We have prepared a complete and updated guide to visit the amazing caves and attractions of PETAR 

caves filled with unique rock formations, rivers, mountains, valleys and waterfalls. so is the PETAR (Alto Ribeira Tourist State Park), a true natural treasure located in the extreme south of the State of São Paulo, close to the border with Paraná.

The park, considered UNESCO World Heritage Site, is home to more than 300 caves, only 12 of which are open to visitors – enough to be dazzled by the scenic landscapes that unfold along the trails.

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With an area of 360 thousand square kilometers, the attractions are divided into four centers, with different levels of difficulty: Santana, Ouro Grosso, Casa de Pedra and Caboclos. We prepared this complete guide to know how to visit the caves of this one of the places in São Paulo that will impress you.

Cities close to PETAR

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Photo: SERGIO RAVACCI DE OLIVEIRA JÚNIOR/ Wikimedia Commons

PETAR is located between the cities of Apiaí and Iporanga. Close to Iporanga is where the most visited attractions of PETAR are, which are the Núcleo Santana and Núcleo Ouro Grosso.

The inns and campsites are concentrated, above all, in Bairro da Serra, next to the access to these two centers. However, there are also accommodations in the city center, which is about a 40-minute drive – along a dirt road – from the entrance to these attractions.

Staying in Apiaí can be a good option for those visiting Núcleo Caboclos due to its proximity (26 kilometers). However, for those who want to visit the attractions of Núcleo Santana, the distance is about 75 kilometers. Apiaí has hotels and inns located in the city center.

What to do in PETAR

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Photo: SERGIO RAVACCI DE OLIVEIRA JÚNIOR/ Wikimedia Commons

PETAR is divided into four tourist centers that bring together more than 30 attractions including caves, waterfalls, trails, historic sites, among others. Let's highlight the main features of each core, as well as what to do in each of them:

Santana

Santana is the most visited center of PETAR and concentrates more tourist attractions, with greater infrastructure and less “wild” than the others – this does not mean that they are very easy. This is where the Santana cave is located, which has the largest number of rock formations in the park, with immense halls full of stalagmites and stalactites.

In Núcleo Santana is also the Couto Cave, where the waterfall flows from inside the caves, and Morro Preto, where it is possible to have a fabulous and panoramic view of the rock formations in contrast to the forest. It is very common to do these three caves – Santana, Morro Preto and Couto – in one day. There is still a little time left to cool off in the natural pool of Rio Betari before leaving.

In Núcleo Santana there is also the Betari Trail, with about 7 kilometers, round trip, bordering the river of the same name and the riparian forest that protects it. Along the way, it is possible to visit the beautiful Caverna da Água Suja and the Caverna do Cafezal, in addition to the Andorinhas and Betarizinho waterfalls. This route is normally also carried out in a full day.

Thick Gold

Ouro Grosso Nucleus is very close to Santana Nucleus. This is where the Ouro Grosso and Alambari de Baixo caves are located, which require a slightly higher level of physical preparation than those in Santana. Both are wet caves, that is: wrap your belongings, such as cell phones and cameras, in waterproof bags or prefer not to take them. Also wear warmer clothes, as the interior of these caves is usually very cold.

In Ouro Grosso Cave, it is necessary to crawl between the rocks in some narrow places. However, waterfalls and small wells, in addition to the constant noise of water, make up for all the excitement of the journey.

In the Alambari de Baixo Cave, in a certain section, it is necessary to hold a rope to cross the water, which reaches waist height. Despite not concentrating so many formations, the adrenaline will satisfy any adventurous spirit.

Stone house

The Casa de Pedra Nucleus is located approximately 15 kilometers from Ouro Grosso and Santana. The place houses the cave of the same name, which holds a record: it has the largest portico in the world, according to the Guinness Book. Its “gateway” is an impressive 215 meters high.

However, visiting the interior of the cave is not allowed. What is done is a heavy trail of approximately four hours of travel to glimpse its incredible portal, which is already worth all the effort. It is worth remembering that this route, with ascents and rivers to cross, requires greater physical preparation than the previous ones.

caboclos

This can be considered the most difficult Nucleus of PETAR and with the least structure, so it is also the least visited. With trails that require some preparation from the visitor, the effort is worth it when what you see is untouched nature and beauties surrounded by native forest.

