Soft-contoured hills dotted with small farms, towns rich in colonial history, ecotourism and great food and drink are some reasons to explore the Coffee Valley -- Vale do Paraíba -- in Rio de Janeiro State. Some readers may have noticed I'm lovingly partial to this corner of Brazil: my mother is from Miguel Pereira; our family had a small vacation home in Mendes when my brother and I were growing up.
The region is named after its history as the center of a booming Coffee Cycle in the 19th century, and at historical farms such as Cachoeira Grande, in Vassouras, you can take it easy, go hiking, eat country-style home cooking and learn about the past in tours, reenactments, or leisurely chats with the farm owners.
Though coffee gave the region its name, cachaça - another traditional product from these hills - has taken great strides thanks to several fine distilleries. The annual Coffee, Cachaça and Chorinho, in the fall, and Festival Vale do Café, in the winter, are fantastic opportunities to explore the area, which is pleasant year round.
- Fazenda Cachoeira Grande, Vassouras, RJ
- More About Vale do Paraiba's Coffee Farms: Instituto Preservale
Photo courtesy of Fazenda Cachoeira Grande.