A small, quiet town, surrounded by mountains with a much loved local cuisine. Need to recharge the batteries? This is the perfect place!
When people talk about tourism in Brazil the first things that pop into their heads are the scorching, sun drenched beaches (that leave the body a little pink), lots of music, samba, Carnival and football, right? Yes. These are unquestionably the country’s hallmarks. But there is so much more to Brazil than this.
Gonçalves, a small and quiet town in southern Minas Gerais is the true antidote to the better-known neighbouring tourist hotspots of Campos do Jordão and Monte Verde. With a population of less than five thousand, this pretty and tranquil town enjoys a mild climate, is surrounded by greenery and is home to a delicious, traditional cuisine.
Gonçalves is so remote in fact that your GPS won’t even recognise the main road. Seriously! You should follow our directions (see box) to avoid adding dozens of kilometres to your journey.
With so many serene aspects, Gonçalves is a popular destination for couples. It’s impossible not to feel the air of romance when staying there. The mountains, full of tall, imposing trees (Araucária and Pinheiros – native trees to Brazil) almost shadow the paths. Noise? Only the sound of birds, which are definitely the most tender of singers.
And don’t even think of taking your best shoes or high heels. The area is genuinely rural, typified by forests and dirt tracks. Do take, however, sunscreen (don’t let all the shade fool you), swimwear (there are some amazing waterfalls) and a decent camera. Mobile phone? Only if you use it to take pictures and capture video. The phone reception in the area is precarious at best. But look on the bright side: no one will bother you while you are there!
Where to stay?
There are a number of bed & breakfasts in the town. From the options BBMag would recommend the Pousada Toca da Onça (http://www.pousadatocadaonca.com.br). The traditional B&B, made up of individual chalets (what could be more romantic?), offers all the comfort you could want with a down-to-earth simplicity that is typical of the region and a decent menu. The chalets cost between £60 (the cheapest daily rate, off season) and £80 (the most expensive daily rate, peak season) and it can’t be a coincidence that the place was awarded the Excellence Award by Trip Advisor.
There are many well-made, beautiful and affordable crafts in Gonçalves. But there is one, curiously, which is made by a paulistana! (person from São Paulo) That’s right, the chaos of the megacity did not agree with Cynthia Gavião’s peaceful nature and she decided she wanted to live a more tranquil, happy life. She moved to the small town where she set up her Papegilla studio, a little known technique which uses a type of paper clay, a mixture of clay and recycled paper. Result: works of eco-friendly art that, although made of clay, have the thickness and delicate touch of paper. Go and be inspired by Cynthia’s work!
What to eat
Throughout Brazil traditional coastal restaurants serve a starter known as Casquinha de Siri (Crab cone). It is a delish dish made with seasoned shredded crab, chilli and coconut milk. It’s a real treat! But… Gonçalves is a rural town in the middle of the mountains, without the ocean or…crabs! So, find the restaurants that serve the local speciality of Casquinha de Truta (Trout), a common freshwater fish found in Minas Gerais. You won’t regret it!
How to arrive
Heading towards Gonçalves from São Paulo or Campinas, take the Highway Fernão Dias until the exit for Cambuí. After 5km you will go through the town of Córrego do Bom Jesus after which you continue on for 22km of dirt road which slowly climbs the mountain until you reach Gonçalves. This route will reduce your journey by up to 40km!