São Luiz do Paraitinga
São Luiz do Paraitinga is a town and municipality in the Vale do Paraíba region, in São Paulo state. Its historical center, containing hundreds of constructions from the XIX century, is a national heritage site. Located in the middle of Serra do Mar State Park, an Atlantic rainforest reserve, the municipality of São Luiz do Paraitinga is also a popular destination for trekking and rafting.
As much of the Paraíba Valley, São Luiz do Paraitinga never recovered from the decline of coffee farming and became a stagnant - but wonderfully preserved - historical city. Eventually, the city's Carnival and traditional (caipira) events turned it into a magnet for both party-goers and those interested in cultural tourism. In 2002, São Luiz do Paraitinga was declared a resort municipality by the São Paulo state government, gaining access to special funding for the development of touristic activities.
In 2010, the city was struck by a flooding of the Paraitinga river, which greatly damaged part of the city's historical heritage. As response, in the same year, the historic center of São Luiz do Paraitinga was declared a national heritage, allowing the city to use federal funding for its reconstruction process.
In 2014, the city's Historical Center was practically entirely reconstructed.
Access to São Luiz do Paraitinga is possible using Rodovia Osvaldo Cruz (SP-125) which links Taubaté to Ubatuba. From São Paulo or São José dos Campos, Taubaté can be reached using Rod. Presidente Dutra (SP-60/BR-116).
Intercity buses to São Luiz do Paraitinga depart from Taubaté and are operated by São José. Buses are not very frequent so it is better to reserve in advance. The bus trip takes about 1 hour and costs R$ 9.70 on weekends (as of June 2013).
The city center can be easily explored on foot. However, to explore the Serra do Mar State Park, it is necessary to use a car or to hire a tour agency, such as Paraitinga Turismo.
Capela Nossa Senhora das Mercêsaddress: Ladeira das MercêsColonial-style chapel constructed in the end of the 17th century. The current building is a reconstruction as the original one was destroyed in the 2010 flooding.
House of Dr. Oswaldo Cruzaddress: R. Oswaldo CruzA rammed earth house, constructed 1834, where the famous Brazilian physician Oswaldo Cruz lived.
Largo do Teatroaddress: Rua Monsenhor Ignácio Gióia, Centro HistóricoA picturesque spot containing the Nossa Senhora do Rosário church and beautiful colonial-style houses.
Igreja de Nossa Senhora do RosárioGothic-style church constructed in the end of the 19th century.
Praça Oswaldo Cruz
Igreja Matriz São Luiz de TolozaThe city's central church was built in the 19th century. The church was practically destroyed in the 2010 flooding, and rebuilt in May 2014.
Parapitinga trailaddress: Parque Estadual Serra do Mar - Núcleo Santa VirgíniaMedium-difficulty trail, with 5700 m and taking about 4 hours round-trip. In the trail it is possible to observe three waterfalls and a view of the valley of the Parapitinga river.
Pedra do Corcovado trailaddress: Parque Estadual Serra do Mar - Núcleo Santa VirgíniaThe Corcovado rock is the main attraction of Núcleo Santa Virgínia, providing a fantastic view of the sea. To access it, however, it is necessary to pass through a high difficulty trail that takes 8 hours round-trip.
address: Estrada do Pinga km 2,5 - CatucabaAs the name says, it is a trail that passes through 7 waterfalls, containing also a panoramc view. It is located in a private property (the pousada) Refúgio das Sete Cachoeiras, where the trail must be booked. It has medium difficulty and takes about 4 hours round-trip.
São Luiz do Paraitinga offers a practically year-round agenda of traditional caipira cultural events.
Festival de MarchinhasHappening in second half of January, it is a festival and a competition of locally composed Marchinhas (a traditional Brazilian music genre).
Carnaval de MarchinhasHappening in the first half of February, it is the city's largest and most famous event. The crowds fill up the streets of the Historic Center and of the Catuçaba district, with Marchinhas being the dominant music.
Holy weekThe city's traditional Easter celebrations happen in the second week of April, from Friday to Sunday. The celebrations include an open-air passion play, a night procession around the city's historic center, the Malhação de Judas party and the crowning of Our Lady of Aparecida.
Festa do divinoFirst half of May. The city's most important religious event and one of the oldest caipira traditions of the state. It consists of diverse religious celebrations, musical and dance performances, typical food (including the pastel de farinha and the afogado), and plays with the city's pair of giant dolls, João Paulino and Maria Angú. The afogado is freely distributed during the celebrations. The money to organize the event is collected by the festeiro ("partygoer") who wanders the municipality for the entire previous year asking for donations.
Corpus ChristSecond half of May. During this day, the citizens decorate their houses using flowers, sawdust, coloured lime and cheap materials, culminating into a religious procession.
Arraiá do Chi Pul PulFirst half of June.
Winter SeasonThe whole month of July.
Caipira Cuisine PartyFirst half of August.
Elpídio dos SantosSecond half of September.
Festa do SaciFirst half of October.
Christmas celebrationsThe whole month of December.
São Luiz do Paraitinga is a city that takes pride on authenticity, so you won't find shops and markets selling general tourist trinkets. There are a only few handicraft shops, spread in the Historical Center. Check also the fairs at the Municipal Market.
São Luiz do Paraitinga's trademark dish is the afogado (stewed beef with cassava flour). It be tasted at the Municipal Market and at the city's various festivities. A popular snack is the pastel with corn flour.
Restaurante Sol Nascentephone: +55 12 3671-1400address: Largo das Mercês, 21 - CentroCombines Japanese with Caipira food.
phone: +55 12 3671-1466address: R. Cel. Domingues de Castro, 121 - CentroCaipira food and pizza.
phone: +55 12 99179-6939address: Rodovia Oswaldo Cruz, Km 35 - São Luiz do ParaitingaProducer of the "Mato Dentro" handmade cachaça, that won several national awards.
phone: +55 12 3671-6158address: Bairro do Pinga, Catuçaba districtFarm resort hotel popular among foreigner visitors. It is composed of a large farmhouse from 1850 and private villas. Food is organic and grown within the farm. The resort offers several activities, like trails, horse rides, and rafting, that must be reserved at least 1 day before.
phone: +55 12 3671-1860address: Via de Acesso João Roman, 455Hostel with both shared and private rooms.
phone: +55 12 3671-1724address: Rua Antônio Benildo Vaz de Campos, 213Simple pousada next to the Paraitinga river, with sauna and swimming pool.
address: Rua Renato Aguiar, 500Pousada surrounded by nature, with swimming pool
address: Rua Benfica, 63 - BenficaPousada with comfortable rooms and decorated as a historical house.
phone: +55 12 3671-1171address: Rua Cel Domingues de Castro, 54 - CentroPousada in a historical construction, using locally made furniture.
address: Estrada do Alvarenga, 0.5 kmNot far from the city center, this rural pousada may good a good option if you want to feel the cozyness of a private villa in a rural environment, but don't want to be just in the middle of nowhere.
São Luiz do Paraitinga is very safe for tourists. As you will quickly realize by yourself, however, most of the population of the city is relatively poor, so avoid displaying signs of wealth and don't mess up with the locals' affairs.