South of Brazil – Canyons and Waterfalls

Canyon Itaimbezinho, Brazil

Canyon Itaimbezinho, Brazil

Our time in the South of Brazil was coming to an end, so we wanted to leave on a high note by visiting the Canyons of Itaimbezinho and Fortaleza and also to spend this last few days doing a fun activity with my father, sister and nephews. Unfortunately my brother and his family were not able to join us. These two Canyons are located near the town of Cambara do Sul, only about 1:30 hours from my home town of Canela or about 170 Km from the State capital of Porto Alegre. These Canyons are part of an area with over twenty other less well known canyons of the same geologic range located in the South of Brazil.

We travelled in a group of 10 people, including myself, my husband Brian, my daughter Chloe, my son James, my father Remy and his partner Lelia, my sister Angelita, her fiancée Juliano and her two sons Pabblo and Lucas. There were five of us in my father’s car and the other five in my sister’s car. The road from Canela to Cambara do Sul is very good, paved all the way and the scenery is the gorgeous Gaucho pampas, green hills and farmland, covered with the native Araucaria trees and pine reforestation. The town of Cambara do Sul sits about 980 meters above sea level and is the gateway to the Canyons. The town itself is very small, with only one main road and very limited variety of restaurants and amenities. We arrived at lunch time and parked our cars near the church, right in the centre of town.

Cambara do Sul

From left James, Lucas, Angelita, Lelia, my father Remy, myself, Pabblo, Chloe and Brian at Cambara do Sul – the gateway to the Canyons

We were all feeling quite hungry, so we decided to get a bite to eat at a nearby little restaurant, which was a very friendly place where the owners cooked us some very tasty burgers (though in Brazil if you order a burger, what you get has never been through a mincer, it’s really a steak sandwich!). With full bellies we were ready to hike our first Canyon, so from the restaurant we drove the 23 Km of a rocky, gravel road to the entrance of the “Parque Nacional da Serra Geral”, to visit the Fortaleza Canyon. This park has no infrastructure and therefore there are no facilities here, we parked the car at the end of the gravel road since there is no car park as such and there are no entrance fees to the Park.

Fortaleza Canyon

The Fortaleza Canyon is about 1, 240 meters above sea level, it extends 7.5 Km long and it is about 2 Km wide. There are two main trails in this area and we did both in half a day, these trails are not very strenuous and my father who is in his seventies did not find it particularly hard, even though he was not wearing appropriate hiking shoes or trainers . The youngsters full of energy and enthusiasm raced to the top, in particularly Lucas who was on a mission to get there first.

Trilha do Mirante – It is about a 3 Km round walk and takes you up to the Fortaleza Canyon. The views are fabulous and we had a fantastic clear day to see it all, since it can get very foggy here with the unpredictable changes in temperature and pressure between the sea level and the canyon walls,  the clouds can be pushed up through the Canyon making visibility totally impossible and dangerous. We had 360 degree views all the way down to the coast.  We were surprised that there was hardly anyone there,  only one other couple, apart from our group. A place like this in the UK would be absolutely packed full of tourists.  There are no barriers and anyone can get very close to the edge, so on a foggy day, poor visibility here could be fatal.

Entrance to the Park

Entrance to the Park

Start of the trail

Start of the trail myself, Chloe and Angelita

waterfall at Canyon Fortaleza

Waterfall at Canyon Fortaleza

My father and Lelia took their time to climb up to the top

My father and Lelia took their time to climb up to the top.

There are no barriers

There are no barriers

We had the Canyon to ourselves

We had the Canyon to ourselves

Me, Chloe and James at Fortaleza Canyon

Me, Chloe and James at Fortaleza Canyon. Views are simply stunning.

Lucas was on a mission to be first at the top

Lucas was on a mission to be first at the top

Angelita and Pabblo at Fortaleza Canyon

Angelita and Pabblo at Fortaleza Canyon

This grey fox came close in search for food

This wild grey fox came very close in search of food

We took our time at the top of Fortaleza Canyon, the vistas were amazing and we could see far down to the coast of the next Southern  State of Santa Catarina. We were glad to have brought our water bottles, since it did get quite warm at the top and the sun was biting down on us.

Going down was a little easier and again we took our time as we walked past waterfalls and enjoyed the 360 degree views. We drove to the entrance of the next trail “Trillha”, since it was on the way back towards the town of Cambara do Sul on the same gravel road and again parked just by the side of the road, there was a small sign post showing the way to go.

