Pantanal Wildlife Trail São Joaquim Adventure Trail

São Joaquim Adventure Trail

Program / Itinerary

The Santa Barbara valley The Santa Barbara valley The rodeos in Urubici are among the most important in Santa Catarina The rodeos in Urubiçi are among the most important in Santa Catarina

Day 1
Florianópolis – Urubiçi – Santa Barbara Farm


Our São Joaquim Adventure Trail starts with pick-up at Florianopolis airport. Our regular transfer to Urubiçi is set between 10am and noon. A three hours scenic drive from sea level takes you to the high sierra of Santa Catarina and the village of Urubiçi. The village of Urubiçi is a community of farmers and ranchers with an important pro­duction of meat, vegetables and fruits that is being exported all over the country. The region produces also apples (Gala and Fuji), plums and is the state biggest producer of vegetables. Mountain rainbow trout and mate tea are other products still, for which Urubiçi is known. There are no polluting industrial activities of any kind in the whole region! From November to May, on nearly every weekend, the region hosts regional, national and international rodeos and rope throwing competitions. These are very colorful events where visitors will see beautiful horses, top riders, displays of fine leather handicraft, local products, typical food and drinks, and after all, since we are in Brazil: plenty of good music and dances. To put it simple: Urubiçi is rural Brazil at it's best.

After arrival, our clients usually like to visit a farm supply and handicraft shop, where they can buy at very reasonable prices anything related to cattle, farming, the horse and riding. We recommend water­proof leather boots with rubber sole, beautiful gaucho ponchos and hats, horsewhips and lassos from raw hide and much more... Depending on the month/day/hour of arrival however we might drive over to the Gaucho Cultural Traditions Centre, to watch a regional rodeo instead.

We will now proceed to our trail basis, the Fazenda Santa Barbara Farm, which takes another 40 minutes drive, partly on bumpy dirt road. The Fazenda Santa Barbara is part of the Jararaca community, named after a snake Bothrops jararaca, a venomous pit viper that is quite common in Brazil. No reason to worry however. The snakes did not survive the transformation of the region into cattle country. The Fazenda is surrounded by magnificent Araucaria angustifolha also known as Paraná Pine forest. The tree, an endangered species, is characteristic for the Southern part of Brazil. The warm welcome of our hosts Rosie and Elvio, her husband and our guide, includes a generously set coffee table, here called Café Colonial. Now, you will be ushered to your rooms either at the main house or the new guest house, a 5 minute away, where you can relax from the long journey to get here. The group will meet again for dinner and overnight.

Wildflowers of the subtropical rainforest Wildflowers of the subtropical rainforest The Cascata do Funil waterfall The Cascata do Funil waterfall
The mountain village Urubici in the Rio Canoas valley The mountain village Urubici in the Rio Canoas valley

Day 2
Santa Barbara Farm – Morro da Taipinha – Santa Barbara Farm


The hearty farmer breakfast includes a hot Camargo coffee, a local specialty, served in the barn, where it is prepared with the fresh milk right out of the udder. In the meantime horses are saddled and we depart to discover the greater area around the Fazenda. The ride will take us up to the Morro da Taipinha Mountain at about 1700m above sea level. To get there however we will have to tackle with dense forest, swamps and steep hills, safely negotiated by our sturdy mounts under the skilled lead of our guide Zorro Elvio.

A steep uphill ride, during which several breaks are recommended, the group arrives at the high fields that are characteristic for the region. Here we may see, but hopefully not hear the trumpeted cry of the siriema bird, Cariama cristata, as it advises bad weather ahead. They are also otherwise useful animals, since their preferred diet is snakes! The Quero-Quero, Vanellus chilensis will watch us all the way and shy us off from their hidden nest raising hell if we get to close. Another typical southern Brazilian bird is the Gralha Azul or Azure jay, Cyanocorax caeruleus, which plays a significant role in preventing the Paraná pine Araucaria angustifolha from extinction. More difficult to watch is the highly endangered red-tail Amazon Amazona pretrei.

We will be back at Santa Barbara late afternoon. Time free until dinner, when a delicious Entrevero, a local specialty, will be served. Total riding time today mounts from 6 to 6½hrs.

