Chapada dos Guimarães National Park and Bom Jardim

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Gasparetour picked us up in Cuiabá at 8am in the morning.  Alex and Rachel drove us a few hours to Chapada dos Guimarães National Park for some hiking.

The park was more crowded than normal for a week day, as it was Brazil’s Labor Day, though not nearly as crowded as a National Park in the USA would be on the same day.

Chapada does Guimarães National Park

Rachel dropped us off right at the entrance of Chapada dos Guimarães National Park and after loading up on bug spray and sunscreen, we followed Alex to the first of two trails we planned to hike for the day, neither of which were very long.

Our first hike led us to two waterfalls where we could swim if we so desired.  The path meandered through the hot Brazilian savanna and then into the shaded jungle.  Bridges led us across the creek a few times before we soon arrived at the first waterfall, Cachoerinha.  None of us felt like swimming, so we simply stood in the cool pool of water while hoping for a photo of the waterfall without any people in it.  This took some patience.  Most the visitors moved in and out of the falling water, but one guy sat beneath the tumbling cascade without any intent of leaving.  Eventually we succeeded and carried on to the next waterfall which required a short ascent and similar descent.

The second waterfall, Namorados, was much taller than the first and quite picturesque even with the visitors that provided a bit of perspective (and butt photo bombing).  We still didn’t feel like swimming, so we didn’t stay long before we returned to the trailhead.

Across the road was another trail that led to a view point to see a canyon and the striking Bridal Veil Falls.  This 86 meter waterfall comes from the Coxipozinho stream as it careens over sandstone cliffs to the canyon below.  After visiting these falls and admiring the surrounding nature, we were driven to a mountaintop spot where the Geodesic Center of South America is located.

At the center, which is equidistant between the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean in the heart of South America, is a sweeping viewpoint of the Pantanal.  We arrived just before an impending rain storm that produced ominous clouds overhead.

Lagoa das Araras

From the park, we drove to Bom Jardim where we checked into our hotel before we went to see some Brown Cappuchin Monkeys and the Lagoa das Araras (or Lake of the Macaws).  The lake’s glassy surface reflected images of the surrounding palm trees, a favorite habitat for the Macaws that make their nests inside the dead tree trunks.  The birds weren’t terribly agreeable to visiting any nearby palm trees, but Alex had a spectacular telescope which he set up to provide nice look at the parrots.

Josias Restaurant

Our dinner was at Josias restaurant.  It was the first of many buffet meals, a common custom in Brazil.  We had fish, okra, countless starches and some of the best homemade fried chicken I’ve ever had.

Parque Estadual de Lagoa Azul

The next morning we visited Parque Estadual de Lagoa Azul.  With our swim wear beneath our clothes, we selected life jackets, water shoes, masks and snorkels before loading in a tractor pulled wagon that transported us to a trailhead.  Here, we took a short walk through the moist jungle as we admired an inquisitive troop of monkeys.

Soon, we reached a “natural aquarium”.  The crystal clear pool was lovely, though at this time of year, the fish weren’t in the “aquarium”.  With not much to see underwater, we got out and walked a little farther to an entry into the Triste River.  The guides told us we were going to float the calm, blue waters.  Ruth and I exchanged glances, as our walk was short, and we felt that floating the river back to the “aquarium” would take two minutes and wondered if it would be worth it.

The Aquarium

Our quiet wondering turned into the pleasant surprise.  The river meandered through the jungle and our slow float which took much longer than two minutes was simply beautiful.  Taking in the spectacular jungle scenery as we drifted with the light current of the azure river made us wish for our cameras.  We really loved the experience, though were happy to get out once we found out anacondas hunt in the water!

After river floating, we returned to the trailhead, took the tractor pulled wagon back to the lodge and changed to dry clothes to hike to a cave.  The short path led us to a small limestone cave home to beautiful stalactites and stalagmites.

After our morning activities, we enjoyed another buffet lunch at the park’s restaurant which included some more fried chicken and okra.  Based on the food, it seemed like the same cook worked at Josias and Parque Esadual de Lagoa Azul.  Then we found out this was true, as Ruth forgot to pay for a bottle of water last night, and our guide said she could just leave the money at this restaurant.  Over time, we learned it was common to get things in the Pantanal and pay later.  Talk about honesty!

Pousada Piuval

After lunch, we spent the afternoon driving to the Pantanal where we checked into Pousada Piuval where we took both an afternoon and evening game drive.  We were treated to a magnificent sunset as we drove the property in search of anteaters, jaguars, foxes, monkeys, caimans, birds and more.  The mammals weren’t terribly cooperative, but the caimans were a dime a dozen and not aggressive like other alligators and crocodiles can be.

It was a great first two days, and we are looking forward to the game drives and other activities planned at the lodge for the next three days. ETB

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned award winning travel blogger and photographer sharing the earth's beauty one word and image at a time.

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