Pico da Neblina: A sacred peak banned for decades

Pico da Neblina (“foggy peak” in Portuguese) – was only “discovered” by the outside world in the 1950s. For the Yanomami, who have lived in the area for over 1,000 years, the name of the mountain is Yaripo (“house of the winds” in the Yanomami language). Yaripo sits on the Brazil-Venezuela border, part of the Serra do Imeri range, and rises 2,995m to a jagged peak. A tightly woven skirt of rainforest clings to the base of the mountain, up to around 1000m, from which the vegetation begins to thin out.

Not only is it the highest mountain in Brazil; it’s also known to be one of the toughest to navigate, and has long been at the top of the list for many adventurers wanting to battle jungle, rain, bugs, and blisters. Until 2003, many people took up this challenge, before the national park was closed to visitors.

“At the time, the Yanomami were paid the minimum possible. There was no assessment of the environmental and social impact of tourism. Visitors brought alcohol and illicit substances. Socioambient Institute (ISA), an NGO that helped develop the Yaripo ecotourism project alongside AYRCA and other organizations. Since the Yanomami could not control the number of visitors climbing the mountain or their behavior, they appealed to the Brazilian environmental agency, which decided that access to the summit would be cut off.

Planning for the new project began in 2015, the year the Brazilian government began regulating tourism on indigenous lands. Previously, there was no guidance on how to minimize the impact of tourism, nor any guarantee that indigenous guides would be paid fairly.

Carol N. Valencia