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What is a Pousada?

February 28, 2010

The word pousada literally means “place to land” or “place to stay,” according to Hidden Pousadas, and there are literally thousands of them in Brazil.

The Origin of Pousadas

Readers may have heard of the Portuguese Pousadas.  The state-owned Portugal Pousadas Group began in the 1940’s when the first regional pousada was created.   Their website says the following:

“These beautiful hotels, often in superb locations, offer the visitor a sense of history, culture, tradition as well as regional hospitality and cuisine.  The concept of the Pousada Group is the restoration of the national architectural heritage, in order to guarantee its preservation, and to increase the supply of first class accommodation.  The Pousadas are uniquely Portuguese and represent the very best that Portugal has to offer.  They are synonymous with elegant, luxurious accommodation with great attention to detail, exceptional service and a warm welcome.”

In the Pousadas of Portugal Pousadas Group, there are now over 40 hotels located throughout mainland Portugal, two in the Azores and one in Brazil.  The group is divided into four categories: charm Pousadas, (regional architecture epitomizing local culture), nature Pousadas (outstanding countryside locations), historic design Pousadas (contemporarily restored historic monuments), and historic Pousadas (originally historic monuments).

Brazilian Pousadas

Pousadas in Brazil are different in a number of respects.  Fundamentally, there are no pousada “chains” and, as Hidden Pousadas says, “they are all are individually run and managed.  What they lack, sometimes, in terms of business administration and things like 24-hour room service, is more than made up for by charm, hospitality and personality.”  This is especially true in the case of the good ones, since they are usually small, typically with less than 20 rooms.

Like the Portuguese Pousada Group, Pousadas in historic cities, such as Olinda, are often in restored old houses that ooze with charm.  Others are in areas of natural beauty and try to be eco-friendly.  By far, the largest group is those at the beaches.

In Brazil, the term pousada itself does not suggest a level of service or quality.  Like hotels, guest houses, hostels or bed and breakfast places around the world, they vary a great deal in terms of price and quality.  Some are very basic or just comfortable; others are very sophisticated and more akin to boutique hotels.

Price is generally a pretty good indicator of quality, when compared to others in the same destination, especially in popular destinations with a lot of competition.  But prices vary considerably between the different regions of Brazil.

For travellers that are new to the pousada concept, I highly recommend you check out the Hidden Pousadas site.  This is a good guide to staying in Pousadas and lists the better Pousadas that have all been checked out by the site owners Alison McGowan and Angela Karlson. The site gives detailed descriptions and commission-free online bookings – pretty handy if your Portuguese is not too good!

About Hidden Pousadas, Alison says, “There are thousands of Pousadas all over Brazil, ranging from the very simple to the extremely sophisticated, luxurious and expensive.  More difficult is to know which ones are the nicest when there are so many to choose from.  Initially following the recommendations of friends, we started the project looking at mid-range Pousadas in terms of cost, using the key criteria of comfort, quality, personal service, charm, and value for money.”

We prefer staying in a pousada rather than a hotel, except in larger urban areas. They are smaller places that are personal and cosy, and are worth giving up some of the facilities that hotels may offer in return. This may not be true if your are on a business trip, or mixing business and pleasure; but if you are on vacation, you may want to escape the corporate feel of a hotel.

A Typical Pousada

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Pousada dos Quatro Cantos, Olinda (see Hidden Pousadas for details)

The Pousada dos Quatro Cantos is a good example. It is located right in the heart of Olinda, within walking distance from nearly all the best bars and restaurants.  The pousada itself occupies a grand mansion and a listed building, dating back 120 years. All of the original features have been retained, from the high ceilings and huge floor to ceiling windows to beautifully tiled floors.  As with all old houses, things don’t always work here, but the staff is, without exception, all helpful and charming, and in the end you just relax and let your worries disappear.

There are 18 suites but only six really do justice to the beauty and charm of the mansion in which they are housed. Try the luxo, luxo superior, or the suite rooms for a chance to experience the past in grand style and comfort, and the swimming pool and gardens for a leafy place to relax and unwind after all that hill walking visiting the sites.

There are many other similar posaudas in the Recife area, and throughout Brazil for that matter, that provide accommodations like this.

Recife Guide, in cooperation with Hidden Pousadas, can help you locate and book reservations at pousadas similar to this one during your stay in Recife and the surrounding area. We also offer Walking Tours to guests that stay in Pousadas in Recife and Olinda.

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