Palmas is located at the state geographic centre, at an average altitude is 230 m (755 ft). The city is located between these hills and the Tocantins River. In the east Palmas is bordered by the Serra do Lajeado.
Palmas was founded in 1990, with the purpose of being the capital of the newest Brazilian state Tocantins, which was established after the promulgation of the new 1988 Brazilian Constitution. The city has a well-designed road system, and its urban zoning is modelled on that of Brasília. It has a symmetrical park in the city centre. In 2002, the Lajeado Hydroelectric Power Plant reservoir was completed, at which point the city gained many river beaches, and also the huge Ponte da Amizade Presidente Fernando Henrique Cardoso, which crosses over over the reservoir, connecting Palmas with the major highway BR-153.
The Palmas Airport connects Palmas with many Brazilian cities.
The city is also home to the Federal University of Tocantins.