The Chapada Diamantina National Park in Brazil is unique, wonderful and natural. It boasts beautiful landscapes, waterfalls, canyons and a big natural swimming pool.
Sights and Activities
Vale do Capao
Many tourists go to Lençois, but if you want to get off the beaten paths and don't want to be packed in minivans with 10-20 other people, go straight to the Vale do Capao. The Valley of Capao is very close to the main treks of the Chapada Diamantina National Park and offers an amazing view over the mountains.
The valley possesses a diversified culture, with people of different parts of the world gathered around a lifestyle directed to human development and the respect of nature. Once a gold and diamond mining region, the area is still sparsely populated and people are very hospitable. With its eight associations, the valley congregates art, workmanship and sustainable activities, such as organic agriculture, medicinal herbs, phytotherapy and phytocosmetics, organic honey, theater, chorale, circus, dances, capoeira and tourism committed with the conservation of the natural and cultural patrimony.
There are English speaking guides. Your pousada will help you to find one. They'll charge you between 70 and 110 reals per days, depending on the trek and if food/camping equipment is included.
These are the best treks starting from Vale do Capao:
- Fumaca Waterfall: This 4-hour trek (roundtrip) is very famous as it is about the highest free fall of Brazil (380 metres). Before reaching the ground, the water blows into a fine smoke-like mist. Trekkers will enjoy the panoramic view over the Valley of Capão, the biodiversity on top of the table mountain, and the breathtaking view over the canyon surrounding the Fumaça waterfall.
- Riachinho Waterfall: A big natural swimming pool with a beautiful view over the Rio Preto Valley - 4 kilometres away from the entrance of the Fumaca Waterfall trek. Just walk 200m out of the road and you'll get there. You can easily spend a couple of hours just enjoying the water and view.
- Purification Waterfall: This beautiful 4-hour trek (roundtrip) starts with a walk until the end of the valley of Capão, passing by the Bomba, a small village at the foot of Morro Branco, a 400-metre tall cliff. You will get to the Poço Angélica, a 30-metre long natural swimming area surrounded by native vegetation. Following the river bed for another hour we will reach the Purificação Waterfall, a 15-metre high waterfall in a real ecological sanctuary. Wonderful.
- Valley of Paty: Considered by some magazines as the best trek in Brazil, this is an amazing valley. You can do the trek in 1 to 6 days. In 1 day you'll need to do 50 kilometres by jeep, in 4 days almost none. If you have time, it's worth spending at least 3 days doing this trek. You can sleep at the homes of native inhabitants along the way. You need a guide to do this trek. And be careful because you will fall in love with the national park, canyons, waterfalls, atlantic forest and spectacular table mountains.
- Morrão and Aguas Claras Waterfall: The entrance of this trek is near the Riachinho Waterfall. You'll walk towards the imposing Tambor Hill and enjoy great views over the Three Brothers Hills (tres irmaos). Right there is another beautiful waterfall where you can refresh yourself.
- Torrinha Cavern / blue and enchanted pool/Pratinha and Pai Inacio: You might be able to combine those destinations in a one day hike with a 4x4 and a guide. You'll enter 7 kilometres underground in one of the most spectacular caverns in the region in the largest cave system of South America. Totally unique stalactites and stalagmites decorate the cavern, as well as rare crystal formations. Then go see the transparent waters of the blue and enchanted pool. If you get there at the right hour of the day, you'll see the ray of light entering in the pool reflecting beautiful colors. Coming back to the valley, make a stop at the Pai Inacio Hill to contemplate one of the most beautiful sunset of the Chapada Diamantina. At an altitude of 1,150 meters, it is a postcard picture of the national park unveiling a gorgeous panoramic view of the region.
- Good cultural visits also include the colonial towns of Lencois, Mucuge and Rio de Contas. Also visit the ghost town of Igatu and the Marimbus Wetlands.
- Health & spiritual services - The valley is a great place for personal development and relaxing: Ayurvedica massages, reiki, yoga, meditation, iridiology, pilate, naturotherapies, aromatherapies, holotropic breathwork.
- Art - Sacred dances, contact improvisation dance; many musicians live there, then there are world music concerts (generally happen in the circus).
- Capoeira - try capoeira away from the (sometimes) aggressive style of Salvador dancers.
- Circus - There's a famous circus here. People from all over South America come here to learn new techniques. Cultural center where you'll meet plenty of travellers (http://circodocapao.blogspot.com/2007/03/apresentao.html).
From Salvador de Bahia, go to the bus station (rodoviaria) and get a ticket to PALMEIRAS. (43 Reals - 6/7 hours). you have 2 departures a day. 7am and 11.30 pm. Don't forget to get warm closes in the bus because of the A/C. Once you get there, 4x4 will be waiting for transfer to the Valley of Capao (7 reals - 20km).
Where to sleep: just tell the 4x4 driver in Palmeiras the name of the pousada and he'll get you there.
For budget travellers, go to the pousada Sempre Viva. 3 minutes walk from the town centre. Very basic and very cheap accommodation.
A great hotel here is Lendas do Capao. This pousada is incorporated to the nature in a beautiful setting right in the Valley with a view over the mountains. There's a river you can swim in. They also have a chalet in a centennial jack tree 9m above ground. The owner is very friendly. They'll help you to find a bilingual guide and organise treks.