By Michela DellaMonica, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – There is more to Rio state than amazing beaches and exciting nightlife. Located just 200 kilometers from downtown Rio is the hilltop region of Visconde de Mauá, combining several relaxing and inviting small villages in the Serra da Mantiqueira mountain range.
A district of Resende, Rio de Janeiro state, Visconde de Mauá is formed of the Mauá, Maringá and Maromba hamlets, encompasses the diverse valleys of Vale das Cruzes, Vales das Flores, Alcantilado, Pavão and Grama, and boasts more than 100 waterfalls, several of which are open to the public.
Set right on the state boundary, a short footbridge in Maringá-RJ connects visitors to Minas Gerais, referred to as Maringá-MG, and a quaint little village with several restaurants and small boutiques.
A wealth of options make finding somewhere to stay in Visconde de Mauá largely trouble-free, with offerings including several individual log-cabin pousadas (guesthouses) with beautiful, pine tree-lined views of the nearby hills and streams. Some even house private waterfalls and natural pools, like Pousada Jardim das Águas, while Pousada Casa Bonita has a two-man hot tub next to the ice-cold flowing waters. Both offer excellent food and can include lunch or dinner as well as a sizable breakfast (included).
Most of the restaurants specialize in the region’s finest local ingredients; fresh trout and pine nuts. Mauro Junior Restaurante, located in Maringá-MG, is well-known for its large portions of delicious trout, homemade soups and gnocchi dishes.
For a true experience of Brazilian comfort food, Gosto com Gosto located in the center of Visconde de Mauá offers traditional, award winning fare from Minas Gerais. Smaller boutiques offer homemade chocolates, truffles, doce de leite spreads and candy, which all make for great gifts. For beer enthusiasts, the local brew to enjoy is Serra Gelada, a golden beer brewed right in Visconde de Mauá with fresh water from the falls.
To balance out the relaxing atmosphere and delicious comfort food, there are many different ways to best absorb the stunning views and magnificent waterfalls and natural pools. The tour company Remorini Aventuras offers an array of adventurous activities to choose from such as a five-waterfall tour, a 9-hour group tour by Land Rover, rappelling, kayaking and zip-lining.
The Land Rover tour begins at 11AM with stops in Alcantilado, Vale das Flores, strolls through the small villages of Mirantão and Santo Antônio, an opportunity to buy homemade parmesan cheese from Dona Teresa and all ending up with dinner at the restaurant owned by the tour guide’s mother.
Elsewhere, the Museu Duas Rodas, a motor history museum located in Alcantilado, is home to some 300 antique bicycles and motorcycles. Surrounding the museum there are small hiking trails and a cute farm with horses, chickens and cows.
A direct bus line operated by Cidade do Aço from Rio’s Rodoviária Novo Rio bus station is only available when leaving on Friday at 7:30PM and returning on Sunday at 4PM. The journey takes around 4.5 hours and costs R$50 each way. At other times, passengers can take an hourly bus from Rio and must change in Resende, from where a regular service heads up to Visconde de Mauá. Also be aware that there are no banks in the area and some guesthouses and restaurants do not accept credit cards.