Discovering São Paulo - holambra windmill

São Paulo, is the most populated city in Brazil and one of the largest in the world. Yet it’s not considered the hot tourist destination in Brazil, but Why?

More to São Paulo

Many people consider São Paulo for business purposes only. Little do they know that São Paulo is rich in culture and famous for the night life. Additionally there’s a great and unique restaurants offering with international and local Brazilian cuisine. Also, load up your wallet for the amazing shopping malls with current a great exchange rate.

We call tell you, that being one of the biggest metropolis in the world, São Paulo can be scary at first. It’s ok to feel that way as you should take proper precautions while visiting. In this blog we have great tips and destination ideas to plan your trip. Another way to visit São Paulo in a safe, check our “Free Walking tour São Paulo” blog. Additionally, like any other large metropolis it’s a matter of being alert while travelling. Here you just need to step it up a little more than say Santiago, Paris, Dublin for example.

Countryside of São Paulo

The most IMPORTANT thing, and a fact most people don’t know, is that São Paulo offers several alternatives to travel around the State. There are many places in the Countryside of São Paulo sometimes one hour way from São Paulo downtown. Read on to discover wonderful nature, pure air and many ecological activities to enjoy this unique and surprising State!

Following our 10 picks for you, from Countryside places of São Paulo that you can visit in a Day trip or even stay few days relaxing and enjoying Nature!


1. COTIA & Templo Zu Lai

This location is roughly a 40 minutes drive from São Paulo downtown.

Cotia is a small city yet still remains part of the Metropolitan Region of São Paulo.

We are excited to talk about Cotia is because we love to visit the “Temple Zu Lai”. It’s a Buddhist temple and considered the largest in South America according to Wikipedia. We recommend a day trip in this area, so that you may spend the day enjoying the peaceful environment and enjoying the Nature around.

Check the OFFICIAL WEBSITE for further information.


2. São Roque & Rota do Vinho (Wine route)

São Roque is located 1h10 minutes from São Paulo downtown.

It’s a small city and part of the Metropolitan region of Sorocaba in the Countryside of São Paulo. This location is very famous for its Wine Route, the Ski Mountain and amazing views. YES you read correctly, there’s a Ski Mountain near São Paulo. Although it’s manmade and built with synthetic materials. Nevertheless, it’s possible to ski down a small slope or toboggan all the way down the hill. All while enjoying the heat of the summer.

It might sound a little crazy, but it’s not, the Ski Mountain receives lots of tourists. The main concept for this hill came from giving those who don’t have the possibility to travel outside the country to practice in the real snow! Besides that, the Ski Mountain offers amazing views from São Roque region and mountains, some souvenirs stores, cafes, wine tasting bar and other cool activities. We forgot to mention that it’s especially great for children. You can check further information in their OFFICIAL WEBSITE .

Check more about the “Wine Route” and all places you can visit, on their OFFICIAL WEBSITE.


3. Embu das Artes

Located 41 minutes driving distance from São Paulo downtown.

Embu das Artes is a small city near São Paulo and really famous for its weekly arts and amazing crafts fair. This location is traditional and colourful with great restaurant selection. Alternatively, you can explore various Brazilian snacks and desserts.

This cute city boasts many artisan shops, paintings, everything you can imagine about Brazilian art and craft. It’s a great place to spend the day walking around, visiting the colonial center with the 17th century Church of Our Lady of the Rosary. The delicious Brazilian traditional food will recharge you giving energy to buy all unique and detailed pieces of art you see! Everything is so beautiful, and really difficult to resist!


4. Serra da Cantareira

Driving 45 minutes from São Paulo downtown will get you to Serra da Cantareira.

If you want to spend a nice day outside of the big São Paulo downtown city, the Serra da Cantareira is a wonderful option. Here you will find the famous “Pico do Jaraguá”, which is São Paulo’s highest point.

However, our suggestion for you is to visit “O Velhão” , a Demolition complex where you will find cafes, unique shops and an amazing restaurant. More specifically, we recommend that you try “Restaurante as Véia”, a self-service restaurant with delicious and typical Brazilian countryside style food and desserts. The restaurant also has a ‘cave’ where you can taste the different kinds of Cachaça. It’s the most typical Brazilian drink and a spin off of rhum and whiskey.

