Far from any coastline, in Brazil’s Central-West, lies a proverbial gold-mine of beauty. Just in case such an allusion slips the visitor’s mind, the name of the city says it all: Bonito.
Located in Mato Grosso do Sul, near the border with Paraguay, the city lies within the valley of a plateau and is the self-proclaimed “capital of eco-tourism”. The ground is made principally of limestone, meaning the water from the rivers of the region passes through a natural filtering process, making it crystal clear.
For nature-lovers, Bonito has a little bit of everything, including: snorkeling, diving, rappelling, tree-top rope courses, light rafting and horseback riding. There are also natural spas, waterfalls and caves to visit (check out a small picture gallery here). The discerning tourist might also want to keep an eye open for fig trees in the region as there’s a chance of striking it rich. A local legend says that Paraguayan soldiers in the late 1800’s, on their way to fight in Brazil, hid gold under fig trees. Some even say the ghosts of those who never made it home roam about in search of their lost treasure.
With all that Bonito offers, and in order to preserve the natural beauty, one of the local laws limits the daily number of tourists that can take guided tours of the activities offered. Any type of visitation of the region’s main attractions requires a local guide accredited by EMBRATUR, Brazil’s official tourism board, so it may be beneficial to shop around for the best prices. Between December and March, one will find the most tourists and therefore the highest prices for hotel rooms and tours. On the flip side, this period is also during the wet season and therefore everything is greener, animals are out and about and the rivers are full.
If ease and comfort are what the visitor needs, there are ways to experience a lot of what the region provides just by visiting Praia da Figueira (and Parque das Cachoeiras). Admission varies depending on the season and on the number of activities one does but, in general, it doesn’t get too expensive.
No matter how the days unfold in Bonito, there’s something for everyone (as long as that “everyone” likes nature, of course). I imagine it’s best to try a little of everything in light of the fact that a direct roundtrip ticket from Rio de Janeiro to Campo Grande (the location of the nearest airport, 3 hours out) is around US$300 for a mid-October flight.