The Terminina Cave is the most famous of this nucleus and one of the most beautiful in the park. To access it is necessary two and a half hours of walking through a difficult level trail, with many steep sections. A kind of suspended garden at its entrance and rock formations inside illuminated by beams of sunlight complement the adventure.

The core still has the Hat Caves, Mirim Hats I and II, Spiders and Teminina II. Besides them, there are also two waterfalls, Maximiliano and Sete Reis. The Caboclos Center is also the only one in PETAR with a camping area in the middle of the forest (there is no electricity on site).

Values to visit the park in 2020

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Photo: Disclosure

The fee to visit the park's attractions (charged only at Núcleos Santana, Caboclos and Ouro Grosso) in 2020 is R$ 16.00 (students pay half admission). Visitors can also purchase an annual package, with a discount of 30% for R$ 112.

In addition to the access fees to the park, it is necessary to hire an environmental monitor for the region, who is responsible for a group of a maximum of 8 people. The amounts charged for each guide are individual and can reach R$ 200 per day per person.

Nearby attractions

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Photo: Brunosk96/ Wikimedia Commons

In addition to the PETAR centers, the region has other beauties on the way between Iporanga and Eldorado. It is worth taking the time to include these attractions in your itinerary. Are they:

devil's cave

Fully structured with wooden walkways and very accessible for the elderly and children, it is worth planning a visit to the Devil's Cave during your itinerary through PETAR. In addition to dating back more than 600 million years, the cave is full of halls with beautiful stalactites, stalagmites and columns. The visit lasts approximately one hour and is limited to groups of 12 people at a time.

My God waterfall

Another beauty on the way between the capital of São Paulo and PETAR is the impressive waterfall Queda de Meu Deus. It is accessed through the Vale das Ostras trail, which also includes 11 more falls. However, it is possible to “cut” the path by a shorter route, which takes about an hour. The waterfall has an immense drop of 53 meters surrounded by dense forest.

How to get to PETAR

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Photo: Patricia Ferrari/ Wikimedia Commons

- By car

Departing from São Paulo, just follow the Régis Bitencourt highway. The duration of the trip is approximately 4 hours. From Jacupiranga to Iporanga there is a stretch with some holes in the track, which is one-way. Don't forget to go slowly and pay attention, as animals can also cross the road.

- By bus

Getting to PETAR by bus from São Paulo is not the easiest task, but it is not impossible. From the Barra Funda Bus Terminal it is possible to take the transport to Apiaí by the company transpen (7 hours of travel). From Apiaí, there is an intercity line that leaves once a day to Iporanga. There are also some tourist agencies that offer transfers from Apiaí to Iporanga.

Best time to visit PETAR

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Photo: Jura – Parque Aventuras

PETAR has a subtropical climate. Therefore, summers are hot and humid, while winters are drier and colder. The rainy season takes place between December and March, when dirt roads can become difficult to navigate.

In addition, with the rain, some caves and trails may be closed to visit due to the risk of accidents. Between the months of April and November, it rains less, but the temperature drops. The average temperature during winter in PETAR is 18ºC.

What to know before going to PETAR

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Photo: Patricia Ferrari/ Wikimedia Commons

– All PETAR caves have visiting hours and receive a maximum number of people per day (cargo capacity). Therefore, the tip is to wake up early to guarantee your spot at each attraction. In high season and holidays, missing the chance to visit a cave, especially in Núcleo Santana, is high.

– Visiting the attractions requires physical preparation and the accompaniment of environmental monitors in the region (one monitor accompanies a maximum of 8 people). Access without the monitoring of monitors is prohibited. You can hire a monitor at inns and hotels in the region, in addition to tourist agencies.

– There are no restaurants or snack bars inside the nuclei. So, always bring a snack and water during the walks – in some places, there are picnic areas that can be used. Don't forget to take your trash away, after all, PETAR is an environmental conservation area.

– Finally, for access to the caves, it is mandatory to wear long pants, a blouse with sleeves (blouses or tank tops are prohibited), helmets and flashlights (which can be rented in places close to the park), in addition to tennis or boots. The use of repellent and sunscreen is also recommended.

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