Chapada dos Guimarães: Hiking the highlands of Mato Grosso

Chapada dos Guimarães

Chapada dos Guimarães

Chapada dos Guimarães is located roughly 100 km northeast of Cuiabá, the state capital of Mato Grosso. These highlands of Brazil invite you to hike in the endless landscapes and bath under refreshing waterfalls. Once you reach Cuiabá the easiest way to reach Chapada dos Guimarães is by renting a car or contracting a private transfer. The road is in pretty good conditions and a second lane is currently under construction, making it pretty easy to reach the city of Chapada dos Guimarães. The city itself is pretty small, though the area of the National Park is raither extend and has several attractions, including waterfalls, caves, canyons, rivers and lagoons.

When planning a trip try to avoid  the first few months of the year, when the rainstorms tend to be heavier. Due to the location up in the highlands the winters (June-August) tend to be colder and the night time temperature may dropp close to zero degrees, something that may prevent you from enjoying a bath under the waterfalls. Therefore some of the very best moments to visit Chapada dos Guimarães are the months of May, September, October and November.

Veú de Noiva Waterfall

Veú de Noiva Waterfall

Get accommodated in the heart of the village and fill your days with excursions. One of the principal tours takes you to the numerous waterfalls of the national park, allowing you to have a refreshing bath under them. This full day excursion will also introduce you to the endless landscapes and rich vegetation of Chapada dos Guimarães National Park.  The tour includes also a visit to Veú de Noiva, the highest waterfall of the region with a breathtaking viewpoint next to it. Another interesting day trip takes you to the valley of Rio Claro surrounded by huge canyon walls. You will have a chance to admire the green landscapes of the valley, bath in the Rio Claro river and observe the sign language of indigenous tribes in the rocks.

Rio Claro Valley

Rio Claro Valley

Beside of these two principal tours organized in the national park, you will find a number of other attractions such as the waterfall of Martinha, located about 40km outside of the city. This waterfall is a popular bathing place among the locals, especially during the weekends. On your way back to town stop at the viewpoint and admire a spectacular sunset from the top of it. Chapada dos Guimarães is also a popular destination for adventure tourism. If you are into trekking, challenge yourself with the trail of São Jerónimo. Wonderful views from the top of it (836m) make it worth hiking. In Chapada dos Guimarães you will also have a chance to practise rappeling under a waterfall or light hiking for example in so called dinosaurus valley known for its’ strange rock formations.

Andorinha waterfall

Andorinha waterfall

At the moment there are few attractions that are closed due to either political reasons or lack of security. Among them are some of the principal sights of Chapada dos Guimarães like Cidade de Pedra (city of the rocks), the canyon of Paredão do Eco, cave of Aroe Jari and the Blue Lagoon (Lagoa Azul). When you travel to Chapada dos Guimarães check out the latest updates conserning these sights and set up of visit if possible, as the views from both Paredão do Eco and Cidade de Pedra are one in kind, while the cave and the lagoon are also certainly worth visiting.

Brazil Diversity recommends:

  • Pousada Villa Guimarães – An outstanding tourist class pousada in the heart of the city. Spacious rooms, excellent buffet breakfast and hospitable owners. Great value for money!
  • Pousada Solar do Ingles – A lovely pousada surrounded by tropical gardens and decorated with the traditional English style. A great choice for a traveller looking for cozy, but stylish accommodation with number of details.
  • Restaurant Peixaria do Nelsinho – A fish restaurant with long traditions, remember to taste the smoked fish, the speciality of the house.
  • Restaurant Som da Oca – A simple restaurant in the city center with tasty food  and great value for money.
  • Restaurant Bistrô da Mata – A sophisticated restaurant in the middle of the nature with great views. An excellent place to enjoy both the atmospheare and the dinner.
Paredão do Eco

Paredão do Eco

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How to plan your trip to Brazil?

I find planning a trip entertaining. Maybe that’s why I ended up working in travel industry, which is full of changes, unexpected situations and challenges. On the other hand it’s also a very rewarding industry with huge cultural diversity and many very open minded people working on the field. Planning a trip may sound easy, but when it comes to creating an itinery in a foreign country it may not be that simple after all. This is why I wanted to share some of my tips with all of you who are planning to travel to Brazil, simply because I want you to see the diverse faces of this lovely country and get the best out of your stay in Brazil.

