For those who want to explore the area by bike, you can rent wheels at Desafius.

Serra da Mantiqueira

About 180km northeast of São Paulo, the beautiful green peaks of the Serra da Mantiqueira are a hot spot for mountain biking and trekking for Paulistanos, and are a hugely popular winter weekend getaway for Paulistas desperate for a winter wonderland experience. Campos do Jordão, Brazil's highest city, is a kitschy and comfortable base from which to explore the nearby peaks, which are rife with virgin araucária (Paraná pine) forests and postcard-perfect views of the Paraíba valley.

Popular attractions in the area are Parque Estadual de Campos do Jordão, 14km east from Campos and home to the largest araucária reserve in the state, but don't miss Parque Amantikir either, a maze-filled garden clinging to a mountainside 10km south of town. One of the most popular climbs in the surrounding mountains is up to Pedra do Baú (1950m). Altus is the go-to agency for outdoor adventure activities.

Campos itself is a well-heeled getaway. The peak tourist period is July, when the town receives up to a million tourists (expect a minimum one-week stay at this time; there are steep discounts on weekdays and outside winter months). The town is second only to São Paulo city in culinary supremacy, though many restaurants are overpriced; Libertango is a notable exception. Don't miss the award-winning sausages from Harry Pisek, either.

Campos is served by bus companies Pássaro Marron (www.passaromarron.com.br), which goes to São Paulo (R$52.55, three hours, six daily); and Viacão Sampaio (www.viacaosampaio.com.br), which heads once daily to Rio de Janeiro (R$74, four hours, 3:45pm).