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  • Writer's pictureDanae Bianco

What to do in Chapada dos Guimaraes - Central Brazil

Updated: Oct 25, 2023


With its huge rock formations, breathtaking viewpoints and beautiful waterfalls, Chapada dos Guimarães National Park is one of the main attractions of the Brazilian Cerrado. There you will find hike opportunities for all levels of ability and interest, creeks and ponds great for floating, waterfalls, several of them perfect for bathing, and incredible caves, all of that within a preservation area of cerrado forest.


In this post I share what to do in Chapada dos Guimaraes - Brazil, a perfect destination for immersing yourself in the incredible nature of the Brazilian Cerrado savanna, with charming inns and quick and easy access from major airports.


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In this post you'll find:

 
Cidade de Pedra lookout, Chapada dos Guimaraes, Brazil
Cidade de Pedra lookout


How to get to Chapada dos Guimaraes


The town of Chapada dos Guimarães is about 65 km (40 miles) from Cuiabá and 80 km (50 miles) from Cuiabá Airport, which can be done in just over an hour by car.


Cuiabá is the capital of Mato Grosso State and one of the biggest cities in Central Brazil. There are flights connecting Cuiabá to the main cities in the country and, if you plan in advance, it is possible to get tickets at very good prices (our case!).


We departed from São Paulo (Congonhas Airport) on a direct flight late afternoon on a Friday, a little over 2 hours of flight time.


Major airlines carriers in Brazil are LATAM, GOL and AZUL, all of them have many flights to and from Cuiabá, specially connecting the city to São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Brasília.


Chapada as seen from Morro da Crista do Galo, Chapada dos Guimaraes, Brazil
Chapada as seen from Morro da Crista do Galo


When to go to Chapada dos Guimaraes


It is possible to visit Chapada at any time of the year.


The weather is hot and rainy year round, but in the summer it can get really hot, as well as being the rainiest season - February is the month with the most rain. The positive side is that the rivers and waterfalls are fuller and waterfall bathing is more inviting.


In winter it rains less. July and August tend to be the driest months and there is less cloudiness, but on the other hand more subject to fog. Temperatures are milder, reaching close to 12ºC.


We went there in November, taking advantage of a 3-day long weekend. We had good weather, but overcast, and quite hot. Every day there was a heavy downpour of rain in late afternoon, heavy downpours, with lightnings and thunders, which in less than half an hour were already over. Nothing that disturbed our trip, on the opposite, it was great to cool off after a long day of outdoor activities and make the temperature more pleasant at night.


Pousada do Parque - Parque Nacional da Chapada dos Guimarães, Mato Grosso - O que fazer em 3 dias na Chapada dos Guimarães
View of the lawn at Pousada do Parque


Where to stay at Chapada dos Guimaraes, Brazil


We stayed at Pousada do Parque which, in addition to being charming and very pleasant, is located on the edge of Chapada, within the limits of the National Park. The girls loved the pool and the garden with swings. The restaurant is delicious and perfect for relaxing and enjoying a good meal, with an incredible view, after a lot of walking and swimming during the day.


Within the area of the Pousada do Parque there are two seasonal waterfalls (which unfortunately were dry), an observation tower and some hiking trails.


In town, the best is to stay close to the square of Igreja Matriz Sant'Ana, as you will be close to bars, restaurants, shops and travel agencies. If you prefer to stay in town (and so get to be more in touch with local life), take a look at the beautiful Casa da Quineira.


Check availability and rates here:


Scenes of our late afternoons at Pousada do Parque


How to get around


We opted to not rent a car. Our accomodation arranged a car to get us at (and then take us to) Cuiabá Airport. All the activities we did with a guide, who took us in his own 4x4 car.


Be aware that some to get to some of the main interest places you need a 4WD car, otherwise you'll need to park and walk a long way.


It is very difficult to get to the attractions by public transportation


There are several local tourism agencies that organize tours, in this link you'll find a series of tours around Chapada, it is worth checking them out.


Language: we are Brazilian Portuguese native speakers. Except in boutique hotels, don't expect people to speak English - it will probably be really difficult to comunicate in English around town. You may get around more easily if you speak Spanish, and a few basic Portuguese words are always helpful. On the other hand, Brazilians are really friendly and eager to help. With tourism being a big part of local economy, locals will try really hard to communicate and welcome foreign tourists the best they can.


If you don't speak Portuguese, ask your hotel or travel agency to have an English speaking guide - not all guides are fluent in English.


Mirante da Cidade de Pedra. Parque Nacional da Chapada dos Guimarães, MT, Brazil. Complete guide for visiting Chapada dos Guimarães in 3 days, Central Brazil
Cidade de Pedra ("Stone Town!) lookout

How long to stay at Chapada dos Guimaraes


We stayed 3 days at Chapada dos Guimarães, it was enough to see the main attractions of the Park:



In 5 days you can do all the most common attractions in the Park: one extra-day would be for the Morro de São Jerônimo trail and another for the Circuito das Cachoeiras and a few more waterfalls and lookouts.



