Piauí suffers an image problem in Brazil. It is seen as the stereotypical hot, poor northeastern state. Many guidebooks are infected with this prejudice. The good news is that this keeps the tourist hordes away. Piauí is the traditional Brazil. A land of cowboys, religious pilgrimages and unspoilt nature. The state is poor, but the crime rate here is a fraction of that in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Most people have never spoken to a foreigner.
The early Portuguese settlers refered to Piauí as "Beyond Nowhere". A 1760 map of "Piauhy" by Henriques Antonio Gallucio reports much of the state as being "land which hasn't yet been explored". This was about two hundred and fifty years after Portuguese colonisation. Famously, the Brazilian government once omitted the state from the official national map. It is a place for travellers, not tourists.
The northern coast has a large river deltas, a haven for birds and manatees. This coastline is starting to be discovered by kiteboarders and surfers. The National Parks - home of jaguars, anteaters and giant armadillos - contain incredible cave paintings and perhaps the earliest evidence of human habitation in the Americas. Cashew nuts are believed to originate in Piauí, and even today the state is a massive producer.