São Paulo, the country’s most populous state and home to by far its biggest city, is Brazil’s economic powerhouse. Home to nearly half the country’s industrial output, it is also an agricultural sector that produces, among other things, more orange juice than any single nation worldwide. Its eponymous city boasts a dizzying variety of cultural centres and art galleries, and the noise from its vibrant fashion and music scenes is heard around the globe. Although most people come to the state in order to visit the city merely for business, São Paulo has numerous attractions other than the concrete jungle at its heart. The beaches north of the important port of Santos – especially on Ilhabela – rival Rio’s best; those to the south, near Iguape and Cananéia, remain relatively unspoiled. Inland, the state is dominated by agribusiness, with seemingly endless fields of cattle pasture, sugar cane, oranges and soya interspersed with anonymous towns where the agricultural produce is processed; additionally, some impressive fazenda houses remain as legacies of the days when São Paulo’s economy was pretty well synonymous with coffee production. To escape scorching summer temperatures, or for the novelty in tropical Brazil of a winter chill, you can head to Campos do Jordão, one of the country’s highest settlements and a kitsch Alpine-style resort seen through a peculiarly Brazilian lens.
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