By Georgia Grimond, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Inland and far from the beaches for which Brazil is so famous for lies an equally unspoiled and expansive delight – the cerrado of Goiás. Covering over two million km-squared, it is one of the largest areas of biodiversity in the country with a selection of seemingly endless fauna and flora.
The charming colonial town of Pirenópolis is only 150 km from Brasília, and is a good place to stay and serves as excellent base for exploring the countryside. Originally founded during a gold rush in the 1700s, the town has a rich history and a number of festivals to celebrate it.
The Festa do Divino do Espiríto Santo begins fifty days after Easter Sunday and ends thirty days later with the Festival de Cavalhadas when riders on horses re-enact a battle between Christians and Moorish invaders. With music, fireworks, elaborate red and blue costumes and paper-maché masks, it is a three-day fiesta for everyone to enjoy.
The town itself is collection of low, colored houses that meander down through down the hills. The Nossa Senhora do Rosário church sits at its centre and restaurants and shops fill the surrounding streets. Occasionally, clattering along the cobbles, mounted cowboys head through town.
The surrounding area has a number of impressive waterfalls to walk between and bathe in. They are often on private land and so it is usual to pay a fee at the entrance and then wander along trails through the countryside, stopping off for a dip along the way.
A large and delicious, authentic local lunch is on offer at the Rosário waterfalls. The farm there has a sloping timber-framed building where they serve a huge buffet of local food, along with hand-crafted cachaças.
Henry Kite from Rio who went recently with friends said, “I was impressed by the array of dishes, there were maybe forty, with lots of stews and curries I hadn’t tried before.” He went on, “I’d particularly recommend the pork scratchings though, they are without a doubt the best I’ve had in Brazil!”
Not far from Pirenópolis is another renowned culinary stop-off. Vagafogo is a farm set in beautiful surroundings with a wealth of wildlife. In the Nineties its owners created an educational, environmental and ecotourism model to preserve and promote the land. There are a number of trails to follow as well as adventure sports to do but the best thing here is brunch.
Using all natural produce and unusual fruits from the area, the family lay on a seemingly never-ending brunch which showcases the jams and preserves they make on site. It includes homemade yoghurt and cheese, pulled pork, freshly squeezed juice, steaming hot waffles and pão de queijo, along with tens of jam and chutneys, all for R$40 per person. The owners have a particular affection for the British as they received funding in the past from the British embassy and Prince Philip has been to visit.
Flights to Brasília are less than two hours from Rio making it an ideal weekend getaway at this time of year. To get to Pirenópolis, it is best to hire a car in Brasília as many of the attractions are a good drive from the town centre and often down dirt roads. However, four buses a day leave Brasilia for Pirenópolis (R$24.53).
There are a number of pousadas in the town, as well as many in the surrounding countryside. Some farms rent out self-catering cottages via AirBnB. For information about your trip, please visit the town’s official website.