Alter do Chão: Caribbean of the Amazonas, Pará

Beaches of Alter do Chão

Beaches of Alter do Chão

It’s not long time ago that the newspaper La Guardian chose Alter do Chão as the most beautiful Brazilian beach. What makes this choice so particular is the fact of Alter do Chão is in fact located almost 1400 km from the coast. So how can it be that the most beautiful Brazilian beach is located in inlands? Anyone visiting Alter do Chão during the second half of the year can make their own conclusion, but there is not doubt that these river side beaches are incredible and totally comparable with any other beaches when it comes to the beauty. Thanks to the clear waters Tapajós river, this region is often called as the Caribbean of Amazonas. However Alter do Chão is not just a beach destination, in fact it’s raither a destination of eco-tourism, which allows you to combine eco-adventures with relaxing holiday on one of these fabulous beaches.

Rainforest vegetation

Rainforest vegetation

Alter do Chão is a tiny village located in the edge of Tapajós River, approximately 35 km from Santarem. It’s a very popular holiday destination in the region and during the recent years both national and international tourists have found it. Alter do Chão has quite an easy access, at least once you have reached Santarem either by plane or by fluvial access. After having arrived to Santarem, you can either take a transfer organized by your hotel/pousada, or reach Alter do Chão by renting a car. Even though many of the streets are not asphalted, driving in the region is not complicating at all. Once you start planning your holiday in Alter do Chão, there are few points you should pay attention to. If your intention is to enjoy one of those incredible beautiful beaches you have to visit Alter do Chão during the dry season. This means the last six months of the year when the beaches appear. In case you are looking for eco-tourism adventures and different beauties of the nature, other seasons can be considered as well.

Rainforest vegetation

One of the most famous beaches of the area is called Ilha do Amor (Island of love). It’s literally a kind of island with white sand beaches located in front of the village. During the low tide it can be reached on foot, otherwise you will need to take a rowboat accross the river. If possible we would recommend you to enjoy Ilha do Amor during the weekdays, when it’s less crowded. Other popular beaches located in the region are a little further away. Either you have to hire a tour or a car in order to reach them. One of the closest is the beach of Ponta da Pedra, which can be reached also via fluvial access. This naturally beautiful beach is worth visiting and it’s also an excellent for swimming and sunbathing. Other interesting beaches are Pindobal and little bit further away Cajutuba, which is in beauty is totally comparable to Ilha do Amor . The last beach with basic infrastructure is Aramanai. It’s a distant, but very peaceful beach with lovely little guesthouse surrounded by rainforest vegetation and serving also delicious homemade food.

Canal of Jari

Canal of Jari

Visiting the Canal of Jari is one of the eco-tourism adventures organized in the area. This tour takes you to the other side of the Tapajós river, where you will clearly observe how the brownish waters of the Amazon river get mixed with the clear blue waters of Tapajós river. The first stop of this day trip takes you to the beach of Ponta da Pedra, where a lunch can be enjoyed as well. The next stop is on the other side of the river, where the flora and the fauna of the canal can be observed. Please note that crossing the river is not a simple journey. The winds tend to be heavy and you better be prepared to get wet before reaching the final destination. While discovering the Canal of Jari, you will see many different species of birds, butterflies, monkeys, sloths, lizards and if you are lucky also the pink dolphins, typical of the Amazonian region. The families living around the Canal of Jari are a beautiful example of living in full harmony with the surrounding nature. Like we have pointed out earlier as well, eco-tourism is not the same as observing animals. When we talk about the wild life, there is no guarantee that you will be able to see some specific species. Searching them and observing the entire eco-system is part of the eco-tourism and each time you visit any of these rural areas you will certainly find something you never even expected. In the region of Alter do Chão, there is also an opportunity for guided visits to the rainforest areas. Please note that simply due to the safety reasons these areas are not recommendable to be discovered on your own, but always a with professional guide who can also provide you a large quantity of information during the tour.

Sloth

Sloth

Culturally the region has also an interesting history. During the rubber fever two important factories were established in the cities of Belterra and Fordlandia. In Belterra the typical North American style houses built in the years of glory can still be seen, but the welfare of the good old days is gone and for example Fordlandia is today basically an abandoned city. As an overall summary visiting the region of Alter do Chão and Santarem is an interesting experience, which allows you, not only to enjoy the nature but also perceive how is the way of life in these rural areas of the Amazon basin.

