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By Alison McGowan Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Whilst Brazil’s famed cities of Rio de Janeiro and Salvador have been the most popular ports of call for foreign tourists, a shift is beginning to occur. Within tougher economic times, independent travelers want more for their money, so it is no surprise that one of the key travel trends for 2011 is ‘off the beaten track’.

Nature's entertainment in South Pantanal, Mato Grosso do Sul
Experience nature in South Pantanal, Mato Grosso do Sul, photo by Hidden Pousadas Brazil.

In Brazil, off the beaten track can be a veritable adventure. Getting to your destination might involve several lengthy boat trips; jeep rides along dirt roads wading through the jungle, or even a helicopter ride.

But the journey is very much part of the experience, and however long it takes to get there, it is undoubtedly rewarding when paradise unfolds.

This year memorable travel experiences can be found in the beautiful tropical wetlands of the South Pantanal, Mato Grosso do Sul, where its amazing wildlife and incredible landscape are key attractions. Staying in one of the areas Fazendas (farms) offers personalized tours and plenty of comfort. Fazenda Baia Grande in Miranda and Fazenda Baia das Pedras in Nhecolândia go the extra mile to provide welcoming and friendly hospitality.

Flying to Campo Grande is straightforward, however it becomes less so as you get deeper into the Pantanal. Expect a minimum of three hours by bus to get to Miranda from Campo Grande and seven hours to Nhecolândia by jeep. Like most hidden gems, they are not always easy to find, but well worth the effort when you do.

Alagoas Ecological Route along the Costa dos Corais (coastline) has had a surge in popularity as a destination for eco-tourism. The 20km stretch between Barra de Camarugibe in the south and Porto de Pedras in the north is known as the Rota Ecológica (Ecological Route) – acknowledging the environmental and community development being done by local pousadas.

Rota Ecológica, Alagoas, a small state in northeastern Brazil
Rota Ecológica, Alagoas, a small state in northeastern Brazil, photo by Hidden Pousadas Brazil.

Wonderful inns dotted along the unspoilt beaches, include, Pousada Côté Sud, Pousada da Amendoeira and Pousada do Toque.

To get to the Rota Ecológica, fly to either Maceió or Recife and then you’ll have a two-hour drive either route. This is a place where hiring a car is beneficial, as public transport is very limited.

Minas Gerais, north of Belo Horizonte is an extraordinary and magical place that people enjoy returning to again and again. Diamantina, Milho Verde and São Gonçalo are colonial towns that are sites of geological and anthropological interest.

Outside high season these sleepy destinations have very little traffic and quaint cafes to sit and soak up the scenery. These are also delightful places to take hikes and explore the many mountains, waterfalls and caves of the north. Pousada Relíquias do Tempo, Diamantina, Pousada Luar do Rosário, Milho Verde and Pousada do Capão, São Gonçalo are just a few places that are well located to do so.

It is possible to drive or take the bus from Belo Horizonte or Brasilia to get to Diamantina and although the journey is long, the picturesque scenery more than makes up for it. However to get to the other towns, public transport is intermittent at best and hiring a car provides a lot more freedom to explore.

For more information on where to stay in Brazil visit Hidden Pousadas Brazil.

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