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Introducing Santarém

Santarém has two distinct personalities, befitting its location at the confluence of the creamy brown Amazon river and the much darker Rio Tapajós. On one hand, it's a reasonably pleasant city, with river breezes and a wide waterfront promenade, popular with families, joggers and even cruise-ship passengers. On the other hand, it's also a gritty port town – through which vast quantities of soy are funneled onto huge cargo ships – and host to an odd mix of port workers, businessmen, ship crews and hangers-on. Passenger boats between Belém and Manaus stop here, and it's a great place to get off and break up the journey. You can also hop on a bus to Alter do Chão, a cool little town 35km away with white-sand river beaches and a laid-back backpacker vibe. Both Santarém and Alter do Chão provide easy access to the Floresta Nacional (FLONA) do Tapajós, a beautiful national forest where you can hike, canoe, and stay the night with rubber-tapper families.