One of the most popular destinations in Brazil is a hot springs region in the central state of Goiás. Caldas Novas and nearby Rio Quente are located about 150 kilometers south by southeast of Goiânia, the state capitol. Besides the hot springs themselves, the two towns have many attractions that are enjoyed by Brazilians throughout the year.
Since this is the interior, it’s often hot and dry with the temperatures ranging from 28 to 40 °C. The coldest time, from May to July, can see the mercury drop to 18° C. Yet the springs sprout into the Pirapitinga River year-round with a median water temperature of 38° C.
If you want to experience the hot springs region during the busy season (holidays, vacations, and shows), then be prepared: estimates of crowds range from 500,000 to 3 million tourists. Also be aware that cost is higher everywhere. But if you prefer quieter moments, the off-season is your best opportunity with lower prices, fewer people, and cleaner facilities.
The local hotels, bed & breakfasts, and water parks offer various tourist packages for all tastes. Whether you’re looking for high-energy fun or tranquil relaxation — there’s the perfect spot. Families with young children and teens enjoy the water parks, while couples can find romantic getaways. And elderly visitors are offered daily discounts at virtually every establishment.
the 4 Best, Must-See Spots
The most popular places in and around Caldas Novas and Rio Quente are:
- Parque Estadual Serra de Caldas Novas (Serra de Caldas Novas State Park) is natural reserve between the two towns with over 123 square kilometers of breathtaking scenery. A perfect spot for the ecotourist in you, including waterfalls, mountain bike trails, and 1000-meter high lookouts where you can view the immense landscape.
- Hot Park is the biggest water park in the nation. Start early, because you’ll want the entire day to enjoy its many water rides and attractions. Admission at the gate is R$109 for adults, R$89 (children 5-11 years) and R$54 for those over 60. However, you can find many promotions and discounts online. Also, if you stay in one of the hotels at Rio Quente Resorts (typically R$460/night), Hot Park is free.
- Jardim Japonês (Japanese Garden) is a relaxing place to take your family and friends, and has many beautiful sights for photos. Built by Toshiyuki Murai, the garden is the ideal place to meditate and commune with nature. It’s open every day.
- Rio Quente Resorts is just huge, and receives more than 1 million tourists every year! The complex has 7 hotels, a convention center, and of course Hot Park. If you’re on a budget but still want to go to Hot Park, I suggest you look at the many, lower-priced hotels (between R$150 and R$200/night) in Caldas Novas and Rio Quente. You can also find inclusive packages that offer cheaper hotels with discounted water park tickets.
Things to Do & Places to See
Beyond the famous water parks, there are a number of other sites not to miss during your trip:
- Corumbá Lake is very popular. People like to take jet skis, boats and other watercraft. One of the water parks on the banks of this lake offers boia maluca (crazy buoys), schooner cruises, and a wave pool.
- Santuário Nossa Senhora da Salete (Our Lady of Salete Shrine) is located on the banks of the Serra de Caldas. The sanctuary tells its history in images of the saint.
- Avenida do Turista (Tourist Avenue) meets your shopping needs with swimsuits, beachwear, floats, and t-shirts with slogans like “I went to Caldas Novas and thought of you”. Also, check for stores that sell wildflower honey, a locally-produced favorite.
- Adega da Cachaça is a traditional cachaçaria (cachaça bar) that offers many types of Brazil’s famed grain alcohol.
- Igreja Nossa Senhora das Dores (Church of Our Lady of Sorrows) is the first church built at the time when the city was first colonized.
- Praça Mestre Orlando (Master Orlando Square) is located in the city center and features an illuminated water fountain. There are bars that play live music, and broadcast futebol (soccer) games and UFC fights.
- Caldas Country Show is one of biggest sertaneja (country music) concerts in the nation — featuring some of the biggest names in that popular genre.
When you arrive in Caldas Novas, don’t forget that it’s hot all year round — even in the coldest time of year. Be sure to keep a bottle of water on hand, and sunscreen is always helpful, too.
How to get to Caldas Novas
Since Caldas Novas is about 150 km from Goiânia, many visitors go by car. A good option is to head southeast on highway BR-352, and then after 80 km take GO-139 south. At the roundabout, enter the first exit ramp to GO-213, and then east a short distance to Caldas Novas. You can also get there by bus; National Express has lines leaving Goiânia, São Paulo and Curitiba.
It’s not easy to fly in; the Nelson Ribeiro Guimarães Airport in Caldas Novas receives only two commercial flights each week (on Thursdays and Sundays) which originate in Campinas, SP, and pass through Goiânia. Besides this, some tour packages include charter planes. Rio Quente has a small airport, but is just for private flights.
Once in the hot springs region, you can rent a car or use a taxi to get around. There’s a local bus service between Caldas Novas and Rio Quente that can shuttle you for a low fare.
Photos: Rio Quente Resorts/Hot Park