Cuiaba Info and Miniguide
The capital of the Mato Grosso State was founded on the discovery of gold on the region by bandeirantes, on the beginning of the XVIII century. From that time, the city keeps the narrow streets that can be seen on the oldest part of the city center. Cuiabá is on the geodetic center of Brazil. The city is a mandatory stop to those going to visit the natural beauties of the Mato Grosso State, like the Parque Nacional da Chapada dos Guimarães (Chapada dos Guimarães National Park) and the North of Pantanal. A good option is to visit Águas Quentes, which has an aquatic park containing natural thermal water and a vast forest reserve. The city has good restaurants of typical food of Pantanal. History, culture and environment of the Mato Grosso State can be seen on the Museu de História Natural e Antropologia (Natural History and Anthropology History Museum) and on the Museu Rondon (Rondon Museum), dedicated to the indigenous tribes on the region. Authentic indigenous craftwork, adornment, arc and arrow and ceramics objects can be purchased on Artíndia, shop of the federal institution Funai (Fundação Nacional do Índio – National Foundation of the Indian).
Read More about Cuiaba
Cuiaba is the capital city of the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso and that is right in the middle of the bovine territory. It is one of the gateways to reach one of the most fascinating places on earth, the Brazilian Pantanal which is a huge swamp of wetland where you can find an amazing array of fauna and flora. The landscape here is wild, virgin and exotic; it’s like nothing you have ever seen before. Cuiaba has become modern in recent years and now boasts of having modern tourist infrastructure like spacious shopping malls, restaurants, pousadas and nightclubs. The Transpantaneira highway is just 90 kilometers away from where you can access the treasure house of biodiversity; Chapada dos Guimaraes.
The seasons in the Pantanal can be divided in to 2 categories – the wet season and the dry season, with each offering different attractions. The rainy season lasts between October and March when hundreds of kilometers of land get flooded and rivers flow in spate. The wild life has cleverly adapted to the seasonal changes and you will find mollusks, fish and aquatic plants reigning in this flooded land to reproduce and feed. Birds too migrate here to reproduce and feed. The local animals find shelter in higher areas, far from the floods. The temperature then is around 26°C.
The dry season is from April to September and during this period the floods recede and water is restricted to a few watering holes and the normal courses of rivers. Animals now congregate at the edges of the rivers to feed and fish can be found in small rivers. The once swampy area is magically transformed into grassland with small plants and flowers erupting from the soil. The temperature then is around 24°C. Anytime is a good time to visit Cuiaba since each season has its own unique attraction.
Mato Grosso has an airport called the Aeroporto Marechal Rondon located in Varzea Grande, which is 7 kilometers away from Cuiaba's downtown area. A taxi ride to the city center will cost you around R$ 25 (us$ 13). Tour operators normally provide hotel transfers but it’s always a good idea to double check.
The main bus terminal is the Engenheiro de Sa from where you get connections to Campo Grande, the gateway to South Pantanal which takes about 10 hours to reach. Cuiaba is well connected with other Brazilian cities like Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.
Most people use Cuiaba as a stop over before leaving for the more interesting Pantanal tour. All the sights, hotels and restaurants are within walking distance of each other. Taxis are cheap and charge between R$7-21 (US$4-8) to take you around town and for quick trips to the bus station or airport. Other travel requirements are usually taken care of by the tour operator or by the pousada where you are staying.
Cuiaba has a few city attractions, which you can easily cover in one day. Some of them include:
Basilica do Senhor Bom Jesus- This recent construction and is a modern stylish cathedral with some deft art deco features and wonderful looking stained glass.
Baroque Palacio de Instrucao- The home to Cuiaba’s history (both cultural and natural) is dedicated to the war that took place in 1860 between Paraguay and Brazil. The natural history section features a wide range of stuffed animals and has some great Indian relics like headdress, arrows and clubs.
Museu do Rio Cuiaba is located down by the riverside and features exhibits and displays related to the changing nature of the river and have a neat collection of Pantanal fish.
The town centerpiece is a small square called the Praca da Republica which houses many of the city’s attractions.
