By Beatriz Miranda, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Only a one and a half hour drive from the capital of São Paulo, Holambra is considered the city with the strongest Dutch heritage in Brazil. In contrast to the gray metropolis, Holambra is a charming little oasis that attracts tourists to its stunning flower gardens, well-preserved Dutch traditions and even alligator farms.
The first settlers arrived from the Netherlands by the end of the 1940s, escaping from the Second World War.
Then, around five hundred dutch immigrants started to economically develop that Northwestern area from São Paulo state through agriculture and livestock.
In 1998, Holambra gained the title of São Paulo’s Touristic Venue. It was in 2011, however, when the São Paulo’s Dutch settlement was nominated as Brazil’s Capital of Flowers. From then on, Holambra – whose name is formed by the first syllables of Holland, America and Brazil – became a relevant touristic destination.
Also known as Brazil’s garden, Holambra became a prominent flower producer in the 1970s. Today, the city is the biggest flower exporter in the entire Latin America. The most famous and most expected event in Holambra is the Expoflora fair, which happens in September every year. Apart from the gorgeous tulips exposes, the event gathers hundred of people for its cultural attractions, like typical Dutch dances and live music.
Even though Expoflora is a must-go festival for botany lovers, it usually gets really crowded. For those looking for a chilled tour, a good alternative is visiting the flower farms in other seasons. Most of the farms can be visited during the entire year, where one can see chrysanthemums, gerberas, roses, among other species. A two-hour tour organized by tourism agencies usually starts from R$30 per person.
The city offers diverse attractions for the ones interested in experiencing the Dutch cultural heritage. Situated at Holambra’s downtown is the “Moinho Povos Unidos”, a 38 metter-high mill, the biggest in Latin America. There, one can have a nice view of Holambra from the top, and also listen to miller Flores Welle’s stories on his Dutch family and Holambra’s traditions.
The Holambra’s Historical and Cultural Museum is worth the visit for those who want to learn more about the city.
Also situated in Holambra’s town, the museum owns a collection with over 2000 photos, films and domestic objects. In the outdoor area, there are former machines and tractors used by the immigrants, as well as replicas of the houses where the first settlers used to live.
The City of Flowers is also the right destination for food lovers, with a good variety of of restaurants, bars, breweries and candy stores. At Rancho da Cachaça (Cachaça Ranch), one can find Brazilian homemade food in a ranch atmosphere. As the name suggests, the place has its own production of cachaça, and visitors are invited to visit the destillery. The restaurant requires previous reservation for the weekends.
Zoet en Zout is a great place for those who want to try typical Dutch sweets. The most famous is Rozen Gebak, made of white chocolate and roses. In addition, traditional German and Dutch dishes can be found at the restaurant Martin Holandesa, while Schornstein Brewery offers seven different beer types. Situated inside the brewery is the Schornstein Krug bar, whose menu includes dishes like the kassler krug, with smoked pork, saffron rice, mashed apples and coleslaw.
If an exotic attraction is what you are looking for, the Sítio Estrela do Leste Arurá is definetely a must-go spot. The farm raises jacarés-de-papo-amarelo, a typical alligator species from the Atlantic Forest. Authorized by IBAMA, the Brazilian Institute of Environment, the farm is a protection area. There, one can see the alligators and also buy its frozen meat. The visitation lasts approximately 50 minutes.
To get to the City of Flowers from São Paulo city, one must get the Anhanguera Road until KM 86 (which is signalized as Exit 86). At SP-340 Highway, there will be signals indicating the way to Holambra.
From Rio de Janeiro, one should take Presidente Dutra Road until the city of Jacareí, turning in D. Pedro I Highway afterwards (with destination to Campinas). On the Exit 134 (KM 134), there will be an indication to SP-340 Highway (destination Mogi Mirim), which should be followed until KM 141.