What to do at Chapada dos Guimaraes, Brazil


The main activity, which was probably what motivated you to go there, is to visit the Chapada dos Guimarães National Park.


Encompassing 33,000 hectares (127 sq miles), it was created in 1989 and covers an area of cerrado (the South American equivalent to the savanna), the second largest biome in Brazil (the largest is the Amazon). The park is open every day of the year and admission is free, but be aware that it is necessary to be accompanied by a guide to visit some of its attractions. More information on how to visit the park can be found on the official website of ICMBIO, link here (in Portuguese).


In addition to the Park itself, there are several attractions in its surroundings, mainly waterfalls and some lookouts.

Cidade de Pedra lookout, Chapada dos Guimaraes, Brazil
Cidade de Pedra lookout

1st day - Cidade de Pedra e Cachoeira Véu de Noiva


Cidade de Pedra (literally Stone Town) is one of the most incredible places in Chapada. Rock formations carved by the wind and rain form impressive walls of up to 350 meters (1150 feet) in height, which resemble ruins of a city (hence the name of the place).


In the valley below are the sources of some of the park's streams, such as Rio Mutuca and Rio Claro. We saw some couples of scarlet macaws and several other birds and reptiles in the area.


Access is via a dirt road for about 20km (12.5 miles), recommended for a 4x4 vehicle and a guide is required. From the parking lot, the trail to get to the lookout is about 1km (0.6 miles) round trip.




A postcard of Mato Grosso State, the Véu de Noiva Waterfall (Bridal Veil) is the most visited attraction in the Park. Formed by the Coxipó River, the waters descend for approximately 86 meters (282 feet) in a sandstone wall and form a huge well.


When we were there, the waterfall was not at its peak, but it was still beautiful.


Access is very easy, just a few meters along a paved path from the parking lot to the viewpoint. Unfortunately, after an accident that occurred a few years ago, it is no longer allowed to go down or swim in the waterfall's well.


We had lunch at the restaurant on site, typical regional food very well prepared.


Cachoeira Véu de Noiva, Parque Nacional da Chapada dos Guimarães, Mato Grosso - Como visitar a Chapada dos Guimarães
Véu de Noiva waterfall (can you spot the red macaw ("arara vermelha")?

From there, it is possible to do the Circuit of the Waterfalls of the National Park, formed by the waters of the Independência stream, which descends forming six waterfalls: 7 de Setembro, Pulo, Degraus, Prainha, Andorinhas and Independência. Between Prainha and Andorinhas waterfalls there are two natural pools. The route is about 6 km (3.7 miles) round trip and swimming is allowed in all waterfalls, except for Independência.


Unfortunately, at the time we arrived, it was no longer allowed to start the trail - entry is only allowed from 9 am to 12 pm, and plan around 5 hours to do the complete circuit (remembering that it's always good to check this information before going, either with a guide or local agency, or on the ICMBIO website)


Crista de Galo lookout. Chapada dos Guimarães National Park, Brazil. Ultimate guide to 3 days in Chapada dos Guimarães
Morro da Crista do Galo and Cidade de Pedra lookout at the background


2nd day - Crista do Galo lookout and floating on Rio Claro


This day the activities are in the lower part of the Park, at the Rio Claro valley - the area that we saw the day before from Cidade de Pedra lookout.


For this tour, a guide is required and a 4x4 car is recommended (otherwise, you will have to walk the final 5km -3.1 miles of the dirty road on foot, including a sandy stretch). From the beginning of the trail, the path is easy, about 4 km (2.5 miles).


The first stop is at Crista de Galo (literally “Rooster's Crest”) – looking at the photos you will understand the reason for the name of the place -, a rock formation with an incredible panoramic view of the Chapada and the valley.


Floating at Poço da Anta, Chapada dos Guimaraes, Brazil
Floating at Poço da Anta - I don't have pictures of the floating because I forgot the protective cover for my cell phone, so you'll have to be satisfied with just pictures of the non-aquatic tours.


Then, we stopped at Poço da Anta (“Tapir pond”), which is perfect for swimming and floating surrounded by several small fish. We continued to Poço Verde (“Green Pond”), where we entered the water again, but this time the fluctuation extended down the river, for about 30 minutes, in a stretch of beautiful closed forest.


We had lunch at the Tourist Complex of Cachoeira da Salgadeira. It is on the road that connects Cuiabá to Chapada, on the banks of a creek that forms several bathing spots. In the premises there is a restaurant, playground for children, trails and a small museum with a replica of a dinosaur that lived in the region. It's not an unmissable tour, but if you're there, it's worth stopping for lunch.


Chapada as seen from the trail that leeds to Circuito das Cavernas ("Cave Circuit"), Chapada dos Guimaraes, Brazil
Chapada as seen from the trail that leeds to Circuito das Cavernas ("Cave Circuit")


3rd day - Circuito das Cavernas and Ponte de Pedra


On our last day, we did the Circuito das Cavernas (“Cave Circuit”), which is located on a private property, where there’s a simple but nice restaurant (where we had lunch). A guide is required for visitation, as is the use of safety leggings (protection for the region between the knee and foot).