Ramis Bucair Museum of Stones- This archaeological museum is situated in a building that earlier used to be a mansion. In addition of stone displays, the museum has over 4000 displays including the bones of a 120-year-old dinosaur and Neolithic stone axes.
Spend as little time as possible in Cuiaba and then head out to the forests and highlands located nearby. Some of the attractions are:
Transpantaneira- You would require at least 3 days exploring the Pantanal. 4-5 days is ideal since spotting wild life can be a waiting process, requiring lots of patience but well worth the effort in the end. The more time you spend, the better are your chances of spotting animals.
You can take a guided hike after sunset or a spot lit night drive on the Transpantaneira highway to see night creatures like tarantulas, capybaras and jaguars. You should strongly consider exploring the Pantanal on horseback, the way it was done in the old days.
Although the name Transpantaneira suggests that the road covers the whole flood region, it actually stops at Porto Jofre somewhere mid way to reaching the inland attractions. This unfinished road provides one of the world’s leading wildlife spotting areas. Ditches and small pools become feeding grounds for capybara, egrets, jabiru stork, giant otter, caiman and kingfisher. You can also spot parakeets, hawks, roseate spoonbills, toucans, herons, cormorants and tanager.
The Pantanal offers you a wide choice of activities to indulge in like swimming, diving, canoeing, hiking, trekking, bird watching and horseback riding. All these activities are a great way to contemplate the fauna and flora of the region, the main reason for people coming to the Pantanal.
Chapada dos Guimaraes- After enjoying the Pantanal, you may go to Chapada dos Guimaraes, the highlands situated in the north of Cuiaba. It is an area steeped with mysterious possibilities with canyons and crags transforming the sandstone landscape into a city of stone. The plateaus, red rock creations are perfect for hiking, swimming and offer fabulous opportunities to observe birdlife. The scenario is absolutely stunning; it is the area where the rivers rise before joining with the River Plate basin in the south and Amazon Basin in the north. Aguas Quentes- This is an aquatic park which contains vast forest reserves and natural thermal waters. The waterfalls located here are sure to delight visitors.
There are a number of fazendas or hotels where you can stay. They may not be luxurious but can make your stay comfortable. Deviller Hotel is one such hotel, which has standard rooms, a spacious swimming pool, sun deck and a business center. Araras Lodge is the best lodge to explore the Pantanal because of its rustic appearance and proximity to Transpantaneira. Hotel Matto Grosso is one of the best hotels located in the town center, which is bright and clean. Paiaguas Palace Hotel is situated on a busy road and has some pleasant rooms. Other hotels are Hotel Amazon Plaza, Inter city Cuiaba, jaguar Ecological Reserve and Pousada do Rio Mutum.
You will find good restaurants in Goiabeiras neighborhood which is also the home to some fine hotels. Cuiaba dishes make use of the freshest fish, exotic fruits, and bovine meat for which the region is famous. Peixaria is a popular eatery which offers fish freshly caught from the rivers like Dourado, Pintado, Piraputanga and Pacu. Getulio Grill has some fine steaks and fish preparations. Mercearia da Pizza is famous for its pizzas whereas in Taberna Portuguesa, you can dig into some hearty Portuguese food. Other restaurants include Al Manzul for Arabian food, Chez Babet for French cuisine, Adriano for Italian dishes, and Regionalissimo for regional cuisine. The city does not have much of nightlife; you are better off spending the night exploring the Transpantaneira. It’s better to save your energy for the hectic day time activities.
Around Praca da Republica, which is the main commercial district. You will find three good malls here that stock up on all things modern; they are Goiabeiras Shopping, 3 Americas Shopping and Pantanal Shopping Mall.
For native crafts and regional arts, you can go to Artindia which promotes indigenous crafts made by local artisans. You can also go to Casa do Artesao that is housed in a charming colonial building by the river. Porto and Feira de Artesanato are other shops that have native arts and crafts. Avoid buying products from animal skins from street vendors as many of the skins belong to endangered wildlife species.
The city is famous for cowboy clothes and equipment and you will get everything you need to give you an authentic cowboy look. Expect to find hats, boots, spurs, jeans, gloves and other riding equipment in shops like Texas Country and Selaria e Sapataria Centro Oeste.
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