Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Florianópolis, Brazil’s Own “Punta del Este”

article from November 15, 2011
By Jamie Douglas

Just 500 miles north of the Uruguayan border with Brazil lies Florianópolis, the capital of Santa Catarina state, a lovely seaside city of 420,000 inhabitants that is often cited as one of the most livable cities in all of Brazil. Although this very cosmopolitan city is located almost 28 degrees south of the equator and 4.5 degrees below the Tropic of Capricorn, it is still the blessed recipient of a tropical climate.

Florianópolis is split between the mainland and Ilha de Santa Catarina. The island is connected to the mainland by three bridges, one of which is now only a monument. After opening to the public 85 years ago, it took 50 years to repay the bankers for the loans to build that bridge.

The majority of the population lives on the central and northern part of the island and the in continental portion. In 2006, Newsweek listed Florianópolis among the ten most dynamic cities in the world, while an article in The New York Times called it the party destination for 2009. Brazilians agree that it is, indeed, the best place to live in Brazil. With 42 beaches and world-class surf, it is easy to see why so many people from São Paulo and Argentina maintain vacation homes here. And with its attractive beaches, it is little wonder that tourism is the number-one industry, closely followed by several high-tech companies that thrive in the academic environment provided by several institutes of higher learning, including the renowned Federal University.

Florianópolis is not just beaches. It has been around for several hundred years, having originally been settled about 4,000 years ago by the Tupi people. They are believed to be the original inhabitants of Amazonia; but about 5,000 years ago, they migrated south, gradually spreading along what we know of today as the Brazilian Atlantic coast. They were the primary residents of the region, with a population of about one million when the Portuguese arrived. The Portuguese founded a ships’ chandlery at Florianópolis in 1514 that did not merit the title of an official village until 1714, when the Portuguese Crown elevated the island to that status.

The city today is home to many festivals, and this being Brazil, Carnival is one of the largest, along with Easter Week and the Holy Spirit Feast that takes place 40 days after Easter, with religious parades, street festivities and, of course, ethnic foods.

The center of the old city, commonly referred to as Floripa, has many fine old colonial buildings, churches and museums that are well worth a visit. Don’t miss the excellent public market that dates back to 1898, where you will find food and drink as well as assorted handicrafts that clearly show the Azorean roots of the early settlers of the island.

Reputedly, the city is relatively safe to wander about, but caution is always advised when gallivanting about at night, particularly after imbibing some of Brazil’s strong distillates.

Enjoy the nightlife and the beaches. They are second to none.

Jamie Douglas
San Rafael, Mendoza

[Image of Florianópolis via Wikipedia]

I encourage you to write me at cruzansailor [at] gmail [dot] com with any questions or suggestions you may have. Disclaimer: I am not in any travel-related business. My advice is based on my own experiences and is free of charge (Donations welcome). It is always my pleasure to act as a beneficial counselor to those who are seekers of the next adventure.