Brazil // Brasília and the Planalto Central //

Parque Nacional de Brasília

The Parque Nacional de Brasília, the city’s very own national park, at the far end of Asa Norte, is the only area of native vegetation large enough around Brasília to support proper wildlife populations. During the week, you will have the place largely to yourself, and while the park itself is enormous, visitors are restricted to its southern corner, where the main attractions are two very large swimming holes, Piscina Velha and Piscina Nova, both a short, well-signposted walk from either of the two entrances, and built around a stream, preserving the natural flow of the water. When there is nobody there, this is a lovely spot – especially for a picnic. You may spot capuchin monkeys leaping acrobatically through the trees, but they have become used to scavenging picnic remains so take care not to leave food lying around, and be sure to pack plastic bags away as the monkeys regularly choke on them.

Although the swimming holes get very crowded at weekends, virtually everyone sticks to the water, so if you want space and some solitude, head up the slope to a small fenced trail through a section of gallery forest and continue up the hill until you come up onto open cerrado savanna. Here you’ll find another much longer trail, a four-mile circuit called the Água Cristal (crystal water trail), which lives up to its name, taking you through a number of clearwater streams before dumping you back more or less where you started. The views are beautiful, although it is frustrating you can’t hike into them.