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  • Writer's pictureDanae Bianco

What to do in Alter do Chao, Brazil

Updated: Sep 25, 2023

In doubt about a jungle or beach destination? In Alter do Chão you have it all in one place. We stayed in Alter for 5 days and here I tell you all there is to do in this paradisiacal place, in the north of Brazil.

Alter do Chão, on the banks of Tapajós River, is one of those places that enchants you from the first moment when, from the main street of the village, you see "Ilha do Amor" (Love Island) and starts immediately trying to figure out what would be the fastest way to get to that island, to simply enjoy all the love that gives it its name.

(the island is actually a peninsula, but that's not the point here)

Do you want a vacation with plenty o time to relex in golden sand beaches, fresh water at the perfect temperature, with shade and coconut water (or cold beer, if you prefer) always available? Or do you prefer jungle adventures, hikes through the rainforest, boat trips and expeditions to spot Amazonian birds and mammals? Or just enjoy tradicional food and cultural interaction with local communities?

In Alter, you can have it all, in a super lively village, with good restaurants and bars, regional handicrafts and a super delicious vibe.

Tapajos River, Ilha do Amor, Cabins by the river. River beach. Alter do Chão, Pará, Brazil
ilha do amor

So let's go, here's your complete guide with what to do in Alter do Chao, Brazil.

When to go to Alter do Chao

In Alter, as throughout the Amazon, depending on the time of the year you go, the experiences you will find will be completely different.

At the time of low rivers (dry season), from August to January, there will be kilometers and kilometers of beaches, inviting you to stop for a swim every minute.

In the flood season, from February to July, the highlights are the flooded forests and the animals, which are (or are supposed to be) more active and easier to spot.

We were there in mid-January and there were still many beaches we could enjoy. A lot of them. We went to at least two different beaches each day. In some places, we saw that there were empty stalls and beach infrastructure in places that the water had already flooded, so I imagine that in the dry season the water must drop much more and reveal several other beaches that we couldn't even imagine exist, or how beautiful they may be.

December and January are the months of school holidays in Brazil, so expect many Brazilian families on vacation during this period of the year. But the place is so vast, there are so many beaches, that it will hardly be really crowded.

Tapajos River, House by the river. River beach. Alter do Chão, Pará, Brazil

Cajueiro beach

How to get to Alter do Chao

Alter do Chão is a small village, district of the city of Santarém, which is about 1,400 km from Belém - P.A. and 1,770km from Cuiabá - M.T.

Despite being far from the largest urban centers in the country, Santarem has direct flights to Manaus, Belém, Brasília and other cities in the region (at the time of writing this post, beware that this can always change). Brazilian main airlines carriers are LATAM, GOL and AZUL.

We were in Manaus, so we took a AZUL flight of about 1h20, non-stop service to Santarém. On our way back, we flew from Santarem to Brasília, on a non-stop flight of about 2h30.

From Santarem airport to Alter it is about 40 minutes by car. We took a taxi, already pre-booked through the hotel we were staying, but you can take one there at the airport, when the flight arrives. I do not recommend renting a car, as all tours in Alter are done by boat. You can go to some beaches by car, but few. We didn't miss at all having a car on the trip.

Where to stay in Alter do Chao

In Alter there are several accommodation options, for all travel styles and budgets.

We stayed at Villa Arumã Pousada. It's a small inn, with some chalets in between dozens of high trees, you feel like you're really staying in the middle of the jungle, but at the sime time it is a few blocks from the village main street. We saw monkeys and sloths on these trees right beside our room.

We were travelling in 2 families - 4 adults and 3 kids, ages 7 to 10, so we took two chalets, which formed a townhouse: one family stayed in the ground floor room and the other in the upstairs room - this one had a bathtub on the balcony, surrounded by immense trees. In late afternoon, or at night, we enjoyed the pool suspended between the trees, absolutely stunning.

Other options that I researched at the time and seemed to be nice and had good reviews:

- Casa da Árvore de Alter - a real tree house, integrated with the surrounding nature. It was where we wanted to stay but it was no longer available.

- Beloalter Hotel - seems to be a little further away from the center of the village, but it has a good structure and a private beach.