Trilha da Cachoeira do Tigre – “cachoeira” means waterfall and “Tigre”, Tiger is the name of the river that flows down and forms the fall. My father and Lelia decided to stay with the car  and have a rest, whilst the rest of us walked down through the woods until we got to the river and found the top of the waterfall, the walk was not particularly difficult, but there were some more steep parts and I was worried about Lucas and Pabblo starting to cross the river and walking dangerously closed to the drop of the fall. The water was very cold, but also quite soothing on our feet as we removed our shoes to dip our toes in the cool water,  we all managed to cross the river to see the waterfall from the other side.

Crossing the river at the top of the waterfall

Crossing the river at the top of the waterfall

No barriers and just us there

No barriers and just us there

With my sister at the other side of the falls

With my sister at the other side of the falls, there is a fence here, see where we crossed at the back

We continued to walk along until we got to the “Pedra do Segredo”, Secret Stone, which is a stone block of 5 metres in diameter that weighs about 30 tons and is perfectly balanced on a very small base of about 50 cm. Afterwards we walked back to the car, and found my father and Lelia having a nap under the shade of a tree.

I was feeling like a nap myself and so we drove to our hotel for the night, the “Cambara Eco Hotel”, situated not far from the centre of the town of Cambara do Sul, with lovely views over a lake.

We stayed at this lovely Eco Hotel

We stayed at this lovely Eco Hotel

We all got a good rest, showered and changed to have dinner at the traditional ” Galpao Costaneira” where the decoration was pure rustic charm. There was a cosy area with a hot stove and a sofa where we helped ourselves to some “chimarrao” a very typical Gaucho green tea type drink taken with hot water and sipped slowly via a metal straw. The food was delicious and again all very traditional Gaucho fare; we chose the tabletop cooked beef, sausages and colonial cheese. There was also a buffet of other Gaucho food such as feijoada, arroz carreteiro and a variety of vegetables and salads. The desserts, also very traditional,  where a real treat for me and a trip down memory lane reminding me of my childhood and my mother who used to cook puddings such as ambrosia, sagu etc. for the family.

Galpao Costanera serving rustic Gaucho food

Galpao Costaneira serving rustic Gaucho food

Variety of sugar cane spirits

There was a variety of sugar cane spirits at Galpao Costaneira

Juliano getting started on the "chimarrao"

Juliano getting started on the “chimarrao”before our meal

The next morning we woke up to another sunny and bright day, perfect for our visit to the most well know of all the South of Brazil Canyon’s.

The Itaimbezinho Canyon

The name has its origin from the local indigenous tribe language “Tupi- Guarani”, meaning sharp rock. It is located in the Aparados da Serra National Park, from our hotel we drove on the RS429 road along an 18 km of unpaved road. This park has a better infrastructure and a fee of R$ 6.00 pp (£1.50) is charged for Brazilian’s and R$ 13.00(£3.50) for foreigners. There is a large car park and for parking there is a charge of  R$ 5.00 for the day. There are toilet facilities, but no food and drinks for sale.

The Itaimbezinho is one of the largest Canyons of Brazil, it extends about 5, 800 metres long, about 600 metres of width and with a depth of about 720 metres. There are 3 main trails here called “Trilha do Vertice”, “Trilha do Cotovelo and Trilha do Boi. The hardest one is the later and it is only accessed  from the interior of the Canyon down below at sea level via the beach of “Praia Grande” on the neighbouring State of Santa Catarina, this trail can only be entered with a professional guide and it can take up to 8 hours to complete, on this trail it is possible to take a dip in the river and get very close to the waterfalls.

We opted for the trail at the top “Trilha do Cotovelo” (The Elbow trail), it is about 6.3 km long and completely flat, mostly following an old road for part of the way and then continuing on following along the top of  the Canyon walls, the old road is no longer used, since cars are not allowed here. It takes about 2:30 hours to complete the hike. There are two viewing platforms with stunning views of different angles of the Canyon. The Canyon walls are surrounded by a beautiful forest of native trees including the prehistoric Araucaria trees.

Itaimbezinho Canyon

Itaimbezinho Canyon from the “Trilha do Vertice”, down below you can see the “Trilha do Boi”

Canyon walls

Canyon walls from viewing platform

Angelita and Juliano at Itaimbezinho

Angelita and Juliano at Itaimbezinho

Unfortunately we did not have enough time and energy (we were all starving hungry) to do the other trail “Trilha do Vertice”, which is only 1.4 km long and takes about 45 minutes to complete. It was a shame, since this trail has great views of the waterfall “Veu de Noiva” (Bride’s Veil), that has a drop of about 500 metres. It was a mistake not bringing snacks and although we had a good wholesome breakfast earlier on at the hotel, the long walk got us all dreaming of food and refreshments.

