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14 Green Destinations Brazil

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THE 14 GREEN DESTINATIONS

Amazon Jungle | Aparados da Serra and Serra Geral National Parks | Bonito | Caju Island | Chapada Diamantina
Chapada dos Guimarães | Chapada dos Veadeiros | Fernando de Noronha | Iguaçu Falls | Lagamar | Lençois Marenhenses
Pantanal | Serra da Bocaina | Serra do Cipó

AMAZON JUNGLE

Amazon Jungle

The Amazon Rainforest was awarded World Natural Heritage by UNESCO status in 2000, and 2003. Next to the grandeur of the Amazon's natural giants, prepare to be overwhelmed by an unusual sense of smallness. You could also try to mentally, emotionally, and physically prepare yourself for any of the typical experiences and encounters you will have in the Amazon…However, try as you might, until, beneath the light of the moon, you watch your guide swiftly snatch an alligator our of the dark Rio Negro, grin mischeviously, then pass it to you to hold on to…no, coming from an average lifestyle, there is simply no way to prepare for such things. And that is only the beginning! Here you will learn medicinal secrets of the endangered and, in many cases, extinct indigenous tribes, snuggle sloths, drink water from the insides of trees, watch monkeys swing through the magnificent branches of "the world's lungs", marvel at lily-pads the size of your kitchen table, eat fruits you never would have imagined existed, canoe through the endless waterworld of the amazon, stopping to fish for piranhas and visit with local river dwellers, capture dazzling sunsets, and fall asleep at night hypnotized by the symphonic hum of the ecosystem. Welcome to the Amazon, your destination for adrenaline and rejuvenation.

Best Time of Year:
Depending on your interests, there are two wonderful seasons to make your visit. From December through March, the water levels are lower, and from June to November, the water levels rise. Simply avoid traveling from April through June during the rainy season, when your adventures can become nearly impossible.

Important Information: Consult your physician regarding yellow fever vaccinations, and remember to take your eco-friendly insect repellant, extra shoes, and flash-lights.

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Amazon Jungle Brazil
 
APARADOS DA SERRA AND SERRA GERAL NATIONAL PARKS

Aparados da Serra and Serra Geral National Parks

Imagine the Grand Canyon covered in lush vegetation, cascading waterfalls and thriving biodiversity. Nestled along the southern Atlantic coasts of Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul among Brazil's most expansive canyons, five to be exact, is the 28,000 hectare National Park and conservation area. The area is truly comprised of two parks, Aparados da Serra and Serra Geral. The highlights of the parks are the Itaimbezinho Canyon and Fortaleza Canyon, which tower approximately 2,160 feet and 2,700 feet high respectively. In the late afternoon the mysterious fogs drift in, making everything a rulers distance from your face invisible. Hikers, campers, horseback riders and rappellers unite in this glorious manifestation of nature's contrasts!

How to Get There: There are daily flights from Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo to Porto Alegre. From Porto Alegre to Cambará do Sul and Serra Geral National Park the distance is approximately 100 miles.

Best time of year: In order to avoid the fog and maximize the views, the best time of the year to visit the park is from May to August.

Important Information: Many ranches in the area offer horseback tours through the park, providing an excellent way to experience the steep mountains and canyons and Atlantic coastline. Staying on traditional ranches, you will have the pleasure of sampling typical southern culture, including some of the regions famous culinary delights and the Fandango, a dance of Spanish origins revealing lively hints of Amerindian, Angolan, Brazilian, Gypsy and Moor culture.

Hours of Operation:
Aparados da Serra National Park is open Wednesdays-Sundays from 9:00 am until 4:00 p.m.

