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Exploring Brazil, Beyond Rio

From stylish São Paulo to adventures in the Amazon – there’s a lot more to this country than the Olympic host city

  • Photograph by Mr Marcelo Isola

With its stunning landscapes, buzzy restaurants, samba-fueled nightlife, and hedonistic beach culture, it’s no wonder that Rio de Janeiro tops every traveller’s Brazil wish list. But there’s far more to this sprawling country than the beaches of Ipanema and Christ the Redeemer. Jump on an internal flight for a few hours and you’ll be presented with lush reserves and dense rainforests, not to mention some of the world’s best modernist architecture and contemporary art. Here, a few suggestions of where to stay once the Olympic flame has been snuffed out.

Trancoso

  • Photograph by Mr Fernado Lombard

Trancoso is to Brazil what the Hamptons is to New York: the ultimate fashionable seaside playground. For years, it has attracted power players from Rio and São Paulo and fashionistas such as Mr Mario Testino. Yet, walk through the Quadrado, the grassy colonial town square, and you’ll see locals on bicycles and horseback, high-kicking capoeira classes and spear fisherman bringing back the daily catch. Here, local culture, craft and gastronomy are prized and protected in favour of huge numbers of tourists, so you won’t find many hotels but plenty of rentals. However, Uxua Casa hotel, located right on the square, was given its license on the basis that it would contribute to the community in the form of a capoeira school. Made up of a network of fisherman’s cottages, it is owned and designed by Dutchman Mr Wilbert Das in collaboration with artisans from the area.

Insider tip: ask at reception to book a boat ride to the divine Sushi da Mel, a beach shack restaurant at the jaw-dropping Praia do Espelho.

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What to pack

  • Outerknown Printed Camp-Collar Organic Cotton and Hemp-Blend Shirt

  • Converse Deck Star 70 Canvas Slip-On Sneakers

Salvador

  • Photograph courtesy of Hotel Convento

Billed as the “first historic luxury hotel in Brazil,” Convento do Carmo is a base from which to explore Salvador, the Portuguese colony’s original capital, and the epicenter of Afro-Brazilian culture and the slave trade that came with it. Originally a Carmelite convent founded in 1592, the hotel retains its distinctive colonial features such as domed ceilings and shady cloisters. It’s located right in the heart of Pelourinho, the city’s historic centre, known for its riot of pastel-coloured buildings. Salvador is a food and music town. Try the acarajé (deep fried bean cakes) and moquecas (a fish and coconut milk stew) at the restaurant Amado. And ask about attending a Candomblé ceremony, to experience the local religion based on West African beliefs brought over by slaves and fused with Catholicism.

Insider tip: check out the outdoor jazz jam sessions at the Bahia Museum of Modern Art as the sun sets.

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What to pack

  • James Perse Slim-Fit End-On-End Linen Shirt

  • Marni Leather Sandals

Inhotim

  • Photograph by Mr Marcelo Coelho

Full disclosure: at the moment, there is no fabulous, heart-stopping hotel in the immediate vicinity of Inhotim. That hasn’t stopped virtually every world-class art collector, curator and gallerist from paying a visit because Inhotim is one of the best outdoor museums in the world, featuring monumental artworks by Mses Yayoi Kusama and Doris Salcedo and Messrs Doug Aitken, Chris Burden and Matthew Barney, among many others. There are several hotels nearby (the museum website helpfully provides a guide), but most of the art world stay at the Mercure in Belo Horizonte, a perfectly pleasant if unspectacular hotel about an hour away.

Insider tip: head to Pampulha for the Mr Oscar Niemeyer-designed buildings, which include a church and art museum.

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What to pack

  • Officine Generale Mélange Cotton-Jersey T-Shirt

  • Tomas Maier Slim-Fit Drawstring Cotton Trousers

Fernando de Noronha

  • Photograph courtesy of Pousada Maravilha

This volcanic archipelago, 220 miles off Brazil’s northeastern coast, is as remote as it is stunning: dramatic cliffs, lush forests and white sand beaches cover this UNESCO World Heritage Site and national marine park. But where to stay in this otherworldly island? The ecologically minded Pousada Maravilha. The resort is comprised of five bungalows – each with its own hot tub – and three apartments; all the rooms are equipped with private hammocks, there is a shared infinity pool, and a restaurant serving local seafood. Oh, and the staff to room ratio is a comforting 5:1. However, tourism to the island is regulated, which means you must plan in advance and may cross a celebrity on your morning jog.

