The largest collection of cave paintings ever found in the world is in the Serra da Capivara National Park in Piauí, spread over 129,140 hectares of this park, declared a cultural heritage of humanity by Unesco in 1991.
Serra da Capivara National Park is home to more than 800 archaeological sites, most of them under rocks.
Of this total, 128 are open to public visitation and have access infrastructure, roads to trails and safe stairs that allow visitors to approach the rock paintings.
Archaeologist Niede Guidon, who runs the park with IBAMA, says she has found evidence of human settlement up to 100,000 years old – which goes against the classical theories that man arrived in America through the Bering Strait 20,000 years ago.
Regardless of the controversies, the Serra da Capivara National Park (in which polished stone artifacts, ceramics and fossils of prehistoric animals such as the giant sloth and armadillo have been found) is pure dazzle: on all sides you can see rugged terrain, immense rocky blocks covered by undergrowth in the lower parts and by forests with trees over 20 meters high at the top of the plateaus; the fauna comprises over thirty species of mammals and two hundred birds, as well as lizards, frogs and snakes.
It is possible to travel through the Serra da Capivara National Park by car, but those who prefer to visit it on foot can choose between light or heavy trails.
The practice of adventure sports is prohibited, and the accompaniment of a guide, indicated by local hotels or hired at the city’s receptive, is mandatory. It is essential to wear comfortable clothes, sneakers, a hat and sunscreen. Who takes it: Capivara Trails.
Tourist Spots of Serra da Capivara
In addition to the archaeological sites, which are the hallmark of the Serra da Capivara National Park, there are other laser options. We list below 10 attractions. Check them out!
1. Pedra Furada
An iconic attraction, it is the postcard of the park.
2. Rock paintings at Boqueirão da Pedra Furada
The Toca do Boqueirão da Pedra Furada contains about a thousand cave paintings and is considered the Sistine Chapel of Serra da Capivara, its largest archaeological site.
Studies indicate that the paintings were made between 3,000 and 12,000 years ago.
3. Circuit of Baixão da Pedra Furada
The tour, which can be done in one day, starts at the east entrance of the park, with access via BR-020, passing by the Mocó site, where there are toilets, snack bars and even camping.
From the same entrance you can also reach the Meio site, where there are traces of pottery over 8900 years old.
The itinerary includes visits to the burrows of Cajueiro, Fumaça, Macário and Fundo do Baixão.
The highlight is the Pedra Furada lair, the most important archaeological site in the Serra da Capivara, where the remains of a bonfire were found that, according to Niede Guidon’s team, would prove the thesis that human groups inhabited the region 100,000 years ago.
From the lowland of Pedra Furada you reach the Circuit of Alto da Pedra Furada, which also includes the passage through the lowland of Women – a canyon 60 meters high with three archaeological sites – , and the top of the Rodrigues cauldron.
The visitor climbs a staircase with 350 steps that leads to the top of Pedra Furada. However, the passage through the top of the stone is not advised for people with heart problems and without physical preparation.
4. Trail Alto dos Canoas and Caldeirâo dos Rodrigues
From the Arame do Sansão burrow, at the bottom of the Pedra Furada lowland, you walk along a trail of 800 meters to the stone stairs that give access to the top of the plateau.
This brings you to the Canoas site, with its rock inscriptions, from where you can continue on to the caldeirões, the term used to describe the depressions in the rock surfaces that hold water after rain.
From the top of the plateau it is possible to descend by an iron ladder to the bottom of a valley, called Caldeirão dos Rodrigues II, where there are luteous rupes tres paintings depicting scenes of social life.
5. Capivara Gorge
This corner was traveled millennia ago by the inhabitants of the mountains to reach the corners in which they sheltered, today known as the burrows of the entrance of Pajaú, Barro, Inferno, the entrance of the Baixão da Vaca, Pajaú and Paraguaio.