It is better to do these top trails in the morning, since there is a higher risk of fog in the afternoon. There are no food and drink facilities inside the park, so it is a good idea to take plenty of water and snacks, also sun protection and a hat, since it can get very hot.

We finished our trekking expedition and headed back to the town of Cambara do Sul to have lunch at the “Galpao Costaneira” and had another great meal there before getting back on the road and return to Canela. Sadly it was getting to the end of our time in Brazil, we spent the last few days in my home town saying our good byes to the family and last visits to relatives including my beloved uncle Eduardo, who sadly passed away few months after my return to England. He was in his 90’s and very frail. I felt lucky to have had the opportunity to see him for one last visit, he was a constant presence all trough out my childhood and I have many fond memories of him. R.I.P Tio Eduardo!




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  1. Lovely description of what sounds like an amazing trip! Very jealous and planning to have a go myself when I next visit Brazil.
    Glad you all enjoyed yourselves and thank you Gilda for all the tips.

  2. I am now in love with the part of Brazil you come from. I have never visited but I am so inspired to explore the South of Brazil. I so appreciate how you share about the places you visit with such warmth never afraid to share with us readers about your lovely family. You write from the heart!

    • Val I am so glad to have inspired you to explore the South of Brazil, it is very beautiful and yet remains very unspoilt. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment, I really appreciate it.

  3. So sorry to hear about your uncle, how precious that you got to spend some time with him though before he passed. The canyons and waterfalls are spectacular, I particularly like your picture of the wild fox 🙂

    • Thank you so much Amy, uncle Eduardo was such a character and we loved him very much. The south of Brazil has some lovely landscapes and waterfalls and there is hardly anyone there. The wild fox come over to check us out and possibly wanting food, unfortunately we had none. Enjoy your summer in the UK Amy.

  4. Gilda querida!! Esta viagem aos canions foir maravilhosa, especialmente porque pudemos aproveitar a compania uns dos outros, nos divertimos demais, e agora estas lembranças estao eternizadas aqui. Tivemos uma super sorte com o clima e ficamos no dever de voltar e fazer aquela outra trilha do vertice…hehehehe… amei tudo!! Thank you!!!

    • Querida sister, foi mesmo inesquecivel e tivemos a maior sorte com o sol brilhando todos os dias. A natureza maravilhosa do nosso pais nos encanta e principalmente podermos curtir juntas foi muito especial. Espero que possamos ter muitas outras oportunidades como esta.

  5. Adorei o post! Fiquei com vontade de ir conhecer também o Itaimbezinho. Moramos tão perto e deixamos de ir visitar esses lugares tão lindos! Assim que o verão chegar quero organizar um passeio para lá. As fotos estão lindíssimas, e como sempre a narrativa está muito bela e entusiasmante. Beijo

    • Obrigada Aline por ter curtido esse post, vai mesmo visitar o Itaimbezinho voce vai adorar, contudo escolhe um fim de semana de sol. Voce tem razao, muitas vezes deixamos de ir conhecer lugares lindos que ficam bem perto de casa, eu e Brian resolvemos explorar mais a nossa regiao aqui tambem.

  6. Wow! That first photo is crazy stunning and what a fun cast of characters to share your adventure, which looks to have been amazing. Some pretty challenging climbs with stunning views to reward your efforts!

    • Hi Patti the Canyons are beautiful and unspoiled, it was great to share this trip with my family, we had such a lot of fun. These memories are very precious to me. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

    • Hi Jo, the Canyons are bery beautiful and we were so lucky to get the most perfect sunny day to see it. But you are so right that for me Brazil is all about the family and spending time with them. Thank you for visiting my blog, I am enjoying yours.

  7. Anita, we were so lucky with the weather to get the gorgeous views, since it is often very foggy there. But the best thing for me it was to spend time with the family, my father, sister, nephews and off course my husband and children. I am off to Brazil again this Saturday and so looking forward to see my Brazilian family again. Thanks for your comment 😀

  8. Wow Gilda! What stunning vistas. I’m not afraid of heights but I must say gazing over those cliffs at the waterfalls makes me a bit woozy even from the screen! What a wonderful adventure to be able to do with family.

  9. Sue, we had such a lovely family time and I will treasure it forever. I had not visited the canyons before and was pleasantly surprised at how beautiful and unspoiled they are. Mass tourism has not yet arrived there keeping it all very authentic and peaceful. I also felt a little quizzy and kept my distance from the edge, there are no safety rails and a wrong foot would be a disaster. Thank you for your comment 😄

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