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BONITO


Bonito Brazil

Bonito
For those of you who do not understand Spanish or Portuguese, the word Bonito translates in English to beautiful. However, many believe that this destination was not named justifiably…as Bonito simply does not describe the extraordinariness of the attractions! Merely a decade ago, this region remained undiscovered by tourists. Fortunately, by the time it became known, the sustainable tourism movement had already taken root. To this day, strict regulations modify the impact of humans on the natural treasures of Bonito. Far from the coastal zone, Bonito conceals one of Brazil's top diving destinations, offering exceptional cave diving and rappelling itineraries.Within a 35 mile radius, nearly every mile offers a dazzling gift from Mother Nature. In creating Bonito, she was like Leonardo da Vinci with his beloved Mona Lisa; constantly making improvements. She spent six hundred million years perfecting the intricate details of each one of these gifts. Today, you can explore this wonderland, admiring her work, amazed at the grace and grandeur of each waterfall, crystal clear river (be it above ground or below), grotto, underwater garden, cave and crater. She chose a fine layer of limestone for her material and water as her sculpting tool. The final product is truly a masterpiece! Bonito deserves to be a primary destination. However, if you plan to be in the Pantanal North, taking a side trip to Bonito is an absolute must!

How to Get There: There are daily flights from Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo to Campo Grande. Bonito is 175 miles from Campo Grande, (approximately 3 hours by car due to road conditions).

Best Time of Year: March to November

Important Information: Remember to book reservations at least two months in advance, as the limited accommodations and tours quickly reach capacity. All tours throughout the region are led by excellently trained guides and, although most caves and grottos could hold as many as 100 people, are kept to a maximum of 15 people.

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CAJU ISLAND


Caju Island Brazil

Caju Island
Divided between the northeast states of Maranhão and Piauí is the third largest encounter of salt and fresh water on the planet, the Parnaiba Delta. It is situated in open water, and is the only one of the sort throughout the Americas. Warm canals meander through the dunes, creating an abundance of small islands, 83 to be exact, and a rich selection of ecosystems, including forests, beaches, mangroves, lagoons and dunes. Exploring this region can be done by foot, horseback, or various boats, such as canoes, kayaks, and gaiolas, boats typically used by locals, both here and in the Amazon. The rare and graceful Guará, resembling a flamingo with a long, curved beak, is found only on Caju Island. There are two recommended ways to experience this region. One of the best ways is to stay on Caju Island. The island has been owned by the Clark family since the late 19th century. However, it is protected by an official conservation project. There is only one small pousada here, but the ecotourism options are endless! Another unforgettable option is to stay in one of the surrounding towns, where the infrastructure for ecotourism is developing rapidly, while maintaining its historical charm from the days when it was the seventh largest port in the country. Here you will encounter lovely bars, restaurants and galleries.

How to Get There: Fly into Teresina, the capital of the state of Piauí. From there to Parnaíba the drive is 220 miles, followed by a 4 hour boat ride to Caju Island.

Best Time of Year: While the temperature is hot all year round, it is best to visit during the rainy season, between January and June when the lagoons are full, and best for swimming.

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CHAPADA DIAMANTINA


Chapada Diamantina Brazil

Chapada Diamantina
Chapada Diamantina, the surrounding 152,000 hectare national park, and the gateway city Lençóis, welcome you with rare natural spectacles and nostalgic charm. In the beginning of the 19th century, Germans Spix and Martius discovered a massive diamond vein in this territory. Prospectors scrambled to the region, eager for their piece of the fortune. With that, Lençóis became the third largest town in the northeast state of Bahia. Despite the fact that today, the population is a mere 4000, the culture of the diamond boom lives on through the local folklore. Make sure to mingle with the townspeople once you have retired to the bars and restaurants for a taste of savory sun-dried meats and Axé music, as the stories you will learn are sure to add yet another element of enchantment to the region. Chapada Diamantina earns its place on the list of ecotourism musts in Brazil, as it holds numerous natural records and monuments. Lapão Cave is the largest quartzite caves in the Americas, excellent for experienced rappellers. In addition, there are excellent cave-lakes, some of the best being Poço Encantado and Poço Azul. If you are an experienced cave diver, in search of an adventure, Chapada da Diamantina should be high on your list. Fumaça Waterfall, at 1,020 feet, is one of the highest in Brazil - however, the volume of water is not sufficient to maintain its liquid state throughout the long drop to the bottom. Instead it forms a mysterious mist just before reaching the ground. Chapada Diamantina is perhaps one of the most well known natural monuments among Brazilians. After experiencing Salvador, the escape to Chapada Diamantina is merely a one hour flight or 267 miles bus ride away.

