Explore the underworld: 7 beautiful caves in Brazil

Discover what lies in the dark and murky subterranean worlds of Brazil. You might not want to resurface, once you discover the beauty of these magnificent caves

Take the plunge in the clear waters at Poço Azul

Category Beach & nature

Date 21st July 2016

Brazil is home to 68 national parks and a diverse plethora of natural attractions. Though there’s plenty of flora and fauna to discover above the surface, in the underground lie strange and wondrous worlds ready to be explored.

Brazil’s caves will not disappoint: you’ll get to see otherworldly rock and mineral formations, crystal clear natural pools and even small groves of vegetation.

We’ve put together a selection of beautiful caves in Brazil that will awaken the explorer in you.

Caverna do Diabo, Eldorado, São Paulo

Caverna do Diabo will leave you in awe
Caverna do Diabo will leave you in awe © eder.fortunato

Perhaps the most popular cave in Brazil, Caverna do Diabo – The Devil’s Cave – is one of the largest in the state of São Paulo.

The cave is gargantuan in scale and visitors are only allowed to visit a small part of it. Accompanied by a guide, you will go down several staircases, and cross walkways and bridges, to arrive in the ‘Cathedral’ Hall. Here you can marvel at strange and gigantic rock formations that garnered names such as Guardian, Snow White, Three Kings and Devil’s Cauldron. These formations have arisen throughout millions of years of water dripping.

The name is somewhat daunting and it gets even scarier when you discover the rock formation that resembles a skull, which, when illuminated, reflects a red light in the skull’s eyes.

Visitors access the cave in groups of 12 and the visit is one hour long.

Abismo Anhumas, Bonito, Mato Grosso do Sul

Abismo Anhumas is home to this beautiful lake where you can go snorkelling
Abismo Anhumas is home to this beautiful lake where you can go snorkelling © Edmilson sanches

Abismo Anhumas – The Anhumas Abyss – might not look like much judging the narrow gap in the ground surface, but once inside you’ll think you’ve arrived in paradise. The cave is 72m deep, or what corresponds to a 30-story building, and its base houses a magnificent lake the size of a football pitch. Light seeps through the cave’s mouth revealing huge limestone stalagmites and stalactites surrounding the crystal clear water of the lake.

To visit this particular cave, you’ll need to be relatively fit. Access to the cave is only possible by rappelling (a controlled descent down a rock using ropes) and before you even get close to the cave, you will need to undergo a training session with tour guides. They will ultimately decide whether you are ready to descent into the Abyss. The descent takes around five minutes and once down, you can explore the lake from a floating boat, go snorkeling or, if you have a certificate, scuba diving.

Due to environmental requirements, only 20 visitors are allowed to explore the cave daily. So make sure to book your visit well in advance.

Gruta do Janelão, Cavernas do Peruaçu National Park, Minas Gerais

Gruta do Janelão comes complete with majestic halls, a river and small forests
Gruta do Janelão comes complete with majestic halls, a river and small forests © Edgar Corrêa Kanaykõ

Cavernas do Peruaçu National Park, an area known for its many limestone caves, is home to Gruta do Janelão – a cave resembling a garden more than anything else.

The cave comprises a sequence of majestic arches, interspersed with circular skylights letting light in and thus allowing small forests to pop up here and there. This image of lush vegetation is made complete by the Peruaçu River that runs through the cave.

Ever wondered what a 28m long stalactite looks like? Gruta do Janelão is home to one, so this is your chance to see a rock formation almost as big as the famous Rio sculpture Christ the Redeemer. Additionally, the cave walls are adorned by rock art more than 10,000 years old. Stepping into this cave is like being transported to a different world.

The cave is accessible as part of a guided tour and you’ll need to apply for a visit authorization beforehand.

Poço Azul, Chapada Diamantina National Park, Bahia

Step in the shoes of explorers at Poço Azul
Step in the shoes of explorers at Poço Azul © Chico.Ferreira

Brazil’s Poço Azul, the Blue Pit, is one of those places where light and colors come together to create a magical environment you’ll probably be astounded to know exists in reality.

