October 1999

Past Lives

Walking through Goiás Velho, the former state capital, you quickly notice the main legacies of the gold rush: 18th-century colonial architecture, and a large mulatto and mestiço population.

The capital of the state of Goiás, Goiânia is 200 km southwest of Brasília and 900 km from both Cuiabá and São Paulo. Planned by urbanist Armando de Godói and founded in 1933, it's a fairly pleasant place, with lots of open spaces laid out around circular streets in the center. There are three main zones—housing is in the south, administration is in the center, and industry and commerce are in the north. Goiânia's economy is based on the commercialization of the region's cattle.

Tourist Office

Goiastur, the state tourist body, is located on the 3rd floor of the Serra Dourada stadium, in the suburb of Jardim Goiás. The effort to get there is not worth it. Everything you ever wanted to know about Goiânia, and lots of things you didn't, can be found in the Novo Guia Turístico de Goiânia, a book available for $5 at most newsstands. It includes a map of the city and details of local bus routes.

Turisplan Turismo (224-1941) is at No 388 Rua 8. This central travel agency sells airplane and bus tickets.


You'll find the Banco do Brasil at Avenida Goiás 980. The Banco do Estado de Goiás (BEG!) is at Praça do Bandeirante 546, on the corner of Avenida Goiás and Avenida Anhangüera.

If you're going to Goiás Velho or Pirenópolis, change money here.

Post & Telephone

The post office is right in the center of town, at Praça Cívica 11. Long-distance telephone calls can be made from the Setor Norte Rodoviária, from the airport and from the corner of Rua 3 and Rua 7.

Things to See & Do

There's not much for the visitor in Goiânia.

Our advice is to get out to one of the nearby colonial towns as quickly as you can. But if you have some time to kill, try the Parque Educativo, on Avenida Anhangüera in Setor Oeste. It has a zoo, a zoological museum and an anthropology museum. It's open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Excursions within a 200-km radius of Goiânia include the Caldas Novas hot springs, Lake Pirapitinga, Pousada do Rio Quente and the interesting rock formations of Parauna.

Places to Stay

There are a couple of cheap places near the rodoviária. The Star Hotel, at No 537 Rua 68, is run by a friendly family. Some strange characters live there but it's OK for a night. Very basic quartos go for $5 per person. The center of town is so close, however, that it's worth staying there instead.

The Hotel Del Rey (225-6306) is centrally located, in the Rua 8 pedestrian mall, at No 321. Apartamentos cost $12/18 a single/double. Another cheapie is the Hotel Paissandu (224-4925), at Avenida Goiás 1290, with quartos for $10/18 a single/double and apartamentos for $13/25. All of the rooms have fans. The Goiânia Palace (225-0671 ) charges the same prices as the Paissandu, but doesn't have fans. The Principe Hotel (224-0085), at Avenida Anhangüera 2936, costs a couple of dollars more but is better value.

In the mid-range, the Vila Rica Hotel (223-2733), at Avenida Anhangüera 3456, and the Cabiúna Palace (224-4355), at Avenida Paranaíba 698, each charge $35 a double. Both are two-star Embratur hotels.

There are plenty of top-end alternatives. A couple of centrally located ones are the Hotel Karajás (224-9666), at No 860 Rua 3, which charges $40/50 a single/double, and the Hotel Bandeirantes (224-0066), near the corner of Avenida Anhangüera and Avenida Goiás, which charges $55/65.

Places to Eat

Since they are surrounded by cattle, the locals eat lots of meat. They also like to munch on pamonha, a very tasty green-corn concoction sold at pamonharia stands all over town. Try it.

If you want to taste some typical Goianian dishes, such as arroz com pequi, arroz com guariroba or peixe na telha, then head for the Centro de Tradições Goianas, at No 515 on Rua 4, above the Parthenon Center, or Dona Beija, on Avenida Tocantins between Rua 4 and Avenida Anhangüera. Our favorite dish is the empadão de Goiás, a tasty meat pie.

