Chapada dos Veadeiros
Chapada dos Veadeiros is a natural area in the state of Goias, Brazil. It is also the name of a National Park within that area, listed as a World Natural Heritage Site by UNESCO for being an outstanding preservation area of the Cerrado – one of the world's oldest and most diverse tropical ecosystems.
Chapada dos Veadeiros is a big geographical area in the center of Brazil, well known for it's amazing fauna, flora and geological formations. There's a National Park, which has an area with 65,515 hectares with plenty of great landscapes, gorgeous waterfalls and lakes and is sought after by many travelers in search of true contact with nature.
There are basically two places where you can stay when travelling to Chapada dos Veadeiros: Alto Paraíso and São Jorge.
São Jorge is a small village right in front of the National Park's entrance. It lacks infrastrucure like asphalt roads and public ilumination, the intent is to leave the region around the park pretty much as it is, in order not to disturb it's fauna and flora. Even though it might sound uncomfortable for some, that's what makes the small village special. There you really feel you're somewhere mankind hasn't dominated yet, and there you can really experience Chapada.
Alto Paraíso is a small city which is about 20km (12.4 miles) from the National Park's entrance. Differently from São Jorge, it is a city with normal public illumination, asphalt roads and so on. You will find there more options for sleeping and eating.
Beyond the National Park, the region has other attractions inside private properties such as the Moon Valley and the Almécegas waterfalls which are situated nearby São Jorge, being accessible through the payment of a daily fee.
The Chapada region is also a magnet for mystics attracted by the alleged properties of the its crystal soil and rumored UFO appearances.
Rumour has it that, according to NASA, the Chapada is Earth's brightest point as seen from space. Lying on a quartz crystal bed, it's said to reflect light like a mirror.
The National Park was created in 1961.
Flora and fauna
Cerrado is the predominant kind of vegetation. The trees are low and curved, and the vegetation is usually ground-high. It is similar to the Savana vegetation in Africa.
Cerrado wildlife, including orchids, buritis and many threatened animal species such as the pampa deer, swamp deer, jaguars, guará wolves, rheas, crested seriemas, tapitis (small hare-like rodents), giant armadillos, great anteaters, capybaras, tapirs, red-breasted toucans, king vultures and black vultures.
Chapada’s climate is tropical, hot and semi-arid. The average annual temperature is around 25ºC (77ºF). The National Park is closed to the public during the rainy season (December to February). During the rest of the year it is mostly sunny and hot. At the height of the dry season (September), the temperature can peak at 40ºC (104ºF).
In the beginning of the year the climate is very humid, and it rains pretty much everyday. It is very dangerous to be close to a waterfall during bad weather, so, avoid visiting the area during those days.
After May, the rain ceases and the climate turns almost desertic. There's a six month period with almost no rain at all and it gets pretty dry and hot, as you can imagine (what makes the waterfalls even better!). In that sense, the best period for visiting is between June and July, because the probability of raining is very low, and the waterfalls still have plenty of water. After that, it is still worth seeing it, but the waterfalls won't be as good because they start running low on water (no, they never get dry).
There are no regular flights to the Chapada region. Flyers usually land in Brasilia (frequent flights from everywhere in Brazil) then travel overland to one of the gateway towns.
There are buses departing from Brasília to Alto Paraíso. To get to Sao Jorge there's only one bus a day at 6pm from Rodoviária Alto Paraiso.
The road condition from Brasília is OK. Access is done by the BR-020 and the GO-118 roads, through the cities of Formosa, Sao Gabriel and Sao Joao D'Alianca. To reach the National Park, take GO-327 to the Sao Jorge Village, where the entrance to the park is located.
For every attraction there will be an admissional fee of around R$ 10,00. For visiting the park you also have to pay the guide, which will take you through the park and explain you interesting things about the fauna and flora.
There are two options to get around Chapada dos Veadeiros: get a car, or hitchhike (not recommendable, but an option). The attractions are not close to each other, which makes it impossible to just walk, so, don't go there without a car, unless you're ok with hitchhiking. From São Jorge it is very easy to get around, as the park and the main waterfalls are close (10-20 minutes by car). From Alto Paraíso it is a little bit more distant, but still very easy and well indicated. Note down the names of the waterfalls you wish to see and take it with you (it will be difficult to find English speakers there). People there are very friendly and will be very happy to help you find the place.
The main attraction is the National Park (Phone/(62) 3455-1116) - Its entrance is located at the Km 39 of GO-239 highway, near the village. There are two authorized paths inside the park: way of the canyons and way of the falls, each of one during normally from the morning till the sunset. Admission is from 8 am to noon, closes 5 pm (during Daylight Saving Time (mid-October to mid-February) admission is from 9am to 1pm and it closes at 6pm). Every entry must be accompanied by a local authorized guide; you will find them right in front of the parks' entrance, or walking in São Jorge. Currently, each guide is authorized to enter with a group of up to 10 persons, and to receive R$ 100,00 for the whole group. EDIT: As of 2014 entrance to the park is free and no guide is required. The trails are well marked and easy. You are only required to sign in and sign out when you leave.
Be sure to bring cash in Sao Jorge. No ATMs and most places do not accept credit card (debit card are more commonly accepted). There are lots of crystals, rocks and such for sale, specially in São Jorge. Hand made objects for decoration, necklaces mades of seeds or leather are everywhere on the streets.
Eating is very cheap. You will find lots of restaurants with traditional brazilian food, where you pay per kilo.
As you can imagine, there are restaurants with good vegetarian food as well, even though they are a little bit more expensive.
There are lots of bars in São Jorge and in Alto Paraíso. They are all very rustic and cosy, it is a different environment. Take a look at Bar do Pelé in São Jorge. During the high season there are lots of raves in São Jorge.
São Jorge and Alto Paraíso have several private camping areas. They're very cheap, around R$10.00 a day and usually it's a nice place to know people, as usually to camp is what young people do when going to Chapada.
Beware that camping here is not as safe as it is in Europe or in the US, so, keep an eye on your belongings!
Visitors are not allowed to stay in the park overnight, and must leave until 5 pm (or 6 pm during DST).
Tourists are recommended to take vaccination against yellow fever at least ten days before the trip.