The São Francisco River Valley, icon of the northeastern hinterland, discovered in 1501 by Americo Vespuccio and André Gonçalves on October 4 – the day of St. Francis of Assisi – rises in Minas Gerais and crosses Bahia from south to north, going as far as Pernambuco and flowing into the border between Alagoas and Sergipe.
The cities of the São Francisco River Valley in Bahia have excellent tourist potential, especially for those who like to explore places that are not yet very explored.
The São Francisco River Valley is the region drained by the São Francisco River and its tributaries.
It is located in the states of Minas Gerais, Bahia, Pernambuco, Sergipe and Alagoas;
The rivers, rapids, caves, waterfalls, archaeological sites and stone walls hidden among the vegetation of the caatinga and cerrado enchant visitors to the São Francisco River Valley.
It is a part of Brazil that is special for those who want to get off the beaten track and learn more about their country.
The folklore, handicrafts and cuisine are authentic, and have not been adapted to please visitors, as happens in some places where tourism is the main source of income.
Incoming tourism agencies organize itineraries and provide guides. Paulo Afonso, which attracts extreme sports enthusiasts, is a good base for those wishing to navigate the canyons of the São Francisco River.
Tourist attractions of the São Francisco River Valley
Located in the middle São Francisco, in the polygon of droughts, a poor region, Bom Jesus da Lapa is known as the “Bahian Capital of Faith”.
The Sanctuary of Bom Jesus da Lapa, a place of religious pilgrimage, is located within a complex of caves at the top of an elevation of approximately 100m, which stands out on the plain.
The religious “high season” runs from July to September, when the city is visited by hundreds of thousands of people, reaching its peak on August 6, dedicated to Bom Jesus da Lapa, whose image is carried in procession.
West of the São Francisco River, on the banks of its tributary Rio Grande, is the city of Barreiras.
More focused on business tourism than leisure, as it is the main political and economic center of the region, the city reserves surprises for those who want to find unusual landscapes and experience new adventures.
Nearby there are archaeological sites, mountains good for trekking, waterfalls and rock walls for rappelling, rapids for rafting and caves. Its rivers are great for fishing, canoeing and float-crossing.
The biggest event in the city of Barreiras is the micareta Barreiras Folia, an off-season Carnival that attracts mainly young people. The same applies to the Carnival and June festivals, when Bahia forgets the axé and boils to the rhythm of forró.
Anyone who imagines that Juazeiro, in the north of Bahia, on the banks of the São Francisco River, is a harsh and backward place, is mistaken. The city is modern, with new buildings and paved streets lined with carnauba trees.
On the riverfront there is a public promenade where locals go to watch the sunset and enjoy the scenery.
The São Francisco has several river islands in the Juazeiro region. Massanganos is one of the favourites of the young people, who organize luaus by the light of bonfires that only end at dawn.
For lovers of trekking there are trails that lead to the mountains and rock paintings on the walls of a large canyon.
4. Paulo Afonso
The city located on an island in the São Francisco River originates from a settlement that emerged in 1725 in the sesmaria of Paulo Viveiros Afonso.
In 1913, businessman and engineer Delmiro Gouveia built the Angiquinho hydroelectric plant on this stretch of the river, which operated until 1960.
On the São Francisco River, which is navigable near Paulo Afonso, catamaran rides and water sports can be enjoyed.
Local handicrafts include leather goods, straw, lianas, hammocks and lace. The tourist structure is satisfactory.
The Pernambuco side of the Velho Chico sister cities is among the best ecotourism destinations in Brazil.
This means that you will find several alternatives of tours in Petrolina, from tours through the prestigious wineries of the region to the islands in the middle of the São Francisco, passing through a lot of culture, crafts and gastronomy.
São Desidério is a small town located in the western region of Bahia, 900 km from Salvador and has been gaining fame among tourists who are passionate about nature and extreme sports.
This is because the city has more than 100 caves perfect for those who enjoy climbing and hiking.
7. Wine Route in the São Francisco River Valley
Wine production in the São Francisco Valley is concentrated between Bahia and Pernambuco, on the Petrolina-Juazeiro axis. Get to know our itinerary in the Wine Route in the São Francisco River Valley, full of surprises and unforgettable experiences.
The base city is Petrolina, and from there the tours leave to explore the main wineries in the municipalities of Lagoa Grande and Santa Maria in Pernambuco and Casa Nova, in Bahia.
An itinerary to get to know the production of tropical wines, with grapes grown in an environment not very conducive to wine production – dry, clayey, stony soil, and lots of sun. Discover the region’s wine history, vineyard management techniques and enjoy fine still and sparkling wines. All this on the banks of the São Francisco River.
Curiosities of the region
- Emblematic grapes of the region: Syrah. Tempranillo and Moscato
- The region produces the so-called tropical wines, with originality and its own identity of the tropical region, distinctive in the wine world.
- On the same day, you can see the vineyards in different phases: resting, pruning, budding and harvesting
- In the São Francisco Valley, the vine cycle is 4 months, which results in 2 harvests per year, which normally, in the wine world, occurs only 1 harvest per year.
- Harvest seasons: from April to August and from October to February. Traveling during these periods is interesting to experience the experience of picking the grapes!
- The region is responsible for 90% of Brazil’s table grape production and the largest mango producer in the country.
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