Alter do Chão: Santarém (Brazil)

Alter do Chão: Santarém (Brazil)

Fri, 09/25/2020 - 12:48
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Alter do Chão is the main tourist area of Santarém in Pará state, Brazil. A popular tourist spot, with some of the most beautiful freshwater beaches in Brazil, Santarém is the most important town on the Amazon between Belém and Manaus and is a port of call for river steamers.

Alter do Chão

Alter do Chão is a district of the city of Santarém, in Pará state, Brazil. It is located on the bank of the Tapajós River, a major tributary of the Amazon River and one of the three major clearwater rivers in the Amazon Basin.

Located about 37 km (23 mi) from the city center, Alter do Chão is the main tourist area of Santarém. It is a popular tourist spot for Brazilians, as here are located some of the most beautiful freshwater beaches in Brazil. It is popularly known as the "Brazilian Caribbean."

This little-known beach destination with stunning white sandy stretches offers a laid back atmosphere with little more to do than kick back on the beach and enjoy the views. However, the town fills up during weekends. The size of the beaches vary depending on the season. During rainy season many beaches disappear altogether.

Alter do Chão’s isolation is a large part of its appeal and the primary reason it receives relatively few visitors. A lack of roads in the region means the only way to get there is by riverboat or by air.

Until the 18th century, the village was inhabited mostly by indigenous communities of Borari, an indigenous people that inhabited the banks of the Tapajós and Maró-Arapiuns rivers in the west of the state of Pará. During the 17th and 18th centuries, several religious missions, led by the Jesuits of the Franciscan order, were established.

In the early 20th century, Alter do Chao became part of one of the transportation routes for latex extracted from rubber trees in the plantation towns of Belterra and Fordlandia.

After a short period of development, in the 1950's the decay of the Amazonian rubber extraction industry took place and the village was hit by economic hardship. From the 1990's to the present day, the district focuses on tourism to evolve economically.

Alter do Chão is also home to Sairé, one of the most important folklore festivals of the region, which is held annually in September.


The city of Santarém is situated on the right bank of the Tapajós River, near its confluence with the Amazon River, in the western part of the state of Pará, Brazil. It is located some 800 km (500 mi) from the two largest cities in the Brazilian Amazon: Manaus, upriver in the state of Amazonas and Belém, located downriver at the mouth of the Amazon on the Atlantic Ocean.

Santarém has an estimated population of 299,419 people (2012 Census), and is the third most populous city of the state. Because of the crystalline waters of the Tapajós River, Santarém has more than 100 km (62 mi) of natural beaches, such as those of the village of Alter do Chão.

A few miles south of the city the escarpment of the Santarém plateau rises to an elevation of 120 m (400 ft). The plateau, which is crossed by a road to Belterra, is one of the most productive areas of agricultural colonization in the Amazon valley. The raising of livestock is also significant.

Originally founded as a Jesuit mission to a Tapajó Indian settlement (aldeia) in 1661, the town grew around a fort built by Pedro Teixeira. It was given town status in 1758, with the name of Tapajós, and was elevated to city rank in 1848.

Today, Santarém is the most important town on the Amazon between Belém and Manaus and is a port of call for river steamers. A modest trade comes from the settlements along the riverbanks. Rosewood oil, rubber, lumber, and jute are the region’s most important exports.


Santarém has a tropical monsoon climate not subject to significant changes in temperatures due to its proximity to the equator. The average annual temperature varies between 25º and 28 °C (77° and 82°F), with high humidity.

Average annual rainfall is about 1,920 mm (76 in), which becomes more intense during the wet season that spans from November to July. The dry season spans from August through October.