The JT Insider Guide: Trancoso, Brazil
Dutch fashion designer – formerly for Diesel – and the creator of Trancoso’s boutique hotel UXUA, Wilbert Das, gives us his insider tips on how to live the good life in the Brazilian coastal town.
‘The location is exceptional for its mix of cultural heritage and natural beauty. In fact Trancoso is located on Brazil’s discovery coast, meaning it was one of the earliest settlements established by the Portuguese. The villages and beaches are peaceful year round but fill-up on the Brazilian summer holidays of New Year and carnival. Bahians are wonderfully charming people; they’re not just hospitable but actually excited to meet visitors to Trancoso. The local people are so proud of their environment too, with ancestors who are some of the original environmentalists; over hundreds of years they all agreed to keep the town’s architecture intact and to leave common areas of the town pristine.’
‘When I first came here I was taken aback by the beauty and preservation of this quiet, colonial fishermen’s village. Over the centuries time seems to have stood still here and the combination of the charm of the people, stunning beauty of the nature and the slow pace of life is enchanting. It’s a place where people from all levels of local and international society mix without pretension. It has attracted visitors since the 1970’s but always kept a very authentic local vibe and the nature is so lush, the rainforest reaching all the way to the beach, with animals everywhere. It’s completely idyllic. Trancoso is one of the most unique and visually stimulating places I’ve been in my life. I love the centre of town, which is closed from traffic, with a town square of grass and trees where you see wild horses walking, not automobiles. The town can be completely navigated on foot or by horse. All these things make it a very special place.’
“Time seems to have stood still here and the combination of the charm of the people, stunning beauty of the nature and the slow pace of life is enchanting.”
‘The view from the quaint São João Batista Church perched on the cliff overlooking the ocean is stunning. It’s Brazil’s second oldest church, and looks out over rainforest, stretches of mangrove, the Rio Trancoso, pristine beaches and the sea. It’s spectacular in the daytime and also under the stars and moonlight. A close match is the view from the roof of our most recent casa added to UXUA. In the 1970’s a bohemian ceramic artist built his atelier here inspired by the Greek islands, with arches, whitewashed walls and blue accents. After many years we were able to obtain the building and restore it as a spectacularly unique one-bedroom casa, with 360-degree rooftop views over old Trancoso, the jungle and the ocean, which inspired the casa’s name Terraço Do Céu, meaning terrace of the sky.’
‘Next to UXUA at the historic Casa Da Gloria, Gloria’s three daughters host a traditional Sunday brunch of feijoada [meat and bean stew], a lively Trancoso tradition with locals meeting over the iconic food and drink of Brazil. Another native restaurant is Silvana, and the owner also has a sister who operates a restaurant just 50-metres down the historic town square, called Vittoria’s. For higher cuisine there’s the famed Capim Santo, a Bahian restaurant which opened in Trancoso 30-years ago, now with a very successful branch in Brazil’s biggest city Sao Paulo too. The cooking at UXUA fuses traditional Bahian home-cooking – African spices merging with indigenous and Portuguese influence – with a lighter, healthier international touch, emphasizing local seafood, organic produce and fresh baked goods, with local cacao, coconut, and tropical fruits for drinks and our famous ice cream.’
“Sunday brunch of feijoada is a lively Trancoso tradition with locals meeting over the iconic food and drink of Brazil.”
‘We have a signature drink called the UXUA Caipicoco, a variation of caipirinha, which substitutes lemon with fresh coconuts from our own gardens. The taste is fresh, sweet and nutty, and distinctly Trancoso, with the ingredients principally sourced in the village. It’s a very local drink.’
The UXUA Caipicoco
• coconut water
• coconut pulp
• a drop of sugar
Serve with a wedge of coconut.
UXUA Casa Hotel & Spa
‘The hotel is in the heart of the village, fitting harmoniously within the town’s historic town square. Most tropical resorts are quite isolated but the goal of UXUA was to immerse guests in the authentic rhythm and life of this village, while our beach lounge is just a five-minute walk down the hill from the hotel. A unique aspect of UXUA is the use of recycled and organic materials, like the sinks carved out of tree trunks, and wooden shutters handmade by local carpenters. Even the beach lounge is made out of an old fishing boat, which has been restored. The swimming pool in particular is very unique; it is made of over 40,000 pieces of Aventurine quartz, which has been laid by hand by a local mosaic artist. The houses are really defined by the local climate for outdoor living; all with open-air bathrooms and living areas, and some with a private garden and pool.’
‘You can buy our locally produced oils and soaps, made from local plants like the almescar tree, which native Pataxó Indians have used for centuries for its alluring smell and amazing healing qualities. In Trancoso popular souvenirs include jewellery made by the Pataxó Indians and jewellery from hippies who sit on the grassy town square, using it as a workshop to make their artisanal products. Another popular souvenir is locally made chocolate, from cacao grown in the area. It’s fresh and has very little fat, so it doesn’t melt and has an amazing flavour. I love to design furniture and decor, and I love collaborating with local artisans, experimenting with traditional techniques and organic, reclaimed materials. We offer the opportunity to purchase these, with items such as hanging Pataxó Indian pau seed lamps and standing lampshades made from rough, coconut twigs.’
Image by Nicolas de Camaret.
Former creative director and head of design for fashion label Diesel, Wilbert Das, created UXUA Casa Hotel & Spa after falling in love with Trancoso and by collaborating with the local artists and artisans. Find out more about Wilbert Das and his work here.