Vale do Catimbau National Park PE – Tourism Guide

Parque Nacional Vale do Catimbau PE
Parque Nacional Vale do Catimbau PE

Catimbau National Park, also known as Vale do Catimbau, is a Brazilian national park in the state of Pernambuco.

The main reason for Catimbau National Park’s fame is a wall, called Archaeological Site of the Headless Men.

According to scholars, these cave paintings were made about seven thousand years ago by the first inhabitants of the region. It is an opportunity to better understand how our ancestors lived.

Created on 22 August 2002, it covers the municipalities of Buíque, Ibimirim, Sertânia and Tupanatinga, between the Agreste and the Sertão Pernambuco.

An immense complex of more than 62,000 hectares of mountains and rocks.

Sítio Arqueológico dos Homens Sem Cabeça
Homens Sem Cabeça Archaeological Site

The park is the second in the state (the first is Fernando de Noronha). Catimbau preserves one of the last areas of the Caatinga.

Small unlit pipe, witchcraft practices and place of snakes, all this is what Catimbau means in Tupi.

The valley that bears the same name and is located 283 kilometres from Recife, in the heart of the Pernambuco Sertão, is also like this: it hides great surprises and curiosities.

Mapa do Parque Nacional Vale do Catimbau PE
Map of the Vale do Catimbau National Park PE

The Catimbau Valley, named a national park in 2002 by the National Historical and Artistic Heritage Institute (IPHAN), is considered the second largest in Brazil, behind only the Serra da Capivara in Piauí.

The immense rock walls present unique shapes and hide an intense mysticism.

The valley has several archaeological sites, caves, prehistoric cemeteries and cave paintings over six thousand years old.

The valley is the gateway to tourism in our municipality of Buíque.

It brings a unique charm. If we talk about the geological issue, it has records from a very remote past.

In terms of human history, we have fossils dating back more than 6,500 years.

There are sands of various colours, a large number of caves, and vegetation that is very different from the rest of our country. It is formed by works of art in the midst of rocks, mountains, caves, valleys and cave paintings.

It is the second largest archaeological park in Brazil and is that it was chosen as one of the seven wonders of Pernambuco.

The Vale do Catimbau PE National Park is that place that few have heard of, but that brings great wealth of history, architectural works, adventures and beautiful landscapes.

Parque Nacional Vale do Catimbau PE


    • 2nd largest archaeological park in Brazil
    • There are approximately 2,000 caves and 28 cemetery caves
    • One of the last preserved areas of the caatinga existing in Brazil
    • Trails, for the most part, with a low degree of difficulty in the path
    • Meet its tourist attraction postcard: the Pedra Furada

Tours and trails

The tour can be to Pedra do Elefante, Camelo, Cavalo Marinho and Cachorro and you can take the opportunity to do the sanctuary trail.

There is also the possibility of visiting the Canyon and Pedra da Igrejinha (set of rock formations).

Another trail option is the Men Without Head passing through the Chapadão Trail and also the Casa da Farinha trail where the cave paintings are.

These are some suggestions, but there are many others that the guide can suggest!

It is worth mentioning that it is mandatory to hire a guide, as access to these tours and trails is complex and only those who know the place well can indicate where to stop in order to glimpse the landscapes.


The park also has many waterfalls for you to take a good bath in the heat of the northeastern hinterland.

They are present on the various trails, walks through the forest, so the guide can suggest which ones can be best used!

Umburana Trail (1,3Km – 1h30)

The Umburanas Trail of the Catimbau Valley 

It is a very quiet trail and along it we give a little geology and morphology lesson.

Vale do Catimbau - Trilha da Umburana

The differential of it is the observation of geological formations that look like various animals and objects”, explained João. The wind-moulded stones really play with visitors’ imaginations.

One of the most curious is the open-mouthed witch and the ship.

But along the way, the guide shows several animals carved on the edge of the sandstone plateau, such as lizard, capybara, turtle, alligator, etc. In addition to the figures, the beautiful visual of the walls in the background completes the scene, which becomes even more special when you find a heart drawn on the stone just below.

Sanctuary Trail (3km – 2 hours)

Tourists begin the 3 kilometre walk, which takes an average of two hours in total.

The sensation of entering the dry vegetation in the dark is quite different. Lanterns help on the route, which gradually becomes brighter as dawn approaches.

Vale do Catimbau - Trilha do Santuário

After walking for about 40 minutes, you reach a point on top of a plain, perfect for contemplating the arrival of the king star.

Then you just have to relax and let yourself be bathed in the first rays of the sun.

This experience alone was worth getting out of bed early, but the trail still holds other beautiful surprises for those who dawdle.

With the temperature still pleasant, tourists begin the other stage of the walk, which will end in one of the magical and intriguing places of the Vale do Catimbau National Park.

Trilha das Torres (5 km – 2 hours)

The Torres Trail is one of the largest, most complete and beautiful in the Catimbau Valley.

Along its almost 5 km long, the visitor is faced with stunning landscapes, unique scenery and art over six thousand years old.

Vale do Catimbau - Trilha das Torres

The Pedra do Cachorro has multiple attractions, as well as multiple views, which, depending on the angle, also looks like a chimpanzee, a parrot’s beak and a sphinx. “It all depends on the point of the walk from where you look. We Pernambucans translate this as the stubbornness of imagination.”

Trilha da Igrejinha (0.6km – 30 minutes)

The Igrejinha Trail is one of the easiest and fastest in the Catimbau Valley.

When you get out of the car, you only have to walk for less than 15 minutes to arrive about three hundred metres later at the imposing rock formation with a crack in the middle, which gives the trail its name because it looks like a church door.

Vale do Catimbau - Trilha da Igrejinha

The view is even more stunning at dusk when the last rays of the sun reinforce the orange outlines of the rocks. The place, which carries a mystical air, is one of the main postcards of the valley.

Among the many legends is that anyone who passes through the crevice would enter another dimension.

Beliefs aside, the place, like so many others scattered throughout the valley, seems to have a different energy. No wonder it is a popular route for those seeking a more intimate contact with nature through meditation. We met a group of almost 20 people who left Recife to practice yoga there.

“A place where we can integrate with silence, fresh air, nature and ourselves. So here we feel that difference of getting that connection with the whole that is within our reach anywhere, but here it seems easier,” said yoga instructor Camila Leal.

Where it is

The Catimbau Valley is located between Agreste and Sertão Pernambucano, with the closest access being through the municipality of Buíque, in Pernambuco.

It is also 300 kilometres from Recife, where you can drive peacefully.

How to go

You can also take a bus at the bus station in Recife/PE or go by car via BR-232 (inland direction), leaving Recife/PE.

Northeast Tourism Guide

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