Corumbá in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul

Corumbá MS lies on the border between Mato Grosso do Sul and Bolivia, and is also strongly influenced by the customs and traditions of the neighboring country. As well as being one of the oldest cities in the state, it is also the third most populous and important city.

In the old port of Corumbá in Mato Grosso do Sul, a series of old houses recall the opulence of the early 20th century, when local merchants received products from all over the world, arriving via the Paraguay River.

cidade de Corumbá MS
cidade de Corumbá MS

Today, the quiet town of 100,000 inhabitants, built by the Portuguese in 1778 to strengthen the colonial western frontier, is best known for being Mato Grosso do Sul’s main fishing destination.

Located 403 kilometers from Campo Grande, close to the border with Bolivia, Corumbá welcomes thousands of fishermen every year, who stay in riverside hotels or set off on a journey through Paraguay on board hotel boats.

Among the city’s most important events is the International Sport Fishing Festival, which takes place in mid-October.

At the end of the period in which fishing is allowed – from November to February, because of the reproduction of the fish – it is not possible to fish.

For ecotourists, the region’s greatest attractions are to be found on the Estrada Parque, a 120-kilometer embankment that cuts through a well-preserved Pantanal area and offers excellent lodging options in inns and farms.

Corumbá, which means “distant place” in Tupi-Guarani, is connected to São Paulo by a railroad, the so-called “Pantanal train”, which currently only works for freight, transporting mainly iron ore and manganese extracted from the Urucum mountain range.

There are, however, plans to reactivate the passenger route, which was very successful in the past.

On the Bolivian side, the notorious “train of death” is still in operation, linking the border town of Puerto Quijarro to Santa Cruz de la Sierra. How to get there: From Campo Grande, take the BR-262 highway.

tourist map of Mato Grosso do Sul
tourist map of Mato Grosso do Sul

Tourist attractions in Corumbá MS

Corumbá is the perfect place for tourists who love to explore Brazil’s natural diversity and experience the history behind every tourist spot, every detail.

Corumbá MS - Cidade baixa, Orla do porto geral, casario, prainha e o museu da história do Pantanal

Corumbá is full of history, which can be identified in old mansions, monuments, museums and viewpoints, such as São Felipe, which allows you to see the whole city, the Pantanal river and the Paraguay river.

The city was created was marked by wars, invasions and conquests that leave their trace in today’s culture.

  1. Historic House
  2. Casa do Massabarro
  3. Museum of the History of the Pantanal – Muphan
  4. Christ King of the Pantanal
  5. Junqueira Fort
  6. Geral Port
  7. Our Lady of Candelaria Cathedral
  8. Hotels Boats
  9. Coimbra Fort
  10. ILA – Luiz de Albuquerque Institute
  11. Our Lady Help of Christians Sanctuary
  12. Independence Square
  13. Towards the Bolivian border
  14. Pantanal Parkway

1. Historic houses

A century ago, Corumbá had one of the largest river ports in Latin America.

Historic houses in Corumbá MS
Historic houses in Corumbá MS

At the time, the imposing mansions on the city’s waterfront were built to house international bank branches, large emporiums and tanneries.

Although it was listed as a national historic heritage site in 1992, the houses have deteriorated, giving a decadent air to the so-called historic center, which also faces a serious prostitution problem.

Among the buildings that retain their charm are the 1909 Casa Vasquez & Filhos (ladeira José Bonifácio, 171, Centro), in the art nouveau style, and the Wanderley Baís & Cia building, which houses the municipality’s Department of Tourism (rua Manoel Cavassa, 275, Porto Geral).

In 2006, work began on revitalizing the area as part of the Monumenta Programme, a partnership between the Ministry of Culture, Iphan and Unesco. During the renovation, Casa Vasquez & Filhos will be closed to visitors.

2. Casa do Massabarro

This is the home of an artisans’ association that trains and encourages young people from Corumbá to work with ceramics.

