By Alison McGowan, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Bonito is an ecological paradise in Brazil, a place full of hills, caves, rivers and waterfalls and the bluest and clearest lakes in the world. Located in the Serra do Bodoquena region of the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, only a short distance from the wetlands of the southern Pantanal, it is an area almost totally undiscovered by foreigners which, true to its name, is breathtakingly beautiful.
One of Brazil’s most sought after destinations for eco-tourism and voted the country’s “eco destination of the year” for ten years running, Bonito itself is a small town which has managed to maintain a charming and relaxed pace of life and has largely escaped the ravages of mass tourism.
Local pousada inns and guesthouses with Eco-friendly ethics provide a great base for exploring the best of the surrounding area and a welcome sanctuary after all the exertions of the trips out.
Pousada Galeria Artes is one of the newest pousadas in Bonito, owned by Maria Pires, who has a passion for traveling herself. Pires has created a space with a charming interior, a lovely atmosphere and first-rate hospitality.
From her willingness to share information about the area and local attractions, to the wonderful breakfasts with fresh farm eggs, cheese and homemade honey, and trips to her farm nearby, Pires’ personal touch makes this a truly special pousada.
Pousada Olho d’Água is a beautiful eco-lodge just three km away from the town of Bonito itself. Back in the 80s it was the first of this type of accommodation to open in Bonito, and indeed one of the first in Brazil.
Set in beautifully landscaped grounds, surrounded by woods and run by Portuguese-Brazilian duo Henrique and Jane, the pousada consists of twenty bungalows and boasts a travel agency as well as a first-class restaurant.
Attractions are a plenty in Bonito, and conscious efforts are made to ensure that visitors explore the region without spoiling it in any way. Pousadas can assist visitors in organizing tours and trips to explore these spectacular landmarks in groups or with other travelers.
The Lagoa Misteriosa is one of Bonito’s most magical places, with one of the key mysteries being exactly how deep it really is. It is thought to be at least 220 meters, and the lake attracts both professional and amateur divers from around the world eager to explore its hidden depths.
Similarly, a visit to the waterfalls of the Rio do Peixe, arranged in conjunction with the Fazenda Agua Viva and completed by a delicious buffet lunch, promises a truly special experience.
Bonito is 1,444km away from Rio, so a flight to Campo Grande is recommended, and then going by land from there. Getting to Bonito from Campo Grande airport is easy and a shared van from the arrivals area will only take about 3.5 hours, with drop offs conveniently at many pousadas.
There is plenty to do in the region if you like radical sports or if you just prefer to gently hike or float down one of the many rivers. Perhaps even better is an adventure to see some of the extraordinary wildlife in the Pantanal wetlands less than two hours’ drive away.