February 2001

The Hills Are Alive

The road to Teresópolis first passes the sinuous curves
of a padded green jungle, and then winds and climbs past bald peaks,
which have poked through the jungle, cover to touch the clouds.


Petrópolis is a lovely mountain retreat with a decidedly European flavor. It's only 60 km from Rio de Janeiro, making it an ideal day trip. Petrópolis is where the imperial court spent the summer when Rio got too muggy, and it's still the home of the heir to the throne, Princess Isabel's grandson, 78-year-old Dom Pedro de Orleans e Bragança. He runs a real-estate business, and can often be seen riding his horse around town.

Wander around, visiting Petrópolis' attractions, or ride by horse and carriage through the city's squares and parks, past bridges, canals and old-fashioned lamps.


From any newsstand or souvenir shop, you can pick up a copy of the Guia de Petrópolis, in Portuguese and English, for $6. It's even sold at newsstands in Rio.

Walking Tour

This tour is around four km and takes about two hours, including time spent at the attractions. Start at the Catedral São Pedro de Alcântara, which houses the tombs of Dom Pedro II, Dona Teresa and Princesa Isabel.

As you leave the cathedral, turn right down Rua 13 de Maio and walk a couple of hundred meters past some crummy shops, until you reach the river. Cross over and turn left for the Palácio Cristal, an iron-and-glass structure built in France, then imported in 1879 to serve as an orchid hothouse. Continue down Rua Alfredo Pachá. You'll see the Bohemia beer brewery on your right. Sorry, no free samples.

Turn left again into Avenida Rui Silvera and go down to Praça Rui Barbosa. Cut across the park to the right, and up towards the pink university building with the floral clock in front. Next door, perched up high, is the Casa de Santos Dumont, the interesting summer home of Brazil's father of aviation. It's open Tuesday to Sunday from 9 am to 5 pm. Go in and have a look.

As you leave, turn right and start walking uphill, then turn right at the first street on your right. There's a sign advertising the Hotel Margaridas. Keep walking uphill, always taking the right fork, until you reach the Trono de Fátima, a 3.5-meter sculpture of Nossa Senhora de Fátima Madonna, imported from Italy. From here you have a great view of the town and surrounding hills.

Head back down the hill, past the university and through Praça Rui Barbosa (you may want to grab a drink in the park), then along Avenida Koeller, where you'll pass some fine mansions. Turn right at Avenida Tiradentes and make your way up to Petrópolis' main attraction, the Museu Imperial, housed in the perfectly preserved and impeccably appointed palace of Dom Pedro II. One interesting exhibit is the 1720-gram imperial crown, with its 639 diamonds and 77 pearls. The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday from noon to 5.30 pm; it costs $0.30 to get in.

For Places to Stay and Places to Eat read the book.


For a drink in elegant surroundings, try Casa d'Angelo, on the corner of Rua do Imperador and Rua da Imperatriz. In the suburb of Itaipava, there are lots of nightspots along the Estrada Bernardo Coutinho.

Getting There & Away

From Rio, buses to Petrópolis leave every half-hour from 5 am onwards. The trip takes 1 ½ hours and costs $2.50.

Around Petrópolis

If you have the use of a car, take a ride out on the Estrada Industrial. It's 70 km to the little church of São José de Rio Preto. You'll pass a few good restaurants on the way.

In Itapaiva, visit the Recanto porcelain factory. In Pedra do Rio, find the hiking trail to the Rocinha waterfalls in the Secretaria neighborhood, and then visit the farms and ranches of Posse.


Vassouras, a quiet resort 118 km north of Rio, was the most important city in the Paraíba valley in the first half of the 19th century. Surrounded by the huge fazendas of the 19th-century coffee barons, the town still wears the money they poured into it. They were literally barons, for 18 of them were given titles of nobility by the Portuguese crown. With the abolition of slavery in 1888 and the resulting decline in coffee production, Vassouras' importance diminished, and this preserved the town.

Museu Chácara da Hera

Vassouras' favorite grande dame is the noble heiress Eufrásia, a woman who claimed devotion to Vassouras despite palaces in London, Brussels and Paris. Her home, the Museu Chácara da Hera, is on Rua Fernandes Junior, and is open Wednesday to Sunday from 11 am to 5 pm.


There are a few old churches in the Center, as well as old buildings of the schools of medicine, philosophy and engineering, but the real attractions of Vassouras are the coffee fazendas. Unfortunately, if you don't have a car, you're in for some long hikes. Although the historical preservation institutes protect the fazendas, permission must be obtained from the owners before touring the grounds. For more information, ask at the Casa de Cultura, next to the cinema on Praça Bardo do Campo Belo.