A well earned days end A well earned days end


The morning sun welcomes us for another great riding day The morning sun welcomes us for another great riding day Breathtaking mountain scenery of the Santa Barbara highlands Breathtaking mountain scenery of the Santa Barbara highlands
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Day 3
Santa Barbara Farm – São Joaquim National Park – Vacas Gordas


After a solid breakfast the riders get on their horses for a long days ride that will take them into the São Joaquim National Park. On the way we will pass the village of Vacas Gordas which most significantly means: fat cows. Here, we pause briefly for a chat and refreshments with our hosts for tonight, before we continue all the way uphill now into the National Park. Ever changing terrain requires up- and downhill riding. On their way the riders may eventually encounter a man or two collecting Herba Mate leafs Ilex paraguaiensis, a bush that grows here naturally between Araucaria and other Forest.

According to the legend, Jesuit Missionaries left the region between Paraguay/Argentina/ Brasil, when the order was abolished in 1773, seeking safety and new activities on the highlands of Santa Catarina and introduced thus the Ilex paraguaiensis to the region.

As we arrive on top of the elevations the flat sections not only provide magnificent views but also invites for canters and gallops. Here, aside a soft flushing creek and beneath shadowy trees, we unsaddle and prepare our saddle bag lunch, which is normally a generous chunk of meat grilled over the open fire. There, also our brave horses find their share of delicacies. The siesta may not take too long as more riding is on the menu for the afternoon.

We estimate to reach our destination for the day sometime late afternoon, when will take care of the horses and let them graze on lush pastures. Both, riders and horses, feel to have done a great job today. Meanwhile our back-up car has arrived and takes us on adventurous mountain roads to the village of Vacas Gordas. Unfortunately our hut in the mountains burned out recently, leaving us without overnight options within the National Park boundaries.

After showers a caipirinha the Brazilian National drink, will prepare us for the following dinner of sumptuous local delicacies cooked on the old iron stove. With some energy left we may sit down around the fire place for some storytelling, before we hit the sheets for overnight in this cozy country house. The total riding time is about 7 hrs.


A winters day in the Cayambora mountains A winters day in the Cayambora mountains The Cayambora Canyons The Cayambora Canyons
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Day 4
Vacas Gordas – São Joaquim National Park – Cayambora Canyons - Vacas Gordas


The day begins early with the back-up car taking us again to the high fields. We collect the horses we left behind last night, saddle them and we are off with destination Cayamborá Canyons. Heading first for the Chapada da Macela or Macela high sierra, a region named after a herbal plant, used in therapeutic teas and recommended as treatment for gastritis, stomach and other related diseases. So, if there are stress-plagued riders with one or all of the above problems, remember, that our prices are all in. In autumn, when the plant is in flower, the green of the high fields contrast with the bright yellow of Macela. The region is also home of the mountain lion or puma, Felis concolor. Further ahead, the riders pass a crystal clear creek, what would become some 250kms to the west, the great Rio Uruguay. On our way to the Cayamborá Canyon we also pass by the Fazenda Salgado, the former home of our host Zorro Elvio. The National Park Authorities bought the Fazenda founded by Elvios Grandfather. It is now completely in ruins, an eyesore in an otherwise overwhelming environment of natural beauty. Between February and April raspberries, blackberries and delicious wild guavas can be collected on route.

While riding on top of the ridges, breathtaking views into the canyons and on clear days as far as to the 200km distant Santa Catarina coastline can be appreciated by overwhelmed riders. Not far from here is the Morro da Igreja, with 1822 meters the highest peak in Santa Catarina. Near a freshwater creek we break for lunch. It will be an authentic churrasco, the Brazilian BBQ, lunch out of the saddle bag and coffee from the Polaca, our photogenic coffee pot. After the feast, shadowy Araucarias invite for a nap, with the rich food doing the rest.

We take another trail on our way back over the mountains to the place where we unsaddle the horses and give them a good treatment. With the back-up car waiting for us we drive again to Vacas Gordas for dinner and overnight. Today, our time in the saddle will be 7-8 hrs.

There might not be great desire for storytelling tonight, as today´s riding might demand its tribute.