Casa do Massabarro in Corumbá MS
Casa do Massabarro in Corumbá MS

Visitors to the Casa do Massa Barro can observe the stages of the process and buy miniatures of animals such as jaguars and tuiuiú, as well as images of Our Lady of the Pantanal and Saint Francis.

The institution gained notoriety thanks to carnival designer Joãosinho Trinta, who twice took apprentice craftsmen to decorate floats for the Rio Carnival. Rua Cacimba da Saúde, s/n.

3. Pantanal History Museum – Muphan

The museum tells the story of the human occupation of the Pantanal, exhibits the archaeology of the region, with characteristics that also serve as an attraction for ecological and cultural tourism as well as ethnology, ethnohistory, history and social anthropology, with permanent and temporary exhibition areas, aimed at the regional, national and international public.

Museum of Pantanal History in Corumbá
Museum of Pantanal History in Corumbá

Currently the museum only offers the fixed collection, the building is divided into three floors, where there are exhibitions of: Ten Pantanais (flora, fauna, climate, relief and others), Human Occupation in the Pantanal, Indigenous Peoples, Spanish Conquest, Jesuit Missions, Portuguese Domination, The Great War in Southern Mato Grosso, Pantanal Train and Corumbá Port.

The museum houses a library, a film library, an auditorium, a meeting room and a room for teaching courses, as well as a space for traveling exhibitions.

4. Christ the King of the Pantanal

Made by artisan Izulina Xavier, the Cristo Rei do Pantanal is located at the top of Morro do Cruzeiro, in the upper part of the city.

At 293 m high and with a 360º view, you can see Corumbá, Ladário, Bolivia and the Pantanal.

Cristo Rei do Pantanal
Cristo Rei do Pantanal

One of the most beautiful views of the place is the impressive Pantanal sunset. The route to Cristo Rei is also an attraction in itself. Along the way, sculptures by Izulina Xavier represent the 14 stations of the Passion of Christ.

5. Junqueira Fort

It was built shortly after the Paraguayan War (1871) in a privileged area, from where you can see the River Paraguay and the Pantanal landscape.

Fort Junqueira in Corumbá MS
Fort Junqueira in Corumbá MS

The 12 75 mm cannons that belong to the fort were manufactured by the English company Fried Krupp around 1872 and have never been used.

The fort’s walls are made of limestone and are three meters thick.

It is located within the 17th Battalion of Hunters.

It was named after the Minister of War at the time, José de Oliveira Junqueira, who died in 1887. Visitors may visit with a permit.

6. Geral Port

Corumbá’s waterfront is a record of great achievements. It is made up of centuries-old buildings, where the commercial center was located at the beginning of the last century.

Its commercial importance is revealed by the fact that it was the 3rd largest commercial port in Latin America. It is home to tourist agencies, restaurants and craft stores.

This port area is one of the main tourist attractions and is especially popular at weekends. The Casario do Porto complex is listed as one of the municipality’s material cultural heritage sites.

7. Cathedral of Our Lady of Candelaria 

The Cathedral of Our Lady of Candelaria is one of the oldest in the state. It was built by Friar Mariano de Bagnaia in the 19th century and, since 2017, has been a Corumbá Historical and Cultural Heritage Site.

Igreja Nossa Senhora da Candelária em Corumbá MS
Igreja Nossa Senhora da Candelária em Corumbá MS

In 2021 it was listed by the State Government as a Material Historical Heritage of Mato Grosso do Sul.

The church was built with elements of eclectic architecture in front of Praça da República, where the heroic retaking of Corumbá took place during the Paraguayan War (1864-1870).

Its altar features a coat of arms of the Portuguese crown, indicating the European influences on the property, and also houses an image of Our Lady of Candelaria, the city’s patron saint.

8. Hotel-boats

The biggest dream of fishermen who frequent the Paraguay River is to travel on a hotel boat, a large vessel with conventional hotel services – always on a full board basis – and which offers all the necessary structure for fishing.

