Manaus, Brazil: A Short History And Attractions
Manaus is the capital of the Amazonas state in Brazil, and is a popular ecotourism destination. Almost 50% of the Amazon River’s population lives in the city, making it the primary cultural and economic hub of the Brazilian Amazon. There are countless reasons to visit the city, both man-made and natural, and its history makes it one of the most important cities in Brazil. Manaus is the traditional start point for Amazon River Cruises in Brazil.
Short History of Manaus
Manaus was founded in 1669 and declared a town (with the name Manaus, meaning Mother of the Gods) in 1832. It was subsequently transformed into a city on the 24th of October, 1848 and re-named Cidade da Barra do Rio Negro, only to be changed back to Manaus on September 4th, 1856.
The colonization of 1669 started with the building of forts; an attempt to ensure that the Portuguese were the main force in the area. The fort helped defend against invasions such as the Invasion of the Dutch, who occupied Suriname at the time.
In 1835 there was a revolt, known as Cabanagem, against the political elite of the city. The blacks, Indians and mestizos protested and eventually took power, recruiting non-whites as they roamed throughout settlements in the region. This was a bloody time in the region’s history, with an estimated 40% of the population losing their lives. Power shifted between the opposing sides until in 1840 the last rebel group yielded. The revolt had a profound impact on the area that is still felt today.
In the 19th Century, Manaus was also at the center of the rubber boom. Rubber barons generated obscene personal wealth and the city became an architectural playground for those with cash in their pockets. A $10m opera house - Teatro Amazonas - was built at the height of the city’s opulence.
It wasn’t to last, however, and once the seeds of the rubber tree left the Amazon region, Manaus fell into crippling poverty, unable even to power the electricity lines that had been brought to the city during the more affluent ages. In the 1950s, the city was declared a Duty Free Zone, and that has helped buoy the city’s economy.
Attractions in Manaus
The most obvious attraction of Manaus is its location next to the stunning, incomparable Amazon Rainforest. Many cruise ships visit theMeeting of the Waters, at the start or end of their voyage; or day trips are easy to arrange. This is an incredible natural phenomenon where the black waters of the Rio Negro meet with the brown of the Rio Solimoes. The two rivers flow side by side without mixing for almost 10km.
The city’s oldest market place, Mercado Adolpho Lisboa, is well worth a visit. Founded in 1882, it is a great place to buy fruit, vegetables and some delicious fish.
You should also take time to visit the Rio Negro Palace Cultural Center, as well as the impressive regional courthouse, the Palace of Justice. Of course, no visit would be complete without visiting the Amazonas Opera House, either.
Manaus boasts many other natural attractions aside from just the Amazon River. There are many large parks and forests to explore, the most notable of which are the Science Forest and the Park of Mindú. In the Park of Mindú, you can experience 4 distinct microclimates as you wander through its enclaves. The stunning, expansive urban forest of the Federal University of Amazonas is also the world’s largest.
For nature lovers, the CIGS Zoo is a good option, since it houses roughly 300 species of animals, a great deal of which are native to the Amazon region.
Finally, for outdoorsy types, don’t miss the array of beaches and waterfalls in the area. Though some are difficult to get to, these are great places to visit.
Most trips to the beaches will require a boat. The most popular (and reliable) beach is Tupé Beach, which is almost 35km from Manaus. Weekends see it busy with locals and travellers keen to soak up the sun and relax before/after an Amazon River Cruise.