Situated on the border with the Northern region of Brazil, Maranhão is the Northeast’s second biggest state.
It has one of the most diverse ecosystems in the country, from tropical beaches, to amazon rainforest, cerrado, mangroves, open sea deltas and the world’s only desert with thousands of crystalline lakes. It boasts both historic and adventure destonations, with stunning landscapes and varied cuture.
In the capital, São Luís, one clearly notes the French, Portuguese and Dutch origins of the city, whose Historic Centre, registered in 1997 as a UNESCO World Heritage site, contains roughly five thousand buildings dating back to the 17thcentury. The city of Alcântara lies a boat ride away from São Luís, and is the most important old city in the Amazon region. Having once been home to barons, Alcântara still retains hints of its glorious past.
For ecotourism, the highlight is the Lençois Maranhenses National Park, a true natural wonder which covers 155 thousand hectars of sand dunes, ever changing in the wind. The lakes which form as a result of rainfalls are perfect for a quick dip. Another natural attraction, the Chapada das Mesas National Park, is a special collection of rock formations, canyons, caves and waterfalls.
Maranhense cuisine is influenced by European, indigenous and African seasonings, resulting in a unique mixture of flavours and recipes. The most famous dish is the famous arroz de cuxá, made with sweet and sour layers of rice, prawn and sesame seeds, accompanied with other sea foods. Other popular dishes are caldeira de torta de camarão, sururu and caranguejo, peixada à base da nobre pescada, anchova na brasa and grilled prawn.
Among sweets and deserts, highlights are those based on coconut, inherited from the Portuguese, as well as regional crystallised fruit desserts, made from cashew, buriti, bacuri, jaca and maranhense pineapple.
Anyone visiting the south of Maranhão will be impressed with the meat on offer, in particular the carne-de-sol, which when served with rice becomes a delicious Maria Isabel. Another dish is the famous Guaraná Jesus, sweet and a vibrant pink.
The capital São Luís is also a stage for cultural shows during the whole year, with festivals such as the Tambor-de-Crioula, IPHAN Brazilian Cultural Heritage, the Tambor de Mina, an African religious festival, Festa do Divino, where tributes are paid to the Holy Spirit and the Old Empire, the Bumba-Meu-Boi, a spectacularly colourful show of dance and rhythm, which brings out the best of Maranhão culture.
That’s Maranhão. A varied destination, which combines cultural and natural attractions with its friendly and welcoming people, and where originality and tradition come together on the streets, in the architecture and cuisine.
Capital: São Luís
Area (km2): 331,937.450
Population: 6,904,241 (2015)
Term for a person from this state: maranhense
Dial code: 98 / 99
Bordering states: Piauí, Tocantins and Pará