How to Get There: There are two options to get to Lençóis. Nordeste Airlines offers flights from São Paulo and from Salvador. For information please contact a travel specialist or the Horácio de Matos Airport at (011) 55-75-625-8100. By land, from Salvador to Lençóis daily bus service is available. The drive is approximately 267 miles.

Best Time of Year: Tourists in the know flock to Chapada Diamantina all year round. However, keep in mind to plan your daily adventures around the frequent evening storms.

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CHAPADA DOS GUIMARAES


Chapada dos Guimarães  Brazil

Chapada dos Guimarães
Adventure sports, archaeology, esotericism, ecotourism - what's your pleasure? In Chapada dos Guimarães even the most difficult to impress will delight in the endless pleasures of the National Parks and "new-age" community. In the late 1980's rumor spread that the perfect civilization was to settle in this region, leading to a small mass exodus of new age hippies, artists and esoterics to the town. Visitors reap the benefits of the town's unique accommodations, dining options, and crafts. Subject to parochial debate, here lies the geodesic centre of South America, amidst an 80,000 acre National Park and UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve in the Brazilian savannah. The awe-inspiring red rock cliffs and canyons are reminiscent of the desert buttes of the American Southwest. Endless trails carve out intricate patterns into the rock, and waterfalls such as the 260 foot "Véu da Noiva" cascade down the side, forming natural massage parlors surrounded by lush flora where the water meets the ground. The exquisite Red-Macaw and innumerable other exotic fauna often drop by to welcome ecotourists respectful of their home. Protected within the confines of the spectacular red sandstone walls are 46 identified ancient cave paintings, many more undoubtedly await discovery, as well as natural cave pools. One not to be missed is the Caverna Aroe Jari. For those of you interested in the surrounding indigenous communities, Xingu National Park can be visited with a permit from Funai obtained at least one month prior to travel. Chapada dos Guimarães is an excellent side trip from the Pantanal!

How to Get There: Daily flights from airports throughout Brazil service Cuiabá, the capital of the state of Mato Grosso. From the capital to the town of Chapada dos Guimarães the drive is approximately 50 miles. Numerous busses commute daily between Cuiabá and Chapada dos Guimarães.

Best Time of Year: Chapada dos Guimarães is an excellent side-trip if you are planning on visiting the Pantanal, and vice-versa. While the seasons do alter the experience, all year round is an excellent time to travel to this region. Keep in mind that the rainy season lasts from September to May. In July they hold the Winter Festival, where the sacred, traditional, and modern arts combine for an exceptional experience. Locals flock to this area on weekends, so to avoid a crowd, also avoid Fridays-Sundays.

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CHAPADA DOS VEADEIROS


Chapada Dos Veadeiros Brazil

Chapada dos Veadeiros
The lucky few humans who have had the pleasure of seeing planet earth from outer space will affirm the glowing light shining from the southern hemisphere. That light is Chapada dos Veadeiros - caused by the reflection between the sun and the abundance of quartz crystal in the region. However, clairvoyants argue that this light is, in fact, the magnificent energy and magical forces of this sanctuary of spiritualism and mysticism. Chapada dos Veadeiros is located on parallel 14, the same parallel that crosses Machu Pichu in Peru. Stories of flying saucers and extraterrestrial sightings abound. Yet, Chapada dos Veadeiros is an excellent destination for more than just esoterics - it is also excellent for ecotourism. This wonderland was declared a Natural World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2001. The striking contrasts of the region create a rare treasure in the heart of the highly threatened savanna ecosystem. Curious flora and fauna are native to the cerrado(savanna), further adding to the surreal atmosphere. The Vale da Lua (Valley of the Moon) was named after its resemblance to lunar craters. The São Miguel River flows through holes in the rock, forming warm pools amongst the rocks. Panoramic vistas of the fiery red-orange of the savanna and rocks set against the soothing pastels of the afternoon sky will mesmerize you with their beauty as you gaze out in wonder from your perch atop waterfalls. Chapada dos Veadeiros is an excellent side trip from Brasilia!