Basilica Nossa Senhora do Rosário

We also recommend, that you visit the “Basilica Nossa Senhora do Rosário” in Caieiras. You’ll need to drive another 15 minutes from O Velhão. The church, reminds of a European castle with a really beautiful style and decoration. It’s also the home of teenagers around the world who go to Brazil to learn about the heralds of the Gospel seminary.


5. Paranapiacaba

This beautiful location is roughly 1h30 minutes driving distance from São Paulo downtown.

We went to Paranapiacaba by car, however we know you can also take the metro and train from São Paulo downtown to Paranapiacaba. Alternatively, this will be a nice 2h30 minutes train ride!
Paranapiacaba during the coffee boom

Paranapiacaba is a district of the municipality of Santo André, located in what’s also called “ABC Paulista”. This destination is the perfect day trip from São Paulo !

There’s a small village, which was established during the middle of the 19th century. It was founded by the British owned São Paulo Railway Company during the big “Coffee” export years. This is where they would transport the coffee beans to the Port of Santos, São Paulo coast.


Nowadays, unfortunately, the city has an air of forgetfulness and could be much more if renovated. Despite this, the city has a rustic and charming aspect that demonstrates the rich history. For starters, there’s an interesting train museum, restaurants with typical Brazilian food and a very cute little church on the top of the hill. Behind the church is a small cemetery that reminds of Halloween stories since a particularity of the city is usually covered by fog.

Paranapiacaba is also famous for its beautiful Nature, visible by trails. Also in this small city, you’ll be able to discover an old style Carnaval. On the smaller scale of course, you’ll find groups of people dressed in costumes waling around in the streets. We had the opportunity to enjoy during our visit. It was a really fun discovery and recommend this destination for sure!

If you want to know more about Paranapiacaba, READ our Blog DAY TRIP TO PARANAPIACABA.


6. Campinas

Campinas is a neighbouring city to São Paulo and the commute takes roughly 1h20.

Although Campinas is considered the countryside, it’s a vibrant city, with more than 1 million inhabitants. To the point where it has become a great option for those who are tired of the big city.

This city has several restaurants, squares and parks. Additionally, there are large green spaces with small farms and historical towns including the Metropolitan Cathedral. Famous for a Jacaranda-wood interior and a museum of sacred art.

Adventure near Campinas

Near Campinas, you also have the option of spending a day at Hopi Hari. The theme park is also next to the city of Holambra. This one is a small city formed by Dutch descendants. Also, in Holambra’s city centre is a tourist reception with flowers from the entire state of São Paulo.

If you want to read a little more about Campinas and what to do over there, check out our blog CLICK HERE !


7. Holambra

This small city is approximately 1h46 minutes driving distance from São Paulo downtown and 40 minutes from Campinas.

Holambra is a small city, part of the Metropolitan Region of Campinas and is the largest producer of flowers and ornamental plants in Latin America. They are also host of the largest spring event on the continent, the Exploflora as you can check details in Wikipedia.

If you are planning to visit Campinas, we recommend that you spend the day discovering. In the central hub, you’ll find a touristic street with great restaurants, souvenirs stores boasting interesting and unique Holland inspired crafts. As mentioned earlier, Dutch descendants were the ones who formed the city. Additionally, you’ll find many Flowers shops and a nice square to walk. Consider getting an amazing Brazilian dessert as an accompaniment.


8. Campos do Jordão

Located a little further, Campos do Jordão is 2h30 minutes driving distance from São Paulo downtown. This makes it a little difficult to run a day trip and there is a little more to discover in this city. That said, we recommend that you stay a few days.

If you’re not from Brazil, it may be hard to imagine cold weather in this country. However this is the case in Campos do Jordão because it’s located in the mountains. It’s also considered the favorite city of Paulistas (people of São Paulo) to spend a few relaxing days. Speaking from experience, discovering Campos do Jordão is a great way to reconnect, in the middle of the mountains, with fresh air and surrounding nature.

Campos do Jordão, a municipality of Serra da Mantiqueira and Mantiqueira Mountains, has a Swiss-style architecture. The city is famous for the cozy and organized city centre, which is where you’ll find everything from restaurants, shops with local craft, wool clothing and delicious local Chocolate.

