Am I in Greece now? All these South American cities are so confusing sometimes. Florianopolis definitely sounds Greek to me, but it’s apparently a Portuguese settlement in southern Brazil known for beautiful beaches and a good lifestyle.
Getting in and around
I arrived bright an early on a night bus from Porto Alegre after visiting Gramado. Since Porto Alegre is only 5.5 hours away I can’t say I got a lot of sleep and it was pitch black when I arrived. Only R106.50 with Ecuatur for executive class though and it’s no one’s fault I wasn’t actually travelling that far this time!
It’s also a 12 hour overnight bus to/from Sao Paulo which I’d say is the perfect distance to get a good sleep and not waste any of the day. After the day was done I went with Catarinense back to Sao Paulo for R140.
To get around Florianopolis and the island there are public buses which are R3.50 per trip including transfers if you transfer within a terminal. The terminals are scattered about the island and are on the Portuguese tourist map though I think you’re much better off having a car.
You can ditch your things in a locker in the bus terminal for R15 per day.
Exploring the island
I was a bit disappointed that the weather was very overcast. It was forecast to be a sunny day, but they aren’t always right are they!
When the sun eventually started to come up I started to walk around centro. Av. Felipe Schmidt was the main walk just two blocks up from the bus terminal once you take the pedestrian bridge across the main road. Once you’re on the avenue if you go right you will reach Praça XV de Novembro which is where a few of the important buildings are and then if you turn right there you will hit the markets.
Along the way you’ll pass a lot of nice buildings and the main church. In the middle of the praça there is a 250 year old fig tree which is pretty impressive.
Palácio Cruz e Souza
At 10am the Museu Histórico de Santa Catarina opens within the Palácio Cruz e Souza on Praça XV de Novembro. Entry is just R5 and you can check out the old colonial rooms and whatever exhibition is on. While I was there they had a cool exhibition of local photographers capturing themes of the island.
You can find all the usual sorts of things you’d expect to see at markets. Fresh produce, local foods and snacks, wares and the most hilarious thing I saw was a dog coat stall. Brazilians really love their four legged friends – I love it!
After all the friendships bracelets I’d received in South East Asia I figured I should keep that good thing going and got one from Brazil. I’m probably starting to look a little more hippie now.
The guy I bought it from was actually Peruvian, so I stumbled through some Spanish before switching to Portuguese which I’m definitely more comfortable with.
Getting out of the city to the beaches
I made friends with a lady in the museum earlier, so when I couldn’t find a Tourist Information Office I asked her for her favourite beaches to try and see what Florianopolis is best know for. After yet another amusing interaction in Portuguese I came away with a list of three places: Barra da Lagoa, Lagoa da Conceição and Praia Mole.
In better weather it would definitely be worth checking out the old Fortalezas in the north (mainly) and the south, but they are much further than cutting east to Lagoa.
So I headed back to the Ticen bus terminal and I got some directions to take the 320 or 330 bus from Platform A. I was staring at tourist map I bought from a convenience store when some guy tried to come help me. He only spoke Portuguese so I had no idea what he was saying, but he roped in a Brazilian girl to help who it turned out was going in the same direction.
Hilariously she spoke very little English too and a guitar carrying vagabond began to chuckle. It turned out he was Chilean, but he spoke Portuguese and English too so he helped provide some translations. He rode this bus with us to Tilag in Lagoa. It was a really bizarre conversation across three languages, but surprisingly (and thankfully) I’m starting to hear a lot of the verbs and nouns I know during conversations. Enough to get the jist, but missing details and losing context sometimes.
At Tilag we changed to the 360 bus to Barra da Lagoa and I did my best to keep practising Portuguese with the Brazilian girl. She got off a few stops before me, but showed me where to get off for the places I wanted to go and taught me a bunch of new words which was legal.
Praia da Barra da Lagoa was a nice beach. Much nicer sand than in Punta del Este, softer, finer and it made that satisfying squeaking sound as you walked across it. People played beach volleyball and it looked like a great place for the summer. Shame about the weather though.
Praia Mole was much the same, but I figured I shouldn’t stay long to leave time to check out Lagoa and the connection lake.
Lagoa da Conceição
A small town, but an interesting vibe. I’ll bet the place is packed in the summer. I walked up and down the lake a bit, but the best part was dinner.
I found juice bar / cafe called Suco e Caldo which offered some interesting soups, and hey, it’s perfect for winter right? Mandioquinha is a yellow Peruvian version of the popular Brazilian root vegetable mandioca. So I gave the mandioquinha and garlic soup a go. It didn’t disappoint! Sweet, tasty, served with croutons and bitey cheese. I grabbed that and an açai smoothie with banana and ginger for just R22.
The waiter was really cool and very helpful so I spent some time with him helping him correct the English menu and make it sound more interesting. The description “Peruvian soup” for what I had just eaten really didn’t do it justice.