Discovering Amazonas

El Dorado is here

Barcelos

Português

Barcelos was the former capital of Amazonas, before that title was transferred to Manaus. Nowadays, the city rises again, but as the capital of sport fishing.

Between September and February, during the dry season, dozens of fishermen, including foreigners, disembark in the city. The reason? It is called the peacock. Considered one of the largest fish of the Amazon basin, the peacock is also known for its voracity. They say it even attacks the hook with no bait. Extremely strong, it provides a good fight with any fisherman who tries to catch it. Since good fishing is a difficult one, the peacock became famous and Barcelos, which concentrates the largest amount of these fishes throughout the Amazon basin, has become the perfect destination for the practitioners of this sport.

But even if you're not a fan of fishing, Barcelos still holds many attractions. The city has some of the most beautiful beaches in the Amazon, which also appear from September to January. Praia Grande (Large Beach), located in front of the the city on the opposite bank of the river, is the hottest point of the municipality during the summer, where residents often set up kiosks to sell foods and drinks and organize parties. Nearby, on Ilha do Governador  (Governor's Island), there's a small jungle lodge with its own private beach and a restaurant that offers a great panoramic view to its guests.

There are several other beaches scattered around the region, many completely deserted. Most of them lies within Mariuá, the largest river archipelago in the world, with more than 700 islands. When browsing through its green corridors during the dry season is possible to envision countless stretches of sand, which appear both alongside the river banks, forming long peninsulas, and also in the middle of the riverbed, forming sandbanks of diverse and curious shapes. In some places, the number of beaches is so great and their sizes so extensive that one gets the impression of being in the midst of real dunes. The sand, so white and thin, provides a beautiful contrast with the dark waters of the river.

In one of the main tributaries of the Rio Negro, the Rio Aracá, the main attraction is its extremely low volume of water encountered in some of its passages during the dry season. Sandbanks  get so close to the surface that they give the water a golden hue and form a surreal setting where you can walk right in the middle of an extensive Amazonian river with the water reaching up only to your knees.

If that was not enough, the Aracá still provides great emotions for those adventurers who decide to take up its course. At the end of countless curves that give the river the sinuous form of a serpent, a trip that lasts for hours even in the fastest boats, appears before the visitor one of the most beautiful and unknown scenarios of the Brazilian Amazon: Serra do Aracá.

Summing up...

Distance from Manaus: 405 km (straight line) or 496 km (by river)

Getting there (duration / cost):

  • By regional boat (2 days /R$80)
  • By speedboat (12 hours / R$160)
  • By plane (1 hour / R$300)

Be sure to see and do:

- The beaches only appear between September and January.

- For those who want to reach Barcelos by river, there are two options: regional boats (called "recreio") and speedboats (known as "ajato").

- The regional boats are cheaper but take a long time to get to their destinations. Moreover, the hygiene, safety and comfort of this type of boat are appalling.

- The speedboats represent the best way to travel along the Amazon Basin. They reduce travel time by up to four times and are much more comfortable. Prices, however, are equivalent to double of those charged by regional boats.

- Air transportation in the small cities of Amazonas is dominated by just one company: Trip Air Lines. The lack of competition leads to extremely expensive tickets, even more expensive than a ticket to outside the state, no matter how shorter the distances are.

- Besides the high prices, the itineraries of boats and planes leaving from Manaus to the countryside are quite restricted, making any trip between the cities of the state a major challenge.
 
To see pictures of Barcelos, click here.

* I have not visited this city yet. Description is based on reports from third parties and information found on the Internet.