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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The northernmost point on the Litoral Gaúcho, 197km from Porto Alegre, TORRES is the state’s one beach resort that is actually worth going out of your way for. It’s considered Rio Grande do Sul’s most sophisticated coastal resort, and the beaches behind which the town huddles, Praia Grande and Prainha, are packed solid in the summer with gaúcho and Uruguayan holidaymakers. However, by walking across the Morro do Farol (a hill, identifiable by its lighthouse) and along the almost equally crowded Praia da Cal, you come to the Parque da Guarita, one of the most beautiful stretches of the southern Brazilian coast. The development of the park was supervised by the landscaper Roberto Burle Marx together with Brazil’s pioneer environmentalist, José Lutzenberger.
Rio Grande and around
Rio Grande and around
RIO GRANDE was founded on the entrance to the Lagoa dos Patos in 1737, at the very southern fringe of the Portuguese Empire. With the growth of the charque and chilled-beef economy, Rio Grande’s port took on an increasing importance from the mid-nineteenth century. Rather more spread out than Pelotas, it does not share that city’s instant charm. However, you’ll find some distinguished-looking nineteenth-century buildings in the area around Rua Floriano Peixoto and Praça Tamandaré (the main square), which is almost next to Largo Dr Pio and the much-renovated eighteenth-century Catedral de São Pedro. Among the city’s museums, you’ll want to visit the Museu Oceanográfico at Rua Reito Perdigão 10 (daily 9–11am & 1.30–5.30pm; R$5), perhaps the most important of its kind in Latin America and stuffed with fossils and preserved sea creatures. Also worthwhile is the Museu Histórico da Cidade do Rio Grande on Rua Riachuelo (Tues–Sun 9–11.30am & 2–5.30pm), whose photographic archive and objects trace the city’s history. The museum is housed in the old customs house (alfândega), a Neoclassical building built in 1879.