How to Get There: Fly into the federal district Brasilia. To Alto Paraíso do Goiás from Brasilia, the drive is approximately 145 miles. Another 20 miles towards the park entrance is Vila de São Jorge. This destination is renown for its simple accessibility.

Best Time of Year: The make the most from your visit, plan your trip between April and September.

Important Information: Do not forget to bring extra shoes. Also, São Jorge cuts down your travel time between the park and your accomodations, while providing a glimpse into authentic regional culture.

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FERNANDO DE NORONHA


Fernando de Noronha

Fernando de Noronha
Fernando do Noronha is a treasure chest of biodiversity, preserved under strict national regulations, and perhaps, one of the best kept secrets of Brazil. Fernando de Noronha is also on the prestigious UNESCO World Heritage list. Here you will find the largest population of spinner dolphins, and countless other species of spell-bounding biodiversity. The destination is actually a series of 21 small islands, islets, and crags atop a submerged volcano. This paradise is cherished among surfers and divers in the know as being one of the best destinations worldwide, and is the best location for diving in all of Brazil. People travel from all parts of the world for a few days of the ultimate eco-experience. Interestingly, this peaceful wonder has been through years of regime change before settling into its current state of perfection. From the beginning of the 17th century, the main island has been invaded by the Spanish, French, Dutch and Portuguese. It then became a North American military base and prison, before the government declared the vast majority of the land and surrounding waters National Marine Park in 1988, enforcing conservation and protection laws that even limit the number of visitors allowed on the island at any given time.

How to Get There: Located approximately one and a half hours by plane from the Northeast coastal cities of Natal and Recife, Noronha is well worth the time it takes to arrive. As the saying goes, the best things come to those who wait!

Best Time of Year: All year round

Important Information: Visitors to the Island must pay a conservation fee, and goods and services on the island tend to be relatively expensive. Also, as there are limits on the number of tourists allowed on the island, it is advisable to book in advance in order to avoid the risk of joining the waiting list. High season runs from mid December through the end of February.



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IGUACU FALLS


Iguazu Falls Brazil

Iguaçu Falls
Iguassu Falls are the widest in the world, and in the Native Tupi-Guarani language, guazu means big, and I means water. There are a total of 275 falls, forming a gigantic semi-circle 8,100 feet long, with millions of gallons of thundering water plunging to depths 250 feet below. The semi-circular falls bring together both the Iguassu and Parana Rivers, as well as Brazil and Argentina. Argentina claims the majority of the falls on her territory. However, the view from the Brazilian side is far superior. The infinite wonders of Iguassu cannot be described in words. The falls are surrounded by a National Park containing the world's largest pluvial forest, home to 12 species of amphibians, 18 species of fish, 40 species of mammals, including the jaguar, ocelot, capybara and giant river otter, 60 different reptiles, 340 bird species, and 700 unique species of fluttering butterflies! Many of these species can be discovered in the Bird Park and on excursions within the park, such as the Macuco Safari where you will be led on a short hike and a ride nearly under the falls in a small boat. To alter your point of reference, helicopter rides are another exciting option. A new project is currently being developed by the park administration which will facilitate adventure sports such as hiking, rafting, canyoning, canoeing, boia-cross, and camping. Adding to the magic, brilliant rainbows often frame the falls. The Iguassu National Park was awarded World Natural Heritage status by UNESCO in 1986.

How to Get There: Numerous daily flights service Iguassu Falls from airports throughout Brazil, connecting through São Paulo.

