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Natal (whose name means Nativity or Christmas in Portuguese) is the State Capital of Rio Grande do Norte. In the last years, it has been a top destination for both Brazilian and international tourists, because of its slow pace of life and developed infrastructure. A combination of good hotels for all tastes and budgets, a pleasant climate and natural beauty attracts tourists seeking leisure time on a coastal landscape. Natal has several attractions and is famous for its beaches and dunes, its historical monuments, buildings and also for Brazil’s biggest off-season carnival - the Carnatal. The city also boasts the second largest urban park in Brazil – the “Parque das Dunas”.
The city's climate is tropical humid, with temperatures averaging around 26 °C. There are not significant changes in climate throughout the year, resulting in a warm winter, marked only by heavy rains between the months of April and August. Due to its privileged location on the continent, Natal receives a constant, refreshing sea breeze, which makes the atmosphere more pleasant.
Our hosting institution, The Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte (UFRN), is the largest university of the State with approximately 30,000 students. The UFRN was founded in the 1950’s and has been growing very fast within the last 15 years. Many new courses and graduate programs have been offered as the University has grown. The Graduate Program in Ecology, the Graduate Program in Systematics and Evolution, and the Graduate Program in Forestry were established in the last decades.
The photos below are authored by Canindé Soares
The northeastern tip of South America, Cabo São Roque, 20 miles (32 km) to the north of Natal and the closest point to Europe from Latin America, was first visited by European navigators in 1501, in the 1501–1502 Portuguese expedition led by Amerigo Vespucci, who named the spot after the saint of the day. For decades thereafter, no permanent European settlement was established in the area, mostly inhabited by the Potiguar tribe.
In 1597, after some years during which French pirates, led by Jacques Riffault, established regular commercial activities with the native population, the ninth Portuguese Governor-General of Brazil, Francisco de Sousa, ordered the expulsion of the buccaneers. The successful expedition against 50 Frenchmen and their Indian allies was led by the Captain-Major of the Captaincy of Pernambuco, Manuel de Mascarenhas Homem, with the assistance of Jerônimo de Albuquerque Maranhão. Albuquerque Maranhão began the construction of the Fort of the Holy Kings or of the Magic-Kings ('Forte dos Santos Reis' or 'Forte dos Reis Magos') on January 6, 1598. It is named after the Three Wise Men, honored in the Christian feast of the Epiphany, celebrated on that day.
On December 25, 1599, Natal was established as a village outside the fort. The fort, city, and surrounding areas were occupied by Dutch forces from 1633 to 1654. They rechristened the fort 'Fort Ceulen' after one of their commanders. Because of its strategic position (Natal is one of the Brazilian cities nearest to Western Europe and Africa, especially Dakar, Senegal), an American air force base was built in a suburb of Natal named Parnamirim during World War II as part of the so-called Operation Rainbow; this base provided support for allied troops combating in the north of Africa. Thousands of American soldiers were sent to Natal, and their presence left traces in the culture of the city.
By Bus – it is an option to travel from Ponta Negra to downtown and vice versa. In Ponta Negra, buses run along Avenida Engenheiro Roberto Freire. Fare: R$ 3,65.
By Taxi – it is possible to hail a taxi (cell phone apps as 99Pop and Uber also available) anywhere. A taxi from Ponta Negra to downtown costs around R$ 30,00.
By Car – There are many options to rent a car to drive in the city or go up or down the coast, including a special car, called buggy, with a driver who can take you off-road.