From the forest-covered canyons of the national parks near Cambará do Sul, and cascading river valleys near cozy Brazilian Alpine villages like Gramado, to the stunning Vale dos Vinhedos, where Italian-descended vintners produce emerging New World wines, Rio Grande do Sul defies stereotypical notions of Brazil.
Brazil’s southernmost state is its most culturally distinct, home to an independently minded population steeped in cattle herding and cowboy culture. Gaúchos, as residents of Rio Grande do Sul are known, are a fiercely proud and traditional lot. In the countryside, it is not unusual to see old-timers sporting wide-brimmed hats and other traditional dress. And everywhere – even in the cosmopolitan capital of Porto Alegre – locals suck down chimarrão, the distinctive, traditional tea made from the maté plant.