Insider tip: ask the hotel to organise an excursion to view the turtles and dolphins, or a dive.

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What to pack

  • Orlebar Brown Bulldog Mid-Length Swim Shorts

  • Frescobol Carioca Copacabana Linen-Jacquard Towel

São Paulo

  • Photographs courtesy of Hotel Fasano

There’s only one place to stay in Brazil’s chic metropolis: the Fasano. The family’s empire includes properties in Rio and Boa Vista, as well as in Punta del Este in Uruguay, but the original hotel, in high-1930s style (think travertine fireplaces, hand-woven carpets, and leather club chairs), remains the most iconic. Located in the Jardins district, it is walking distance from Mr Alex Atala’s destination restaurant DOM (widely regarded as one of the best in the Americas). The family have their own foodie legacy. Mr Vittorio Fasano, the patriarch who emigrated from Milan to São Paulo in 1902, opened the Brasserie Paulista. The Fasano restaurant within the hotel, does a mean white truffle risotto.

Insider tip: São Paulo boasts an incredible trove of modern architecture. Don’t miss out on Lina Bo Bardi’s Casa de Vidro (“Glass House”), built in 1951.

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What to pack

  • Boglioli Navy Houndstooth Linen and Cotton-Blend Blazer

  • Zenith Elite Moonphase 40mm Stainless Steel and Alligator Watch

Manaus

  • Photograph by Mr Marcelo Isola

Most trips to Brazil aim to include the Amazon, but then it’s often the first thing cut off the itinerary when you visit one of the fleshpot cities. Big mistake. A flight to Manaus in the north-west, followed by a seaplane to the Anavilhanas Jungle Lodge is well worth the effort. From the treehouse cottages, you can spot sloths and toucans, and as you venture out into the unknown you may see alligators, capybaras and pink dolphins from your canoe. Also on offer are night hikes and trips to indigenous communities with local guides who will also teach you about survival strategies and medicinal plants.

Insider tip: save some time for Manaus the city, if only to visit the Teatro Amazonas opera house, depicted in Mr Warner Herzog’s 1982 film Fitzcarraldo. It has Murano chandeliers, Carrara marble columns and a dome covered with 36,000 tiles painted in the colours of the Brazilian flag.

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What to pack

  • Patagonia Arbor 26L Canvas Backpack

  • Arc'teryx Motus Phasic Cap

Reserva do Ibitipoca

  • Photograph by Mr Marcio Brigatto

A 4,000 hectare reserve in the mountainous Minas Gerais state, Ibitipoca has an abundance of waterfalls, rivers, and caves – and is best explored on horseback. The reserve’s eight-suite inn, which includes a sauna, hydrotherapy spa and its own stables, was built originally as a farmhouse in 1715; it even has a private airstrip. To really get away from it all, rent one of the three stand-alone houses powered by solar energy. From here you can discover the colonial towns like Ouro Preto, founded at the height of the Brazilian Gold Rush (in 1750, with an estimated 80,000 inhabitants, it boasted twice the population of the New York of the same era). Its churches and squares are among the most beautiful in the country.

Insider tip: to really get a feel for the area’s history, organise an excursion to a decommissioned gold mine like Mina da Passagem, the largest mine open to the public in the world.

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What to pack

  • Theory Zaine S Stretch-Cotton Twill Shorts

  • RRL Printed Cotton Bandana

Itacaré

  • Photograph courtesy of Txai

Txai is a luxurious resort just south of Itacaré, a sleepy colonial town in Bahia. The setting is an environmentally protected area where a dense, mountainous rainforest tumbles into the shore. The sustainable yet immaculate bungalows are made of bamboo and palm trees – some of them just a few barefooted steps from the beach, while others are dotted about the surrounding hills, affording expansive ocean views. Make sure to book an afternoon at the spa, Shamash, which specialises in treatments derived from indigenous cultures and using medicinal herbs and spices harvested from Bahia.

Insider tip: Itacaré is a well-known surfing destination. The biggest waves are from June to August; the rest of the year is ideal for beginners. If you’re more of a landlubber, sample the delicious local chocolate in the cocoa farms.

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What to pack

  • Cutler and Gross D-Frame Tortoiseshell Acetate Sunglasses

  • Master & Dynamic ME05 Palladium-Coated In-Ear Headphones