Novo Airão is a small town of 18,000 people located on the River Negro, 180 kms or a 2.5 hour drive from Manaus. Originally an indigenous settlement called Tauapessassu, the place only became a municipality separate from Manaus in 1956.
The majority of the population came from Airão (now called Velho Airão) 115 kms upriver – a town founded in 1668 which in the 1880s became one of the most important rubber centres of the Amazon. Opinions are divided as to whether the place fell into ruins because of a plague of fire ants or the end of the rubber boom in 1945, but Velho Airão is now a ghost town inhabited by one Japanese man Mr Nakayama who allegedly promised the last baroness he would look after the place forever. If you manage to make it up there you’ll find grottos and petroglyphs en route but you’ll need a whole day to get there and back.
Novo Airão today is an important centre of tourism for those wanting to visit the Parque Nacional de Anavilhanas, the largest freshwater archipelago in the world, and the Parque Nacional do Jaú, the second largest park in Latin America. It is also a centre of boat building, of the Amazon 2-decker sort, a centre for artesanato made of wood reeds and beads and most importantly it is the first and only research centre for pink dolphins in the world. You can’t actually swim with them anymore but from a submerged platform you can get up close and personal (and take some nice photos!).
Most of the pousadas here are more basic cheap backpacker types. An exception is the Pousada Bela Vista, a good value pousada on the banks of the Rio Negro with a nice bar/restaurant overlooking the river and a fabulous, blue-tiled pool. Also worth looking at but only if you have VERY deep pockets is the Mirante de Gavião, a brand new 7 suite pousada with individual bungalow-type suites built to mirror the shape of an upside down boat.
For further information on Brazil Travel & Pousadas visit Hidden Pousadas Brazil