Praça Tamandaré, a short bus ride or a long walk from the center, has quite a several restaurants and bars surrounding it; try Churrascaria e Chouperia do Gaúcho for meat, beer and live music or Modiglianni for a good pizza. Wander around and see what takes your fancy.

The Restaurante Macrobiótico Arroz Integral, at No 326 Rua 93, in Setor Sul, is Goiânia's antichurrascaria. It's open from 11 am to 2 pm and 6 to 9 pm. Other natural food is available in the center at Reserva Natural, No 475 Rua 7, close to the Parthenon Center. It's open for lunch Monday to Friday from 11 am to 2.30 pm.

Getting There & Away

In addition to the regular domestic carriers, there are several air-taxi companies, which go anywhere and everywhere in the Mato Grosso and Amazon, but they are expensive. One company quoted me $1500 for a return trip to Parque Nacional das Emas, in a plane that would hold four people.

Major airlines include Varig/Cruzeiro (224-5049) and VASP (223-4266).

If you're interested in hiring an air-taxi, call Sete Taxi Aéreo (207-1519) or União (207-1600).


The huge, relatively new rodoviária (224-8466), No 399 Rua 44, still holds the award for the most TV sets on poles (14—down from 22 on the last research trip) in a rodoviária. There are buses to Brasília ($6, three hours), Cuiabá ($26, 16 hours) and Caldas Novas ($7, three hours). Buses to Goiás Velho ($6, 2½ hours) leave every hour from 5 am to 8 pm. For Pirenópolis ($6, two hours), there's a 5 pm bus.

Distances from Goiânia to major cities are immense—it's 2000 km to Belém, 900 km to Belo Horizonte, 2620 km to Fortaleza, 3289 km to Manaus, 2414 km to Recife, 1340 km to Rio, 1730 km to Salvador and 900 km to São Paulo.

Getting Around

Aeroporto Santo Genoveva (207-1288) is six km from the city center—$10 by taxi.

You can walk from the rodoviária into town—it's 15 minutes to the corner of Avenida Anhangüera and Avenida Goiás. Alternatively, catch a local bus at the bus stop 50 meters from the main terminal as you walk towards town. A couple to look for are the No 163 `Vila União-Centro' and the No 404 `Rodoviária-Centro'. Both go down Avenida Goiás. To get to Praça Tamandaré, catch the `Vila União' bus.


The historic colonial city of Goiás Velho was formerly known as Vila Boa. Once the state capital, it is 144 km from Goiânia and is linked to Cuiabá by dirt road. The city and its baroque churches shine during Semana Santa (Holy Week).


On the heels of the gold discoveries in Minas Gerais, bandeirantes pushed further into the interior in search of more precious stones and, as always, Indian slaves. In 1682, a bandeira headed by the old Paulista Bartolomeu Bueno da Silva visited the area. The Goyaz Indians gave him the nickname anhangüera (old devil) when, after burning some cachaça (which the Indians believed to be water) on a plate, he threatened to set fire to all the rivers if they didn't show him where their gold mines were. Three years later, having been given up for dead, the old devil and a few survivors returned to São Paulo with gold and Indian slaves from Goiás.

In 1722, his son, who had been on the first trip, organized another bandeira. The gold rush was on. It followed a pattern similar to that in Minas Gerais. First came the Paulistas, then the Portuguese Emboabas and soon the black slaves. With everything imported from so far away, prices were even higher than in Minas Gerais, and many suffered and died, particularly the slaves. The boom ended quickly.


Serra Dourada Turismo (371-1528), next to the river, at Avenida Sebastião Fleury Curado 2, is a new outfit that organizes treks, mountain-bike rides, horse rides and ox-cart rides into the surrounding hills. Prices are reasonable: $5 for a six-hour tour. They're also happy to give out information (in Portuguese) about the area. The office is open from 8 am to 6 pm daily.

