Mato Grosso Attractions
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 TownThe 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
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).
Parque Nacional da Chapada dos Guimarães
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.