Best Time of Year: Depending on your interests, different seasons will be perceived as more ideal than others to make this venture. In truth, year round Iguassu Falls promise a thrilling experience. The rainy season and dry seasons are difficult to specify. As you will see in the table below, average precipitation has the tendency to fluctuate dramatically from year to year. When there are high levels of rainfall, the falls are at their fullest and most powerful state. Keep in mind that some trails and catwalks become inaccessible during times of increased rainfall. If you are more interested in exploring the National Park, it is better to aim for drier seasons in order to ensure access to the majority of trails. The tables below represent monthly precipitation levels from 1999 to 2001.

Precipitation in mm - Iguassu Falls 1999 to 2001

Month 1999 2000 2001
JANUARY 188,8 41,5 151,8
FEBRUARY 145,3 214,8 223,6
MARCH 95,8 85,0 93,2
APRIL 151,5 94,0 185,0
MAY 135,6 185,9 77,4
JUNE 147,9 224,1 106,1
JULY 110,8 67,6 86,7
AUGUST 23,7 115,7 50,0
SEPTEMBER 72,9 107,8 171,5
OCTOBER 52,5 202,3 89,4
NOVEMBER 80,6 115,2 214,8
DECEMBER 190,7 212,2 118,7
AVERAGE 116,3 138,8 130,7

Important Information: Hours of Operation: The Iguassu National Park is open to the public from 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Mondays, and 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.

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LAGAMAR


Lagamar Brazil

Lagamar
In 1999 Lagamar was awarded the title of The World's Best Ecotourism Destination, by Condé Nast Traveler. Lagamar is a sparkling myriad of lagoons formed by numerous adjoining rivers which meet with the sea, where serenity and thrills are the dominant ways of life. The Lagamar Iguape Estuary Complex encompasses Cananéia, Cardoso Island, Iguape, Ilha Comprida, Pariquera-Acu State Park, and Superagui Island. Protected within Lagamar are numerous pockets of rainforest, mangroves, and coastal lowlands. The area also serves as an incubator and breeding ground for marine species. As soon as you embark on the boat ride from Cananéia to Cardoso Island, you will feel the weight of the world begin to disappear as dolphins perform gracefully around you, and the rich jewel-tones of the environment hypnotize you with their vibrant glow. Spend your days frolicking in waterfalls, island-hopping, snorkeling and diving, hiking through the lush Atlantic Rainforests and in Superagui National Park, marveling at the rare species on the uninhabited island, and getting to know the local culture of the quaint fishing villages…or if none of these options sound enticing, you can always simply beach it.

How to Get There: Cananéia and Iguape: Fly into São Paulo. The trip from São Paulo to Cananéia or Iguape is approximately 160 miles, or three to four hours. The boat ride from the port of Cananéia to Cardoso Island may take up to three hours.

Superagüi Island and Guaraqueçaba: The nearest airport to Superagui Island is in Curitiba. From Curitiba to Guaraqueçaba, the trip is 60 miles. From there you can charter a boat to the Island.

Where to Stay: When it comes time to make the decisions of where to rest your head at night, you have a range of options. Please note that encountering bilingual representatives in this region may be a luxury. For that reason, we highly recommend that you contact a travel specialist to assist you with reservations and arrangements. We have provided information for hotels and lodging on Cananéia, Cardoso Island, Superagüi Island and Guaraqueçaba. Cananéia will provide you with the most modernized accommodations, and is the most easily accessible from São Paulo. It is one of the oldest cities in the country; the architecture is proof, as are the Sambaqui mounds built ten to twenty thousand years ago of shells, bones, spear, and other remnants of Amerindian culture. The eco-adventure takes place on the smaller islands. Cardoso Island is accessible by boat from Cananéia. There is no electricity on the island, and the accommodations are rustic. Superagüi Island and Guaraqueçaba are more proximate to one and other than they are to the former two destinations. Several pousadas, or inns, are available in both destinations. Campgrounds are available on Guaraqueçaba.

Best Time of Year: It rains most of the year in this region. During their winter, in July and August, precipitation decreases, as does the temperature. Although frequent heavy rains can be expected during the summer, the warmer temperatures improve diving conditions.