Things to See

Walking through Goiás Velho, the former state capital, you quickly notice the main legacies of the gold rush: 18th-century colonial architecture, and a large mulatto and mestiço population. The streets are narrow, with low houses, and there are seven churches. The most impressive is the oldest, the Igreja de Paula (1761), at Praça Zaqueu Alves de Castro.

The Museu das Bandeiras is well worth a visit. It's in the old town council building (1766), at Praça Brasil Caiado. Other interesting museums are the Museu de Arte Sacra—in the old Igreja da Boa Morte (1779) on Praça Castelo Branco)—, with lots of 19th-century works by local Goianian Viega Vale, and the Palácio Conde dos Arcos (the old governor's residence). All museums are open from 8 am to 5 pm Tuesday to Saturday and from 8 am to noon on Sunday.


The big occasion in Goiás Velho is Semana Santa (Holy Week). The main streets of town are lit by hundreds of torches, carried by the townsfolk and dozens of hooded figures in a procession, which re-enacts the removal of Christ from the cross and his burial.

Places to Stay

You can camp in town at the Chafariz da Carioca, just behind the Pousada do Ipê.

The best low-budget place is the Pousada do Ipê (371-2065), a colonial house on Praça da Boa Vista. It offers a good breakfast and nice views, and the owners organize treks and horse rides. Quartos are $12/17 a single/double and apartamentos are $15/20. Cheaper, but not nearly as pleasant, is the Hotel Araguaia (371-1462), at Avenida Dr Deusdete Ferreira de Moura. It's a bit of a hike from the bus station—about 15 minutes—but has very comfortable apartamentos ($7/14 a single/double). It also has quartos for $6/10.

The Hotel Vila Boa (371-1000) is up on a hill, with a view and a swimming pool. Singles/doubles go for $60/90.

Places to Eat

The Caseiro, at Rua D Cândido 31, is the place to go for regional food. It's open from 11 am to 3 pm and 6.30 to 10.30 pm. Near the Praça do Coreto, Pódium is a good place for a beer and a snack. The run-down place upstairs at the corner of the praça and Rua Moretti Foggia serves great empadões for $3.

Getting There & Away

There are frequent buses from Goiás Velho to Goiânia, 144 km away.


Another historic colonial gold city, Pirenópolis is 70 km from Anápolis, 128 km from Goiânia and 165 km from Brasília, on the Rio das Almas. It's become a popular weekend retreat for the well-off from the capital.

Founded in 1727 by a bandeira of Paulistas in search of gold, Pirenópolis was originally called Minas de Nossa Senhora do Rosário da Meia Ponte. In 1989 it was placed on the Patrimônio Nacional (National Heritage) register. The city's colonial buildings sit on striking red earth under big skies.


Cerrado Ecoturismo (331-1374), at Rua Santana 13, organizes treks, mountain-bike rides and tours at reasonable prices. Their historic tour leaves from the Igreja Nossa Senhora do Rosário Matriz every day at 9.30 am and 2.30 pm. They also do daily treks up the Morro do Frota, starting at 7.30 am from the Pousada das Siriemas.


The Igreja Nossa Senhora do Rosário Matriz (1732) is the oldest sacred monument in the state. The Igreja Nosso Senhor do Bonfim (1750), with its beautiful altars, contains an image of the Senhor do Bonfim brought here from Portugal in 1755. The Igreja Nossa Senhora do Carmo (1750) was built by the Portuguese and is used today as the Museu das Artes Sacras.

Santuário de Vida Silvestre—Fazenda Vagafogo

Six km from town, the Vagafogo Farm Wild life Sanctuary is well worth a visit. Landowners Evandro Engel Ayer and Catarina Schiffer, both of whom speak English, have set aside 23 hectares of cerrado and gallery forests on the margins of the Vagafogo river as a nature reserve. The rich fauna includes brown capuchin and black howler monkeys, armadillos, pampas deer, agouti and many bird species. The forest is impressive, with a canopy top averaging 25 meters. Entry to the sanctuary is $4. For sale at the visitors' center is a good range of fruit preserves produced on the farm.

