Nearby Brazilian Gems
Buzios: Fun, sophisticated yet informal and beautiful, Buzios is a 2-hour drive north from Rio. Here you find a choice of 20 or so coves and beaches: surf lessons and body board rentals on Geriba; windsurfing off Manguinhos; wake boarding at Ferradura; and jet skiing at Centro Beach. There are schooner cruises to the beaches by day, and many choices of restaurants, bars and music boites(nightclubs) along Rua das Pedras. There is no shortage of fine little pousadas and super-luxe lodgings.
Paraty: The road to Paraty follows the Costa Verde to this fishing village founded in 1650; it is now both a National Monument and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With historic houses in a rainbow of colors, little baroque churches and cobbled streets, Paraty is indeed a treasure. Visitors will find dozens of fun boutiques, good little restaurants, several fine ice cream parlors and a bevy of little B&B inns tucked into heritage buildings. Activities include bathing in nearby waterfalls, walking on Jabaquara Beach, or taking a boat ride (whaler, fishing boat or motor boat) out for diving or surfing.
Brazil’s Cities of Gold
Go north from Rio—overland or by air, or nonstop from Miami with American Airlines—to Belo Horizonte and discover Brazil’s “Cities of Gold.” When the Portuguese colonizers arrived in Brazil, they didn’t tarry along the country’s beaches, but headed inland south of Bahia where they found what they were looking for: gold. And in the 18th century, prospectors in the present state of Minas Gerais accounted for the export of 70 percent of the world’s gold production. Some of the golden wealth remained right here, to be slathered in gold leaf over the ornate interiors of the baroque churches in the little cobblestone street-lined towns of Congonhas do Campo, Sao Joao del Rei, Tiradentes, Mariana and most particularly Ouro Preto (a World Heritage Site). Their treasures add up to a fascinating 3- or 4-day colonial circuit, with accommodations in elegant historical pousadas along the way. And there are lots of good reasons to leave a day or two for Belo Horizonte, a compelling city with a varied cultural and culinary scene and a sizzling nightlife. A must is seeing Oscar Niermeyer’s Pampulha Architectural Complex in town, and the Inhotim (Center for Contemporary Art) 30 miles away.