Brazil,  Latin America,  Travel

Roadtripping to Chapada dos Veadeiros – a mystical gem in Central Brazil

It was Friday afternoon. I turned off my computer at work, packed my bags and set out with my Brazilian bestie on a road trip we had been wanting to do for a very long time. Finally, we were going to Chapada dos Veadeiros, a beautiful area and national park in the state of Goiás. A destination we had been dreaming of, not just because of its impressive nature, but also because of the mystical and hippie vibes that were supposed to be there (and after some hard weeks at the office, we were in need of them).

The road trip itself did not disappoint. Leaving from Brasilia, the capital of Brazil, we took an unplanned detour and arrived in the village of São Jorge five hours later. I was over the moon: slowly the small hills of Brasilia and the quite boring fields just outside of it had made room for vast geological formations. I had just seen a toucan flying over the road right in front of us, and had felt ecstatic, given that toucans are my favourite animals. But as we had entered the natural area of Chapada dos Veadeiros, the vibe in the car slowly turned more quiet, each of us appreciating our surroundings. The sun was setting, and the vista of the canyons around us was simply spectacular. It wasn’t hard to understand why this area attracts people that are looking for some peace and quiet; its nature made us feel small and humble. By the time we arrived in São Jorge I already felt so much more at peace.

Our plan for our short weekend getaway was to simply relax, do some hiking and get a massage. This was also the reason why we stayed in São Jorge. It’s a tiny tiny village without paved roads (prepare for some hole-avoiding driving during the rainy season), incredibly quiet and right next to the national park of Chapada dos Veadeiros. Often people also stay in Alto Paraíso, an actual town with more hustle and bustle. São Jorge has more of the mystical vibe, with vendors and small stores selling crystals and dream catchers everywhere.

The national park of Chapada dos Veadeiros

The national park is free of charge, you just have to register yourself at the entrance. There are three trails, differing in length and level of difficulty. As we had a late start, we chose for the second trail which was about 9km. It wasn’t difficult at all, only the combination of the sun, heat and up-hill climbs was a bit tiring at times.

Our trail led downwards to a beautiful and quite big waterfall. This was in rainy season – in the dry season the water stream will be minimal.

We stayed here for a little while. As you can see, a natural pool was formed below the waterfall and it’s perfect for a cooling down swim. It was so relaxing, and there were lots of locals just hanging out (and smoking weed). It was a relaxed vibe and did not feel crowded at all.

The climb back up again with the strong sun was challenging. But the view was spectaculair!

Only after we climbed all the way up again, the sun disappeared behind some very dark clouds. There was thunder in the background, but luckily we managed to end our trail just before the rain started pouring.

The national park of Chapada dos Veadeiros is best for its landscapes and views, not so much for its fauna (in my humble opinion). We didn’t see any interesting animals, but the vegetation was nice. It’s typical for the Cerrado savanna region of Brazil. Chapada dos Veadeiros lies on a plateau and is also known for its crystal and mineral formations – the area is full of quartz and schist. If you look down while hiking, you can see beautiful rocks and parts of crystals on the path. According to the almighty internet, NASA has said it is one of the most luminous points seen by orbiting cameras. The high intensity of minerals and crystals is apparently also the reason why many people believe UFOs have been seen here…

You don’t have to go to the national park – Chapada dos Veadeiros is an area that is much larger than just the official park. There are dozens of waterfalls and sites to visit. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to go there, but we heard good things about Vale da lua (Moon valley). For this valley and other sites, you’ll definitely need a car to go from one place to the other (you’ll also need the car to get to Chapada in the first place – Brasilia, three hours away, has the closest airport). Both São Jorge and Alto Paraíso are centrally located and offer a good base to explore the area.

Apart from the relaxed vibe I craved, I really liked Chapada dos Veadeiros as a travel destination. I’ve travelled quite a bit now in Brazil, but mostly along the coast. Chapada is very different from the Brazil you’ll probably know (samba, sunny beaches). It’s modest, quiet and mystical, and very unlike the large coastal cities. As a foreigner I particularly liked the fact that I only saw Brazilian tourists and no other gringos at all. The Cerrado region is not one that’s often traveled by foreigners, despite the stunning nature it has to offer. All the more reason to visit this gem in central Brazil!

Some recommendations

Back in São Jorge, we booked the massage we were needing, as well as a hot herbal bath. We discovered a nice place that offered such treatments, just off the main road. Namaste is run by a few very sweet locals and also does delicious, very large, all-vegan breakfasts. Yum!

For dinner, go onto the main road and follow the candles on the sidewalk. It will lead you to a lovely restaurant, where you can either sit on the wooden deck outside or comfortably on pillows on the ground inside, while listening to tranquilo live music.

São Jorge is also a great place to buy crystals and locally made gifts. I bought handmade soaps and jewellery as Christmas presents for my family, and at least ten crystals for myself. They are just so beautiful! And because they come from that area, they are very cheap. Go to Pousada Casa das Flores for an abundant selection. This is also a nice place to sleep if you want to splurge a little bit. Along the main road, there are plenty of small stores that sell locally made things.

A trip to Chapada dos Veadeiros is not complete without a visit to Valdomiro. Valdomiro runs a very local restaurant with just a few options on the menu, but it’s good food and not expensive (and even has a vegetation option!). He also makes his own flavoured cachaça and liquors, which you can try for free and buy a bottle if you like it. You’ll find Valdomiro on your left after about 20km on the way back to Brasilia from São Jorge. 

Have you been to Chapada dos Veadeiros, or even to the Cerrado? Let me know!

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