Nine km from town is the Fazenda Santa Eufrásia, one of the oldest in the area, dating from the end of the 18th century. If you have a car, take the road to the small town of Barão de Vassouras, five km away. Pass through the town, and after three km you'll see the impressive Fazenda Santa Mônica, situated on the banks of the Rio Paraíba. The Fazenda Paraíso and the Fazenda Oriente are further out on the same road.

For Places to Stay and Places to Eat read the book.

Getting There & Away

The bus station is on Praça Juiz Machado Jr., frequent buses make the 2 ½ -hour trip to Rio ($6). The first leaves at 6.45 am, with others leaving every 1 ½ hours after that.


Do as Empress Teresina did and escape the steamy summer heat of Rio in the coot mountain retreat of Teresópolis (910 meters), the highest city in the state, nestled in the strange, organ-pipe mountains of the Serra dos Órgãos. The road to Teresópolis first passes the sinuous curves of a padded green jungle, and then winds and climbs past bald peaks, which have poked through the jungle, cover to touch the clouds.

The city itself is modern, prosperous and dull. The principal attraction is the landscape and its natural treasures—in particular the strangely shaped peaks of Pedra do Sino (2263 meters), Pedra do Açu (2230 meters), Agulha do Diabo (2020 meters), Nariz do Frade (1919 meters), Dedo de Deus (1651 meters), Pedra da Ermitage (1485 meters) and Dedo de Nossa Senhora (1320 meters). With so many peaks, it's no wonder that Teresópolis is the mountain climbing, rock climbing and trekking center of Brazil.

There are extensive hiking trails in the region, and it's possible to trek over the mountains and through the jungle to Petrópolis. Unfortunately the trails are unmarked and off the maps, but it's easy and inexpensive to hire a guide at the national park, or go with a group organized by one of the hiking and mountaineering clubs in Rio.

Teresópolis is not simply for alpinists: it's a center for sports lovers of all kinds. The city has facilities for motocross, volleyball and equestrian activities—many of Brazil's finest thoroughbreds are raised here—not to mention soccer. The city bears the distinction of hosting Brazil's World Cup soccer team.


Teresópolis is built up along one main street, which changes names every few blocks. Starting from the highway to Rio in the Soberbo part of town and continuing north along the Avenida Rotariana (with access to the national park), the road is renamed Avenida Oliveira Botelho, Avenida Alberto Torres, Feliciano Sodré and then Avenida Lucia Meira. Most of the sites are west of the main drag and up in the hills. The cheap hotels are found in the neighborhood of the Igreja Matriz de Santa Tereza, Praça Baltazar da Silveira.


Tourist Office The Terminal Turístico tourist office is in Soberbo, at the intersection with the road to Rio. It's open daily from 8 am to 11 pm, and the view of Rio from the office is great. If you're traveling by bus, however, it's a hassle to get to; you can pick up the same maps at the tourist stand on Avenida Lúcio Meira, which is open Monday to Friday from 8 am to 5 pm.

Post & Telephone The post office is on Avenida Lúcio Meira. The rodoviária has a phone station for long-distance telephone calls.

Parque Nacional da Serra dos Órgãos

The main entrance to the national park is open daily from 8 am to 5 pm (admission $0.25). The 3.5-km walking trail, waterfalls, swimming pools, tended lawns and gardens make this a very pretty park for a picnic.

Other Attractions

The Mulher de Pedra (Rock Woman) rock formation, 12 km out towards Nova Friburgo, really does look like a reclining woman.

Colina dos Mirantes is a good place to view the Serra dos Órgãos range and the city. On clear days you can see as far as the Baía de Guanabara. To get there, take Avenida Feliciano Sodré. The Quebra Frascos, the royal family of the Second Empire, lived in this neighborhood. The best spot for viewing the Dedo de Deus peak is from Soberbo.

For Places to Stay and Places to Eat read the book.

Getting There & Away

The rodoviária is on Rua Primeiro de Maio, off Avenida Tenente Luiz. Buses to Rio depart every half-hour from 5 am to 10 pm ($4, 1 ½ hours, 95 km). There are seven buses to Petrópolis (from 6 am to 9 pm), and plenty to Novo Friburgo.

Getting Around

To get to the park from the city center, take the hourly `Albuquerque Soberbo' bus ($0.50). Its last stop is the Terminal Turístico in Soberbo.


During the Napoleonic Wars, Dom João VI encouraged immigration to Brazil. At the time, people were starving in Switzerland, so in 1818, 300 families from the Swiss canton of Friburg packed up and headed for Brazil. The passage to Brazil was horrible; many died, but enough families survived to settle in the mountains and establish a small village in the New World.

Like Teresópolis and Petrópolis, Nova Friburgo has good hotels and restaurants, as well as many lovely natural attractions: waterfalls, woods, trail, sunny mountain mornings and cool evenings. (it's chilly and rainy during the winter months, from June to August.) The Cônego neighborhood is interesting for its Germanic architecture and its apparently perpetually blooming flowers.


