Paraty, Brazil

Why Go: It may not look a lot like Christmas, but Paraty, a half-day’s drive from Rio, is a hidden gem of a town with astonishingly well-preserved Portuguese colonial architecture, a vibrant cultural scene, and easy access to rainforest and some of the world’s most perfect beaches. Sounds like a holiday to us.

Where to Stay: About a 20-minute walk from the town center, the pousada Bambu Bamboo is a lush retreat unto itself, with a pool, a spa, lovely gardens, two saunas, and easy access to both rainforest and a cluster of some truly stunning beaches. Breakfast is served by the river.

Holiday Dinner: Considered by many the town’s top eatery, French restaurant Voilà Bistrot will be serving foie gras and shitake mushroom empanadas as part of its Christmas dinner.

Named for a local swamp fish, Paraty sits on Brazil's southeastern coast, 125 miles south of Rio, with the Bocaino Mountains at its back. The small colonial town's center is a national historic monument with well-preserved buildings on its pedestrian-only streets. Take a boat trip out into the bay to the flotillas of islands and coves nearby. Explore sugarcane plantations and hike or take a train through Atlantica Forest. Keep an eye out for the monkeys that roam the cobblestone streets.

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