Colorful colonial houses and church in the city of Tiradentes in Brazil.

8 Most Charming Small Towns in Brazil

Rivers snake through the Amazon Rainforest, picture vibrant festivals, fiestas in the favelas, and a deep love for football and bossa nova. This is Brazil—a country where Christ the Redeemer opens His concrete arms to all travelers and locals everywhere. Subsequently, Brazil's most charming small towns truly welcome eager tourists who crave sunny beaches, festive history, and the unspoiled sensations of Brazilian nature. From beachside towns where the Atlantic tides kiss the Brazilian coasts to those embraced by the fierce and dynamic ecosystems in Brazil’s thick thickets, visitors will feel like an explorer braving the mystery and magic of Brazil’s most charming small towns.


View of Paraty in Brazil on a sunny day
View of Paraty in Brazil on a sunny day.

Prepare to party in Paraty, an enchanting small town backed by mountains on Brazil's Costa Verde. Paraty is located between Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo and boasts plenty of pristine beaches, such as the immaculate Praia de Trindade (Trindade Beach). One can be treated to stunning views in the fjord-shaped inlet of Saco de Mamanguá or on the mountain peak of Pão de Açúcar do Mamanguá. Splendid natural features like Serra da Bocaina National Park and Fazenda Bananal are not the only attractions to relish.

As a historic town originally inhabited by the indigenous Guaianá people, the Portuguese established a colony in the 17th century to mine gold in the Minas Gerais region. The Forte Defensor Perpétuo stands as a perpetual reminder of Paraty’s colonial past. In addition, the Alambique Paratiana and Maria Izabel are a few locations to view Paraty’s cachaça distillery. For those needing to refresh after all the beachside or historic travels, let Pousada Pomar Paraty, Pousada Lira Praieira Paraty, or Pousada Solar das Margaridas wash away the tension.

Ouro Preto

Ouro Preto, Brazil.
Ouro Preto, Brazil.

Mountains of gold were buried beneath Brazil’s jungles, and the town of Ouro Preto (Black Gold) was the focal point of the Brazilian Gold Rush in the 17th to 18th centuries. As one of Brazil's many UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the hills of Minas Gerais, Ouro Preto is composed of baroque architecture best embodied by the St. Francis of Assisi Church, created by renowned architect Antônio Francisco Lisboa (Aleijadinho). Another magnificent baroque cathedral is the Basílica Nossa Senhora do Pilar. The Inconfidência Museum, where one can learn all about the town’s gold-mining history, can be found in the Praça Tiradentes (Tiradentes Square). Or you can go directly to the historic tunnels at the Mina du Veloso and Minas da Passagem. Whichever course folks take, check out the Hotel Recanto do Ouro, Pousada do Montego or Mirante Hotel for a rest.


Colorful colonial houses and church in city of Tiradentes - Minas Gerais, Brazil
Colorful colonial houses and church in the city of Tiradentes.

Located at the foot of São José Mountain range, the captivating colonial town of Tiradentes invites travelers with all sorts of amenities. Like Ouro Preto, which is only a three-hour drive away, Tiradentes functioned as a Portuguese mining town in the 18th century. For years, it has been isolated from much of the social and political activity at the time. Regardless, the town was named after the great Joaquim José da Silva Xavier, also known as Tiradentes—the revolutionary leader of Inconfidência Mineira that established Brazil as a republic from Portugal’s rule.

Nowadays, people come to Tiradentes to see the marvelous baroque structures like the Church of San Antonio, Largo das Forras, and the Chafariz de São José (Fountain of St. Joseph). People can ride through the historic Maria Fumaça Trem (Smoking Mary Steam Train) and take pictures of the beautiful Cachoeira do Mangue (Mango Waterfall). Do consider staying at one of the many fine lodgings in Tiradentes, like Pousada Canarinho, Pousada Brisa da Serra, or Pousada Richard Rothe.


Beautiful aerial view to historic church building in the small city of Morretes.
Beautiful aerial view to historic church building in the small city of Morretes.

Need a riveting escape from the festive and crowded cityscape of Rio de Janeiro? Then, trek through the vibrant ecosystems of Paraná State and spend your time in Morretes. About 42 miles from Curitiba, the historic town exudes an atmospheric blend of colonial and modern templates, as best exemplified by the Nhundiaquara Bridge. One can take a sinuous train journey through the mountainous Serra do Mar or hike through the verdant rainforests of Marumbi State Park or Ekôa Park. Meanwhile, the Hisgeopar Theme Park revitalizes Morretes’ history through miniatures and models, even having small replicas of Brazil’s other main attractions like the Itaipu Power Plant and the Iguazu Falls. While touring Morretes, sample the traditional and exquisite Barreado dish—lastly, book rooms at the Pousada Graciosa or Porto Real Palace Hotel!


Trancoso, Porto Seguro, Bahia. Aerial view of Rio da Barra beach
Trancoso, Porto Seguro, Bahia. Aerial view of Rio da Barra Beach in Brazil. 

