Brazil Travel: Belem History and Attractions

Belem in Brazil’s north region is the largest city on the Equatorial line, 100 kilometers upriver from the Atlantic Ocean, and is considered the entryway to the Amazon River. It is on the shores of the Guajar?? Bay which consists of islands surrounded by rivers, waterfalls, and canals.

The city was founded in the early 17th century, but it became wealthy during the rubber boom late 19th century. The main industry was initially sugar, followed by cattle grazing. During the rubber boom, Belem became the main export center for the industry, and its growth was boosted by the opening of the Amazon River to navigation.

Currently, Belem has an urban population of 1.4 million and metropolitan population of 2.25 million. The city is a charming blend of modern and colonial. The narrow streets of the Cidade Velha (the Old City) are well-preserved, as are many other colonial building constructed in a variety of architectural styles – Portuguese, British, French – that reflect the region’s mixed history.

Climatologically, Belem has a tropical rainforest climate. There is constant rain and no dry season. The months of highest rainfall are from December through May. In some months, the rains frequently come as cloudbursts and bring a welcome relief from the tropical heat. Nature is exuberant here, even in the urban areas, giving the sense of having the Amazon rainforest within the city.

Belem has some of the finest Amazon cuisine. Bases include tucupi, a broth made from wild cassava, and jambu, a fruit. Specialties include pato no tucupi con jambu (duck in cassava broth with jambu) served with rice and pepper; mani?�oba, which is a place of boiled manioc leaves with salted pork, dried meat, and bacon; cangrejo, or river crab; and tacac??, soup made with shrimp, tucupi and jambu, served extremely hot. The local cuisine also features influences from Africa, Portugal, Britain, and other European cultures which had had a presence in the region.

Another attraction unique to Belem is the Mercado de Ver-o-peso, which translates to “See the Weight” Market. This is one of the largest open-air markets in Latin America and travelers a treated to a one-of-a-kind mix of colors, aromas, and tastes. This market has food and clothes and everything in between. Market-goers will find local fruits including pineapple, papaya, a?�ai (a fruit which is only recently gaining recognition around the world), and bacuri (a papaya-looking fruit with a yellow rind and a sticky white pulp around the seeds). Vendors also sell fish, meats, vegetables, spices, and herbs. Medicinal and magical plants are also available, as well as potions and remedies, for things like tooth aches and to cure relationship woes. This market in short, brilliantly captures Amazon life in one place.

The Esta?�?�o das Docas is a restored dock area that was previously a series of warehouses, which were built from materials imported from England, and shipped and constructed in Belem. The area has now been restored and features bars, shops, and music.

Maraj?� Island, a short hop from Belem, is the largest freshwater island in the world, and travelers there will see a range of wildlife, including herds of water buffalo. The island can be accessed by hopping on one of the charter boats that travel there daily.

Belem is in the far north of Brazil and perhaps for this reason is less visited. Great distances separate this Amazon city from other Brazil travel destinations, but the unique confluence of Amazon river and rainforest with Atlantic coast make this destination worth a visit.

By Suzana