Alter do Chao: A Real Life Love Island is Hiding Inside the Amazon Rainforest

Golden morning on Alter do Chão, Brazil
Golden morning on Alter do Chão, Brazil | © Antonio Rosiere/Shutterstock
Harry Stewart

Well off the usual Brazilian tourist trail is a beach lover’s paradise in the most unlikely of places. These are not the famous northern beaches we speak of, but a little-known town called Alter do Chão which boasts numerous idyllic stretches of sand along the shores of the Tapajós river, a major Amazon tributary deep within the world’s largest rainforest.

Unhurried and decidedly laid back, Alter do Chão is a blend of traditional Amazon living with a hippy and bohemian vibe. It’s the kind of place where time is of little consequence and where serenity seeking nomads sleep in hammocks for months on end, to escape the commotion of modern city living.

Ilha do Amor

Don’t expect any luxury resorts or fancy restaurants in this largely undeveloped town. Rather, Alter do Chão seduces travelers with its rustic charm, stunning scenery, and relaxed way of life.

But above all else, it’s the picturesque beaches that entice visitors to linger. Unlike elsewhere in the Amazon, its inviting waters come in distinct shades of blue and green (rather than brown), while blindingly white sand proves all too tempting for sun-seekers itching to pull up a towel.

Alter do Chao

And of all the region’s stunning shorelines, it’s the stupendously scenic Ilha do Amor (Love Island) that captures the hearts of visitors from around the globe.

Ilha do Amor, Alter do Chão

Voted by the Guardian as the best beach in Brazil, the deceptively named Ilha do Amor is not an actual island but a naturally formed sand spit which ends just meters away from the town’s riverfront promenade. Endearingly, the only way to reach this small slice of paradise is by swimming across or hitching a ride with a local in a canoe.

Upon arriving at the long and narrow stretch, travelers can choose from a number of rustic restaurants which have wedged plastic tables and chairs firmly into the water, creating the ideal place to indulge in freshly caught fish or sip on some ice cold beers on a warm afternoon.

Love Island

With little more to do than eat, drink, and bask in the warm sunshine, Ilha do Amor is the epitome of blissful relaxation, a laid back and leisurely travel experience which has earned it the moniker “The Caribbean of the Amazon”.

Plan accordingly, though, because Ilha do Amor only exists for six months at a time. When the rain comes in January, the spit gradually submerges under the river and remains hidden until the dry season returns sometime in July.

Ilha do Amor in Alter do Chao, Brazil

Sound like somewhere you might want to visit? Our Alter do Chão guide covers everything you need to know about the region.

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