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LENCOIS MARANHENSES

Lençóis Maranhenses

When you first see aerial images of Lençóis Marenhenses, you will believe what you are looking at are images of the clouds set against the clear blue sky. In reality, what they saw were the bitolas, or dune trails formed by multicolored freshwater lagoons that create glimmering oasis between thousands of rolling sand dunes. Here, time seems to stand still - but life and the landscape do not. Due to the force of the sea winds, the dunes are constantly shifting, frequently as much as 60 feet throughout a year. The plentiful annual precipitation gives birth to a thriving ecosystem. Lagoons provide an excellent escape for migratory birds and sea turtles preferring to lay their eggs in peace, and fish also fill the crystal waters of the lagoons. Exploring this region, you will also encounter mangroves and tropical forests along the Negro and Preguiças Rivers. The lifestyle of the locals is worth the visit in itself. Much can be learned from the hospitality and simple efficiency of their habits. While it is legal to camp both in the National Park created in 1981 encompassing 155,000 hectares of the region, as well as along the riverbanks, you may also encounter the opportunity to string up a hammock and stay in local homes made of Buriti Palm.

How to get There: Fly into São Luis, the capital of the state of Maranhão. 170 miles from the capital lies the town of Barreirinhas, the trip takes 3 hours by coach due to road conditions. A faster option is to make the one hour trip in a single engine plane.

Best Time of Year: The best time of year to visit the region is during the rainy season from December to June when the biodiversity increases with the rainfall.

Important Information: Be sure to always bring water on your daily excursions. Also, it is easy to lose your way among the endless dunes. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you consult a guide to ensure safety. Camping in the wild is permitted .

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Lencois Maranhenses Brazil
 
PANTANAL


Pantanal Brazil

Pantanal
The Pantanal was named by UNESCO as both a World Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage of Humanity site. It holds the rights to many claims of grandeur - Beyond being the world's largest wetlands, it also contains the greatest biodiversity of animal species in the Americas, the Transpantaneira Highway featured in the Guinness Book of World Records as the highway with the most bridges and the longest open-air zoo in the world, the biggest freshwater boat-fishing festival worldwide, and the best place for wildlife sightings in all of Brazil. I will let you in on a great secret - the Pantanal offers the best photographic safari in the Americas! Contrary to popular belief, here you will encounter an abundance of wildlife far surpassing that found throughout the entire Amazon. This region, and unique ecosystem, is home to approximately 670 species of birds, 242 fish species, 110 different mammals and 50 reptiles, in addition to the 1,500 plant species. The constant polyrhythmic harmony of the flora and fauna creates an endless symphony. This truly is paradise for nature enthusiasts of all walks of life. Whatever your passion, be it fishing, boating, birdwatching, wildlife, horseback riding or hiking - your greatest dreams will be fulfilled in the Pantanal! The Pantanal is spread over 2 Brazilian states, Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul. The capitals of the two states, Cuiabá and Campo Grande, as well as the city of Corumbá are the most convenient access points to this ecological paradise. All three cities have airports and hotels.

How to Get There: Flights arrive daily to Campo Grande and Corumbá, the gateway cities to Mato Grosso do Sul, and Cuiabá, the gateway city to Mato Grosso, from Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Upon arrival to the airport, you may then opt to arrive at your accommodations by ground transfer, which tend to last several hours in duration. Depending on where you have chosen to stay, consider taking a small plane to your final destination. Consult one of our travel specialists for transfer information.

Best time of year: The water levels rise significantly during the rainy season from November through the beginning of April. Then, from May to October, the water levels begin to lower, and what were lakes, gradually diminish to small ponds, and then to mere puddles. Populations of fish become trapped as their home evaporates, providing the birds with a glorious buffet, far easier to feast on than when the waters are fullest. Therefore, if you are interested in birdwatching, this is your time! A word to the wise - do not forget your insect repellent or flashlights, and leave your Sunday best at home.

