Itatiaia National Park is a ruggedly beautiful region of lush forests, lakes, rivers, waterfalls, alpine meadows, and both primary and secondary Atlantic Rainforest. Though just 70 miles from the Atlantic Ocean, the park covers a broad range of elevations rising to 9100 ft. This range in altitudes contributes to a most diverse variety of habitats from lower elevation forest to alpine meadows surrounded by granite cliffs.
Flora and fauna
This is one of the best opportunities in south eastern Brazil for bird watching.
In the Pico das Agulhas Negras, temperature reached up to -10 ° C (14 F). In the months June to August (austral winter), the decreases in temperature and rainfall too well, leaving the dry climate and very cold, guaranteed visitors, in a country with almost 93% of area located in the tropical zone, the observation of phenomena such as frost on the fields and plants of the park and also the precipitation of snow in the coldest days of local, rare in recent years. In June 1985, was a memorable and intense precipitation of snow, with a unusual for the region, and the 3rd highest precipitation of snow in Brazil.
Itatiaia National Park (Parque Nacional do Itatiaia), established in 1937, is the oldest national park in Brazil.
It is located on the border between Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais states, between 22º16’ - 22º28’ S and 44º34’ - 44º42’ W.
The park is part of the Mantiqueira mountain range, and home to Brazil's third highest mountain, Pico das Agulhas Negras, which stands at 2,878 meters. This peak is visible to the northwest of Resende when driving between São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro on the Via Dutra highway, which is the easiest route to get there.
The park attracts bird watchers from all over the world with its 250 species of birds. Other attractions include hiking and rock climbing.
The park is surrounded by the Mantiqueira Mountain Environmental Protection Area which provides an ecological buffer zone for the park.
The park is divided in two areas: high and low. The high area is accessible through an entrance about 35 km from the main entrance and gives access to the Pico das Agulhas Negras and Prateleiras complex. Josef Mengele lived in this area after World War II.
The low area of the park is much closer to the city of Itatiaia and has many waterfalls, such as Véu da Noiva with 45 meters. The low area has also a Natural History museum.
Itatiaia means "many-pointed rock" in the Tupi language.
Agulhas Negras and Prateleiras are the highest points in the park, and among the highest points in the whole country. The vegetation gets sparser the higher you go, so don't forget sunblock and a hat. The views are fabulous, especially in the dry season (May-Aug). Prateleiras is an easy climb but Agulhas Negras is a little tougher, and requires some effort, if not actual moutaineering skills. Due to an arson attack a few years ago, which resulted in a huge fire that destroyed most of the area's vegetation (it has since recovered), access is only possible with a registered guide or agency. These can be hired through the local pousadas (small hotels). Agencies usually provide their own 4x4 transport, probably the better option, because access is through a secondary gate very far from the main entrance and the access road is very rough.
- Agulhas Negras (Black Needles).
- Véu de Noiva Waterfall.
From its summit you can see across the region, such as the dam of the funnel, Sierra Fina, the region of Visconde de Mauá, the vast region of Vale do Paraíba, where are located the most populous cities in the axis of Brazil, the Rio-São Paulo, and Rio Paraiba, which causes the name of the valley. The region is highly sought by tourists seeking to stay in hotels near the park-farm during the winter and by adventurers who set up in camps close to the peak for the practice of sports such as mountaineering, trekking and rappelling the, what is known as adventure tourism.
There are small hotels (pousadas) and one large hotel within the park itself. A good small one is Donati, (24) 33521110. Its fairly expensive, but the rate includes all meals, and it is situated in a forest clearing, which makes for unequaled access to the park itself 24 hours a day. Apparently this is only national park in Brazil that has this kind of infrastructure within the park itself.
Penedo, which lies at the foot of the Serra da Mantiqueira at an altitude of 600m/2000ft, is the best equipped tourist center in the region. Founded in 1929 by Finnish natural scientists, it lies within the commune of Itatiaia, 3km/2mi north of the town and 170km/106mi north-west of Rio de Janeiro.
Before visiting Itatiaia National Park read about it. Many books are available:
- Jorge Pádua, Maria Tereza e Coimbra Filho, Adelmar F. Os Parques Nacionais do Brasil. Instituto de Cooperação Iberoamericana. Madrid. José Olympio Editora, 1989. ISBN 84-85389-19-0, pág. 122 a 129
- Corrêa, Marcos Sá "Itatiaia - O Caminho das Pedras" São Paulo. Metalivros, 2003. ISBN 85-85371-50-1, 240 pág.
- Leite, Helton Perillo Ferreira - "Planalto do Itatiaia - Região das Agulhas Negras", Rio de Janeiro. Montanhar / Publit, 2007. Edição parcialmente trilíngue. ISBN 978-85-7773-076-6, 232 páginas.