Bordering Bolivia on the west and covering an area equivalent in size to Venezuela, Mato Grosso is Brazil’s third biggest state.
With its northern territory taken up by the Amazon region, it also has huge flatlands and plateaus.
Mato Grosso’s lands belonged to Spain at the time of the Treaty of Tordesilhas. Heavily disputed among the Spanish, Portuguese and bandeirantes from São Paulo, they played a significant role in the 18th century Gold Rush. During this period the area was designated a Captaincy by the Portuguese government and later became a fully-fledged Brazilian state.
The state’s cultural identity is based on integration between indigenous peoples, Africans and European migrants, who came to Mato Grosso from other parts of Brazil. The architectural heritage is important in places such as the capital, Cuiabá, and other old cities like Cáceres, Poconé and Diamantino, where one can find cultural centres an museums.
There is lots to explore for ecotourists. The Araguaia river is significant for its fauna and great for fishing. In addition to exotic animals, indigenous villages, caverns and waterfalls, one of the region’s biggest attractions is the Island of Bananal, on the border between Mato Grosso and Tocantins.
The Chapada dos Guimarães National Park, a conservation area, features varied scenery, from large, open, mostly grassy fields, to cerradão, where one will see larger trees.
Without doubt, the most famous place in Mato Grosso is the Pantanal. A UNESCO World Heritage item, it is the largest floodplain in the world, and the safest and best place for wildlife in South America, with a huge diversity of ecosystems, from the Amazon rainforest, to the Caatinga, the Cerrado, the Atlantic bush and the Chaco Boliviano.
The cycles between dry and wet seasons make the Pantanal’s landscape a constantly changing spectacle – one of the most beautiful on Earth.
Capital: Cuiabá Area (km2): 903,378.292 Population: 3,265,486 (2015) Term for a person from this state: mato-grossense Dial code: 65 / 66 Bordering states: Tocantins, Goiás, Mato Grosso do Sul, Rondônia
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