Nestled in the mountains, São Luís is a small colonial town that has preserved its many handsome 18th- and 19th-century mansions and churches as well as the popular traditions of the Vale do Paraíba.
This valley was an important passageway for São Paulo ’s bandeirantes as they forged their way north to Minas Gerais. Later, São Luís emerged as an important trading post for tropeiros—roving merchants who carried supplies to and from São Paulo and the wild frontier towns of the interior.
The crops that supplied sustenance—feijão, manioc, corn, and sugar (distilled into fine cachaças)—were instrumental in the development of the town as well as the elaboration of a robust tropeiro “cuisine,” which is still very alive today.
São Luís do Paraitinga is 180 kilometers (112 miles) from São Paulo . The rodoviária is on Praça Oswaldo Cruz (tel. 12/3671-1127). Litorânea (tel. 11/6221-0244, www.litoranea.com.br ) offers daily bus service from Tietê terminal. If you’re driving, take the BR-116 to Taubaté and then turn off onto Rodovia Dr. Oswaldo Cruz.
If you’re arriving from the coast, the town is only 42 kilometers (26 miles) inland from Ubatuba . The travel time to São Luís do Paraitinga from São Paulo is roughly two and a half hours by car and three hours by bus.