- Sunset Beach House - rental house, very close to downtown and to Ilha do Armor, and has good reviews.

- TerrAmor Amazon - chalets close to the center, I got to quote this one but it didn't have availability for the dates we needed.

What to do in Alter do Chao

All sights and tours in Alter are all done by boat. There are some places you can get to by land, but unless you have gone there with your own car or need a car for some other reason, it doesn't looks like it makes much sense to rent a car for exploring the area. And it is much more fun to do it all by boat.

We did all the tours with Marcelão (mobile+ 55 93 9181-0535), a super friendly boatman who knows the region like few others. He taught us a lot about the Amazonian fauna, flora and rivers and the interaction of local communities with the environment.

All the activites we did were full day tours, all of which ending with a stop at a beach to watch the sunset, one even more spetacular then the one before.

So let's get to the point: this is what you mustn't miss when visiting Alter do Chão:

- Tapajós National Forest: a rich environmental preservation area; the indigenous communities that live in the region welcome tourists for guided walks through the rainforest. We went to the centers of Maguari and Jamaraquá.

Pictures taken on the hike through Tapajos National Forest - Jamaraqua area

Chito, our guide, a super nice local guy, gave us tons of information about how the local communities interact with the natural resources of the jungle, as they have done it for centuries. As we were walking, he would stop to show us the plants, comment on the properties of each one, demonstrate how the leaf of a particular palm tree is used to create the most diverse instruments, and so on.

We walked through a rubber plantation area, a flooded forest, then paddled on a lake with waterlilies and visited a local tradicional indegenous village.

More pictures taken on the hike through Floresta Nacional de Tapajós

There is a simple restaurant on the local village, the fresh fish is very good, and there are some strategicaly placed hammocks for a well-deserved rest after the walk through the rainforest.

On our way back, we stopped at some beaches and could enjoy a memorable sunset at Ponta do Cajutuba.

- Meeting of the waters of Tapajós River and Amazon River: the clear waters of the Tapajós meet with the muddy waters of the Amazon River and, like in the famous meeting of the waters of the Negro and Solimões Rivers ("Encontro das Águas", that takes place right by the city of Manaus), the waters of each river flow for a great distance side by side, without mixing, the diferent colors and textures of the waters clearly visible, until they finally blend in. The contrast between the waters is not as dramatic as the one in Manaus (Negro & Solimões Rivers), but it is endeed very interesting and beautiful.

(1) meeting of the waters ("Encontro das Águas") of Tapajós River (the blue waters, on the half bottom of the photo) and the Amazon River (the brownish area, right in the center of the photo) (2) regional boat, on the Arapiuns river

Then our boat driver, Marcelão, took us to a branch of the Amazon River - the difference in the color of the waters is really impressive, the waters of the Amazon are a light brown color, really very muddy and completely different from the Tapajós River.

The first stop was at a riverside tradicional house, in Canal do Jari. A typical house of the Amazon region, suspended on pilars so that when the river rises, the house is not flooded.

The family that lived there welcomed us for a walk through the forest, called "Trilha das Preguiças" (Sloth trail). With the help of the guide Rosangêla, this was the place where we saw the most animals - mostly birds, but also sloths, monkeys and iguanas. We ate the regional chestnuts (castanha sapucaia) and some homemade sweets and cookies, all deliciously prepared with local ingredients.

Then we went to Jardim de Vitórias-Regia de Dulce - this lady, Dulce, cultivates water lilies in the lake in front of her house. In addition to being beautiful, she uses the waterlilies as the main ingredient of the food and snacks she serves to the visitors.

Very friendly, she explained to us that, as a lover of cuisine she is, one day she decided to try to use that plant in some receipes and, over time, she realized that different parts of it can be used to prepare the most varied dishes: tempura, cookies, popcorn, chips, brownies, pickles, crisps, pie, pizza, etc. The place is very simple, she serves the "tasting menu" (a small portion of each one of these dishes) on the balcony of her own house - a unique and unmissable experience.

