In High Heaven: A Trip to Alto Paraíso and Chapada dos Veadeiros
I’ve been getting a lot of requests lately to share a bit more of the “behind the curtain” of Wild Side, i.e. my life and adventures. As an introvert, I majorly shy away from the camera and like to let the designs do the talking. That’s why I don’t even use Instagram!
But since I’ve had the opportunity to live in and explore so many beautiful places here in Brazil I thought it’s time to start sharing some of my journey, and hopefully to open up some eyes to the hidden gems here beyond just Rio de Janeiro (which I absolutely hated, but that’s another story).
The irony about being a digital nomad is that you’re always traveling but never on vacation. It may seem like we’re just hanging out on the beach with a laptop all day, but the majority of the time you’re just in your house/apartment working. Go figure!
We hadn’t taken a vacation in over 2 years, and when we moved back to Brazil one of the promises we made to ourselves is that we’d change that. So, in January we took a spontaneous trip somewhere we’d never been before: Alto Paraíso de Goiás.
99% of you probably have never even heard of this place. If I said it’s the gateway to Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park, that probably wouldn’t help either. Hey, I hadn’t even heard of this place before either, and I’ve lived all over Brazil.
Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park
Parque Nacional dos Chapada dos Veadeiros is a 655 sq km (250 sq mile) park about 2 hours north of the capital, Brasilia, located in the state of Goiás. It’s full of hiking trails and some of the most beautiful waterfalls and crystalline pools you’ve ever seen.
The flora and fauna is unlike anything I’d ever experienced, which is a type of high-altitude savanna called the Cerrado. It’s the second largest biome in Brazil after the Amazon rainforest and covers the entire middle region of the country. Sadly, it’s also the biggest victim (much moreso that the Amazon) when it comes to deforestation for agriculture, which is a huge issue here in Brazil. As we were driving there from Brasília we could see all the huge farms that had taken over where the native Cerrado was before, which made my heart heavy.
The area is home to animals like anteaters, jaguars, maned wolves, toucans and macaws (which are especially common – they were everywhere!). The park is actually a UNESCO world heritage site.
The park (and general region of Alto Paraíso) sits on top of a 1.8 Billion year old plateau, basically a giant slab of quartz crystal, which gives it a bit of a mystic vibe. It’s the place with the highest concentration of ores and minerals on earth, making it also the brightest point on the planet when seen from space, according to NASA. This adds a bit of alien lore as many locals believe that aliens are drawn to the region because of its rich mineral deposits and mystic energy.
For this reason the nearest city, Alto Paraíso de Goiás, has become a hub for new age philosophy, alternative medicine, organic farming, spiritual enlightenment, and a sprinkle of doomsday preppers (because local legend is that if the world ends in fire and brimstone, this ancient plateau will remain protected and untouched). It’s a unique mix for sure!
People come from all over the world to experience and receive alternative therapies and healing, everything from sacred ayahuasca ceremonies to crystal chakra alignment, but also just to enjoy the beautiful nature and waterfalls the region is famous for.
When you’re hiking through the trails, there are literally crystals everywhere embedded in the dirt under your feet. We collected about 10-15 clear and rose quartz pieces just from our walks, and we weren’t even looking that hard! There are also tons of shops in town that sell stones and crystals of every type imaginable.
We flew into Brasília, which is the closest airport (and one of the nicest in Brazil, from my experience!) and stayed with some friends in the capital over the weekend. More on that in an upcoming 48 Hours in Brasilia post 😉
We then drove 2 hours more or less North from Brasilia to the town of Alto Paraíso de Goiás – population ~7,000. The drive was pretty easy, a one-lane highway through rural, agricultural Brazil. It’s a little bit hard to get out here if you don’t have a car. We rented one, but I think there are a few buses that run from Brasilia to Alto Paraíso if you want to take that route.
Arriving into the city, we were greeted with what looked like a giant flying-saucer archway. Definitely a unique first impression!
We parked on the main street in what could be called “downtown” (except it was pretty much the only part of town!) and walked around a bit. There were tons of crystal shops, natural therapies & healing services, B&B’s and restaurants (with a surprising amount of vegetarian and vegan options, for Brazil!)
We then got back in the car and drove another 20 minutes along the *most beautiful* scenic highway to the little village of São Jorge, located at the gateway to the Park, where we’d be staying. The house was a total nightmare, but that’s another story!
Alto Paraíso is famous for its waterfalls, with nearly 2,000 unique falls within the munipality. Most of them are on private property, so you have to pay around $5-12 USD each at each fall to visit. We found it super useful to have a car of our own, especially because all the waterfalls were far apart.
My absolute favorite was Almécegas I – located on a huge ranch with 2 other waterfalls (and a zipline – see the video above!), it’s the most beautiful waterfall I’ve ever seen! The pool at the bottom was perfect for swimming, and there was a group rappelling down the waterfall rockface which we were there. And to think it’s literally someone’s backyard!
My other favorite was Vale da Lua (Valley of the Moon), which is an otherworldly, lunar-landscape type rock bed with a crystal-clear river running through it. It’s perfect for a quick dip and was super fun to swim between the crevasses and under the waterfalls.
It’s almost always full of people, so it’s a good idea to get there early and bring a picnic to hang out all day. The trail to get there is about 1km and goes through a beautiful forest full of butterflies.
The ground is absolutely full of quartz crystal and we grabbed a few to bring back with us as souvenirs – I found a beautiful chunk of rose quartz literally in the middle of the hiking path!
If we had more time, I would have loved to go back and spend more time at Vale da Lua and do some longer hikes. But since it was our first time and we hadn’t done a ton of research to begin with, we ended up not getting in as much as we thought we would!
The big surprise about this trip was we ended up buying property! So we’ve been known to make some pretty spur-of-the-moment decisions, but we chalk it up to our gut!
In the short time we were in Alto Paraíso, we fell in love with the place so much that we stopped by the first real estate office we found, walked in and said “hey, we want to buy property! what do you have available?”
The realtor, Vito, ended up becoming a good friend and showed us to a 15-acre lot he had available outside the city, part of a 300-acre farm that had been sub-divided into smaller farms. A community was forming, and we were surprised to learn that many of our neighbors were foreigners – americans, belgians, germans, dutch…there were people from all over the world who’d come to this region to soak up the natural beauty and slower pace of life.
The view from the property was gorgeous, and the silence was intoxicating. While visiting the property, we saw macaws, rheas and even a tree anteater!
It was love at first sight, and we decided to close on the spot! The dream of a solar-powered, 100% self-sustaining homestead was born.
The man we bought the land from also became a good friend, and they all took us out for drinks and pastel (a classic Brazilian food, like a fried dough pocket with different fillings) to celebrate joining the community.
Of course, it will take a few years before we’re able to leave the São Paulo area and move permanently, but now all we need is a tent and a sleeping bag to enjoy nature from our very own corner of the Cerrado 🙂
Overall, Alto Paraíso has become one of my all-time favorite places (obviously!), and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a hidden paradise, an off-the-beaten-track experience in beautiful Brazil.