Florianopolis Travel Guide

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Praia do Campeche com as gaivotas

Praia do Campeche com as gaivotas

Mariana Zumalacárregui

Introduction: the capital of the State of Santa Catarina, one of Brazil's wealthiest per capita states, Florianópolis is modern and cosmopolitan yet enchanting and rustic at the same time. One of the rare destinations in the world where the new and the old coexists harmoniously. Blessed with tremendous natural beauty, the city also offers agitated (particularly in the South American vacation season of December through March) beaches and tourism infrastructure, excellent dining and nightlife, first-world shopping options, as well as untouched pristine nature preserves and charming little fishing villages. The island has 42 main beaches (each with a distinct neighborhood and personality surrounding it, so truly something for everyone), innumerable parks, natural reserves, squares, large lagoons, sand dunes, and much more.

History and Characteristics: Florianópolis was founded on March 23rd, 1726. The 23rd of March (anniversary of the city) is celebrated annually to this day. The main economic activities on the island today are tourism, commerce, public sector employment (Florianopolis is a state capital) and fishing.

The population of the island today is estimated at approximately 400,000 inhabitants. The original foreign settlers (the island was previously inhabited by Brazilian Indians) were Açorianan, people from a small island off the coast of Portugal. Today you will find people of the most diverse parts of Brazil and the world, all of whom are attracted by the charm and beauty of the nature of Florianópolis, as well as by the high-quality of life (opportunities to practice nearly every outdoor sport imagineable, modern infrastructure and organization, excellent health care and school systems, safety and well balanced income distribution (by Brazilian standards at least). The island of Florianópolis is located just off the southern coast of Brazil, connected to the continent by two bridges, one of which no longer functions but which is one of the post card shots representative of the city's rare balance of man-made and natural beauty (the large suspension bridge is reminiscent of San Francisco's famed Golden Gate Bridge and is quite stunning at night when lit up). The are of the city is appromitaly 436,5 square kilometers, being 424,4 square kilometers on the Island and 12,1 square kilometers on the continent. The climate in Florianópolis is very favorable, sub-tropical and temperate most of the year, with average temperature between 20ºC and 30ºC. The city is approximately 25m above of the level of the sea. Other cities just off the island and nearby on the continent include São Jose, Biguaçu, Palhoça, Balneário Camboriú, Governador Celso Ramos and Garopaba.

Tourism: In Florianópolis the natural treasures are truly exceptional and include beautiful lagoons, stunning beaches, rolling mountains lush with Atlantic rainforest, soft white dunes, and an array of small offshore islands, as well as a wealth of landscapes, aromas and colors. The island offers opportunities for many types of tourism, from traditional summer relaxation holidays, to surfing, hiking, whalewatching and many other of ecotourism options. The island truly has a bit of something for everyone, from authentic and rustic fishing villages, to surfer's paradises surrounded by charming small towns (which remind many people of parts of San Diego or Santa Barbara in California), to high-end Brazilian summer getaways (reminiscent of South Beach in Miami or San Tropei in France), as well as pristine and untouched nature preserves, just minutes from modern shopping malls and cinema complexes. Its numerous white and clean sand bottom beaches, some and wild, others vibrant and agitated, continue to draw visitors from around the world in addition to the sun-worshipping local population. 

The unusual urban configuration of the island and the diversity of its landscapes prove that it is possible to conciliate all the resources of a great city with the quality of life that is often only found in smaller cities away from the hustle and bustle of major cities.  Still today, in corners of the island such as Riberao da Ilha and Santo Antonio de Lisboa, far beyond the area of the center of the city, you can find authentic marks of the açorianan settling preserved in the houses and the sidewalks, the churches, the museums, the narrow streets and the way of living of the local inhabitants. Suggested visits include the view point of the Hercílio Luz bridge, one of the biggest suspension bridges of the world inaugurated in 1926; the view point of the Morro da Cruz, in the center, from where one can see a great part of the island and the continent; and the viewpoint of the Lagoa da Conceição lagoon, which offers a panoramic view of the beautiful lagoon, several beaches, the sand dunes of the Joaquina, the ocean and several offshore islands. 

