Mato Grosso Attractions

Mato GrossoMato Grosso
Mato Grosso State
Situation and Characteristics
The state of Mato Grosso (the name means "primeval forest") in central Brazil is surrounded (in clockwise order) by Rondìnia, Amazonas, Pará, Tocantins and Goiás (beyond the Rio Araguaia) and Mato Grosso do Sul. On the south-west it is bordered by Bolivia. The northern part of the state is in the Amazonian rain forest belt; the south merges gradually into savannah and finally into the swampland of the Pantanal.
The first settlers and founders of towns in the Mato Grosso, in the early 18th century, were gold prospectors from eastern Brazil. Soon afterwards cattle-farming developed to meet the needs of the immigrants, and this is still an important element in the economy, to which arable farming and forestry also make major contributions. In 1979 the southern part of the state was hived off and became the independent state of Mato Grosso do Sul.

Cuiaba, Brazil

Cuiabá, capital of Mato Grosso state, lies 694km/431mi north of Campo Grande, capital of the neighboring state of Mato Grosso do Sul, and 1133km/704mi west of Brasília.


In 1718 two bandeirantes from São Paulo, Pascoal Moreira Cabral and Miguel Sutil, found rich seams of gold near the rivers Cuiabá and Coxipó, and in the following year the gold-prospectors' settlement became the Arraial ("Encampment") de Cuiabá, with Moreira Cabral as its head man. It was granted the status of a vila in 1727, but was chartered as a town only in 1818. In 1823 it was declared capital of the province.

Old Town
The Old Town of Cuiabá takes in Ruas de Baixo, do Meio and de Cima and Praça do Rosário, in which are the church of Nossa Senhora do Rosário and the chapel of São Benedito (1722).

Museum of Folk Art and Culture

The Museu de Arte e Cultura Popular, which is attached to the University of Mato Grosso, is situated on the spacious University campus, near the road to Rondonópolis,

Rondon Museum

The Museu Rondon, also known as the Museu do Indio (Indian Museum), has a collection of weapons and implements of the forest Indians, the indigenous inhabitants of the Mato Grosso.


35km/22mi south of Cuiabá, in the commune of Santo Antìnio do Leverger, an extensive beach is exposed in June and September by the fall in the level of the Rio Cuiabá, and this then becomes the scene of a beach festival.

Other places of interest in the surroundings of Cuiabá are the Chapada dos Guimarães, the Pantanal and Jaciara (144km/90mi south-east), 10km/6mi from which are the Fumaça Falls.

Chapada dos Guimaraes, Brazil

Chapada dos Guimarães, 67km/42mi north-east of Cuiabá (reached on MT 305), was founded by bandeirantes from São Paulo who had discovered gold on the plateau and in the uplands to the north of Cuiabá.

The town preserves a number of 18th century buildings, notably the church of Nossa Senhora Santana (1779).

Winter Festival

The Winter Festival is celebrated in July, making this a good time to visit the town and see the Chapada dos Guimarães National Park, a plateau with bizarre rock formations, and other places of interest in the area.

Parque Nacional da Chapada dos Guimarães

To the north of the town is the Chapada dos Guimarães National Park (area 33,000 hectares/82,500 acres), which contains 32 archaeological sites with rock inscriptions, some 200 waterfalls, sheer walls of rock, gorges - among them the 50m/55yd deep Portão do Inferno ("Gateway of Hell") - and gigantic rock formations shaped by erosion.

Cidade Perdida

Some 25km/15mi from Chapada dos Guimarães are the rock formations known as the Cidade Perdida ("Lost City"), with individual crags bearing names expressive of their form - Cabeça de Rei ("King's Head"), Camelo ("Camel"), Dedo de Deus ("Finger of God"), etc.

Salgadeira Falls

Among the most impressive waterfalls in the National Park are the Salgadeira Falls, near the Portão do Inferno, which have a clear drop of over 10m/33ft and are flanked by reddish-coloured rocks carved into bizarre forms by erosion; the falls of Cachoeirinha and Andorinhas; and the fascinating Cachoeira Véu da Noiva ("Bridal Veil"), with a drop of 86m/282ft. The Cachoeira da Salgadeira is quite near the main road; the other three are at least 15km/9.3mi outside the town.


In the border area between Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul, to the east of the Rio Paraguai, is the swampy plain of the Pantanal (from pantano, "swamp"), traversed by numerous watercourses. When the water level is high great tracts of the Pantanal are completely flooded, but when the water is low form excellent grazing for cattle.

Landscape and Wildlife

The great attraction of the wide green landscape of the Pantanal is the extraordinary richness of its animal life - feline predators such as the ocelot and jaguar, giant snakes, armadillos, capybaras and many species of birds. An area of some 130,000 hectares/325,000 acres in the south of Mato Grosso state is now a nature reserve. In spite of the protection thus afforded the eco-system is still under threat - on the one hand by industrial effluents (containing mercury and other harmful substances) from the gold mines, on the other by poachers and illegal animal-trappers.


The best time to visit the Pantanal is during the period of low water (November to March), when there is much more wild life to be seen than when the water is high. Good bases for a visit are Cuiabá and Corumbá, where enquiry should be made of the local tourist information office about the availability of organized excursions. It is not advisable to visit the Pantanal on your own.

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