Praça Justo Chermont, Belém, Brazil.
Second weekend in October.
The largest festival on the River Amazon, not to mention Brazil’s biggest hoedown after the Rio Carnival, Círio de Nazaré revolves around a small statue of Nossa Senhora de Nazaré (Our Lady of Nazareth).
Supposedly sculpted in Nazareth (Galilee), the image of is believed to have performed miracles in medieval Portugal before getting lost in Brazil. A humble cattleman rediscovered it in 1700 on the site of Belém’s Basílica de NS de Nazaré.
Since 1793, pilgrims have come from all over Brazil to honour the Virgin and work up an Amazonian sweat. Having been taken from Belém to Icoaraci, the statue is carried back to the city in a river procession of hundreds of boats. The following morning, millions of people fill the streets, along with the sounds of hymns, bells and fireworks, to accompany the image from Catedral da Sé to the basilica. The statue, placed on a flower-bedecked carriage, is surrounded by thousands of barefoot supplicants. They squirm and grope to get a hand on the rope pulling the vehicle, thought to represent the link between the Saint and her followers.
Five hours and 3.5km later, the Virgin reaches the basilica, where she remains until she is carried back to the cathedral two weeks later.
3 – join the human surge to the basilica.
You can wander deserted beaches on the islands of Algodoal and Marajó, both an overnight trip away.