Ten things to take into consideration when planning a trip to Brazil.

1. – Destinations – First step is to choose your destination. What are you looking for? Do you prefer spending your holiday laying down on a beach and snorkeling in the crystal clear waters? Or maybe you enjoy an active holiday diving, hiking and surfing around. On the other hand you might enjoy observing the nature or spending your spare time in the pulsing nights of a tropical city. Choosing destination is basically the first thing to do. To ease your task, we have divided the top brazilian destinations into three categories: Beaches, Eco-Tourism and Culture.  Pick up the category that mostly fits into your needs and go through our suggestations or opt for a quick  search that takes you directly to a specific beach, eco-adventure or city break type. If you prefer a combination of these styles check out our itinerary suggestions or contact Brazil Diversity.

2. Seasons – Once you have decided what sort of holiday you are looking for it’s time to take a look at the seasons. To guarantee an unforgettable holiday it’s essential to pay attention on the weather, in case of Brazil especially on the rainy season. Brazil is a tropical country and you will always find a place to enjoy the sun, however you need to check when the rains tend to occur and when the temperatures are at lowest. Heavy rains  may not only destroy your holiday, but also close roads and cause complications when trying to reach your destination. Low season may also offer more attractive rates, but remember spending as little as possible is not always the best option. If you want to economise check out the weather conditions and try to take advantage of the middle season, that usually offers good rates and less crowded attractions. Finding out best seasons it easy. Brazil Diversity has included season recommendations in the description of each wonder, check them out!

3. Public Holidays – You may not know the dates of all public holidays in Brazil. Actually they even vary depending on the state. Now you may ask what they have to do with your vacation plans. Well, public holidays, not only New Years Eve and Carnaval, have all to do with your holiday, especially at the moment of making plans. In Brazil the hotels and pousadas usually not only increase prices but also sell packages with minimu stay during the public holidays. So if you planed to stay in a certain region only during few nights you will most probably find it extremely complicating to find an accommodation option during a long weekend or another public holiday period. If you were lucky enough to find something you would end up paying an extra price for that. This is why it’s good to take public holidays into account when travelling to Brazil and of course, if your budget is very tight it might be best to avoid these peak seasons. For further information and exact dates contact Brazil Diversity.

4. Distances – Brazil is a huge country, something that should be taken into consideration when planning an itinerary or a combination of several destinations. In a map the distances may not look that long, but believe me or not, they are! And it’s not only about the distance, it’s also about the transportation options and the condition of the roads. Public transportation may always not be as good, quick and direct as you are used to in your home country. The lack of infrastructure may also double the travelling times. Study these issues, check out the distances and opt for the best ways to get transfered from one place to another when planning your trip.

5. Transportation –Like I mentioned transportation is worth paying attention to. Basically there are no passanger trains in Brazil, so all long distance transportation is done either by road or by air. The busses are in general spacious and in good condition, though this means of transportation is very time taking, due  to several stops, heavy traffic and lack of  highways. Air transportation reaches all the mayor cities of Brazil and is a quick and easy way to move from one place to another. If you go through the offers and book early enough you will also be able to find quite nice deals and taking a plane can end up being a really good and time saving choice, and in some cases not even that much more expensive. Another option is to take a look at the airpasses offered by both GOL and TAM. They are a good option for a traveller who is planning to take several long distance flights in Brazil. Planning is essential in this case as well, because all the airpasses have to be purchased in before hand outside of Brazil. We have discussed about transportation options in our earlier blog posts, check them out for tips and recommendations or contact Brazil Diversity.

