Located in Campos Gerais, 93km west of Curitiba, Parque Estadual de Vila Velha is known as the ‘stone city.' The park’s centerpieces are the 23 aretinhas (sandstone pillars), created over millions of years. The mysterious red-toned sandstone – some taking recognizable shapes such as boots and bottles – create striking silhouettes against the blue sky and green foliage. A guide is compulsory and must be booked in advance on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays (or park security can call one for you).
Within the boundaries of the same park, visitors can witness another geological marvel: a series of furnas (craters) that are the result of underground erosion.
From Curitiba, catch a Princesa dos Campos (www.princesadoscampos.com.br) bus to Vila Velha (R$33.91, 1½ hours, 7:45am, 2:30pm or 5:30pm). Any bus to Ponta Grossa will also stop here; the prevailing wisdom is that you should take the earliest buses at 6:30am, 7:45am, 8:15am or 9:45am to arrive early enough to see the whole park. Stop first at the park center, where you can watch an introductory video and buy tickets for the various tours, and catch buses to Furnas and Lagoa Dourada on weekends (9:30am, 11am, 1:30pm, and 3:30pm).