The 2014 Brazil World Cup is under way, but for romantic breakers looking to escape the hordes of football fans, Alexandra Gregg reveals the country’s secret side
Football doesn't exactly ooze romance, no matter how much of a sports fan you are. But never fear, honeymooners, there's more to Brazil than Rio and the World Cup. Head north and you'll be rewarded with empty wave-kissed islands and traditional tribes aplenty in the state of Bahia. We've picked out three hidden corners of this diverse South American hub…
Caraiva is a secret paradise. It's accessible only by dirt road and electricity didn't arrive here until 2007, making it happily cut off from the outside world. Travel in the region is not by car, but on foot or by donkey and cart only. Simply put, it's a place where time stands still, having more in common with the past than the present… What could be more romantic than that?
Lazy caramel-coloured beaches wind for miles - go north to Praia do Espelho, said to be one of the most beautiful beaches on the south coast of Bahia. If you're lucky, you might just get the sands all to yourself. Go wild in the Monte Pascoal (Easter Mount) National Park, where the Portuguese first glimpsed Brazil in 1500, and, for a spot of culture, mingle with the native Patoxó Hãhãhãe tribe. A visit to this indigenous village promises an insight into the lives and routine of modern-day Indians.
A tiny landmass in Bahia's southern Tinharé archipelago, Boipeba is impossibly hard to reach. It's definitely worth the trip though, as its exclusivity means fewer crowds and more of a castaway feel.
Imagine dense bird-filled rainforests, salt marshes, sand dunes and vast mangrove forests and you've got Boipeba - in all its ecological glory. Colourful reefs hug the coast, which is dotted with canals and shallow pools that offer opportunities to see various corals, molluscs, starfish and even sea turtles. Its jungle-clad interior is bursting with wildlife too, from foxes to armadillos. A trip here (via a pricey flight from Salvador or by taking the long route: two boats and a bus) is a great way to see Afro-Brazilian life without all the tourists you find on the mainland.
Venture inland to the Chapada Diamantina National Park where you'll discover a 1,520 sq km landscape of rocky canyons and gorges above ground, and infinite underwater lakes below. If it's natural wonders you're looking for, you and your partner are in for a treat.
Great for the active couple, Chapada Diamantina made its fame in the 19th century as a haven for diamond prospectors and cowboys alike. Now, its gems are more of the scenic kind: think cave snorkelling, walking atop verdant hills and past red-rock formations, and gazing in wonderment at misty waterfalls, such as the 335m Fumaça falls. Water-filled passageways abound in the sunken pool at Poço de Milú (The Enchanted Well), while you can hike the high-ground trail to the 1,067m Morro do Camelo.
How to get there? There are no direct flights from the UK to Salvador (Bahia's nearest airport). Fly with Air Europa, GOL Linhas Aéreas, and Azul Airlines from London Gatwick to Deputado Luís Eduardo Magalhães, via Madrid and Guarulhos International (Brazil). Return fares from £572p/p. Journey time around 20 hours.
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