There is the option of doing the complete trail, about 12 km (7.5 miles) round trip, or using the transport provided by the site, in adapted trucks, which cover a good part of the route, reducing the route on the trail to about 2.5 km (1.5 miles).


Ponte de Pedra, Parque Nacional da Chapada dos Guimarães, Mato Grosso - Roteiro de 3 dias pela Chapada dos Guimarães
Ponte de Pedra ("Stone Bridge")

The tour begins at Ponte de Pedra (“Stone Bridge”), a rock formation with a fantastic view of the Chapada and the cerrado forest. From there, you can continue hiking towards the caves, or return to the reception area and take the transport further - that was our option.


The children loved the trip on the truck - it's worth it is different from everything we’ve done there and gives a special flavor to the adventure. There are two stops on the way: getting down at the first, the tour begins at Aroe Jari cave and ends at Pobe Jari cave, which is the second stop on the truck route. Most visitors get off at the first stop and take the truck back at the second, but our guide instructed us to do the opposite: we started the hike at Pobe Jari cave and ended at Aore Jari cave.



Pobe Jari Cave, a name of indigenous origin that means "Cave of Two Mouths" is approximately 500 meters (0.3 miles) long and, as the name suggests, has two entrance mouths.


Gruta da Lagoa Azul ("Blue Lagoon grotto"), Chapada dos Guimaraes, Brazil
Gruta da Lagoa Azul ("Blue Lagoon grotto")

Next, we find Lagoa Azul (“Blue Lagoon”), a fantastic grotto where the water that arises from the middle of the rocks forms a turquoise blue lagoon. Bathing in the lagoon is not allowed.



We followed the trail through the cerrado forest (South American equivalent to a savanna) and arrived at Kiogo Brado Cave, an indigenous name that means "Nest of Birds".



The cave is incredible (in my opinion, the most impressive of the three). We entered on one side of the cave and, after walking along its 270 meters (0.17 miles) in length and observing the walls about 20 meters (66 feet) high, we continued the trail leaving at the other end of the cave.


Caverna Aroe Jari, Parque Nacional da Chapada dos Guimarães, Mato Grosso -  Roteiro completo pela Chapada dos Guimarães
Aroe Jari Cave

The last cave we visited was the Aroe Jari, or "Dwelling of Souls" in the indigenous language. With more than 1,550 meters (almost 1 mile) in length, several forks and exits, it is considered the largest sandstone cave in Brazil. Its main halls are the Chuveiro, where a waterfall forms, and the Teto Dourado, where droplets of water that adhere to the ceiling of the cave reflect the brightness of the lanterns.


In the same area there is the Cachoeira do Relógio, where we stopped for a well-deserved bath at the end of the tour.


We did all the tours with the guide Iziel (+55 65 9 9966-3050); if he's not available, it's worth looking for other local agencies or tours like these.



Other Attractions


Some other tours that were recommended to us in the region, but that we didn't have time to do:


- Alto do Céu Lookout: the only lookout that has a complete view of Cuiabá and other towns in the region. There are some hiking opportunities and it is very popular place in the afternoon to enjoy the sunset while watching the city of Cuiabá light up.


- Morro dos Ventos: with easy access, there is a restaurant and two lookouts, with a deck overlooking the Chapada, 200 meters (660 feet) high.


- Morro de São Jerônimo: the highest point in the National Park, it offers a fantastic view of the region, as long as you face the beautiful and difficult (with several sections in steep ascent) hike of 20km (12.4 miles) round trip. Guided tour required.


There are also several waterfalls in private areas around the Park and “balneários” (rustic resort style day-use places) usually with a bar, restaurant and playground for children settled around a creek or small waterfall. Some of them:

- Cachoeira do Marimbondo e Cachoeira da Geladeira

- Circuito das Águas do Cerrado

- Cachoeira do Jamacá

- Cachoeira do Pingador

- Cachoeira da Mata Fria

- Balneário do Rio Paciência

- Balneário do Rio Claro

- Balneário Rio Mutuca

- Estância Fênix



Detailed Itinerary


Here is the map of our trip in Google MyMaps, with our detailed route, just click and save it to your Google account. When you plan your trip to Chapada dos Guimarães, you already know where to start ;-)


On the map you can see details of everything we did, where we stayed and the places we visited. There are different layers, with different colors, one for each day of our activities, and one with the other activities we didn't have time to do.





BEFORE YOU LEAVE, HERE IS THE PIN to save to YOUR PINTEREST ACCOUNT, so you will always find this post with your complete guide on what to do at Chapada dos Guimaraes, Brazil, when you need it!


Ultimate guide to visiting Chapada dos Guimarães National Park, in Central Brazil

NOW AFTER ALL THESE TIPS, here's our link to BOOKING.COM - by making your reservations through this link for this or any other trip, you won't spend a penny more and will help us keep this site up and running! Click here and happy travels!!


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