6. Time – How many days should you stay in Brazil? Well, this depends totally on how many cities/destinations you are planning to visit? I would say that on a city-break a minimun time would be three full days per city, especially if you are arriving from a long haul destination and still suffer jet-lag. Time that you spend in a beach destination depends totally on you. Personally I enjoy seeing as many different places as possible, meaning that 4 nights in a same village tends to be pretty much the maximum for me. However I do know people who enjoy relaxing on the beach for two weeks without changing destination, so this is pretty much based on your personal choices. When it comes to Brazil’s top destinations, I would say that 5 full days in Rio de Janeiro is an ideal time for you to visit the principal sights without rush and run. If you are planning to stay for more than that, consider an option of visiting nearby destinations, such as Búzios or Ilha Grande for couple of nights. The Falls of Iguacu can be seen in two days. If you want to extend your trip to Paraguay, add one more day into your itinerary. Time to spend in each eco-tourism destinations varies as well. As many of them are located in raither distant areas , so therefore a minimum stay of 3 to 4 nights is highly recommended.

7. Booking – Book in advance! Not only because booking your accommodation and transportation in advance makes your life a lot easier, but it’s also an excellent way to guarantee the availability and the price. As we all know in today’s world there are no last minutes prices in tourism, unless we talk about charter flights and package tours. You will never know when there happens to be a congress or any other mayor event in the city, so that all the hotels are fully booked leaving you without any reasonably priced option. Planning and booking in advance means that you can enjoy stress free vacation and in the meanwhile get the best out of your holiday. If you need any tips or if you are willing to book an unforgettable holiday in Brazil, contact Brazil Diversity.

8. Accommodation – I know accommodation is something that fully depends on our personal tastes. Some may enjoy luxurous pool villas, whiles other prefer raither small ecological hideaways. When planning a trip to Brazil you will run into the word “pousada”. If you are still unfamiliar with this term, check out our earlier blog post “Pousada: what is it and why should I stay in one”. I really want to encourage all of you to stay in a pousada. Pousada is not a just a simple guesthouse with minimum infrastructure, it’s definitely not a roadside motel or a hostel with shared bedrooms and bunk beds. Today pousada is a cozy and often raither small accommodation option that differs from a conventional hotel with personalized attentions and unique characteristics often related to local environment or culture. So when booking your accommodation in Brazil, consider seriously a possibility of staying in a pousada, you won’t regret your choice. Hand picked hotel and pousada recommendations can be found from the site of Brazil Diversity. Another thing to take into consideration is that most of the brazilian hotels and pousadas ask a prepayment of 50% from the total price in order to guarantee the booking.

9. Tours and Excursions – There was a time when I loved to explore touristic sights on my own. I used to think that taking a tour is waste of money and turns travelling less adventurous. To be honest I still apply this theory of mine in many destinations like Europe or US, where it’s easy to be an independent traveller and still not miss a single point. However today I do admit that this sort of travelling doesn’t work in each and every destination, or at least not with all the attractions. By taking a tour you will get a deeper knowledge of the sight you are visiting and in case of Brazil most importantly, a tour may be the only way to reach a certain spot or destination. It may also be the safetiest, the less stressfull and especially the quickest way to visit the sight. I’m quite sure that you are not willing to lose any precious time on holidays or happy about any extra stress that might appear, so why not booking a tour. If you have a very tight schedule consider an option of booking your tours in before hand, otherwise fix the dates once you have arrived to your destination and checked the climatical conditions for the coming days.

10. Attitude – Last but not least. Now that you have planned everything and are ready to take off, remember you will be on vacation and things may not always work on the way you are used to. Relax, leave the stress back home and enjoy your stay!

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Dunes, beaches and much more: Natal and Pipa, Rio Grande do Norte

Genipabú

Genipabú

The pleasant sunny weather and beautiful landscapes of Rio Grande do Norte makes it an ideal destination for a traveller looking for beach life and natural beauty. It’s hard to say which is the main attraction of this the state, is it the National Park of Genipabu, natural swimming pools of Maracajaú, the former fisherman village of Pipa or the distant beaches of Sagi? However there is no need to worry, because unlike many other Brazilian states the distances in the litoral of Rio Grande do Norte are not very long and during your stay you can easily discover all of the main sights participating on tours or moving around with a rental car.

