By Beatriz Miranda, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Located in the countryside of northern Rio State, the village of Aldeia Velha is a natural gem with well preserved rivers, waterfalls and forests. What’s best, the place is only 1.5 hours from the city of Rio and is still little known among Cariocas and travelers.
Aldeia Velha, also known as “Quartéis”, is situated in Serra do Mar (Mar’s Mountain Range), between the municipalities of Casimiro de Abreu and Silva Jardim.
With only eight hundred inhabitants, Aldeia Velha moves in a calm, chilled pace one hardly sees in Rio’s city.
The village is part of the Environmental Protection Area of São João/Mico Leão Dourado, which also includes the Biological Reserve Poço das Antas.
Thus, it is not hard to imagine why Aldeia Velha is a natural refuge where one finds crystalline waters, biodiversity and a relaxing atmosphere.
Back in the eighteenth century, Aldeia Velha hosted many European settlers, specially from Germany and Switzerland. Most of them were sent by Brazil’s Imperial Government in order to “whiten” the predominantly indigenous population of the village.
After some epidemic outbreaks, many residents from Sacra Família de Ipuca (Aldeia Velha’s former designation) moved to another area. However, some of Aldeia Velha’s natives are descendents of these former European settlers and indigenous peoples.
Surrounded by nature, presenting a simple architechture and a hippie kind of vibe, Aldeia Velha reminds of Sana, another natural refuge – located on Macaé’s mountains – that is perfect for a short gettaway from Rio.
Aldeia’s main waterfall is the twelve-meter high Cachoeira das Andorinhas. There, visitors can bathe at its refreshing natural pool.
Easy to get to, the trail to Andorinhas does not take more than 10 minutes. Thus, this waterfall is specially recommended for those with children or elderly.
Also worth the visit is Cachoeira Sete Quedas. As the name suggests, this waterfall is composed of seven different (and stunning) falls. Even though the trail to Sete Quedas is easy, visitors are required to go with a guide.
Those looking for a more thrilling waterfall experience should definitely go to Quarenta. Still little popular among Aldeia Velha’s visitors, Quarenta is a waterfall that is not simple to get to. Thus, tourists do horse riding to get there.
Aldeia Velha also offers many options for those into radical sports. One of the favorites among tourists is abseiling at Andorinhas, an outstanding 25-meter climbdown that is also allowed for children. What’s more, one can do zipline at Andorinhas. Outside Aldeia Velha, closer to Casimiro de Abreu, there is rafting at the Macaé River, both for beginners and experienced.
Aldeia is a good destination during the entire year, but one must notice it can get really cold during autumn and winter. If enjoying the waterfalls and rivers is what you want, visiting the village between October and March is the most recommended period. Those who want to see a more eventful Aldeia Velha should go in the Holy Week, when the Aldeia Rock Festival attracts people from all over, or in July, time for Aldeia’s Forró Festival.
To get to Aldeia Velha from Rio de Janeiro, one must take the BR 101 Highway (direction Macaé). After passing by Silva Jardim’s entrance, keep on BR 101 for the next 22 kilometers. By the kilometer 214, take the wooden entrance on the left.
If you are going by bus, take the line Rio x Casimiro de Abreu, operated by company 1001. Once in Casimiro, take a local bus to Aldeia Velha. Check the local bus’ timetable here.