Important Information: If you are interested in visiting three ecosystems during your trip to Brazil, it is recommended that you travel to the state of Mato Grosso. Here you will encounter the Pantanal wetlands, Amazon Rainforest, and savannah. The main gateway to the Pantanal through Mato Grosso is Cuiabá. There are several entrances to the rainforest. The closest Amazon destination accessible by land from the Pantanal is São José do Rio Claro. Another option is to fly or take a bus to Alta Floresta from Cuiabá. The third ecosystem, the savannah, is found in the Chapada dos Guimarães, an incredible destination in itself, as well as an excellent side-trip from the Pantanal.

If you are interested in visiting the Pantanal, and in addition enjoy trekking, wildlife, spelunking, snorkeling, and cave diving we suggest visiting Mato Grosso do Sul. The primary gateway to this region is via Campo Grande. From there you can begin your adventures into the Pantanal wetlands and on to Bonito, where you will encounter some of the most incredible caves in Brazil.



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SERRA DA BOCAINA

Serra da Bocaina Brazil

Serra da Bocaina
Linking together Brazil's two largest cities, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, is the Serra da Bocaina mountain range. In the Tupi-Guarani language, Bocaina means "paths to the heights". In the past, difficult access to the region created an ideal haven for many fugitive slaves. Since 1971, 110,000 hectares of the region have become national park. Access to the "heights" remains difficult, preserving the natural integrity of the land. The historical towns of Bananal, Silveiras, São José dos Barreiros and Areias surrounding Bocaina serve as both doors to a rare natural wonderland as well as windows to a nearly forgotten past. Entering the park from the south, you stumble into the world of the early 18th century muleteers. Access the park from the north and you will find yourself surrounded by the gloriously lush Atlantic Rainforest. To really explore the region, you must set out onto the 65 mile "Trilha do Ouro" (Gold Trail). In terms of biodiversity and ecotourism, the "Gold Trail" offers a greater selection than Baskin Robbins, ranging from hang-gliding to home-stays with local farmers. However, since much of the region can only be explored on foot or horse-back, you can taste as many of the tantalizing flavors of Serra da Bocaina as you like - without the guilt!

How to Get There: Serra da Bocaina is accessible from both São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. From Rio de Janeiro, the drive is approximately 145 miles, and from São Paulo it is 175 miles until you arrive in São José do Barreiro, one of the charming historical gateways to the park.

Best Time of Year: If photography is your forté and sloshing through 70 miles of mud is not, visiting Serra da Bocaina during the winter from June to August is advised when the skies are clear and blue.

Important Information: If you plan to travel the "Gold Trail", this can be done in varying levels of "comfort". Some choose to stay in tents along the way while others opt to stay at the local fazendas where delicious country-style food is almost always guaranteed. Mules are also available to lighten your load along the trails. Most people allocate a minimum of three days for this trek.

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SERRA DO CIPO


Serra do Cipo Brazil

Serra do Cipó
Topping the charts in the natural records books as the park with the greatest number of plants per square meter on the planet, the Serra do Cipó National Park wins the title of "The World's Largest Garden". More than 1,600 species of flowers decorate the land, their delicate forms set against a backdrop of an endless list of waterfalls and unique layers of rock, formed during the pre-Cambrian era when the entire region was underwater. For centuries humans have been overwhelmed by the mystical intrigue of the region, enhanced by the abundance of crystals and cave inscriptions. While this description so far may be reminiscent of a fairy-tale, true adventure enthusiasts must know that the soaring cliffs and waterfalls, endless trails, streams and lakes perfect for rappelling, canoing, hiking, biking, and horse-back riding offer plenty of adrenaline-fueled opportunities. To truly indulge your senses, kayak the Cipó River, which cuts through brilliant fields of flowers.

How to Get There: Serra do Cipó is in the heart of the state of Minas Gerais. Fly into Belo Horizonte. The trip from Belo Horizonte is approximately 63 miles.

Best Time of Year: The ideal time of year to visit the Serra do Cipó is during the dry season from April to November.

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