The most comfortable ones are standardized, with very few variations between them: the biggest differences are in the number of cabins and the configuration of the beds.

In all of them, the accommodation has its own bathroom and air conditioning.

Travel packages are generally sold to closed groups, who choose the length of the trip they want and pay for the number of nights; some hotel-boats program packages with a fixed duration.

Fishermen are provided with a speedboat with pilotage, which is included in the daily rate, and a cold room for their catch. Some hotel boats have a radio system integrated with the telephone.

Although the majority of people on these boats are fishermen, it is also a great program for ecotourists, who will be enchanted by the wonderful starry sky. Be warned.

However, it is not uncommon for these boats to be the target of the local prostitution industry, where girls are included in the tours.

More information can be found in the Hotels, restaurants and services section on the pages dedicated to the cities of Cáceres, Poconé, Porto Murtinho and Corumbá.

9. Coimbra Fort

The Coimbra Fort is located on the right bank of the Paraguay River, close to the Brazil-Bolivia-Paraguay triple border. This fort was built in 1775 by the Portuguese Crown to defend the colony’s western border from attacks by the Spanish and the Paiaguás and Guaicurus Indians.

Coimbra Fort in Corumbá MS
Coimbra Fort in Corumbá MS

Coimbra’s test of fire came in 1801, when it was attacked by Spanish forces.

The Portuguese, despite being outnumbered, heroically withstood four days of bombardment until the Spanish squadron gave up. In 1864, during the Paraguayan War, enemy troops occupied the fortress.

Today the site is home to a Brazilian Army border base and a military hotel that welcomes tourists. The building stands on a slope, which guarantees a good view of the River Paraguay and the surrounding plains.

The most beautiful view is provided by the cannon lookout. The fort has a museum with photos, texts and historical objects.

The Coimbra fort can be reached by boat from Porto Mortinho, on the BR-262 bridge over the Paraguay River.

There are speedboats that make the journey in two hours every day and an army boat that makes the journey every two weeks in around six hours.

10. ILA – Luiz de Albuquerque Institute

ILA - Luiz de Albuquerque Institute in Corumbá MS
ILA – Luiz de Albuquerque Institute in Corumbá MS

The Luiz de Albuquerque Institute is housed in a building built in 1871 to house the Luiz Albuquerque School Group, in honor of the founder of Corumbá.

In 1978, it became the headquarters of the Luiz de Albuquerque Institute, a Regional Center for Research and Culture, which aimed to contribute to the integrated development of the Pantanal micro-region.

In 1997, it became the House of Culture, under the responsibility of the Mato Grosso do Sul State Culture Foundation. Today, in addition to the cultural activities held there, it is also the headquarters of the Municipality’s Culture Superintendence. 

11. Our Lady Help of Christians Sanctuary

Shrine of Our Lady Help of Christians in Corumbá MS
Shrine of Our Lady Help of Christians in Corumbá MS

A life-size wooden sculpture of Christ on the Cross, created by local artist Burgo, who at the time was a friend of Pablo Picasso, is housed inside the shrine, which was built in 1899. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1992.

12. Independence Square

Independence Square in Corumbá MS
Independence Square in Corumbá MS

Independence Square was officially inaugurated in 1917, with four sculptures made of Carrara marble representing the four seasons. The stones were donated by an Italian count who was visiting the Pantanal to hunt.

Also in this square is an octagonal-shaped bandstand and a paving mosaic from Germany;

13. Towards the Bolivian border

Corumbá is just 20 kilometers from Bolivia. The two nearest Bolivian towns.

Quijarro and Puerto Suárez are free trade zones. In their shopping malls and street markets you can find electronic products, cosmetics, clothing and Andean handicrafts, among others.

Each person is entitled to buy one hundred and fifty dollars worth of goods, tax free. Brazilian tourists wishing to cross to the Bolivian side must carry a recent photo ID.

Foreigners need to be aware of the agreements between their countries of origin and Bolivia on whether or not they need a visa to enter.

