Chapada das Mesas National Park first piqued my interest because I love waterfalls, canyons and different landscapes. This epic Brazilian national park is a paradise for those three things. I have visited Chapas das Mesas six times now and they were all exciting and unique moments with nature.
The best way to describe Chapada das Mesas is that it’s an adventure and relaxation destination, especially for those who love ecotourism. The park is structured environmentally to meet all the needs of tourists, with fantastic accessibility to the top attractions. I usually joke that you can find Brazilian cenotes here but it’s almost no joke – they kind of exist!
The park has this abundant atmosphere due to the fact that the region mixes three types of Brazilian biomes: Cerrado (a vast tropical savanna ecoregion), Caatinga (subtropical vegetation typical of northeastern Brazil) and Amazon. Chapada das Mesas’ name comes from the geological formations of hills that make up the park – the summits resemble the shape of “mesas” or in English “tables”. They are so well aligned.
My favorite place within the park is Encanto Azul – a blue well of crystal clear water which is surrounded by red stone walls. Under the water you can observe and swim with piaus (fish), lambaris (fish) and cascudos (fish). This is one of the best places to go swimming in the national park.
6 Best Places to Visit in Chapada das Mesas
As just mentioned, Encanto Azul is my number one recommendation for Chapada das Mesas but this place only scratches the surface. There are five other spots I would like to highlight: Poco Azul, Cachoeira do Santuario, Portal da Chapada das Mesas, Cachoeira de Sao Romao and Cachoeira do Itapecuru (Gemeas). These attractions are well distributed among all the cities of Chapada. They are all beautiful and cannot be missed!
1. Encanto Azul
Encanto Azul is located right by Poco Azul – just 6km away. Both are these stunning blue wells where you can go swimming and explore the surrounding area: caves, hiking trails, rivers and other little wells can be found. You can find this epic destination by using Google Maps or Waze.
2. Poco Azul
To arrive at Poco Azul, the other perfect blue well of Chapada das Mesas, you should drive 130 km from Carolina to Riachao. I suggest heading here when you know you will have plenty of sunlight time to enjoy the well because with intense sun rays comes a more intense color of blue – perfect for swimming and taking a few awesome photos. You will love it!
3. Cachoeira do Santuario
Cachoeira do Santuario is a sacred place that you can feel as soon as you arrive. Located in Chapada das Mesas, inside a corridor where a river flows, which is inside a canyon with dark stone walls, you will find this special waterfall. The waterfall drops 46 metres and offers an invigorating experience for those brave enough to hunt it out. There are even wooden walkways to help those with low fitness or those younger in age.
I remember the first time I entered Cachoeira do Santuario. Walking through stones cut by water 60 million years ago was awe inspiring! When I was inside the canyon, I entered a corridor with crystal clear waters flanked by steep walls. It was difficult to hold in my emotions at that moment. It was a place of ceremony for the Indians of the Timbira tribe and I could sense the sacredness. It’s easily one of the most beautiful places in Brazil.
4. Portal da Chapada das Mesas
Portal da Chapada das Mesas, as the name suggests, is something of a portal which offers incredible views. The portal of naturally carved rock opens in the unique shape of a pyramid, from which you can sit back and enjoy the views or take a few amazing photos. From this viewpoint you can see Morro do Chapeu, mountain pillars of Chapada das Mesas and the Cerrado. Go here at sunrise or sunset for a truly spectacular experience.
5. Cachoeira de Sao Romao
Cachoeira de Sao Romao is another majestic waterfall in Chapada das Mesas. This is one of the larger falls (in terms of water volume) inside the park and it’s also one of the most beautiful. Access to the waterfall is down a dirt road, so you will need some type of 4×4 to get there. You can always join a tour if you are not confident enough to get there by yourself.
6. Cachoeira do Itapecuru (Gemeas)
Here you will find two 12-meter waterfalls that fall into a wide area of water that is ideal for bathing. These waterfalls are located on private property and therefore an entry fee of 30 reais is required per person. But don’t let that put you off as the waterfalls are definitely worth visiting.
Where to Stay and How to Get Around
If you have a tight budget, you can look for hotels to stay in at the base of the cities inside Chapada das Mesas. Riachao and Carolina are the two main cities to stay in while enjoying day trips. If you have the budget and want to relax in a wonderful resort you can switch between two amazing places: Santuario Ecologico Pedra Caida and Poco Azul Ecoturismo Hotel.
For getting around, it’s best to hire a car so you can make your own schedule. The first few times I went, some attractions had no proper facilities or structure and some roads required 4×4 vehicles. These days, most of the attractions have their own headquarters and offer tours.
Tips for Visiting Chapada das Mesas National Park
- The best time to visit is from June to September, in summer.
- The best view from the Chapada Portal is at dawn.
- Renting a vehicle will give you the ultimate freedom to stretch out every little bit of your trip and discover other hidden gems in the area.