Updated on Jan.1, 2013
Trancoso awaits visitors with beaches set against cliffs, coconut groves and rainforest, balmy nights and the most famous village green in Brazil.
Crowded during the summer and particularly on the New Year holiday, Trancoso is a wonderful destination year round. May to September tend to be the drier months; November and January, two of the rainiest.
The Brazilian praça, or square, still a focal point for socializing in so many small towns, is often a circular area in front of the main church - the word praça implies no square angles.
Trancoso's Quadrado (literally, "Square") is a rectangular village green lined with about 60 brightly colorful little houses and ancient trees. It is capped by the pretty, all-white São João Batista church at the end closest to the cliff by the beach.
The Quadrado - closed to cars - and Mirante, the lookout point behind it, make up the vital center of Trancoso life, with capoeira, evening soccer games, boutiques, eateries, and charming pousadas.
How Trancoso Came to Be
Trancoso, a district of Porto Seguro in southern Bahia, was founded by Jesuits in 1586 under the name São João Batista dos Índios. The tiny 16th-century church on the Quadrado, built by indigenous people, is one of the oldest in Brazil.
For centuries, Trancoso lay in isolation on its pristine stretch of Discovery Coast. Sought by hippies in the 1970s and more recently by former big city folk and the wealthy and famous, the village has become more sophisticated, but remained beautifully rooted in its native essence.
Trancoso beaches are, to the north of the Trancoso River below the Quadrado: Praia dos Nativos, Rio da Barra and Taípe (site of Club Med and said to be part of Arraial d'Ajuda). South of the river, you'll find Coqueiros, Rio Verde, Ponta de Itapororoca and Itaquema. They're all beautiful; the south beaches have more beach bar options.
About eight miles south of the Quadrado, a gorgeous Discovery Coast beach deserves a stay for at least one night: Praia do Espelho.
New Year's Eve in TrancosoNew Year's Eve in Trancoso has such a powerful lure that the best way to guarantee reservations at local hotels is to start checking prices early in the year, preferably no later than February.
Getting a head start also means you can work out payment plans that allow you to break the skyrocketing package prices into monthly installments.
What's so special about the Trancoso New Year's Eve? A mix of beautiful people, cool parties, and traditions - wearing white, lighting candles on the beach, offering gifts to Iemanjá.
Find the right place for you among Trancoso hotels and pousadas.
Staying in a house might well be the ideal way to enjoy everything Trancoso has to offer. You'll find all kinds of vacation rentals, from stunning design homes to charming and tiny bungalows. Some of the best houses in their own category are:
Also check local vacation rental listings on the Trancoso Receptivo website (www.trancosoturismo.com.br).
Hotels made up of houses are an important part of what makes Trancoso so quaint. In late 2008, two stellar additions made it easier to have a temporary place all your own right on the Quadrado:
Shopping in Trancoso
Nighttime shopping or just leisurely browsing is one of the fun things to do in Trancoso. Here are some of the beautiful things you'll find, especially in the Quadrado area:
- Ceramics by Calazans
- Paintings and crafts by Damião and Joelma
- Recycled paper and plastic objects by Urubu Rei
- Furniture and decorative wooden objects at Marcenaria Tavani and Marcenaria Trancoso (www.marcenariatrancoso.com.br)
- Fashions by brands such as Richards and Osklen at the boutique at Pousada Etnia
- Books at Livraria Nobel
- Unique objets d'art at Cheia de Graças by Laila Assef (www.lailaassef.com.br)
- Clay and papier-mâché sculptures by Carmen Martins
Besides the shops, Trancoso has a fair at the entrance to the Quadrado every evening at about 5 p.m.
Monte Pascoal National Park, named for the mount the Portuguese spotted as the first sign of land as they approached the Bahia coast in April 1500, is a must-see in the Trancoso area.
Visiting an indigenous village is not only interesting, but also a way to help the tribe through ecotourism and the purchase of crafts. Of the Pataxó villages on the Discovery Coast, one of the most seriously involved in ecotourism is Coroa Vermelha.
Trancoso Receptivo (www.trancosoturismo.com.br) offers tours to Pataxó villages - contact them in advance so they can provide English-speaking guides.
In Trancoso, you're near the state-of-the-art Terravista Golf (www.terravistagolf.com.br), one of the top local attractions.
Life at the Quadrado takes a pause after lunch.
Catch some action before the need for an afternoon nap catches up with you:
- Go surfing at Itaquena Beach. That's where local boys organize Surf Point Trancoso in August. Trancoso also has good kitesurfing.
- Try capoeira the Mirante, at Casa da Cultura on the Quadrado or by the Uxua Praia Bar.
- Go bike riding with Natural Ecobike (www.naturalecobike.com)
- Go diving, horseback and bike riding, or fly on a plane or chopper with Trancoso Receptivo (www.trancosoturismo.com.br)
Trancoso FolkloreTrancoso folklore is rich and carefully kept alive by nativos, with the help of enthusiastic biribandos (non-native residents). The Quadrado is the best place to join in ancient traditions such as Puxada de Mastro (pronounced pu-SHA-da de MAS-tro, meaning "mast pulling"), a ritual which dates back to the catechization of indigenous tribes.
Join in the festivities - and maybe help with some muscle work - as a tall mast bearing the saint's flag is raised in fron of São João Batista Church for the celebration of St. Sebastian (Jan.20), St. Braz (Feb.3) and during Festas Juninas, especially on June 24, local patron St. John the Baptist's day.
Food & Nightlife
Pricier Cacau (73-3668-1266, dinner) serves Bahia cuisine. So does Silvana (73-3668-1049, lunch and dinner); try the famous moqueca.
Maritaca (Rua Carlos Alberto Parracho) is the place for pizza and draft beer or wine (dinner only). El Gordo, at the pousada by the same name, has sea views and cachaça to go with international cuisine.
Enjoy grilled sandwiches and nightlife at Tostex Praia, on Praia dos Nativos.
Villas de Trancoso is worth the drive for a meal.
How to Get to Trancoso:
First, you need to get to Porto Seguro. American Airlines' nonstop flights to Salvador (daily) and Belo Horizonte (three times a week), launched in late 2008, helped create fun itineraries with the capital of Bahia and BH/Historic Cities. You can fly from BH to Porto with Gol or from Salvador to Porto with TAM, for example.
There are taxis straight from Porto Seguro to Trancoso ($100 and up).
To save money, you can stop in Arraial D'Ajuda, separated from Porto Seguro by the Buranhém River. Take an inexpensive taxi ride from the Porto Seguro airport to the docks, take the ferry boat and, from Arraial, take a bus or a van to Trancoso. Taxi rides from Arraial to Trancoso cost R$90 ($40 in Feb.09).