I learned of Trancoso when my good friend and fellow wanderluster, Vanessa Boz from Boz Around, travelled there with her family last April. We were busy planning our trip to South America when she came back to London raving about her time there. I walked over to her house one evening shortly thereafter and we spent three hours curled up on her sofa, me writing furiously into a notebook trying not to miss any of her valuable tips and recommendations. When I got back home I told Michael there was no way we could skip Trancoso. It would require purchasing a separate flight in addition to our round-the-world package, and it required a bit of extra schlepping to get there, but I was certain we would love it. This is why we decided to start our journey here and it did not disappoint. Trancoso is wonderful in more ways than I can describe. Here are a few recommendations from our time there:
- We rented the beautiful home of our friend, Jan Eleni, an NY-based interior designer. We were so excited to stay in Casa Lola after admiring it online for so long. Her house is perfect in every way and we never wanted to leave. Casa Lola was constructed of local materials with all the furniture and most decorations sourced locally. Its location in town, a short walk from the Quadrado, made us feel like locals instantly. We can’t say enough good things about this home. We will be back!
- For those looking to stay in a hotel rather than a home, we heard many wonderful things about Uxua, and all of the staff members at Uxua were so friendly and helpful every time we talked to them or spent time at their bar on the beach.
- There are many other great options, including lower cost pousadas. The best prices will be found outside the high season (December-April) and we were lucky to be here at a time with favourable sterling and dollar exchange rates.
- Casa de Gloria: This is the house of Gloria (middle of the quadrado on the right-hand side) who was the midwife of Trancoso and delivered all the local babies. She passed away a couple of years ago and her family decided to open it as a restaurant on Sundays. They serve Feijoada, a classic Brazilian dish, in their pretty back garden under Cacao, Pitanga, banana and other tropical trees. The food is delicious and the staff are warm and friendly. Save room for dessert because it’s amazing. Their ‘brigadeiro’ is the best we had in all our time in Brazil! I’m still dreaming of it now.
- Le Marche: An upscale grocery store with good bread and other European and American food items. We bought their sandwich rolls almost every day to pack our lunch for the beach, but they also make delicious sandwiches for take-away.
- Dom’s sandwich restaurant, located kitty-corner from Le Marche. They make their own bread and we liked their ‘Natural’ sandwich with grilled aubergine.
- Maritaca pizza restaurant is known to have the best pizza in Trancoso. It is certainly the most expensive (though the setting is indeed really nice). We never made it here but enjoyed pizza at Bem-Te- Vi and the pizzeria directly across from Le Marche. Both were good and half the price of Maritaca, though we wish we’d had time to visit it too.
- Capim Santo : Located on a little side street off the Quadrado (left side if you’re looking at the church), they serve delicious food. Many of the locals consider this to be the best restaurant in town. I met the owner on the beach one day and she was really lovely.
- El Gordo is also known to be an upscale, beautiful restaurant (with a stunning view!), which is good for date night. We never made it here, but hopefully next time.
- Tapioca crepes at the entrance of the Quadrado: so good and so cheap! You can get savoury or sweet. I preferred the savoury, the kids of course preferred the nutella/banana combo!
- Farmer’s market on Saturdays: This is an experience –it’s noisy and hectic, aromatic and smelly, colourful and dusty, but all around enthralling. Don’t be deterred by the sights at some of the fish and meat stands, carry on to the fruits and vegetables. We bought 8 papayas for less than a dollar! Plus coconuts, mangoes, bananas (not the kind we get in Europe or America), pineapples, passion fruits and various tropical fruit we’d never seen before! The market is located in the centre of town. (If you walk away from the Quadrado, pass the main grocery store and turn left at the main square.)
- Aart Frutas: the first fruit stand as you head into town from the direction of the Quadrado. This is a good place to stock up on fruit in between Saturday visits to the farmer’s market. They also have a small selection of groceries here too.
- Uxua on the beach: We came here almost daily for coconut water before returning back to our house at the end of the day. They have a friendly staff and a beautiful setting.
- Restaurante Portinha serves a delicious (and affordable) buffet-style lunch. One side of the restaurant serves the savoury food, the other side the desserts. The food is traditional Brazilian with lots of rice, beans, moqueca, farofa, coxinhas, etc. Pass by at lunch time and you’ll have no trouble spotting it. Its the one with the front garden is full of happy diners.
- Monterrey Mexican ice pops with natural fruit (in town, just before the quadrado on the left-hand side). Our favourite was the passion fruit.
- The beach! Trancoso can get very busy in the high season (December through March), but thankfully October is a relatively quiet time. We never had a problem getting a bench at Uxua if we wanted one (and this is a good option because they have sand toys for the little kids and boogie boards for the older ones). In general, however, we just walked to a quiet spot and put our towels down in the sand in the shade of a coconut tree. You can turn right when you get to the beach and walk past all the beach vendors, and it is nice and quiet down on this side of the beach. It’s best to be at the beach during low tide because you can find beautiful shells and corals, enjoy the shallow, warm tides, and if you’re lucky, you can spot turtles sticking their heads out of the waves. It was windy on most days we were there so head to the beach early to avoid the strongest gusts.
- Kayak down the Trancoso river to the beach. This is a beautiful 1-2 hour Kayak ride through the lush jungle. You can call our friend, Facundo, and he can arrange this for you (he speaks English and his prices are very fair). His number is: 99934-7501.
- Surf lessons with Romualdo. (You’ll find the surf hut on the beach, if you walk past Uxua and cross the river.) At the time we went the cost was about $25 per hour, which included all the equipment as well, plus another instructor to catch the kids as the sped toward the beach. : )
- A visit to the markets in the Indian village. This is about a 20-minute drive from Trancoso and the market stalls are incredible! We wished we could buy everything.
- Snorkelling at Praia Espelho. You’ll need to hire a taxi or driver from Trancoso (it takes about an hour). If you can arrange to visit this beach at low tide you can snorkel in the reefs in shallow, warm water. The beach is beautiful and there are several beach restaurants and hotels here. Silvinha is known to be the best (you have to make a booking in advance). Again, our friend Facundo can take you by boat or by car. His number is: 99934-7501. He is also a diving instructor for those interested in something a bit more challenging.
- Uxua’s full moon beach party. This happens every full moon–capoeira, bonfire, music and drinks! You’ll find locals and tourists alike. (For those interested in Capoeira, you can also watch them practice at the community centre and I believe you can also get a private lesson there, but we never got around to doing this.)
- Many people told us to visit Caraiva, but unfortunately we never made it there. It is a very special place, beyond Praia Espelho and therefore a bit more of a schlep to get to. You need to take a car there and then arrange for someone to pick you up in a little boat to take you to Caraiva. There are no cars, and because of this it is meant to feel very unique and charming. We hope to visit next time!
- We hired a local chef, Maria Sallum (firstname.lastname@example.org), to come and cook some traditional Brazilian meals for us. She taught us how to make foods like moqueca and farofa, and also taught us how to use some of the new-to-us fruits and vegetables we had found in the market. (The kids are still talking about how much they loved her ceviche!)