Brazil is the country with the longest coastline in South America. There are no less than 9,655 kilometers of shoreline along the Atlantic Ocean, upon which there are numerous coastal lighthouses (Farol in Portuguese) to guide ships. Often loaded with stories and legends, these beacons are interesting places to explore as part of a trip to Brazil to learn more about the local maritime heritage and Brazilian culture. Here is a quick overview of the most significant lighthouses that border the Brazilian shores.
Spotlight on the coast of “Brasil”
For the size of the Brazilian coast it is remarkably uniform. However, it does have a few coves and other large sheltered bays that form perfect natural harbors. This is where mariners and other sea farers such as the coast guard find it useful to see a lighthouse tower. Examples of these large bays can be seen in the most famous cities in Brazil such as Guanabara bay in Rio de Janeiro, (overlooked by Christ the Redeemer) and its lighthouse of Fortaleza de Santa Cruz in Niteroi. Or the beautiful Bahia de Todos os Santos (Bay of All Saints) in front of Salvador de Bahia. It is at the entrance of this bay that we find the Farol de Santo Antonio, also known as Barra lighthouse. Installed at the top of a 22 meter high tower at the top of Fort Santo Antônio da Barra, it was the second lighthouse installed on the coast of the Americas and the oldest still standing. Built in 1698, at the time it was fitted with a bronze lantern and fueled with whale oil!
The Barra lighthouse was rebuilt and modernized in 1839, then the lantern was switched to an electric one on the lighthouses centenary in 1939. A true icon of Salvador, it inspired many Bahian poets and artists. The fort of Barra is today an important part of the “panoramic” city-tour of Salvador de Bahia, enjoyed by many Brazil Selection clients. On this tour, you will also see the Nautical Museum of Bahia ( Museu Náutico da Bahia ) which has been there since December 1998.
The best lighthouses to visit in Brazil
Palácio das Torres
The first lighthouse in the Americas was also Brazilian. In Brazil, this is quite a famous lighthouse and a historic landmark. It was built between 1639 and 1642 by the Dutchman: Johan Maurits van Nassau-Siegen in what is now Recife. The palace of Friborg, later called Palácio das Torres in the Portuguese language, housed in one of its towers a lighthouse made of a simple lantern and in the other the first astronomical observatory of the Americas. Abandoned following the departure of the Dutch from Brazil, it was destroyed in 1787. A virtual model exists however and you can check it out here on the ITAU institute website.
Farol do Calcanhar
“Do Calcanhar” lighthouse, which means “of the heel” in Portuguese, referring to its location on the “angle” of the Brazilian coast between north and south is the fourth largest lighthouse of Latin America and the 22nd tallest lighthouse in the world standing at 62 meters in height.
Farol do Cabo Branco
Located 800 m from the easternmost point of mainland Brazil, “Ponta do Seixas” in the city of João Pessoa, this lighthouse stands out as much for its location as for its unique triangular architecture. The architect, Pedro Abraão Dieb wanted the structure to represent the shape of a sisal plant, one of the most important sources of income for the region.
Farol de Mucuripe
At 73 meters high, the “Mucuripe” lighthouse is the tallest in Brazil and the Americas. It was inaugurated in 2017, after a restoration project replacing the previous structure of only 24 meters. It is situated in Fortaleza, a Northeastern city in Brazil and gateway for tourists wishing to discover the Ceará coastline and its superb beaches, such as Jericoacoara, or take the famous route of emotions”.
During this tour which passes through Jericoacoara, the Parnaiba delta and the Lençois desert, you will also discover the picturesque little lighthouse of “Vassouras”. In this region where fishermen sail far offshore on frail skiffs or “Jangadas”, without modern navigation tools, these lighthouses are of crucial importance to help them orient themselves and return to safe harbour. Although there are no lighthouses in Brazil recognized by UNESCO, the Brazilian government ensure that these historic landmarks of the first order are well looked after and they do receive the recognition they deserve.