To make the round trip between the border and the Quijarro free zone, taxi drivers charge around twenty reais (this includes the waiting time for purchases).

The famous “train of death” departs from Quijarro, linking the city to Santa Cruz de la Sierra on a nineteen-hour journey.

The route is used by backpackers who, from Santa Cruz, head to Cuzco and Machu Picchu in Peru.

Tickets vary between 6 and 15 dollars: the more expensive option offers a little more discomfort, while the cheaper option sees tourists traveling in wagons that are often overcrowded.

14. Pantanal Parkway

The route of the so-called Pantanal Park Road corresponds to the route opened by Cândido Mariano da Silva Rondou (1865-1958) at the beginning of the 20th century for the transmission of telegraph lines.

map Estrada Parque Pantanal
map Estrada Parque Pantanal

Until the opening of the BR-262 highway, it was the only land access to Corumbá.

After being forgotten for some time, it was revived as an ecotourism route, when it received the name by which it is known today.

Its 120 kilometers of land – interconnected by 87 precarious wooden bridges and passable during the rainy season only by four-wheel drive vehicles – cut through a beautiful and wild Pantanal area.

Pantanal Park Road
Pantanal Park Road

In addition to the landscapes, it is possible to see many animals, including a huge diversity of birds.

The first 50 kilometers from Corumbá, where it is advisable to refuel the vehicle, you cross the Urucum mountain range, a massif whose rocks have a reddish color due to the high concentration of iron ore.

At the end of the mountain range, you reach Porto da Manga, a fishing district on the banks of the Paraguay River, where you can cross by ferry. The journey continues for 18 kilometers to Curva do Leque, a crossroads.

Turning right, after 42 kilometers you reach Passo do Lontra, the most populated area in the region, where there are a number of inns for fishermen and a gas station.

The Park Road then passes through some farms (there are branches that can become impassable) and ends at km 664 of the BR-262 highway in the town known as Buraco das Piranhas.

It’s worth noting that the Estrada Parque is one of the few places in the Pantanal where visitors can enjoy independent tourism.

History of Corumbá MS

Corumbá is a name of Tupi-Guarani origin, meaning “distant place”, which was the final denomination, after those that occurred throughout history. Another name given to the place was Arraial de Nossa Senhora da Conceição de Albuquerque, which was kept until the town grew a little further south in the Pantanal and became an important military environment. When it became a settlement, the Portuguese land explorer Aleixo Garcia traveled to the Corumbá region, arriving at the Paraguay River or Miranda River in 1524.

As we said earlier, what attracted the Portuguese to the area was the presence of precious stones and metals, which until then had been used as ornaments by the indigenous people who already inhabited the region. This dispute led to conflicts between the two peoples. Even so, European interest in the Pantanal lands became a common reality, as a few years later, in 1537 and 1538, two Spaniards set off down the Paraguay River in search of gold. On this journey, they took over Puerto de los Reyes, also known as the Gaíva lagoon.

The Pantanal capital was officially formed in 1778 and became the main trading post in the region. With this title, the passage of boats on the Paraguay River was freed up for commercial transactions. This liberation contributed to the fact that between 1864 and 1870, Corumbá was the scene of one of the biggest battles during the Paraguayan War. At that time it was occupied and practically destroyed by Solano Lopez’s troops.

After the Paraguayan War, the city was retaken and began to be rebuilt, and soon new European immigrants and people from South America were arriving to support and boost Corumbá’s economic development. This arrival made the capital the third largest port in Latin America.

At the beginning of the 20th century, with the construction of the Noroeste do Brasil railroad, Brazil’s commercial axis shifted from Mato Grosso do Sul to Campo Grande, and so there was an emphasis on farming, rural activities and mineral extraction in Corumbá. As the city already benefited from the biome, it is still known as the “ecological sanctuary” of the Pantanal. Thus, all tourism and especially Pantanal ecotourism in the city of Corumbá began at the end of the 1970s, when the city was revitalized and the historic buildings restored.

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