Nestled in the Vale do Ribeira in the hills near the São Paulo–Paraná border, Iporanga was founded in 1576 after gold was discovered here. Today, the surrounding region remains one of the least-disturbed stretches of the Brazilian Atlantic Forest and is of international importance for its biodiversity. It also makes a good base for visiting the Parque Estadual do Alto do Ribeira. This 360-sq-km state park, with its 280 cataloged caves, is known as Brazil’s Capital das Grutas (Cave Capital).
PETAR’s Núcleos de Visitação are well-set-up visitors' centers with information on cave trips, guides and campgrounds. There are four Núcleos: Núcleo de Santana, 18km northwest of town, has good facilities for visitors and campers, including a newly inaugurated coffee shop and exhibition hall, five caves and a 3.5km-long trek to a beautiful waterfall; Núcleo Ouro Grosso (13km northwest of town) has basic accommodations for groups and offers cooking facilities, two caves and a walking trail; Núcleo Casa de Pedra (9km by road plus 3km by walking trail, northwest from town) is the base for visiting the Casa de Pedra, famous for its 215m-high entrance and pristine Atlantic forest; and Núcleo Caboclos, centrally located in the park, 86km by road from town, has good camping facilities, basic visitors’ lodgings and several caves.
For information as well as camping and caving reservations, contact PETAR. The trustworthy Ecocave organizes expeditions to the caves, as well as hiking, rappelling and inner-tubing along the local river.
From São Paulo’s Barra Funda bus station, Transpen (www.transpen.com.br) offers service to Apiaí (R$69, five hours, three daily), where you can catch a Princesa dos Campos (www.princesadoscampos.com.br) 3pm bus to Iporanga (R$4.60, 1¾ hours), returning at 7am.