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13 Fascinating Places to Visit in Brazil - Florianópolis (Santa Catarina)

Go for the culinary, ecotourism, historic importance, hiking, swimming, beaches, snorkeling.

So, I heard you are afraid to travel to Brazil and are concerned about your safety during your visit to this beautiful Country. If that is case, maybe you should start by visiting Brazil's safest capital city, as per a 2023 study conducted with data provided by the Health Department of Brazil and IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics).  According to this study, the safest state in the Country is Santa Catarina, located in the South Region of Brazil; and the safest capital is Florianópolis, the capital city of Santa Catarina.


Now, safety is just a starting point for suggesting Florianópolis as one of the top 13 destination to visit in Brazil. Add to that, a rich history that dates back to the XVI Century (or even earlier if you consider the native indians), an island that is 34 miles (54km) long and 11 miles (18km) wide, 42 beaches to visit, great seafood, and beautiful people.  You can spend a week, a month or longer, and not get tired of the "Magic Island" (Ilha da Magia), as it is known locally.

I have visited Santa Catarina multiple times and don't plan to stop. Even during the busiest time of the year (which is the summer months, from December to March), it is possible to find solitude there, if you look "pretty" hard. But avoiding traffic during the high season can be pretty challenging, especially if you plan to drive on the main roads that connects the North and South sides of the island.


Before I get going, let me clarify that city of Florianópolis actually encompasses mainland, the big Island and several other small islands. The big island is; however, where we want to focus our time on.  There are three bridges to access the big Island (which from now on we will refer as Florianópolis), including the iconic Hercílio Luz Bridge, which was built in 1929, being the first (and still the longest) Suspension Bridge built in Brazil. Access to Florianópolis is typically by car or by air.


Florianópolis was initially inhabited by the Carijós tribes, from the Tupi-Guaranis nation.  The city was officially founded in 1675 by a pioneer called Francisco Dias Velho.  But his attempt did not prosper. After stealing a silver load from the ship of a British pirate named Robert Lewis; Dias Velho provoked the slaughter of the villagers by the pirate's crew, including his own assassination. It was only around 1748, when Portugal decided to build fortifications, bring people from the Azores Islands as settlers, start growing cotton, linen and then hunting whales to extract oil (which was then sent to Europe) that a settlement came back to its location. In 1823 it reached the size of a town. Later, in 1845, in preparation for the visit of the Brazilian Emperor Dom Pedro II, a significant investment in infrastructure was made, and the city (then called "Desterro") was promoted to the status of a state capital. In 1894, after the Proclamation of the Republic that capital was named "Florianópolis", in honor of the President Floriano Peixoto. Today, Florianópolis' main income source comes from services and tourism.


The top attraction to visitors in Florianópolis is the beauty and variety of beaches; each beach with its own particular appeal. The best beaches are located North, East and South of the island.  Jurerê is the most exclusive beach, surrounded by a very wealthy neighborhood and a place to see and be seen; Forte beach is where you will find an old fort constructed by the Portuguese sometime in the 1740's;  Brava beach is famous for the wave perfect for surfing; Mole beach for surfing competitions; Joaquina Beach filled with young crowd and a good place to experience sandboarding on its dunes; Pântano do Sul beach is a more secluded location great for fishing and a more quiet day on the sand.  The list goes on and on …


During my visits to "Floripa", I have a ritual that includes the following:

  • Visiting the old market (from 1898) in downtown, having a beer, a local cachaça, buying some local Cassava flour (very fine grounded, unlike the flour from other regions of Brazil) and having some appetizer;

  • Tasting some local grown oysters, possibly in Santo Antonio de Lisboa or Ribeirão da Ilha;

  • Having a shrimp feast in Lagoa da Conceição or Costa da Lagoa (they offer a sequence of shrimp based plates, some in "all you can eat" style.



Enough said, Floripa has a special place in my heart; it's also the birth city of my mother and a place where I keep several fond memories from.


NEXT: Foz do Iguaçu

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