If I had to recommend you visit anywhere in Brazil, I would go first for the South. Forget Rio de Janeiro, just for a second, and embrace the diverse landscapes and rich culture of the deep south of the country.
That was exactly what I did. But it was in the middle of the summer, and that is how things get a bit interesting.
Way before even thinking of booking a seat on one of (back at that time) brand-new flights from São Paulo to Caxias do Sul nonstop, I was already trying to figure out how it would be like to visit a place that seems to have been made to be visited in winter.
Where is Serra Gaucha?
For those not familiar with this destination, the Serra Gaúcha, also known as the gaucho Highlands is in the north of Porto Alegre – the capital of Rio Grande do Sul.
it’s a quite popular famous destination for winter holidays, due to its natural landscapes compounded by hills and mountains populated by descendants of Germans and Italians.
According to data from the Rio Grande do Sul Department of Tourism, during the summer of 2004, about 23% of the people searching for “what to do and see” in the state, added Serra Gaucha to their itinerary.
Destinations such as Nova Petrópolis, Gramado, Canela, and São Francisco de Paula, are along a route so-called the “Hydrangeas Region”, where you can appreciate the stunning blue hydrangeas framed in the roads that connect us with Canela – a city named after a Cinnamon tree. Canela, which by the way, my favourite town in the region.
The tourist who chooses this time of year to visit the Serra Gaúcha through the spring and summer months will find much more than the hospitality of gauchos or the colourful hydrangeas, a symbol of one of the southernmost states in Brazil.
The average temperature is 30 degrees between the days of December and January. (Note from editor_ it is worth remembering in the last two decades and there have been very high temperatures in the whole of Rio Grande do Sul, being considered this, one of the hottest periods in recent years).
When to Go?
Of course, it is amazing to be in Serra Gaucha during the winter. It’s a novelty for Brazilians that are not used to low temperatures. Everybody wants to see the snow falling.
But I can guarantee you that you can make the most of these tourist destinations in the summer too.
This dry climate in the mountains is a perfect excuse to swap the glass of wine for a cold bottle of mineral water in my case – sparkling water), the sunglasses instead of the scarf, and then, of course, a lot of sunscreens – factor 50, please.
Pack light – You will need light clothes for the day, something warmer for the evenings, and a pair of comfortable trainers for spending the day out.
But high temperatures aside, the famous gastronomy that ranges from the most exquisite to the most homemade with the best of European cuisine along the beautiful landscape of the mountainous region of the state, is what makes Serra Gaucha one of the best destinations in Brazil.
Where to go?
Gramado, the capital of the mountains, is one of the most popular ones. The city is famous for its “Christmas Light,” an event that for a couple of decades is one of the most popular events in December in the country.
In the program, pyrotechnic shows, outdoor concerts on Lake Joaquina Bier, parades with the guaranteed presence of Santa Claus, and streets properly adorned.
Children love it, so families make the most of it. The city gets packed during the Christmas holidays and the prices of accommodations are set to skyrocket, of course.
But Gramado is not only about Christmas, so here is your sign to visit the city in the Summer. Walking through the city’s main sights can be a good start to sightseeing.
Visiting the Mother Church of São Pedro, the Enchanted World Park, the Chocolate Museum, Joaquina Bier Lake, and the famous statue of kikito – which is a symbol of the most famous festival of Cinema in Brazil, are good reasons to start exploring the city.
Serra Gaucha is also fulfilled with stunning landscapes. Some of them are quite easy to reach.
It is worth remembering that the Waterfall of the Bride Veil, in Caxias do Sul, which was once a postcard of the city, unfortunately, today is a quite polluted spot. But it is still a popular location for visitors.
Unfortunately, you probably won’t stay there for long, due to the stench of the place. The increase in pollution of its natural resources may cause greater problems in the future for the city.
For those who are shopping, this time of year is perfect to find fine items too, especially leather and food products with a discount.
And talking about food, you can’t leave Serra Gaucha without trying the delicious Colonial Breakfast (it reads sweets, cheeses, wines, chocolates, and all sorts of gastronomic delights produced in the cities of the mountains, also quite popular in the summer.
I find it quite impossible for anyone to resist the temptation known as colonial brekkie.
But the good news is that you should go to my favourite city in the region right after this gastronomical experience.
And If in Gramado you eat well, it is in Canela that you will spend your calories. (Note from Editor_ not that you don’t eat well in Canela either, on the contrary, the city offers one of the most spectacular gastronomic itineraries of Serra Gaucha too).
Also Known as the capital of ecotourism in the country, Canela is the most radical option in the mountains. Those who like sports can venture through the various parks, waterfalls, fields, and valleys that make up the region.
The site’s eco-friendly itinerary is so extensive that it also deserved a guide with activities ranging from a simple bike tour to rafting.
Caracol State Park is the place where you should explore first, with its 131 meters of free fall of the Caracol Waterfall.
If you face the 927 steps of the staircase that leads to the base of the waterfall. The reward for those who descend and manage to climb back to tell the story can be a beautiful record of the stunning nature of the Rio Grande do Sul.
Nowadays you can check the waterfalls using the Canela’s cable car – which is a fairly new attraction and provides amazing views from the park.
The good news is that you also have a beautiful view of the waterfall, from above the panoramic elevator inside the park. In addition, the tourist can walk the trails, picnic, or simply enjoy the landscape of this ecological reserve of 25 hectares of native forest.
Canela has more than 8 parks open to visitation, and the coolest tip for those who pass through the region and want to venture into the woods is the Passport parks.
I would recommend you buy a booklet with information about the sights and tickets with valid discounts to know not only all these parks but other attractions of the city.
If you have more time to get around, spend some time getting to know the Steam World, the Automobile Museum, or other indispensable itineraries in the city.
In my opinion, the most interesting part of visiting Serra Gaucha is what you learn about the culture of the people we find in these places.
In part 2, I will talk about other important destinations to visit in the Serra Gaucha.