It doesn’t always have to be Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo. I think somebody should also put the spotlight on the lesser known places, and I thought I would start with the easiest one: Volta Redonda. Why it is the easiest one? Well, I live there.
Volta Redonda is about to celebrate its 58th birthday, so it is a fairly “new” city. Until 1954 it was one of the districts of Barra Mansa, which today it has outgrown by almost 100.000 inhabitants.
The city has a population of about 260.000, comparable with Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas, but according to Brazilian standards, it is a medium-sized city.
The City of Steel (Cidade do Aço)
The reason why the city was able to grow so explosively in a relatively short period of time, is that in 1941, it was selected as the place to install South America’s biggest steel plant, (Companhia siderúrgica Nacional – CSN) which marked the start of Brazil’s industrialization.
The construction of the huge plant lured thousands of people from all over the country to Volta Redonda, and once it was completed, the plant needed thousands of workers. CSN also gave Volta Redonda its nickname: “Cidade do Aço”.
For many years, foreign (mostly US) engineers and other workers lived and worked in Volta Redonda, giving some neighborhoods a unique, non-Brazilian look. Today, CSN is the biggest employer of the wide area. On the downside, it is also the biggest source of pollution.
The name “Volta Redonda”, which literally means “Round turn” comes from the big curve in the Paraíba do Sul river that divides the city. It is by no means a touristic place, but it has low crime statistics, and it’s location in the region known as the “Vale do Café” (coffee valley), surrounded by several national parks, mountain ranges and places of stunning natural beauty, make it a great place to start exploring the state of Rio de Janeiro, and at the same time staying close to civilization and yet far from more “risky” – and hugely more expensive – cities like Rio or São Paulo.
There are a few nice hotels and pousadas, but don’t expect a Hilton. Most foreign visitors coming to Volta Redonda are business people who are related or connected to the Steel plant. There are several nice restaurants in and around the city centre, as well as three malls, where you can find all you need, but it’s not like in São Paulo.
Some interesting places and activities in and around Volta Redonda:
- Motorcycle tours (Mirantes Mototravel)
- The city zoo
- Aldeia das aguas (huge water park about 25km outside the city)
- International Karting track
- Itatiaia National Park
- Serra da Bocaina National Park
- Ilha Grande
- Santa Rita de Jacutinga (Terra das Cachoeiras)
- Fazenda Santa Clara
- Conservatória (Capital da Seresta)
- Penedo (Finnish colony near Itatiaia)
I’m not going to get into a lot more details about history or economics, there’s enough info on that on other sites like Wikipedia, I just want give an idea of what the city looks like.
The following pictures are all taken on a sunny winter’s day around 9.30 am, in and around the commercial center, the neighborhood known as “Vila”.
No slides are available.
Do you know Volta Redonda? How? Leave a comment and let me know… Thanks.
Other posts you might like:
- Bananal – One of Brazil’s hidden historical cities
- Morretes: Southern colonial charm and Rainforest
- Vassouras: City of the 19th century coffee barons
- Diamantina: Crown jewel of the Estrada Real