In 1982 the city of Olinda, the second oldest city in Brazil, was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Recife, the state capital and Olinda have one of the most traditional Brazilian Carnivals. Both have architecture of Portugal, with centuries-old casarões (colonial houses) and churches, kilometers of beaches and much culture. The proximity of the equator guarantees sunshine throughout the year, with average temperatures of 26 °C (79 °F).
Pernambuco comprises a comparatively narrow coastal zone, a high inland plateau, and an intermediate zone formed by the terraces and slopes between the two.
Its surface is much broken by the remains of the ancient plateau which has been worn down by erosion, leaving escarpments and ranges of flat-topped mountains, called chapadas, capped in places by horizontal layers of sandstone. Ranges of these chapadas form the boundary lines with three states–the Serra dos Irmãos and Serra Vermelha with Piauí, the Serra do Araripe with Ceará, and the Serra dos Cariris Velhos with Paraíba.
The coastal area is fertile, and was formerly covered by the humid Pernambuco coastal forests, the northern extension of the Atlantic Forests (Mata Atlântica) of eastern Brazil. It is now place to extensive sugar cane plantations. It has a hot, humid climate, relieved to some extent by the south-east trade winds.
The middle zone, called the agreste region, has a drier climate and lighter vegetation, including the semi-deciduous Pernambuco interior forests, where many trees lose their leaves in the dry season.