Flooded with transparent blue water, the cave is 16m deep and easy to explore from a boat or by snorkeling. The best times to visit the cave are from February to October, between 12.30-14.00, as the sunlight enters the cave and produces deep blue hues in the calm water.

Poço Azul has been the site where an expedition of cavers, paleontologists and geologists uncovered over 4,000 fossils of 45 extinct animals, including the almost complete skeleton of a giant sloth. The expedition was featured in National Geographic’s documentary The Mystery of the Giant Sloth’s Cave.

Easily accessible, you can arrive by car to the mouth of the cave and take the five minute walk down to the water. Only accessible as part of guided tours.

Caverna Terra Ronca, São Domingos, Goiás

Stalactites on display at limestone cave Terra Ronca
Stalactites on display at limestone cave Terra Ronca © Caio Ribeiro

The Terra Ronca State Park is home to 200 caves, but only two are open to visitors. One of them is Caverna Terra Ronca, a dolomitic limestone cave that, thanks to a collapse thousands of years ago, has been divided in two areas, Terra Ronca I and Terra Ronca II. Both of them are open to the public, though the second part only together with a guide.

The moment you enter, you’ll be overwhelmed by the high pitch of the blubbering river flowing through the cave. Not for nothing is it called Terra Ronca, meaning rumbling earth. Follow the course of the river and you’ll pass through various halls filled with gargantuan stalagmites and stalactites as well as delicate calcium flowers.

Watch out for the Lover’s Hall, where you can feast your eyes on diverse rock formations such as columns, limestone pearls, aragonite flowers and travertine. Another popular stop is the sinkhole Oco das Araras, home to many colorful macaws.

Tip: If you’re visiting in August, the cave is the venue for the annual religious ceremony of Romaria do Bom Jesus da Lapa, a week-long pilgrimage that ends with a feast in the cave.

Caverna do Morro Preto, Alto Ribeira State Touristic Park, São Paulo

This is the view you'll get when you enter Caverna do Morro Preto
This is the view you’ll get when you enter Caverna do Morro Preto © Valdiney Pimenta

Alto Ribeira State Touristic Park (PETAR) is one of Brazil’s oldest national parks and home to more than 300 caves. If there’s one that should feature high on your to-see list, it’s Caverna do Morro Preto – the Black Hill Cave.

Access to the cave is relatively easy: the trail follows the Bethary River, where at one point you’ll cross a wooden bridge. After a 200m walk uphill, you’ll stand before one of the grandest and most impressive cave mouths in the park. It’s 15m high, or what corresponds to a five-story building, and features spiky rock formations dangling from the top.

Once inside, you’ll be passing huge rooms and extensive galleries filled with speleothems (mineral deposits formed in a cave) in all shapes and sizes. In one of these rooms traces of prehistoric life have been discovered. It’s believed that primitive humans used this cave as a shelter.

Visits are only possible in groups of eight and accompanied by a guide.

Caverna Aroe Jari, Chapada dos Guimarães National Park, Mato Grosso

Gruta do Lagoa Azul holds some of the clearest water you might have seen
Gruta do Lagoa Azul holds some of the clearest water you might have seen © helia.vannucchi

Cave complex Aroe Jari is, at a length of 1,550m, the biggest sandstone cave in Brazil. The name stems from the local Bororó language, meaning ‘ghost shelter’, but it’s also known as the Frenchman Cave, because the first scientific reports on this cave are attributed to Frenchman Ramis Bucair.

Aroe Jari is considered one of the most beautiful tours of Chapada dos Guimarães, and you’ll quickly understand why.

By the cave entrance, there’s a small waterfall tumbling from the cave ceiling. The light here is murky and it will take a couple of minutes to get used to it. Equipped with a lantern, you’ll make your way through the darkness to Gruta do Lago Azul (Blue Lagoon Cave), home to a natural body of clear blue water. The final stop is Caverna Kiogo Brado – a long hall resembling a mini-canyon, where strands of light seep through the narrow entrances, illuminating massive rock formations.

Together with a guide, you’ll take the 3.5 km hike facing harsh sunrays and extreme heat. But rest assured, once inside the cave, you’ll rapidly cool down (temperature is around 19-20° C).

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Originally published

21st July 2016