Parque Estadual da Serra dos Pirineus

The park contains the 1385-meter Pico dos Pirineus, 18 km from town on a well-used dirt road. Along the way there are waterfalls and interesting rock formations.

Places to Stay

Pirenópolis is crowded on weekends, during the Cavalhadas and at Carnaval time, and prices then are almost double those quoted here. All pousadas fill up during the Cavalhadas festival, so most visitors camp out near the Rio das Almas or rent a room from a local.

There are lots of pousadas in town. The simple Pousada Dona Geny, on Rua dos Pirineus, charges $8 a head. The Hotel Rex (331-1121), at Praça da Matriz 15, is pretty basic, with quartos going for $10 per person. The Pousada das Cavalhadas (331-1261), Praça da Matriz 1, has double apartamentos for $30.

In the mid-range, the pink-and-white Pousada Matutina Meiapontense (331-1101) is a friendly, comfortable place with a swimming pool. Apartamentos go for $40/48 a single/double.

A couple of expensive, top-end places have sprung up in the last few years: the Hotel Fazenda Quinta da Santa Bárbara (331-1304), at Rua do Bonfim 1, and the Pousada dos Pirineus (331-1028), at Alto de Carmo, just past the bridge.

Places to Eat

The Restaurante As Flor, on Avenida São Jayme, serves good regional cuisine. Don't fill up on your main course—there is an assortment of 18 different desserts, each sweeter than the last. The Restaurante Aravinda, in Rua do Rosário, is also recommended. Nena, at Rua Aurora 4, has an excellent buffet lunch of regional dishes for $5.

Things to Buy

At Piretur, Avenida Comandante Joaquim Alves, you'll find a good selection of local crafts in ceramic, leather, wood, straw and soapstone. Pirenópolis is also considered to be the national silver capital, with more than 80 studios scattered around town.

Festa do Divino Espírito Santo

Pirenópolis is famous for the acting out, 45 days after Easter, of the story Festa do Divino Espírito Santo, a tradition begun in 1819. If you're in the neighborhood, make a point of seeing this stunning and curious spectacle, one of the most fascinating in Brazil.

For three days, the town looks like a scene from the Middle Ages. Cavalhadas, congadas, mascardos, tapirios and pastorinhos perform a series of medieval tournaments, dances and festivities, including a mock battle between Moors and Christians in distant Iberia. Riding richly decorated horses, the combatants wear bright costumes and bull-headed masks. In the end, proving that heresy doesn't pay, the Moors are defeated on the battlefield and convert to Christianity. The festival is a happy one, and more folkloric than religious. The towns population swell several-fold during the festival.

Getting There & Away

There are bus services from Anápolis and Goiânia, as well as from Brasília.


Caldas Novas, 167 km from Goiânia and 393 km from Brasília, has more than 30 hot springs, with average temperatures of 42°C (107°F). Now a very popular resort, the region has dozens of hotels at all levels of price and luxury. Studies have shown that the healing waters are particularly beneficial for people suffering from high blood-pressure, poor digestion, weak endocrine glands or impotency.

Tourist Office

There's a tourist information booth in Praça Mestre Orlando, open from 8 am to noon and 1 to 6 pm. It has lots of information about the various springs you can dip into, most of which are out of town.

Places to Stay

One km from the city is Real Camping, at Rua do Balneário, which has a canteen and two thermal swimming pools. The cost is $6 a head.

A couple of relatively cheap places in the center are Serra Dourada (453-1300) at Rua Orozimbo Correia Neto 200, with simple apartamentos costing $15 a double, and Santa Clara (453-1764) at Rua América 109, which charges $25 a double.

The best place to stay is the Pousada do Rio Quente (421 -2255), 28 km from town, on the banks of the Rio Quente. They charge $90 a double, including lunch.

