Santarem, Brazil Information
Language and Currency
What is Santarem Like?
What is the Weather Like?
Where Does the Ship Dock?
Where is the Shopping?
What is There to Buy?
What is There To Do?
Is There Anything of a “Don’t Miss Quality?
Are There Any Great Restaurants or Bars?
The official language of Brazil is Portuguese and the currency is the Brazilian Real. However, U.S. dollars are widely accepted. Be sure to have an ample supply of small bills to make exact change.
Santarem is a city of approximately 150,000 people with a rich history that is located at the point where the Rio Tapajos joins the Rio Amazonas. Because of the two different colors of the water and speed of flow, the waters do not mix for miles downstream of the "wedding of the waters" Santarem offers an excellent marketplace and some colorful sights and is surrounded by Tropical Rain Forest.
Santarem enjoys tropical weather year around with temperatures between 75 and 90 degrees. It can be hot and humid. Be sure to take lots of sunscreen and wear a hat and limit your time in the direct sun based on the amount of exposure that you have had prior to arriving in Santarem. Santarem receives a good amount of rain year around, so having a small umbrella is advisable.
Docked in Santarem (Seen From Downtown Santarem)
Ships dock at the new Docas de Santarem cruise ship dock. It is an easy 15 minute walk to the downtown area from the entrance to the port. Taxis are readily available to take you into town or on a tour. There is an English speaking taxi supervisor that you can negotiate with inside the port itself.
Shopping Right Inside the Port Facility
Right on the dock there is a flea market set up that sells local crafts, art and souvenirs. The prices are excellent and you can negotiate for the items. The main markets in Santarem are downtown and are well worth a visit.
The main market, Mercado Modelo is located across from the waterfront in the downtown area. You can't miss it. However it does open up into a very large market consisting of stores, boutiques, and shops.
One of the Vendors at the Floating Market
On the ocean side of the waterfront across from Mercado Modelo you will find the floating market. While this is more of a local produce market, it is very fun to explore.
Just One of the Shops in Mercado Modelo
Leather goods, jewelry and beadwork, wood carvings and masks, basketry and hand-weaved items, piranha and other stuffed fish, reptiles and animals local clothing and souvenirs.
Another Shop in Mercado Modelo
The Wedding of the Eaters
One of the primary reasons to visit Santarem is to see the "Wedding of the Waters". This is the phenomenon that occurs when two rivers merge and each river has different characteristics. At Santarem the Rio Tapajos joins the Rio Amazonas. The Rio Tapajos is a river of very clear and clean water and the Amazon is quite muddy. The two run side by side for miles before blending together. In fact, there is a clean line that separates the two rivers even though they are flowing as one.
Amazon Tour Boat
The best way to see the "Wedding of the Waters up close is to take one of the ship's river boat excursions. Note that you will not be able to book one off the ship here. Also, if you are up on deck about an hour before arriving in Santarem, you will be able to gain a great view of it from the ship and actually cross from the muddy water to the clear.
Santarem's Rain Forest
You can also explore the nearby rain forest on foot, but be aware that it is muddy and wet (big surprise for a rain forest, huh?) You will not see much other than the forest itself, so don't set your hopes on seeing a lot of wild life.
Exploring the city of Santarem is interesting. I was enthralled with the public markets. They are very colorful and offer a ton of things to see and do.
Santarem's Local Chicken Vendor
Santarem is a very basic city and every now and then something reminds you that you are in the Amazon.
The Santarem Clean Up Committee
I had heard that the "beach" at Alter do Chao was the best in all of the Amazon so I decided to negotiate for a taxi to take me there.
There are a couple of museums in Santarem that are well worth exploring. The Museu de Santarem (or Centro Cultural Joao Fona) offers a great collection of historical art from the general area. The Museu Dica Frazao (Floriano Peixoto 281) offers an amazing collection clothes and fabrics made from natural fibers collected from local grasses, shrubs and trees.
The cathedral in Santarem is also well worth a visit. It was the first structure in Santarem and was constructed in 1761 replacing an earlier cathedral that was constructed in 1661.
The "Beach" at Alter do Chao
The town of Alter do Chao is about 38 km from the ship and the roads are not that great to begin with. I was very fortunate to have been assigned a real character for my driver and he made the experience wonderful.
The Main Cathedral in Alter do Chao
The town itself is very quaint and is the weekend getaway for folks looking for some relaxation in Santarem. There are a number of restaurants and shops selling souvenirs and beachware (bikinis and such).
Alter do Chao Marina
You can also get one of the canoes to take you to other beaches in the area that lie within the Lago Verde lagoon.
Alter do Chao Shopping
There are several shopping opportunities around the main square in the village. I am not sure that I would suggest a visit here as the cost is simply not worth the experience. However, I understand that there is a public bus that makes the journey every half hour from the public market in Santarem. This might make it a little more affordable.
Not that I could recommend
The local fish looked great, but I did not eat in any of the restaurants. I am not sure that I would suggest that you do either.