Chapada dos Guimarães is a city in Mato Grosso do Norte, Brazil. This region, which is at the geographical center of South America, is known for its waterfalls and characteristic mountains and canyons.
Buses depart from Cuiaba daily. Buses leave hourly, beginning at 07:00, and the trip to Chapada dos Guimaraes takes approximately 1 hour.
While Chapada dos Guimarães holds the record for once having been the largest municipality in the world in area extending to an what is now the city of Sinop, Mato Grosso, the village is small, and easily navigated on foot. It is possible to get to such attractions at the Veu de Noiva in the Chapada dos Guimarães National Park or the Centro Geodesico by taxi or a rented bike, other attractions such as Aroe Jari Cavern Complex or the Waterfall Circuit will require a guide and a vehicle. In the case of Rio Claro, São Jeronimo or Cidade das Pedras, that vehicle ought to be a 4x4. So either you should rent a vehicle near the airport or contract a tour agency unless you just want to do the basics close to the city.
The word Chapada means "tableland" in English, and Guimarães comes from the names of the first settlers. The area is also home to a diverse ecosystem, making it ideal for birdwatchers and other nature lovers. Arriving in Chapada dos Guimrães there are a number of rivers with swimming areas & restaurants along the way such as Rio Claro. These are more popular with Cuiabanos looking to escape the heat and humidity of the capital than with foreign tourists. Within the National Park you are allowed to visit the Veu de Noiva Falls without a guide entering the park between 09:00 and 16:00 giving you enough time to see the falls before the park closes at 17:00. The trail to the falls is 800 m. It is best to visit either early in the morning or late in the afternoon to have a chance to see the Green-shouldered Macaw and other avifauna. The visit to Cidade das Pedras takes about an hour and in addition to truly sublime landscapes offers birdwatchers and nature lovers another chance to see the Green-shouldered Macaw which nests in the cliffs as well as a rare Cerrado specialty, the horned sungem hummingbird. This tour takes about an hour and a half. A 4x4 is essential in the dry season and a licensed guide who is authorized by the park is mandatory. It is essential that you schedule this trip in advance as the guide is required to retrieve the key to the gate from the park headquarters, and return it after the trip. The best time to visit is at sunrise and since the park headquarters opens only at 09:00, it is essential that the agency registers the trip and the guide retrieves the key the day before the trip. The most popular tour within the park is the Waterfall Circuita 6-km hike visiting 7 waterfalls. This, also can only be done with an licensed guide authorized by the park and a voucher issued by an agency. Tours can be arranged either as a private tour or as a group tour. Make sure to ask, as the price might not be different, and if you don't ask for a private tour you might be grouped with a bunch of people that don't speak your language. The São Jeronimo Trek is a little more difficult because of the distance, steepness, and exposure to the sun. Only a few of the guides are interested in making this tour, so plan ahead. It is possible to hike out, stay overnight in a cabin, and hike back the next day. This option makes the hike less arduous. The Aroe Jari Cavern Complex is on private property some 45 km from the city. It is the largest sandstone cavern in South America. The trip must be accompanied by a licensed guide or tour conductor. Sometimes you can find a local Portuguese-speaking conductor on the premises for a group tour but it is safer to schedule in advance, especially if you want a bilingual guide. There are also the waterfalls Marimbondo and Geledeira nearby to each other 8 km from the city. No guide is needed but the route is not well marked. The Centro Geodesico with its scenic outlook claims to be the geographic center of the South America. Cuiaba also had a Centro Geodesico making South America the only continent that had two geographical center points! The one thing you can be sure about is that the one in Chapada dos Guimaraes is more beautiful. The historic town square has the Hippy Fair on the weekends. The church is an historic landmark.
- 1 Pantanal Expeditions, ☏ (also on Whatsapp), ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 07:00-19:00. Pantanal Expeditions offers private and Tailor-made general interest and birdwatching trips to Chapada dos Guimaraes from the Cuiaba International Airport with bilingual and specialized birdwatching guides including transportation. Pantanal Expeditions can integrate your visit to Chapada dos Guimarães with the Pantanal, Vila Bela da Santissima Trinidade, Alta Floresta and Bom Jardim-Nobres, which is similar to Bonito.
The Village is full of stores that sell arts and crafts to tourists as well as clothing and other souvenirs. You can find Banco do Brasil and Bradesco near the town square. Bradesco is the most likely ATM to work with foreign credit and debit card accounts. Sometimes the network doesn't function, sometimes the ATMs don't function, so carry a little extra cash. Credit and debit cards are readily accepted in even the smallest shops and even by some street vendors, so hoard your spare change in case of an emergency and use plastic.
There are a wide variety of restaurants in the Village of Chapada depending on your tastes and your budget. The family run Casarin Restauraunt serves authentic Italian food at a reasonable price and in the off season, your waiter might just be Ricardo Casarin, Chapada's most famous birding guide. Another option for Italian food is the Pomodori Trattoria Restauraunt. For those who don't have deep pockets enterprising squatters show up with trailers on the town sqaure at night and occupy spaces along the sidewalk vacated by merchants who have closed for the day. Street food includes all manner of burgers and hot dogs - Brazilian style. Not to be ignored are the Galinhadas served by the restaurants lining the road to Chapada. They consist of free range Brazilian chickens served with rice. There are no individual portions, it is a group affair. When visiting Aroe Jari Cave complex consider arriving early inthe morning, making the trail and then coming back for a chicken of fish lunch before visiting a nearby waterfall on the premises to cool off. The meal must be ordered before you depart for the trail. Savvy travelers should be aware that restaurants in Chapada have the uncanny habit of shutting down on major holiday like Christmas and New Years so the owners and employees can be with their families even though the city is full of hungry tourists. During Carnival they work but many take time off immediately after. If you are coming during a holiday, ask ahead about dining. Frutos do Cerrado offers ice cream and popsicles made from a variety of fruits, many of them endemic to the Cerrado (Brazilian Savanna). There is also a place that serves Açai near the Pousada Bom Jardim, a frozen concoction made from an Amazon Palm Tree that is simply delicious.
Pomodori Trattoria has the hands down best drink menu in the city. They make a variety of awesome Caprinhas as well as an extensive variety of microbrews and imported beers, most of which you will find are not in stock; but, in any case, it is interesting to look at the drink menu and trying to find one that they have in stock will give you an excellent chance to practice your Portuguese. If you want to go native, there is a bar on the edge of the village just beyond the bus station on the way towards the Centro Geodesico that offers Cachaça Infusions with native plants that give flavor and are recognized in folk medicine for curing various ailments, things that neither the local health board nor the medical establishment approve of. It is not a speakeasy, but it might be better if we don't publish the name. Go easy, don't forget you are not a native.
- Pousada do Parque (Av. Gov. Ponce de Arruda, 670 Varzea Grande - MT - 78138-500), ☏ . Lovely lodge 15 km outside the town of Chapada dos Guimaraes, and borders the national park. Breathtaking scenery. The couple that owns the lodge speak fluent English and Portuguese, and can help travelers book birdwatching tours, hikes, etc. Additionally the restaurant on site serves delicious home-cooked Brazilian food.
Chapada dos Guimarães is popular due to its proximity to Cuiaba International Airport, the Transpantaneira and the Northern Pantanal. It is also a popular destination for birdwatching. Staying in Chapada, even if only for a night, and stopping by the Veu de Noiva Waterfall is an excellent alternative to staying at the area around the Cuiaba airport which is not particularly safe.