SERRA DA CANASTRA
The Serra da Canastra National Park, established in 1972, is located in the state of Minas Gerais. The Park covers an area of 71,525 hectares in the municipalities of Delfinópolis, Sacramento, and São Roque de Minas, sheltering the source of the São Francisco River, one of the most important rivers in Brazil.
The geographical formation of the Serra da Canastra region is characterized by mountainous landscape with valleys and chapadões (plateaus). Largely, the mountain rises so abruptly that shapes vertical and rocky cliffs, forming a geographical frame similar to a chest known as canastra.
It is also notable the differences between the upper part (mountain) and lower part (valley) with respect to the types of vegetation. While the upper part is dominated by ecosystems typical of the Cerrado, the lower part is influenced by the Atlantic Forest.
WHEN TO GO
The Serra da Canastra National Park is open year-round and its climate is mild. The average temperature is around 17°C in winter and 23 °C in summer. Annual rainfall varies between 1,300 and 1,700 mm, with most rainfall concentrated in the period from December to February. The ideal time to visit is from April to October, when the weather is less rainy, facilitating access to attractions.
By Sao Jose do Barreiro, visitors have direct access to the bottom of the Casca D'Anta waterfall, the biggest attraction in the Serra da Canastra National Park. By São Roque de Minas, it becomes easier to reach the high part of the National Park, where are located the source of the São Francisco river and the top of the Casca D'Anta waterfall, with a trail linking to its bottom.
The most important area of the park is its area already regularized, which has four entrances: São Roque de Minas (8 km from the city), the districts of Sao Jose do Barreiro (9 km from the village) and São João Batista (1 km from the village), and Sacramento (65 km from the city). Any tour will require traffic on dirt roads, some of them in poor conditions, especially during the rainy season (December to March). It is necessary to drive at low speed due to the curves, mata-burros, holes and eventually mud and slippery slopes. In the dry season (April to November) there is a lot of dust on the road.
São Roque de Minas
The main access to São Roque de Minas is by the MG 050 highway, which connects Belo Horizonte to the northeast of São Paulo. Arriving at the town of Piumhi, visitors must enter the first clover (for those coming from Belo Horizonte and Rio de Janeiro) or the second clover (for those coming from São Paulo) and cross the city following the direction of the signs to the secondary highway leading to São Roque de Minas (60km from Piumhi).
For those who come by bus, there are regular lines between São Paulo or Belo Horizonte to Piumhi. Getting to Piumhi, the only public transport option is the line of Transimão company with 3 departures per day.
The Serra da Canastra National Park has varied scenic beauty with large rock walls where there are several beautiful waterfalls. This type of landscape attracts fans of adventure sports and contemplative tourism, especially birdwatching. The most popular spots are the source of the São Francisco River and the Casca D'anta waterfall. The region holds many other attractions, and within the park, there are signs for visitation points that can be accessed by car depending on weather conditions.
São Francisco's source
Serra da Canastra is a natural watershed of São Francisco and Paraná basins, home to the source of one of the most important Brazilian rivers. Also called as Integration River or Old Chico, San Francisco spans over 2,800 km through 5 states, playing an important role in the development of the Sertão, a semiarid region in the northeastern backlands of Brazil.
Casca D'Anta Waterfall
Park's postcard, Casca D'Anta is the first waterfall of the São Francisco River, with 186 meters high. There is a natural pool and a viewpoint in its upper part, and a well in the lower part.
The trail that connects both of them is only allowed with the accompanying guides accredited by the Chico Mendes Institute, hired in São Roque de Minas. Access to the lower part is through the municipality of Vargem Bonita, and the visitor has to go through a 25 minute walk.
The Serra da Canastra's avifauna is very rich and new species are often recorded. A total of 403 birds have been found to date, accounting for about 21% of the Brazilian avifauna.
Such diversity added to the cases of endemism and the status of the threat of many of the species have led the region to be considered an IBA (Important Bird Area), according to the global parameters.
The Stone Corral, also known as Retiro das Posses, is a corral composed of walls built of stones without mortar, which was used for cattle management by tropeiros (drovers)
The Fundão Waterfall, also known as Popsicles, stands out for the beauty of the whole: the clear waters of Santo Antonio river plummet from a height of 80 meters directly in a natural pool of rounded shape, which gets sun almost all day.
A huge rock emerges from the water and serves as a springboard. Visitors can have fun going behind the curtain of water or swim to the cave formed the waterfall walls, which serves as a shelter for migratory swallows.
WHERE TO STAY
São Roque de Minas is the "capital" of the Serra da Canastra, close to most attractions and where there is greater availability of service and hotels. Vargem Bonita houses simple lodges on farms, where tourists can enjoy sampling the local cuisine.