If Campos to Jordão sounds interesting to you, then check our Blog “Things to do in Campos do Jordão” where you will find lots of tips of places to visit, where to stay and where to shop !


9. Águas de Lindóia

Also on the far side of São Paulo with 2h30 minutes of driving distance.

Lindóia city or Águas de Lindóia is a small town located in the Serra da Mantiqueira mountains. Also considered a countryside of São Paulo, and it’s known for its mineral water springs. Another great place for relaxation with hotels that are budget friendly. Check out our Hotels.com affiliate link below.

Speaking from experience, this city offers really great All Inclusive style hotels. Pamper yourself with the pools filled with hot water and a municipal Balneário where you can enjoy medicinal pools, clay baths and water slides. Lindóia is on the smaller side, however you’ll enjoy discovering their nice city centre. They are known for their local craft products, delicious traditional Brazilian sweets, wool clothing and leather accessories.

A fun thing to do when in Lindóia is to catch the amazing view point from the top of the mountains. It’s possible to get there by car or again, a very unique small touristic train which leaves on a schedule from town square.

Additionally, if you want you can also visits ranches around the small city of Monte Sião. This neighbouring town is located in the State of Minas Gerais with a whopping 14 minutes drive. Minas Gerais is known for their delicious cheeses and other local products – yum!


10. Aparecida do Norte

Aparecida do Norte is located 2h11 minutes driving distance from São Paulo downtown. It’s ok to run as a day trip however slightly on the long side. We stopped over in Aparecida to discover the sanctuary while on the way to Paraty.

The Catholics might have heard about the city of Fátima in Portugal, that said “Aparecida do Norte” is the Brazilian “Our Lady of Aparecida”. The huge Neo-Romanesque Basilica holds a statue of Brazil’s patron saint and it’s the most visited place for Faith and Prayers in Brazil.

New and the old Aparecida

In the city you will find the “New Basilica” and the “Old Basilica” linked by a long bridge where you have amazing views of the city and region. Make a note that it’s a really busy place to visit during weekends, because they receive thousands of people from everywhere in Brazil and Latin America. Then you may factor this into your itinerary according to your preferences.

Aparecida do Norte has everything related to the Church and Our Lady Aparecida. As we mentioned earlier, planing a day trip should be OK, especially since many buses leave from São Paulo terminal to Aparecida. Otherwise, if you plan to visit the Basilica and other cities, for example Campos do Jordão, then you’ll want to rent a car and book hotels.

Pro tip, Brazil has many of what they call Pousadas. The best way to describe them is a smaller resort. So you might not get the same service as a full chain hotel, however they have all you need at a fraction of the price !


11. Brotas

Last but not least, there is Brotas at 3h00 driving distance from São Paulo downtown. Lia has been however Serge has yet to visit.

Consider this a bonus city to discover and this one is great!

Brotas, a small countryside city of São Paulo, in a perfect destination for those who love nature, hiking and to practice “Radical” Sports such as Rafting. which includes option during Full Moon depending of the weather and time of the year, canoeing, and others adventurous activities!

We at Discovering Destinations have yet to visit the city together. However it’s on our to-do list to do for next time we visit São Paulo.

As mentioned, Lia has already visited the city and her best friend lives there. Her and her husband own a Sushi Buffet style restaurant called “Restaurante Nikkey Sushi”. She previously owned a Hotel in the city years ago, and has indicated Top things to do in Brotas.

You can also visit the following page for the OFFICIAL Website for tourism in the city. You may need some assistance from Google to translate since it’s in Portuguese language only.

Rafting – Brotas – Sp

This is a quick SUMMARY of all places we talked about in this Blog of Countryside of São Paulo:

  1. Cotia & Templo Zu Lai
  2. São Roque & Rota do Vinho (Wine Route)
  3. Embu das Artes READ MORE
  4. Serra da Cantareira
  5. Paranapiacaba (opens in a new tab)” rel=”noreferrer noopener” href=”https://www.discoveringdestinations.com/discovering-sao-paulo-countryside/” target=”_blank”>READ MORE
  6. Holambra READ MORE
  7. Águas de Lindóia
  8. Aparecida do Norte
  9. Brotas
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Hello from Discovering Destinations ! We are a couple, Eli and Serge, that love to travel and share our experiences with those want to discover the world with Great Tips!  CLICK TO KNOW MORE!

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