Parque Nacional da Chapada dos Guimarães
Coming from Cuiabá, the entrance to the Parque Nacional da Chapada dos Guimarães (tel. 65/3301-1133, 8 a.m.–5 p.m. daily) is on MT-251 about 15 kilometers (9 miles) before the town of Chapada dos Guimarães. The park’s visitors center is about 8 kilometers (5 miles) past the park entrance, and is equipped with a restaurant, snack bar, store selling artesenato, and lots of photos and maps of the park.
From here, it’s only a five-minute walk to a lookout point where you’ll come face-to-face with the park’s star attraction: the Cachoeira Véu da Noiva, the 86-meter (282-foot) “Bride’s Veil” waterfall that goes plunging straight over a sandstone cliff into a pool. If you want to venture down to see the falls from underneath (and take a dip in the pool), you’ll require a guide from town.
Other popular trails include the Circuito das Cachoeiras, a four-hour hike that passes numerous waterfalls, and the strenuous full-day trek that leads to the Morro de São Jerónimo, the highest point of the region, from whose summit the views are astounding.
You’ll also need a guide to visit the Cidade de Pedra, a series of monumental quartz and sandstone rock formations that resemble rough-hewn towers of a primitive city. It’s 25 kilometers (16 miles) north of town (much of the road is dirt); try to visit in the late afternoon when the sun intensifies the stone’s natural red hues and you’ll catch glimpses of the magnificent red macaws that circle around the cliffs.
Beyond the park’s boundaries are some other worthy attractions. The Caverna Aroe Jari is an enormous 1,400-meter-long (4,593-foot-long) sandstone cavern 40 kilometers (25 miles) northeast of town (getting there involves driving along a dirt road and then hiking several kilometers—a guided tour is essential) whose walls are decorated with primitive paintings dating back 8,000 years. An adjacent cave shelters the Lagoa Azul, whose crystalline waters turn brilliant blue when hit by the midday rays of the sun.
Easier to visit is the Mirante da Geodésia, 8 kilometers (5 miles) from town (on an extension of the Rua Cipriano Curvo), which marks the geodesic center of the South American continent (the equidistant point between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans). The mirante (lookout) itself is at the edge of a canyon and offers spectacular sweeping views that include the distant towers of Cuiabá.
© Michael Sommers from Moon Brazil, 2nd Edition