Traveling back a century, when this region was famous for its cocoa economy, Belmonte, the “Princess of cocoa” as it was known, was the undisputed center of a thriving rural economy.

Starting from Santo André da Bahia, you can let the beauty of the landscape work its magic as you wander slowly in a northerly direction along 50 km (35 miles) of asphalt road where it is rare to cross another vehicle. Instead, you will be accompanied by open natural views and vast fields full of coconut palms, their fronds waving in the wind against the exhilarating blue backdrop of the ocean to the East.

“Belmonte, City of Portugal” as is written on the sign that welcomes entering visitors, exudes a rarefied atmosphere, steeped in time, whose colonial houses and open plazas surrounded by impressive, if decaying, facades testify to a glorious past.

A stopover at one of the city’s restaurants, better still if sitting at an outdoor table on the banks of the broad Jequitinhonha river, is a real pleasure and an opportunity to taste the simple and genuine ingredients flavored by the sea and heat-soaked lands that typically define the cuisine of southern Bahia.