The coast of Rio Grande do Sul, or the Litoral Gaúcho, is a virtually unbroken 500-kilometre-long beach, dotted with a series of resorts popular with Argentines, Uruguayans and visitors from Porto Alegre and elsewhere in the state. In winter the beaches are deserted and most of the hotels closed, but between mid-November and March it’s easy to believe that the state’s entire population has migrated to the resorts. The attraction of this stretch of coast is essentially one of convenience: from Porto Alegre many of the resorts can be reached within two or three hours, making even day-trips possible. These resorts tend to be crowded, while – due to the influence of the powerful Rio Plate – the water is usually murky, and even in summer Antarctic currents often make for chilly bathing. Of the resorts, the only one really worth visiting is Torres, featuring impressive cliffs and rock formations. Further south, birdwatchers are drawn to the Parque Nacional da Lagoa do Peixe, while towards the Uruguayan border are the ports of Pelotas and Rio Grande, their grand nineteenth-century buildings testimony to the cities’ former prosperity.
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