Chapada dos Veadeiros is the perfect destination for those looking for a few quiet days in connection with nature. Located in Goiás, the region is known for its impressive landscapes that combine gorges, waterfalls and typical cerrado vegetation. The energy of the place could even be explained by all the forces of mother nature, but the mysticism goes further, as Chapada is located right on top of an immense quartz crystal plate and at the same latitude as Machu Pichu, on the 14th Parallel.
Whatever your reasons, visiting this paradise is highly recommended, but like most destinations of natural beauty, visiting Chapada dos Veadeiros requires a little more from your finances. Planning when buying tickets and staying in a hostel are the basics of the savings combo, but we can go beyond these strategies. So I’ve decided to share here what I’ve learnt in practice while visiting this piece of paradise.
Get from Brasília to Chapada by shared transport
Despite being located in Goiás, Brasília airport is the closest of the two cities that serve as a base for most people travelling to Chapada dos Veadeiros. The 230 kilometres to Alto Paraíso can be travelled by car or bus, but the 36 kilometres to the village of São Jorge can only be done by car. Hitchhiking is widely used in the region and drivers and travellers can meet through Facebook groups or the good old thumb on the road.
Sharing transport is undoubtedly the cheapest way to get to the Chapada. The bus journey, organised by Real Expresso, runs three times a day in both directions and costs just over R$100 (return). By car, costs are lower if you’re travelling in a group, as you can split the cost of fuel and car hire, if necessary. Lastly, carpooling usually costs even less and gives you the opportunity to meet new people.
Split your stay between Vila de São Jorge and Alto Paraíso
Most of the trails and waterfalls, including the Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park, are closer to the village of São Jorge, but there are unmissable attractions closer to Alto Paraíso. When I went, I realised that splitting my stay would be good not only to save money on fuel, but also to save time. Even though it’s only another 36 kilometres and 35 minutes on the road, that weighs on you when you’re behind the wheel after hours of driving, for example.
Therefore, planning the points you want to visit and dividing them between what is closest to one town and another can be a good strategy when it comes to saving a few reais and optimising your days in the Chapada.
Go in (or get a) group
Being with more people greatly dilutes the costs of a trip to Chapada dos Veadeiros. Even if you’re not originally travelling in a group, meeting people who are interested in going to the same places as you can represent not only a relief in your budget, but also new adventure companions. For example, if you’re travelling by car and it’s not full, offer that little seat in the back to someone who’s going to the same place as you.
As well as sharing the cost of petrol, you can also share the cost of the guide’s services. This is because at some waterfalls, such as Santa Bárbara, access is only permitted if you are accompanied by an accredited professional – who charges around R$70 for a group of up to 10 people. In other cases, such as Catarata dos Couros, it is highly recommended that you have the company of someone who knows the region, because the way there is very poorly signposted. In this case, prices start at R$150, also for a group, with the guide in your car.
Hostels are great places to meet potential travelling companions. Take advantage of those moments in the common areas of the place where you’re staying to get to know people. Having the reception staff as allies is also a great strategy. Tell them you’re looking for someone with similar plans and they’ll be happy to play the “cupid” in this situation.
Prioritise free attractions
Most waterfalls are located on private property – which means that an entrance fee is charged. Prices vary from R$15 to R$40 per person and, when the presence of a guide is obligatory, this can increase even more. However, the Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park has three trails and six waterfalls with free entry. It is recommended that you allow at least two days to explore these routes in peace.
The only activity charged for in the ecological reserve is the Travessia das Sete Quedas, but walking its 23.5 kilometres is not a task for amateurs. To do the trail, which is only open in the dry season (between June and October), you need to make a reservation and pay a fee of R$6 for an overnight stay in the park.
Other free options are the Cataratas dos Couros and the Sertão Zen trek. Although it is not compulsory, it is recommended that you have the company of an accredited guide.
Take snacks in your rucksack
Some waterfalls have a more elaborate infrastructure to welcome visitors, including bars and restaurants. Needless to say, in these places any snack will be overpriced, right? To avoid unnecessary expenses and not get hungry, it’s always worth having a snack in your rucksack. Fruit that’s easy to carry and eat, sandwiches, biscuits and water are always very welcome during and after long walks.
Although Alto Paraíso is a small town, there are supermarkets. I chose to do my shopping in Brasilia because I had the time for it and I left with the car loaded with these lunchbox projects. It’s also worth remembering that your rucksack should include sunscreen, insect repellent and a small bag of medicines that can save you in a pinch.
Plan ahead to avoid frustration
To save money, planning is essential! Tickets bought and a hostel booked in advance are just the start of the journey. Research the waterfalls you want to visit and don’t hesitate to ask locals for their opinions.
Your hostel will certainly be able to answer any questions you may have or tell you if that hike you really want to do is suitable for the time of year you’re going, for example. It’s always good to let your trip surprise you, but planning helps when it comes to saving money.
It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to negotiate the price of the service provided by a guide, but you can always cry at the entrance to the waterfalls, especially if you’re in a group. It’s free to try!
Stay in a hostel in Brasilia
As it has the closest airport to Chapada, you’ll probably fly to Brasilia and then continue your journey. If you end up spending the night in the Brazilian capital, choose from our hostels in Brasília. One of the best options is Hostel7 Brasília, located in Asa Norte.
About the author
Louise Palma is a journalist studying for a master’s degree in Art History, Heritage and Visual Culture in Porto, Portugal. In 2010, when she did an exchange programme in Spain, she had the chance to travel around Europe and, once she discovered the pleasure of putting her backpack on her back, she was never able to stop. You can follow her adventures on her blog and Instagram.