By Beatriz Miranda, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Situated in the South of Minas Gerais, close to the famous Serra da Canastra, Capitólio is the unusual destination nature loving travelers might be looking for. Home to stunning lakes, waterfalls and trails, the “beach city” of Minas, as it is popularly called, is the perfect destination to enjoy the rest of summer in Brazil’s Southeast.
Capitólio owes its “beach city” fame to Lago de Furnas, one of the world’s biggest artificial lakes, with 1,406,26 square kilometers. Considered “Minas’ sea” and the city’s greatest attraction, Lago de Furnas is also the largest water extension in the state.
The “Minas’ sea” was born from the construction of Furnas’ hydro-power plant, the first high capacity one in Brazil, inaugurated in 1963. Today, the lake attracts tourists from Brazil and abroad for boat trips and water sports.
Those interested in enjoying Lago de Furnas by boat can contact one of the local tourism agencies (like VIP Passeios or Catamarã Escarpas), which offer barge and motorboat trips for groups. Visitors can find from two-hour to full-day trips; itinerary and prices might vary according to the agency.
Apart from the diverse cascades and falls visitors will have the opportunity to appreciate, like Cascata, Vale dos Tucanos and Lagoa Azul, one of the favorite attractions of the trip is Furnas’ canyons, the over twenty-meter high gorges that surround the lake.
In order to get a perspective of the canyons from the top, one must take the road MG-050 and drive about 30 kilometers off of Capitólio. The trail that leads to the canyons starts approximately one kilometer after Lagoa Azul restaurant.
A place worth visiting for travelers who are into trekking is Trilha do Sol. Located on the MG-050 road (Km 304), this natural area and lodge concentrates three falls: Do Grito, with a high cascade and a pool; Poço Dourado, where the sun reflection makes the fishes’ scales golden; and No Limite, where visitors will find a natural water slide.
For a breathtaking view of Lago de Furnas, one must check Morro do Chapéu, a 1,293 meter-high hill, located about 12 kilometers away from Capitólio. There, it is possible to contemplate the fauna and flora of cerrado, biome from Brazil’s dry country side. Lucky visitors might get the chance to spot a “tamanduá”, one of cerrado’s typical animals.
When it comes to culinary, Capitólio’s great specialty are the lake fishes. For fresh “traíras” and tilapias, one must try Do Turvo restaurant, situated at the MG-050 road (Km 306), or Skina Bar, in Capitólio’s downtown. For homemade traditional Minas‘ cheese and sausages, one can check Queijos Califórnia, at MG-050 road (Km 290).
Among the available accommodation options, one can find diverse “pousadas” (small lodges), like Trilha do Sol, close to the canyons; Cachoeira do Lobo, close to the namesake waterfall; Cascata Eco Parque, which offers more complete infrastructure; and Obbá Coema, with a resort like atmosphere. Those looking for a cheaper option should consider camping at Paraíso Perdido.
It takes approximately 630 kilometers to go to Capitólio from Rio de Janeiro, and there are two different paths one can take: via Teresópolis, through roads BR-040, BR-265 and MG-050; or via Resende, through roads BR-354 and MG-050. Since both trips can be quite exhausting (6 to 10 hour drive), an alternative is taking a flight to Belo Horizonte and renting a car from this city to Capitólio (approximately three hour drive).