Many flock to Brazil for the spectacular beaches. But so often are those beaches bothered by heavy tourist traffic. Fortunately, Trancoso is one of Brazil’s best-kept secrets for beachgoers and sea lovers. Once a former fishing village, the town’s uncomplicated simplicity piqued the intrigue of celebrities like Naomi Campbell, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Beyoncé. Indeed, Trancoso’s Cuadrado, a grassy square in the town center, was featured briefly in Beyoncé’s Blue. Trancoso’s aquamarine beaches are the main allures of this heartwarming vila, so why not dip your toe or wade merrily through the golden sands of Praia dos Coqueiros and Praia do Espelho? Nearby, the Rio da Barra is a gorgeous river estuary showcasing the diverse wildlife abundant in Brazil’s coasts. Let Trancoso’s serene and sublime breezes lull you to luxury, especially while staying at the UXUA Casa Hotel & Spa, Casa da Vila, or Casa de Perainda.

Morro de São Paulo

Natural pools of Morerè in Morro de Sao Paolo, Brazil. Incredible natural formations, crystal clear water, floating boats
Natural pools of Morerè in Morro de Sao Paolo, Brazil. 

The carefree village of Morro de São Paulo beckons travelers with all the sun and fun one can savor. Approximately 37 miles from Salvador, Morro de São Paulo is located on the northeastern tip of the magnificent Tinharé Island, one of three inhabited islands in an archipelago composed of 26 islands. There are many extraordinary beaches brimming with natural charm and historic allure, many of which are ordered numerically, as seen in Primeira Praia (First Beach, an excellent spot for surfing), Segunda Praia (Second Beach, a pristine cornucopia of seaside restaurants), and so forth.

Meanwhile, the vibrant pools of Moreré, accessible during low tide, promote a tranquil aquatic experience amidst coral reefs. Aside from being a beach paradise, the town houses the 17th-century Fortaleza de Tapirandú, a historic testament to the island’s strategic role in repelling Dutch invasions from the Atlantic Ocean. There are many more historic and natural marvels to enjoy in Morro de São Paulo, so you might need to rest up at the Pousada Patuá do Morro, Pousada Minha Louca Paixão, or Hotel Morro de São Paulo.


Sucuri River or Rio Sucuri in Bonito
Sucuri River or Rio Sucuri in Bonito, Brazil.

Most people spend their time on the Brazilian beaches or colonial Portuguese towns. But Brazil is all about the biodiversity and verdant ecosystems that breathe life to the whole planet. The town of Bonito—situated in the State of Mato Grosso do Sul and near the border of Paraguay—is an ecotourist paradise for those who want to engage in Brazil’s wild outdoors. Travelers can swim through the crystal-blue, life-abundant waters of the Rio da Prata.

One can traverse the mesmerizing and labyrinthine Gruta do Lago Azul (Blue Lake Grotto), one of many caves, such as the Cathedral Cave, São Miguel Caves, and the Abyss of Anhumas that challenge spelunkers to Brazil’s strange underworld. Bird lovers will certainly enjoy the iridescent dance of the Brazilian jungle’s inhabitants at the Buraco das Araras sinkhole. Most importantly, visitors can take exquisite photos of dynamic waterfalls like the Estância Mimosa and Parque das Cachoeiras. Do not worry about where to clean up because fine lodgings like Marruá Hotel Bonito and Selina will attend to your daily needs.


City of Pirenópolis, state of Goiás, Brazil and its colonial architecture.
City of Pirenópolis, state of Goiás, Brazil, and its colonial architecture. Image credit Sandra Moraes via Shutterstock.

In the Goiás State at the heart of the Brazilian Cerrado, Pirenópolis is a bustling and captivating hive of historical wonderment and natural splendor. As yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the town is home to restored 18th-century landmarks like the Igreja Matriz de Nossa Senhora do Rosário. Surrounding Pirenópolis are acres of unconquered nature, best seen in the Vagafogo Wildlife Sanctuary and the Serra dos Pirineus National Park. Visitors will fall in love with the cascading waterfalls of Cachoeira do Lázaro, Vargem Grande Reserve, and Cachoeira do Abade. Do not miss out on the annual Cavalhadas de Pirenópolis in May, a colorful and traditional horse-riding reenactment celebrating the town’s heritage. In addition, the Museu Rodas do Tempo illustrates the transportation history in Brazil, while the Casa da Cultura exhibits the local arts and crafts of the region. Do not forget to book rooms at the Joia Rara Pousada, Relais Amadeus, or Casa de Frida Pousada Galeria.

Brazil has endured many changes, from deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest, colonialism from the Portuguese, and the eradication of many diverse cultures. But many other changes have contributed to Brazil’s grand revival and growth, and the most charming small towns in this verdant country celebrate these festive transformations. Whether spelunking in the caves of Bonito, wading through the azure waves in Trancoso and Paraty, or learning about Brazil’s golden past in Ouro Preto and Tiradentes, Brazil’s charms will stay with travelers like a memorable samba!

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