Thanks to the success of a Brazilian telenovela called “O Outro Lado do Paraíso” (The Other Side of Paradise), that aired on our biggest television channel, one of the most sought after destinations in Brazil today is Jalapão, a state park located in Tocantins, a state in the north of Brazil. I visited this paradise in January and came back absolutely delighted, so I am here to bring you 7 tips from Jalapão for those thinking of making this their next travel destination.
Traveling is a very subjective experience, of course, but, in my opinion, this is one of the most wonderful places in all of Brazil! But to already point out a few things, one issue that bummed me out a bit is that Jalapão allows little to no autonomy for travelers. The place is very difficult to access, so it’s almost impossible to escape the closed tour packages. Because of this and the long distances between the attractions, the itinerary options aren’t all that much.
Little autonomy for the traveler, difficult access, closed tour packages … But don’t be discouraged, because this is one of the most amazing places in Brazil!
Generally speaking, you can make a circular route both ways, starting or ending by Ponte Alta do Tocantins, the city that is known as Jalapão Portal. Besides, you can choose whether or not to include one or two extra attractions, such as going to the Lagoa do Japonês (Japanese Lagoon, which is a little off the path) and visit more or fewer fervedouros, some of Jalapão’s most famous attractions that are akin to small natural pools that make you feel like you’re floating due to the unique interaction between the spring water and the fine sand in these places.
But, before going any further, let’s take a look at my 7 basic tips to help anyone who wants to make a trip to Jalapão:
1- Pay attention when buying the tour package
Many companies organize tours and packages to Jalapão leaving from many different parts of the country. As I mentioned, it’s difficult to get away from this type of trip, but when buying the package, give preference to the agencies located in Tocantins itself, especially if you’re leaving from the southeast of Brazil, where the cities of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo are located. Here in São Paulo, for instance, these companies charge a lot more and usually only outsource their service to the same agencies you could deal with directly.
2- The roads are really tough
Something very important to keep in mind is that the roads here are very tough. If you’re like me and get sick in cars often, get your dramamine ready because the paths are entirely made out of sand and dirt. In the rainy season, between October and April, the road is somewhat more compact, but still, the car rocks the whole time. They say that the road gets even more complicated during the dry season when the sand is soft.
3- You can’t get around over there without a 4×4 car
When I was there we ran into a couple who were doing everything entirely on their own with a compact car, but that’s quite risky! I believe a 4×4 car is indispensable because the chances of the car getting stuck are extremely high, especially in the rainless months.
4- You can’t get around without a guide
Roads require a lot of driving skill and there are almost no signs on them. Also, smartphone internet signals don’t work anywhere. So don’t go without a guide even if you have a 4×4 car yourself. If you prefer not leaving your city with a tour package closed, you can easily get a local and experienced guide both in Palmas, the state capital of Tocantins, and in Ponte Alta, the Jalapão Portal we mentioned earlier.
5- You’ll spend a lot of time inside the car
As I said up there in the beginning, the distances between the attractions are quite large. Between one place and the other, you can easily spend up to three hours straight in the car. For those who do the itinerary starting at Ponte Alta do Tocantins and ending in the fervedouros, on the last day you can experience a not-so-amazing up to six hours straight inside the car, with only short breaks to stretch your legs.
On the other hand, the path between the car and the attractions is always very short and rarely involves any trails. So, if you’re one of those people who have a physical disposition for hikes, you don’t have anything to fear.
6- The infrastructure is growing
I don’t know if just because of the telenovela, but tourism in Jalapão is increasing dramatically and, along with it, the infrastructure has been developing a lot. Many new inns and restaurants are setting up shop, and old lodgings are building more rooms and opening new vacancies.
There are already talks about possibly asphalting the region’s roads, an issue on which the local population is divided: some would love the comfort it brings and the possibility of receiving even more tourists due to the ease of access, while others fear that the region will suffer degradation due to higher influx of people. If you prefer a more rustic tour, go as soon as possible, but if you prefer something with a bit more comfort, wait a couple more years.