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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Neverending dunes of Lencois Maranhenses and a strip of white sand in Caburé, Maranhão

Now that we a done with the two initial posts dealing with Rio de Janeiro, it’s time to jump far away in the northeastern part of Brazil. We absolutely don’t want to underestimate the charm of Rio de Janeiro as a tourism destination and later on will most probably come back with new blog posts talking about the charm of this marvellous city. However now it’s time for us to lead our followers in the magical world of other less known Brazilian diversities. Sone of our favourites are Lencois Maranhenses and Caburé, both located in Maranhão, last of northestern states.

Lencois Maranhenses

Lencois Maranhenses

Lencois Maranhenses is a large area, in fact a National Park as well, located south of the state capital São Luis. This flat area with almost 100km2 is predominated by flooded land overlaid with sand dunes. What makes Lencois Maranhenses so especial then? It’s the rare natural phenomenon occuring once in year when the heavy rainfall reaches the Amazon basin and impacts the surrounding areas, such as Lencois Maranhenses. This is when the desert kind of landscape changes and creates freshwater lagoons in between the sandy dunes. The rainfall occurs during the first months of the year meaning that the lagoons are their fullest between July and September.

Barreirinhas, a tiny village approximately four hours drive from São Luis, is a the most common and well known gateway to the National Park of Lencois Maranhenses. When Lencois Maranhenses became internationally known and started to receive more and more tourist, Barreirinhas quickly gained more accommodation options, restaurants and other services needed to serve tourists. An ideal time to stay at the village would be around two nights, as apart of the main attraction Lencois Maranhenses, Barreirinhas doesn’t have that much to offer. But, do not under estimate the charm of this natural phenomena, it’s definetely worth travelling all the way from the state capital São Luis to Barreirihas just to see the sparkling blue and green lagoons located  in between white sand dunes.

Lencois Maranhenses

Lencois Maranhenses

Lencois Maranhenses

Lencois Maranhenses

In Barreirinhas you fill find a number of travel agencies offering to take you to the National Park of Lencois Maranhenses. You will need their services, because entrance can be reached by car only and you are not allowed to wander there on your own. The heart of the national park can be discovered on foot only, therefore the tours take you to the entrance from where you continue walking with a local guide. Please note that basically there are no services in the area of the National Park, so you better take at least a bottle of water with you. We say basically, because in the edges of the National Park there are small fisherman villages offering even home stays for real adventures. The most common way to visit the national park is to make one or two day trips to different lagoons, but there are also longer hikes up to three days through the National Park area. Thanks to the heavy, but warm (during the day time) wind you will not feel the heat of the sand and when sun starts burning too much the best option is enjoy a refreshing bath in one of the many lagoons. An another interesting way to see the Lencois Maranhenses is a sightseeing flight over this immense area. This is basically the only way to understand why this large area of dunes and lagoons is called Lencois (=bed sheets).

Preguicas River

Preguicas River

Once you are done with Lencois Maranhenses, we recommend you to continue in direction of Caburé, a tiny piece of sand located in between of Rio Preguicas and the Atlantic Ocean. There are two options, either you take a day trip to Caburé or turn your day trip into transfer in case you decide to overnight in this heavenly paradise. Leaving from Barreirinhas, Caburé can be reached only by boat, via the river of Preguicas. The tour stops in Vassouras, so called small Lencois with yellow dunes and in the village of Mandacaru, where you have a chance to climb in a beacon and enjoy beautiful views over the area. Once you reach Caburé you wish you would have decided to stay over night. Here you will tear away from the everyday life, forget the hustle and bustle of the cities and feel the magical peace of the surrounding nature. There is no electricy in Caburé and during the day time the few resturants work with generator. Yes, if you decided to stay over night the lack of electricity means that there is not hot shower nor air conditioning. But don’t worry, if you have came this far you probably can stand one day with cold shower and thanks to the heavy winds during the night time you will not even feel the lack of air conditioning. In Caburé you can take a bath either in the Preguicas River or in the waves of Atlantic Ocean. Enjoy being far away from your daily routines and once the generator turns off (normally at 22 pm) don’t forget to look up on the sky of thounsands of stars.

Mandacaru and Caburé

Mandacaru and Caburé

After having experienced Caburé you have few choices, either retun back to São Luis via Barreirinhas, head towards Atins, an another small village with entrance to the National Park area or keep on travelling to south in direction of Parnaiba (in state of Piauí) and Jericoacoara (in state of Ceará). The main attractions of these areas will shortly be covered in another blog posts. Last but definetely least,  when visiting Lencois Maranhenses, there are entrancies where motorized tours are offered for tourists. Even if driving over the dunes may sound like an attractive idea, we kindly ask you not to be tempted, because in the long run such activities will destroy this fragile nature.

