Sete Cidades National Park

Sete Cidades ('Seven Cities') National Park contains seven rock outcrops, called cidades (cities). A 12km walk will get you around.

Visitors are encouraged to see the National Park in a very Brazilian way. There is little information about the geological evolution or structure of the rock formations. Visitors are invited to use their imagination to decide what the rocks might resemble. In case this is too much effort, someone has already done it for us!

In Britain the Romantic poets encouraged people to see areas such as the Lake District, once considered desolate, as places of great natural beauty. The Brazilian middle classes (i.e. Brazilians who will have transport to get to the National Park) see urban development as progressive and positive. Their families, generally within living memory, left the interior for the bright lights and opportunities of the city. Where we may see unspoilt nature they may see lack of development/desolation/danger. I exaggerate and generalise to make the point.

Maybe the rather puerile manner in which visitors are encouraged to view the National Park - as seven cities rather than rock formations - is a means of engaging with people who would ordinarily not stop to think about the beauty or intrinsic value of scrub land.

A number of whacky explanations have been developed for the unusual geology of the area, and to explain the rock art.

Ludwig Schwennhagen, an Austrian who had somehow ended up as a teacher in Teresina, visited the area in 1928. He developed a "theory" that Sete Cidades are the remains of a Phoenician city founded 3,000 years ago. How the Phoenicians actually got to Brazil is a little unclear, but it was facilitated by an asteroid strike destroying the city of Atlantis.

In one of his books in the 1960s, possibly The Gold of the Gods, Erich von Däniken claims that Sete Cidades was visited by extraterrestrials. The State Governor at the time was trying to get Sete Cidades turned into a National Park, and took advantage of the publicity.

Jacques de Mahieu's 1970s theory that Sete Cidades was a Viking settlement was less successful than von Däniken.

With respect to the rock art, some is simply understood. Others may relate to the spiritual life of the culture that created them. Shamanic cultures use psychotropic plant medicines (hallucogens) and/or trance to experience other realities. It is possible that some of the rock art relates to this.

The descriptions below are translations from Brazilian websites. I shall endeavour to find more empiric information.

First City

Pool of Miracles. A spring that continues to flow, even when others dry up in the summer heat.
Cannon Rocks. Petrified prehistoric trees.
Gia Rock - looks like a frog with its mouth open.
Various other formations are said to look like a town square, "ema"(?), a snake and a sewing machine.

Second City

Arc de Triomphe - supposed to resemble the monument in Paris. One of the most photographed formations in the park.
Mirante/Gazebo is the highest point in the park, at 82 metres. You can get a good view of the park from here.
Library - looks like a place where books and papers are stacked.

Giant's Foot, Stone Phallus, Old Soldier, Ampitheatre, Mount of Olives, etc. are part of this circuit.

Third City

Head of Dom Pedro I - resembles the Emperor's profile
Three Wise Men, Stone Kiss, The Secret, of Pigeon, Finger of God, the Devil Man, Rock of Our Lady, Seahorse etc are in the third city, map of Brazil, with state divisions
There is also the Cave of the Stranger, the largest in the National Park.

Fourth City

It also has a map of Brazil but without division of the States. However, it does have a "map" of the state of Ceara.
Grotto of Catirina - where
José Catirina, the curandeiro (healer) of the Seven Cities lived, prehistoric paintings in Archete, Stone Lion lying down, Eagle Head, Two Brothers, Two Lizards etc are on this circuit.

Fifth City

There is the Stone of Inscriptions with beautiful prehistoric paintings, besides Furna do Índio, with inscriptions reminiscent of hunting rituals. The Stone of the camel, the King (with his robe and crown) and the House of the Guard.

Sixth City

The Turtle Rock (resembling its shell), the Elephant and the Dog are the highlights of this city.

Seventh City

Access allowed only with permission of IBAMA. There is an ecological reserve to preserve the fauna, flora and monuments rich in inscriptions.
The Shaman's cave has many inscriptions. Above it there is the Chinese Dragon.

Sete Cidades

Useful Contacts:

Sete Cidades National Park
Tel: (86) 3343-1342

Open daily from 08:00 to 17:00.

Parque Hotel Sete Cidades
Tel: (86) 3223-3366/2423 and (86) 9973-9683

Hotel Fazenda Sete Cidades
BR-222, Km 63
Piripiri, Piauí
Tel: (86) 3232-3030/3996