Around Belém in the Amazon, Brazil

A
foca
(passenger ferry) to the small town of
Barcarena
, makes an interesting half-day trip. A return trip on the ferry from Ver-o-Peso to Icaoraci provides a good view of the river. Several restaurants here serve excellent seafood; you can eat shrimp and drink coconut water and appreciate the breeze coming off the river.
Icaoraci
is 20 km east of the city and is well known as a centre of ceramic production. The pottery is in Marajóara and Tapajonica style. Artisans are friendly and helpful, will accept commissions and send purchases overseas. A bus from Avenida Presidente Vargas in Belém runs to Icoaraci.

The nearest beach to Belém is at
Outeiro
(35 km), on an island near Icoaraci. It takes about an hour by bus and ferry (the bus may be caught near the
Maloca
, an indigenous- style hut near the docks that serves as a nightclub). A bus from Icoaraci to Outeiro takes 30 minutes.

Further north is the island of
Mosqueiro
(86 km), accessible by bridge and an excellent highway, with many beautiful sandy beaches and jungle inland. It
is popular in July and at weekends, when traffic can be heavy and the beaches get crowded and polluted. Buses from Belém to Mosqueiro run from the
rodoviária
. There is also a ferry from Porto do Sal, on the street between Forte do Castelo and the cathedral. There are many hotels and weekend villas in the villages of Mosqueiro and Vila, which are recommended, but these may be full during peak times.

Islands around Belém

The mouth of the Amazon, formed by the confluence of that river in the north and the Tocantins in front of Belém, is dotted with myriad islands and mangrove lined backwaters. There are 27 islands around Belém; the largest of which,
Marajó
, is as big as Switzerland. Many of the islands can be visited on a day trip from the capital, others are a longer haul. Most are lined with long beaches of fine sand broken by strands of clay and dark stones heavy with iron ores. The water that washes them looks as expansive as an ocean, stretching to a vast horizon, but even out in what is geographically the Atlantic, it is fresh water and brown.

Ilha do Cotijuba
, www.cotijuba.com, and the more built-up
Ilha do Mosqueiro
, www.mosqueiro.com.br, are reachable from Belém in a couple of hours. Both have a number of
pousadas
and small restaurants, stretches of forest and, on Cotijuba, gorgeous beaches. The islands get very crowded at Christmas and during Carnaval. The
Ilha da Mexiana
in the Marajó archipelago is more remote and less visited.

Ilha de Maiandeua
is more commonly known by the name of its principal town,
Vila
do Algodoal, which is a small-scale traveller resort very popular with French backpackers. It's a three-hour bus and boat journey from Belém, off the Atlantic coast. The island is a semi-protected area at the junction of the sea, the Amazon and the Rio Maracanã. It is very tranquil and has sand dunes, small lakes and a number of isolated beaches lapped by an Atlantic heavy with the silt of the Amazon. The main town is tiny with a cluster of sandy streets lined with little houses, many of them
pousadas
. Donkey carts connect it with the island's other beaches, notably Farol (with its flat tidal sands) and Princesa (with its dunes and many of the cheap beach
pousadas
). All accommodation is low-key and simple.

Mosqueiro
is connected to the mainland by road. Buses leave every day from the
rodoviária
 to the main towns (Praia do Paraíso, Carandaduba and Vila Mosqueiro).

Algodoal
is reached by taking a bus from Belém to Marudá town, from where you catch a ferry. It is easy to find a room on arrival, except for weekends and holidays.

There are no banks on any of these islands, so bring cash from Belém.

Ilha de Marajó

The largest island near Belém is also the largest riverine island in the world (although some claim that as it abuts the Atlantic the title belongs to Bananal). Like the rest of the Amazon, Marajó is partly flooded in the rainy season between January and June. The island is home to feral water buffalo, which can be seen in large numbers; they are said to have swum ashore after a shipwreck. Many are now farmed and Marajó is famous throughout Brazil for its
mozarela
cheese. The island's police force use the buaffalo instead of horses to get around the beaches. The island is also home to numerous bird species, including thousands of roseate spoonbills, and black caiman, river turtles and other wildlife. The island was the site of the pre-Columbian Marajóaras culture, celebrated for its ceramics. It gets very busy in the July holiday season.

The capital of Marajó is
Soure
(good restaurants and services), with the other principal town being
Salvaterra
(better beaches and accommodation); both are on the eastern side of the island, which has the only readily accessible shore. There are many fine beaches around both towns:
Araruna
(2 km from Soure; take supplies and supplement with coconuts and crabs), from where it's a beautiful walk along the shore to
Praia do Pesqueiro
, a deserted beach; and
Caju-Una
15 km from Soure.
Praia de Joanes
between the point of arrival on Marajó (Porto de Camará) is a popular place to stay with a laid-back feel, some impressive Jesuit ruins and cliffs overlooking the beach. In the far south of the Marajó archipelago is the little town of
Ponta de Pedras
, which has a few colonial buildings and a fine beach. Fishing boats make the eight-hour trip to
Cachoeira do Arari
, where there is a fascinating
Marajó museum
. A 10-hour boat trip from Ponta de Pedras goes to the
Arari lake
where there are two villages:
Jenipapo
and
Santa Cruz
. The latter is less primitive and less interesting; a hammock and a mosquito net are essential. Bicycles can be hired on Marajó for around US$1 per hour to explore beaches and the interior of the island.

Salinópolis

Some 223 km from Belém, at the extreme eastern end of the Amazon delta, this seaside resort has many small places where you can eat and drink at night by the waterfront. There is a fine sandy beach nearby (buses and cars drive onto the beach) but the water is murky. It is a peaceful place mid-week but very busy at weekends and in high season and is at its peak during the holiday month of July.

Atalaia
, an island opposite Salinópolis, is pleasant and can be reached by taxi or by boat. Salinópolis is four hours from Belém by bus on a good road.

The little riverside village of
Tomé-Açu
, south of Belém on the Rio Acará-Mirim, affords a view of life on a smaller river than the Amazon. Buses run from Belém.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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