Benefitting from a four day weekend, plus some additional holidays to make it a full week, we started by heading South along the coast of Santa Catharina. We were advised to go and visit Gramando and Canela in Rio Grande do Sul but first, a couple of days spent in the tiny town of Pinheira seemed about right.
Later during that week, Gramado and Canela turned out to be one more classic example for the mismatch between what Brazilians think is great and what we consider so. While Canela is a pretty little town, Gramado is much bigger, very touristic, though in a well kept “German style”. All in all, much better than Blumenau but still not quite our cup of chimarão.
So the best part of the journey was the one between the coast & the cities, two days spent exploring the huge canyons close by the little town of Cambara do Sul. With the nights being frosty cold, the days turned out to be amazingly sunny and clear. Both canyons, one called Itaimbézinho and the other one called Fortaleza, are accessible through well managed, easy hikes. The most adventorous bit is the crossing of the stones just above a waterfall.
During the second hike, we were lucky enough to observe two playful foxes from a short distance; though the most impressive animal on the trip was a onça – a Jaguar – in the Zoo of Gramado.
It’s easy to see why the German and Italian settlers who came to Brasil towards the end of the 19th century were drawn to the highlands of Santa Catarina; commonly known as vale europeu – European valley – today.
Unlike the coast, the highlands, which reach from 700 to 1800 meters in altitude, have a cool and rainy climate and even snow in winter; not unsimilar to the country of origin.
Beyond the climate, it is the landscape that reminded me of Southern Germany: timber plantations, onion fields and apple trees, large green fields dotted with cows & chicken and occasional remnants of the Mata Atlantica. Were it not for the occasional palm tree or the less occasional banana plantations, one could almost forget that this is Southern Brazil.
Benefiting from the long Carnival weekend, we escaped any potential festivities by driving first down to Urubiçi, then to the Serra do Rio do Rastro, where we were greeted by absolutely zero visibility at the lookout and a bunch of quatis.
Driving the Serra down one day and up the other, we still got to enjoy a some spectacular sights. Touristically, the vale europeu has lots to offer: from zip-lining over a waterfall, to rafting in the Itaiji-Açu river – one of the best in the entire country it seems – and many, pretty waterfalls.
The only downside was the rather cool & rainy weather in what is supposed to be summer. Though, upon returning to Curitiba, we learned that it had been raining for 5 days continuously…
to mark the beginning of a historic city centre than by an ugly, high-rising and abandoned construction site.
Admittingly, we should have known what to expect from Blumenau at exactly this moment in time. Still, as Germans living in Southern Brazil, we had been asked “Have you been to Blumenau?” so many times, that we assumed that there must be something worth-while visiting.
To frame it positively, one could argue that Blumenau has the authentic charm of many other historic city centres in Brazil: two dozens or so of old buildings and in between some of the ugliest architectural sins the 1960s and 1970s had to offer.
To be fair: the city centre is clean, it’s safe to walk even on a Sunday (note to self: never visit city centres on Sundays – shops are closed!) and the few historic buildings that harbor banks like Santander, Bradesco or Itaú, have been artfully restored, probably by the funds of the very institutions they house.
A part from that?
At least, we didn’t spend too much time on it.
As I have found little to no English information online, here is a rough guide for hiking on the Ilha de Santa Catarina.
- We ignored Florianopolis, the capital – lovingly nicknamed Floripa – and drove straight to the other side of the island
- We stayed overnight in Barra da Lagoa and did 2 longer walks, 11 km each with 4 km optional*
- The first tour starts directly in Barra da Lagoa, on the other side of the pretty blue pedestrian bridge. Just ask the locals for a trilha and you’ll be shown were to go.
- Follow the lightly beaten path – there is no other till reaching Praia Mole.
- Take the road for a km or so direction Lagoa da Conceição till your GPS** (seriously, take one) indicates a path to Praia de Cravata.
- Enjoy the sights there but stop walking before getting your legs all scratched by these:
- For the second tour, we drove to the South of the Island and parked the car close to the Praia matadeiro
- The trail starts by taking left after crossing the little river on a small wooden bridge.
- Keep on walking, cross the next beach – at the end of it, you’ll find the continuation of the path.
- Up in the mountains it goes, and on and on till reaching the praia of Lagoinha do Leste – a beach that’s only accessible through trails.
- After a good break and another walk by the beach, find the wooden sign indicating the trail to Pantana do Sul and from here the bus back to where your car stands.
Honestly, the trails are sometimes not more than a washed out stream, in other words: steep, slippery and occasionally muddy. I hence highly recommend good hiking shoes even if you meet invariable and infallibly a Brazilian doing the same trail wearing floppies. Also take something to eat and lots to drink as there is sometimes a bit of infrastructure but sometimes not.
For us, it was very enjoyable to hike along this rough coast with its chilly winds alternating dense vegetation and lonely beaches.
É muito recomendado!
* Optional as in either taking the bus or walking back by the road
** We’re using the OsmAnd app as you can actually see the trails if zooming in closely enough.
is not always the easiest thing to do.
Being pampered by Having grown up with German standards, hiking in Brazil is something more of an adventure. The first challenge is usually to know of the existence of ‘a trilha’ – a hiking path – and the 2nd is to find the very same.
In the Northeast, the latter was close to impossible as ways were simply not marked or only accessible through private ground or – worse – through sugar cane fields. Coming South, we had already been advised that winter is the best time for hiking as it’s less hot and as there are less annoying animals – think spiders, snakes or mosquitoes – around.
So with a long four-day weekend and a glorious weather forecast ahead, we went to Ilha de Santa Catarina to explore the local surroundings.
What shall I say?
It was beautiful!!
2 and a half amazing hikes over hills, through forests and along beaches, spotting wild goats* on one day and dolphins on the next. Add to this pretty flowers, mighty rocks and the great feeling to be out of the office, out of the city for a change: marvelous!
* OK, probably ‘only’ tame goats gone wild but who cares… They had a little one!!
Full story coming soon…