One of Bahia's most picturesque beach towns, Trancoso was founded by Jesuit missionaries in 1586 and orginally named St. John Baptist of the Indians. Life here circles around a grassy central plaza, the Quadrado (the Square), where no cars mean kids and wild horses roam free and the long stretch of grass plays host to local football matches and capoiera displays. This is where everybody goes for shopping, dining, and people-watching.

In recent years Trancoso has become something of a jet-set destination—a haven for high-society Brazilians from São Paulo, especially between Christmas and early January when the laid-back Quadrado is overrun by glamorous dresses, high-heels, and endless events. As a result, it now has several high-end hotels, such as the Casa Uxua, as well as an increasing number of private villas to rent, to cater to the clientele. Outside these peak periods, the village remains as charming as ever, a favored retreat for Brazilian and international artists, writers, and musicians.

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