Meet Serra Gaucha...
a small town in the heart of southern Brazil that will make you feel like you are in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. It lies in the northeast part of the most southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, which borders Argentina and Uruguay.
Unlike the majority of Brazil that hosts a tropical climate you will find here a temperate, highland one that offers four seasons and even some light snow as it is 2,800 feet above sea level.
But why visit a town in Brazil that feels like home?
Because even though it is fairly unknown abroad it is widely popular with Brazilians and they flock there to enjoy the temperature, highland climate, year-round cultural events, eco-tourist activities and for the region's delicious food and wine.
Foodies galore here - more than likely when you dine out your food would have only traveled a few miles to reach your table and since it is one of the regions budding wine regions you can enjoy local wine to rinse your palate.
An expat that currently live there said this, "The clean little towns have trim, attractive town squares and flowers in every yard. There is an air of prosperity here, with new construction everywhere and cars that are newer and larger than anywhere in Brazil. Locals are well dressed and well educated and it seems like everyone has a new smartphone. You will find plenty of English spoken and locals who like to practice it with you." -John Clites (International Living Magazine)
Doesn't that sound lovely???
And another wonderful aspect of Serra is that it has three separate regions....meaning that there are ample places for you to explore!
1. Eastern Gaucha region - farmland and villages
2. Italian region in the west - home to the wine industry
3. Central - German influenced region
Lets explore the central region as it forms the heart of Serra Gaucha...
This region is home to two different small cities named Gramado and Canela which both have German influences. These two towns are only 3.5 miles apart so it makes for you lazy wining and dining easier to do on foot!
Often described as "chic" this town of 35,000 economy is based primarily on tourism and they pull it off in a classy way much like Asheville, North Carolina. Keeping everything local, clean, artsy and cultural.
One of the most interesting aspects of this region is the German influence that can be seen directly from the building styles. Walking the streets you are greeted with a German Brazilian heritage meaning palm trees and farmhouses.
You will not find this anywhere else in the world!
And unlike other small towns where you can find yourself searching for activities Serra offers many festivals throughout the year (June and July are the busiest tourist months).
Even without festivals you can wonder the clean paved streets on foot while shopping and eating to your hearts content!
Or escape into nature and visit Lago Preto (Black Lake) where you can rent a paddleboat, walk, bike and/or picnic.
For the foodie here is what you should try:
A heavy dish of pasta or sausage, or pork or potato dishes.
Any dessert made locally (always will be rich)!
A locally brewed tasty dark beer (opposite of the Pilsner loving regions).
Named for a local tree it is similar in size to Gramado but with more of a family feel as it does not receive as many tourist (Gramado at 2.5 million in a season).
And it is not as glamourous either but you can still find fine dining but more of the all-you-can-eat at $6.50.
So why visit Canela?
It is an outdoor/adventurist haven!!!!
Take your pick from hiking, fishing, bird watching, horseback riding, nature photography, rappelling, rafting, rock climbing and arborismo (walking cables between trees).
At a place called Alpino Park you can ride a small roller coaster through the trees or go four-wheeling.
Another option is to explore the beautiful Parque Caracol (Snail Park) by taking a gondola ride that is suspended high above the forest, or view the park through an observatory elevator. One of the main attractions here is a Catarata Caracol waterfall, whose waters plummet 432 feet to the river below.....
Vineyards and Wineries
So you know that I have to talk about the wineries...wine tastings are one of my favorite things ever.
Vale dos Vinehedos (Valley of the Vineyard) is located just outside town and here you will find hillsides after hillsides sporting row after rows of grapes. Family names like Valduga, Miolo and Salton are proudly displayed on roadside plaques.
If you are looking to go during harvest season to take part in helping their season is February.
You should check out Valduga winery and enjoy a tasting for $11pp and after stay for lunch in the casual polished granite dining room. There you will eat to the sounds of a duo guitar and piano while the waiters serve your rounds of food called a rodizio. The rodizio would consist of breads, soup, garden salads, pasta salad, pork cockerel, various pastas and fish.
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So if you are looking to escape the busy streets of Rio or take a break from the sun in Paraty the Serra Gaucha region is the place to go!