Brazil Diversity recommends:

  • Hotel BeloAlter, Alter do Chão – This cozy hotel offers excellent quality of accommodation surroundend by large tropical gardens. You can stay in a traditional room or choose an alternative option of staying at ecological “three house” with all the modern facilities. BeloAlter is located short walk or a quick drive away from the heart of the village. This is where the Prince Charles stayed during his visit to Alter do Chão..
  • Pousada Aramanai – A very small and simple, but extremely hospitable pousada with prime located in front of the Aramanai beach. A choice for those who prefer the nature and the tranquility out of modern facilities.
  • Hotel Sandis, Santarem – If for some reason you will stay over night in Santarem Hotel Sandis is a good and centrally located tourist class choice.
Cajutuba

Cajutuba

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Why to travel to Brazil?

A recent research revealed what the foreign travellers most appreciate in Brazil. The top four included several facts related with the nature, but the interesting point in fact is the first position. People, was stated by most of the travellers and therefore stands at the number one position.

  1. Beach life

    Beach life

    People – Having people at the top of the list is an honour for any country. This means that the hospitality and the joy of brazilians is clearly visible for tourists visiting the country. In general the life has an easy-going rhythm and brazilians interact gladly with the foreigners. Here you will not stay at closed resort, but get mixed with the people and enjoy the same things as the brazilians do. I wonder if there is any other place on the earth where the joy of life is as visible as it is in Brazil. There may be many people with less conditions, but most of the will never lose their faith or the joy of life. If you come from a country with high level of self service you will also find it marvellous to be fully served at the stores,  bars and restaurants, and still you will not face disturbingly persisting sellers on the streets or at the beach.

  2. Country side

    Country side

    The beauty of the natureI would say that the second postition should be the beauty and the variety of the nature. As a huge country Brazil has an incredible variety of eco-systems depending on the part of the country. The beauty of the nature consists of numerous beaches, tropical vegetation, dunes, canyons, rainforest, waterfall, mountains, lagoons, lakes and rivers. There are extremely dry areas in Brazil and on the other hand a large part of the country is covered by rainforest. For sure the nature of this country offers something for each and every traveller, the question is do you really know all that Brazil has to offer?

  3. Endless beaches

    Endless beaches

    Beaches and the sea – Brazil has long coast with large number of beautiful beaches, some of the ideal for surfing, others for diving or snorkeling and almost all of them perfect for sunbathing and swimming. It’s not long time ago that I read an interesting review related to tourism in Brazil. The author said that Brazil may not have the most beautiful beaches of the world, compared to Southern Pacific of Maldives for example,  but Brazil certainly has the funniest beaches of the world. After having travelled widely around the world, I have to agree with the author of this article, Brazil definitely has the funniest beaches of the world and the best point is that many of them are among the most attracting ones as well. In Brazil beaches are like living-rooms, going to the beach is part of the culture and the daily life of brazilians. Here beaches are public and legally an access to any of them cannot be denied. This is why the coast of Brazil is not filled with resorts with private beaches, where only the clients can have an accesss. To be sincere, I think that is something Brazil should be proud of and this is why there is no other beach life like in Brazil. Being in the beach with the brazilians, you will quickly realize why people are in the top one position of the research. The joy of life is visible everywhere and there is always a beach bar to serve you whenever you are thirsty or hungry.

  4. Tropical vegetation

    Tropical vegetation

    Tropical climate – Thanks to the geographical position of Brazil, almost the whole country has tropical climate. This means that sunshine is basically guaranteed at any time of the year, at least in some part of the country. That’s why there are two basic things you should pay attention to before booking your trip to Brazil. First of all, if you have decided to travel during a specific time check out the climatical conditions in different parts of Brazil and choose your destination based on that. On the other hand, if you always wanted to visit certain area check out when is the best season to travel there, or at least when visiting those places is not recommendable and schedule your trip according to that. Right after that you are ready to enjoy the tropical climate and the sun shine of Brazil!

