THE BEST PLACES YOU'VE NEVER HEARD OF

Scouting Report 2008: Chapada dos Veadeiros

Our third-annual rundown of the best new places—as determined by people lucky enough to have exploration be part of their job description.

CHAPADA DOS VEADEIROS, BRAZIL
Armenia Nercessian de Oliveira: Cofounder of Novica, a National Geographic–associated organization with eight international offices that enables local artisans around the globe to sell their crafts over the Internet (novica.com).

It's hard to catch Armenia Nercessian de Oliveira in one place, let alone one where she has access to a landline. De Oliveira oversees Novica's offices, which are scattered from India to Peru, while also searching for new artists. In the past year, she's spent time in Ghana, Indonesia, and Thailand—and little at her home in Rio de Janeiro. And although she's traveled to some 50 countries over the past 20 years, it's a spot in her native country of Brazil that she returns to time and again.

"I love Chapada dos Veadeiros, in the state of Goiás," she says. "It's where I go to recharge." The 253-square-mile national park, about 150 miles north of Brasília, has vast amounts of natural quartz crystals, which are said to have mystical powers. "Many Brazilians believe this is the highest level of concentrated energy in the world," says de Oliveira. Activities, both in the park and the surrounding region, include bird-watching, hiking, swimming, and exploring waterfalls, such as a breathtaking septet called Loquinhas.

The park's high season is April through September, but de Oliveira says she'll never forget being there on New Year's Eve. "It felt as though we were at the center of the universe. Chapada dos Veadeiros has some kind of unusual and wonderful magnetic quality that I can't quite explain or understand."

Information: chapada.com, park admission (only with a tour) $2; hotels and pousadas in nearby towns Alto Paraíso and São Jorge arrange day trips to the park for about $40.

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