Brazil has various hearts, and this is definitely one of the most popular. Rio Quente and Caldas Novas offer the best thermal spa facilities in the country and are truly unforgettable.
In these southern lands of Goiás, what the mountain divides, the hot waters unite. Located at the tips of the Serra de Caldas Novas, the cities of Rio Quente and Caldas Novas, 160 kilometres from Goiânia, see their most famous tourist attraction come from as far down as one thousand metres. In other words, the region’s tourism takes place on the largest geothermal reservoir in the world, where the water can exceed 40 degrees centigrade and supplies pools, water parks and leisure areas in carefully designed hotels.
Caldas Novas is the urban version of the region, the site of mass tourism at more accessible prices, where the local population of almost one hundred thousand accommodates four million visitors a year. On the other side of the mountain, the spa waters and tourism travel at a slower pace as far as higher quality hotels with the River Quente at their doorstep. In the small Rio Quente, with only four thousand inhabitants, everything is amid natural surroundings. It welcomes 1.6 million tourists a year.
The waters of the region began to attract outsiders in the early 20th century, when the mineral and thermal wells of Caldas Novas were sought after thanks to their medicinal properties that would relieve rheumatic pains and heal skin problems. At the time, 23 sources of hot spring waters were identified on the banks of the Córrego das Lavras. The list of treatments included, among others, hormonal treatments, allergy cures and relief from fatigue. Tourism increased when the country’s new capital, Brasilia, was inaugurated in 1960, and the newly-arrived population began to seek leisure options in the surrounding area.
Everything starts at the scenic (and not overdeveloped) State Park of Serra de Caldas Novas. It’s located in the mountain range that separates the two cities, an area of over 12 thousand hectares that rises in the form of a plateau, where waterfalls such as Paredão and Cascatinha are tucked away among the rocks of its slopes. Seen from above, this mountainous elevation, standing at 1049 metres, looks like a crater. For decades, this fuelled the legend that the region’s hot waters came from a volcano. But what we now know is that they run through rocky veins and descend to great depths where they react chemically with minerals before returning to the soil in a heated form.
While down below what’s impressive are the aquatic leisure facilities, it’s at the top of the Seriema Trail that the traveller realises the region’s natural potential. 11.4 kilometres long (and, unfortunately, only open to cyclists for the time being), this trail affords a view over the entire Rio Quente Resorts, the region’s most famous development, from the Mirante da Pousada where a platform leans out over the mouth of a canyon that splits the Serra de Caldas Novas. No-one cares that the closest sea beach is 1300 kilometres away. If there weren’t any beaches, then the tourist region of Águas Quentes went about inventing some.
The most famous is the Cerrado, whose name pays tribute to the biome of which Goiás is part. Located in Hot Park, with 25 thousand square metres of fine sand, it’s a pool with nine different types of waves, surrounded by coconut palms, and is considered the largest artificial beach of natural hot waters on the planet. The dimensions are so great that, last June, the place hosted the social project The Biggest Swimming Lesson in the World, an event involving students from the region’s state schools and held simultaneously in over 20 countries to promote water safety for children in all the countries. Hot Park is supplied by naturally warm, flowing water.
Another successful site is Bird Land, a nursery with around 300 animals from the Cerrado, such as the macaw, toucan, howler monkey and even deer, all rescued from situations of ill-treatment, illegal confinement or trafficking. The visitor can interact with the animals, accompanied by a guide. To see all this at your feet, with no rush and with a panoramic view of the complex, the next stop is Mega Tirolesa, a 1.1 kilometre aerial rope slide over the park.
The most impressive experience is the diving in a lake where non-accredited visitors can try out scuba-diving accompanied by a guide. Six metres down and in waters of over 30 degrees, the visitor is led through a world of floating gardens among sculpted rocks and freshwater fish such as the pirarucu. The lake also has statues and even a shipwreck, placed there for the sake of tourists. The experience is like floating over a magic landscape.
Outside is the Eko Aventura Park, a huge area with adventure attractions such as trails, quad biking, rafting on the River Quente (with an average temperature of 32 degrees) and two aerial rope circuits 100 and 200 metres long. But the region’s fame comes from the traditional Parque das Fontes, a complex with eight stone pools supplied by 18 hot water springs that start from inside the resort and are refreshed every 20 minutes.
In neighbouring Caldas Novas, 28 kilometres away, leisure activities take place in over 300 thermal pools, in water parks and in hotels. Ten kilometres from the city centre one finds the Náutico Praia Club. Located on the banks of Lake Corumbá, the park also offers boat trips on this artificial body of water, formed by the construction of the Corumbá Dam in 1989. For those who stay at the Caldas hotel complex, in the Tourist I area, the options are the Water Park and Clube Privé, with water toboggans, wave pools and other water activities. Everything just as it should be in the region: with water that’s always warm. Another classic is the diRoma Acqua Park, whose most famous attraction is a water toboggan that starts from inside a replica volcano, 25 metres high and 35 metres long. The park also has a ramp with 12 parallel water toboggan runs, which the Olympic torch was brought down before the Games held in Brazil in 2016.
Outside the parks, the temperature soars to over 40 degrees in terms of alcohol content. In the Cachaçaria Vale das Águas Quentes, the production isn’t as famous as the drinks of Minas Gerais or the historic Paraty, on the Rio de Janeiro coast, but the sugar-cane rum that’s bottled here is a full-bodied product matured for eight years in oak barrels that lie in a factory setting open to visitors. The place is also known for its brown sugar sorbet, served between biscuits and coated with molasses, and for the production of handmade liqueurs with fruits of the Cerrado such as pequi, nance fruit, genipap and mangaba.
texto e fotos Eduardo Vessoni
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