Eco-tourism and desert beaches at Ilha de Marajó, Pará

On the way to Ilha do Marajó

On the way to Ilha do Marajó

Ilha de Marajó is in fact a huge group of island slocated in the coast of Pará, not far away from state capital Belem. Marajó is a temptating mixture of eco-tourism and beaches. Thanks to the fact of being a very big and wide area there is plenty of space for everybody and you will rarely feel like being in a growded tourism destination. The access to Ilha de Marajó is done from Belem with daily ferry connections, generally departing very early in the morning and in the afternoon (check daily schedules). Reaching Marajó takes about 3-3½ hours depending on the winds and yes you will be crossing the river, not a sea, even if it may not look like it. An another, quicker option to reach Marajó is to take a catamaran, which also operates on daily basis excluding Wednesdays. A catamaran trip takes aproximately 2 hours. If you have flexibility with schedules, opt for the early morning departures both ways, even if you had to wake up before the sunrise. Later on the afternoon the winds tend to be stronger and a heavily swinging boat is not something rare at all.

Water buffalo eating

Water buffalo eating

The ferry boats arrive to the port of Camará from where you have to take a transfer (bus, van or taxi) to your final destination. Where to stay then? Most of the tourists stay either in Souré or in Salvaterra, which of these two is better then? The answer is simple, make sure that you will stay in the side of Souré where all the principal tourist attractions and the best accommodation options of the island are located. Salvaterra and Souré are separated by a river, just like all the other islands of the group. Crossing the river is easy as a motorized boat takes you to the other side of the river at any time needed and with a nominal cost.

Tropical birds

Tropical birds

The speciality of Ilha de Marajó are the water buffalos that long time ago where transported from Africa and adapted easily in the climate starting to reproduce on the island. Don’t forget to visit one of the “fazendas” (farms, like Fazenda São Jerónimo, Fazenda Sanjo, Fazenda Araruna or Fazenda Bom Jesus) of the island, which are excellent points to observe wildlife, especially birds and taking boat excursions along the narrow rivers/streams surrounded by mangrove vegetation. Most of the fazendas also offer options for light trekking and horseback riding, if you are an adventure minded traveller you can also try out riding a buffalo. A visit to Marajó takes you very close to the nature, as it’s present basically anywhere you go and luckily until now the human life has not destroyed this fantastic eco-system.

Praia do Pesquiero

Praia do Pesquiero

If you want to enjoy the wide beaches of Ilha do Marajó try to place you travel between July and December, this is the dry and hot season on the island and naturally also the best time to enjoy these marvellous beaches of freshwater. The most popular beaches are Praia do Pesquiero and Barra Velha, both of them located in the island of Souré. Praia do Pesquiero is a 3 km long beach, where a number of natural swimming pools can be found during the tide water. Barra Velha is minor, but it definitely is hard to say which of these two is more picturesque,  it’s all up to your personal taste. What makes Barra Velha attracting is the mixture of  magrove trees, streams and the tide water that forms a sort of sand island in the middle of the river. Both of these beaches are located further away from the heart of the village so that you will need to take some sort of transportation (taxi, mototaxi, bicycle) to reach them. Mototaxi is probably the simplest way to get moved from one place to another while you stay in Marajó. On your way to Barra Velha, you will cross a place called “Landing field of Guarás”, where a large number of these beautiful red birds, “Guarás”, can be seen. Like most of the brazilian beaches both these also have rustic beaches bars serving ice-cold drinks, snacks and meals, so that you can easily spend an entire day enjoying the sun, the tranquility and the smooth waves of the river.

Praia do Joanes

Praia do Joanes

Barra Velha

Barra Velha

Beside of these two most popular beaches, a distant beach of Praia do Araruna, wellknown of its’ extend mangrove vegetation is located at the side of Souré, but can only be reached via fluvial access. On the side of Salvaterra the most interesting beach is Praia de Joanes, located in the village of Joanes. This is where the old ruins, first signs of inhabitations on the island can be found as well. Compared to the beaches of Souré, Joanes has generally stronger waves and more green vegetation. It’s worth visiting, even though on our opinion is not comparable to Praia do Pesquiero or Barra Velha.

As a conclusion we would like to point out that Marajó is worth visiting even if the access from Belem is long and tiring. Ilha do Marajó is a destination for an open minded traveller, who will not be disturbed even if the highest class and the widest option of services may not be available. When travelling to Ilha do Marajó the motive of your trip should be the nature, if so you will not be dissappointed, Marajó is still an authentic paradise on the earth!

Boats at the beachside

Boats at the beachside

Brazil Diversity recommends:

  • Pousada Casarão da Amazônia – A lovely colonial style pousada in the hearth of Souré with excellent price-quality relation. One of the best options to stay in, if not the best!
  • Pousada O Canto do Francês – A good quality rustic pousada just a step away from the center of Souré.

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.

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.
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