By Beatriz Miranda, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – In the Central-Southern region of Rio’s state lies the town of Miguel Pereira, only two hours away from the capital. Possessing a peaceful countryside atmosphere, Miguel Pereira, part of Rio’s 1700s and 1800s coffee era, combines cultural and natural attractions in the town also known to have the best climate in the state of Rio.
Even though Miguel Pereira is young as an independent political-administrative unit, its history goes back to the seventeenth century, when the region was economically exploited by sugar cane and coffee activities. Originally called Vila da Estiva, Miguel Pereira experienced a significant demographic boom in the beginning of the twentieth century when the Italians, Japanese, Arabs, and Germans migrated to the region.
Considered an important touristic site in Rio’s Central-South, Miguel Pereira today attracts visitors for its various cultural and culinary festivals celebrating local beer and trout. The region’s most traditional celebration is the Tomatoes Festival, which takes place in the neighboring city of Paty dos Alferes. Held in June, the festival hosts contests and sells local handicrafts and traditional foods.
For party goers, a great season to visit Miguel Pereira is during Carnival. Despite being smaller than the capital’s massive festivities, Miguel Pereira’s carnival attracts crowds from across the region who are looking for fun, a fair variety of “blocos”, and shows with important Brazilian artists.
A little-known fact, Miguel Pereira owns the title of the “world’s third-best climate” (and the best climate of the state of Rio as well), with an average temperature of 24 Celsius degrees and located 618 meters above sea level. During the 1970s, Miguel Pereira was also known as “the city of roses” because of the flowers disposed along the local railroad.
Visitors looking for natural attractions should check out some of Miguel Pereira’s stunning waterfalls, like Sete Quedas, Santa Branca, Roncador, Andorinhas, Monte Líbano, and Vera Cruz. Even though they can become really cold during winter, all are appropriate for swimming. Vera Cruz stands 82 meters high. The surrounding area is well developed in terms of infrastructure; it has a bar and a barbecue place.
Another nice way to spend a relaxing, sunny afternoon in Miguel Pereira is visiting the lake at Lago de Javary. One of the city’s landmarks, Lago de Javary is perfect for a nice walk and getting a breath of fresh air in the open green space. In the area that surrounds the lake, it is possible to go horseback riding or take a coach ride. Another great option for families is enjoying a 15-minute pedal boat ride on Lago de Javary.
Apart from its natural beauty, Miguel Pereira also offers a variety of cultural sites, such as the Museu do Trem, located in the former train station of Governador Portela (a neighboring district). The museum contains a rich collection of photos and relics from Miguel Pereira’s history. There is also the museum, Francisco Alves, named after the Brazilian singer and dedicated to his career; he was a frequent visiter of Miguel Pereira.
In the neighboring city Paty dos Alferes, it is worth checking out the Cachaça Museum, the first of its kind in Brazil dedicated to the distilled spirit. Those who appreciate buying local handicrafts should check out FENART, Miguel Pereira’s street market, where several local artisans gather to sell their products. The fair, however, only takes place in October/November, during Miguel Pereira’s anniversary celebration.
Like most touristic countryside towns in Brazil, Miguel Pereira is proud to have great culinary delights which can easily be found in the town’s local stores. Doces Carmen’s homemade sweets, Arcozelo supermarket’s tomato bread, Queijaria Judith’s cheeses, Sítio Solidão’s cheeses, and Bebel’s artisanal chocolates are just some of the treats one must try when in Miguel Pereira.
For grabbing a bite to eat, restaurants like Estação de Javary and Maria Fumaça serve great homemade food. For a more sophisticated option, restaurant Summer Garden stands out for its contemporary dishes. Its Steak au Poivre is certainly one of its highlights.
To reach Miguel Pereira from Rio de Janeiro, one must take BR-116.