Our suggested itineraries with Lencois Maranhenses.

Bungalows Caburé

Bungalows in Caburé

Brazil Diversity recommends:

  • Pousada Porto do Buriti Barreirinhas. Just a short walk from the center of Barreirinhas Pousada Porto do Buriti offers an excellent value for money close to the dining options of the village.
  • Pousada Porto Buriti – Caburé. The bungalows are simple and as there is no electricity the amenities are limited as well. However staying over night in Caburé is an extraordinary experience for those who want to escape from city life and feel the simplicity of the surrounding nature.
  • Trekking – For real adventures with certain physical preparation we recommend unforgettable hikes through the National Park. The journey takes several days depending on the itinery and passes through small fisherman villages, where you will stay overnight in hammocks.

Hiking in Chapada Diamantina, Bahia

Colors of Sertão

Colors of Sertão

The national park of Chapada Diamantina is located in the state of Bahia, about 400 kilometers from the state capital Salvador and is charactirized of cliffs, table mountains, canyons, caves and waterfalls. In the past decades Chapada Diamantina was famous for diamonds found from the rivers of this National Park, which nowadays is one of the most popular eco-tourism destinations in Bahia.

Due to the breathtaking landscapes and easy access, Chapada Diamantina has became a popular destination among tourists seeking an active holiday and willing to get to know this different, often less known part of brazilian countryside. Chapada Diamantina can be reached either car or by regular bus from Salvador. The bus journey to the principal village, Lencois, takes about 6-7 hours, but luckily in general brazilian busses are quite comfortable with plenty of leg space and inclining seats. A private transfer will naturally be more expensive, but also quicker way to reach the destination. An another option is to arrive to Lencois by air. A weekly flight from Salvador operated by Trip Linhas Aéreas takes about 55 minutes and is currently operated on Saturdays only. Lencois is a small and picturesque village with number of charming pousadas, colonial style buildings and tiny roads.

Hiking Sossego

Hiking Sossego

When visiting Chapada Diamantina, the focus is naturally on activities available in the area. It’s good to take into consideration, that some of the hikes do need a certain physical condition. Closest to the village you will find the Primavera waterfall and the Serrano River with beautiful views over the village. Thanks to the easy access they can be visited, for example on the day of arrival. Brazil’s highest waterfall, Cachoeira da Fumaca is one of the principal attractions of the national park. The most popular way to reach the waterfall is from above, which requieres 6 km walking from the ecological basement of Vale do Capão. For real adventures, with good physics, can reach Cachoeira da Fumaca from below. This route requiering a three days hike. An another popular hike leading you to a waterfall, is the trail of Sossego. The lenght of this trail is about 8 km per way and there is no real path. You will go up and down the river side, jumping from a stone till another until you reach the waterfall of Sossego at the end of the canyon. We do not recommend the trail of Sossego for persons, who have problems with knees or do not have physical preparation. It’s also recommendable to have a local guide with you on all hikes as there are no signs nor clear paths.

One of the several waterfalls

One of the several waterfalls

In addition to hikes there are also other interesting activities and excursions to be enjoyed in the area of Chapada Diamantina, being one of the most popular called “Roteiro 1” (route 1). This excurcion takes you to several attractions, including the caves of Gruta da Lapa Doce, Gruta Azul and Gruta da Pratinha. A walk through the Gruta da Lapa Doce takes about one hours and allows you to admire the sand formations inside of the cave. Both Gruta Azul and Gruta Pratinha are filled with crystal clear water and in Pratinha it’s possible to swim inside of the cave, observe the bats with a flashlight and see a number of fish when snorkeling towards the sunlight. The tour of “Roteiro 1” ends with a hike on the top of the table mountain Paí Inacio. After having reached the top you will enjoy endless landscapes and the breathtaking beauty of the sunset.

Check out our suggestions for itineraries including Chapada Diamantina.

View from the top of Paí Inacio

View from the top of Paí Inacio

Brazil Diversity recommends:

  • Pousada Vila Serrano – a lovely small pousada with personalized touch. All the rooms have a veranda or balcony and are individually decorated respecting the colonial style. Ideally located in a peaceful corner, close to the bus station and the heart of the city.
  • Restaurant Cozinha Aberta – Delicious food in a tiny restaurant and romantic dining in the terrace. Be prepared to wait, the slogan of the restaurant is “slow food” and it will take time for a meal to be served. However worth waiting for!
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