Places to Eat

The Comida Caseira e Natural, at Rua José Borges 550, is a self-serve health-food place, open from noon to 3 pm and 6 to 9 pm. It's closed on Wednesday. Meat-eaters will prefer the rodizio at Choupana, on the corner of Rua Rui Barbosa and Avenida Orcalino Santos. It's open from 11.30 am to 4 pm and 7 to 10.30 pm.

Getting There & Away

The rodoviária is at the end of Rua Antônio Coelho de Godoy. Frequent buses go to Brasília ($15, six hours) and Goiânia ($7, three hours), as well as to Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.


Just over 200 km north of Brasília, this scenic park is located in the highest area of the Central West. With high waterfalls, natural swimming pools and oasis-like stands of wine palms, it has become a popular destination for ecotourists.

Animal life includes the maned wolf, banded anteater, giant armadillo, capybara and tapir. Birds include rheas, toucans and vultures. The best time to visit the park is between May and October. Admission is $1.

Places to Stay

Camping is the best option here—it costs about $1 a night. Basic accommodation can be found in the small nearby town of São Jorge.

Getting There & Away

From Brasília, take a bus to Alto Paraíso de Goiás, from where you can either catch a local bus to São Jorge, or walk to the park, a couple of hours away.

If you have a car, take the road to Alto Paraíso and turn left 50 meters before entering the town. Take the dirt road to Colinas for 30 km, then follow the sign to the park entrance, five km away. São Jorge is a bit further on.


Emas is a relatively small (1300 sq km) park in the corner of the state of Goiás, where it meets the states of Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul. The park lies along the Brazilian great divide, between the Amazon and Paraná river basins, at the headwaters of the Araguaia, Formoso and Taquari rivers.

The three rivers take divergent paths to the Atlantic. The Araguaia courses north to the equator via the Tocantins and the mighty Amazon. The Rio Taquari travels westward to flood the Pantanal, then flows south via the Paraguai. The Rio Formoso changes name midstream to Corrientes, and flows into the Parnaíba and then the Paraná. The Paraguai and the Paraná flow on either side of Paraguay, meet at Argentina, and enter the Atlantic a few hundred km east of Buenos Aires and some 35° latitude south of the mouth of the Amazon.

Surrounded by rapidly encroaching farmlands, the Parque Nacional das Emas is on a high plateau covered by grassy plains and open woodlands. There is little foliage to obstruct the sighting of wildlife, which includes anteaters, deer, capybara, foxes, tapir, peccaries, armadillos, and blue and yellow macaws. It is the home of endangered wolves, and is the exclusive sanctuary of the jacamari and other rare species. Another interesting spectacle in the park is the large number of termite mounds, which at certain times of the year `glow' in the dark (the result of fluorescence produced by the termite larvae).

During the dry season (July to October), the area is dry enough for spontaneous fires. In 1988, a fire raged for five days, burning 65% of the park area. Be careful with sparks!

Places to Stay

Basic accommodation inside the park costs about $5 per person per night. You'll need to take your own food, but there is a kitchen and a cook available. It's also possible to camp in the park, and this costs around $2 per person per night.

Getting There & Away

Access to the park is tough: even though it's surrounded by farmland, there are no paved roads or regular bus routes. Visitors must arrange with private companies for 4WD or air-taxis from as far away as Cuiabá, Goiânia and Campo Grande.

Adventurous types may consider taking BR-364 to Alto do Araguaia/Santa Rita do Araguaia (531 km from Goiânia, 423 km from Cuiabá), then hitching 63 km to Plaça dos Mineiros, and 40 to 60 km further along dirt roads to the park.

Excerpts from Brazil - A Travel Survival Kit, 3rd edition, by Andrew Draffen, Chris McAsey, Leonardo Pinheiro,  and Robyn Jones. For more information call Lonely Planet: (800) 275-8555. Copyright 1996 Lonely Planet Publications. Used by permission.

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Brazil - A Travel Survival Kit

by Andrew Draffen, Chris McAsey,
Leonardo Pinheiro, Robyn Jones,
704 pp

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