Giant waterlilies vitoria regia, Alter do Chão, Pará, Brazil

Jardim de vitórias-régia da Dulce

From there, we went back to the Tapajós River and had lunch at Casa de Saulo, a very popular restaurant, with a breathtaking view of the river and superb dishes. It's more expensive than the standard in the region, but proportional to what it delivers.

After a stop on the beach at Ponta de Pedras and a wonderful sunset at Ponta do Cururu, another day has passed by and we were as happy as we could :-)

(1) Casa do Saulo restaurant; (2) e (3) swimming and sunset at Ponta do Cururu

- Lagoa Verde de Alter ("Green Lagoon"): this lagoon is very close to the village. During the dry season, when the level of the river goes down, a sand peninsula is formed between the Lagoa and the Tapajós River, separating this lagoon from the course of the river. On the peninsula there are several restaurats kiosks, with large umbrellas and beach chairs, making it a really nice place to enjoy some food and drinks and swim in the calm waters of the lagoon.

We entered the lagoon by boat. There, the vegetation merges with the waters and everything turns into a large flooded forest, a unique experience. It can be kind of surreal, you see yourself passing by boat through the treetops, as if it were the most usual thing navigate through trees. I imagine that at the height of the dry season the tour may be more restricted, but we were in January, at the end of the dry season, and it was really beautiful. On the opposite, on the flooded season this must be really amazing.

The water in the lagoon is calm and pleasant, it invites you to get off the boat and swim. There are some trails there, but we didn't get to explore much; we took the opportunity to enjoy the lagoon and a beautiful little beach that we found.

Green Lagoon. Lagoa Verde, Alter do Chão, Pará, Brazil

Lagoa verde de Alter

- Beaches - there are numerous beaches in Alter do Chão. Hundreds and hundreds kilometers of beaches. No kidding. And look, we were there at the end of the dry season, so (according to what we were told) many beaches were already flooded or with a much smaller strip of sand. But, even so, it looked like neverending beaches.

In some of the beaches there are bars, stalls, vendors and all the paraphernalia that we see on the main Brazilian sea beaches. For those (like me) who are only used to going to beaches on the sea, you will (1) think it's the same thing, because the vibe is really the same and, at the same time, (2) think it's completely different, because swimming in fresh clean water is millions of times better than swimming in the sea (even more so nowadays, when I have the impression that the sea is getting dirtier and oilier).

If you ask me how much I liked the river beaches, I would answer that, if I could, from today on I would only go to river beaches. I loved. I hope you go and like it at least 10% of what I liked, which will be enough for you to love the place.

I don't remember all the names (and we didn't even stop at all the beaches, because we only had 5 days there), but the ones we liked most were the beaches of Pindobal, Ponta de Pedras, Cajatuba, Santa Cruz, Cajueiro, Aramanaí, Ponta of Muretá and there must be a lot more that I simply forgot.

- Enjoy the sunset: On all the tours you take, enjoy the sunset. As tired as you may be, believe me, it's worth it. The sun sets on the opposite bank of the Tapajós River, which in the region is around 14 km from one bank to the other. In other words, you can't see the other side of the river, and the sunsets are really breathtaking.

As if that wasn't enough, on one of the days, at Ponta do Muretá, while we were there relaxing in late afternoon, several river dolphins appeared and stayed until dusk swimming around there, really close to the beach, it was really fun to watch them play around.

- Ilha do Amor: despite being called an "island", it is a sandy peninsula that forms right in front of the center of the village during the dry season. There are several kiosks and bars on this strech of sand, and it's a great option to go there to swim in the river and have a few drinks. The view from the village to the Island is the most famous Alter postcard picture (below).

Tapajos River, Ilha do Amor, Bars by the river. River beach. Alter do Chão, Pará, Brazil

Ilha do Amor, as seen from the village

AFTER ALL THESE TIPS AND INFORMATION, about what to do in Alter do Chao, here's our link to BOOKING.COM- you won't spend a penny making your reservations through this link and it helps us keep this site up and running! Click here and have a good trip!!

NOW PIN THIS TO YOUR PINTEREST ACCOUNT, so you'll always find this post when you need it!

Alter do Chão, Amazon Raiforest, Beaches, Rio Tapajós, Pará, Brazil


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