For lunch in the open we have home grown and home butchered beef For lunch in the open we have home grown and home butchered beef Magical ride through cloud forest Magical ride through cloud forest Crossing the Rio Pelotas Crossing the Rio Pelotas Conta Dinheiro Farm: early departure in bright sunlight Conta Dinheiro Farm: early departure in bright sunlight
Old graveyard in the mountains Old graveyard in the mountains


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Day 5
Vacas Gordas – São Joaquim National Park – Santa Barbara Farm


After an early breakfast we say good-by to our hosts and take the car to meet our horses again. The trail back to Santa Barbara Farm leads past the Fazenda do Baú, a second century old ranch house, right on top of the Morro do Gado Quebra or "crashing cattle mountain", with another story to be told at the right moment. Not far from there is the former Conta Dinheiro Farm, which was owned by Elvios relatives and has also been taken over by the national park authorities. Typically, it is also in ruins now. We pause at an old, wind worn cemetery. Stories about people who got lost in the mountains and were buried here will be making the round in the evenings. The trail continues over several high mountain ridges, and on top of the Morro Careca or Bald Mountain, at 1700meters above sea level, the riders enjoy magnificent views of 360º. Here, the terrain offers great canters on rolling hills. Further down and in sharp contrast with the high fields, we ride through dense jungle of Dicksonia, giant ferns, here called Xaxim, and Bracatinga, Mimosa scabrella trees.

We estimate to arrive at Fazenda Santa Barbara in the early evening hours. As we have not changed horses for the last 4 days, demanding all of the strength and energy they could muster, they will be are tired now and have earned the best possible care, which is what they will get. The riders are offered an invigorating chimarrão tea and hot showers which should prepare them to enjoy one of these dinners only Rosie puts on the table, which is a big one... Later on, when the flames blaze in the fireplace, Zorro Elvio will tell us how and why he loses newborn calves and pigs frequently to the puma. As usually one story leads to another, intercultural encounters, knowledge and understanding spreads among the group, which is one of the declared aims on our rides. This was another long riding day, with estimated 7-8 hrs in the saddle. Overnight.


Day 6
Santa Barbara Farm – Cadet / Fazenda da Mena


After breakfast we mount on fresh horses to a region, called Cadet, which is today´s destination. Differently from the previous days we will be riding through sceneries only with little elevations. On mostly open hilly terrain we observe agricultural activities, like vineyards, apple orchards and cattle farming. During the ride we will have opportunities again to take our mounts to enjoyable canters and gallops. Before we arrive at Fazenda da Mena we have to cross the river Uruguay, provided the water level and currents will be adequate for safe passage. We estimate to arrive at Fazenda da Mena in late afternoon. Relax, refreshments, shower, Dinner. This Fazenda is another property that belongs to the large family of our host Rosie, who was actually born here. The charming old wooden building is framed by enormous Araucaria trees and a lake, where frogs concert in the warm evening hours and at night. It is nearly 100% Years old and one of the first cattle farms of that region. The group will have spent 6 -7 hrs in the saddle today.


At the Salto do Rio Lavatudo waterfall At the Salto do Rio Lavatudo waterfall
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Day 7
Cadet/Fazenda da Mena – Santa Barbara Farm


Like on the ride to the Cayambora Canyons we have a support car carrying provisions and personal belongings. While Elvio saddles the horses we give Rosie a hand to load luggage and the other stuff onto the 4x4. For the way back from Fazenda da Mena back to Fazenda Santa Barbara we ride on another trail which offers nice and easy riding. On route we break for visit to the Salto do Rio Lavatudo waterfall, a river that forms, together with the Rio Pelotas the Rio Uruguay. Here, right at the falls, we will have a scenic lunch. Arriving at Jararaca horses are unsaddled and left to graze on the rich pastures of our trail leader and host Elvio's property. Those who wish to change activities for a moment and relax their minds can go fishing in the pond right behind the main house, or take a walk around the property, playing with the dogs and cats, watching pigs and chickens, until Rosie calls in for dinner. Most probably the entrée will be some crispy grilled fish... Today's estimate is about 6-7 hrs in the saddle.

Unexpected but friendly encounters on route Unexpected but friendly encounters on route


Pay attention: slippery descend no problem for our reliable mounts Pay attention: slippery descend no problem for our reliable mounts On top of the Monte Alegre mountain: Great views - great scenery On top of the Monte Alegre mountain: Great views - great scenery

Day 8
Santa Barbara Farm – Monte Cará – Santa Barbara Farm


As riding is our aim these days we take on another great destination over 1600mts above sea level, which is the Mount Cará. After having passed some nearby properties the group passes open fields and dense forest and will hardly meet any living soul in this area. Wild flowers and splendid orchids like the lovely red Sofronites and bromeliads grow from December-January on branches draped with moss. For our siesta, we have chosen a beautiful panoramic spot at the top of the mountain with great views of 360º and as far as to the village of Urubici down below. Here a spring surfaces right out from between the stones with the purest mineral water, beating Perrier, Evian and other sophisticated brands hands down. We picnic sandwiches, cheese, fruits, cookies out of the saddle bag, washed down with a fresh boiled coffee or tea prepared cowboy style, on the open fireplace.