Ponta Negra

Ponta Negra

Once you arrive to Natal as a tourist you will most probably to stay at the Ponta Negra area, which is dominated by the most popular beach of the city. Taking this into account, you better remember that Ponta Negra is located at the urban area of Natal and turns out to be very crowded beach, especially during the weekends. So don’t expect to find a virgin beach with white sand and palm trees. In Ponta Negra there are plenty of kiosks, people selling you everything from a slight snack to souveniers, making it to sound like a market place sometimes. But, don’t get me wrong, for Natal Ponta Negra is like Copacabana for Rio de Janeiro, a kind of living room where Brazilians spend their spare time when they are not travelling out of the town. During your stay in Natal and Ponta Negra, take a walk along the beach boulevard, enjoy the way of life and don’t forget to take a tour to Genipabú. Genipabú is the most important sight of Natal, when it comes to tourism. It’s a huge area of dunes situated in the urban city area. The access is allowed only for authorized buggy drivers who will take you up on the top the dunes, where you can enjoy beautiful views or even take a ride with the camels, like if you were in Sahara. After having visited Genipabú the tour takes you to the lagoons, where you can plunge into refreshing water and enjoy yourself.

Litoral south of Rio Grande do Norte

Litoral south of Rio Grande do Norte

If you travel to north of Natal, the most interesting sights are the natural swimming pools of Maracajaú. The protection of coral reefs keeps this part of the see calm making it a perfect place for snorkeling and under water life observation. On the other hand, if you travel south of Natal you will some reach some interesting places such as the lake of Lagoa de Arituba, a great place for a bath in non salted water, long white sand beach of Camuripim and last but not least Pipa, a former fisherman village, which has turned out to be one of the most popular destinations of the northeastern coast. Pipa, which is located approximately 85 km from Natal is suitable for all ages. It’s as popular among young surfers as among upper class couples willing to spend quality time along the beach. Surfers will find the waves of Praia do Amor irresistible and the beauty makes it worth visiting even though the beach is not good for bath due to the strong waves and tides. Despite of the popularity Pipa has conserved it’s charm and easygoing atmospheare. During the day time the village may seem even a little bit sleepy, because people have spread out in the numerous beaches of the area, but when the sun goes down the shops, bars and restaurants filling the tiny streets of Pipa come alive.

Beach of Sagi

Beach of Sagi

Don’t limit yourself in staying just at the beach in front of the village, in the vicinity there are too many breathtaking views definitely not worth skipping. One of the most beautiful beaches of the area, Praia do Madeiro is located very close to the village of Pipa.  To reach it you have to park your car on the road side and descend the steps located next to hotel Ponta do Madeiro. If you are lucky, here you may even see dolphins, which frequently visit this beach. For a beautiful sunset and a bath in a river, dont’ miss out the the beach of Tibau do Sul, just a short drive from Pipa to north. If you head south of Pipa, the beach of Cunhau is worth visiting. One the way there you will pass by the “falesias”, kind canyons of baked sand in beautiful formations. Once you reach Cunhau the landscapes are flatter and the beauty of the nature is dominated by the rivers meeting the sea. There may not be that many services available, just some bars serving drinks and meals, but that’s what makes it an ideal place to relax and forget the stress of everyday life. At the very southest end of Rio Grande do Norte, you will find Sagi, an another small fisherman village, which still today conserves the simple life. Sagi is a perfect place to enjoy the purity of the nature. Both Sagi and Cunhau can be reached driving down the main road, but taking a day trip along the beach by a beach buggy is definitely a more interesting experience allowing you to enjoy the views and the fresh air along the way.

Our suggested itineraries including Natal and Pipa

Sunset Tibau do Sul

Sunset Tibau do Sul

Brazil Diversity recommends:

  • Pousada Divi Divi, Ponta Negra – A nice and small tourist pousada close to the beach front.
  • Restaurante Camarões, Ponta Negra -Excellent sea food restaurant with plenty of shrimp meals in the menu.
  • Pousada Tartaruga, Pipa – Comfortable tourist class pousada in the heart of Pipa.
  • Villas da Pipa, Pipa – This is  your choice in case you are looking for full privacy. Accommodation in private villas with two suites, particular garden, barbecue and pool for each one. Your home abroad!
  • Pousada Toca da Coruja, Pipa – One of the best accommodation options in Pipa. Pousada Toca da Coruja offers quality, charm and comfort. Excellent choice for example for honeymooners!
  • Pousada Mirante de Pipa, Pipa – Ecological bungalows surrounded by the nature, just a short drive from Pipa to south.
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