By Beatriz Miranda, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – In the countryside of southern Minas Gerais, one can find the city of Gonçalves, a popular destination among São Paulo’s residents only two and a half hours away. Here visitors can indulge in life’s simple pleasures, like appreciating a shot of artisanal cachaça or the stunning waterfall.
Situated 202 kilometers away from São Paulo, and 472 kilometers from Belo Horizonte, Gonçalves stands out for its majestic araucaria forests and cozy countryside atmosphere, characterized by small farms, folk guitar shows, and rustic ox-wagons.
Called by many as the “Pearl of the Mantiqueira mountain range,” Gonçalves is also famous for its incomparable natural beauty, attracting tourists for its trails, rivers, peaks, and waterfalls.
Nature lovers will find Gonçalves a true paradise. One of the city’s best waterfalls is Cachoeira das Sete Quedas. Located in the neighborhood Retiro, this attraction possesses various small falls and natural pools. Open to visitors on weekends and holidays, Sete Quedas can be accessed through the Gonçalves-São Sebastião das Três Orelhas road.
Also impressive is the Cachoeira das Andorinhas, composed of a seven-meter-high and a ten-meter-high waterfall. Possessing an interesting rock formation, natural pools, and being easily accessible, Andorinhas is a great option. To access this fall, one must take the Gonçalves-Martins road.
Another very most famous waterfall is Funil, only 6 kilometers away from the city center. Additionally, the Simão, Henriques, and Cruzeiros waterfalls are also highly recommended.
Known for its high concentration of local organic producers, Gonçalves is the place to be for those into a healthy culinary experience. One of the coolest food experiences in the city is visiting its organic food fair, the “Feira de Orgânicos da Mantiqueira”, which takes place every Saturday. From 9AM to 1PM, one can find fresh vegetables, homemade bread, fruit jams, among other products.
Gonçalves’ great culinary fame is also present in many of its diverse restaurants. For a sophisticated menu, one should check Restaurant Sauá, situated in the Pousada Bicho do Mato lodge, offering great contemporary plates and a breath-taking panoramic view.
Refined food Lovers should also try the dishes from Geminus Gastroart, whose menu blends international cuisine techniques with traditional recipes from Minas Gerais.
For homemade pasta, pizzas and fondues, especially prepared with local organic ingredients, one should go to Porto do Céu Restobar. With a more informal atmosphere, artisanal cachaças and typical meals can be found at Juá de Capote, situated right next to the Cachoeira do Simão waterfall.
As every touristic city of Minas Gerais, Gonçalves has plenty of small art ateliers, selling bamboo home decor articles, ceramics, clothes, sculptures, paintings, among other handicrafts. What’s more, one can find delicious treats, like cheeses, fruit jams and sweets in places like “A Senhora das Especiarias” and “A Pioneira”, both in the city center.
To go to Gonçalves from São Paulo, one must take the Dutra Highway, direction São José dos Campos until Road SP 050. One must follow this road until the municipality of São Bento do Sapucaí, where the road to Gonçalves can be found.
From Rio de Janeiro, one must also take the Dutra Highway until Floriano Rodrigues Pinheiro Highway (Taubaté), direction Campos de Jordão. Turn into Santo Antonio do Pinhal, direction Southern Minas Gerais. After São Vento do Sapucaí, take the road to Gonçalves.