Natal is the capital of Rio Grande do Norte, a Brazilian state located in the country’s northeast. The city lies near the mouth of the Potenji (Potengi) River along the Atlantic coast, and its sun-kissed shores are lined with gorgeous white-sand beaches and towering dunes. The 16th-century Forte dos Reis Magos is an imposing, star-shaped fortress that marks the place where Natal was officially founded by the Portuguese on December 25, 1599 (Natal is Portuguese for “Christmas”). Ribeira and Cidade Alta, the city’s oldest neighborhoods, invite with an array of handsome colonial and Victorian buildings, many of which are now adorned with colorful murals. Natal’s vibrant Afro-Brazilian culture gave birth to the capoeira circle, an intoxicating blend of martial arts, acrobatics, dance, and music that UNESCO designated as a living expression of Intangible Cultural Heritage. You might see capoeira groups performing on one of the city’s popular beaches like Ponta Negra; browse the nearby handicraft market for unique ceramics, musical instruments, textiles, and wooden sculptures. Head to Genipabu (Jenipabu) to ride a camel, go sand surfing, or drive a buggy around its huge complex of sand dunes.