Hanging in Serra Negra

Serra Negra, nicknamed “the city of health” because of its amazing spring water, is a great destination for a weekend escape from Sao Paulo. It sits in the state of Sao Paulo near Campinas and is just a couple hours drive from the center of SP.  This little retreat offers specialty shopping in the form of home goods, such as bedding, and culinary treats like honey straight from the comb, and plenty day trip attractions.

We took advantage of friends’ offer to stay at their country house last weekend. The drive is beautiful, but winding, so if you get a bit carsick on an average trip, be prepared.  However, once you arrive, it’s worth the dizziness.

The center of town offers some fun activities for kids. In the square waits a series of wooden horse-drawn calhambeques absolutely covered in ancient toys, horns and other visual treats.

I’m quite certain that the old men who run these rides have been doing this, by the looks of them and their gear, with the same carts and the same toys, for more than fifty years.

Ridiculously fun for kids.

There is also a chair lift that will take you up to Serra Negra’s “Cristo Redentor” at the top of a mini-mountain.

Ok, I’ll be honest, I thought this attraction was terrifying. You sit in a little orange or white ski-lift type chair made for one, which doesn’t stop for your entry. Instead you must jump into it backwards before it begins to lift. Maybe if I had been alone it wouldn’t have bothered me. But I had my daughter in my care for the ride.

During the duration, I had one had locked so tight around the side it hurt for the rest of the day and my arm around her waist to snug she was having trouble breathing. But a little less air for 10 minutes was better than her falling to her death from a 50 ft drop onto the traffic over the road we crossed or the jagged rocks on the path upward. Once up, I realized I had to endure this torture on the way down as well.

No one else, it seemed, was bothered by the idea of hanging in the sky, in a small chair, by a cable. Including my husband, the father of my child, and the other couple who also have small children. (All I could think about was when we were in the mountains of Peru, pre-child, about to travel across a raging river in a metal cage via cable strung between two wooden poles, and my brother saying to me “You know what they say in Peru. We don’t fix it until it’s broke.) Yes, yes, I know people ride ski-lifts all the time and survive. But beneath them is fluffy white snow. Beneath us were rocks and small, sharp, sword-like trees.

The fact that the Christ was waiting for us up top didn’t make me feel better.

My daughter loved it and requested to go again, as did the other kids in our crowd. Was not going to happen.

The city also had a little “train,” which is actually a trolley type vehicle that drives tourists around town to the tune of some loud pop-music.

One stop on the ride is a little fazenda which doesn’t offer much in terms of variety, but did have an ostrich running free around the space and had enough caged farm animals to keep the kids interested.

It also offers a short pony ride, a ball pit and a trampoline. Another stop on this tour is a place where you can fill up a jug with the fantastic, magical spring water of the region.

Settled mostly by Italians who came to work on coffee farms, you’ll get a good variety of this cuisine in town and some delicious ice cream as well.

Serra Negra is great for a two-day, one-night stop to get some fresh air and water break from Sao Paulo.

For more weekend trips from São Paulo, check out American Exbrat in São Paulo: Advice, Stories Tips and Tricks for Surviving South America’s Largest City.

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7 Responses to Hanging in Serra Negra

  1. “But a little less air for 10 minutes was better than her falling to her death from a 50 ft drop onto the traffic over the road we crossed or the jagged rocks on the path upward.”

    Oh if only what was going on in your head at that time could have been transmitted and recorded over speaker phone, to then be made available via podcast. I am guessing the result would not be PG13 in the least bit. The funny thing is that the kids just wanted to do it again. Children are so heavenly clueless that it’s endearing, regardless of the whining that ensues after a firm no.

  2. Rachel says:

    Looks like a great escape from the city!

  3. Ray says:


    I love Serra Negra, it’s a Sao Paulo must see. My family used to go all the time when we were kids and I can almost assure you, we rode in those exactly same carriages, maybe some of the same guys, way back in the 1970’s, when they were already a tradition in that small town.
    Serra Negra has a notorious program called the “favela police”, they have cops that patrol their town, and if they see a family arriving in a moving truck with furniture, they inquire where those people plan to live and if they have a rental agreement or if they have purchased property, if the answer is NO, they don’t allow them to settle in Serra Negra and the city gives them money to go away. End result, they have no favela in Serra Negra, and many other towns in Sao Paulo have adopted the same strategy and have avoided outsiders coming in, stealing land and building slums in their towns.
    Monte Siao is another town nearby with a very traditional “white and blue” china factory, it’s the Brazilian version of Dutch’s Delftware, very cool and you can tour the factory and see how it’s all hand made and put in the over. The town has other attractions as well, similar to Serra Negra.


  4. Pingback: The Creepy Side of Campos do Jordão | born again brazilian

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