After an appropriate relax for horses and riders, the trail goes on through highland forest covered mainly with shadowy Paraná pines and the ever present Vassourinha bushes, which are used for firewood, broom, brushes, but also produces pollen for a delicious honey, that is even exported to Europe. We are planning to arrive home around 5pm totaling some 6 hours in the saddle.


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Day 09
Santa Barbara Farm – Monte Alegre – Santa Barbara Farm


The last full day of riding fun will take us to the Monte Alegre mountain, claimed to be even higher than the Morro da Igreja, which is 1822m above sea level. To get to the Monte Alegre and back, the riders will face again dense forest, swamps, steep and rocky ascents and high camps with grassy hills, accessible on hidden trails that only a trained scout as Elvio can identify as such. Our saddle bag lunch today include most probably a decent chunk of beef masterly grilled on the open fireplace, homemade cheese and rolls, cookies and apples, coffee and tea. After all that we recommend to take our sheep skins off the saddle as they guarantee a comfortable snooze.

A long days ride, but it is worthwhile the effort, mainly because of great adventure riding and an overwhelming mix of outstanding landscapes and views. Back at the Fazenda, Rosie has prepared some decent caipirinhas for apéritif and a fare well dinner for the last evening, with delicacies from the local cuisine. For the rest of this last evening among our hosts we have invited friends with their gaita and violão. So there will be dancing and great music from the Gaucho lands, like the hot and swinging chama-me, venerão, xote, milonga, chimarrita. Today´s estimate is 6½ hrs riding time.

Pre-historic stone wall carvings Pre-historic stone wall carvings

Day 10
Santa Barbara Farm – Urubici - Florianopolis


Packing gear and getting ready for departure to Florianópolis. Depending on the flight details there might be the chance to go for some early riding in the morning. There is always enough time however to pay a visit to the mysterious pre-historic stone wall carvings, unexplored and unexplained to this day. If not done so already on the arrival day, leather handicraft from saddle to boots, ponchos and hats, reins and other riding accessories can be purchased for reasonable prices in the local stores. We recommend booking of a late after­noon flight out of Florianópolis.

End of the São Joaquim Adventure Trail


Important notes:




This itinerary is subject weather conditions, legal impediments or safety recommendations and might require change of dates and destinations for any given day during the ride.

Riding Brazil Horseback Adventures may not be held responsible in any way if one of the above events take place. Riding Brazil Horseback Adventures however will provide the best alternative possible under given circumstances. Decisions regarding the day-to-day itinerary will be made solely by the trail leader.

Accommodation and meals


We accommodate our clients in double or single rooms when available at no add cost. Bathrooms with hot and cold showers have to be used jointly. The rooms do not feature air condition which dispensable in this mountainous region. In general accommodations are rustic but clean and comfortable. There is a broad range of food available which is mostly homemade and includes best Brazilian beef of cattle grazing all year round in the open on naturally grown pastures, receiving no additives whatsoever, homemade sausages and chicken, homegrown vegetables and fruits of the season, homemade cheese and a variety of dairy products, pasta, rice, beans, homemade breads and rolls, jellies, honey . While on trail the provisions are carried in the saddle bags, containing beef, meat, sausages, for the bbq in the open, plus meatballs, manioc flower, sandwiches, crackers, cookies, oranges, apples, coffee, tea, milk. Vegetarian food is available.

Horses and tack


Our horses are Crioulos, Crioulo / Quarter-Horse or Crioulo / Manga-Larga Cross. They are adapted to the region strong and tough, 100% reliable and sure footed, which they have proofed where they are at home on the highlands and forests. Typical, light saddles are comfortable for both horses and riders with 3 sheepskin layers on top. Western riding style.



In accordance with the ability of the riders, walk, trot, canter, gallop

Level of difficulty and riding abilities


Medium difficulty, vary from sometimes strenuous/sometimes easy, firm seat requested


Your Choice:


Let us know what appeals most to you. We have the experience and the expertise. Our ideas and recommendations will help you putting together the trip of your life!

Pantanal Wildlife Trail São Joaquim Adventure Trail