Chapada dos Guimarães, Mato Grosso’s waterfall capital
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Chapada dos Guimarães, a town nestled in a national park of the same name, is not yet popular with international tourists – or even with tourists from other Brazilian states – and instead is mostly a weekend retreat for people who live and work in Mato Grosso’s capital, Cuiabá. It claims to be the centre of South America, but then so does Santa Cruz in Bolivia, so who do we really believe here? (ed: just looked at a map; Santa Cruz is definitely lying).
Chapada is a popular place for bird-watching, though if you’re over this way you may as well head out a little further to the Pantanal where at certain times of the year the swamps are alive with avian life. If you head out into the wild in this area, there is also a chance of seeing wild jaguars, tapirs and caimans.
It’s rumoured that the area is a hotspot for extra-terrestrial activity with some supposed UFO sightings, and several hippie groups have claimed that the park is blessed by a cosmic energy.
You can watch what we got up to during our time in Chapada dos Guiamares here:
How to get to Chapada dos Guimarães
Assuming you’re already in Cuiabá (because there are few other places people visit in Mato Grosso!), this is really easy. Just head to the bus terminal, buy a ticket from the CMT desk and get on one of the approx. hourly buses that go directly to Chapada dos Guim. The journey takes an hour on a fairly comfortable bus, and costs 18R$ each way (less than £4). Buses run from 6:30am until 7:40pm. On the return, buses run from Chapada dos Guimarães to Cuiabá from 5:30am until 8pm. If you just want to go to the Bride’s Veil waterfall as a day trip from Cuiabá, you can ask the bus driver to drop you off there.
What to do in Chapada dos Guimarães
Chapada dos Guimarães usually draws in a crowd that are here to experience two things: the plains (or savanna) and the waterfalls. It’s said that the local area has 300 waterfalls, so you’ve got plenty to choose from! Some you need an official guide to be able to visit; others you can go to on your own. Although you can get around with a taxi, lots of the natural sites are located a fair drive out of town, so if you can hire a car it would be best. There are Hertz and Budget offices at Cuiabá airport – we always use Priceline to find the cheapest deal!
Rio Claro Valley
This is Mato Grosso’s answer to the clear waters of Bonito, which can be found full of tourists in the state of Mato Gross do Sul. It’s pretty far out of the town, and if you want to drive some of the trail instead of doing it on foot (15km within the park) you’ll probably want a 4×4. The 3 key stops are Crista do Galo – a hike to a peak for an epic view of the incredible ‘Rooster Crest’ – Poço das Antas and Poço Verde, both little pools to swim and dive in. You need a guide for access to this, and you’ll need to book at least the day before as your guide will need to pick up keys to the gate. There are plenty of tourist offices in town, and your accommodation will have contacts! If you like the clear-watered pool vibe, check out Rio Paciencia, 20km away from the town. Entry is 5R$ (£1) per person.
Where to see the Mato Grosso plains
Morro dos Ventos Restaurant
With just a 3R$ charge per vehicle, this is a stunning place to come for an hour or two of relaxation in the gardens with an ice cream, after you’ve braved the two platforms hanging over the cliffs, of course. You can see the plain as far as the eye can see, and on a clear day, the city of Cuiabá off in the distance. It’s also a hotspot for araras, vibrant red or blue macaws. You don’t have to eat at the restaurant to visit this viewpoint.
Alto do Céu viewpoint
The sunset show! Get to this spot at around 4pm for Chapada’s 5pm-ish sundown. It is 17km out of town, down the road towards Cuiabá. You’ll be able to see the city a lot better than you can from Morro dos Ventos too as it’s closer. It’s a beautiful sight! Entry costs 20R$ per person.
Key Waterfalls in Chapada dos Guimaraes
Véu de Noiva; Bride’s Veil
When you search for Chapada dos Guimarães on Google Images (how all good trip plans start), this is the waterfall that dominates the results. To get there, you need to drive out towards Cuiabá for 10km, until you get to the park entrance. Parking and entry are free, and you don’t need a guide to see Véu de Noiva.
It’s just takes a short walk – which is hilly but not too difficult – to get down to the bride’s veil. If you want lunch in this park, the only option is the restaurant just up the road from the bride’s veil; you’ll pass it on the way down. Though this waterfall is beautiful and snuggled in a gorgeous green valley with red-rocked cliffs, we perhaps enjoyed the other 2 waterfalls nearby more, just because we could get closer to them and have a swim after our hike.
After you see the bride’s veil (or before, if you prefer!) head from the main entrance down the trail through the forest for 20 minutes or so. You’ll come to Cachoeira dos Namorados first, and then the much larger Cachoeirinha. You can swim in both, so bring your bikinis and your brave faces cuz the water is cold as hell. Note that this is a no-drone area.
Cachoeira do Marimbondo and Cachoeira da Geladeira
These waterfalls are located on private property, only about 7km out of the centre of town, and cost 7R$ per person to visit (10R$ on weekends).
Circuito de Cachoeiras; Waterfalls Circuit
As described, this is indeed a circuit comprising of waterfalls. These include: Cachoeira 7 de Setembro, Cachoeira da Hidromassagem, Cachoeira do Pulo, Cachoeira do Degrau, Cachoeira da Prainha and Cachoeira das Andorinhas and Cachoeira Independência. On this trail, you can also stop in at the Casa de Pedra (Stone House). This is a sandstone cave, which is said to have housed indigenous tribes, runaway slaves and rebel forces throughout history. This circuit can only be done with the help of a professional guide.
Where to eat in Chapada dos Guimarães
In low season, not many restaurants are open, but at night you can guarantee the food trucks will be down the bottom of the main square! Açai for dinner?! Yes please!
For a more substantial meal, head to the centre (there’s not much going on outside of the centre of town for you to head to anyway) and follow your nose to the most authentic BBQ you can find. This will involve sticky plastic chairs, old men playing cards, stray dogs begging and probably some of the best meat of your life.
There are 2 posho restaurants of note in Chapada dos Guimarães, which both require a short drive to get there and are both on the edge of the cliffs of the plains. These are Morro dos Ventos, which is the excellent viewpoint place for the daytime, mentioned previously, and also Restaurante Penhasco, which is a buffet-style meal with valley views and has a play pool for the kids among you (don’t be shy!).
Is there anything we missed out in our guide to Chapada dos Guimarães that you’d like to find out? Let us know in the comments and we’ll get right back to you!
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