There are interesting tours around Santarém operated with a van or car. As the attractions are close to Santarém, in less than one hour, you will surrounded by untouched forest, enjoying this intriguing ecosystem.
Alter do Chão – once inhabited by the Borarís indians, today has been appointed by the British publication – The Guardian – as one of the 10 best beaches in Brazil. White sand beaches, emerald green waters and a river flowing by, impossible to match! The village of Alter do Chão is also famous for the warm walcome of its residents (some 3 thousand). Best time of the year for a visit is when the waters are low – July to December.
Our tour to Alter do Chão leaves Santarém at 9:00 hr, taking the road to Alter do Chão – 35 km / 21.7 mi. Upon arrival you are free to walk around and spend the time exploring the village, check on the handcraft stores, go for a swim at Ilha do Amor (Love Island) right in front and have a delicious Amazonian meal. Return to Santarém will be by mid afternoon. Time stands still in Alter do Chão and your day will be special!
Santarém City Tour – a pleasant 2:30 hr tour visiting what the Amazonians call The Pearl of the Tapajós. Starting the tour, the Municipal Market, it is always amusing to compare what people eat in other parts of the world compared to our own! The number of fresh fish, fruits with intriguing tastes, herbs and a lot of other articles in a number of colors is a nice change to a supermarket; the Catedral de Nossa Senhora da Conceição / Our Lady of Conception Cathedral where one finds inside an iron cross offered by German botanist after being saved from a shipwreck in front of Santarém; Municipal Museum; the downtown stores selling the lovely handcraft of the people that live in the forest made of with the many fibers and straw of different tress and palms, copies of the unique Tapajonic ceramic; a hammock woven in semi-industrial looms – did you know that hammocks are a typical Amazonian invention and a tradition for more than 1,000 years? – and last but not least, do not forget to buy the Brazil Nut where it is produced – you will not believe the difference in texture and taste of a not so “travelled” delicacy. We close the tour at the riverside drive and walkway where people meet at all times of the day. Looking out to the river, you see the waters of two giants – Amazon and Tapajós – meeting but not yet mixing. The navigation channel in front of the city is 1.8 km / 1.1 mi and depth 10 m / 32.8 ft. but this does not mean that the Tapajós at this point is just this wide, it is much wider The constant weaving of crafts, from small rowing canoes, to fast “voadeiras” equipped with outboard motors and many more, bring a sense of proportion to an otherwise imposing panorama.
Belterra, a name that you never heard before, but unseemly as it may be Belterra played an important role at the beginning of the auto industry. A 4 to 5 hour tour to visit a typical North American town built in the ’30s. For 30 years, Ford Motor Company developed a rubber tap producing project in a what may be considered an enterprise worthy of a pharaoh. Rubber tap trees were native and exclusive of the Amazon and Henry Ford, the creator and president of the company decided to produce all the rubber necessary to supply his tire needs, acquired first an area 160km / 99 mi. from Santarém, calling it Fordlândia. The distance and number of difficulties called for a revision of project site, thus establishing Belterra, 40 km / 24.8 mi. from Santarém, planting 3.2 million rubber tap trees (Hevea brasiliensis). At this new site he builds a model town with 300 homes, churches, hospital, schools, energy, water & sewage supply and installs a Fire Department, a movie, etc. In its heyday Belterra’s hospital was the by far the best in terms of medical team and equipment in South America! The project was abandoned when rubber tap started being produced in other places in the world and today its inhabitants are engaged in a project to preserve Belterra as it was then. This preservation movement allowed Belterra to become an independant municipality, instead of being under Santarém’s.
In both FLONA and Santa Lucia Arboretum tours it is recommended to wear comfortable walking clothes (neutral colors always), long trousers, hiking boots, a cap with brim, do not forget the suntan lotion and a camera ready to shoot hundreds of photos!
Floresta Nacional do Tapajós (FLONA) – a 6/7 hours tour by vehicle, depending on number of persons may be a van, minibus, etc. We leave Santarém taking the BR-163, the famous Santarém/Cuiabá, the only road link between Santarém and the rest of the country. The Tapajós National Forest entrance is on km 83 (51.5 mi.). A reservation with 650 thousand hectares / 1.606 billion acres of untouched forest, where small communities live off the forest produce and are engaged in forest preservation projects and experimental fish nurseries. A special forest guide is assigned and accompany visitors on the trails. Along the way he will show to untrained eyes the misteries of a Rainforest, how to obtain water, birds hidden by the foliage unseen unless pointed out. A light picnic lunch will be served along the way. Bosque
Bosque Santa Lúcia / Santa Lúcia Arboretum – if anyone in the world would tell you that there such a thing as a Forest Library, this is the place! In a 4 hour tour you will start at Km 0 of BR-163, the famous road that links Santarém to Cuiabá, the only road link to the rest of the country. Taking a side unpaved road, a stop to visit one of the very few “mountains” in the area – 158 m / 518 ft. From this vantage point the guide will point out the subleties of the different soils, Returning to the road you will see an ecosystem in transformation – tropical rainforest; agriculture – the big agri-business concerns and its extensive fields of soybeans and rice, the traditional in small family-owned properties fields of cassava root, beans for their subsistance. Stop in one of these small farms to meet the family, see how they live and work. From here we reach Santa Lúcia Arboretum. After a welcome and introduction to the project and the local guide, take one of the trails to visit the forest “library” with more than 200 native species, trees, palms, other plants and many animals. Short stops along the trail to see the “bestsellers on the shelf” – the Brazil nut (Lecythidaceae), cumaru (Diptervx odorate), guaraná (Paulinia cupana), cupuaçuzeiros (Theobroma grandiflorum), copaibeira (copaifera multijuga), angelim (Hymenolobium modestum), seringueira (Hevea brasiliensis), açaizeiro (Euterpe oleracea), etc.