Boat trips are offered at various points around the island, which is a great way to see the coastline and to pass the day in the sea and visiting the islands just off the shore of Florianópolis, which include historical forts used centuries ago to defend the ports and entry into the island's main bays, as well as observing dolphins and the beautiful landscapes and delighting in the typical local seafood restaurants. 

The beaches to the north of the island are generally the most agitated, many offering excellent tourist infrastructure and leisure opportunities. There they are the beaches of Canasvieiras, preferred place of Argentine visitors; Jurerê, a bastion of vacation homes of many of Brazilians wealthiest (often from neighboring economic powerhouse cities such as Sao Paulo); Ponta das Canas;  Praia Brava, great for the practice of surfing;  Ingleses;  Lagoinha;  Cachoeira do Bom Jesus;  Daniela;  Sambaqui; Cacupé; and Santo Antonio de Lisboa. The latter three being rustic and charming fishing villages with excellent sea food restaurants. 

The east coast of the island offers the bet coastal attractions and the island's most stunning natural beauty, including the Lagoa da Conceição lagoon, famed in verses of poets and singers for centuries and the celebrity for its cosmopolitan inhabitants.  Excellent restaurants and bars exist, and the nightlife and restaurants in the area function year round (and not just in the Brazilian tourist months as some other parts of the island). This region is highlighted by several of the island's most beautiful beaches, includin Joaquina, Brazilian temple of surf and stage of world-wide surfing championships, as well as immense sand dunes that if extend until the sea; and Praia Mole, another paradise of surfers and sun worshippers, a favorite of the island's young, athletic and beautiful crowd; Praia da Galheta, a jaw-dropping coastal nature preserve completely virgin in its natural state, with soft white a sand beach, clear waters and surrounded by lush green hills; and Barra da Lagoa, which concentrates the biggest fishing colony of the Island of Santa Catarina and is popular with backpackers. Just 20km from the center of the city, this entire part of the eastern region of the island has an advanced infrastructure and charm very popular with tourists from around the world.  

Further north along the eastern coast is Moçambique, the island's longest beach and completely virgin, also a nature preserve, and Santinho beach, a more populated region offering good tourism infrastructure. In the southern stretch of the eastern coast the beaches are more rustic, preserving the natural fauna and flora of the region. Matadeiro beach is a great option for surfing; Morro das Pedras has an agitated sea and a unique rock formation advancing into the sea; Pantano do Sul beach, known for typical seafood restaurants and local fishing boats that make the passage to the beautiful offshore island Ilha do Campeche; and Ribeirão da Ilha, an historic district and one of the rustic fishing villages of Florianópolis. 

For those who like adventure, a beautiful 3 hour nature hike to the beach of Lagoinha do Leste, an authentic sanctuary of preserved nature, should not be missed. Also plan a visit to Naufragados, in the south extremity of the island, with its wild sea and thriving marine life. 

Historic sites: the city has several centennial churches, including the Metropolitan Cathedral, which shelters in its interior a sculpture of Joao and Maria, and the Church of Our Lady of the Lagoa da Conceição, an example of the architecture brought by the Portuguese, whose bell was donated by emperor Dom Peter II. Also don't miss the the Church of the Order Third of San Francisco, in the center of the city, or of Our Lady of the Rosary of San Francisco de Paula, constructed in 1830, in açorian style, and of Ours the Lady of the Necessities, in Santo Antonio de Lisboa, featuring several important historical monuments. Also give special attention to the historical forts around the island: Santa Cruz, Santana, Fortaleza of Our Lady da Conceição, Santo Antonio and Anhatomirim. The island also features diverse museums, preserving local history of the local peoples who had inhabited the island long ago. Visit the Museum Cruz and Souza especially, in the center of the city, and the Plaza of the Square XV.  Schmidt Street offers an interesting walk through the city center where one can browse the wares of local vendors, enjoy great coffee and visit the historical sites including the Public Market. In the oldest quarters of the city you can find yourself surrounded by true icons of açorian folklore. 

Part or or all of this text stems from the original article at: travel guide


September 16, 2007 change by ryan mallen (2 points)

February 19, 2009 change by whl florianopolis

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