parrachos de Maracajaú”. Eco-lovers will be impressed by the exotic fauna of the Parque das Dunas, Brazil’s second largest urban park, only second to Rio’s Parque Nacional da Tijuca.
It is absolutely a shame that the World Cup is held during the local winter season, a period of tropical rain and storms. The US game will be held in a Natal menaced by floods and heavy rainfalls. Not only will the weather jeopardize the match against Ghana but also the fun that USMNT followers will have in the City of the Sun.