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Roula Khalaf, Editor of the FT, selects her favourite stories in this weekly newsletter.
A Paraty pousada for the literati
In my experience, most countries have a payoff place; the one that, for you the traveller, encapsulates everything about its appeal – landscape, built environment, cuisine, people, culture – and to which you know you can return for a 360-degree fix. For me, in Brazil, that place is Paraty. Its dense cobbled streets harbour not just the country’s most alluring aesthetic attributes but also one of its nicest vibes. I’ve walked alone here at night for hours, stopping for a drink at this café or admiring microscopic bikinis in the window of that boutique, and never once felt anything but enveloped in its welcome. The town isn’t short on boutique accommodations, but I fell for Pousada Literária the day I visited.
It’s a more or less perfect Paraty house, part-colonial, part new-build, made into a clever, slightly quirky (but never not totally stylish), more or less perfect maison d’hôtes. Some rooms are tucked under 17th-century beamed ceilings with tile floors and pretty paned sash windows; others spread out in a more hacienda-style fashion around a wide pool. Common chilling and dining areas abound. Some of the furniture, whether mid 20th-century or antique, is so gorgeous I wanted to stow it away home. The location is dead central, and the town’s best bookstore is adjacent (the Pousada has been the official hotel of Paraty’s annual literary festival for a decade). From BRL1,416 (about £260)
From sea to savannah in style
Pousada Literária’s owners have two other properties: one north in Trancoso, and the other deep inland, in Brazil’s vast Cerrado region. Tutabel’s 18 suites and clutch of small villas all face a particularly calm stretch of Trancoso’s famous sand beach (but it’s also a short walk to the town’s rainbow-hued Quadrado). Sisal and rattan, wood and lots of white cotton set the design tone. At Pousada Trijunção, the mission is creating awareness of Brazil’s wildlife-rich savannah. Night safaris and daytime tracking – of birds, ocelot, anteaters, the famous maned wolf, possibly even jaguar – are on the activity agenda, and as at Tutabel, part of the proceeds of your stay goes to local conservation organisations.
The gorgeous lodge itself (consider splurging on the master suite, with its private sitting room and two balconies) is constructed partially of reclaimed demolition wood, and naturally cooling ‘water mirrors’ occasionally stand in for air con temperature permitting. Tutabel, from about £305; Pousada Trijunção, from about £430
Under-the-radar beachside bliss in Itacaré
I recently met the owners of The Barracuda, a rather magical-looking destination in Itacaré which now sits close to the top my 2023 list – and of which, I’ll admit, I was surprised I’d never heard. About halfway between Trancoso and Salvador, in the south of groovy Bahía state, The Barracuda consists of two small hotels, Barracuda Boutique and The Barracuda Hotel & Villas (the latter of which is the more elegant and exclusive, and soft-opened in 2020) as well as a handful of private villas ranging from four to eight bedrooms. All is warm, natural surfaces and open-plan common spaces, everywhere a low divan or sofa or ipe wood chair asking to be reclined on.
The villas, surrounded by lush rainforest, are all privately owned (one or two of them by Swedes hailing from a very famous band, is the whisper on the Itacaré street), but most are available for private rental throughout the year. They come with pre-provisioned kitchens, a cook and housekeeper, and the option for some local tailor-made experiences. The whole enjoys a prime situation on a little peninsula between warm, swimmable sea and the village itself. Boutique suites from about £90, Barracuda suites from about €430
The Fasano touch comes to Angra dos Reis
If there’s one Brazilian who can be relied on to set a bar for coolness (and really good Italian food) it’s Rogério Fasano. While his empire of hotels and gastronomia now extends from Punta del Este to Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue, Brazil still feels like where Fasano does Fasano best. Take Angra dos Reis: close to Paraty, it’s a beach community and island archipelago between São Paulo and Rio that’s a popular second-home destination with the beau monde of both cities.
Fasano Angra dos Reis, which opened in 2017, is big and bold: 60 suites, apartments and residences, multiple sunning decks overlooking a huge pool, a full spa and fitness centre. Polished tropical woods, loose slipcovers, spinning fans and windows prevail here, with lots of aqua and turquoise thrown in to reflect the marina and sea beyond. From about £380