Chapada dos Veadeiros in Brazil
These table-top mountains, drained by countless fast-flowing rivers that rush through deep gorges and plummet over spectacular waterfalls, are less famous than Diamantina or Guimarães, but are less spoilt and more subtly beautiful. The national park, which protects
only a fraction of their area, is almost twice the size of Diamantina and eight times the size of Guimarães. And unlike both those areas, its forests have never been felled. It was designated
as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001. At present trips within the park itself are limited to day visits only; but there are plans to change this. Walks of up to nine days can be easily
organized at a good price within the wilderness areas in the park's environs, together with a range of adventure activities from canyoning to rappelling. There is plenty of accommodation
in Alto Paraíso and São Jorge and transport to and from Brasília is straightforward.
Alto Paraíso and São Jorge
Like most of wild Goiás, the Chapada is covered in
forest - a habitat of such floral diversity that it has recently been declared a biological hot-spot by
. Rare mammals including jaguar, maned wolf, puma, tapir, ocelot and giant anteater are abundant and, although no one has yet compiled a serious bird list, spectaculars and rarities include red-shouldered macaw, coal-crested finch, helmeted manakin and various key indicator species like rusty-margined guan and bare-face currasow; king vultures are abundant.
The ramshackle town of
Alto Paraíso de Goiás
is filled with crystal shops and has become
famous over the years as a centre for alternative therapies. Judging only by appearance many of these seem superficial. But there are some serious practitioners here doing excellent
work, and at a fraction of the price of those in other parts of the world. The town is connected to Brasília and the rest of Goiás state by the paved state highway BR-118. There are bus connections to Brasília and to Palmas in Tocantins. Alto Paraíso is the best point to stock up on provisions before a trek in the Chapada dos Veadeiros and has the best of the tour operators and hotels. Access to the eastern attractions like the Vale de Lua are only really possible from Alto Paraíso. There is a small
on the main street (no English).
The tiny village of
is 40 km from Alto Paraíso on a partly paved road. With its three dirt streets, it is smaller and prettier than Alto Paraíso but has fewer restaurants and tour services. Several buses run daily between Alto Paraíso and São Jorge. The town lies only 1 km from the park entrance itself but the guides are less professional.