With its rustic stone and wood chalets set against rugged green mountains, Gramado seems ripped from an outtake of The Sound of Music. From fondue restaurants and chocolaterias to the chic boutiques and luxury lodges that wouldn’t be out of place in Gstaad, this Swiss connection is played to the hilt (sometimes to excess—such as during Christmas when the whole town is lit up like a kitschy theme park).
You might find this Alpine aspect twee or charming, but it attracts Brazilian tourists in droves (two million of them per year at last count), making it somewhat of a mob scene. For this reason, avoid the winter (when artificial snowstorms are the rage) and summer, and try to visit in the spring (Oct.–Nov.), when tourism is down and massive clumps of hydrangeas are in full bloom.
During the second week in August, Gramado takes on an air of Sundance or Cannes as celebs, paparazzi, and cinephiles flock to the Festival de Cinema (www.festivaldegramado.net), one of the oldest and most prestigious film festivals in Latin America.
From the rodoviária (Av. Borges de Medeiros 2100, tel. 54/3286-1302), frequent buses arrive and depart from Porto Alegre, Caxias do Sul, and Canela. Citral (tel. 51/3228-5128, www.citral.tur.br) has bus service from Porto Alegre to Gramado and on to Canela.
Gramado is 115 kilometers (72 miles) northeast of Porto Alegre. By car, follow the RS-020 to Taquara before turning onto the RS-115.
© Michael Sommers from Moon Brazil, 2nd Edition