By Ben Tavener, Senior Contributing Reporter
SANTA CATARINA, BRAZIL – Santa Catarina is one of three states in Brazil’s Região Sul (South Region), along with Paraná and Rio Grande do Sul. It is a place of contrasts, boasting beautiful beaches, stunning scenery and quaint cities that are home to southern Brazil’s melting pot of European migration.
A range of different cultures have made the wildly-varying landscapes of Santa Catarina their home, and the old cliché that “it has something for everyone” surely holds true here – despite being one of Brazil’s smaller states, at just 95,346 km², a little bigger than Portugal or the U.S. state of Maine.
With nearly 350 miles (560km) of coastline, one of Santa Catarina’s biggest pulls for tourists are its pristine waters and high-quality beach resorts, set against mountainous backdrops.
The state capital, Florianópolis – known locally simply as “Floripa” – is considered to have among the best living standards in Brazil.
Sat astride an inlet of water, the city is located mainly on a mountainous island – the Ilha de Santa Catarina – which boasts fabulous beaches, lagoons and some of the most luxurious accommodation and restaurants in the country. But there are options to fit all budgets here, particularly out of peak season.
The Bombinhas headland, north of Florianópolis, has some of the best beaches Santa Catarina has to offer, and the slightly cooler waters of Garopaba (meaning big waves), make the city a mecca for surfers.
For other thrill-seekers, Santa Catarina offers a number of locations with exhilarating rapids which allow white-water rafting, with Ibirama considered one of the best places in the country.
And for those who want their thrills and spills served up without getting wet, the resort city of Penha is also home to Beto Carrero World, the biggest theme park in the South Hemisphere and Latin America – and includes big rides, a zoo and a variety of shows.
Aside from the beaches, the themes parks and the many water sports that the state offers, one of the biggest attractions here are the mountain ranges, with their stunning canyons, waterfalls and hiking trails.
Inland, towards the south in the state, the picturesque mountain town of Urubici is the closest town to Morro da Igreja (Church Hill), which provides striking panoramic views.
It is also renowned for people having their picture taken with the Pedra Furada (Drilled Stone) in the background, and for those missing the winter chills of Europe or the U.S., this area is said to experience the coldest temperatures in Brazil – and snow is possible here.
The signs of European migration in this corner of Brazil are hard to miss, particularly in the architecture, and the locals are living proof of the waves of German, Italian and Portuguese migration that came to the area.
Every year, people descend on the city of Blumenau, arguably the most German-influenced area in Brazil, which plays host to the Brazilian version of Germany’s biggest international event – Oktoberfest.
A number of airlines fly to Florianópolis International Airport (FLN) from cities throughout Brazil, as well as from neighboring Uruguay, Argentina and Chile (seasonal).
Buses run to Santa Catarina (to Joinville and Florianópolis, among others) from a number of cities, including São Paulo, Curitiba and Porto Alegre.