By Alison McGowan, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Carnival may well be Brazil’s most famous celebration, and the place the rest of the world wants to be, but for many locals who have seen it all before and dislike the hordes of people, Carnival signals a time to escape the city and take a well-deserved holiday.
If you are still searching for a last minute break, sufficiently cut off from the folia (revelry), here are a few suggested locations perfectly suited for uninterrupted relaxation.
Just outside Rio de Janeiro, around an hour and a half’s drive away, is the wonderful historic town of Petrópolis, a favorite mountain retreat of by-gone Emperors when things got too hot in Rio.
There is a lot of sightseeing to do in the town itself but if you are just looking for cool accommodation or a place to relax head a bit further on to the village of Araras. Once over the ponte verde or green bridge, you will find the Pousada Solar da Ponte Verde, a hideaway, which is truly idyllic.
This pousada nestles at the foot of two mountains, the Pedra de Amarylis and Maria Comprida, and is super comfortable. The suites are spacious, with beautiful views; the pool and sauna are perfect for lounging and the gourmet vegetarian meals prepared by the owners create the perfect opportunity to detox and unwind.
If you happen to be in a different part of Brazil – up north in Salvador da Bahia, you can pack your car and take an extended road trip to Lençois (4-5 hours away) and then on to the Vale do Capao (Capao valley), which sits right in the heart of the Chapada Diamantina national park. This is an area of outstanding beauty and flat-topped mountains.
The valley itself is 1000 meters high and staying at Pousada Lagoa das Cores, means looking out onto incredible panoramic views. This pousada manages to combine eco-friendly principles with comfort and style, complete with all the luxuries like a hot tub, sauna, pool and restaurant. The choice is yours – either go for an amazing hike up the valley, or simply laze in the hammocks.
Want to escape Carnival in Minas Gerais? Forget well known tourist spots like Ouro Preto, and head 180 kilometers south of Belo Horizonte towards the part of the Camino Real (Royal Way), which runs towards the little town of Solar dos Montes. This is home to the Fazenda Santa Marina – a family run and beautifully preserved colonial ranch.
There are a number of fazendas like the Santa Marina all built around the same time in the early 1800s, originally to produce food for the local gold and diamond mining community. Although the gold is long gone, much of the food consumed in the fazenda is still locally produced and cooked on original wood-burning stoves.
This is a great place to find peace and quiet, surrounded by just hills, lakes, waterfalls and wildlife. The fazenda offers guests the luxuries of king-sized beds, designer toiletries and wonderful Indian spa treatments. It is one place where you can truly enjoy being cut off from the rest of the world, with no internet or mobile phone access and definitely not a Carnival foghorn in sight.