João Pessoa, capital of the state of Paraíba, is the most attractive of the smaller northeastern cities, with some of the finest town beaches in the area, a beautiful setting on the mouth of the Rio Sanhauá, and colonial remains, including one of Brazil’s most striking churches. Not enough foreign travellers make it to the city for the pessoenses to have become blasé about them, so you’re likely to be approached by smiling kids who are anxious to practise their hard-learned English.

Out of the city, there are even nicer beaches to the north and south, while the highway inland leads to Campina Grande, a market town strategically placed at the entrance to the sertão. The main target of the interior is the fascinating pilgrim town of Juazeiro do Norte; while it’s actually in neighbouring Ceará state, it’s covered here because it’s most easily accessible from Paraíba.