Tourist Office The tourist office on Praça Dr Demerval B Moreira is open daily from 8 am to 8 pm. As well as maps, they have a complete list of hotels, including the cheapest, with updated prices.

Post & Telephone Both the post office and the telephone office are on Praça Getúlio Vargas. There's also a branch of the post office at the bus station.

Things to See & Do

Most of the sights are a few km out of town. Scout out the surrounding area from Morro da Cruz (1800 meters). The cable-car station is in the center, at Praça do Suspiro. Cable cars to Morro da Cruz run from 10 am to 6 pm on weekends and holidays. Pico da Caledônia (2310 meters) offers fantastic views, and launching sites for hang-gliders. It's a six-km uphill hike, but the view is worth it.

You can hike to Pedra do Cão Sentado, explore the Furnas do Catete rock formations, or visit the mountain towns of Bom Jardim (23 km north on BR-492) or Lumiar (25 km from Mury and a little bit before the entrance to Friburgo). Hippies, cheap pensions, waterfalls, walking trails and white-water canoe trips abound in Lumiar.

For Places to Stay and Places to Eat read the book.


The place to go is Baixo Friburgo, Rua Francisco Sobrinho, opposite the Friburguense Football Clube. There are four bars in a row—Ancoradouro, Campestre, Deixo Saudade and Frago Legal. On Friday and Saturday nights, it's packed.

Things to Buy

Cinderela Artesanato works with semiprecious stones and sells heraldic family shields. Praça Getúlio Vargas has shops where homemade liqueurs and jams are sold. Nova Friburgo bills itself as the lingerie capital of Brazil, and there are lots of factory outlets around town.

Getting There & Away

Nova Friburgo is a little over two hours ($6) by bus from Rio via Niterói on 1001 Lines. The ride is along a picturesque, winding, misty jungle road. From Novo Friburgo, buses to Rio leave every half-hour to an hour from 5.40 am. To Teresópolis there are four daily buses, at 7 and 11 am, and 3 and 6 pm ($4, two hours). If you're heading to the coast, an adventurous trip is to catch a bus to Lumiar and from there catch another to Macaé.

Getting Around

The local bus terminal is behind Praça Getúlio Vargas. Local buses go to just about all the tourist attractions. Ask for details at the tourist office.


The Itatiaia region, a curious mix of Old World charm and New World jungle is comprised of Itatiaia, Penedo and Visconde de Mauá. This idyllic corner of Rio de Janeiro state was settled by Europeans—Penedo, by Finns, Itatiaia and Visconde de Mauá by Germans and Swiss—but it is now popular among Brazilians of all ethnic groups. Resende is the main center for the area.

The climate is alpine temperate and the chalets are Swiss, but the vegetation is tropical and the warm smiles are purely Brazilian. There are neatly tended little farms with horses and goats, and small homes with clipped lawns and flower boxes, side by side with large tracts of dense jungle untouched by the machete. This is a wonderful place to tramp around green hills, ride ponies up purple mountains, splash in waterfalls and blaze jungle trails without straying too far from the comforts of civilization—a sauna, a fireplace, a soft bed, a little wine and a well-grilled trout! Budget travelers beware: the region is frequented by wealthy Cariocas and Paulistas, so food and accommodation tend to be expensive.

The region lies in the Serra da Mantiqueira's Itatiaia massif, in the northwest corner of Rio de Janeiro, and borders the states of São Paulo and Minas Gerais. The Parque Nacional do Itatiaia is due north of the Serra de Bocaina. Itatiaia Turismo (511-1147), at Rua Visconde de Pirajá 540 in Rio, arranges weekend bus tours from Rio to Penedo, Visconde de Mauá and Itatiaia.


Resende, the largest city in the area, is the transport hub for Penedo and Visconde de Mauá. Resende has no tourist attractions, but it is the home of Brazil's military academy (Academia Militar das Agulhas Negras) and a university.

For Places to Stay and Places to Eat read the book.

Getting There & Away

Buses from Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo go to and from Resende several times a day. From Resende it's reasonably easy to hitch, or catch a taxi or bus to your final destination. Cidade de Aço lines runs 11 buses a day to Resende from Rio, the first leaving at 7 am and the last at 9 pm ($6, 2 ½ hours).

Excerpts from Brazil - A Travel Survival Kit, 3rd edition, by Andrew Draffen, Chris McAsey, Leonardo Pinheiro,  and Robyn Jones. For more information call Lonely Planet: (800) 275-8555. Copyright 1996 Lonely Planet Publications. Used by permission.

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Brazil - A Travel Survival Kit

by Andrew Draffen, Chris McAsey,
Leonardo Pinheiro, Robyn Jones,

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