Photo by fabulosodestino.com.br
Supringly often skipped by most backpackers, as it`s quite far off the route of the `main attractions`. And indeed for those sticking to the standard route of Bonito, Southern Pantanal and Iguazu; Chapada dos Guimaraes is indeed a big extra turn around the block. But! Combining this hiking pearl with the undiscovered Bom Jardim (the purer version of Bonito) and the highest concentration of wildlife in the Northern Pantanal, you`ll create yourself an unforgettable trip.
What to do?
With its breathtaking sceneries, picturesque landscapes, endless hikes, caves and waterfalls this is a certain `eat your heart out!’ for any national park lover. From the countless activities you can do around, here`s my personal top 3:
Photo by: brasilimperdivel.tur.br
1. Cachoeira Veu de Noiva
The brides veil waterfall. With a drop of almost 96 meters, the longest waterfall in the park. Enjoy epic views, see blue macaws fly passed the waterfall and cool off at some hidden pools in the rainforest. Bring a lunch package, take water and some cold beers and pump yourself up for a nice and relaxing day.
What does a visit look like: From the busstop it`s about a two minute walk to the entry of the park. Tell the guard you come to visit the `Veu de Noiva` and you can enter without any form of registration. From this point it`s an 1,100 meter trail to the waterfall. Take a moment to enjoy the breathtaking view over the valley when you`re on your way.
Those blessed with a bit of patience will definitely be rewarded while enjoying the sight of the waterfall with pairs of blue macaws and maybe even toucans flying by.
As the viewing point of the waterfall is quite in the lude, it can get extremely hot. For a quick cool off, walk a 100 meter further up the hill. Here`s a restaurant area, where you can use the bathroom, get yourself an overpriced meal or souvenir or just sit in the shade and enjoy a little breeze.
Walk back the same way to enjoy the waterfall and the view one more time. Once you returned to the entrance, register yourself for the two waterfalls Cachoeirinha and Cachoeira dos Namorados, around 1600 meters downhill. The first half of the trail will be through low bushes and therefore no shade, the last half is through the much cooler rainforest. The first waterfall is an absolute secret little paradise. The second waterfall, 100 meter uphill is a lot less romantic, but worth a quick plunch or sneak peek.
When to go: Best is to leave in the early morning to avoid the burning heat of the sun (trust me, I went in the middle of the `winter` and was sweating my ass off) and selfie stick fanatics blocking the view.
To have the ultimate alone-in-paradise feeling, avoid weekends and holidays.
How to get there: Best news about this attraction is that it`s not only out top-pick, it`s also free to enter + you can very easy get here by yourself. Take the bus leaving to Cuaiaba, leaving at 9:00, 10:30, 14:00 and 15:30. Say you`ll get off at Veu de Noiva and you`ll be charged 6.80 for a one-way ticket. Bus stops in front of the park entrance.
Hitchhikers should walk a bit out of town till the start of the highway to Cuaiaba and put your tumbs up there.
For the way back ask about the current bus schedule at the entrance, there`s a timetable there in the office or just make friends at one of the waterfalls and hitch a ride back to town.
The bus stops in front the entrance of Cachoeira Veu de Noiva
Left: The bus stop to Cuiaba. Here stops the bus that comes from town and goes to Cuiaba.
Right: The bus stop back to town. This bus is coming from Cuiaba and goes back into town.
Don`t forget to bring: Sunscreen, a hat and water. On the trail from and to the waterfall there`s no shade! So keep this in mind. Most of the time there`s a big container at the entrance where you can fill up your water bottle, but on busy days it might run out. Those of you who don`t really feel like buying food at an overpriced restaurant better bring your own supplies.
Those visiting the waterfalls Cachoeirinha and Cachoeira dos Namorados, should bring good hiking boots or at least good sandals.
Gruta da Lagoa Azul by Dutchess travel diary
2. Caverns `Aroe-Jari` and `Gruta da Lagoa Azul`
A 1 to 2 hour hike through a scenic part of the national park. The hike is one-way. You`ll be able to return by train truck. Along the hike you`ll pass the beautiful `Gruta da Lagoa Azul`, a picture, perfect blue lake, covered by a crème colored limestone cavern, cavern `Aroe-Jari` a sky high cave named after the parrots that live inside the cave and numerous viewing points.
You need to be accompanied by a guide to enter, so book this activity ahead. Entry fee is 45 reales (14USD) + 15 reales (4USD) for a one-way ticket with the truck.
Hungry stomachs can be filled up with a self-service buffet lunch for 35 reales (11 USD) or you can bring your own food.
Those with a drop down budget can consider to stay here to camp (20 reales per tent, 15 reales for breakfast). There`s a cold shower and toilet. Both clean and well maintained.
Mirante da Chapada by Dutchess travel diary
3. Mirante da Chapada, Centro Geodesico
Here`s another box to thick off the list: after the equator and Ushaia, the most southern point of South America, you`ll find here: the geographical center of South America. No monument, but a massive viewing point and a great place to open up a bottle of wine and watch the sunrise.
How to get there: There`s some people with calves of mountain goats biking up the hill from town. For those of you saying: “Ow easy, done that one before.” It`s 10 k uphill, so good luck on that one. Anybody else with a good sense of mind, go hitchhiking or book a tour to the caverns. Most tours to the caverns will stop here on their way. To be sure, it`s best to ask.
Mirante da Chapada by Dutchess travel diary
Where to stay
The town of Chapada is the basecamp for all the activities. It`s not much more than a square and a church, but it has a great vibe. Especially at night. A lot of restaurants have live music and locals go out for drinks.
Cheapest place in town is Pousada Aurora Boreal; 35 reales for a 4-bed dorm (11USD) with a shared bathroom, but as Chapada is a very quiet town, you`ll be likely to have the room to yourself. Don`t expect anything fancy, you get what you pay for. Basic breakfast, a maybe yes, maybe no WiFi and not tooo clean bathrooms, no kitchen, but overall nice place to stay. To reserve a spot contact 65-33013420 or just walk from the terminal to the plaza (main square). In the street towards the plaza, you`ll pass the hotel on your left-hand side.
How to get there
Buses leave from Cuiabá at 6:30, 8:00, 9:30, 11:00, 13:00, 16:00, 17:30 and 19:00. To get to Cuiabá you can either take an airplane or bus from any major city in the country. There`s several options for car rentals in Cuiaba as well.
Those visiting the northern Pantanal and/or Bom Jardim should consider booking a total package for all three places to cover the transport. This might turn out more profitable for your travel budget. One agency specialized in all three destinations is Pantanal Expeditions.
The only ATM in town is from Banco Brasil, which is mostly not accepting foreign cards. Better stock up with plenty of cash. There`s one pharmacy, but to ensure your medical needs, bring essentials. Also cables, adapters, SD-cards and other electronics will be hard to find in this town. Make sure everything is up and running and you`re not in the need of any replacement.