By Andréa Alves | Contribution: Heloisa Azevedo | Translation: Andréa Alves

At the northeast of what today we call the state of Rio Grande do Sul, this constant transformation resulted in the canyons gaúchos, which make up a natural border line with the state of Santa Catarina. Several phenomena contributed to the creation of this display of rare beauty: the successive volcanic eruptions 200 million years ago, the crack of Gondwanaland (creating Africa and America), and the constant erosion caused by the rivers.

It’s Nature teaching us. Nothing is great, strong or powerful forever. Everything is relative, everything is temporary. The dinosaurs are gone, empires collapsed, rivers and oceans dried up, continents were (de)formed. Everything changes, witnessing the evolution of life. It’s just a matter of time.

It’s an area of outstanding canyons with exuberant green vegetation, abundant in rivers and waterfalls. A varied fauna and even some animals endangered with extinction live in the area. There are two national parks near the cities of Cambará do Sul and São José dos Ausentes: Parque Nacional dos Aparados da Serra, preferred because of its infrastructure, and Parque Nacional da Serra Geral that doesn’t have any infrastructure, but has free access and admittance. Nature did a great job there!

The average temperature is around 68o F, with a maximum of 97o F, and a minimum of 21o F. Winter is the best time to visit the parks (from June to August), when we have clearer views of the scenery and fewer fogs. Because it’s a high and humid area, it’s cool all year round. Ecotourists have a great menu of activities to exercise their love for Nature. From hiking various trails, to horseback riding, and biking through secondary roads and into the woods. Those who prefer a more exciting, or even ‘carnal,’ interaction with Nature can do mountaineering, rappel and rafting.

Cambará do Sul, 116 miles from POA, and 14 miles from Praia Grande. Population of 6,754 people only. Quiet town that gets shaken by the many visitors. It has several small hostels and farmhouses available to receive the exhausted travelers. It’s not only possible to camp in the canyons, but it’s also the most exciting way to go. Food in the city is plenty and delicious. Try arroz de carreteiro and churrasco (the local barbecue), of course!You can start your trip in Porto Alegre (POA), capital of the state of Rio Grande do Sul, or Praia Grande (surprise! it’s neither a beach, nor a big city!), in Santa Catarina. The parks entrances are in Cambará do Sul, to where you can go by bus or car.

Parque Nacional dos Aparados da Serra: 39.6 square miles of mountains and deep valleys. It has a good infrastructure, with parking, visitors center, snack bar, and environmental supervisors. Guided groups leave every half hour to various trails. You can explore the top parts of the canyon as well as the bottom.

The greatest local attraction and the biggest canyon in Brazil, gigantic Itaimbezinho (sharp rock in Guarani, the language of the local native Indians) impresses us with its scenic beauty. It’s 3.6 miles long, with walls up to 2,952 feet tall, and many waterfalls. There, we can find the Bridalveil Fall (2,362 ft). Some of the trails in Itaimbezinho are so easy, that even people that are not totally sedentary can follow. The trails in the bottom part of the canyon reveal big walls covered by humid forest and araucária pine trees (typical of the South of Brazil). Because of the many rivers and creeks crossing, the water temperature is an important factor. Summer time (December through February) would be perfect if it weren’t for the “trombas d’água” caused by strong rains, when the rivers quickly overflow. During rainy season, the best thing to do is to raft the rivers holding on to your breath!

Parque Nacional da Serra Geral, 66.8 square miles of ups and downs. Close to the Parque Nacional dos Aparados da Serra, it contains the following canyons: Fortalezinha, Churriado, Malacara and Faxinalzinho. Fortalezinha Canyon is 4.3 miles long. Its name refers to the shape of the rocks that look like the walls of a fort. An interesting trail takes you to Pedra do Segredo, a huge 16-foot rock that rests over a small 20-inch pedestal. You will pass Cachoeira do Tigre Preto, the tallest around, with its waters moving impressively down the canyon.

There are many attractions besides the canyons, but unfortunately the lack of space will only allow me to “whisper” theis names straight into your imagination: Cachoeira do Passo do S, Passo da Ilha, Lajeado das Camisas, Cachoeira dos Venâncios, etc.

If time allows, try to visit São José dos Ausentes, 33.6 miles from Cambará do Sul. It’s a very cold small town of less than 3,000 people. They have at least 3 snowstorms per year. The best place to stay is in the farms. There are many attractions in the region: Monte Negro Canyon with the highest spot in the state (4,636 ft). The rivers Silveira and Divisa that run parallel to each other, just 66 ft apart. Cascata do Perau Branco has two rocks sculpted by the time and the wind that look like real guardians of this mysterious place. Anyway, imagine many, many more wonderful places than these ones that could fit on these SoulBrasil designated pages.

Finally, take advantage of the different scenery: forests of araucárias, tiny hills that reach the infinite, sheep and the grand canyons. Interact with the legitimate gaúcho that has not been influenced by the German or Italian colonization. Don’t forget to drink chimarrão, eat pinhão assado, and enjoy an authentic barbecue of the “pampas gaúchos,” cooked in a hole in the ground.

Optional Tour Package for the Best of Rio Grande do Sul State

In the state of the “Gauchos” you will find the blend of Brazilian-Portuguese and River Plate-Spanish cultures, and a strong European heritage that gives to the state a unique background within Brazil. Porto Alegre, the capital, is the biggest urban agglomeration of south Brazil and one of the richest metropolis in the country. With its highest life quality and literacy rate (97%), it is consider the “intellectual “capital of Brazil. The state has beautiful small towns with European style. For a tour package that includes the capital Porto Alegre and popular “resorts cities” such as Canela and Gramado, call our travel specialist Magali D’Silva (323)428-1963.