Petropolis, Teresopolis and Serra dos Orgaos National Park
by Mburton1982 on December 3, 2010
Just a few hours north of Rio de Janeiro is the town of Petropolis, where wealthy Brazilians go to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. While a well-known guidebook does not have much to say about Petropolis, if you have a couple of days, it is an interesting place to visit and actually quite pretty. Worthy of note are the main museum, gardens, cathedral and the area around the university, where the only night life is.
Where to Stay
If you plan to stay in Petropolis, I would advise booking accommodation in advance. My travel companion and I spent five hours walking up and down the streets of Petropolis looking for a cheap hotel that didn't cost over USD$60/night. The "hotel" we finally found was down a dark alley, under construction and actually not a hotel at all but a brothel!!! At least it was cheap! Check in advance as I am sure there are non-brothel, economical options.
Where to Dine
For good places to eat, have a look around the main square, where you can find a restaurant with a very good buffet of pastas (you choose your own pastas, sauce and topping) and soup. Also of note are the smaller lunch places. These remind me of swimming pool complex cafes in the UK and US, but actually serve good cheap food for lunch.
At the northern end of town is the bus terminal, where buses leave for Teresopolis. Accommodation is far easier to find here with many more cheaper hotels, restaurants and shops.
Sites & Activities
Without a doubt, the most interesting area to visit is not in town but outside of town. Just outside of town is the Serra dos Orgaos (Mountain of the Organs) National Park, which contains the spectacular Dedo de Deus (God's Finger), a famous rock formation in the mountain range.
Buses to Serra dos Orgaos leave from the center square in Teresopolis (two to three hours from Petropolis) and drop you off about 10 minutes from the park entrance. We didn't realize this and actually walked 30 minutes up a hill before realizing we had gone the wrong way! When you get off the bus, walk away from town down the highway until you see the park visitors center. Here you can get great leaflets and park maps. The staff speak many languages, and there are good toilets.
Dedo de Deus
The main viewing platform for God's Finger is near the bus drop-off. BE CAREFUL as you cross the main road, which is very busy and often very foggy. Once you get to the other side of the road, you will see the sign for the platform. For us, it was a completely wasted journey as all we could see was mist. On a clear day, you can see for miles and I imagine the scenery must be breathtaking.
Serra dos Orgaos
To get to the more worthwhile Serra dos Orgaos National Park, you will have to walk about five minutes down the highway back the way you came. The entrance to the national park is well signposted and there you will find a good visitors center, cafe and shop. The entrance fee is USD$10 for the day or USD$20 for entrance to the high peaks.
There are three main trails in the park. The first takes you up to the Dedo de Deus viewpoint; the next is a platform walk in the tree tops; and the third is a day walk into the peaks. For the more adventurous, there is a three-day trail which goes between Petropolis and Teresopolis and passes three different peaks.
A map of all three trails is available at the information center. The park is an excellent place to trek for a day or two and is a good way to see Atlantic Rainforest. As with any other trek, remember to bring a first aid kit, bug cream, sun cream, good walking boots, a waterproof jacket and lots of water.