In the gorge there is a viewpoint with a panoramic view of the São Francisco plain.
From this circuit it is possible to reach, on foot, two others: the Veadinhos Azuis, a set of cave paintings in which the color blue was used (the first of this color to be discovered in the world), and the boqueirão do Paraguaio, a refuge in which prehistoric man, among trees of the Atlantic forest preserved in the middle of the caatinga, left paintings that depict human figures decorated with geometric tracings.
Access to the Capivara Gorge is via the guardhouse located on BR-020, just after the town of Coronel José Dias.
6. Sítio do Meio
It represents one of the most important shelters of the world archeology. In this site were found the oldest pieces of pottery in the Americas, from 8,960 years ago, and the first American artifact in polished stone.
7. Site of the Little Blue Deer
The first blue prehistoric paintings were found here. Currently, another site in Colombia has been discovered with blue prehistoric paintings.
In addition to this archaeological rarity, the tour is worth it for the wonderful landscape that can be seen from above.
8. Baixão das Andorinhas
This is a gorge from which you can watch the swallows return to their cave in the late afternoon.
9. Interpretive Trail of Fazendo Jurubeba
It is part of the historical trails “No Rastro da Maniçoba” and shows aspects of the colonial occupation in the region. It has about 2 hours of walking. This trail passes through the Toca da Dama and Toca da Ema sites. Along the way it is possible to see some ruins of houses from the 19th century.
The region is also suitable for cycling. There are some drivers, specialists in the modality, who offer light or heavy rides. However, it is necessary to bring your bicycle, as the Park does not yet have a rental/bicycle service.
11. Local handicrafts
In the surroundings of the unit it is possible to know the production of ceramics with cave paintings and the work of artisans.
During the route to the sites it is possible to find several viewpoints that lead to beautiful points, such as: Alto da Pedra Furada, the Panoramic View of Pedra Furada, Serrinha, Toca do Conflito, Mirante da BR-020, among others.
13. Museum of the American Man
It consists of a collection composed of skeletons, ceramics and other artifacts from the archaeological excavations of Serra da Capivara. In addition, it has a panel with an exhibition of cave paintings from archaeological sites in the region.
How to get to Serra da Capivara
You can get to São Raimundo Nonato (PI), the main headquarters of the Park, through Serra da Capivara Airport, which was inaugurated in November 2015. It is located on the road to Dirceu Arcoverde. However, it should be noted that this airport is not yet fully functional, making very few daily flights. Another option is the Nilo Coelho International Airport, which is located on BR – 235, in Petrolina (PE) and is 303 km from São Raimundo Nonato (PI).
Teresina (PI) has a daily bus, which runs three times a day, departing from the Governador Lucídio Portella Bus Terminal, which is located at Rodovia Gov. Lucídio Portella, s/nº, Bairro Redenção. Petrolina (PE) offers daily buses, once a day, from the Governador Nilo Coelho Bus Terminal, which is located at Avenida Nilo Coelho, s/nº, Bairro Gercino Coelho.
Leaving Teresina (PI) by BR-316, it is necessary to continue on BR-343 until Floriano, turn right to BR-230, then follow PI-140 and continue on BR-324 until São Raimundo Nonato (route with 520 km).
Leaving Petrolina (PE), take BR-235 to Remanso (BA), continue on BR-324 to São Raimundo Nonato. After the city of Remanso, there are about 100 km of unpaved roads (route with 303 km).
Where to stay
The Park does not have areas for camping or overnight stays for visitors.
However, in São Raimundo Nonato there are several lodging options, in hotels or inns. In Coronel José Dias, in addition to the inns, there is a Camping in the village “Sítio do Mocó”.
The Serra da Capivara National Park can be visited throughout the year. It is open from 6am to 6pm.
Tickets can be purchased at the entrance guardhouses until 5pm. People over 60 years old and children under 12 do not pay;
Serra da Capivara National Park Tourism and Travel Guide