Where to go

Trancoso

Wide sandy beaches and chic restaurants await at the laid-back Bahian village of Trancoso...

Igreja São João Batista, Trancoso, Bahia
Igreja São João Batista, Trancoso, Bahia

An hour’s flight and an hour’s drive from Salvador, on Bahia’s southern coastline, the old fishing village of Trancoso is fast becoming one of the most chic beach holiday destinations in Brazil. Despite its popularity and status, the village has managed to retain its laid-back way of life and simple charms. Those who go to Trancoso will find themselves relaxing into the slow pace of life, where a few days can very easily be spent just moving back and forth between the beach and the grassy central square of the ‘Quadrado’.

Originally founded in 1586, the village is a former Jesuit settlement. In fact, the white church, which faces the ‘Quadrado’ and backs onto the coast, São João Batista dos Índios was built in the 16th century by indigenous inhabitants of Trancoso. Having remained a sleepy fishing village for a long time, with the onset of the 70s, Trancoso started to become popular with well-off hippies from São Paulo. Its beautiful beaches and slow pace of life have continued to attract national and international travellers ever since. Many of those working in the tourism industry here aren’t native to Bahia but fell in love with Trancoso and decided to stay.

In high season, especially around December and New Year, the village has a reputation for being a party town for the rich and famous, but for the rest of the year, life in Trancoso is beautifully lazy; the village green hosts capoeira and local football games, locals selling coconuts and homemade dream catchers pitch up under the trees and you can sit in one of the Quadrado’s colourful-fronted bars or cafés listening to musicians playing guitar or the ‘berimbau’; a traditional African instrument. At night, the square is particularly enchanting when the sky is covered in a blanket of stars and the only artificial lights come from hanging tree lanterns and the lights of the church.

While you can easily spend your time enjoying the Quadrado’s excellent restaurants and lazing on the Praia do Trancoso directly below the town, with its line of beach huts serving grilled seafood and traditional Bahian specialities, it would be a shame to miss one of Brazil’s best beaches, the Praia do Espelho. The beach takes its name from the water’s mirror-like effect in low tide and is a 50-minute drive down the coast. For those who get restless lying on a beach for days on end, then it is also possible to arrange kayaking trips through the Atlantic Forest, horse rides on the beach or diving trips to explore the coral off the coast.

We would probably recommend staying in town for easy access to the Quadrado, however, Trancoso does have some beautiful hotels by the beach, which may suit families and those looking for a quieter holiday.

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    At a glance... Trancoso

  • Size: 11 000 people
  • Location: Bahia, North-East Brazil
  • Recommended time: 3 to 6 nights
  • Time to visit: Year round
  • Go here for: Beaches and nature
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