Only an hour from Cuiabá , the Chapada dos Guimarães is a stunningly beautiful mountainous region situated upon one of the planet’s oldest tectonic plates. While the tiny eponymous town  is pretty—and the nexus for Brazilian “New Age” types—the surrounding region with its rugged cliffs, plunging canyons, and abundant waterfalls is the real draw. Arid scrubland and coppery red rock formations reminiscent of the Grand Canyon alternate with lush patches of tropical foliage that sprout around the many rivers and natural pools.
Much of the area is preserved within the Parque Nacional da Chapada dos Guimarães , a park with breathtakingly scenic (though often unmarked) hiking trails and numerous waterfalls that you can swim in. Take note that in the winter months of July and August, temperatures can go down to freezing. Summer months are better for bathing and for taking advantage of the marvelous vistas (in the winter mist is common), but there are also more crowds.
The tourist office (Rua Quinco Caldas, tel. 65/3301-2045, www.chapadadosguimaraes.mt.gov.br , 9 a.m.–6 p.m. Mon.–Sat.) has maps of the park and Chapada along with a list of guides. You can also log on to www.chapadadosguimaraes.com.br , an informative site (in Portuguese with a shaky English translation) with lots of photos. It is operated by Ecoturismo Cultural (Praça Dom Wunibaldo 464, tel. 65/3301-1393), a reputed tour operator that organizes guided day trips as well as longer itineraries.
Aside from guided excursions, Atmã (Rua Quinco Caldas 164, tel. 65/3301-3391, www.chapadaatma.com.br ) specializes in a wide range of adventure sports such as rappelling and canyoneering. You can also organize day and overnight trips from Cuiabá .
Chapada dos Guimarães is 74 kilometers (46 miles) north of Cuiabá . Viação Rubi (tel. 65/3624-9044) buses leave several times a day from the rodoviária. The scenic trip takes about one hour. By car, follow the MT-251.