Sao Luis

Sao Luis, the capital of the state of Maranhao, is located on a 50km long island, Isla de Sao Luis, which is connected by numerous bridges to the nearby mainland. You'll find this city of just under 1 million people in the island's northwest corner.

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Sao Luis Street PartyIts pastel-tinted colonial buildings are sure to delight you, and it leaves little to be desired by way of cultural attractions, but it is a city that has seen better times. Generally considered Brazil's reggae capital, it also boasts the Bumba Meu Boi festival, and has an abundance of beaches.

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An economically important region of Brazil, the nearby Itaqui port is a chief port for exportation of minerals and mining products, while an enormous Alcoa aluminum plant employs a large number of the city's residents. With the restoration projects in the city's center, international tourism is certainly picking up as well.

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Activities and Attractions
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Sao Luis WaterfrontSao Luis's center is sure to please with its gorgeous 18th and 19th century colonial mansions. The famed azulejos (ceramic tiles) that adorn them also serve as a means of protection against the steamy heat and humidity.
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After getting a feel for the downtown, start out by heading to the Casa Nhozinho, which features indigenous artisanry, textiles, and fish traps, as well as a collection of the Bmba Meu Boi figurines made by renowned artist Mestre Nhozinho. The Museu de Artes Visuales showcases a fine collection of regional artworks, while the Centro de Cultura Popular Domingos Vieira Filho houses an interesting exhibition on Afro-Brazilian cults, including the tambor de mina, a sect of Candomble.

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When you get hungry head to the Casa das Tulhas, which sells a wide variety of food and drinks, including the local specialty, tiquira, a purple-tinted cassava liquor. The Avenida Dom Pedro II is not to be missed, featuring an array of impressive historic buildings, including the Palacio dos Leos, Palacio de la Ravardiere, and the Igreja da Se.

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They showcase an impressive collection of antique furniture and art, largely dating to the original French settlement of the city. Inside the Cafua das Merces, a former slave market, you'll find the Museu do Negro, which houses a variety of slavery related relics, as well as a collection of West African artwork and cultural objects. If you want to head to the city's beaches, be aware that pollution may be a problem.

Our best bet is to head north to the Praia de Calhau, where the beach is more pristine, and there is always weekend revelry to be enjoyed.

=>The Bumba Meu Boi festival, a mix of African, Portuguese, and indigenous traditions, is not to be missed. It takes place in June.

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Accommodation
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Albergue de Juventude Solar das Pedras
This HI-affiliated hostel is perfect for the budget traveler. While the rooms are poorly lit and not well-ventilated, it offers good facilities, and at R$25 for a dorm, you can't go wrong.
Rua da Palma 127
Tel: 3232 6694
www.ajsolardaspedras.com.br

Pousada Colonial
A converted colonial mansion, there is a wide variety of rooms here. Make sure to ask for a room with windows as some on the first floor have none. Single rooms start at R$135.
Rua Afonso Pena 112
Tel: 3232 2834
www.clickcolonial.com.br

Pousada Portas da Amazonia
You can't go wrong with spacious rooms, comfortable beds, beautiful surrounding grounds, and a delicious pizzeria attached to the hotel. Singles start at R$139, while doubles go for R$189.
Rua do Giz 129
Tel: 3222 9937
www.portasdaamazonia.com.br

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Where to Eat
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Restaurante Antigamente
Head to this French restaurant for lunch to soak up some of the local atmosphere.
Rua da Estrela 220
Tel: 3232 3964

Don Francisco
This moderately priced joint offers an excellent buffet with a great selection of seafood, and a la carte nighttime dining options.
Rua do Giz 152
Tel: 3221 1445

Maracangalha
This is the place to go out for a night on the town, with its tasty and artfully presented meat and seafood dishes.
Rua Alto Parnaiba 12
Tel: 3235 9305

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Getting There
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Sao Luis is served by an airport with flights to many, but not all, major Brazilian cities. Gol, TAM, and Trip all operate out of the airport. If you want to reach nearby Alcantara ferries are available.

The bus station offers travel to many cities, including nearby Barreirinhas (R$29, four hours), and Belem (R$95, twelve hours). Be cautious if you are planning on taking overnight buses, as the potential for robbery is higher.

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