From Brasília, an easy day-trip involves taking one of the frequent buses from the rodoferroviária to the town of CRISTALINA, a two-hour ride south of Brasília into the Goiás plateau. Indeed, the journey itself is one of the main reasons to go, as you’ll pass through the distinctive rolling hills of the planalto along the BR-040 towards Belo Horizonte. Prospectors who came here looking for gold in the early eighteenth century came across a large quantity of rock crystal; the European market opened up over a century later, and today Cristalina is an attractive, rustic town, based around the mining, cutting, polishing and marketing of semi-precious stones. Quartz crystal and Brazilian amethyst can also be bought here at very reasonable prices, mostly from enormous warehouses on the edge of town that pull in passing motorists.
If you only have time for one day-trip, though, your best bet is to take the two-hour bus ride to the town of FORMOSA, not so much for the place itself, pleasant though it is, as for the stunning waterfall and park of Salto de Itiquira, for which Formosa is the jumping-off point. The park, which is about 40km away, is well signposted if you are in a rented car, but buses are infrequent; haggling with a local taxi driver at the bus station should get you a return trip for around R$70. It’s worth it: the drive is beautiful, with the spectacular 90-metre waterfall visible from miles away as a white line against the towering cliffs of the Serra Formosa. Surrounding the waterfall is a municipal park (admission R$7), well laid out with a series of swimholes that make it a great place to spend the day. The most spectacular of all is at the very top of the only path, where the waterfall comes plunging down. Although there is a snack bar at the car park, by far the best place to eat is the Dom Fernando restaurant, with an excellent buffet of local food, and freshly grilled meats to order. It’s located in splendid isolation at Km 6 on the road to the waterfall, but is only open weekends and holidays – otherwise there’s a restaurant to the right of the park entrance. The park is at its best during the week, when it’s less crowded.