The capital of Brazil's Rondonia state, Porto Velho is a young city compared to many others. It is located in the upper Amazon River basin and is on the shore of one of the main tributaries, the Madeira River. Porto Velho is an important trade, communication, and transportation center. Although at first appearing to be small and uninteresting, it is a lively community with attractions that can keep you occupied.
It is best to rent a car or take a local bus to tour the surrounding areas of Porto Velho. It is recommended to rent a car from Hertz, Avis, or Localiza near the bus station. You can also rent boats in the Cal N'Agua harbour for trips on the river.
A local attraction in Porto Velho is the Madeira-Mamore Railway Line. The train follows the river and passes through old stations and through parts of the Amazon Rainforest. You can also go to the Railway Museum to see relics including the special steam engine of 1878.
A collection of prehistoric animal fossils and other native artifacts are in the Rondonia Museum.
The biggest cathedral in Rondonia is in Porto Velho, The Cathedral of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Begun in 1890, its main feature is a sculpture of Jesus. There are twelve windows in arc at the base of this dome which allow light to enter, giving the illusion of a celestial aureole. This temple was in ruins after the expulsion of the Jesuits, but reconstruction resumed in 1927 when the Jesuits returned and was completed in 1948. Additional work was done on two altars and 24 bells in the towers. Locals who paid over a thousand escudos each were rewarded with their names permanently recorded in the walls in marble.
The Riverbank Area by the train station is lively with music and dancing on Saturday and Sunday nights. There are floating docks that contain bars, and outdoor stands also serve beer. Every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday there is a dance at the Mirante I and II, where they block off the street.
An excellent lunch buffet is served at the Caffe Restaurante. Added to a large selection of main dishes and sides is a refrigerated case of decadent desserts.
At the Casa D'Italia you have the unusual experience of waiters who walk around with all-you-can-eat dishes of pastas with various sauces, lasagna, and pizzas of all kinds including banana and chocolate pizzas for dessert.
At the Remanso do Tucunare you can enjoy a delicious river-fish stew or a dish of big fish chunks in a soup-like sauce with onion and tomatoes served with rice.
The best hamburger in the Amazon region is at one of three branches of Nova Roma.
You can stroll along the plaza and enjoy beef or chicken kabobs served with rice and other street foods for a reasonable price.
Free changing expositions by local artists is found at Casa da Cultura just off the square.
There is a busy weekly market that starts as early as 5 A.M. on Sundays.
Nearby Porto Velho is Santo Antonio with its famous waterfall and also the fishing village of Teotonio.
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